I'm a writer. I've always been a writer, even when I wasn't very good at it. I've always wanted to write something, anything, just as long as it's something I can be proud of. Lately, however, I've found that I've been suck with a horrendous case of writer's block. It cripples me, and angers me, and were it a physical being I would beat it senseless. Perhaps with a fish.
I found a website that offers you prompts, should you find yourself at a loss of what to write about. One of those prompts was to write about friendship. More specifically, to write about your best friend. So I have.
They say that a good friend is hard to find, and even harder to keep. I suppose that's especially true for best friends. For me, though, it was easy. The finding part, anyway. She was thrust upon me with little say from me, the way high school friends usually are. The hard part for me wasn't the finding; it was recognizing her once I found her.
I remember the moment we met so vividly. I was standing in the large gym (our school had two, large and small) near a volleyball net, absolutely terrified. I didn't know anybody in this, my third class of the day. Nobody I liked, anyway. What was I going to do for the whole semester? And then I heard it.
"..." I looked around, confused. She was looking at me. Smiling at me. She beckoned with one finger to me, looking both friendly and delightfully wicked. I was intrigued, but nervous.
"Here, mouse! C'mere little mousie!"
Definitely talking to me, and trying to lure me under the net, onto the side she was standing on. I hesitated, wondering what she wanted. I was wary, if nothing else; was she teasing me? Mocking me outright? She offered me invisible cheese, still referring to me as a mouse, and I felt terrified again. Luring me with food. Was she making fun of my weight? Was she going to laugh at me if I came over now? But no. Her smile was friendly, gently teasing, and not mocking at all. There were three other girls standing there too, all smiling. But she -- Chalamar, I learned moments later -- was the one in front. She was the first one to call me 'Mouse', and she is the only one who still does so. She's the only one I remember from that morning, on the second day of eighth grade.
She wasn't my best friend right away, I'm sorry to say. At first, the five of us formed a group; Vicki, Nicole, Rebecca, me, and Chal. We stayed close knit for two weeks or so, until Nicole faded away, moving onto better things. It was the four of us now, and we remained quite close for months. Chal was already drifting away, though; not in the way that Nicole had, completely and suddenly, but subtly. She would still spend some time with us -- we had gym together still, after all, and she would sit with us in the library at lunch sometimes -- but not as much. She wasn't a regular in our group. Vicki, Rebecca and I grew close, bundled together, did some stupid things the way that teenagers do. Becca and I fell out, and for awhile I hung out with Chal at school, because I simply had nobody else, but I missed the comfort zone of my two best friends, and I couldn't properly enjoy the time I spent with her. Vicki and Becca fell out next, Becca left our school, and that's when Vicki became my best friend. We bickered and fought constantly, but always made up quickly afterward. She remained my best friend throughout the rest of high school. I was young, and not very bright.
When I thought about Chalamar, I never labeled her as my 'best' friend. But she was always a close friend. Beautiful and grown up, I was in awe of her constantly, sometimes even a little afraid of her. I felt adult when I was with her, even when I was just a fifteen year old nothing. And, aside from a very brief period in high school -- the infamous Sasha days -- we always got along. There was no bickering, no childish grudges, which were common in the friendship I had with Vicki. Chal was always nice to me, never seeming to mind that I hadn't quite caught up with her yet. But it never seemed like she was simply 'putting up with me' either, despite what some people thought. I wasn't just a slow-to-develop tagalong. She always seemed to have a genuinely good time with me, which always made me feel like I was glowing. We shopped together, laughed together, dumped things into our drinks at Starbucks to make them seem more exotic -- I still remember the hot chocolate that wound up tasting like liquid Golden Grahams -- and we flicked whipped cream at each other over the table at Boston Pizza. She would come spend the night at my house occasionally, when we would move the couches around in my den so they formed an 'L', ensuring that we could stay up all night talking, laying with our heads close together. But we didn't see each other as often as we should have, because she went to a different school from me, and she had branched out and made new friends. But then, completely randomly and to my utter delight, one day toward the end of my senior year of high school, she appeared again, and I saw her nearly every day. She, completely unknowingly, was the reason I dropped out of high school. And I write that with a complete lack of bitterness or blame. I wanted to do it. I preferred the option of not receiving my diploma, but seeing Chal every day, to getting to walk the stage with the rest of my classmates. I didn't even have to think about it. She would pick me up every morning from my house, after my mother had gone back to work, and we would spend the day together before she would drive me home again. Sometimes we would 'work' -- pick up and deliver wooden pallets; I can't look at a pile of the things now without thinking of those days fondly -- and sometimes we would just drive. Sometimes we would go to her place, sometimes not. But we saw each other every day, and I loved it. We went through a lot, in the years between our thirtheenth and our eighteenth birthdays. But I still didn't consider her my best friend. That was still Vicki, because Vicki was comfortable, and in the same place that I was.
