I'm an only child. Growing up, this meant I spent a lot of time playing board games by myself or reading as opposed to fighting with siblings over the last cookie or our parents' affection. But just because I was an only child, that didn't mean I didn't have sisters.
Kaylie and I met when we were 7 at summer camp, but our friendship didn't really start blooming until the summer we were 13. I was already friends with two other girls, Emily & Ashlee - who were cousins - and Kaylie became the fourth to our group in our pre-teen years. We spent all our camp periods talking about boys and sitting on the blacktop wall, acting too cool to play tennis or box ball or any of the other pre-arranged camp activities. Once we moved on to become counselors, Kaylie and I spent more of our time together, running the same activities together (Arts and Crafts, Cooking and Game Room), making runs to Mcdonalds for lunch on Wednesdays (Ravioli day = YUCK!) and volunteering for the same field trips. (Bronx Zoo!) She'd pick me up in the mornings and we'd go home together after camp, plotting what to do for the night - which usually involved going to the mall, the movies, local neighborhood festivals or to clubs and bars.
During the school year, we would hang out as well. She introduced me to all her friends in the Bronx and all her new friends when she moved to Westchester. We got into all kinds of trouble going to raves and participating in all types of underage drinking and mayhem. When we finally graduated high school, she came to visit me at college in Boston and then, when I moved back home, we were inseparable again. I was always down for whatever and became her sidekick for all kinds of misadventures like late night diner runs, playing open hockey with the Men's league or mani/pedis. Kaylie was like a streetlight and everyone who crossed her path became a moth, gravitating towards her presence. She was beautiful and sassy, modeling one moment and beating up anyone who talked smack the next. Guys wanted to date her and girls hated her guts. She knew what she wanted and she knew how to get it and wouldn't take no for an answer. She always told it like it was and wasn't afraid to let anyone know her opinion. I loved being around her because everyone else wanted to be around her too. She helped me find a confidence in myself that I never knew I had before - channeling my inner Bronx, talking tough and walking pretty.
When I first met my asshole ex and introduced him to Kaylie, I knew she was going to hate him. He was loud, obnoxious, and almost like a male version of her the way he was never afraid to speak his mind. She was never shy about telling me how she didn't like him. I just wanted them to get along, but of course, that was never going to happen. He didn't like her either because she didn't like him, and so he never wanted me hanging out with her. I'd have to lie to both of them all the time and it was agonizing to be torn between two very important people in my life. Once things started getting bad in our relationship, I tried to hide everything from her. She wasn't the only one: I was alienating myself from other friends and even from my own family as well, putting on a happy face and smiling through the pain. All that confidence I had from hanging out with her had been stolen away by him and I didn't know how to get it back. I knew I couldn't tell her what he was doing to me because frankly, she would have killed him. And I was already afraid of him and didn't know what to do. And so, I did the worst possible thing you could ever possibly do to someone: I stopped talking to her for absolutely no reason. I cancelled plans. I didn't answer texts or phone calls or emails. I distanced myself from her because I didn't want her to see the way my life with him was spiraling out of control. Because of this, I lost a big part of my life. Kaylie was truly like the sister I had never had. She had two brothers and so it was like I was her sister too. I know that I really hurt her and I felt horrible for doing what I did, but I wasn't sure how to make it right. Even after my relationship with that shithead ended, I didn't know how to fix it - the damage was done, the bridge burning behind me.
Recently, thanks to the power of Facebook, Kaylie and I exchanged a few pleasantries via comments. We were both living in PA now so we shared our frustrations over the DMV system here or apartment/house hunting. So much time had passed though and I missed out on big parts of her life in the past 3 & 1/2 years: her engagement, her wedding, her graduation from Nursing school. This past weekend, she invited me and our mutual friend, Gigi to a Luau party at her Husband's firehouse and I was nervous; Would we be able to bridge the gap? Was it going to be tense or awkward? And even though she invited me, would she even talk to me? Should I take her aside and try to talk to her or apologize? I wasn't sure what to do.
At first, it was a little bit nerve wracking - Gigi and I showed up and she hugged Kaylie and everyone else there that she knew from her time living down there with her. And I just kind of stood there like, "oh hi." The three of us sat together, both Kaylie and I kind of turned away from each other - hiding our glances behind big sunglasses and letting Gigi basically lead the conversation. As the night wore on, we started to get more comfortable. I had to use the bathroom and I asked Gigi to come with me, but she wound up talking to someone else and Kaylie was like, "Well, now you know she's never gonna shut up!" and took me inside to go pee. I lightheartedly made a comment about how Gigi had been driving me nuts before she even go there and she joked back saying, "Yeah, she tends to do that." (Which we both are very familiar with in dealing with her when we were growing up.) Finally, the night was ending and we were bringing up old stories and the three of us headed to Kaylie's house, staying up late and talking - just like old times.
In the morning, I got up and went to get some water out of the fridge. Kaylie had some cards and pictures on them: party invites, save the dates, baby announcements, wedding pictures... And then, in a small square frame, there was a picture of her and me. It was taken in my college dorm room one weekend when she had come to visit. I looked around to see if she had any other pictures of her and friends on it, but that was the only one. I smiled and started to tear up a little bit. That's when it really hit me how much of an asshole I had been. I guess I never knew that I meant as much to her and she had meant to me. And I was just happy that she didn't hate me after all.
Gigi, Kaylie and I went to breakfast and when we came back to get my car, the two of us hugged goodbye and she thanked me for coming. I told her I was glad that she invited me. Hanging out with her made living in PA for the day just a little bit more enjoyable. It made it feel like my old life, made it feel like home. Hopefully this means that we will see each other more and hang out more, that I can start feeling like the old me again after all these years, and that someday soon, we'll be able to put this fire out together.
Which is great, because I really missed my sister.