Sally had known, really, that the all-in-one friendship that she and Darrell shared would not always be so close; that, just as they had to leave their schooldays behind them they’d have to leave their schoolgirl love behind them one day.
It had always been a hypothetical “one day” that this would happen. Not something that mattered in the here and now. Just “one day”.
They had chosen the same university, after all. They had travelled up together on the train, holding hands, giggling away their nerves as they exchanged hopes and confidences. And they had walked onto the campus with arms interlinked and hearts still together, to pick bedrooms side by side (as if they’d ever sleep separately! Sally had thought).
They’d made a few friends with other girsl in the common room, open-hearted Darrell reaching out to others with her usual ease; steadfast Sally joining in quietly, slowly, always encouraged by Darrell flashing a special smile at her.
And “one day” had seemed to recede further still.
But suddenly Darrell had started spending time with people from her course. Men. Going out dancing, coming in late and choosing to sleep in her own room, alone.
“We’re older now, Sally,” she said blithely. “Of course we’re still friends, but we’ve grown up.”
Grown up, grown out of love, and into denial that love had ever existed. In Darrell’s mind, they had been “friends” and were still “friends”. Anything else, after all, was unthinkable. So Darrell didn’t think it. But Sally knew. And she knew that “one day” had come.
Twenty years later, Darrell stood looking out over the wide Scottish sea, her husband by her side.
“I’ll never understand how Sally drowned. She was such a strong swimmer. She was my best friend, once.”