I tiptoed barefoot out of my Airbnb in London, leaving my sleeping kids behind. My mum had squeezed me tight for good luck, but my heart was still beating too fast. More than nervous, I felt petrified. It’s not every day you meet up with an old friend after a 10-year argument.
Taking deep breaths, I quickly texted: Running 15 mins late, sorry.
Her reply was immediate: No worries. I can wait xx
I slipped my shoes on and headed to the restaurant, where I scanned each table until I finally saw that undeniable face. She smiled, I smiled back, and then we were hugging.
“I’ve missed you so much!” we both said. Then, Lucy said “I’m nervous so I’ve ordered wine.” Nothing to worry about, I told myself as I tried to sip slowly. Just two grown women, 36 years old, highly nervous, drinking rosé.
As we asked about each other’s kids we fell into the rhythm we’d had as best friends for 26 years. A decade ago we hadn’t had a petty fall-out, we’d had an epic bitch-fest followed by a nuclear winter.
We unfriended each other on social media, and she disinvited me from her wedding. I’d offended her and she asked for an apology, and I refused. Then I changed my email. Very grown up.
Looking back at our argument, it’s clear how different our lives were. Lucy had recently found out she was pregnant, and decided she would get married soon after the baby was born and deployed me to advise the happy groom on: rings, venues, conduct becoming a fiancé, etc.
I was in a grimmer situation, with my brother in hospital and a poorly-paid, high-stress job. I wasn’t jealous but I was unhappy. My own love life was a slow motion car crash, and I missed the female friendships that started going AWOL in our mid-20s. One by one friends disappeared with men I couldn’t tell if they were strong and silent, or just silent.
Eventually my pessimism exploded. Lucy emailed about a wedding dress, I tightened the woolen blankets I wore in my freezing office, and shot back a funny reply. After all, it was a funny dress. Just not to Lucy. She saw great
potential in this flamenco-inspired number, and had enough of my attitude. I was hurtfully negative, she said. I had no idea how mean my words could be, she said.
Trying to stop myself from crying at work (again), I replied: I resign from this wedding. Perhaps if we hadn’t been emailing at work I would have calmed down. But both of us are obstinate, and hot-tempered. Neither of us gave in, and the wedding came and went without me. Over the years it was this fiery “screw you” element that made me miss Lucy, and the friendship we’d had. Now I have a healthy relationship of my own, and I don’t go around telling people where to stick their wedding invites. I miss those days.
As I become older, I value the friendships that shaped me. The friends who knew me before I liked coffee, when my going-out clothes were all borrowed outfits, who remember me when I was dreaming of being who I am now: you can’t lose those friendships. Although I was hurt, there was a Lucy-shaped gap in my life.
Eventually I stopped being hurt and knew I was heartbroken. When I was pregnant in 2014 I had furious, crying rages that came out of nowhere. My daughter was born and I noticed the Grand Canyon between friends who have kids, and those who are free. I wished I could ask my old friend if maybe this had fuelled her anger with me.
As I become older, I value the friendships that shaped me. The friends who knew me before I liked coffee, when my going-out clothes were all borrowed outfits, who remember me when I was dreaming of being who I am now: you can’t lose those friendships.
Whenever I thought about reaching out to Lucy, I didn’t. Without friends in common our paths didn’t cross, and eventually I moved from London to Melbourne. When my mother told me Lucy and her husband were getting a divorce I realised that our argument had lasted longer than her marriage. I wanted out – and finally did something.
I googled her (honestly, not for the first or even fifth time) and sent her a message. It was Christmas, 2018.
“Hi Lucy, it’s been a while and I appreciate you might not want to hear from me, but I’d love to be in touch again. Love, Fernanda”
Her reply came back immediately: Losing your friendship has been one of the biggest regrets of my life. Soon we were messaging away and my husband was wondering who I was texting late at night. When Lucy told me that she was sorry about our argument, I told her I was sorry too. I was sorry we’d carried it on for so long.
When I went back to the UK to see my folks in 2019, I made a date with Lucy. Now we’re at an age where to know someone you need to meet their kids, and so we did that too. We keep in contact via WhatsApp, back and forth like time zone message tennis. It turns out we both wanted the argument to end. It feels right to be friends again. It also feels great.
Fernanda Fain-Binda is a freelance writer. You can follow Fernanda @FernandaChat.