My best friend, Elaina, and I met in seventh grade — me, the quiet new girl starting two weeks late, and her, the studious class clown that made everyone's day more interesting with her quick wit and unapologetic self. I knew from day one I wanted to be her friend. Fast forward nearly 10 years, and we've been best friends ever since despite going to different schools, living over 3,000 miles apart, and the natural changes that come with adolescence and adulthood.
Any shred of doubt I had about distance, our friendship, and even surviving this crazy time we were in melted away when I read those words.
However, distance is distance, so try as we might, we've missed major landmarks in each other's lives. Loves, losses, celebrations, and just funny daily occurrences had to be shared over the phone or when we would see each other months later. So, when her boyfriend of four years decided to pop the question, I wasn't hiding in the bushes ready to jump up and down celebrating like our giddy teenage selves would have wished. And when she started looking for venues, dresses, photographers, and everything else that goes into wedding planning, I wanted nothing more than to be DIY-ing and color-coding next to her. I felt I wasn't going to be able to be the kind of bridesmaid, much less maid of honor, I wanted to be for her, so it didn't come as a surprise to me when I received an invitation to her engagement party without a mention of the word "bridesmaid" anywhere to be found since the news was shared. It made sense, after all. She was in Seattle, I in New York; she surely had someone else she was closer with that would fill the honorable role. No hard feelings.
But an unforeseeable plot twist came into play when COVID-19 hit, and I decided to quarantine in my family home in Florida, while she was mandated to stay in Seattle. Her engagement party had to be cancelled, her trip to Florida along with it. I hadn't seen her since October, and I was so excited to spend some much-needed time with her, but it seemed that was no longer in the cards.
That's why when my mom woke me up one morning, telling me to go to her room for a "surprise," I was beyond clueless. What surprise could be waiting in her room during a pandemic? Not any that I wanted. She brought me to her window, and sitting outside on the porch swing were Elaina's parents. "Oh?" I thought to myself. I love her parents, of course, but the confusion was palpable on my face. I then saw my dad was filming me, and her father was holding up a phone where Elaina was on FaceTime. Her mom began, "Elaina really wanted to tell you at her engagement party, but obviously that's not going to happen and she couldn't wait any longer." That's when I registered the beautiful white box her mom had on her lap. The tears came in hot and quick. Her mom unwrapped the bow to reveal a card that said, "Chari, now act surprised and like you didn't know this was coming . . . will you be my maid of honor?" I could barely choke out a yes before being overcome with emotion.
Now, we are not a particularly emotional or sappy pair, but any shred of doubt I had about distance, our friendship, and even surviving this crazy time we're in melted away when I read those words. It was a message confirming our unbreakable bond, the hope and excitement for the future to come, and definitely the most beautiful moment in our story.
We've since set up a biweekly wedding chat where we discuss everything from bridesmaid dresses to hilarious TikToks we just have to share. I was so worried about not being there for her, but thanks to an unwavering connection (interpersonal, WiFi, and otherwise), we are stronger than ever. Now, I just look forward to dancing the night away with Mrs. Gray — and knowing that day is waiting for us will get me through all of those to come.