So we decide on dinner at Queen Street.
I wear this red dress that I bought second-hand and had been saving for an occasion (I’m a thematic dresser at the best of times). It ties up like a noose around my ribcage, snug beneath my bust. I like this right now, the fact that it accentuates the parts of me that have grown up, that aren’t thirteen anymore. My make-up sweats as I cross the William Jolly and I imagine foundation clumping at my neckline like impasto on a canvas which is dumb, because that’s not what happens.
She keeps me waiting. Enough that I get nervous, pace, run my hand through my hair too many times. If she doesn’t show, I think, I will go to the casino and place bets on things I don’t care about and meet a boy who will kiss me up my thighs. I will walk into the mall and spend too much money on dresses for new and better occasions. This is my game plan.
After forty minutes she calls, tells me she can see me with good humour. “Look at the zebra crossing,” she says, and I look and she huffs. “Not that one.”
She is professional in a dress with a zip that abseils down her, neck to knee. Her hair is in a tight, corporate bun and she is wearing thin-framed glasses that look expensive on her narrow nose. I shift, roll my heels out like I do when I’m nervous and when she gets to me she hugs me quick and tight.
There’s this period of stop-starts. She jokes about me losing my accent (it was quasi English the last time we spoke, a by-product of being over there too long) and I say that I love her outfit, which I don’t, but it fits right now. It takes us too long to settle on a restaurant, and when we do, we change tables twice because it starts to rain. I drink too much wine and she drinks none.
She is now a legal policy adviser for a local politician and I am, well, a writer, an arts graduate, a program/marketing coordinator at a state not-for-profit. Our lives don’t run parallel as much as they hit the accelerator in opposite directions.
That doesn’t matter though, we say. (It does.)
She tells me about losing her virginity in a Gold Coast apartment to a boy she’d met online, and I tell her about my sister snapping her neck (she survived it; so did I) and sticking my hand down a guy’s pants on a dancefloor in the valley. We are in a battle of one-up-man-ships. Who has fucked up the most in the four years since we spoke? In the nine since we were close?
It is not my proudest moment. From the look on her face, I know it’s not hers either and we stop talking altogether. I take another sip from my third glass of wine. She checks her phone. Suddenly, dramatically, I remember swapping secrets over packed lunches or the nights I’d spent at hers, curled beside her in her king single. The nights where we’d watch Lord of the Rings and gush about Orlando Bloom and Dominic Monoghan and then braid our hair and strip off our skins to show each other our insides. Look. Here. This is the bit I’m proud of, embarrassed by, love, hate. Here’s the part that hurts when touched. Please don’t poke it.
I glance back at her and she laughs, her head back, her eyes shut. She asks if she can share my wine.
Yeah. Of course.
We giggle about crappy first kisses and I tell her about my parents’ separation and she tells me about her mum who’s still not allowed to work in Australia. I’m sorry, we say. We talk about work and boys and the friends we have now. We take photos together on our iPhones and pull faces in every one. I push my nose into her neck and she holds me like we’re still little girls and not women in some open plan restaurant in the city.
We go home and promise to talk more which we won’t and I sit on Facebook for an hour and look at old photos of us in crisp school uniforms with our bony arms locked together and our heads pressed close, my old braces glowing in the camera flash. I think there’s something sweet to childhood friendships, something clear and easy like sugar syrup before caramel, before the salt from the butter sets in and the colour boils over to something deeper, denser. More stretch and pull in it, but bitterness there too. I think this is growing up, and grown up friendships disguised as childhood ones. But then, I think, caramel hardens and so will I.