Every July 23rd

Holly was now at the age where she no longer checked the newspaper to see if anyone she went to high school with got married or had a baby. Instead, she looked to see if anyone had recently died. Someone had. The husband of her childhood best friend.

Holly and Suzanne were inseparable back in the eighties and they didn’t care what Mr. Clark, their Grade twelve English teacher, had said to everyone towards the end of the school year: that the people they were friends with today wouldn’t be their friends twenty years from now. Everyone goes their own way after graduation and eventually fall out of touch. But Holly and Suzanne were going to be different. They were going to be best friends forever.

That son of a bitch was right though. Holly stayed behind and lived a quiet life in their hometown of eighteen thousand, while Suzanne went off to the big city and made a name for herself in the world of medicine. All of Suzanne’s knowledge wasn’t enough to save her husband from cancer, however, and it was his notice Holly caught sight of when she first turned to the obituary section. His service was to be held in Toronto in three days time.

“Should I go?” Holly wondered. “I haven’t seen Suzanne since her wedding to John twenty-five years ago. She’s probably forgotten all about me.”

A feeling deep down inside told Holly to go anyway. She had to be there. Why, she couldn’t say. She just knew she had to go.

Holly was a bundle of nerves the whole drive there. She always found driving in busy cities stressful, but she knew it didn’t compare to the stress her old friend was under, so she forced herself to stay calm and find the funeral home. There were already dozens of people there by the time she arrived and she knew that meant she would have to stand in the receiving line for quite some time before she got to speak to Suzanne. She didn’t have a clue as to what she was going to say once she got to the front of the line anyway. What do you say to someone you haven’t seen in over two decades, other than how sorry you are?

Thirty minutes later that question was answered.

“Suzanne, I don’t know if you remember me. I’m Holly Main, from high school.”

“Holly? Of course I remember you! You were my best friend. How nice of you to come all of this way,” Suzanne said. Even in her hour of grief, Suzanne knew how to handle herself more confidently than Holly ever did.

“I’m so sorry about John,” Holly then said.

“Thank you. Thank you. Holly, these are my children: J.J. and Annabelle. Kids, this is my best friend from high school, Holly.”

“The July 23rd lady?” twenty-two year old J.J. asked.

“Yes, the July 23rd lady,” Suzanne said with a bit of a chuckle.

Holly looked at her friend, unsure of what her son meant.

“Every year while the kids were growing up I’d say to them, ‘Kids, do you know what today is? July 23rd. My old friend, Holly Main’s birthday. I wonder what she’s up to now.’”

“You said that?” Holly asked, touched that her friend always remembered. “That’s funny, because I always think of you on your birthday every November 10th.”

“Oh Holly, we really should have stayed in touch. You can’t leave without giving me your address.”

Suzanne would be surrounded by relatives and well wishers the rest of the day, so Holly passed along her information to Suzanne’s older sister. John’s funeral was the last place Holly would have wanted for their reunion, but she found herself hoping that coming back into Suzanne’s life at that moment might help her old friend heal.

On the drive home she couldn’t help but to think that maybe Mr. Clark had been wrong after all.

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