A long, long time ago (1965) in a city far, far away (London, England) two little girls (well…11-year-olds) met for the first time. It was the first day at senior school for both and, as you’ve probably guessed, one of those girls was me. I didn’t want to be at this prestigious grammar school. I knew no-one in my form, although three other friends from junior school had, like me, won their place there, they were in different houses and our paths rarely crossed.
If my memory serves me right, I was sitting at the double desk by the window three rows from the back of the class, when Anne approached, looking equally as lost as I felt, to ask if she could sit next to me. We became good friends and for four years always spent our lesson breaks and lunchtimes together. I went to her home maybe once or twice, but she lived too far away for us to spend any time out of school together. We were alike in many ways, shared the same interests, shared almost the same birthday (hers is the day after mine!) and both felt out of place and unhappy at school.
Four years later, a mix up occurred with another pupil who had the same initial and surname as me, which made me lose complete and total interest in school. I hated it and left soon as I was 15, much to the consternation of my parents and headmistress. No one from my class tried to contact me and I never heard from anyone again. Not that I had a lot of friends there, only Anne.
Many years later Friends Reunited was conceived. In 2000 I registered out of curiosity, found a few names I recognised, made contact and exchanged a few messages with some, even toyed with going to a school reunion but, deciding no one would remember me, didn’t go. Then I received a message that made me cry. It was from Anne, saying that she’d always wondered what happened to me, why I left school suddenly, and that since that day, she’d hated the school even more because I was the only friend she ever had there, and after I went it was awful for her. I was gobsmacked. I never realised.
From then on we chatted online regularly, shared many heart-to-hearts. We’d planned to meet, but we both worked full-time and she lived some distance away. Life, work and tragedy seemed always to conspire against us meeting again. When I retired from work, I intended to drive down and see her, I had no excuse, but a few weeks after finishing, I found myself without a car to use. Then Anne moved even further away. Regardless, we made a pact that this year, 2015, would be the year we would meet. Nothing would stop us.
And nothing did. At the beginning of November I drove across the country to see her. The whole experience was surreal. It was as if the last time we’d actually spoken was yesterday… the years just fell away. I’d vowed to myself I wouldn’t cry when she opened the door, but I did, I blubbered like a baby. She hadn’t changed – I would have known her anywhere. Her and her husband made me so welcome, insisting they put me up for the night even though I had booked a small B&B nearby, took me for a drive around the area where they live on the coast, even treated me to dinner. We shared many stories about school, family, life, photos, and laughed a great deal. All too soon it was time to drive home.
How I wished we’d gotten together sooner. We’ve agreed we must meet up again, only this time I won’t leave it so long, and intend visiting next summer. Anne’s is a friendship I truly value, one that has stood the test of time and one I shall never let go.