I’m thinking of you today, Marie.
I’m thinking of the way we walked arm in arm down the Champs-Élysées, two carefree girls who felt beautiful and invincible; I remember the wonderfully strong coffee in that little café you insisted we try, and our delight at discovering the used book store above it. I remember when the skirts of my dress caught on a pile of books stacked haphazardly on the floor and oh, how we giggled about that as we stacked them up again, apologising to the morose old man. I told you, I hope we don’t see the future in his eyes, and you turned to look at him.
In his eyes? Your voice dripped withering scorn.
No, never. Not to us. We were too young, too beautiful, too alive. It was all going to be forever, was it not, my darling Marie?
I wondered how people could sell their books, a part of their lives; to me a book was too precious to part with, but to you it was only a book. You insisted that when a book was absorbed it had lost its value, but to me, the book worshipper, it was a scandalous statement, and you laughed at the shock in my eyes.
I was such an innocent. Your innocence had been torn from you, but you were too protective of me to disillusion me. Sometimes, I wish you had.
We walked into a famous store to touch the dresses that were too expensive for us, but we pretended to be grand ladies; in my faux pearls and your second-hand designer sunglasses, and our simple, but pretty cotton dresses, perhaps we may have passed muster. Who knows? Certainly, to us, daughters of incredibly fashionable mothers, it was not the first (nor the last) time we had been in an expensive dress shop, but without the purses of our parents to sustain us, we knew we could not afford them. But we tried them on anyway. How the shop assistant must have loathed us when we walked out!
We’ll come back later. You said that. You dared. I giggled, I remember, as we walked out, and you giggled as well, and we ran past the shop windows, holding hands.
It was going to last forever.
That night we sat on the window ledge of your apartment wrapped in a single blanket and shared a bottle of cheap wine, the only wine we could afford, and I remember the full moon, and the sensation that we had the rest of our lives.
I left shortly after that to continue my travels around Europe and we made plans – useless plans – to meet again someday, perhaps with husbands, and children, in tow.
But cancer took you from me, and we never did. You would have been thirty seven today.
I remember you, chère Marie, and how your laugh sounded, and how you managed to always smell like vanilla, and how you’d twist your hair around your forefinger, and how you’d sometimes stare at nothing, and how full of life you were, and the dreams you had, and I remember you, my darling friend.
Wherever you are, I know you’re flying free.