When one door closes another one opens. You have been my best friend and support for all these years. I’m very lucky to have someone like you in my life. You bring a little bit of sunshine into even the darkest of days. All of the times that we have shared together, starting back when we were just 11 years old at secondary school to now 15 years later, our friendship is still going strong. It is my pleasure to ask you to be my maid of honour and I hope that you will accept this invitation. Although we don’t talk every day, you always understand me even when I don’t understand myself. I look forward to hearing from you and seeing you again soon.
Kindest and warmest regards, your longest friend
Spritzing the textured paper with her favourite Kenzo perfume, Lucy sprinkled a teaspoon of marigold seeds into the envelope before sealing it with a wax seal she had made especially for this occasion. The metallic red wax splodging out from the sides under the pressure leaving behind the calligraphy styled imprint of her and her partners initials and a date. The date on the seal was for March the 22nd which was just over 4 months away. On top of this she neatly tied a thin baby blue ribbon as though it was a Christmas present for a child and tied a small bow to fasten it. She had spent the last three hours making these little cards, sitting at her dining room table comforted by the sound of rain hitting the window behind her. It was early December and she felt very prepared for the special day she had planned and this otherwise monotonous task filled her with joy.
There were 30 people who had made the final cut of her wedding list, but she considered this invite to be the most important. In the top left hand segment on the back of the envelope she wrote, in her neatest handwriting, the address of her best friend and maid of honour, Katherine Rhett. Lucy and Katherine had been best friends since they met in year eight at secondary school. The school they attended was far away from where both of them lived and found themselves both shoved into a situation where they didn’t know anybody, and for two 12 year olds this is a very daunting situation. Their friendship had become solidified after winning first and second prize at a fancy dress competition that one of the popular girls had organised for her birthday party. The theme was famous people, and whilst their other classmates strutted around dressed as Marylin Monroe, super woman and a-too sexy for a 12 year old girl to wear, Lara Croft outfit. Both Lucy and Kate came as two different, more conservative female icons.
Lucy won first place dressed as Marge Simpson, painting herself completely yellow and balancing six sponges she had pinned to her head and wrapped in a blue scarf. Kate wrapping herself in a bedsheet and donning possibly the world’s worst haircut, permanently resembling Cleopatra took home second prize. Although this might have been through pity rather than artistic creativity. The positive was they both received little gold plastic Oscars style trophies, the negative was it further alienated them from the rest of the year, and thinking about it now, Lucy thought perhaps the rest of the year group were laughing at them rather than with them.
Needless to say neither of the two women had kept in contact with any of their school peers. Kate Dropped out of college where she studied Law and Spanish in hope she would one day become an interpreter, because of ‘Boy trouble’. Lucy also dropped out of further education as within the first month of university she had decided that she couldn’t deal with the stress and new surroundings so moved back in with her family in their home in the countryside. Although there were similarities in the two women’s lives there were also stark differences between them.
Kate lived with her mother and stepfather up to the age of 16 when they kicked her out for being ‘a loose cannon’ and a ‘disgrace’. Throughout the first 15 years of her life she had been kept under lock and key from experiencing the real world. Any chance of her making school friends was slashed from the start as she was not allowed out of the house unless one of her parents accompanied her, and they were always busy. She wasn’t allowed a mobile phone or to go to the end of school prom that marked the entrance to more ‘adult life’. Her stepfather worked at their school meaning she was always under strict surveillance. Her grades reflected such strict parenting however it was all to waste when she finally went to college at 16, away from the watching eyes of her tiger parents and she was able to live a little.
The joy of being more independent was cut short when her mother was diagnosed with MS and suddenly Kate found herself having to care for her younger brother, stepfather and quickly deteriorating mother. The stress of home life gave her a wild and quick temper which some of the boys in their second year found attractive, and before she had a chance to fully understand what was happening, fun social drinks at the local park turned into cannabis and then into snorting lines of MKAT. This behaviour quickly turned into not so fun and not so sociable. When her parents found out what she was doing, they changed their locks and cast her out on her own. ‘To be doing such things whilst your mother is at home dying and your brother and I are having to put our lives on hold…’ was one of the last specifically feelingless emails her father had sent her.
Kate stayed for a short time with Lucy and her family however she was getting ready to move out and up to Scotland to start her 7 year long course training to be a clinical psychologist, so she had to find somewhere new and someone else to rely on. After leaving Lucy’s, she flitted around from sofa to sofa and from one bad relationship to another. Months went by without contact from her parents who were even more discussed by how she was living and struggling constantly. Things picked up for a bit when she held down her job at McDonald’s for more than 6 months, but when the guy who she was living with developed a nasty cocaine habit, she had to move on again and was thrust back into another void of insecurities.
