Rebeka

Rebeka and I met in the 5th grade, after my best friend at the time said she was cool and should hang out with us. I was always leery about newcomers, but my friend’s assessment was spot on: Rebeka and I hit it off instantly. She was a complete geek, wicked smart, too cool to let anything get under her skin, and had a crazy sense of fashion. In a word, she was awesome.

We both had terrible hair through middle school and in high school, we came into more of our own. Our friendship bond grew the most in high school – we did practically everything together. Rebeka hosted parties that still live on in infamy in her parents’ basement. They included great music, snack food, games of pool, a plethora of inside jokes, and an entire room painted for blacklight use. I should also mention we were straight edge: these parties were filled with Mountain Dew. Alcohol wasn’t on our radar.

Our lives would diverge on different paths, yet we stayed friends. When I became a Christian junior year, Rebeka stood as a hardline agnostic. “If that’s what you feel you need to do, then you gotta do it,” she said after I told her of my conversion. She never put limits on people or gave me grief over Christ. Rebeka cared deeply for her friends (even though she acted all cool like she didn’t) and always let people be who they really were around her. I think that’s why she’s always had people gravitate towards her: Rebeka was a safe harbor.

College is when things got interesting. She visited me at my college dorm (our colleges were a state apart) and ended up dating my boyfriend’s roommate. I’ll never forget the time I was walking to my dorm bathroom and she came strolling out. “What are you doing here?” “I’m here with M. Sorry, I forgot to tell you I was coming.” Classic Rebeka. I did manage to get her to my favorite coffee shop on campus to catch up on life.

The bottom dropped out when they broke up and it was messy. M took it extremely hard. About a month later, Rebeka called me on the phone. “Um, we have to talk about somethings,” she said slowly. “There’s kinda a big reason I left M.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah. I, uh, kinda started dating my roommate. I’m gay.”

My eyebrows jumped off my forehand. Gay? Rebeka? She’s always dated guys and there was no indication of anything other than straight.

“Are we still friends?” I could hear the fear in her voice. “I’ve already told everyone else. I told you last because, well, you’re a Christian, and I thought you’d stop speaking to me.”

“Oh wow, Rebeka, no, we’re still friends and I will never stop speaking to you. This changes nothing between us.”

And so, our friendship continued on.

I gushed to her after I met my husband – she later told me she knew he was the one from my phone call. Rebeka brought her underage and possibly schizophrenic girlfriend to my wedding – her safe harbor ways often brought in the crazy ones too. Rebeka eventually settled down with a nice girl and the last time they visited me in North Carolina, I sensed their relationship was in its death keel. I was right.

And then there was Chris. “She’s really cool, you gotta keep this one,” I said to Rebeka discretely after I met her for the first time. Rebeka eventually married Chris after years of dating and I claim Chris as my sister-in-law. Rebeka often talked about moving down to my neck of the woods – she fell in love with the area like I did. After years of her saying “maybe someday,” her and Chris finally made the move a few years ago.

So, I live 1,000 miles away from home, but my best friend since 5th grade lives on the other side of town. How about that!

We always get together for Christmas morning, campfires, game nights, and true to form, she still hosts parties that live in infamy with better food (we’re talking gourmet) and we graduated from Mountain Dew to alcohol.

I haven’t heard from her in a few months. We run in different circles, yet I always try to keep up with her. Chris suffers from extreme social anxiety, so I think a lot of interaction is limited, which I totally understand.

Right now, I’m waiting to hear back from her. I’ve invited them down for some wine and cheese via voicemail. I hope she’s able to make it. Despite all the changes we’ve weathered, it’s nice to connect with someone who has known you since the beginning. We differ on many aspects of life, but the last time we hung out, we chatted for almost 3 hours straight.

Rebeka and I will be friends to the very end. No matter what.

Passed

Every high school has one, the absolutely gorgeous popular girl.  She’s everyone’s fantasy and is also one of the notorious mean girls of high school.  My distant suburban high school had such a girl – her name was Kira.  She had loads of friends, could have taken her pick of any boy – and she often did.

I’m sure she was drinking and having sex, but I don’t know for sure.  I was the one who sat quietly in the back of the classroom with my large unplucked eyebrows and men’s carpenter jeans to hide the large hips I hadn’t quite grown into yet.  I won’t even mention how bad my hair was.  I was so far out of her circle we weren’t even in the same universe.

She did notice me.  She would single me out every so often with the crafty, lofty smile with the flicker of an eye roll with some snide comment.  “Are you going to Zero tonight?” she’d taunt me.  Zero was a club in the neighboring city that catered to the 18 and under crowd on Friday nights. I had never been and had no desire to go either.  In her eyes, I was a zero.  “No,” would be my stoic quiet reply.  She’d then laugh and toss her perfect hair back and walk away.

Such were my interactions with Kira.

My best friend interacted with her on a much more friendlier level, but that was because their parents were friends.  Nonetheless, my friend would often comment, “She’s such a bitch.”

I graduated, left my hometown in the dust of my memories and soldiered on through life. Kira was filed in the same drawer as the classroom where I had AP English: just a random memory from high school that meant nothing.

Fast forward 15 years post graduation and my friend, mentioned above, got married.  Of course, I flew back into my hometown with my husband to attend the wedding.  I saw a few people there I hadn’t seen in years!  And then she appeared: Kira. Just as beautiful as she was in high school.  It was like looking the past straight into the face.

She smiled as she recognized me. “Simonne!”

Oh dear God.

“Kira!  How are you?”

My upbringing had conditioned me to read people incredibly well – the vibes she was giving off were the opposite of our high school days.  She was contrite and calm.  There was a cloud of sadness that permeated around her. The chip on her shoulder had long fallen off.

We exchanged pleasantries and briefly explained our places in life.  She was working some fancy job in a skyscraper and single.

“You haven’t aged a day since high school,” she said with wonder.  “No kids, right?”

“Yeah, no kids.”

“Yup.  It keeps you young.  You look amazing.”

“You as well.  You look exactly the same!”  And we were.  That wasn’t a stretch.  I just have better fashion sense, groomed eyebrows, and figured out how to keep my hair from wearing me.

I can’t remember her exact words, mainly because I was in complete shock by what she said next.

“It took going to college and getting away from the small town high school clique to really understand who I was and who I wanted to be,” she said slowly. “I’m sorry I was so mean to you.”

I nodded.  “I understand.  I’m not who I was in high school either.  We’ve all changed, for the better.”

We ended up talking again after the ceremony.  Kira didn’t explain her sadness and I didn’t ask – but later learned her boyfriend had just broken up with her.  We actually talked about our dreams – as crazy as that is – I revealed to her I longed to get out of the medical field and how I wrote on the side.  She suggested a writing website to check out.  She wrote a bit as well.

My husband snapped a picture of us.  As much as I’d love to share it, I won’t (I look ridiculous, as per usual).  I’m still stunned that one of the most popular/brattiest people in my high school – Kira of all people – was kind to me.

“So who was the really hot chick you were talking to?” my husband asked.

I sighed.  “I’ll explain later.”