Lily and Peaches as schoolgirls

I used to have a friend who was a firework of a girl, so brilliant, daring and bright that being near her I often felt I was holding my breath, waiting for her next vivid explosion. She was a wild, rare thing, always creating chaos. Her imagination was huge and she told fantastic tales – she was my favourite liar.

Two years ago, my dear friend died, but still she visits me in my dreams. Often as bossy and rude as in life, but always hypnotic. Her visits are fleeting, but she always remembers to kiss me on the lips. And I stand feeling so tender with love, wondering if I should tell her that she’s dead. Always deciding not to, in my dreams, as it’s no good for us both to have a broken heart. Instead I try to act normal.

When Peaches’ mum died I was ready to greet her with a sympathetic hug and a box of tissues, but she seemed fine, her normal self

We met as young girls in a whirlwind of sleepovers and Rocky Horror. I was the scrappy fisherman’s daughter, she was the precocious teen queen. We were inseparable. When Peaches’ mum died I was ready to greet her with a sympathetic hug and a box of tissues, but when we met she seemed fine, her normal self. I was confused by her apparent lack of grief, but the following year my Mum died and the truth of such a death was revealed to me. I too went to school the next day, I too appeared fine, but somewhere secret I was broken. A change that was almost impossible to see, but Peaches recognised it like a mirror image.

We were twins in the universe. We left our diaries open for each other to read, we grew each other up. Wherever we were it felt like home. I always said we should cut our hands to mix our blood, like they did in the movies, but Peaches said there was no need. Instead we did it with finger tip pin pricks, and later with matching tattoos – a modern day branding that I found much less romantic than a hand scar.

Meeting Peaches changed the trajectory of my life. She opened up the whole world to me. I followed her to New York to live, which is where I was when I found out she had died. Weeks later I was back in England, standing on the grass among the daisies and wearing her dress. I watched as people entered the church for her funeral. I felt so far away. I had floated up out of my body, and viewed the scene like some foreign film I had switched on mid-way through and missing subtitles. I couldn’t make sense of it.

I read a eulogy and walked back to my pew seat shaking. A year earlier I had read my maid of honour speech to the same crowd on the same grounds. Afterwards I felt worse, my grief felt so physical, like I’d been in a car crash. “You never know what’s going to happen, “ I told my husband, Victor, “We shouldn’t wait to make plans, we should act now.”

And so this man, my prince, made plans for us to move to England and start a family. A few weeks later I was pregnant. I sat in the bath holding the positive pregnancy test, laughing and crying at this tiny idea that had the force to pull me back to standing and face the future.

Peaches never worried about being polite. I lived with her for years but I don’t think she ever knew where I was going when I left for work in the mornings

But the joy of my pregnancy didn’t eclipse my grief, the two states sat side by side in my head and wrestled for control. I was violently sick, throwing up constantly, on a bus, in the street, or wherever I was. No-one mentioned Peaches again, instead people smiled and congratulated me on my pregnancy. My reply was often weak due to the nausea I was carrying in my throat, along with the baby in my belly, and grief in my bones.

I looked for Peaches everywhere. I spoke to a psychic, a doctor, a witch and a spiritual healer. They each gave me conflicting information. I searched for her in her belongings and in the people she’d left behind, but she wasn’t there. I met Victor in New York and we packed up our belongings to move to England. Few people chose to see the pain behind my glassy-eyed smile. One friend told me I didn’t have to be brave, and I held her and cried like a little girl lost, because that’s what I was.

I was glad to say goodbye to our New York apartment. It was there that I received news of Peaches death. I fell on the floor screaming, my body was in so much pain. I kept having to change my clothes as they became soaked with sweat. It was easier welcoming life. My baby was born at home in London. It was an experience so powerful, when I reached down into the water and lifted up my baby my heart burst with love. I don’t know that Victor fully understood that we were having a baby until she was in my arms and screaming with life.

I had never seen anything as beautiful as my little girl, and the gratitude I felt towards Victor, my body and nature felt euphoric. I was connected to the world in a way that made me feel huge, pumped with adrenaline and so full of love. We named her Melisande, after my Mum, the person I needed more than anything. I needed her to help me, to give me advice and to hold me like a child so that I could find the strength to step into my new role as a mother. But she was long gone and I felt freshly sad about it.

I never wanted to give my daughter the task of healing a hole in my heart. But she helped me in so many ways

This beautiful baby came out screaming and didn’t stop. Every evening at sunset she would scream so scarily loud for someone so small. Nothing would comfort her and feeding her would only result in projectile vomiting. It would stop around midnight when she’d resign herself back into the role of a regular baby, sleeping, feeding, looking tiny, peaceful and innocent.