This time instead of moving in with another guy, things started to look up when she moved into the spare room of her new boss who owned a cleaning company. Valar was a single, older lady who had moved to England from Hungary three years before and she took Kate under her wing after hearing about some of the unpleasant situations she had suffered whilst couch surfing, and how nearly always the guys demanded something else in return rather than rent money. Valar was a strong, independent woman who didn’t keep in touch with her family either, and now so long had passed between Kate’s last emails with her family she could also empathise with the complete sense of isolation and abandonment. At this point Kat didn’t even know if her mother had died or not. Her family refused to share their telephone numbers so she could only contact them via email and within the first year of Kate moving out they had also moved house and not forwarded their new address. All the effort Kate put into keeping the family bond together was spat back in her face when just after her 18th birthday her step father had emailed her to inform her her grandfather had just died. He attached no sympathies or date and place of the funeral services so Kate grieved silently about this. Initially she was sad they hadn’t remembered her birthday but this seemed to overshadow it.
Almost as though paired with whatever correspondence she had, whenever they sent an email it automatically sent her spiralling into depressive episodes. Each time resulting in more severe consequences for Kate to pick up after she had sobered up in a few weeks time. After receiving the last one about her grandfather it had the biggest knock on effect as it resulted in her getting blindingly drunk, for three days straight, and getting into a fight at work when a customer was rude to her on the phone and she shouted obscenities down the line for almost 10 minutes without pause. Losing her job was bound to happen but unfortunately it was Valar she had to answer too which was when the real misfortune happened.
In the middle of the living room of a customer’s house they had just finished cleaning, Valar had a stern word with Kate about drinking on the job and how she was going to have to look for a new one immediately. This didn’t go down well and after it escalated into a full blown shouting match Kate threw her hot cup of coffee over Valar and smashed one of the vases on the mantelpiece she had just dusted. It was the customer who called the police and pressed charges, not Valar which Kate didn’t realise until later on but after the night in the cold white cell, a criminal record, a $200 fine and a request for an anger management course she had to attend, Kate was out on her own again awash with regret, despair and uncertainty.
After another series of short consecutive disastrous relationships Kate started living with someone new, set up from a friend of a friend. The next person she started living with was somehow the worst of all. Lucy used to joke with Kate saying she must have been a Nazi prison guard in her former life to have such bad luck and karma in this one. It wasn't so funny after the next boyfriend Kate got was like the Nazi prison guard in this life however seemed to be void of all the bad luck and karma.
Lucy’s life was almost the polar opposite. Growing up her family tended to every need and desire she had. Both her mother and father cared for her in a way that Kate could only dream of. Never was any judgment made against decisions that Lucy made, even the stupid ones. They were a little disappointed when she dropped out of university, wasting all the money they had spent on giving her a private education, but if that’s what she wanted to do then that’s fine by them. She was showered with love in every aspect of her life. She had a stable, caring boyfriend who treated her like a princess and a good job too, which she was signed off of for the month due to her anxiety and depression. Whenever Lucy was having a depressive episode her family mollycoddled around her like sheep to a new born lamb. Having so much more free time since not having to go to work gave Lucy some extra space to concentrate on her ‘art’ and in the last 5 days completed 6 different felted animals.
Lucy had always suffered from a nervous temperament and was easily upset, often jumping to conclusions about what others thought of her. Her conclusions were often based on a mix of body language, speech patterns, tone of voice, messaging time and format and so on. The list of people’s actions she picked up on was endless and she spent hours over analysing every detail after meeting up with somebody. Because of this she often pushed people away before she thought they had the chance to abandon her. There was no clear logic in her decisions and she came across as rude and snobby when meeting new people. All of this was the real reason why she had been signed off of her work, because she had upset too many people muddling into their business and then shutting them off, without any answers and people were sick of her erratic behaviour. As she put it ‘ they didn’t like her because she wasn’t going to fall for their childish mind games’ when actually it was more the other way around. Kate, to her, was different than that. She always said what she was thinking, even if it offended people, which Lucy admired as she was secure in the thought that if Kate had a problem with her they could address it like adults out in the open, instead of passive aggressively like the people she worked with.
The pair of them could talk for hours and hours about the smallest things and put the world to right whilst enjoying a bottle of wine or sweet coffee. They could talk about everyone and everything, making sweeping judgments on everybody who came in their way. On the flip side, whilst Lucy spent less and less time at work, Kate seemed to be working all hours. Within the first two months of meeting her new boyfriend, Kate and him had moved out from living in his mum’s spare room and into a flat of their own. He was a landscape gardener and his work relied heavily on the weather, and more heavily on if he felt like it. Lucy had warned Kate about renting a flat in the more upmarket part of the city where they lived, advising her to weigh up the cost of the flat and both of their unreliable working patterns, but Kate was too loved up and happy to be finally getting her own place after struggling for so long. She also took umbridge about being given advice from someone who had relied so heavily on mummy and daddy’s money that she challenged her friend about her own renting experience. Although Kate was well known for saying whatever came into her mind, Lucy had overheard her boyfriend actually making the comment to her friend over the phone when she was waiting for her to come out of the bathroom on one of their monthly coffee dates. It was out of character for Kate’s mind to be swayed and it was a seemingly harmless precursor to what was going to unfold over the next 18 months.
