We met seventeen years ago and I still remember our first conversation. It was about a book called The City Of Joy by Dominque Lapierre.
It is surprising we became friends as we were so different. Where she teased her hair into curls, I gelled mine into spikes. She wore pretty little dresses and taught literature at a girls school, I wore black and was a stay at home Mum. She served her roast lamb with potatoes and gravy, I served mine with roasted capsicum and pomegranate vinaigrette. She watched TV seated nicely in a chair, I sat with my feet tucked under me. Her children studied law and marketing, mine studied music and film. She was ruled by her head, I let my heart make my decisions.
I think she saw in me a little of the off beat person she'd like to be, I know I saw in her a little of the more conservative woman I'd like to be.
Our friendship grew, fuelled by a mutual love of travel, literature and film. We went on holidays together, sometimes with our husbands, sometimes without. One year we spent a month in France. In Paris she took me to Printemps, I took her to Dehillerin . We spent a week driving through Provence in our little red rental car. Our first night in Monaco we got drunk as we celebrated surviving a week of driving on the wrong side of the road . We went into Italy to the markets at Ventimiglia. She took an hour to choose 1 pair of leather gloves, I bought 4 pairs in 10 minutes.
She carried a secret. A secret about a lost love.
She moved overseas to take up an exciting teaching position in a large corporation. I made plans to visit. We looked forward to discovering Tong Li together. Then came her phone call, she was unwell, she had been flown by private jet to a Hong Kong hospital. Next a phone call from her son, she would be having surgery for a brain tumour, could I come to Hong Kong. I spent a week in Hong Kong supporting her children and helping where I could. One night her daughter and I filled her hospital room with candles, music and rose petals. The doctors came in and blew the candles out with warnings about oxygen cylinders and fires. We all flew home to New Zealand and she came and lived with us while undergoing further treatment. The day came when I realised she needed more care than we could give. Eventually she was moved to a hospice. Every day I would go for my morning walk stopping off at the hospice to visit her.
She knew she was dying. On the day the doctors told her I poured us each a glass of Grand Marnier. We sculled the drinks and threw the glasses into the fireplace, smashing them into tiny shards.
The lost love was on her mind. I could see she was troubled and I encouraged her to talk about it. I felt it would help her let him go. She promised she would tell me the story when she was ready.
One day I missed my morning visit to the hospice. It was after lunch when I arrived. She began to talk about the lost love. I could see how painful it was for her. I reached over and hugged her and said I don't need to know. We hugged and cried, we both knew it would be our last conversation. That night she slipped into a coma and was soon gone.
When Cath invited me to participate in the Adventures of an Italian Food Lover event about friendship I had a feeling this friendship would stand out and would be the one I chose to share. It was when I came to Faith's memories of her friend Zia Enza Tarli I found my friend in the sentence "She's an expert on family traditions, knows about obscure Italian holidays and festivities". I knew then it would be Zia's Tiramisu I would make.