Friday, 22 November 2013

Happy Birthday Belle Amie

Once upon a time I had a friend. She was a best friend. The kind you shared the growing pains with, who knew what you were thinking, who forgave you for every flaw. Then she died. Unexpectedly and tragically.

These days, the 14th May passes me by gently, a nod in her direction, as raise of a glass. That's the anniversary of her death. But this year, she would have turned 40 on Sunday 24th November. We were fellow Sagittarius' and November pals. And I cannot help but think about where our lives would be right now if she was still here. Would she love my husband as much as I do, would she dote on my kids, would we still be cynical and have an 'us against the world' mentality?

When she first came on the primary school scene, it annoyed me there was another Claire in the class. Another Claire! I was the only Claire and everyone loved me. Then she started after Easter and was the bees knees. She'd moved from Scotland and had the accent to match. Everyone was captivated by the new Claire. She invited me to her birthday party, I said no and regretted it as the whole class went and had a fab time. But that did not deter her from becoming my friend. It didn't take us long to become inseparable. When she and her family moved into our cul-de-sac it sealed the deal. 

In school we rarely hung out. I was a slave to superficiality, she would have none of it. I admired that about her, she kept me grounded. She accepted me unconditionally, no matter who I was going out with or what shoes I was wearing. I knew, even through all the teenage fall-outs and power struggles, she would be in my corner. Those teenage years would have been so different without that very strong bond. All through the insecurities with boys, experimenting with alcohol and cigarettes and arguments with our folks, we knew we could cry on each others' shoulders.

It wasn't all BFF peaches and cream. She wrote in my 5th form leaving book, 'can't live with you, can't live without you.' We were competitive academically and aesthetically (a vein which runs consistently through my friendships, even now) especially in terms of who was more off-beat and fashionable and who had the coolest music tastes. Essentially, we were so similar, it was a futile competition but our young fervent minds were desperate to carve out a unique identity, different to each other. I am sure my parents could not keep track of whether we were talking to each other or not, week on week.

The one thing we understood was the unconditional love. Even in our early twenties and life was pushing us further apart, she confided, after a particularly challenging situation with friends on a night out, that I was one of the few people she trusted. And aside from my family, I always knew I could go running to her and bare my soul, 100%.

I am extremely fortunate to have friendships like this now. They have been cultivated carefully over the years, with a lot of effort and energy, with large rewards. They more than fill the hole left by losing Claire.

It does not stop me from missing my friend and her unique personality. I miss her direct, no frills comments on any given situation. I miss how she would dryly dismiss the crass and banal in this weird and wonderful life. I miss her witty and playful sense of humour and the way she would fold her body in two when she laughed hard. I miss how we could entertain each other for hours, just the two of us, polarising from juvenile jokes to serious philosophising.

One sunny Yorkshire evening, yes they exist, we were sitting on the stoop of the back to back in which she rented a room. We were talking about life after death. Eerily she told me, she didn't believe in the afterlife, 'it just ends, like a candle being blown out and you are gone.' she stated. Well mate, even if your flame still burns or not, I'll still chat to you, out loud, like the bag lady you said I was destined to become. Cheers and Happy 40th.

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