The last hours of the term had come and gone, and with it the last day of her schooling: The faded purple jackets, the wrinkled socks, the scuffed shoes, the bare legs beneath prickly tweed skirts. All these things were at home only in her memory now, as well as the sounds and calls that went with them, the slope of the ground in this spot, or the shade next to these bars. All in the past. Next year it would be someone else’s turn, and she was too old to do any more of this.
With a small sigh of longing, she walked to the gate, always one of the last to leave. This time she was old enough to take herself home and did not have to wait to be collected, as her mother forgot: nineteen next birthday, she was old enough to get home alone, even if she took a long time. There was no hurry, she didn’t start at her new studies until October – so long! Almost four months.
Suddenly she heard a voice: “Fran!” and felt the arm of her friend, the teacher, over her shoulder. A close goodbye: A real hug! Her spirits leapt for this sign of love, “Good luck, Fran, you will be fine!” and a heart-wrapped embrace in strong arms, the sort Fran would fall for. Now, no-one would say anything, there were no raised eyebrows. It was all okay. There were kisses on her cheeks, and she smiled up into eyes which glimmered. They said nothing, though both meant, “Thank you. If I don’t see you before, see you in heaven!” and it was finished.
Raised up, Fran was happier now, and more confident. She knew it would be all right. And that next year, although it would all be different, unusual, to be learned again, no matter. The bruises of lost friendship were already healing, fading.
Fran was used to moving, to change, to a feeling that nothing lasts. And yet, her friendships meant a lot to her and anchored themselves deeply. Nothing much could really be said – it was all a look, a smile, a passing word – but the resonance stayed, hanging like a perfume, and was never forgotten. Fran, for all the rooting up and re-setting, each time weaker in a new place, was a deeply loyal woman, and knowing. She knew what she was doing, when she gave her heart so easily. She knew that she would not stop loving those she fell for. And time, distance, age meant nothing. Death was not the point. It would all work out, it was all understood, allowed, agreed at the end. She knew she would see her friends, her lovers, even those she had adored from a distance. She would see them all again.