2001: They say you held on this long because now instead of crying every year your daughter will hold me a little tighter. Celebrating another year as a mother rather than another year without one. You were only forty-seven.
2002: A kid went to the bathroom in the playground because he didn’t know any better. Some people laughed but I remembered feeling so scared when I had to pick up the hot lunches by myself. He wasn’t my friend but he wasn’t so different either.
2003: She was clear blue eyes with sandy plaits and a pink tulip t-shirt. Under the trees in the playground the whole universe waited for us. We brushed our hair behind our ears determinedly and dove forward.
2004: Wriggling bodies’ fit snug against each other on the floor of the lounge. Occasional giggles bursting like the feathers out of our sleeping bags. Our midnight chatter was a golden mess. It was so warm.
2005: I yelled at my mother and she yelled back. I felt so awful that I cried until the sun surprised me by rising just the same. I crawled into her bed and found that she still loved me with all the warmth of the day.
2006: He brought me my book and sat next to me quietly. Someone consistent in this sea of strangers. The class list was read and he caught my gaze when we were put together, holding it for a while. I didn’t blink. But I did leave town. I still smile when I hear his name.
2007: Maroon socks bunching at my ankles and shorts with a bright yellow buttons. He kissed me in my back garden with all my friends watching. I scrubbed my lips afterwards and then rode my bike, hair streaming out behind me. Free.
2008: I smelt of tealeaf perfume and mango body butter. Everything was hot and sticky and glistening with sunshine. Windows wound down, hair whipping past my face in the breeze. Every night I slept with sand between my toes.
2009: We lie under the giant Christmas tree and text cute boys in our class. Her plaits had grown out and my hair was shorter. We let butterflies swoop through our stomach and erupt from our mouth in uncontrollable giggles. SMS sent: ‘I like U.’
2010: Fresh white blouses, crisp stationary, hair pinned back with a bow. The air tasted like lemonade and shampoo. So many different girls who I could be.
2011: The snow fell on our way home. I bundled up in the wool of my red and black jersey and stared up at the sky. The night oozed soft and sticky and delicious. Stars sparkling like jewels.
2012: These were not clouds in a clear sky. It was permanently overcast, always threatening to break with a rainstorm that would drown me. For the first time I tore my eyes from the heavens and stared at my hands. The matching ink stains on her fingers gave me hope.
2013: I was not one person. I was a jumble of limbs and salt-water eyes and gurgling laughter. We shook uncontrollably but we did not collapse. We held each other up: Victorious. We were victorious.
2014: I wanted it so badly every part of me was alight. We tumbled on the beach burning our fingers on hot chip grease and hollering at the stars. We had tangled hair and messy dreams but for one startling moment, the entire world was ours.
2015: There were so many tears burning my eyes and I couldn’t breathe and I was euphoric. I sat in front of my acceptance letter to law school as the ten year old wave of accumulated exhaustion and stress and hard work finally – finally crashed to shore.
2016: He told me to stop smiling when he said your name and I laughed. Stared up at the streetlights glowing orange against the sky and laughed. Because otherwise the thought of you still might make me cry, but also because I was happy. Sitting in the dark and the warm, talking shit about the world. I’ve made it here and i’m happy.