I first met Abi when we were both eight years old. We bonded over that misery known only to the non-sporting girls at boarding school – we were the last two to be selected to the gym teams; we always were. She was short, dark and very intense; I shared only the last characteristic. We often found ourselves in the library, partly because we both loved books, and partly because it was the best place to hide from the rough, boisterous girls to whom we both seemed natural targets. We shared our difficulties. How innocent they were then: getting prep done last thing on a Sunday evening before lights out; that horrid English teacher who seemed to dislike us; the horrors of hockey and the embarrassment of those short skirts. We went to big school together, and shared most things; when my daddy died she was so sweet; I remember she bought me a prayer card with a picture of the Blessed Virgin on it; as she was Jewish I don’t know where she got it from; but I cried at her kindness. We did the same A-levels and shared the dubious delights of applying for University. I went north, she went south, and then on graduation she went to work in Germany, so we did not see much of each other. But we have always kept in touch, and a couple of years ago she moved back to the UK, since when we’ve seen each other a few times. There’s a knowing intimacy to our relationship which means a lot to us both. This morning I received an invitation to her wedding which will take place in July – the card invites me to the ‘wedding of Abigail and Justine’.
A girls’ boarding school is a great place for those of us who want to concentrate on our academic work and not be distracted by boys. Even in the sixth form, Abi and I never joined in the gossip about boys, and avoided the annual ‘prom’; spotty boys with wandering hands were not our thing. Was she gay then? We never discussed it. Like many girls, we would sometimes walk hand in hand, and we would hug each other; she was my best friend, and we shared, or I thought we shared, all our secrets.
So, how to react to Abi’s invitation? Actually I didn’t waste a moment, I bought a nice ‘acceptance’ card and sent it off, saying how happy I was for her, and how much I was looking forward to meeting Justine. That is what my heart said, and I did it. But I am mindful that according to my Church, and I think her own faith, Abi is a sinner. Well, I am mindful that I am too. The difference is that, according to the Church, Abi is an unrepentant sinner, whilst I am trying to repent of my sins.
When I think back, Abi and I were thrown together so much because we were both, in various ways, outsiders where we were Neither of us discussed boys, even when others seemed obsessed with them. I remember her saying more than once that she thought no one would ever love her, and when we met when we were at College, she sometimes spoke of her loneliness and wished we were geographically closer. Now she has found someone to love her, someone who cares for her, and for whom she cares; she tells me her life now feels ‘complete’. All I can do is to shed a tear of happiness for her, and be glad that she has finally found that which she lacked.
How do I reconcile that with what my Church teaches? I can’t. But neither can I not be with my old best friend on what is, for her, a very special day.
[Note: this post was made private because the tone of some of the comments was so awful it seemed best that it should not be public. But I am making it public because a more recent post refers to it. In case any one is interested, yes, I went, and it was lovely. Incidentally, if you are brave enough to scroll through the comments, some of the most ghastly ones went when the man who posted them left this site.Jess.]