by Sara Sherwood
On the table in my parents’ hallway, squeezed between graduation photos, reluctant family holiday portraits and dead pets held in celluloid, there is still a picture of us holding hands. You were my first best friend. I can’t remember meeting you but my mum tells me the story when she starts to see her mortality in my greying hair.
Sam was the only other red-haired little girl in nursery
Our red hair, a shared dislike of our disruptive baby brothers and fondness for creating our own universes in the nursery doll house, was enough to make us best friends. We stayed like this throughout primary school. We built a kingdom made from Geri Halliwell’s Union Jack dress, glitter, Jacqueline Wilson books, PVA glue and sleepovers with pepperoni pizza for tea.
We didn’t hold hands on the first day of high school but we did accept Priya and Holly into our sacred group. The four of us would link arms in the shopping centre and spend our pocket money on fruity body spray, strawberry milkshakes and French manicure kits. When your dad moved out we sat at my new computer designing daydream lives on The Sims while my mum and yours sat downstairs drinking red wine and listening to Wham! records.
On the first day of Year 9 you betrayed me twice: you wore too much mascara, and you let Vicky Henderson walk to school with us. Vicky Henderson knew how to count calories, she knew the value of a bra size and she knew how to kiss boys. Once, when she leaned over in English, I saw the pull of her blue lace thong.
You highlighted our red hair with zebra blonde stripes before fully submerging your head into ash blonde hair dye. You kissed Vicky on the back of the bus to the horny jeers of Neil Robinson and his greased-up group of lads. You sneered at us when we asked you to come shopping, rolled your eyes when we suggested going bowling on Friday night, smirked when we confessed our undying devotion to Seth Cohen. All while wearing too much mascara.
I borrowed your new silver jacket for our end of term disco and we got ready watching Grease for the first time. You and Vicky thought John Travolta was lush. I didn’t understand what you meant until later that summer when I watched a midnight repeat of Saturday Night Fever with my hand in my wet knickers.
“On the first day of Year 9 you betrayed me twice: you wore too much mascara, and you let Vicky Henderson walk to school with us.”
When I’d come home for Christmas I would see you at the pub. You’d always make a fuss over me, ask me how Bristol was, ask me if there were any posh guys I was seeing, ask me if I was enjoying my course. You were studying Psychology at a university half an hour away, you didn’t leave home, you still went out at the weekend with Vicky.
I didn’t know you two were mates!
I hate most of the boys we went to school with. They all ended up personal trainers at the leisure centre or homeowners.
Ellie was my best friend when we were tiny!
Tiny? You were the first person I told when I had sex! I remember how you swelled with superiority and said you understood how it was big deal for someone like me.
That’s so funny, who knew swotty Ellie was mates with slutty Sam?
Slutty? That’s really offensive actually.
Oooohhh, calm down Ellie. Can’t take a joke? Sam doesn’t find it offensive, do you Sam?
No way! Come on Ellie, he was only joking.
After I’d thrown my mortarboard in the air I went travelling through South East Asia and watched you fall in love through Facebook. Scott had a shaved head and was fond of wearing oversized white vests. He would post sly jokes on your wall with a frequency which could never be platonic. I watched this graduate to a relationship status update, to a shared profile picture, to albums of your first anniversary trip to Paris. I didn’t like any of them.
GOSSIP GRRRLS GROUPCHAT
Holly: omg, she’s such a basic bitch
Holly: her first dance be something truly terrible like Angels by Robbie Williams
Ellie: I went to a wedding once where only men spoke
Ellie: It’s so misogynistic. I hope she gives a speech, it’s her wedding too
Priya: She totally won’t, it’ll be ‘traditional’
Priya: Shall we make a bet on who can shag Scott’s disgusting best man?
Your brother walked you down the aisle, trailed by three other blonde girls I’d stalked on your Instagram, screenshotted and sent to Priya and Holly. You all go out for fluorescent cocktails and take pouting selfies with captions professing your undying love for each other. We sat together near the back of the church and I wore an obnoxiously vintage dress.
I liked your wedding even though we only had one bottle of white wine and one bottle of red wine for the table. I spoke to you, I congratulated you, I asked you where you were going on honeymoon. Then I stood outside, wishing I smoked, and wondering if it was a subtweet to trash talk your wedding if you’re not on Twitter.
Amelie had a presence on my social media feed before she was even born. I’ve seen all your scans and watched your stomach swell with each bump selfie. I’ve watched her dark hair grow longer, her face become more like yours and her first steps on my iPhone screen. I got a message from you on Amelie’s first day at nursery. You told me that she’s already made a best friend by the nursery’s dolls house and that it made you think of me. You told me that you missed me.
I don’t think I miss you anymore but I replied. I marvelled at the consistency of time passing, I asked you how you were, I promised I would tell you when I was next home. I don’t think I know you anymore but I still wanted to ask how you’d got the hang of liquid eyeliner, if your mum was devastated when George Michael died and if childbirth was as gruesome as they said on One Born Every Minute. I wanted to tell you about the time I saw Jacqueline Wilson in Soho, that I still have pepperoni pizza for tea on a Friday night and that I preferred your hair red, on fire, like mine.
Sara Sherwood | @sarasherwood
Sara Sherwood spends the majority of her time thinking about pop stars, the Kardashians and former British Prime Ministers. She lives in Leeds.
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