Her name was Marnie, and she lived in my head. That’s not to say she wasn’t real. She was real, alright. We were best friends.
I met Marnie at college and she judged me everywhere. In the changing rooms, at the bar, in the supermarket. But soon she started judging me even when I was alone, and that was when the blurry switchover began.
Marnie grew up into Marnie 2.0, a mellow, mature, thoughtful person and a brilliant friend. But the Marnie I’d allowed into my head still resided there, fully present, a vision of Marnie 2.0’s past, clear as day.
So while Marnie 2.0 and I embarked on a flourished friendship, Marnie continued to be the spokesperson for all of my thoughts, the revolutionist changing my ideals. My insecurities refused to cut free the adolescent Marnie. They lapped it up, revelled in how much I looked to her, this now non-existent everyday monster.
It was unfair on me. But it was more unfair on Marnie 2.0. You grow up, shed those questionable layers that defined you for just a speck in time, but you aren’t allowed to be the new grown up you to others around you. People don’t see this new you, they see the old you.
That was what I was doing to Marnie 2.0. But she didn’t know.
She didn’t know that the time I said it was ‘interesting’ she was going on another holiday was born purely out of revenge for the countless times she had deemed it unfathomable that I was spending money I claimed I didn’t have. She didn’t see that me ‘accidentally’ turning up late was a way of showing her I could be just as in charge. Because Marnie 2.0 was kind and honest and open. All the while, I was turning into Marnie. Just Marnie.
Through all of the fights, I couldn’t match her. I could never match her.
‘Anna, you’re being absolutely ridiculous,’ she scolded, one summer evening, years ago now.
I didn’t want to go out. No, I couldn’t go out, not with her for the second time that week.
‘Not tonight,’ I reasoned, as if to allude to the fact I’d go out another night, I wouldn’t let her down then.
‘It’s your choice,’ she countered back, her eyebrows rising and a short, snappy smile appearing for just a moment.
That was what Marnie did. Pretended she was cool with something after telling me she wasn’t. Acted like she wasn’t fussed after planting the seed to suggest otherwise. It always worked. But that wasn’t all Marnie did.
She pushed. She pushed for reasons and explanations I couldn’t give. She pushed to get to the end of a story, the end of an argument, the all-but-end of our friendship.
That was what I held onto after ten years of being friends. It took ten years for her to blossom into Marnie 2.0. A caring boyfriend and a creative job did it for her. But, in my mind, the damage was done. The woman I knew inside out was Marnie. Not Marnie 2.0. Nobody else. And she would never apologise. Why should she? She was gr0wing, as we all were, all of the time. So, Marnie continued to dictate my every move.
What would Marnie think of this? Would Marnie buy that? This isn’t what Marnie would do.
On drinks dates, I’d arrive, nervous at what she’d think, already angry about what she might say.
Of course, she only had nice things to say.
That top looks great. You look really healthy. You’re really brave for standing up to your neighbour.
One day last Autumn, Marnie 2.0 sent me a text message asking what I thought of her taking two months out to work abroad.
I felt invincible. I felt in charge. Marnie, any Marnie, was asking for my advice. I spent a few hours thinking about the best response, trying to craft the right answer, as if she was a new love interest. But in those hours, I realised that the power, while mighty at first, could only ever make way for good intentions.
So I advised her to go, because she’d regret it if she didn’t. That was what I would’ve told her when she was just Marnie, too. But the difference was, this time, I meant it, truly. Not out of fear or resentment.
‘Thanks, you’re right!’ she replied, almost instantly.
Over the next few months, Marnie 2.0 helped the evolution of Anna 2.0. Our eleventh year of friendship was perhaps our best. Anna, much like Marnie, all but disappeared.
I knew I’d never apologise. I knew that she’d forgive me. I was growing.