Malorie and I met when we were seven years old.
It was the summer before third grade, and my family had just moved in down the street from hers. When I think of our early days, memories of her basement flood my mind -- piles of Barbie dolls, a makeshift costume closet, caffeine free Cokes and chocolate chips and burnt popcorn. We watched Disney movies and musicals, played computer games like Lemmings and Treasure Mountain, read American Girl and Girls' Life, listened to 'N Sync and Backstreet Boys, and made videos of ourselves singing karaoke. It was she, me, her younger sister Michelle, and my younger sister Liz -- sometimes the four of us, or broken off into twos. We'd walk and meet halfway between our houses, near where an elderly couple lived. Their last name was Hicks. "Meet you at the Hickses!"
Malorie was my rock, my confidant, as I experienced bullying and fake friendships in sixth and seventh grade. She went to a different school, and she was outside of it all, and I told her everything. She had, and still has, this quiet understanding about her; she never gave me advice, or told me what she thought I should do, and that's exactly what I needed. I'm the type of person who will do whatever I want anyway, and I just want someone to listen, and she did. There were times when Malorie was the only person I felt I could depend on; in my depressed and anxious pre-teen mind, I didn't even trust my family to love me. But when I woke up in her bedroom, I felt calm.
We went to the same high school, and I got to see her every day. We were rarely put in a class together, but we'd sit at the same table at lunch. She played sports and I was in the marching band, and our group of girls expanded. Joining theatre helped us come out of our shells; believe it or not, we were both shy at the time. We passed notes throughout the day -- her 'code name' was M&Ms, and I was Skittles. We made up names for the boys we liked, too, but she was never as obsessed as I was, and neither of us had our first kiss until after graduation. Halfway through our senior year, we signed a contract stating that if we didn't have a date to prom, we'd go together. We both ended up going with guy friends, but of course, we all rode in the same limo.
College came. She went away to Grand Valley State, and I commuted to Oakland University, living at home with my parents. After a year of visiting Malorie at GVSU, I wanted to transfer there. So I did, when I was 19, and moved 200 miles west. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made.
Throughout college, Malorie and I had the same idea of love, but we went about expressing it in different ways. We both had big hearts that were finally ready to be opened, but she was patient and saving her love for the right person. She had a date here and there, but nothing serious. I didn't understand what she was waiting for, but perhaps it was because I optimistically thought I had met the right person, time and time again. I became the friend who almost always had a boyfriend. I loved being in a relationship, and I loved love; but with those loves came broken hearts, and Malorie listened. She listened every time, and she never judged me.
And she was still my best friend. Secretly, she was always more important than any man I met. No one could replace her. We talked about it still being the two of us, later in life -- in our 30s, unmarried, a pair of Bridget Joneses. We sang "Umbrella" to each other: "When the sun shines, we'll shine together / Told you I'd be here forever / Said I'll always be your friend / Took an oath and I'm gonna stick it out to the end."
But as we got older, our differences started to come out. Though we had both become more outgoing, she was still more introverted than I, more disciplined and traditional and organized. I became more liberal, boisterous, messy. She was Charlotte and Miranda; I was Carrie and Samantha. She was the epitome of Pisces and me, Aries. When we shared an apartment, I felt bad that I would take forever to get the dishes done and my side of the bathroom counter was a mess. It was our lives, metaphorically; and still, she never judged. She never made me feel that my messy way of doing things, or my complicated dating life, was wrong. She still loved me with that quiet, simple, unconditional and uncontrolling love.
After graduation, our opposite ways of life took us separate ways. I moved to LA with my boyfriend; she stayed in our college town. I stopped going to church; she met a boy at church. I became single.
She got engaged.
It's not that I wasn't excited for her -- I was. And it's not that I was ready for marriage myself -- I wasn't. But, for some reason, I always dreamed of us doing all of the big things at the same time. I felt like a selfish child, or a jealous ex-boyfriend; I wanted us to walk the same path, even though we were completely different people.
I felt abandoned, even though I had abandoned her first.
It rained during her wedding, and I cried five times that day. I cried because I was so glad to finally see her after more than a year. I cried because my mind drifted to the boys I once thought I would marry. I cried because I was drunk off of too much Jack Daniels. I cried because so much had changed and we weren't number one in each others' lives anymore and I didn't know when I would see her again.
During that last time I cried, the lights were going up in the reception hall. It was closing, and the crowd had dwindled to a small few who were gathering up their belongings. Malorie and I hugged each other and held hands; she in her white gown and blonde hair, me with my black dress and messy, dark mane. She looked at me, her blue eyes teary, with that quiet understanding and simple love.
"I'm sorry I never visited you in LA."
"There's so much I want to say to you right now."
And she was gone.
The next day, before heading home, I met up with Kelly. I've known her since I was 13, and besides a two-year period which we never mention, we've always been the best of friends and have the most important things in common. Both of us single, we talked about the people we knew who have gotten engaged, married, babies. I asked her about something I vaguely remembered from when we were 18.
"What was it that you said?"
"Oh, that we wouldn't get married for another 10 years."
"I think we might reach that goal."
"And we weren't even trying!"
We high-fived above our table of breakfast food.
Michigan didn't want me to leave. I got on my plane in Grand Rapids, heading to Chicago, from which I would fly to Phoenix and then LA. At the end of the runway, however, the plane stopped. We were informed that we would be delayed two hours due to wind and rain on the other side. I could've driven to Chicago, but I couldn't have known the future. We never do. So I sat there, with my complimentary pretzels, surrounded by strangers. The lady behind me was already on her iPhone, changing her connector flight.
It was then that I realized something -- that we all have our own personal, unpredictable and unique journeys. We all take different paths, and none of them are wrong. None of US are wrong.
Or maybe I always knew that, but didn't have the strength to believe.
I landed twelve hours later than I was supposed to, and after three days of being home, Chris -- my brother at heart, my best friend in LA, and one of my roommates -- told me he was moving to Texas. At that point, I was able to be okay with it. The feeling of abandonment, which had become all-too-familiar this year, was not as strong. I was proud of him for doing what he had to do, and as sad as it was, I was excited for this new path in his journey. I was happy for him. I am happy for him. And I'm happy for Malorie, and Kelly, and myself.
These are our journeys; all separate, all special. They're impossible to plan for and highly unpredictable. We choose our paths, or they're chosen for us. Sometimes our paths cross, and other times, they go in different directions. I understand that now. And I know that it's okay.