"I'm sorry," I said, and meant it.
She nodded, her expression unfathomable. "Me too."
There was a long pause.
"Just two days ago," I said quietly, avoiding her eyes, "we couldn't even be in the same room without going for each other's throats."
She turned away. "Yeah," she admitted. "But look at us now."
I continued, "And just two months ago we were the best of friends. But look at us now." This time I looked directly at her, smiling mirthlessly.
"But look at us now," she repeated. Her voice was bitter.
I didn't know what to say. We both stood in silence for a while, pretending to listen to the babble of subdued voices from the graduation party.
"You know," she spoke suddenly, "there's nothing about how life is today that I'd have predicted during our last years there." She gestured in the vague direction of our old school.
I felt the smile slide off my face. I knew too well what she meant.
"We all grow up," she continued. "We change. And most of the time that's a good thing." She finally looked me in the eye, and for the first time since our feud, the sneer had left her face. "Most of the time, it really is a good thing. But now I look back, and wonder."
I folded my arms. "Look, whatever you think needs to happen here, just spit it out, alright?"
Her sneer returned for a second, and then vanished again. "I don't think anything needs to happen here. I didn't come to ask for your friendship. I came for the same reason you did. To tell you that I'm sorry for what I did in the past. Well, and also to congratulate you for getting into the your first-choice school."
I raised an eyebrow.
"I know you don't believe me, but it's like I said. We all grow up."
I glanced at her, then nodded. "Thank you."
She took a step forward. "There's another reason why I came today, actually. I came to prove something."
"I wanted to prove that I could come and speak to you. And more importantly, that you'd listen to me."
She held out her right hand. Before I knew what I was doing, I reached out to shake it. It was hardly a tearful reconciliation, and I had a strong suspicion that she wouldn't have done it if there were anyone else around, but it was amazing, nonetheless. Our handshake, which somehow managed to be both bold and tenuous, was over in a few seconds, but the memory stuck in my mind for a very long time.
I used to think that after this graduation day conversation we would have at least been on good terms, but we became almost strangers. When we happened to walk past each other in the corridors (it turned out that she'd applied to the same school as I), neither of us would say hello, or even acknowledge the other's presence. Although we never spoke or made direct eye contact, the tension between us soon became so unbearable that I avoided being anywhere near her altogether, and did my best to pretend she didn't exist.
It was easy for me to forget her.
Therefore it was with great surprise when I discovered, on my birthday the following year, a wrapped glass unicorn on my classroom desk. Scribbled on the wrapping paper were the words "happy birthday". There was no name written on the present, but the handwriting seemed familiar.
I had a pretty good idea who had given it to me. I just didn't understand why.
Allegedly, I cried after opening the present, in front of everyone. This is absolutely false. The rumor that I shut myself in the toilet during the whole of the one-hour lunch break, refusing to come out or see anyone, was also entirely untrue.
But it was true that I gave her something back in return. It seemed only fair. On her birthday I left something on her desk too (no, it wasn't maggots)wrapped and anonymous, of course.
When we got older she ran for treasurer of the student body. I'd felt exceedingly uncomfortable when I scribbled her name on the voting slip (while telling my friends I was voting for someone else, of course). I didn't know why I did it. All the homework must have got to my head like champagne.
A few months back I won an award for a painting I'd done. Someone informed me that she was seated in the third row when I went onstage, looking pointedly away but clapping all the same. I told him coldly that I had no idea who he was talking about.
We still don't ever speak, but our strange, silent friendship continuedif you'd call it "friendship".
In a recent Christmas card (unsigned) to her I wrote:
Back then I was brave enough
To stick up to bullies for you
But now I don't even have the courage
To sign my name here.
But don't I know you?
Don't you know me?