Fair Weather Friends

“I was being replaced”

I dipped my spoon in the purple dye, searching for my egg to check its hue before letting it sink back into the vinegar concoction. I attempted to pass the utensil to Emma, but she was still immersed in her phone, eyes glued to the screen as the seconds ticked by on yet another Snapchat selfie from her boyfriend. When she was ready to leave, she refused to take home any of the dyed eggs that we’d just spent hours creating, as if the whole thing had been a silly waste of her time. We were freshmen in high school, continuing our tradition of dyeing Easter eggs together for yet another year. But this time it was different. That was one of the last days we ever spent together.

Emma and I had been inseparable since kindergarten—the kind of friends who had weekly sleepovers, went to summer camp together, and bought each other every cheap, jewel-encrusted Best Friends necklace we came across. At my house we played Polly Pocket and Dance Dance Revolution and baked chocolate chip cookies. At her house we watched Disney Channel, walked to the pool, and talked for hours on her hammock. We promised that we would stay friends forever and be bridesmaids in each other’s weddings. We had crushes on the same boys and complained about our parents. We never kept secrets from each other.

But there was another facet to our relationship that complicated what should have been a simple childhood friendship. Emma was a social climber. She was always perusing her options, yearning to join the ranks of the popular crowd. Her discontent quickly led to a pattern, one that I didn’t truly grasp until high school: Emma would befriend someone new, someone she perceived as cooler than I was, and then she would forget about me until the new friend forgot about her.

The first incident occurred in first grade, when Emma started hanging out almost exclusively with another girl in our class named Maya. While Emma and I had always been a duo, I saw no problem letting Maya join our group. But I still remember walking across the playground one day during recess, hoping to join the two of them up in a tree and being told there wasn’t enough room for me. Suddenly it didn’t feel like Emma and I were adding another friend to our group, but rather that I was being replaced. Weeks later, when Emma finally got tired of Maya’s negativity and irritable moods and returned to me, I was so glad to have my friend again that I hid my feelings of rejection and acted like nothing had ever happened.

We followed this pattern for years, with Emma periodically tossing me aside for someone better. In second grade it was Claire, in fifth grade it was Chiara, in sixth grade it was Chloe, and so on, until Emma decided to go to a private high school. Our friendship essentially fell by the wayside as she was absorbed into a clique of preppy girls who all straightened their hair every day and shopped at the same stores. In a move that I now realize was a mistake, I never made much of an effort to make other close friends, instead choosing to put all my eggs in one basket. And even when I did reach out to other girls, they always seemed like placeholders for Emma.

If I sound bitter, it’s because I am. I lost my best friend, the one person I could talk to about absolutely anything. That realization hit me the day we were dyeing Easter eggs; Emma’s life—with her boyfriend and her new friends from private school whose faces were plastered all over my Facebook newsfeed—didn’t include me any longer. Our little traditions like egg dyeing were now meaningless to her.

For me, the end of our friendship felt like a breakup, a drawn-out one full of bad communication and unspoken emotion. Thinking of her brought on a wave of nostalgia, a longing for the past when we used to giggle in tap class or choose the worst rated Netflix movies to watch together. My inability to let go made me feel pathetic. She had moved on; why couldn’t I?

I spent the next four years tentatively exploring new friendships, never throwing myself wholeheartedly into the social sphere, imagining how things would have been different if Emma had stuck around. I left high school determined to make more connections in college, to be receptive to a variety of relationships. While there is a special place in my heart for memories of Emma, I’ve realized that I don’t need her anymore. I don’t need one friend whom I tell everything to and do everything with. I should have a wide array of people in my life, who all fulfill different roles.

Emma and I still Snapchat, now and then, when we see something that reminds us of the other. She texted me in September to wish me a happy birthday, and I did the same for her in November. We unenthusiastically attempted to make plans to meet up over winter break that I knew she would never follow through on. I don’t know if we’ll ever reconnect or discuss what happened between us, but I’ll always remember her as my best friend. And even though we probably won’t be bridesmaids in each other’s wedding like we once hoped, maybe we’ll at least still invite each other, if only for old time’s sake.