Two bags filled to their maximum sat neatly side by side in front of the front door. They were the last two bags of Lucinda’s belongings. She was moving out.
There was anger, resentment, irritation, disappointment, distress, a feeling of being let down in the air. The negativity was so strong.
Nine months ago, Lucinda had moved into Amanda’s apartment. They had been the best of friends ever since they were six.
At that tender age, they had been carefree and full of love. Love for everyone in their lives, love for everything in their surroundings. Sharing the same birthday made them choose each other as best friends, pure and simple.
Life was pure and simple at that age, indeed!
“Let’s go downstairs to have some of my birthday cake, then we can go to your place to have some of yours. You do have some left over, don’t you?”
Lucinda flew down the steps, the pink ribbon in her hair bouncing on her head. Amanda held onto her chubby faced cabbage patch doll Lulu which she had got from her father who had been working overseas. She hadn’t seen him since she was four.
“Of course. My mum is on a diet again so she won’t eat any.”
“How I wish our birthdays are two weeks apart. The cakes would last much longer then.”
“I don’t mind. I like our birthdays being on the same day. That makes us so special to each other.”
“We are special friends, good friends.”
“We are best friends, best friends for ever.”
“Starting from today till the day we die, we should always be each other’s best friend.”
“Yes, we should always be each other’s best friend.”
Lucinda passed a slice of cake on a plate to Amanda. “Best friends forever.”
Amanda carefully put Lulu on the kitchen chair. “Best friends forever.”
“Can I hold Lulu when we go to your house?”
“Yes you can. Only because you are my best friend. I won’t let any other person hold her. She is mine. My daddy sent her to me from England; a long way away from here.”
“Thank you Amanda. I’ll be very careful not to drop her. She is so beautiful. When I grow up, I’ll go to England to buy one just like Lulu for myself.”
“Can I come with you? I’d like to go to England to visit my dad.”
“Ok, we can go together. Then I won’t be too lonely.”
“I hope my mum lets me.”
“We’ll be adults by then. We don’t have to listen to our mums anymore. Adults never listen to their mums.”
“Oh I can’t wait to be an adult.”
To get full enjoyment of the happy times, one must have someone to share it with, so they found each other.
They loved to be in each other’s company. They went to the same school, studied together, played together, laughed together and cried together.
* * *
It was a heart breaking experience when the first parting came between them. They had been eleven at the time.
“Don’t cry Lucinda, we can talk on the phone.” Amanda wiped away her tears on her sleeve.
“You won’t forget about me, will you?”
They looked into each other’s red eyes. They couldn’t help the tears pouring out. That had been a very sad event, in fact!
“I’ll never forget you as long as I live. Remember you are my best friend.”
After her divorce, Amanda’s mum joined the workforce and sent her away to her grandma during the school holidays to keep an eye on her.
“I don’t want to leave you.”
“I don’t want you to go either. I am going to stop crying. I promised myself I’d be strong for both of us. At night, I’ll talk to the stars, they’ll pass my messages to you.”
“Every night, before bed time, I’ll talk to the stars and ask them to pass the message to you.”
“Ok, I’ll do the same.”
“I promise. I’ll be back before school starts.”
“It’s a such long time to be without a best friend.”
Amanda gave Lucinda a gold bangle. “You can wear it, to remind you of me.”
Lucinda gave Amanda a pink hair pin. “You can wear it, to remind you of me.”
They hugged each other dramatically with pouring tears. The tears cleared the way to a deep and lasting friendship.
Friendship is always a sweet responsibility, never an opportunity.
The teenage years are supposed to be full of secrets and growing pains. The friendship built between them brought trust and helped them both to sail smoothly through their adolescence. They didn’t have other young girls’ difficulties in dealing with emotions such as anxiety, anger and unhappiness. They helped and supported each other to relax and cope. Their friendship protected them without their noticing.
Friendship is like philosophy. It has no survival value; rather it gives value to survival.
When friends are caring and useful to each other, their world is radiant.
* * *
Sixteen was a good year for both of them. Lucinda was involved in local swimming competitions and Amanda started to date boys.
