True friendship NEVER DIES...
Growing up, Laetitia Rutherford and best friend Emily were inseparable. Then just before Emily’s 19th birthday, tragedy struck. In this moving account, Laetitia explains why their special bond lives on
can’t imagine being separated from the ones you love. Emily and I were in floods of tears when we said goodbye to go to different universities. She was off to Bristol, while I had a place at Oxford. I started a relationship with a man seven years older than me, who lived in Brighton and had a flashy lifestyle working among techie entrepreneurs. He adored me. I loved him too, but he wanted to monopolise me and I found it suffocating. I didn’t want romance to eclipse friendship. I missed Emily.
One Saturday night, I was on the phone arguing with him. I was telling him, ‘Don’t come and see me. I need some space.’ We rowed for ages, going round in circles, with no room for compromise. It was one of the few nights I was without him and free to party with my housemates, but they had all gone out and it was getting later and later. I really wanted to call Emily, to wish each other good things before we went out on our separate Saturday nights, to patter on about our outfits and who she was in love with now, like we used to at home. Our times together were the most carefree I’d ever had. Now, my evening was turning into a disaster. I wanted nothing more than to be arm in arm with my buddy Emily. I couldn’t call her, I resolved, as then the whole night would be shot. But it didn’t matter, because it was her birthday the following week. I’d speak to her then and we’d have a proper catch-up.
The next morning I was woken by a banging on the front door. It was one of our mutual schoolfriends, Elisa, also a half-Spanish girl and the source of my suppressed jealousy in her claim to something so important in common with Emily. Her face was blotchy and swollen from crying. She told me the news and crumpled on my shoulder. ‘Emily’s dead. She died in a car crash last night.’
That Saturday night, Emily had been travelling in a car with a friend on her way to a party. They weren’t wearing seatbelts. It wasn’t enforced in the way it is now; you could take them or leave them, as we assumed we could with most things then. The driver started to pick up speed and swerved on the road. It was difficult to talk about the details with our friends afterwards, and with her mother and sisters. I can’t remember now how much of it was reported and to what extent I’ve invented those final moments as they kept reconstructing themselves in my head. The driver was drunk, and I could hear and feel the dangerous thrill of Saturday night approaching; Emily laughing, then screaming.
Some of what followed is a blank, the key moments obliterating the more normal ones from my memories, and from my concerns at the time. Summer exams? What to wear, what to eat? My boyfriend? Things didn’t make sense any more.
A year or two later, at the memorial service at our old school church, I stood and said a poem I’d made up about Emily. Afterwards a group of us drove to our friend Cassie’s house and the garden Emily and I had danced in on Cassie’s 18th. We planted a tree for Emily. She had always been as bright as the sun to me, and we hung a carving of a sun around the