by Sara Sherwood
‘Are you going to come to The Three Bears tomorrow? You never come and everyone is going to be there,’ Emily asked as we flicked through the Sky channels.
The Three Bears is an unremarkable pub. It stands in the middle of a maze of family-sized houses, in a little cluster of enterprise with an overpriced Spar and a dubious takeaway. I imagine the architects of the housing development had honourable intentions in building The Three Bears. Perhaps, in their sunny idealism, this would be a place for the hardworking men and women who lived on Forest Lane to have a luxurious pint after driving home from work, or a leisurely Sunday lunch. The reality is somewhat different, and the pub constantly has a sign proclaiming new management or a two-for-one meal deal during the week.
However, if you happen to chance upon The Three Bears on Christmas Eve you will find that it becomes a magical portal where teenage cliques are resurrected, where I’m still bothered that Jemma fucking Hutchings got better A-Level results than me and where if you say your ex-boyfriend’s name three times in the bathroom mirror he shall appear.
‘Who is “everyone”? Not this episode.’ Emily had stopped channel hopping and had landed upon on a very old episode of Friends. ‘I’ve seen this one a million times.’
‘You know, everyone.’
She kept flicking through the channels until we happened upon a late-night repeat of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Mine and Emily’s relationship has not always been reality TV shows and holidays spent laid on the sofa. Despite living next door to each other for most of our childhoods, we were never really friends until the summer after finishing our GCSEs when we’d spent all of the six-week holiday listening to Kelly Clarkson on repeat and slumping around town together. Our new friendship was cemented on the day before we started sixth form, when Emily had let me borrow her GHD hair straighteners and I had loaned her a pair of my prized Topshop flats.
‘Everyone?’ I repeated, hoping she would elaborate, and when she didn’t I knew that everyone included Edward.
“If you happen to chance upon The Three Bears on Christmas Eve you will find that it becomes a magical portal where teenage cliques are resurrected”
Edward was the boy I had sex with before all the others, before I’d gone to Goldsmiths and grown out of boys who played guitars. In and amongst all the hair gel, Lynx and Sky Sports of our sixth form common room Edward was a glittering dance-floor, The Long Blondes and the first sticky taste of JD & Coke. I dumped him before Freshers Week had finished, we hadn’t seen each other since.
I spent the hours before we left my mum and dad’s staring at myself in the mirror. Wishing I’d had a proper haircut before I’d left London or that I’d brought my favourite jeans back with me instead of relying on all the clothes I’d left in the back of my teenage wardrobe. I could imagine Edward in The Three Bears, tall and successful with some good looking babe draped all over him like that girl in some of his recent Instagram pictures. Then me, recently dumped with a grown out fringe and a shit dress that was ten years out of date.
The Three Bears was how I remembered it, I could hear laughter and Last Christmas blasting out as a drunk couple laughed out of the doors. As the doors swung shut, the smell of disinfectant curled around us, reminding me that I had once been sick outside after too many Jägerbombs on the day we got our A-Level results.
‘Laura.’ Emily looked like she was trying not to laugh. ‘It’ll be fine, you know.’
She took my gloved hand and squeezed it. Everything that I loved about Emily was condensed into that one gesture of solidarity. She pushed open the door and we stepped inside together.