A Real Friend At Last

Our magazine ran for nearly a year and then we both got tired of doing it. Our friendship came to an abrupt end. We had little in common instead of writing.

In the second year a new girl, Bella Rose, came into our class. Her father was also a civil servant and her mother was French. She loved to draw and paint especially Arthur Rackham-style fairies. With so much in common we soon became good friends.

Unused to the unwritten laws of friendship I dropped Rosalind like a hot brick. I had no idea what I was doing. I simply ceased to notice her existence. She, however, did not forget mine.

One day when I was in the cloakroom on my own I was seized from behind by my skimpy black plaits and my head twisted round to confront a small face distorted with hatred. Sharp black eyes bored into me and without a word she used all her puny force to bang my head against the clothes hooks.

I was taken by surprise. Suddenly she stopped as abruptly as she began and fled. She never spoke to me again. It was a short, sharp lesson of human jealousy. If I had learned all my lessons so quickly I would have been a walking encyclopedia.

Bella and I remained friends until she left at sixteen to go to Art School. I was always welcome to tea whenever I liked. She was an only child. The house was always neat and clean. Her mother was constantly knitting clothes for her. She was a good cook and I could practice my French with her.

We met every Saturday to play tennis. I was never any good at sports, but tennis attracted me. I lost most of the time but that was one of the prices I paid for the friendship.

We all create a mask for ourselves which gives us the opportunity to hide from other people our dark side. The thicker the mask the more we hide our true selves from the world. The more content we are with ourselves, for better or for worse , the less we worry about what others think of us and the more we reveal our natural identity. When this happens we make deeper and more lasting relationships.

There is nothing like having an opponent who is good enough to win to bring out anger, hatred , envy, fear of failure and tantrums, such as flinging down the racquet after making a mistake. I never played well enough to beat Bella.

I have always been very competitive in the things I do best. As I grew older and realised just how good I could be in academic subjects I gradually discovered that I was my own best friend and my worst enemy. Now, I trust myself enough to recognise the value of my own work, whatever other people might think.

The secret is to learn new things from others only when they fit in with our particular way of creating. My friendship with Bella lasted for four years then we went our own separate ways doing very different things.

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