This is a true story but as usual I have changed the names identities, circumstances and locations.
Lily left her small junior school and moved onto a secondary school on the other side of town; it was a well-thought of school and children came from all over the area, some catching buses just after seven in the morning and not getting home until six at night. There was a group of children from Lily’s junior school all going to this school, so she had a few friends already; however the three year seven classes were arranged in alphabetical order, so the people she knew were in different classes.
It wasn’t long before Lily knew all the people in her class and soon made friends; she got on well with most of the others, some she liked more, some she liked less, but no-one was horrible, so all was well. There was one girl Lily was secretly fascinated by; Lily was one of the tallest in the class, but Nancy was the tallest. Nancy wasn’t just tall but she was big as well – broad-shouldered, big hands and feet, and was strong and athletic. She had red curly hair cut in an unfashionable style, freckles all over her pale face and was always very cheerful and happy, but to Lily she seemed to have a lumpy awkwardness about her, as if she didn’t quite fit somehow.
Lily knew little about Nancy’s home or background, which was the case with quite a lot of her classmates – they knew everything about each other in school, but not necessarily anything about their other lives. Lily and Nancy were in the same class for most things, and although they always got on, they weren’t really friends – Lily’s friends were what you might call ‘characters’, and looking back she realised they were strong-minded, intelligent, and with an off-beat sense of humour.
A compulsory class which everyone had to do was ‘dance”; the children wore tunics and what I guess you might call knickerbockers, in primary colours – how foolish and embarrassed they all felt. A middle-aged woman played a piano and they were instructed by a shouting teacher in this terrible free-dance class which was just awful… years and years later they would reminisce with horror about it!! Lily had a blue tunic which her mum had bought second-hand. Nancy had a green tunic which actually complimented her hair and complexion. They all leapt about, the teacher shouting instructions at them, and the biggest person in the class, Nancy, leapt and bounded the most enthusiastically – for she was a ‘good sport’. Lily always felt sorry for her – not pity, but sorry that she was so big and… well, lumpy.
Nancy was such a nice person, everyone liked her… but years later Lily couldn’t remember who her particular friends were. When they were in their last year at school, studying for their English exams, they were given past exam papers to practice with. When they had finished the particular question, they got into groups to read out what they had written, the first time they had done something like this. Lily as amazed at the story Nancy had written – it was brilliant!! It was really, really good! She had never realised how good Nancy was at writing, how imaginative and creative.! That was the last real memory Lily had of Nancy at school… she left, moved away, and eventually settled down with a family, a career and all she wanted.
Over the years, before there was the internet and an easy way to keep in touch, Lily tried to stay connected to old school friends through writing letters, but that drifted to a full stop. Lily had been happy at school and often thought back and wondered what her different friends were doing, wondering what lives they had, what choices they had made. She thought of Nancy, big, red-haired Nancy who had danced so enthusiastically in the awful short green tunic and knickers, Nancy who was such a good writer.
Many, many years passed, and there was a school reunion which Lily was very excited to attend. It was interesting to meet other people she had known so well so many years ago… There were surprises… a bully who had been so mean to others (not to Lily) looked a funny little soul, older than her years and with a very staid life; a girl Lily had always admired and had secretly wanted to be friends with, had secretly thought the same about her! Three girls who had been so close, best friends since junior school – well, two of the trio had mercilessly bullied the other! Some girls, apart from obviously being grown women, looked exactly the same and seemed exactly the same, some were unrecognisable!
Lily was having a wonderful time catching up with dear friends, chatting non-stop and hearing all the news. Suddenly the door opened and in strode a tall woman; she had a flame of red hair, confident, friendly smile on her perfectly made-up face, head up, shoulders back, fashionable clothes and high-heeled boots… it was Nancy!!
Lily rushed over to her and they immediately began to chat, catching up on each other’s lives! It was obvious that Nancy was successful and happy; she had the same lovely manner and kind way about her, the same sense of fun. She’d had a happy life, a successful and fulfilling career, was very happily married, travelled, pursued her hobbies and interests and all in all, life was wonderful for her!
As Lily drove away after a very happy afternoon, she thought about Nancy… all these years she had secretly worried about Nancy; how relieved and happy she was for her old school friend!!