Every coffee date and every shopping trip from then onwards was tainted with news from this man. He was a couple of years older than Kate and acted as her superior. Initially little alarm bells would ring to Lucy when Kate would say things such as he wasn’t going to work, he needed money to fix his van and that he would drink 5 cans of fosters every night before bed. After analysing it Lucy could put it down to him being a bit quirky or maybe he was in a rough patch. She tried her best not to immediately assume the worst as she had promised her friend that she would support her when she thought she had found the right man. Lucy’s suspicions grew when the small pitfalls of his personality became more prominent abnormalities. He voted for Brexit and hated people who supported Jeremy Corbin, which both Lucy and her fiancé did, and he thought women should stay at home instead of working. Not only was he drinking 5 cans of beer every night he had also started smoking weed just because it ‘mellows him out’ then Kate picked up the habit too. It progressively moved on to Kate repeating things that he had either said or done and following it up with a good example of his behaviour and show of his affection, swiftly glazing over the obvious manipulation and fascist ideals he had.
‘He’s just from a different family, his mum reads the sun so its bound to be past down to him’
‘He just thinks that everything’s too liberal now, people get offended by everything nowadays’
He doesn’t want me to go out with Danni or Jay because he knows they will want to drink and then I could get carried away and hurt myself’
“He just cares about me so much, that’s why he wants me to reply to his messages immediately as otherwise he gets worried. Then he gets angry because I made him worry.’
It began to make a wedge between the friends and the more Lucy thought about it, sitting comfortably at home this rainy evening, the more Kate’s words ricochet around her head. When writing Kate’s wedding invitation she made sure not to put his name on it. It felt like the Kate which Lucy loved so much was drifting away and being replaced by someone she didn’t know and someone she wouldn’t be friends with if they had just met recently. Part of the problem was that now Lucy had so much extra time it bothered her Kate would spend days getting back to her messages, when before when she was at work it wasn’t so much of an issue. Instinctively it made her check her phone for any WhatsApp messages that Kate might have sent that she had accidentally missed, although she knew this was pretty slim. When she clicked onto their chat she began to read through their old messages. Kate was normally surrounded by drama but Lucy didn’t mind, they could work it out together as best friends often did. They used to share all their problems but now Kate only outlined them and refused to go into further detail, saying things like ‘the usual madness at home’.
Lucy's 'usual madness’ was when she brought the wrong type of laundry detergent and had to go to the shop to change it, or when she needed to put petrol in her car herself instead of Tim doing it. Or missing a package and having to go to the post office to collect it. In fact anything that involved her leaving the house and having to talk to people she didn’t know she considered an extra stressful situation. Kate had previously given Lucy examples of the madness which she was talking about, however now it seemed that her friend was unable to text her explaining them almost like she would be in trouble for telling others any pitfalls of her private life. This usual madness was moments like when Paul had climbed out of their bedroom window of their third story apartment because he didn’t want Kate to go to work that day, or when he had thrown a pot of Tesco’s chicken tikka masala sauce at the ceiling leaving a horrendous stain because she had washed his trousers with his tobacco still in his pocket. Or when he had left her stranded 8 miles from anything when he gave her a lift to see one of her colleagues at her old job before she got fired after she had said that she would be late coming back.
All of the red flags were there but Kate refused to leave as even with this all going on it was still the most stable relationship that she had ever had. He always came straight home from work and rarely saw any friends of his own because he didn’t have any. He could drive which was a bonus to Kate as he had promised to teach her one day. And more pressingly they were both locked into a three year contract on the apartment. To Lucy this was a red flag in itself because Paul had chosen the apartment in what seemed like a way to keep Kate trapped there for as long as possible. Because of his self employed status the legal documents were all in her name, Lucy was unconvinced he even paid any council tax whilst living there. Except for her criminal record and patchy job CV, Kate had no other debts that were attached to her name. It had occurred to Lucy that the pair of them had come into some money recently as on the last coffee date Kate offered to pay for her and made a point about her new Kurt Geiger boots giving her blisters. She had also shown her the shopping list of things she was going to buy for Paul’s birthday, which was in November and it included some pricey and flashy items such as a gold chain with a large catholic cross and a tattoo she had had got designed for him of an English bulldog smoking a joint. She had also noticed that Kate was smoking straight cigarettes instead of her usual roll ups which Lucy knew she only did when she had spare money. Again when Lucy mentioned it Kate told her to stop reading into everything as it’s not as deep as that. Kate had started a new job at a taxi company, managing the phone lines which she enjoyed as she could do it and be high at the same time. Maybe the pay there was good, Lucy had to conclude before she got suckered in by the unanswered questions surrounding the cash. It was very easy for Lucy to get hung up on something until she found a sufficient answer for it, even when there was no answer to be found in the first place. Tim has brought Lucy a self help for anxiety before he left on his monthly business conference in Dorset, hoping she would read it by the time he returned. First Lucy was a bit put out with his assumption that she had an anxiety disorder but after reading the first few chapters it had given her some quick and useful tips she could apply to mostly any situation where her intrusive thoughts began to shout louder. Every meeting with Kate since the November of the previous year to this one had resulted in many overbearing thoughts, not only was Paul wreaking havoc on Kate’s mental health but also her own.
