Lesson Nine: Stephanie

I met my best friend when I was fifteen years old. She had braces, was about my height, and had just moved from San Diego. I had started school again, after dropping out freshman year. We became inseparable.

Stephanie was a friend like I’d never had before. She was a mix of so many qualities that I had thought could only exist in extremes. For instance, she was fiercely independent, but did not even try to break rules at home. I didn’t have rules at home, so this baffled me for a few reasons. She was popular by comparison, having friends in every class, being active in cheer, musicals, and clubs. It always seemed to me like she knew everyone.

I invited Steph to church. She accepted Christ, and we bonded on new levels. We were sisters in Christ now, more than just friends, or even best friends.

Being me, I had read a few books on friendship cultivation before I met Stephanie. After we met, I started to focus a large part of my week to being a best friend. Steph held my secrets and trusted me with hers. I wanted to help give her all the good things I could.

As much as we cared for each other, we were hormonal, obnoxious, spoiled, teenagers. We were not always good to each other. I remember many instances when i felt hurt, overlooked, or dismissed by Steph. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t tell her no, if I could possibly avoid it.

One Wednesday, we were at my house after school, before church. I had confided in Steph a secret about my boyfriend and a dropper of cherry juice. That night, we pulled into the parking lot for Bible study, and Steph bursts out of the car and sprints to my boyfriend’s car, where she asks him if he has any cherry juice. I turned several shades of pink.

When I was sixteen, I broke up with my boyfriend of three years. I went to visit my grandparents in Louisiana for three weeks, and came back to find Stephanie dating my ex-boyfriend.

It was a problem for me. They were together at church, where I was more than anywhere else. He didn’t go to our school, but he started to attend the football games, the dances, and other events that Steph was involved in. He started working for Steph’s dad, so then he was at her house all the time. I felt like i couldn’t get away from them. I did my best to pretend it didn’t matter. I didn’t know how to introspect enough to know what to say to Steph, let alone how to say it.

My breakup with the boy had been rough. We’d broken up and gotten back together a handful of times before it stuck. There was ugly fighting, and sexual weirdness and confusion. We were physical, but in very unhealthy ways emotionally. I had wanted to stop advancing physically with him, and things continued to happen anyway. I was racked with guilt, and the hormones to do things I didn’t understand. Every time we’d get close to actual sex, I’d panic. I didn’t know how to deal with that, so I lied. I cheated. I did so many things to try and make him leave. Steph had stuck by me through the whole breakup. She’d been my rock. And now, she was with him?

We tried to talk about it once. It was at night, and we were sitting in my car at the church parking lot. Tears made her mascara run, as Steph told me that she loved him and wanted to marry him. We were seventeen now, and marriage was possible soon. And sex wasn’t supposed to be happening with marriage, so marriage was likely soon, for all of us, I thought.

We stayed friends, Stephanie and I. We were distant, and talked about boys far less often. Things changed for me, though. I didn’t trust her the same way.

I wish that I had learned to say no to Steph at that point. Instead, I decided that I didn’t need to be Steph’s everything anymore. If she was going to get married so soon, that guy would be her everything anyway, and she wouldn’t need me. I’d ignore her phone call sometimes. I wouldn’t write her notes everyday. I even missed church occasionally, something unheard of before.

I didn’t want the boy back. I just didn’t want him to be with her.

At the end of the school year, they broke up. Because, hello, we were seventeen.

Steph and I were able to get closer again. Our relationship grew with our lives, as different as they have become. We decided that if we could get through the whole boyfriend-sharing thing, we could be friends through anything.
These days, I tend to call Steph my sister-of-choice. Her brilliant daughter calls me “auntie”. We are still close, despite the distance between us.

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