It was one of those sunny days, so well known from childhood. The kind that never ended as was perfect in every way. The anticipation was buzzing through our little group, a new girl was coming today. We were all clustered together, looking up and down the street, waiting for her car to pull up. When it did, we swarmed the car, and she wouldn’t get out. So we, frustratingly, painfully, backed up. She did eventually get out, but she wouldn’t say anything, just clung to her mother. I saw in her eyes though, that hungering to break free of her own shyness and be friends. We were called inside and she immediately crawled under a table to escape the chaos. I followed. There, huddled in a church basement, under a table and chairs, we were shocked to meet a soul mate. A forever friend.
Long days at each other’s homes, long weekends plotting together. Bouncing on the trampoline, swimming in the pool, sitting on top of her suburban singing along to the Dixie Chicks. I was two years her senior, so when I was eligible to join a local youth group, I went hesitatingly. My first question to the leader of this group of six, was if I could bring my friend along. He said yes, so she came. Funny, in later years I would actually grieve that decision, but at the time I was elated. We did everything together. We even dated brother’s when we were in high school.
And then I did the unthinkable. I broke up with the boy I’d loved for so long. Turns out that he made a much better imaginary boyfriend than a real one. Not long later, we were at a big youth conference. It was a day that I don’t think I will ever forget. I was standing near my friend’s boyfriend, and he whispers to me that she had something she had to tell me. Something big, I needed to go ask her about it right away. We’d been drifting apart since I was no longer dating her boyfriend’s brother, but forever friends are forever, right? I walked up to her and a group of four or five other girls, I told her that he had told me to ask her something. Her reply cut me to pieces. Why would I have anything to tell you, she asked, why would I want you to know anything. As I walked away, she said something and the other girls laughed. My heart was broken. I don’t remember the rest of the night, just taking deep breaths so they wouldn’t have the satisfaction of seeing me cry.
I quit going to the youth group. I quit spending time with anyone my age. I couldn’t handle it. Couldn’t trust. The part of me that believed that people actually wanted to be my friend died that day. I’m not sure it has ever been the same since. I struggle to think that I am actually wanted in any group situation. Even one like the scintilla project. I feel safer lurking on the outside, because if I don’t let you too close, then you can’t ever hurt me like that again. Even as I long to be at the center like I was the first day I met her.
But no story is complete without an epilogue. And even though the scars are still there, the continuation of this story helped with their healing and fading. It had to have been at least four years. I was in between college and grad school. She was getting divorced from the same boy she’d dated back in high school. I sent her a message, that turned into a lunch date. We are no longer the little girls who hid under tables together, but somewhere in the pains of growing up and apart, we did find our way back. We send messages every now and then, get together when either of us is in the area, and support each other in both being military wives now. No story ever writes itself the way the author plans. Forever friends we may not be, but behind the healing, before the damage, we were just two little girls looking to belong.