“It’s about time you put on a romantic outfit, rather than your usual black attire.” Lucinda, lying on the bed with her feet on the pillow, gave her advice to Amanda.
“What romantic outfit?”
“That pink dress we shopped for last month, remember?”
“That’s yours, I can’t wear that.”
“Why not? It’s so beautiful on you. Your dark hair contrasts with the pink. You look so romantic in it.”
“It’s too bright for me. I am not you, I don’t have the personality to match such a vibrant colour.”
“What are you talking about? You are the most trustworthy person I know.”
“That’s a quality, not my personality. See, you know I don’t have the personality, that’s why you are trying to talk about different things.”
“Hey! Raymond asked you out on a date, what’s that say to you?”
“It says beautiful girls don’t want him.”
“Hey! You are talking about my best friend, watch what you say.”
“I know I don’t have your beauty, so I can’t be too picky.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. In fact, not everyone likes the same look.”
“If I had your looks, I wouldn’t give Raymond a second glance.”
“Don’t you like him?”
“Not at all.”
“Why are you going out with him then?”
“Look at me. I have no looks, no personality. This could be my only chance to have a date.”
“I think you are beautiful.”
Friends are the people who know each other well and regard each other with liking, affection and loyalty.
“You are a true friend. Not even my mum says I am beautiful.”
“You have beautiful blue eyes.”
“They are grey.”
“They are blue!”
“Whatever, who cares. All I care about is that you don’t forget tonight we are supposed to go to Liz’s birthday party together.”
“I remember. I won’t walk out the front door without you.”
“Thank you. I’m glad that you are my best friend.”
“Me too. I can’t wait to hear all about it tomorrow.”
“Don’t get too excited. Tonight may be as boring as economic class.”
Amanda finished her makeup, using the belt to pull her skirt up.
Lucinda jumped off the bed, spraying perfume all over her.
“Hey, take it easy. I don’t want Raymond to think I am trying so hard to please him.”
“Are you going to kiss him?”
“If he’s nice, I might let him kiss me goodnight. That’s what they do in the movies, right?”
Friendship without self-interest is one of the rare and beautiful things in life. Life is partly what we make it and partly what is made of it by the friends whom one chooses.
* * *
In the last two years of high school, Lucinda’s interests were swimming, tap dancing and piano.
Amanda took a job as a casual shop assistant, working through the holidays. Dating was her only activity outside of school and work.
“Deferring a year is not a big deal!” Amanda finished rubbing sunscreen on herself, throwing the bottle to Lucinda.
“What do you want to do for a year?”
“On your own?”
“Of course not, with John! He’ll pay for my expenses, how cool is that?”
“What are you going to do when you are not travelling with him?”
“Continue my casual job.”
“Working as a shop assistant?”
“Something like that, it’s only temporary.”
“What do you get for being John’s travel companion?”
“What do you mean? He’s my man. I want to travel with him.”
“Look at me, Amanda.” Lucinda stopped rubbing the cream on Amanda’s back. “He’s not your man, he is another woman’s man.”
“He’ll leave her.”
“You really believe that?”
“What choice do I have? I have to believe him.”
“No, you don’t! You are smart and have choices. You only have three years to go. Once you have a degree, you’ll become a professional. You don’t have to work in the shop, standing all day.”
“I love John.”
“Do you? After a while you will change your mind. How many times have you thought you were in love, then your feelings changed?”
“You are right. I’m really not that into John. I’m with him because he’s different. But he is older, set in his ways, snores, oh boy how he snores! Why do I have to put up with that?”
“Would you want to be a stepmother to two little children? Cook their meals, wash their dirty clothes, tidy their mess, make their sandwiches, do the grocery shopping, drive them to sport matches, take them to music classes? Don’t forget that you’re only eighteen years old, still a child yourself.”
“No, I don’t want to be anybody’s stepmother. Not when you put it like that.”
“This is reality. Don’t you watch those shows on telly? Looking after children is an endless and thankless job. Not to mention their gross habits and bratty behaviour.”
Amanda gave Lucinda a kiss on the cheek. “My dear Lucinda, you are my rock. You always point me in the right direction. Thank you, thank you.”
