The summer I turned six years old, our family moved from Ohio to Illinois. On move-in day, I stood in the front yard, watching in a bit of a daze while the movers carried piece after piece of furniture off a huge truck and in through the front door of our new house. My older brother had already found a friend – the big empty cardboard boxes had attracted a curious boy or two from down the street and along with my brother, they were “sledding” down the slight hill in the front yard.
I was a girl who was shy under normal circumstances, but today, in a new neighborhood and a new house where I didn’t know a soul outside my family, it would’ve taken something extra special to push me out of my shell. So, there I stood underneath a tree, out of the way, hidden by branches, observing the activity around me.
My mother came outside and said, “Did you notice that little girl across the street?”
My head twitched in the direction she pointed. No, I hadn’t noticed her, but there she was, as my mother said. She was blonde, just like me, and about my height.
“Why don’t you go over there?”
My eyes popped open wide, and a rush of anxiety dove down my esophagus. “What would I say?” I asked, either to myself or out loud to my mom. Either way, my mom knew what I was like, so she probably read my expression even if she hadn’t heard the words.
“Tell her your name and ask her if she wants to play.” My stare across the street continued, unabated, so my mom gave my shoulder a little nudge. “Go on. She’s going to be your neighbor. Maybe she can be your best friend.”
I took a deep breath, convinced my legs to move and walked across the street. As I approached, I saw that she was eyeing me up just as I’d been doing to her. I stopped in front of her. “Hi.” The syllable broke through the silence between us.
“Hi,” she said, a pink sheen blushing her cheeks.
We exchanged names, and then, encouraged by my mom’s suggestion that she could be my best friend, I said, “Do you want to play Barbies?”
She immediately responded with, “I don’t care,” which was sort of the shy way of saying, “Sure.”
From that moment on, we were inseparable. I became a regular installment at her house, and she at mine. We played all summer long, and when first grade rolled around, and we went to different schools (she private, me public), we caught up with each other after school and on weekends. And yes, as my mom predicted, we became best friends. We were as close as sisters, especially for two girls who didn’t have any sisters.
We made each other better. We weren’t shy when we were together. We “got” each other and laughed constantly. We enticed each other to do things maybe we wouldn’t have done alone. And we introduced the other to our “outside friends” – the ones we made at school, or eventually, at work and at college.
We shared our hopes, our dreams, our goals, our problems. And we always supported the other. Unfortunately, since the age of twenty-two or so, we never again lived in the same state. Our jobs and marriages and families took us far apart from each other. But … when we do see each other, it doesn’t take much time to be back in the swing. We share stories, laughs, we go places, we have fun. She’s still my best friend even though we don’t see each other all that much.
Friendships like that are a gift from God. I truly pray that everyone gets to experience a special friend at least once in their life. I just got lucky that I met mine when I was six.
What about best friends in fiction? In my book Seized, Gloria has a best friend, Renee who’s been helping her through her empty nest angst. In this scene, Gloria unthinkingly blows off an outing with Renee, but as besties do, Renee knows it’s nothing personal and just helps her get ready anyway. Here’s an excerpt from the opening:
Gloria Lockwood was on her hands and knees, head ducked into the empty cabinet under the kitchen sink, mountains of cleaning supplies surrounding her on the floor. She finished the floor of the cabinet and backed carefully out without banging her head. She made her way past creaky knees to her feet and rinsed out her cloth in the sink. After shaking out her complaining legs, she assumed the position and climbed back under for a rinse.
It was then that she heard her cell phone ring. She groaned and rolled her eyes.
She finished up her rinsing, then began wiping it dry, trying to manage the seed of worry that she’d ignored a phone call. What if it was Brent? What if he was in a bind and needed her help?
She maneuvered out of the cabinet, and body aching, laid back on the old tile floor. She just needed a moment to rest. To breathe. She wasn’t accustomed to heavy manual labor. Just look at this place. Housework had never been a priority to her, but definitely not when she was raising her sister’s two sons.
The doorbell rang. Gloria huffed in frustration. Rest time over. She got to her feet and headed for the front door, wiping a strand of hair out of her face with a hand still wet from her chore. She pulled it open.
Her best friend Renee stood on the step, looking un-sweaty, un-tired and cutely dressed in tan capris, a flowing flowered top, sandals and pink polished nails. Not to mention, hair and makeup. After a pause while Renee studied her up and down, she said, “You forgot, didn’t you?”
“Ummm,” said Gloria while her mind ran.
Renee pushed past her into the bungalow. Like a bloodhound, she headed straight for the kitchen. “I knew it.” She pointed at all the items that Gloria’d pulled out. “I knew I should’ve sent you a reminder this morning.”
“Oh! Is that tonight?” Gloria twirled in a circle, till she faced her Beaches calendar hanging from a nail on a cabinet. She looked at it, pointed at the box designating today. “No, see? Not today.”
Renee sported an amused grin and an eyeroll, stepped over and flipped the calendar from April to May.
Now she saw it. The seventh of May, not April, had a notation: Renee. 6:30. Kitchen Capers.
“Oh! My gosh, what is wrong with me?”
“It’s all right …,” Renee said.
Gloria interrupted. “I was really looking forward to it.”
“I know you were, sweetie. It’s not too late.” She put a hand on each of Gloria’s shoulders and guided her to her bedroom. “Just a quick outfit change, brush through the hair and maybe a swipe of foundation and powder, and we’ll be all set.”
Gloria stared wide-eyed into her mirror and sighed. “Are you sure we have the time?”
“Absolutely. You work on that, and I’ll call Elena at Kitchen Capers. Give her a heads up we might be a smidge late. She’ll wait for us.”
“I’m sorry.” Gloria dragged her attention from the mirror and focused on her best friend’s eyes.
“Not a problem.” Renee squeezed her arm and pulled her in, so their foreheads rested on each other. “It’s gonna be fun.”
And off she went. Gloria turned back to her task at hand, making herself presentable for a social evening out with her bestie.
I’ll be giving away a copy of Seized to one random commenter in whatever format the winner prefers. To enter, please give me your thoughts on any of these topics: do you have a best friend? How and when did you meet? What things do you like to do together? Have you read a book with a fictional best friend that you particularly liked?