The rain came down hard on the metal roof, sounding like a thousand manic horses. There were just the four of us in the garage: myself, our kid, LS and her cousin.
She was in one of her funny moods: verging on spiteful. She could be that way sometimes, wanting her own way, wanting attention. Looking back I guess there must have been something else going on there: third of three daughters, all of whom sent away to posh schools and boarding houses, almost as if the parents couldn’t wait to get rid of them. LS certainly had free run with no supervision and the three of us would wander off down the fields together for most of the day with no worry from parents (safer times, or less paranoia? You decide)
The rain continued to fall down. I guess I must have been about ten years old, my brother about six or seven. LS was teasing us, refusing to let us out of the garage. I was getting anxious because we were expected home at 4pm and I didn’t want to get into trouble (I was always pathetically well behaved). There was just a hint of nastiness in the way she locked the padlock – it wasn’t the first time recently that she had behaved just a little bit like a bully and I wasn’t enjoying the behaviour at all. Still the rain came down, harder than ever. She insisted that we wait till it subsided, but I knew that we were due home (as it would turn out my mother wasn’t even bothered). Finally she let us out and we ran through the rain, down the entry and in through the back gate.
I guess we must have met through the shared entry that backed onto both our houses: either that or our parents already knew each other. It certainly wasn’t through school. I don’t really remember the start of it, but I sure as hell remember the end.
There were endless adventures to be had on the nearby fields and we would play pirates and robbers, running away, Robin Hood (with myself as Robin and the infrequent visits from her cousin drafted in as Marion, much to LSs chagrin) – all the games that kids play. There must have been pictures, but the only memory I have of her face comes from an old home movie we made.
This was before the road cut the field in half, before the council decided that keeping a factory open a few more years was more important than preserving the environment: you could vanish into the grass, rolling in the sun and jumping over the brook with only the vaguest hint of car sounds in a faraway world that seemed unconnected to our private paradise. Things were great for a while there, yes indeed: the three of us almost inseparable – we must have been best friends for four or five years of my childhood.
And then it happened.
It was about a week after the rain incident. Myself and our kid were upstairs playing with action figures. There was a knock on the door and my mum called up that LS was there and did we want to go out down the fields. I told her that we were playing action figures – she could join in if she wanted to. It was our latest obsession me and Our Kid, but LS had never seen the point and this day would prove no different. So when my mum came up and asked again if we wanted to go out I just looked at my brother and said no.
And I can give you a million reasons why I did it: maybe I was going through that “girls are stupid” phase, maybe I was still angry about the shed incident or her attitude towards Our Kid (as he was often the focus of her worse behaviour), maybe I could argue that I knew she was being sent away to boarding school soon and our friendship would probably not survive.
But the truth is that in a moment of selfishness I may have broken a little girl’s heart: sending her home in tears.
I was seventeen when I saw her again. I didn’t even recognise her until she introduced herself. We chatted briefly: the kind of conversation where nothing much is really said, and there was no hint of any lingering bad feeling…and yet…
I guess I’ve been thinking about writing this post for nearly fifteen months now. As the years go past I find myself looking back at that moment, regretting that action and wishing that if our friendship had to end then it should have done so better, feeling that I should find her and try to make some form of amends. And sometimes I’ve even gone so far as to try and find her on the internet, but with no luck.
But time is not a window: time is like creating a painting. Sure there’s a certain amount you can do with it as you are creating the painting, but once the colours are dry then you can only look: wondering as to why some of the colours are so vibrant whilst others have faded.
What would I possibly say to her if I saw her? What could I do to make that single moment of childishness right? Would it even matter after all this time? At best I could hope to appease my conscience because nothing I could ever do can take back that moment.
And so I delay. I pause and don’t write this post. I pause and don’t take the simple steps that could be taken.
And then I get a friend invitation on Facebook