It was too late for Lucy to break out of her thought process now, she was suckers straight in.
Thursday 15 jul
Sorry for my late reply I only just got up. Ive just been sat smoking weed with Paul at his sisters if I’m honest. Sorry I didn’t get back to you sooner its been a bit frantic at our place. I have the morning off work in two weeks time and I would love to see you! Lets go back to that nice place in Alton where we went last time!
Monday 19 July
Sorry something came up last week. Im so sorry I didnt get back to your message. Ive had such a nightmare with work and home and it took me some time to sort it all out! Lets do coffee on Friday as I have the day off, bloody doctors appointment!
Friday 23 July
Im finally here! Where are you? Sorry Paul had to go to work last minister so he was unable to give me a lift after all! Perhaps we can still meet up? Sorry! Xxxx
Sunday 1 August
Hey! Sorry I was going to reply but today has been so chaotic! Lets arrange to meet up soon, I have so much to tell you! Xxxx
Monday 9 August
Oh it’s a long story! I’m trying to balance things! How are you?
Sunday 12 September
Work is difficult, Emma has left and now I have to do all her work as if I don’t aleardy have enough to do. I think I’ve pissed them off as I just didn’t turn up for the last two days. I just have so much going on and they don’t understand. Sending my love to you! Xxx
Wednesday 29 September
I failed my probation. I don’t know what to do. Sorry I really hate to ask but can you lend me 250 as I’m going to be short on rent and I had to pay for Paul to get his MOT done as he’s been unable to drive to work for the last week.
Wednesday 29 September
Thank you soooooo much! Sorry for always bugging you! I don’t know what I would do without you! Your a lifesaver!xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
Thursday 30 September
Lets meet up soon! It feels like it’s been ages! I could do with a break tbh. Plus now I’ve loads of time as. I don’t have that stupid job x
Wednesday 6 October
Longest friend I love you xxcxcc
Wednesday 6 October
Friday 8 October
I’ve lost my job I’ve lost Paul Ive lost everything. I can’t be dealing with this right now.
Wednesday 27 October
Sorry for calling you up so late. I know you don’t like him but I’m so happier now he’s come back.
Sunday 31 October
Guess who got the job? This bitch here! Coffee date celebration next week?
Thursday 11 November
Hey did you get the transfer I sent you? There’s the 250 back, thanks for lending it to me again. Sorry!
Thursday 11 November
I’m sorry If my last message came across as rude. I hope I didnt upset you xxx
Wednesday 23 November
It was great seeing you today! I got home ok, Paul picked me up from the station. Say hi to Tim from me! Let’s not leave meeting up so long again! Xxx
Friday 25 November
I just made the best cake you would be so proud of me :) I’m feeling so much better now Paul and I have stopped drinking. Now its only the smoking to go!
Saturday 26 November
Call me when you can! I have some exciting News! Can you do coffee tomorrow?
Now to most people, they would seem like ordinary messages but even with applying three different breathing and finger tapping techniques from her self help book, Lucy spent the rest of the night dissecting them. They never went for coffee the next day and it had been 15 days since her last message. After two hours she had concluded 3 things from the text exchange.
Kate had said sorry 11 times which has a large increase considering Kate rarely apologised for anything. Also in the same point was her sorry for offending her which was the largest out of character change.
Paul must be back at work for her to be able to pay the money back. Can’t he get his own van fixed for fucks sake?
Why had she stopped drinking? Had Paul stopped her? But he likes to drink? Was she ill? Was this replaced with another habit? Kate always needed a crutch.
The fourth conclusion Lucy made was that she had wasted an hour putting nail varnish on this morning because now she had picked it all off and bitten them down to the skin. This was followed by conclusion number five which was that the self help book was a load of rubbish. She spent the rest of the evening on the phone to her family and eating a box of chocolates she found stashed away at the top of one of the cupboards in her tidy kitchen.