8 years ago, at 8pm in the evening, my best friend left her house, walked over to my car (a renault megane coupe, 2ltr auto, in midnight blue) which was parked in a bay to the side of her house, got in, popped some Take That on the stereo and set about having a chat.
It was her Mum's birthday; the first one without her Mum who had died just 8 weeks before on Christmas Eve, after an extremely hard fought battle against cancer - my goodness she was one tough cookie who absolutely refused to give in.
We both lit a ciggie, cranked the windows down a tadge (so we didn't choke to death - although not too far as it was pissing down with rain and only just above freezing on the temperature gauge) and for the whole length of smoking that ciggie we never said a word. I knew what she had to tell me, she knew what she wanted to tell me, yet neither of us could bring ourselves to mention it. Eventually she turned to me with a steely determined look in her eyes and said "I got the results; I have cervical cancer" and then she cried. I'll be honest, in that moment, at that time, I saw it only as an inconvenience. To me she was going to have treatment, fight it, win, and give it her all in the zimmer frame races along the seafront we'd always talked about when we both got to our 90's. It was a blip. Oh how wrong I was.
She'd been married just 6 months at this point; I realised on the morning of her wedding she was making the biggest mistake of her life (and believe me, up until that point she'd made some pretty shocking ones previously) but she was determined to go through with it. Her Mum was dying and more-than-anything she wanted her Mum to see her walk down the aisle - sadly her Mum despised him, telling me she'd like to "chop his head off" however, who were we to tell her what to do with her life?
I know full well that a fuck-up at the hospital is what ultimately sealed her fate, but he turned out to be the nastiest vile piece-of-shit I've ever encountered (and I'd dealt with his brother years before telling me he had lung cancer, asking me how my Dad had dealt with it when he had it; turns out he'd never had it and was using what I'd told him to fake his symptoms so he could garner sympathy (and possibly money) from sympathetic people - the whole family are nothing but scum). She would have fought harder, had it not been for him, and his blood sucking family. They are truly the dregs of society, but very clever manipulators; they even had 2 of her closest friends side with him when he was finally kicked out of the house. These are 2 people my best friend went out-of-her-way-for, neglecting her own self at times for both of them. Just days before she died they both broke her heart into a million tiny pieces, and all because of him. I only hope when just 6 months later and he moved his new fiance into my friends house (a house he forced her to sign over to him as she lay writhing in agony, dying on the living room floor in front of him) that they saw him for who he truly is. I hope they still carry that guilt and how they treated her within themselves every day; they do not deserve to have had one good nights sleep since they did-what-they-did to her (damn right I'm still bitter about it; they treated her worse than I would have treated him, and I wanted to slit his throat and cut him into tiny pieces).
That day, the day she lay dying, is the day that her daughter finally had him removed from the house. We found out he'd taken control of my friends meds, was feeding her morphine like it was water and not because he was trying to end her suffering (at that point she'd still been very much able to get about and live her life) but because he wanted her dead. She was an inconvenience. He'd taken control of everything, mentally (and physically (I found out that night)) abusing her. He wore her down to a former shadow of herself. I visited her in hospital that night (thankfully a neighbour had let herself in, found him standing over her, watching her die and had called an ambulance). I'd only seen her a few days before but when I got to that hospital I walked right by her; I didn't even recognise my own best friend. The woman I had been through so much with over the 25 years we'd been friends, and I didn't even see her; that broke my heart, more-than-a-little bit.
