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Once, there were four of us, and we lived every day like one long, joyous moment of friendship.

Being without friends is like getting lost in a huge supermarket when you were a little kid. There are people around you, but you don’t dare reach out to them, in case they ignore you or mock you. So you wander around aimlessly, scared and alone and trying not to show it, your hands aching for another hand to hold. Being with friends is always having that hand to hold, having the mutual guidance and the sureness that you will not be alone. It’s knowing that there will always be an empty spot at a table in the cafeteria waiting for you and that you will always have a partner for every group project. It’s the confidence that there are people in the world who know you in all your ups and downs and like you anyway.

That was us. We had sleepovers in each other’s basements, where we whispered into the frigid air above our faces secrets, gossip, speculations, everything. Because we knew that we would keep each other’s secrets just as well as the night around us. We played Truth or Dare until we knew everything about each other, and then we talked about less serious things, like if Justin Beiber was lying about his age, or if the plural of platypus really was platypi. We watched Glee and South Park reruns, and ate Icebreakers and Safeway Selects chocolate cake.

It’s not that we stopped being friends or the strength of our friendship changed. We changed.

Two of us have grown closer, but the other two have grown apart. One of us has barely any classes with the rest of us anymore. She spends time with other people now, and it feels unfair to demand her attention to us and only us when most of the time, we have each other but she has no one.

Maybe the first fractures in our friendship started when Alicia left. She was picking at her lasagna one day, studying her upside-down reflection in her spoon when she said, “I’m going somewhere else next year.”

She told us three months before the end of school. But even before that, the crazy girl with the baggy “Save Our Planet” t-shirts, Phineas and Ferb catchphrases, neon gel pens, and obsession with email emoticons was changing. She started wearing makeup and v-necks, and talking about music and celebrities. So it was like we lost her even before she left.

We promised each other we’d stay in touch. Not only with Alicia but also each other. After high school and university and the rest of our lives, we’d be old grannies meeting every Tuesday night to play Bingo. We copied down emails, telephone and cell phone numbers, Skype ID’s, every form of contact we could think of (except for Facebook, because we’d made a pact never to sign up for Facebook). We passed a piece of paper around and photocopied it three times, as if numbers and letters on a page would be enough to keep us together.

“Keep in touch!” we told Alicia. “We’re going to be asking you all about your new school!”

“We’ll always email. Or Skype or whatever. No matter what.”

“Yes. Forever.”

“Forever,” we all agreed.

That was back when forever was something to touch and taste and hold in our hands, and not just another empty promise.





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