When friendship goes bad
Lucy Halfhead and her childhood friend were inseparable, until they moved in together. She tells December’s Marie Claire her story.
It was certainly not love at first sight. She was wearing penguin-print leggings and I’m pretty sure I was rocking a waistcoat and tartan skirt combo. Within a week, however, we each owned half of a broken-heart necklace, symbolising our status as Best Friends.
I was 11 when I met Amy at boarding school, where we spent seven years sharing everything from a love of Wham bars and Nina Simone to clandestine laundry-room conversations that stretched into the night. When we ended up at different universities, the phone bills were spectacular.
Amy was the equivalent of a female husband, someone who was there through thick and thin. While I was the sensible one, she was feistier, but we balanced each other out like a deftly weighted pair of scales. I would have been devastated had anything happened to her.
So it was instinctive to move in together when we graduated. Like newlyweds, we were smug about our closeness. We threw notorious parties, watched endless reruns of ER and pored over the Ikea catalogue.
Six months down the line, things began to change. Amy was increasingly swept up in big-city life, while I juggled working as an intern with studying for an MA. When alcohol was involved, she morphed into a completely different person. Enjoyable nights in were substituted for a trail of mess, dramatic 4am entrances, strangers coming back to the flat, broken furniture and borrowed clothing either ripped or lost and never replaced. The night before my end-of-year exams, she woke me up by hammering on the front door because she was too drunk to find her keys.
As best friends, I think we expected to enjoy each other’s company all the time. So when tensions between us began to materialise, I reacted badly by burying my head in the sand. Conversations were replaced by text messages and emails.
The stress was so intense that I would lie awake at night for hours replaying everything that she had done to annoy me, and I’m sure she was doing the same. We couldn’t, or wouldn’t, communicate. I felt like I was clinging on to this ideal of us as soulmates. Sometimes we didn’t see each other for days – I would spend hours at the gym after work just to avoid her.
The night I came home to find an ambulance outside the house and Amy drunkenly complaining of chest pains to two disbelieving paramedics, I realised I no longer idealised her as my other half. We had the conversation we should have had weeks earlier – outlining how we were driving each other mad – and she decided to leave. She said that I had ducked out of the friendship and she couldn’t bear my coldness any more.
When she moved her stuff out of the house 24 hours later, it felt like a divorce. It was one of the most upsetting days of my life. Later, however, as I sobbed in the shower, the tears were partly of relief.
Although the notion of a best friend has lost its gloss for me, no one can fill Amy’s shoes. I miss gossiping, sharing jokes and dancing till our feet hurt. Our closeness was 100 per cent genuine, and it would have been absurd not to live together. We still see each other at social events, but getting space from the habits that ate away at our friendship was the right move. It ultimately may have saved it.
Have you ever fallen out with your best friend? Tell us your story in the comments box below.