I was 10 years old when the new girl in the year above me became my friend.
Me. Of all the children in the school, she wanted to be my friend! Older too. Which obviously meant she so much wiser than I was.
She had a little scar on her chin, she did. The result of an accident caused by something exciting she had done. Not, in my child’s mind, an accident caused by something reckless. Oh no, this older girl who wanted to be MY friend must have been involved in something frightfully cool to get that kind of scar.
Samantha spent a lot of time alone. And if she wasn’t, it was because she would be in my home after school where more often than not, she’d stay for dinner. I never met her parents. I envied her.
There are many memories of this brief friendship, one particularly quite horrific which led to us falling out and her eventually moving back to Scotland. But the one I think about most is the time we spent an afternoon at her house. When we decided we’d fry an egg.
I don’t like frying eggs. I enjoy eating fried eggs, but the process of having to fry them, just makes me very uncomfortable. I know, what a whimsical dread to have! I could never quite put my finger on it, yet I don’t remember a time where I’ve fried an egg after that, and haven’t thought about my Scottish older friend, in the last 27 years since that day.
I thought of her again today. As I stood at the hob and cracked an egg into a pan of hot oil, while carefully stepping away as it started to sizzle.
And I wondered why this memory has had such a profound impact on me. I paused briefly and tried hard to find an answer to my question.
Of course, I could come up with a multitude of reasons, none that would make sense to anyone, even myself. Other than perhaps that it had been my first time doing anything remotely ‘grown up’ with no grown ups actually about to look after us.
The pure wonder of knowing that my friend was allowed to cook for herself and was sharing this moment with me. And I was doing it! I was free in that moment to do something I would have never been normally allowed.
I never thought to question why she was alone so much. Why she was having to cook for herself or why she wanted to spend so much time at my home.
It didn’t occur to me to ask about her parents, or ask about where they were all those times she’d stay on her own.
I never imagined she’d end up crying out for attention the way she did, and lie so monumentally that she’d put someone in danger.
Until that point in my short life, I had never thought I’d be so afraid of consequence that I’d betray my cool, older best friend and tell a truth which would destroy my first real friendship.
That was the first real decision I had had to make.
And one I have chosen to stand by since. To always tell the truth.
For as bad and awful as it might be, it is always better than the alternative.
Hmm. Wait. Could this be the answer….?