We are seven years old and she joins my grade two class partway through the year. She's a little intimidating, having a halo of blonde curls and being from a different province (Winnipeg is glamorous when you're too young to know any better.) (No offence intended, Winnipeg.) She lives down the street from me and that's enough to make us best friends.
We are twelve years old and we spend every weekend eating giant bowls of popcorn and watching Anne of Green Gables. We escape our giant families (I think I have it bad being one of four kids but she's one of seven so I don't complain too loudly) by hiding out in my family's trailer parked in the driveway, playing cards and talking about boys.
We are fourteen years old and she decides to cut off her beautiful curls in favour of a pixie cut. I go to the appointment with her and afterward, as we walk home and she cries because she thinks she looks like a boy, I desperately try to think of a way to fix it. I suggest that she dye her hair strawberry blonde. I convince my olive-skinned, green-eyed, naturally blonde friend to dye her hair red. It is a disaster, obviously, but she doesn't hold it against me.
We are sixteen years old and she is confident and beautiful and funny. I am awkward and anxious and sweaty. She brings me to parties with the cool kids and gives me my first alcoholic beverage and when we are in drama class playing that stupid game (the one where you have to sit on someone's lap and say "baby, if you love me won't you please please smile?" and if they smile you win and you get to sit down, and if they don't crack a smile you have to continue around the circle, sitting on lap after lap, growing more desperate) she saves me by faking a smile whenever I jump into her lap, even though I know she's a pro at keeping her face controlled. She is never awkward or uncomfortable and I am a little envious of her poise.
We are nineteen years old and she is in love - in Australia - and I am in love - in Vancouver - and even though we don't talk as much as we used to, when we do talk we pick up right where we left off. When my heart is broken, she sends me long, beautiful emails full of gory details of what she'd like to do to the boy who's done the breaking.
We are twenty-one years old and we go to bars every weekend and drink rye & gingers and then stumble home to my creepy little apartment on Fraser Street. She holds my hair and rubs my back when I drink too much and I make her macaroni and cheese for breakfast the next morning. She is by my side when I meet Shawn and she is by my side when I decide to leave Shawn to move to England.
We are twenty-five years old and she organizes a superhero-themed bachelorette party for me. After I am drugged by some loser at the bar, she sneaks into my hospital room (wearing a Robin costume) (yes, like Batman and Robin) even though she isn't family and holds my hand despite the fact that I am unconscious and don't know she's there. Two weeks later she stands beside me when I marry Shawn. She holds my hand in the car and she whips out a stain-remover pen when I get melted chocolate on my wedding dress ten minutes before the ceremony.
We are twenty-eight years old and she is moving to England. We drink wine and eat cheese and I tell her not to fall in love with some bloke and she tells me not to get knocked up. Three weeks later I will be pregnant. Months later she will be in love.
She is coming home next week. Just for a visit, not forever, but that doesn't matter. She is a forever kind of person. We may only have a couple of months together before she flies back to her love in England but it is enough time to eat bowls of popcorn and drink wine and talk about boys.