You’re eight years old and her name is Teresa.
And when you tell her yours, she says it like a question—“Brenda?”—then as a statement—“Brenda.”—as if she’s decided she likes you, and you like her too.
She tells you she’s from a place called the United Kingdom and then looks offended when you say, shameless as always, that you’ve never heard of it.
But then you say that maybe you’ll visit some day, and she smiles and says, “I can take you.”
And you smile back and decide you haven’t got many friends, but this one, this one is yours.
You’re thirteen years old and the other girls whisper behind her back because she plays with the boys, and the things they say are so mean that you almost think you’re better off, being invisible.
But when they spread rumors and hide Teresa’s things, Teresa brushes them off but you collect spiders and you dig up worms and you hide them in their clothes during gym.
Because they can be mean, so you must be vicious.
You’re sixteen years old and Teresa and Thomas are dating.
You’re not sure why she likes him, which is strange because in all this time you’ve known gotten to know her better than she knows herself. But this, this is a mystery.
And when you tell her you’re worried, because you tell her everything, she laughs and puts a hand in your hair. She says “Bren, you’re irreplaceable.”
And you give her a small smile, but it hurts because when you see her with him she looks happy, but you make her happy, too.
So you start to miss her every time she says good-bye even after hours, days, nights spent together. You wish you didn’t, but you do.
And you decide that maybe you don’t mean as much to her as she does to you; but then you don’t blame her, because to you she means everything.
You’re seventeen years old and you figure out why you’ve always thought your best friend is so goddamn beautiful.
You’re fucking in love and when you finally admit this to yourself—whisper it over running water to your reflection in the bathroom mirror—you want to punch the glass.
Every time you see her all you can hear in your head is “I love Teresa.”
So you stay quiet and keep your eyes on the ground to keep from staring at her, and when she asks you what’s wrong you snap at her, “None of your business,” and she looks so hurt that you want to get on your knees and wrap your arms around her waist, “No, I’m sorry, I love you,” but that would just about ruin everything, wouldn’t it?
And you’ve had fights about little things and not so little things, but this is worse because it hangs in the air like a dark cloud, thick and dividing. You say nothing, so the two of you fall further apart when all you want to do is hold her closer.
You’re seventeen and a half years old and Teresa and Thomas aren’t dating any more.
You’re not exactly devastated, because you never really liked them together, anyway, but Teresa’s crying at your kitchen table and it’s like you’ve been stabbed.
Nothing you can say will make her stop, because Teresa rarely cries—the two of you are similar like that—but when she does, she cries herself empty.
So you hug her tight and tell her she’s okay. You kiss her hair and give her bowls of ice cream and make her laugh by offering to slash Thomas’ tires, although it wasn’t a joke, not in the least.
And when she’s stopped her sobbing and the two of you are sharing a spoon and a carton of mint chocolate chip, she asks “You’ll never leave me though, right?”
And you put down your spoon and look her in the eyes and say, “Never.”
You’re eighteen years old and Teresa’s moving to the coast on the other end of the country to attend Columbia University.
You’re not surprised, because Teresa is extraordinary and always has been, but you’ve always been scared of the day when Teresa would go off to do bigger, better things.
And New York is so far away that Teresa squeezes your hand when she shows you her acceptance letter, says “I’ll call all the time, and we can visit each other, and when we come back for Christmas or something we can hang out, and…”
But you stop listening because she means it, really means it, but you’re still so terrified that time will pass and none of it will matter.
You hope that when she leaves you’ll learn to stop loving her, that your chest will stop hurting when you think of her, but that night in August when you send her off you cry yourself to sleep.
You’re nineteen years old and you’re trying to keep in touch.
You’ve got three new roommates and Teresa’s got one—you both agree that they’re fine, but you’d rather have each other. You’ve joined your school’s LGBTQ org and she’s joined what sounds like every club on campus.
And in the beginning it’s exciting and new and you’re nearly glowing because Teresa leaves out nothing, so it almost—almost—feels like you’re there with her.
But as the days fly by and you fall into routine, you talk less and less, and you wonder if Teresa is beginning to forget about you.
And that thought doesn’t hurt you as much as it would’ve a year or two ago, but you torture yourself by looking through old photos and messages and you find that familiar pain hits you in the chest.
You love her, you remember, and you cry like you haven’t in months because you doubt that she’ll ever know.
You’re twenty two years old and you haven’t seen her in a year but you’re standing in the airport with your heart in your throat because you can’t wait to see her face.
When her plane lands and she walks into the terminal her hair is messy and her clothes are wrinkled and it doesn’t look like she’s slept in days but you think she’s as gorgeous as ever.
And you’re afraid that things are different, now, but when she sees you she runs.
Soon you have your arms around her and your foreheads, the tips of your noses, touch. She says “I missed you,” and you want to kiss her so, so badly, but instead you put her down and help her bring her things to your car.
You’re still twenty two years old and you’re sharing a bed with her like you did when you were kids.
It’s 2AM and you know you’re staring at her like she’s the sun and moon and stars but you don’t care.
And when she asks what’s wrong, you don’t say “None of your business.” You don’t even say “I really missed you.” Teresa is here, now, for who knows how long, so you say “I love you,” and her eyes widen and you kiss her.
She pulls back for just a moment, shocked, and you wonder if you’ve gotten too brave since high school, but then she puts her lips back on yours and breathes, “Since when?”
You put your hand on the small of her back and she curls closer, kisses deeper, and you say “Always.”
You’re twenty five years old and you’re in the airport again.
The flight to Heathrow is going to be about twelve hours long and you’ve never been a fan of flying but Teresa is letting you have the window seat.
She keeps asking if you’ve got your passport, keeps offering you water, keeps brushing the hair from your face, keeps holding your hand. You’ve still never been to the United Kingdom, but that’ll change soon, and just about everything is right with the world.