Her mother grips my hand and gives me a pale smile.
“Alexia. You came.” I hug her. Of course I came.
“This is Twiggy. Look at that face.”
I am shot back a dozen years. I am a scrawny, awkward precocious adolescent with unripened rebellious ideas. At home I am a princess. At school I am pathetic. My best friend is already remarkable. She is a straight A student (a future Head Girl, a future lawyer), a ballerina (a future dancer), an accomplished pianist… She is not ‘cool’ but she is adored by everyone. She has that One of Those Smiles.
“They smile and the room lights up,” my mother says. “Don’t let go of people with smiles like that.”
Polaroids click through my mind. The time we jammed the champagne with sugar because we hated the taste. The time we played Semi-Charmed Life all afternoon. The time I walked into a wall and gave my forehead a massive egg-shaped bump that turned all colours of the rainbow. The time I told her parents I was a vegetarian (the disgrace!).
I grew up with this family. This girl is my sister. When I had my accident, we hadn’t spoken in two years. We’re so busy. Life, you know. Then one morning, I looked up from my hospital bed and there she was there with watery eyes and that gorgeous smile.
“If you’re just gong to cry, come back later.”
She laughed out of relief. She kicked my mother out. I’m here. Rest. I’ll take care of her. She was the only other person I felt safe with. I spent those days slipping in and out of consciousness (damn drugs) and she sat there with her book, smiling like sunshine every time I opened my eyes. She fed me. She took me to the bathroom. She made fun of me. She made me laugh.
Then we didn’t speak for another year. We’re so busy. Life, you know.
And then I got the call.
I said, “We’ve got to stop meeting like this.”
After the funeral, dozens of us gathered at her house. We ate and we talked and we laughed. There was so much love here.
We talked about how there was not enough space in the church.
“Isn’t that the definition of success? Isn’t that all you really want when you go?”
Her siblings have that smile. It runs in the family. They are tired and sad and smiling and running on adrenaline. I love these kids. Their courage humbles me. The way they keep their light shining floors me. Their sheer perseverance inspires me to keep going. Just imagine- not one, not two, but three souls, on one of the most difficult day of their lives, inspiring me to keep my own light shining.
She said, “Your words give me strength.”
I thought, Oh yeah? Well YOUR FACE gives me strength. So there.
Never give up. Recognise what is happening, confront the truth of the situation, but keep fighting for yourself. Learn when to push, when to pull, and when to do nothing. Keep your spirits high and your eyes on the future. Change can be your friend.
FATE INDEED CASTS A LONG SHADOW, BUT KEEP YOUR OWN LIGHT SHINING.