After high school, my social life suddenly picked up. I gained, lost, and reconnected with friends. I was suddenly surrounded by a close knit group of people who liked me, for some reason. It was like that day in eighth grade; I wasn't quite sure why these people wanted to be my friend, but they did. And I was happy. It was around this time that I introduced Chal -- who had, at some point, started spelling her name with an 'S' rather than a 'C'. I didn't know why, and I still don't. I've just never asked -- to Danielle, who was introduced to me by Vicki toward the end of twelfth grade. The three of us got along famously, and spent many hours together, nearly breathless with laughter. Chal got engaged to a man she'd been talking to online since eighth grade, and asked Vicki, Dani and I to be bridesmaids in her wedding. And then something happened. I'm not sure exactly what started it, but it was a bit of a snowball effect. I was spending more and more time with my new friends, including one two-week stint at Chrissy's (my best friend at the time) house, which upset certain people in our 'group'. It's one of the only times I can remember Chal ever sounding annoyed with me; they phoned me, mere moments before a party I was throwing with Chrissy, and told me that they had picked out the bridesmaid's dresses for the wedding. Without me.
"You sound unimpressed, Mouse."
I believe that's what started the rift. Not that we fought, exactly. But we just weren't as close suddenly. I had my friends in Langley, and I was with them several times a week. I still saw Chal, but less and less frequently. Gradually, then suddenly, she became one of those friends that I saw once every six months or so. If I was lucky. It was always a surprise when my cell phone would ring and I would see 'Chal' on the call display, and my heart would always give an excited flutter before I'd answer. We would make plans, usually for the next day, and we'd hang out for the night. Go to dinner, go for a drive, go to Chapters. All very routine. Once, not too very long ago, we drove out to a country club with another friend of hers. We always had fun, always vowed to do things together more often. We didn't, though. I'm horrible about calling people back when they phone me -- something I've gotten better about; ask any of my friends -- and I suppose after a few times she would give up trying to get in contact with me.
I was pleasantly surprised when, just a few months ago, I got that rare call from my oldest friend. I could hear her rattling plates, and she told me she was putting together a meat and cheese platter. I don't know why this has stuck in my mind, but it has. The thought of her doing something domestic for a family party made me smile. It was very much not like her. But then, I hadn't seen her in almost a year.
"How are you?"
"I'm okay. Hot. How are you?”
“Ohh, you know... Pregnant.”
I remember staring at the phone for a moment, shocked. Pregnant. Were we really so grown up now? More importantly, had it really been that long since I'd seen her? We made our usual plans to do something soon, and I hung up the phone thinking this would be the same as always. We would do something, promise to keep in touch, and lapse into another six month silence. And this time, at the end of the six months, I would get to meet a baby. It was both exciting, and vaguely sad.
Only this time, miraculously, it didn’t happen that way. We hung out three times that week. And we hung out the week after. And the week after that. Sometimes once a week, sometimes more. She had me over to her place -- just down the hill from my house, an astounding three minute drive -- for dinner, and I got to get to know her fiancee. I remembered him now, from when I met him when they were just dating, and I immediately recalled that I liked him. He was nice to me, which was a plus. I would have liked him anyway, though, because it was clear he was good for her, unlike some of her boyfriends in the pasThey were clearly happy together, which made me happy. He was -- is -- the only one of her guys I've really liked, and considered a friend, rather than just 'Chal's boyfriend'.
The more time I’ve spent with Chal, the more I’ve come to realize that she is everything a best friend should be. She’s always been there for me, wanting to help me, willing to go out of her way to do so. She’s amazing, and strong, and an incredibly generous and charismatic person. I enjoy every single moment I spend with her, just as I know I’ll enjoy every single moment I’ll get to spend with her in the upcoming days, and weeks, and months, and years. She makes me laugh, and cry in the best way possible, and we share an understanding of each other. I’ve known her the longest of any friends I have now, and I feel incredibly blessed to have her in my life. I look forward to meeting her daughter, doing all the things a godmother gets to do. Whoever little Paige becomes, I have no doubt that she will be as amazing a person as both her parents are.
Thinking about it now, however, as I reach the caboose of my train of thoughts, something strikes me. I love Chal dearly, and I love her family. But I still wouldn’t call her my best friend.
I would call her my sister.