I can remember the day Kerry Rogan and I met for the first time. We were eleven years old and it was our first day of high school. As fate and the future luck of tequila manufacturers everywhere would have it, we were both put into the the same house at school, Rathkeltair, which to be completely honest with you is totes the best house at Down High. Some of them, I'm not saying which ones, have a distinctly Hufflepuff-y vibe to them. No lie.
Anyhoo, Kerry's surname is Rogan and mine is Russell, which meant that when it came to Miss Hopkins' Geography class, where everyone was seated in alphabetical order, Kerry and I were next to each other. It was magical, it was fate, it was the least productive table in the class.
At that stage, I was at my physical peak - a podgy eleven year-old, with curtains and a posh accent. (Deffers did not help matters by being the only boy in the year to wear a scarf. But, oh well, everyone's wise with hindsight.) Kerry was a radiant being in blonde curls, with a fringe which we have mutually agreed shall never be discussed ever again and which she soon ditched faster than I ditched full fat Coke. I shifted in my seat to say hello to my new Geography partner, presumably resembling a baby killer whale in motion as I did so. "Are you Laura Bell?" I asked.
"What?" came the response.
"Are you... I think I sat next to you in Miss Patton's Maths class before break? Are you ... You're Laura Bell?"
"No," came the cold response. "I don't know who that is."
Conversation slowly died off. As Kerry turned regally to stare out at the classroom as if vaguely confused/irritated about the precise point of Geography or what role it was going to play in her life, I sat and cursed myself for assuming that in a class sat in alphabetical order I would be sitting next to someone whose surname started with "B." Actually, I probably wasn't that smart to realise why I'd been wrong. Knowing me back then, I was probably thinking about crisps.
Eventually realising that we would either have to talk to each other or face the dreaded prospect of listening to the teacher, Kerry turned back towards me and re-initiated convo. A lifelong friendship was born and, yesterday, she went to Australia for the year. It's the first time since that day in Miss Hopkins' classroom that we won't be with in travelling distance of each other. And, frankly, me no likey.
When you say goodbye to a friend, it's easy to put on rose-tinted glasses and pretend everything was always perfect. (Our friend Sarah's particularly good at this, literally. She once bought a £600 pair of rose-tinted Dior sunglasses because the shop assistant panicked her by telling her they were the only pair anywhere on the island of Ireland and if she didn't buy it now, she'd never be able to own a pair. This is the girl, after all, who, when her student loan arrived, ran up and down the corridors of her college halls squealing, "Free money!") But I digress. Just because Kerry is off on the other side of the world, there's no point in pretending everything between us was always a bed of roses. (The flowers, not the chocolates - I got thin.) For the first two years of our friendship she repeatedly called me "Gavin," because she preferred it to "Gareth." We were banned from group discussions in Geography because we were a) too argumentative and b) too stupid. We were sent out of Miss Gorman's GCSE English Lit class after we both took a game of slapsies just a little bit too far. I initiated the world's longest and most unnecessary fight when I claimed (wrongly) that only sick people were allowed to bathe in the water at Lourdes and when I found out that this wasn't the case, attempted to re-start the fight by claiming that what I meant was only sick people should be allowed to bathe in the water at Lourdes. And she (Kerry, not the Virgin Mary) once lied to me that she had been punched in the face so I would leave Oxford in the middle of the night and come up and see her in Manchester. She greeted me at the train station with a shrug: "Everything's fine. Just got bored."
The night before Kerry left for Australia, we sat by the fire as she did her tan and nails (essential travel prep - much more important than the suitcase, which had yet to be packed), and watched Gone with the Wind. And I got to thinking (SATC ref - necessary) about the decade or so of friendship we've had. Kerry, my love, we are both shrieking banshees of human beings, at times utterly and entirely ridiculous/delightful; we are incapable of sticking to the vaguest concept of a budget and we live lives centred around naps, shopping and drinking. I haven't a clue what I'm going to do without you this year. I do, however, know that you're going to have an amazing time in Australia with Emma. And, think of it this way, Ken, we're finally doing the one thing I shrieked, screamed and hissed we were never going to do: growing up.
Lol jk - see you in Geog, principessa!