60. When Old Friends Become New Friends

60. When Old Friends Become New Friends

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Power of Forgiveness

When Old Friends Become New Friends

Two persons cannot long be friends if they cannot forgive each other’s little failings.

~Jean de la Bruyere

The friend request appeared on Facebook as I was trying to figure out how to upload a picture to my newly created account. One glance at the name and my body stiffened.

Memories washed over me—trips to her cabin in the summer, lazy days on the porch swing and school dances. No one knew me better than she had. Every dream, great and small, had been shared. She knew secrets no one else knew. Yet it had been twelve years since we last spoke.

My finger hovered over the mouse as I debated clicking accept. On one hand, I felt a stir of excitement in reconnecting with someone who had been like a sister to me growing up. On the other hand, I wasn’t sure I wanted that sister-friend back. Old scars of betrayal still remained.

We were in high school. Silly girls crushing on every cute guy that walked by. Teachers frowned upon passing notes, so instead we passed a notebook back and forth in the hallway between classes, filling its pages with snippets about our crushes. She had a boyfriend that she met in 4-H, but they were breaking up. I was spying on the cute boy in my neighborhood.

We attracted very different guys. An extrovert, she was tall with long brown hair and easily became friends with everyone, including the hot guys. I, on the other hand, was short, shy and attracted the dorky guys with whom I’d rather just be friends.

So I was super-psyched when I met my step-cousin’s cute friend at an end-of-summer family picnic and found out he was interested in me. We spent that day horsing around, and when dusk came we disappeared into the quiet house where we could talk. Before he left he gave me his phone number.

I tossed and turned all night, waiting for morning so I could call my friend and share my exciting news. She was delighted, and when school started she encouraged me to ask him to the Sadie Hawkins dance so we could double date. Sadie Hawkins was a fall dance where the girls asked the boys. My friend was going “just as friends” with the brother of one of the girls she knew from band.

It took a few days of encouragement, but I worked up the nerve to call my step-cousin’s friend and ask him to the dance. To my astonishment, he said yes!

My friend and I planned a shopping trip. Sadie Hawkins has a silly tradition where the couples wear matching shirts. It was hard to find matching shirts in extra-large and small in the young men’s section. We shopped for hours, finally settling on un-sexy flannel shirts. I was swimming in mine. She looked cute in hers.

The four of us met at a restaurant before the dance, squeezing into a booth. My friend indicated I did well by winking at me, then nodding in the direction of my date, who was busy looking at the menu. I smiled. This was going to be a great night!

While we waited for food, my friend started talking to my date, asking where he was from and about his interests. They were in the middle of a conversation when I realized things were going south for me. I could see it in his eyes, the way he looked at her, the way he lit up every time he caught her looking at him. Halfway through the dance she traded her date for mine.

My heart sunk as they slow danced just feet away from me. My best friend had hit it off with my date! I felt the knife twist when they officially started dating. I couldn’t understand the betrayal or how she could call herself my best friend and then steal the guy I liked.

Their relationship only lasted a few months. By the time they broke up I had moved on to my stepbrother’s cute friend.

She and I started talking again. Although the wound was still raw, I took her back as my “best friend.” She started hanging out at my house again, and lo and behold, my stepbrother’s cute friend fell for her after I decided I liked him.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. So we went our separate ways.

I stared at the friend request, faced with a serious decision—did I want her back as a friend? Could we even be friends again? In the twelve years that had passed we’d both surely grown up. I clicked “accept.” In a private message, she asked for my phone number.

When the phone rang, I stared at her name on the caller ID, letting it ring again and again. Curiosity won and I answered before the answering machine came on.

We talked forever that first night about the past and present. We caught up on all that we had missed through the years—college, jobs, weddings, children and illnesses. She filled me in on how her parents were doing and I filled her in on my dad and stepmother. She had stayed in touch with my stepbrother’s friends through the years and updated me on their lives. I had abandoned everyone when I left for college. The pain had been too much.

She told me all about how she had dated my stepbrother’s cute friend for a few years until she found out he was cheating on her. I guess the universe has its own way of working things out. Ironically, he was the second person to send me a friend request. It turned out the cute guy wasn’t so cute anymore. He was overweight and balding, not at all like the young college guy I remembered.

I hung up realizing we could be friends again—maybe not best friends, or good friends, but friends. Forgiving her for the hurt she caused in the past allowed us to move forward in a new friendship. We are different people than we were twelve years ago. We have families, careers, new hopes and dreams, and because of that we will have a wiser, more mature friendship this time around.

~Valerie D. Benko

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