When I was in college I got sick of waitressing & did a stint at a copy store. While working there, I noticed another girl that worked there with dyed black hair, wearing Doc Martens. She was snarky enough that I noticed, & when I overheard her talking about going to see The Cure on a cigarette break, we became friends. Her name is Natalie, she used to be one of my best friends, but she isn't anymore.
When I was still in school she lived in a house right across the street from campus & I lived 20 minutes away, so I would hang out at her house between classes. We'd go through pots of coffee, packs of cigarettes, & watch Buffy The Vampire Slayer instead of studying. I don't know when she stopped taking classes, but she sort of just gave up on graduating, it seemed. After I graduated, she became a manager at the copy shop. She moved on to other retail jobs. She had crappy boyfriends & so did I. But we talked almost everyday & shared a lot of formative experiences through our twenties.
She dug my Artsy-Fartsy genes & we would hold "NBA nights" (No Boys Allowed) where we would make 5 course meals, make frozen girly drinks, do bong tokes, and make crazy things. We would take things to the pawn shop so we'd have enough money to go to the bar. One summer night she had a BBQ at her house & I had helped her get ready all day, but had to work some stupid 6-8pm shift at the copy store. She told me to just leave my sweet dog, my beloved Casey Jones, at her house while I worked. "He'd be fine." Well, when I got back to her house, Casey was missing. After a frantic hour of searching for all seven pounds of him, someone showed up with him. I ended up having to take him to the emergency vet clinic because someone had given him beer. Should have taken it as a sign.
After I graduated we still kept in touch. My first job out of school was for a non-profit, so I was actually making less than I did waiting tables. When I did start making money though, I was excited to be able to buy Natalie some nice Christmas & birthday presents. She had lived in Paris one summer & I was so proud & she so happy when I bought her this 3-foot wire sculpture of the Eiffel Tower from Pottery Barn that I knew she had wanted. I bought her a huge glicee of a Mucha print, had it matted & framed & sent it to her. I liked to do things like that for her. She appreciated it.
When I met Biggie, Natalie was the first of all my friends to meet him. She was skeptical until she saw his hair. Good hair genes are hard to pass up. Of all of my friends, she was the only one who actually came to visit me when I moved in with him. She & Biggie got along famously. When he decided he was going to propose, it was Natalie whom he consulted with on my ring. When I moved out of my house, she helped me pack a little. I still have a box of my Keith Haring prints & personal photos that she boxed up. On the top she wrote, "Pictures of You (I Miss You)".
During the planning of our wedding, Natalie was pretty broke. Had she not inherited most of my furniture when we moved to Florida she wouldn't have had much in the way to sit on. I paid for her bridesmaids dress. I didn't care. She did things like take care of me the morning after my bachelorette party when we had to be out our hotel at 11am & I still needed to sleep, but lived 1200 miles away.
The winter after I had MiniMe, Natalie lost her job, they didn't give her her last paycheck, & she had little hopes of finding a new job. She was going to get evicted. We had just bought our house which had a huge bedroom & bathroom off the garage. I bought Natalie a plane ticket to Florida. Biggie had her come to work with him. She drove our "Home Depot Mobile", a 1995 Cherokee that ran well but needed a paint job. When they came home from the dealership, she would help me, a new mother that worked full time, by cleaning the kitchen after dinner so I could get MiniMe to bed. She also helped me with the mopping, vacuuming from time to time. We charged her no rent & let her drive the car for free. She lived with us from December to August.
We had told her we needed her to find a place to live because we were putting our house up for sale & trying to move out of state. Things had gradually degenerated at that point to the extent that she didn't really eat dinner with us anymore. I rarely saw her at all. I'm sure it was hard for her pride, living in our house, going to work with Biggie everyday. I had tried to talk to her, but honestly, some things she said did piss me off. She had managed to find the money to fly home for Mother's Day, for example. I didn't try to pry into the situation of her finances, but considering I didn't have the cash to buy plane tickets, I did speak up on that one. We had asked her to water our plants & walk our dogs when we went to North Carolina for a week. We came home to dead tomato plants & dog shit all over the floor. Biggie had bought a used car that a customer had traded in for her to drive pretty quickly after she had moved in. She never had it plated or insured until the week she moved out, & even then, he really had to give her an ultimatum. I was embarrassed. I didn't understand why she was doing this.
After she moved out, we had made plans to meet for lunch. I was going to go pick up some sandwiches for us & meet her up at the dealership. Biggie had moved on to another dealership at this time, so he wasn't working with her anymore. When I called to ask her what kind of sandwich she wanted, they told me she had called in sick that day. When I called her cell phone she didn't answer. She did call me back a few days later, apologizing to my voice mail, calling when she knew I wouldn't answer. I was hurt. I waited a few days & called her back. I got her voice mail. Weeks became months & she still hadn't called. When we were coming upon her birthday in November, I told Biggie I was going to call her. He told me not to. When I asked why, Biggie told me that he didn't think Natalie cared as much about me as I did about her. He told me mean things she had said to him about me. Stories about things I did in college that husbands don't really want to know about their wives. Stories that were elaborated & embellished to be specifically awful. She told him she & her boyfriend use to snicker about my relationship with my dog & how I was just a little too attached to him, insinuating something out of middle school urban legends. It hurt to hear him say these things, but I could hear her voice in my head saying them. I knew it hurt him to hear them. I felt betrayed in a way I never had before. I felt taken advantage of.
I hadn't thought about Natalie for months until we moved & I saw her writing on a box of "Maturnity Clothes". At first I wanted to go find a sharpie & fix the misspelling. Then I was annoyed that her writing was on my box of precious things. Then I wondered where she is now. If she still has the nice gifts that I bought for her, driving the car we bought for her, if she thinks of us at all. I remembered that she is in the home movies from MiniMe's first Christmas, her christening, her first birthday. What will I say to her about this person? Then I thought about how surely one day someone will hurt MiniMe the way this friend hurt me, & there is nothing I can or will be able to do to stop it. I'll have to teach her that it's okay, I've decided. Because in the end, I did what my heart told me to. I helped someone whom I thought was my friend, not out of guilt or for gratitude, but out of love, & there is absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in that.