She's the first real best friend I ever had; the one who, even though she moved only a few years after we became close, letters kept us in touch. Summer visits, letter scrawled on lined 3 ring paper, swatches of prom dress material were pieces of our friendship in the days before Facebook and Twitter.
I squealed for joy when we became roommates for about six months in the big city after graduation and sobbed because my heart was broken when she had to move back home, hundreds of miles away.
She supported me when I married John, even though nobody else would and was the maid of honour at my wedding.
Kids, weddings, births, deaths, jobs, and life happened, and somehow, our communication waned. There was no fight or falling out at all, we just somehow got caught up in our own stuff and time to send letters became shorter and shorter. Visits were fewer and farther between.
Today we sat over steaming cups of coffee after ten years of not seeing each other, and it was like not a single day had passed. We picked up right where we left off, reminiscing about first loves, teenage drama and our city escapades. The best friends are those with whom you have a familiar rhythm. There is no question about your love or loyalty, and even though you both know you've been bad about keeping in touch, you wish each other well and know that no matter what happens, you ARE still friends. The conversation flowed effortlessly, just like when we were little kids..
..and then I called her Anne.
Long ago Anne had mentioned to me that she wanted me to move on once she passed, and I had explained that while I knew intellectually I would have more friends, nobody could take her place. She was special. There would be a giant, gaping hole to fill. That hole has, at times been almost physically painful as I've tried to wade through grief and loss the last seven months. While now not quite so raw, every now and then it creeps up on me and catches me by surprise.
When I called her Anne, we were laughing over coffee and she didn't even flinch. Her brown eyes just smiled back at me, and I knew. Whether 12 or 42, friendships like this are rare and special, never to be taken for granted. Anne taught me that. Why didn't I see it before? Why did I let life get in the way?
She has been there all along, for 30 amazing years.
All I needed was a reminder.