Kids and supermarkets are not a good combination. I make a quick mental note to shift grocery duties to my dear husband’s chores as I watch our offspring leap around the aisles like a hyperactive orangutan. Seven year-old Riya even has a couple of bananas in her hand, for some strange reason.
Damn, I’d better rein my child in before we’re banned from this store as well.
“Riya! Riya, sweetie, come back here. Look what I found for you!” I coo sweetly. Hmm, I’m getting better at this mummy business. Eighteen year-old me would have probably been extremely disgusted with this almost-but-not-quite-yet mature, purse-carrying version.
Ah, there she is, the little brat. Wait, there are two now? I must be finally losing my mind, I nod to myself.
“Riya? Who is that wi—”
And just like that, my breath catches in my throat.
Because rounding the corner ahead of me, is a woman.
As our eyes meet, suddenly, we aren’t twenty-eight anymore.
And we’re best friends.
“Mum, why are you making fish faces?” Riya inquires in her usual no-nonsense manner.
“Mumma, are we playing Statues?” the other little boy asks his mother eagerly.
We take a shy step towards each other, hearts quivering with a billion emotions.
Then out of the blue, a snort pops out of my mouth.
The other woman’s face splits into a massive grin as her snort mirrors my own.
In no time at all, there are two adults sitting on the floor of the dairy aisle, hooting with laughter at nothing yet everything, while two children stare at them in bewilderment, glancing at each other as if to say, “Is this a secret mummy ritual we haven’t heard about?”
“God, I’ve missed you, Millie.” I wipe a tear from my eye, the sporadic giggle still slipping out weakly.
“Tell me about it. I haven’t laughed this hard since we found out that real octopuses weren’t as pink and cute as the emojis,” Millie flicks me on the nose, getting a smack on the head in return.
“Iced tea?” I raise an eyebrow, not quite believing destiny’s delicious dabbling and remembering how much the twit sucked at the infamous eyebrow raise. She’s back.
The bane of my life is right before my eyes again, in all her smirking glory.
The gap-toothed little demon who’d painted my first Barbie’s hair orange and made me cry for weeks. The asshole who’d pushed me off my own bed because I was breathing too loud. The fool who’d punched a guy in the face for making fun of my favourite book. The beautiful person I had hugged goodbye, nine years, five months and seven days ago, both of us beaming like idiots, both trying to squeeze our tears back in and figure out how the ruddy hell we were going to survive without each other, as the final boarding calls echoed in our ears.
We had, though. We’d survived.
The first day, there had been seventeen phone calls, three failed Skypes, thirty-six Snapchats (including a sneakily taken picture of a French guy’s rear), two sentimental posts on Facebook, and half a million little heartbreaks.
The second week, there had been daily ‘Wake up, bitch, you’re late for work.” texts which had made me burst into alternate fits of giggles and sobs and made my new room-mate fear for her life.
The sixth month, there had been complete radio silence after a massive argument about the new J.K. Rowling book, which was broken one cold December morning, when I woke up to “Can we start talking again, I miss making fun of your fat nose and I need to send you this amazing song I’ve discovered.”
The first year ended with a quiet, trembling phone-call. “I can’t believe we’re living an ocean away.”
And so, the minutes rolled into hours, the days crept into weeks, and the months catapulted into years.
Suddenly, it was one birthday message a year, followed by a quick thanks and a sickeningly slow sinking in the pit of my stomach.
I came back, fell in love, got married, had a kid.
Funnily enough, I never did stop reaching for the phone every time I thought of something funny, though.
I guess old habits die hard. Or maybe, just maybe; don’t die at all.
“Earth to Rimiiiii!” shakes me out of my reverie and so I shake off the lingering memories with a small smile.
“What’s a girl got to do to get a few minutes of peace in this goshdarned place?” I say, tutting loudly.
“Still the overly melodramatic writer, are we?” Millie narrows her eyes at me, shaking her head slightly.
For a split-second, we stare at each other, as our children continue to stare at us.
And just like that, our eyes light up each other’s souls and I feel our hearts begin to beat in glorious, glorious sync. All over again.
“Come on, snot-face, we got ten years to make up for,” she whispers.
I look at the two future best friends, who have started to teach each other swear words by then, high-fiving at particularly nasty ones.
“I have a feeling we’re going to make it, Mill,” I say softly.
“Now we are.”
And as she drags me and I drag our little legacies out the door, the universe sighs in relief.