Advice is like snow. The softer it falls, the longer it dwells and the deeper it sinks into the mind.
The sweetest support is found in the most intimate friendship.
Friends help each other to examine themselves and encourage each other to grow.
Without friends, living would not be as good as it ought to be. The best friends bring out the best in each other.
They both got into computer science at the same university. Their friendship continued without interruption.
* * *
Walking out from the shopping centre, the worried look on Lucinda’s face didn’t ease. “Please don’t do it again.”
“I’ll pay you back the money.”
“It’s not the money. It was a wrong thing to do. Lucky he was nice about it and relaxed once I paid him. What about if he presses charges? Shoplifting is a crime. Please don’t steal again. Ask me if you are short of money.”
“Why should I pay for it? The government charges enough taxes. My whole family, including me, are all tax payers. The more you earn, the more you pay. What does the government use our taxes for?
Look at the Monash freeway. Ever since I was a little kid, that freeway has always been partly blocked for construction. Do you ever see any workers? Occasionally maybe. There’s not a single soul most of the time.
That’s where our taxes go – to the pub to support those workers who don’t really work much. I am a full time student. I work part time to support myself. If I work a few more hours a week, Centrelink will take part of my benefits away, just to punish me for being a hard working citizen.”
“It’s our system. There’s nothing you or I can do about it. Besides, it’s not the shopkeeper’s fault we pay a lot of taxes. If you get caught, you’ll have a permanent criminal record.”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. You nag like an old lady.”
“Amanda, next year we will both be working as professionals. The money will be good. Hang in there, there’s not long to go.”
Amanda started to laugh.
“What is so funny?”
“What did he do?”
“He was so into you. The way he looked at you made me laugh. I am surprised that he didn’t ask for your phone number.”
“He asked if he could buy me a cup of coffee.”
“Did he? What did you say?”
“I said I don’t drink coffee, then quickly walked away before he could say anything.”
A friend is someone who knows all about you and still likes you. A friend is one who believes in you when you have ceased to believe in yourself. A friend doesn’t walk in front of you nor walk behind you, but walks beside you.
* * *
With a science degree in hand, Amanda took off to London to spend some time with her father. Through her father’s influence and connections, she had landed a good job.
Two years was a long time for them to be apart. Lucinda had saved up enough money and flown to London, not to visit the Queen but her best friend.
Although they emailed each other constantly, once they were face to face, they could still find things to talk about. Lucinda spent her entire annual holiday with Amanda. Four weeks later, they still hadn’t finished talking.
At Heathrow international airport, two Australian young ladies tried to say goodbye to each other. They had had lots of practice being apart by now but it was still not easy when they faced the moment of parting.
“I don’t want you to go back to Melbourne.”
“I don’t want to leave you either. Do you know, I love London, it’s so cosmopolitan. There’s so much to see and do here, from castles to cats, museums to moorlands, friendly pubs to lively street markets. Most of all, because you are here.”
“I like London too, but Melbourne is home. My mum and you are there. My childhood and adolescence were all in Melbourne.”
“Unfair isn’t it? Before I came, time passed so slowly. While I was here, time flew so quickly.”
“When am I going to see you again?”
“I’ll be back here when you and Terry get married. I’ll be your bridesmaid.”
“Oh please, who is going to marry him?”
“Lucinda, Lucinda, sometime I wonder how come you are so innocent? All those years rubbing shoulders with me and you still don’t get it.”
“This is a dog eat dog’s world. The strong ones survive; the weak ones get eaten.”
“Are you trying to say that Terry is one of the weak ones?”
“No, I am telling you that Terry is useful. But why do you think I never mentioned him to you before you came? Because he is nobody. He’s not worth wasting my time to talk about. He’s not the man for me. I won’t marry him.”
“Does he know how you feel?”
“Of course not.”
“The place you two live in looks so warm and inviting.”
“He had it all before I moved in with him. I didn’t do anything to it.”
“He’s quite artistic, don’t you think?”
“I feel sorry for Terry.”
“Hey, whose friend are you? Are you trying to stop me from going back to Australia?”
“Oh, how I wish you could come back home with me now.”
