We’d loved each other forever. Grew up two houses down from each other. Went to the same schools and sometimes, if luck was with us, were in the same classes. We looked enough alike that some thought we were sisters. In a way, we were: sisters with different last names. We held each other’s secrets close, and kept promises made with the passionate loyalty of youth. When college years approached, we promised each other we’d choose the same college.
That was the first promise we broke. Her parents wanted her to go east to their alma mater and she agreed. I wanted something close to home. We kept in touch with weekend girlfriend chats, though less because of studies and new friends. Then one week we didn’t.
She moved back to town ten years later. I’d already settled there with a husband and two kids in a starter house that was fast becoming our forever home. We ran into each other at the local grocery and stopped at the cafe next door for lunch. By the time we’d caught up, her ice cream had melted and my fish sticks had grown soft.
We fell back into the familiar dance of friendship. My kids thought she was a superhero. Without the extra treasure and tension that mark the presence of a family, she had energy, money, and time to do those kinds of things that lives of mundane structure cannot. I promised I would cheer her on in whatever next adventure she undertook. She promised to understand when I did not join in.
I can see now what I didn’t then. Our long, repetitive accounts of years together and apart lasted sometimes into the night. Honestly, I was flattered she was so interested in the time I’d mistaken salt for sugar on Valentine’s Day or missed my car payment one December. I was grateful for the sweet little presents she bought for my kids. Her excuses for the missed lunch dates were little bits of nothing I ignored. All were tells I could’ve noticed.
When she suddenly moved and I was left without an inkling why, I dusted off college-honed research skills to find her. Hours of effort resulted in nothing other than a suspicion of identity theft in different cities across the country. Her parents were of no use, only saying it was her way to visit them on an unplanned day and they were resigned to her preference. My husband told me to let it go. Let it go.
It’s been ten years since. Shortly after I’d turned up nothing other than suspicion, I was served with a subpoena for the information I hadn’t found. From there it was a hop, skip, and a jump to complex accusations I still don’t understand.
My life continues its mundane structure, but my schedule is behind bars. My children grew up to call another woman ‘mother’. My friends seem to think she is me, as if that were possible. My husband grew distant and divorced, and my friend?
She broke a whole stack of promises when she stole my identity – complete with its extra treasure and tension. And I broke only one: I no longer cheer her on in whatever next adventure is hers.
Image: enwikipedia.org heart