9 comments

General

The first time I saw her will forever be implanted in my brain. It was exactly two months before my 12th birthday, a crisp November morning where people, bundled in fluffy scarfs, hurried past each other desperate for anything warm to unfreeze the blood in their veins. I was about to get on the school bus, trying to unzip the massive parka coat my mother had forced onto me when she just seemed to materialise. Running along the pavement towards me, fluffy boots and bright pink earmuffs on yet with a polka dot yellow dress streaming from her body yelling “Don’t let it leave!”.

All I could do was stare at her, bewildered at how she was allowed out in such clothing that would’ve given me a cold within minutes of being outside. Luckily the bus driver seemed just as transfixed on the mismatch of colour hurtling towards him as he hadn’t closed the doors, allowing us both to step into the weird warmth that only a bus can bring. 

I made my way to my usual window seat about half way down the bus when she plonked herself down next me, red in the face and still a little breathless. Neither of us said anything, I didn’t even ask her name- a dumb move as it took me nearly two weeks to learn it, but she smiled at me. The type of smile that just radiates positivity and somehow makes you feel special. 


Apart from the awkward bus meeting, I don’t recall much else of that first day. She was in a few of my classes but spent the time having to talk to teachers and introducing herself to basically anyone who was willing to talk to her. I remember feeling bad for her. She’d started just a bit later than everyone else who had already formed pretty close friendship groups. Nonetheless, I admired her bravery both for what she was wearing (luckily it was the one day we had at high school for non-uniform) and how she had a permanent grin on her face no matter who she talked to.


Regardless, it didn’t take long for us to become friends. Although she didn’t sit next to me in the bus as another friend had taken that spot, she’d managed to commandeer the seat behind me by the third week of her being at the school. I don’t even know if she even wanted to be my friend but soon the teachers were pairing us up for projects and seating plans; the new, bubbly girl and the quiet one. We were an unlikely pairing but apparently had equal forms intelligence and were able to work well together. 


More and more were we thrust into each other’s worlds. Yolanda, my ‘friend’, i.e. the girl who had sat with me on the bus suddenly became obsessed with god knows what and found other people to be with, so I was left lonely in my window seat each morning. Until a few days later when she left the chair behind me, once again plonking herself down next to me, just once to ask about a test, then another day to ask about homework then another and another. Suddenly I was looking forward to my morning bus ride and over time we bonded over shared interests, particularly anything to do with Disney. Alas, neither of us had been to Disney world and so we made a pact during one of the long bus rides to visit one day, for some reason though we didn't include that we had to be together. Maybe we already knew, that deep down, we weren’t going to be together forever. 

Some friendships have a song that is ‘theirs’, well we had a movie. It was Tangled. We even went so far to call each Mother and Punzel for a while, even though the only resemblance to them was that one of us had black hair and the other had blonde. However, the nicknames faded out after a few years when we decided to dye our hair. Unfortunately, my hair was too dark for it to take and hers ended up an orange colour that Brad Mondo would not be proud of.


My twelfth birthday had passed long before we were, what’d one might call, ‘best friends’. Luckily hers was quite late in the year so we celebrated the way any 12 year olds would, a sleepover with a tonne of chocolate obviously. So imagine my surprise when on the last day of term she bounded onto the bus with a box, no bigger than an A4 piece of paper, secured with an intricate yellow bow (my favourite colour at the time) and thrust it into my hands.

At first I didn’t want to accept it but her wide, green eyes and pouting face always won me over, even back then. Inside the box, nestled in with bubble wrap and tissue paper, was a disposable camera.


Our days over the next few years consisted of homework, paper planes across classrooms with secret messages, the park and spending all our money on tape for the camera. I don’t know how many pictures we must’ve taken over the years, I don’t even know where they’ve gone.

But most importantly the days, minutes, seconds were full of laughter, hers was so infectious with even the slightest twinkle in her eye able to set me off. We knew what the other was thinking as soon as they entered the bus (we even managed to claim the seats at the back eventually).


But my world came crashing down when we were 14. My grandfather died. Which meant, for a short time I was almost homeless seeing that I lived with him for almost my entire life. My father had died when I was young and my mother was stationed in Iraq fighting a war that may never cease. I had no other family anywhere in the country and my mother was unable to get home for a while. It was honestly the worst few months ago I’ve ever gone through.


I was so alone.


The funeral.


No home.


No family.


Apart from her. She saved me. I know she did. Her family allowed me into their home and fed me and sheltered me. But more importantly I got what I needed and that was love, from her. 

She held me in the middle of the night when I came in drunk from stolen liquor, weeping and staring into the deepest, blackest hole I’d faced in my life making sure I didn’t give in. 


There was judgement. No reprimands. No telling the adults. She saved my life.


When mother eventually got back we had to move across town. It meant we didn’t get the school bus at the same stop but at that time it didn’t matter that ten minutes of morning conversations had been taken away. I thought she’d be here forever.