They hugged each other with tears in their eyes. Again!
A hug is worth a thousand words; a friend is worth more. Friends are the most important ingredient in a happy life.
Give friends the freedom to be themselves. Appreciate the differences in their ways.
* * *
At twenty-four, Lucinda finally agreed to a marriage proposal from her boyfriend of three years, Dean.
One and a half years later, the wedding took place. Amanda packed up her belongings and moved back to Melbourne a few months before the wedding. Good timing or just what good friends do to support each other?
It was Lucinda’s big day. The pearly white wedding gown showed off her figure perfectly. 150 guests attended the ceremony. While the family and guests were busy socialising, the bride and her bridesmaid were relaxing in their room, waiting to be called.
“I told Dean that if you hurt Lucinda, Lucinda’s father, mother, brother and I will deal with you.”
“Did you say that?”
“Of course I did. He said, there’s a chance Lucinda would hurt me but there’s no chance I would hurt her.”
“Oh that’s so sweet.”
“You would think so.”
“Don’t you like Dean?”
“I can tell something is bothering you.”
“You never really dated many guys. How do you know he’s the one?”
“I just know.”
“Do you trust him?”
“Oh yes, totally.”
“You are beautiful, sweet, kind, clever and innocent. You can do better.”
“I don’t want to do better. I want Dean, he is perfect for me.”
“He’s a lucky man.”
“I am the lucky one.”
“As long as you are happy, I am happy for you.”
“Thank you Amanda.”
Lucinda’s father knocked on the door. They could hear the “Wedding March” start playing. Lucinda stood up with a satisfied smile. Amanda quickly adjusted the wedding gown. They hugged each other one last time before walking down the red carpet. Dean was waiting at the other end with a happy smiling face.
Joy is doubled when shared with friends.
* * *
Amanda didn’t turn up for their contract agency’s function. They were both using the same agency to get their computer contract work. It paid far better than a permanent position. Lucinda had had a very good start with the agency so Amanda joined the agency also.
* * *
“What time is it?” Amanda was curled up on the couch. Her hair needed washing, her teeth needed brushing. She was in her pyjamas.
“3 o’clock in the afternoon.” Lucinda pulled up the blind.
The sun shone on Amanda’s face. She moved to another seat. “Dean’s away again?”
“Then why are you here?”
“I was worried about you.”
“You think I would try to kill myself? Don’t worry, I am not that strong.”
“There’s plenty of fish in the sea.”
“You got that right. I didn’t really like Peter anyway.”
“It’s his loss.”
“He didn’t even have the guts to tell me face to face. What a coward.”
“You’re better off without him.”
“Did you see that coming?”
“No. I was looking forward to being your matron of honour.”
“I wasn’t looking forward to the wedding anyway.”
“I thought you’d finally met your match.”
“What match? I agreed to marry him because I didn’t want to be left on the shelf.”
“Then why are you so upset?”
“Because I didn’t see it coming. I don’t like to be the one who has no say in it.”
“How long has it been since you’ve eaten?”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Let’s go to Acland Street and buy lots of cakes and sweets. I miss the hot chocolate there. No other place is able to make hot chocolate like that Greek lady.”
“Maria is Bulgarian, she’s not Greek.”
“Alright. After you have a shower, we’ll go and see Maria, the Bulgarian lady.”
“Go home to your husband, spend the Saturday with him.”
“Today is Sunday. Your drinking and days of self-pity are over.”
Lucinda dragged and pushed Amanda into the bathroom. She rolled up her sleeves and went back to the living room with a cleaning cloth. She threw away the empty bottles, pizza boxes and take away food containers and wiped the marks and dirt from the coffee table.
By the time Amanda had put on her t-shirt and jeans, the living room was already back to a respectable condition.
A friend is someone who is there for you when she’d rather be somewhere else.
* * *
With the big 3 and 0 candles blown out on their cake, the combined celebration did not end too well with Lucinda lying in the hospital bed feeling sorry for herself.
When Amanda arrived at Lucinda’s room, the flowers she had ordered were displayed on the shelf amongst many others.
“Thank you for the flowers.”
