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All For One...

by  Bobo

Posted: Wednesday, August 27, 2003
Word Count: 1113
Summary: Sorry guys - ignore if you've read this already under the user name DJ...I've eventually managed to become a full member after some problems with PayPal ( hooray! ) and so am reloading all my work so far...both under Bobo and also DJ...are you confused yet???

Netty was my best friend at school, my very best friend. We both stood out somewhat as we didn’t have the privileged backgrounds of most who attended the grammar school. We were different. We came from poor families. Lived on the big council estate. Ill-fitting hand-me-down uniforms, shoes two sizes too small, battered old satchels from some jumble sale or other, packed lunches of scant leftovers from the night before: we were easily recognisable. Like two straggly ducklings amidst perfectly preened swans. The teasing was often relentless - as is well-documented, kids can be very mean - but we had each other and so none of it mattered that much. As long as Netty was by my side the world could pretty much throw what the hell it liked at me; she was my rock. Netty Spaghetti, I used to call her on account of her long straight hair. Fran The Man, she used to call me; my hair was always cropped so short.

We carried on looking out for each other long after school, well into the grown-up world. Jobs, relationships - all but a back-drop to our enduring friendship. It was a standing joke between us that if we hadn’t settled down with our ideal men by a certain age ( 25, I think it was ) then we would settle down together. Ah yes, we would be each other’s protector, each other’s salvation. Nothing bad could happen to either of us as long as we stuck together, modern-day musketeers. We were untouchable.

The passing of years, though, and the events that they bring, rarely seem to coincide with our own envisaged big picture. I know that’s just the ‘way of the world’, as it were, and yet I still find it hard to get my head round fully and accept. Netty and I were as one; I was her and she was me, so how could anything ever change that? Naivety is a bunker which all of us must abandon at some point in our lives. When I lost my Netty I fled mine, faced the oh-so-harsh reality that life is never as we plan and ultimately we are all very much on our own.

Forgive me; I’m over-dramatising, I daresay. I fear I’ve made it sound as though Netty died, and that isn’t the case. Our lives simply took diverging paths, priorities changed . You see, I’d always rather taken it for granted that we would both marry, start families, and that those families would be close, just as we were. My husband and I would be godparents to her children, she and her husband to ours. There never seemed there could be a reason why this wouldn’t be the case. A delightful picture in my mind’s eye. One that never transpired. When I had those dream-like expectations we had yet to meet our future husbands. I was still a big part of Netty’s world at that time because then there was no Ted. Ted turned Netty’s world upside-down, gradually whittled away at her core ‘til there was little of any substance left. What could I do? How could I tell her, show her, that he was not a good man, not what she needed or deserved? She was besotted and at first I was so so happy for her, glad she was in love, but that elation soon changed to anger and frustration as I saw the way he treated her, the way he talked to her. She was my best friend, one of the loveliest people ever created, and he reduced her to nothing with just a few cruel words. Occasionally you glimpse pure evil in people. I saw it in him.

All I could do, all any friend can ever do, was to make sure I was always there for her if she needed me, waiting in the wings for when things went wrong. If she needed a place to stay, my home was her home; if she needed a shoulder to cry on, mine were plenty broad enough for any amount of tears. Over the years she made fairly regular use of both home and shoulder - when Ted’s endless barrage of cruelty got too much for her to bear, when his alcoholism spiralled violently out of control, when he threw her out because she fell pregnant ( he was repulsed ) - but Netty would always go back to him because she loved him. I sometimes pleaded with her to leave him for good, to make a new start before it was too late, but she would just take my hand and tell me that she couldn’t, that she was with him ’for better or worse’, that she wouldn’t abandon him, that he needed her. Though it ripped at my heart there was nothing I could do to change her mind.

It came to a point where I stopped begging her to walk away; it seemed so futile.

Losing touch was so very easily done. She and Ted moved - I didn’t know where. She left her job - no forwarding details, or none they’d give me anyway. Her mother had moved away some years earlier, as had her brother. There were no mobile phones, there was no e-mail. I just never heard from her any more. It felt as though a part of me, a large and vital part of me, had died.

Today, I’m thinking about my Netty more than ever. So many years have passed, I’m retired now, with a grown-up family of my own, and the world has moved on. ’New-fangled technology’, as I always call it, seems to advance a mile a minute, and with its growth the world shrinks. To find Netty was then unthinkable - where would you even start - but now it is so different. So very very different. It’s taken a while, involving a lot of assistance from my son-in-law ( though the worldwide web is amazing, I find it terribly daunting), but through tracking down her brother I know now that she’s happy at last. Ted passed away quite some years ago, apparently, and she found true love with a chap called William. My heart beat faster with pure joy when her brother told me.

I’m so excited; now I have an e-mail address for her, I can ‘speak’ to her once more, tell her how sorry I am we drifted apart, how much I regret losing her from my life, how ecstatic I feel about her new life without Ted. The nervous energy keeps making me giggle, as my fingers hover over the keys, about to write to my ‘Dearest Netty Spaghetti…’.