Often during her screaming I’d find myself crying, too. We’d both faced brutal transitions and I sometimes worried that my grief was the cause of Melisande’s crying. We were told it was called Colic. When I tried to talk to others about the intensity of Melisande’s crying people always dismissed it with: “But babies cry!” I didn’t know why others weren’t more supportive, so quick instead to point out all I was doing wrong.

I took Melisande on long walks through the park I had enjoyed with Peaches, I tried to find a tree for my friend. One we could lay under and make daisy chains, but none seemed to really fit

But like a flower, Melisande’s petals began to unfurl and it was a privilege to watch. First a smile, then a mischievous laugh. The throwing up subsided and she started flapping her arms in happiness. I was in love. I sniffed her skin, I kissed her chubby thighs. I sung and danced in reward for her smile.

And still I missed my friend. I took Melisande on long walks through the park I had enjoyed with Peaches, I tried to find a tree for her, one that I could tell Melisande was Peaches’ tree. One we could lay under and make daisy chains. We tried out a few but none seemed to really fit. The closest we got was a young tree that shot up at a horizontal angle. It held some magic, but the leaf shape and texture was all wrong.

My grief came in unstoppable waves and disconnected me from everyone. A live thing, like a bear inside me, it came out when it wanted and terrified me. I had no control over it. I didn’t speak about it because I was scared this bear had the power to swallow the person I was talking to whole.

Small memories consumed me: Peaches had planned her wedding long before Victor and I became engaged, and we decided to park our wedding exactly one week before hers. I was to be her maid-of-honour and she was thrilled when I announced my wedding, too. “So, am I your maid-of-honour?” she asked.

“No” I replied.
“Am I just a bridesmaid?”
“No” I said.
“What am I?” she asked, confused.
“Just a guest, We’re having a small wedding.” I told her, but I wish I hadn’t. I wish I had made her my maid-of-honour and not worried about her ability to turn up on time and be polite in her role. How silly I was, sometimes I forgot what mattered.

She never seemed to care about the person I presented to the world. She knew me inside out. I wondered if anyone will know me like that again

Peaches never worried about being polite. She had a childlike curiosity that walked a thin line between insult and charm. I lived with her for years but I don’t think she ever knew where I was going when I left for work in the mornings.

She was completely unconcerned by surface things, things other people used to define themselves. She had a special power that allowed her to get right to the core of a person, to find their deepest secrets, their shadow selves, their most tender and very best parts. And she’d discard the rest, the boring bits, the job titles and such.

She never seemed to care about the person I presented to the world. She knew me inside out. I wondered if anyone will know me like that again.

And soon my little girl was six month old, then eight months. She grew big dark eyes, sweet little hands and a funny pot belly. She began to enjoy the swing in the play-park, we dressed her as a devil for halloween, she watched her first fireworks and time seemed to change and become full again.

A year and a half had passed since Peaches had died. I had felt paralyzed for that time, I didn’t read a book, write one sentence or even talk in any meaningful kind of way. I hadn’t been back to work and all of this was a tremendous strain for Victor, who dealt with it heroically. But then something began to soften and people began to remark that I didn’t look shocked anymore, as I had for so long. I stopped looking for Peaches and somehow began to enjoy our friendship once again.

The thing I miss most about Peaches, above her quick wit and spark, above her ability to mesmerise, is her heart

I never wanted to give my daughter the task of healing a hole in my heart. I never wanted to give her any responsibility but allow her to play and grow and be loved, but she did help me in so many ways. She is so beautiful she makes me feel beautiful. She is not scared when I’m there to comfort her and that makes me feel brave. Her brilliance inspires me to show her the world. I feel privileged to love her and be loved in return.

And that love has helped me. I remember writing in my diary as a 14-year-old on a train to London: “I’ve fallen in love with a girl”. I loved Peaches from the moment we met and the most marvellous part is that she loved me, too.

The thing I miss most about Peaches, above her quick wit and spark, above her ability to mesmerise, is her heart. I miss the heart that she often tried to keep hidden, anyone who caught a glimpse of it knew it was gigantic. She loved so much. Sometimes silently. Her tenderness was found in strange places, silly dances and cartoon drawings, and now a kiss on the lips in the privacy of a dream.

How lucky am I that this friend of mine, that I hold in such high esteem, returned my love. That thought alone will always make me smile. 

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