SCI Week 3: Second Look
If you've grown up in a small pond, and are good enough, you'll eventually get to a point where you consider yourself a big fish. Particularly if you're the youngest.

And then two small pools — in this case two small local youth orchestras — merge; and two nominally big fishes clash.

There were three of us all around the same age: the two youngest from the other youth orchestra, and me, the youngest from mine. And it was my orchestra whose residential week away it nominally was. Mine. Worse, we all played the same instrument: the violin.

Leanne was the older of the two, and by far the more self-assured. She went to a comprehensive school; I went to an independent one. I considered her brash; she considered me stuck-up, which in retrospect is a fair assessment of me at twelve. The third girl, the one for whose attention we were competing and whose name I now forget (let's imagine for the sake of it that it was Vikki), was younger than both of us, although far closer to my age than Leanne's. Then again, Leanne and I were in the same school year, even though she was more than eleven months older than me.

Never has so bitter trench warfare been conducted over such petty ground. For Leanne and me, that year, it was instant competition; instant hatred. Worse than which of us Vikki would pick as her best friend for the week was the added tension of battling over place within the orchestra. If our paths had to cross outside rehearsals, we sneered at each other. Leanne won the competition for place in the orchestra; I stole her friend.


A year passed. By this point, I had a proper best friend from my own school; and, even better, she had just got into my orchestra. Again we headed off for the residential course, but this time I was not so alone: I had Beth. Leanne and Vikki were there again. My heart sank when I saw that Beth and I had to share a room with Leanne and not Vikki — Beth had been hearing tales about both of them all year — but by then there were girls from the year below us in the orchestra, and Vikki was to share with them.

Beth, however, played the oboe, not the violin. So through long sectional rehearsals I was stuck with Leanne and Vikki. Vikki had changed over the year, though, and the spark there had been between us was gone. Leanne didn't even give her the time of day any more, either.

I cannot now remember what the precipitating incident was that caused Leanne and me to stop hating, and start caring about, each other. For the next four, five, years we had a wonderful friendship that overcame even the miles between as we wrote and shared gossip in the general manner of enterprising teenage girls before the age of the internet. She, and her family, were there for me when I first realised I wasn't straight, as my own family rejected me.

When we went away to different universities, or (for me) a gap year, we started to grow apart. And yet every time we met up it was if we had been chatting only yesterday. I didn't always approve of her choices — and I'm sure she didn't approve of many of mine! — yet it never came between us. We hadn't seen each other for a couple of years when I got engaged, but there wasn't anyone I would have wanted more to be my chief bridesmaid.

Looking at the wedding pictures now, thirteen years later, tears come to my eyes. I can't remember when last we talked. When my husband and I split up in a flurry of acrimony I was so ashamed that I didn't want anyone to know. I lost contact with Leanne; the last address and phone number she had for me is my ex-husband's. If she called there, she would have had poison dripped into her ear about me.


I am a demon at finding people with Google, Facebook, Friends Reunited, etc. However hard I try I can't find Leanne. She seems to have dropped off the electoral roll in 2006 or so; I fondly entertain the hope that she may just have emigrated, but there's a death record for someone of her (unusual) name sitting there on that I may one day have the courage to click on, just to find out. Today is not that day. Nor will tomorrow be, nor the day after.

Hadn't intended to carry on theme from last week, but that's the way it's happened. *shrug*


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