Her daughter had already phoned me at work to let me know what was going on and to tell me she'd had him removed (every day she's made me feel proud of her for different things throughout her life, but that day, oh that day, my heart swelled with more pride than I could ever have imagined for her). She was the only one who could have done it (well, that's a lie, my besties brother could but he's the biggest waste-of-space on the planet - he even screwed her and her kids over the inheritance from their mother as his own sister lay dying; she really did not have much luck with the men in her life. In fact I think her brother is possibly even lower down the scum chain than her ex; her brother owed her everything and he took all he could get - and more). Her daughter phoning me was how I ready for him when he called me, less than 30 minutes after he'd been removed from the house (which sadly, was still in his name and his to take charge of once my friend died - he did this just 7 days later, turning up with all his family (he wasn't man enough to deal with a grieving 20 year old girl and had to take reinforcements with him - pathetic little creature) to kick her daughter out of her family home. He saw her out on the streets with nothing; he kept everything, including the single quilts from her younger brother and sister's bed (not really surprised by that though as it turns out he is also a paedo who likes little girls; I know, my friend really wasn't in the right place in her head when she hooked up with him)).
He called to tell me what was going on, expecting me to side with him - I would never take anyones side over her daughter (she is my number 1) and he knows/knew that. He then said to me "well I'll have the last laugh; as her husband I'm her next-of-kin so get to organise her funeral. I'll make sure none of you know where and when it is, and I'll throw her ashes in a bin" to which I replied "I think you'll find we'll all have something to say about that and will make sure you don't get to organise it" to which he spat back "then I'll leave her rotting on a slab". Yes, that's the kind of man he was. Luckily we kept her death quiet and her daughter and another friend organised it all without any of us (her other friends) knowing the details until the last minute. I made all her flowers, with no idea what funeral directors she was in. This was done so that if we were contacted or hassled in any way, we could honestly say we knew nothing about it. A couple of people no longer talk to me because they were convinced I knew what was going on and was choosing not to tell them; no skin off my nose. In a way it was a good way of ridding myself of people I didn't want in my life to begin with. Right up until the day she dies (and after as they didn't know she had at this point) his family sent her threatening and abusive messages.
Just 13 months after that night we sat in the car, I went down to her house for the last time to say my "goodbye". She died just a few hours before I got there on a sunny Monday afternoon. I'd spent the previous Saturday with her, we'd said all we needed to say to each other. We knew her time was limited, but I still never imagined that would be the last time we actually physically spoke (believe me, I talk to her all the time these days in a non-physical way). Not a single day passes when I don't miss her, especially as she is now a grandmother; how she would have loved her granddaughter. She would have been the best nanny any little girl could have asked for. I am still angry over how things played out, how she was treated, the mistakes that were made, and with her for not fighting harder, but I've learnt how to channel that anger and deal with it so that it doesn't eat me up (until days like today when it all bubbles to the surface again; it doesn't last long though, turning quickly to sadness, then back to me smiling as I remember the bloody crazy things we got up to). I know how proud she is of her eldest, but also how disappointed she would also be in her youngest 2 right now (they're going through some kind of phase, and are sadly influenced by their father way more than is good for them - she'd still love them (unconditionally), regardless, but they would be breaking her heart a little right now with their behaviour and she'd be kicking them into touch if she were here).
She was definitely one-of-a-kind. The epitome of forgiveness (the shit her brother put her through and not once did she walk away from him) the kindest, most caring and considerate person I know (she was there for everyone, even those who had treated her badly) and quite possibly one of the funniest people to spend time around. The scrapes she got me into. It was always her fault - although she had a really clever knack of nobody ever believing it was her, therefore allowing me to take the blame, and she could not make a decent cup of tea for love-nor-money. She was so much more than just my best friend; she was my confidante, matchmaker (although she tended to stitch me up in that department too (with the exception of Louis; when it came to setting me and him up, she got it bang on)) and the woman who allowed me to experience the love that comes from being a parent. She knew I couldn't have kids and she willingly, without any exceptions to the rules, allowed me to share her children, to be a part of their lives; that was the greatest gift (sometimes a headache!!) anyone could have bestowed upon me. That's the person she was; kindness, compassion and warmth radiated from her. She made a difference to so many peoples lives, asked nothing in return and didn't even realise that she was doing it making her the most modest of human beings. We still had so many things we were meant to do, so much we were meant to share, so many experiences to enjoy. Damn right I miss her. Every single second, of every single day.