I did everything I could to repay her and her family. I worked in her father's shop for over a year, without pay, just so I could thank them in a way other than verbally. However my true help came in the final year of high school. During the summer, I had gone overseas to visit family while she volunteered at the vets. We, to our chagrin, didn’t spend much time together but we had an 8 week summer next year. So you’d imagine my shock, the first day back at school when she drops the word ‘boyfriend’.

Boyfriend!?


Then the make up started.

I’d known her for a few years at this point, and that included the fact makeup just wasn’t her thing. I’m not sure anyone else noticed it, it was definitely well applied. I didn’t trust this David guy from the moment she mentioned him, maybe it was me just being jealous my best friend wasn’t all mine anymore. Yet, the way she talked about him and the way she started acting made me worry. Alongside her common dislikes and interests, I knew her. Her whole being, her soul and her mannerisms. And being around this guy was changing her.


She wasn’t allowed certain friends.

She had to wear certain things.

She was jumpy and so sullen.

My sweet sixteen was fraught with tension and tears.


Luckily the school's gym uniform had exposed arms and the make up wasn’t so good at covering the multitude of purple and yellow colours there. Despite her not telling the adults on me, I didn’t know what else to do. I told her she was strong and independent. I told her I cared about her. I asked her how she was about three times a day, it made her snap at me. We started arguing over him. She said he loved her. I said she was delusional. 

They dated for almost half a year, ending only when we started exams because that’s when someone with adult power finally listened to me and stepped in. She was still 15, he had just turned 18.


When high school ended I knew we were going to fragment and thus going to see each other less. My difficulties had strengthened us but hers had revealed the cracks in the friendship. I’d lost her innermost trust for telling the adults but she’d lost herself being with the guy. 


We only saw each other four times the entire eight week summer, in the past few summers we'd been together 24/7. I missed her. It definitely wasn’t the summer of our lives we had planned. I spent most of my time working while she spent hers in therapy. She came out stronger and had found her beautiful self once again.


Later on she thanked me. Apparently I was the one who’d saved a life that year.


When college started, our friendship seemed to be like it was at the beginning. Happy and with laughter but nervous around the other, almost scared of what the other was going to say. On top of that, our routines had vanished, the morning bus didn’t go this way, we both had part time jobs and were taking none of the same subjects. We tried though, we were still young and had that childish sense of not letting go so we hung out together when we could and FaceTimed each other every so often. Yet, it just wasn’t the same and we both knew we were growing apart. 


I don’t think either of us wanted to lose each other though. Not after everything we’d been through.


Nevertheless we gained new friends at college still keeping close eyes on each other but as soon as I hit the age when I could get into the clubs I seemed to forget her. Despite her relaxed approach to life, she never advocated drinking or drugs preferring to stay home with a book and herbal tea. On the other hand, I was always out or drunk, my eighteenth year passing in a blur. I didn’t know it at the time, but years later I was told she’d ask for updates on me to make sure I didn’t fall down the hole she’d saved me from once before. 


Luckily I scraped through the exams and from my own informants I knew she’d aced hers. I was proud, she used to work so hard at high school.

We saw each other in town just after results day, it’d been several weeks since we’d last text let alone talked. Even now though, neither of us said anything probably another dumb move, but she smiled at me. This time though, I smiled back.



She moved away two months after my 19th birthday. That was five years ago.


I haven’t heard from her since but I know she’s somewhere out there doing good and running after more buses maybe this time in a blue polka-dot dress. I will never forget the memories we made, the secrets we shared sitting side by side in that bus. I know, in the very depths of my heart, that one day we will meet again. The faded yellow ribbon on my wrist reminds me of that. She’ll smile at me with that special smile and even if we’re 90 years old or it’s just in passing once more, I’ll be glad for that. 


May 04, 2020 11:28

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

9 comments

Sadiyah Ali
21:02 May 10, 2020

I loved it helen! I’m so proud of you! You got me at the heartstrings gurl with that bittersweet ending, really good❤️

Reply

Helen Louise
21:05 May 10, 2020

thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
14:28 May 12, 2020

Hey there, This is a beautiful story. Note: There were a few typos in here so that’s something to watch out for in the future. I noticed one in my story as well.

Reply

Helen Louise
14:53 May 12, 2020

Thank you so much! And thanks for pointing that out, I’m not great at proof reading so I’ll keep it in mind :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Javairia Dar
12:33 May 11, 2020

My lil heart! Such an exciting story, writen with seamless eloquence! Im your number 1 fan please write more! :D

Reply

Helen Louise
22:14 May 11, 2020

aw you’re so cute! Thank you and of course I’ll write more :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
21:14 May 10, 2020

I love this so much! You write with such eloquence and poignancy :))

Reply

Helen Louise
21:25 May 10, 2020

thank you so much! :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Charlie Writens
09:24 May 06, 2020

You did it. A 9, Helen. ;)

Reply

Show 0 replies