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I once had a very dear friend. We didn’t know each other for very long – only about six months – before she went to live very far away. And in fact it wasn’t until she was going to leave that I realised how important she was to me.

We had only known each other a few months, and we didn’t have very much in common, but we spoke on the phone every day, for over an hour. I remember that for a time it was the best hour of my day, and I always looked forward to it.

I remember when she said she was going to leave, I organised a party for her. I got some friends together – some that she didn’t know very well, but that I knew she might have liked to – and we went to a fancy themed restaurant. We had to dress up: I was a monk and she was a gypsy – and she looked the part so much I almost forgot that it was just a costume.

In between the festivities we all gave her gifts. Mine was a CD I had made myself, with songs about our brief friendship. She gave me a little book of quotes about friends and a sliver of crystal, both of which I still keep in a box on my shelf.

That night I went home and I wrote a poem about her, trying to put to paper how I felt. It was called Gypsy Queen, and ever since that’s how I’ve remembered her: as a dark, mysterious, beautiful gypsy who danced in and out of my life.

After that the five of us saw so much of each other, we were closer than I would have thought possible. By the time she left, she was more a sister to me than she was a friend.

In the beginning we mailed frequently – every day, almost. It became a daily ritual to come home, find a new message from her and spend some time crafting a long, heartfelt reply. It was almost as if nothing had changed, except I now had an empty seat next to me in English and we spoke over email rather than telephone. We still had a lot to talk about.

She had some trouble in her new home. Trouble fitting in, trouble at school. I did whatever I could to help. For a while, she still needed me: someone to talk to, to confide in.

My birthday came around, and there wasn’t an email from her. It didn’t worry me – she just hadn’t written one that day, and it would come the next or the day after. When I got a phone call that afternoon from her, it was wonderful. It very nearly brought a tear to my eye. When we spoke it was like nothing had changed, and we were as close as ever.

For a while, we kept it up. But gradually, we grew apart. Nothing happened, there wasn’t a falling out – I can’t even imagine us fighting. But slowly the emails came less and less frequently. We were both busy, and everything we had in common was rapidly becoming just a set of pleasant memories.

She made friends. Great friends – who I heard about and who I was certain could have been my friends too, if we ever met. But we didn’t, we couldn’t. And now she had people to talk to, to confide in. She had people who could be there for her like I was once upon a time.

The emails still came, but less and less. The events I read about were so foreign and so far away that it might have been a report on the evening news for all I knew. And all I had to reply with was news of my world back here, and of people she hardly remembered.

The birthday phone calls became a ritual, and one I look forward to every year, twice a year. For an hour or so, every six months, it’s as if she never left. We talked, we laughed, we gossiped. We caught up.

But I haven’t spoken to her for months now. Her emails stopped coming – which I can’t complain about, because mine stopped going. The phone calls seem further and further apart.

When I do catch a snippet of news about her, it’s like I’m hearing about a stranger. A few weeks ago she had her prom, and I didn’t know it was happening, or what her dress looked like, or who took her or whether they kissed afterwards or whether she wanted him to or anything about it.

There’s so much happening in her life that I want to be a part of, and so much in mine that I wish I could confide in her about, and I that wish even more she were here to share with me. I’ve never felt so much like I’m no longer a part of her life, or like I don’t have a right to be anyway.

I once had a very dear friend. We didn’t know each other for very long before she moved very far away indeed; and every day it seems a little further.

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