They used to be called the Firefly Lane girls. That was a long time ago --- more than three decades --- but just now, as she lay in bed listening to a winter storm raging outside, it seemed like yesterday.
In the past week (unquestionably the worst seven days of her life), she’d lost the ability to distance herself from the memories. Too often lately in her dreams it was 1974; she was a teenager again, coming of age in the shadow of a lost war, riding her bike beside her best friend in a darkness so complete it was like being invisible. The place was relevant only as a reference point, but she remembered it in vivid detail: a meandering ribbon of asphalt bordered on either side by gullies of murky water and hillsides of shaggy grass. Before they met, that road seemed to go nowhere at all; it was just a country lane named after an insect no one had ever seen in this rugged blue and green corner of the world.
Then they saw it through each other’s eyes. When they stood together on the rise of the hill, instead of towering trees and muddy potholes and distant snowy mountains, they saw all the places they would someday go. At night, they sneaked out of their neighboring houses and met on that road. On the banks of the Pilchuck River they smoked stolen cigarettes, cried to the lyrics of “Billy, Don’t Be a Hero,” and told each other everything, stitching their lives together until by summer’s end no one knew where one girl ended and the other began. They became to everyone who knew them simply TullyandKate, and for more than thirty years that friendship was the bulkhead of their lives: strong, durable, solid. The music might have changed with the decades, but the promises made on Firefly Lane remained.
Best friends forever.
They’d believed it would last, that vow, that someday they’d be old women, sitting in their rocking chairs on a creaking deck, talking about the times of their lives, and laughing.
Now she knew better, of course. For more than a year she’d been telling herself it was okay, that she could go on without a best friend. Sometimes she even believed it.
Then she would hear the music. Their music. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” “Material Girl.” “Bohemian Rhapsody.” “Purple Rain.” Yesterday, while she’d been shopping, a bad Muzak version of “You’ve Got a Friend” had made her cry, right there next to the radishes.
She eased the covers back and got out of bed, being careful not to waken the man sleeping beside her. For a moment she stood there, staring down at him in the shadowy darkness. Even in sleep, he wore a troubled expression.
She took the phone off its hook and left the bedroom, walking down the quiet hallway toward the deck. There, she stared out at the storm and gathered her courage. As she punched in the familiar numbers, she wondered what she would say to her once-best friend after all these silent months, how she would start. I’ve had a bad week… my life is falling apart… or simply: I need you.
Across the black and turbulent Sound, the phone rang.