What Friends Are For

We’ve known each other since we were 15. Introduced by a mutual friend, we soon discovered many shared interests, none of them healthy. It wasn’t long before we were cutting class to steal doughnut holes from the local grocery store or wander around in the nearby woods in search of  mischief.

Over the years we reached all the same milestones at approximately the same times. She discovered boys first, but they started noticing me soon after. In high school, we both began a decade long on again off again relationship with cigarettes. There was even a smoking section on campus back then. We both suffered the obligatory sexual assaults, followed a couple of years later by the inevitable pregnancies; hers first, immediately followed by marriage. Mine, three months later, but I waited until after giving birth to tie the knot. I transferred to a home school program and received my diploma; she dropped out shortly after, but later enrolled in an alternative high school and eventually went on to earn a bachelor’s degree. We both divorced around the same time, too, after approximately five years of trying to make our marriages work.

Time passed and we each filled our resumes with a decade’s worth of disposable jobs. Occasionally we even worked for the same companies at the same times. Over the years, one or the other of us would move from Washington to Oregon to California, then back again. Eventually the other would make their way there, as well. We were even roommates for awhile, our children grew up considering each other cousins.

Eventually, though, we grew apart. Her child went to live with his father, mine stayed with me. We each bought a house in different cities, worked for different companies, talked less, and rarely spent time together. Even still, we both managed to become romantically involved around the same time with younger men that we had known as friends for a decade or more. I was engaged first, but she remarried first, all less than a year apart.

Hers was more of a whirlwind romance and almost an elopement. The only people at the ceremony were their parents and the judge. This did not sit too well with their friends, but it was too late to do anything about it by the time we found out. Her new husband had been in our circle of friends since the beginning of time, but he and I didn’t cross paths very often. Quiet, solidly built, and kind of bookish, I didn’t really know him well. 

Growing up in his parent’s bakery, he developed impressive skills in the kitchen. Those skills are what eventually attracted his wife, who has no cooking skills to speak of, but has always had an insatiable desire for carbohydrates. Together, they love to entertain. She flits around filling wine glasses and cleaning up after guests, while he creates the meal. My husband and I shared many meals with them over the first few years of their marriage. They also became our favorite traveling companions. We’ve enjoyed chocolate croissants in Switzerland, Lamingtons in Australia, steins of beer in Germany, and s’mores on the beach in Hawaii. Life was pretty sweet for all of us.

Several years into their marriage, though, things began to change. It started with a few innocuous fitness competitions. Scattered here and there were 30 day challenges for avoiding alcohol, or sweets, or whatever food was being demonized in the news that month. She could take or leave the fads, but he tried them all. None had staying power until he came across the book. He’s an avid, but slow reader, so it took a while for the whole thing to sink in. He’s also charmingly gullible. Once the book had been read, and the concepts accepted, he began to implement those ideas in his life and hers. After that, there was no stopping him.

While this transition was occurring, my husband and I were busy moving to a city farther away in celebration of our new status as empty-nesters. Our search for a new house and new jobs, in part, prevented us from picking up on the warning signs as quickly as we might have otherwise. Even if we had known how serious this would eventually become, I don’t know for sure that we could have headed it off. Even his own wife couldn’t stop him.

My best friend, who had cleverly married the son of a baker, has suddenly found herself in an entirely gluten-free marriage. There are currently no signs that this situation will improve. I know how hard this must be for her, so I remain supportive by providing cake on our birthdays and sending her boxed, shelf-stable bread, when I can find it.

But secretly I giggle at the irony. Because really, that’s what friends are for.

Author’s Note:

Alright, I may have taken awhile to get to the point of this one. I guess I just felt like I had a lot to share and I happened to be writing this story at the time.
The inspiration for this one came when I saw a shrink wrapped loaf of bread in a box. The “best by” date was several months out. It was the perfect gift for a gluten widow. I mailed it off to her and proceeded to write my story.