“That’s the least I can do. I am so sorry about what happened.”
“You didn’t mean it, it’s not your fault.”
“I tried to explain to your mother that I had had too much to drink.”
“We know, it’s no one’s fault. It was just meant to be.”
“If I hadn’t been drunk, I wouldn’t have fallen. If I hadn’t fallen, I wouldn’t have pulled you down with me. You and Dean must hate me.”
“How can I hate you Amanda, you are my best friend.”
“What did the doctor say?”
“It was too early in the pregnancy. They weren’t able to save the baby.”
“I am so sorry.”
“So am I.”
“I’ll never be able to make up for this.”
“Stop feeling guilty. It doesn’t do any of us any good.”
“You are unbelievably good to me.”
“We are good friends, the best kind.”
“You got that right, no one can replace you in my heart.”
“That’s exactly what you are in my heart.”
Amanda walked to the bed, bent down and hugged Lucinda.
* * *
They had been through life’s ups and downs; they had always been there for each other. When Lucinda and Dean separated, Amanda was there for her. They cried for their own sadness and cried for each other’s as well.
After the house was sold during the divorce, Lucinda moved in with Amanda.
* * *
Now Lucinda was ready to go, to say goodbye to her so called ‘best friend’ who she had loved since she was a little girl. A friend who she had never judged, who she had accepted and trusted for twenty-nine years. Living together had changed all that.
“Before I go, I’d like you to know that the past 9 months were the worst in my entire life.”
“You think I had a good time even though I was in my own home? I was comfortable until you moved in.”
“I didn’t come without an invitation.”
“I was a fool wasn’t I?”
Amanda couldn’t believe that her kindly sharing her personal space would bring an end to their solid friendship.
“I thought you were my friend. What a joke.”
“It doesn’t take much to show one’s true face, does it?”
“You can say that again. No good person would seduce her friend’s boyfriend.”
“Don’t flatter yourself, what boyfriend? You two had just met.”
“I told you I would give Ryan a chance.”
“Ryan was not interested in having a long term relationship. He’s a man who’s looking for fun.”
“You could have found your own man to have fun with.”
“I didn’t take him; he came onto me.”
“Yes, he came onto you! Jason too?”
“Jason already had a girlfriend. He’s not much better than Ryan.”
“It is my life. I don’t need you to interfere.”
“Interfere in your life? Please, I am very busy with my own life – a much better one than yours in fact.”
“Your life better than mine? 35 years old and never been married. You can’t even get a man of your own.”
“You think a wedding band means you got a man of your own? How naïve you are. Dean was never your own man.”
“Think before you speak Amanda. You could avoid a huge misunderstanding. When you blurt out the first thing that pops into your head, you end up saying things you don’t mean.”
“Scared to know the truth?”
“What are you trying to tell me?”
“I am trying to open your eyes.”
“Watch what you say.”
“Dean said you didn’t understand him. He needed comfort from a real woman.”
“How dare you.”
“If it hadn’t been for me, you and Dean would have ended even earlier.”
“I don’t believe you would do that to me.”
“That’s what a friend’s for, isn’t it?”
“Well, smarty pants, you are absolutely right. I can’t argue with you. Let’s pull all the dirty laundry out, shall we? A week before your wedding took place, I did what a good friend would do – I told Peter what you were doing. Everything, yes everything. You don’t have to thank me; Peter’s gratitude was more than enough.”
“What did you tell him?”
“Let’s see, you had an abortion because Sam refused to leave his wife and children.”
“You know I didn’t want Sam. There was no way I was going to have his baby.”
“You stole Michael’s money when you two parted.”
“You told Peter that? Why?”
“You slept with Dean.”
“You knew that?”
“You ruined my marriage, the least I could do was return the favour. Well, as you said – that’s what a friend’s for, right?”
Showing support to a suffering friend is easy, being gracious in competition with a friend is not easy.
The friendship that can cease was never real – was that the case here? Or had they been too busy trying to win one over the other, to have time to love?
Lucinda threw the house keys onto the couch, picked up her bags and closed the front door behind her.
“I knew about you and Terry, that’s why I didn’t want him,” Amanda shouted.