An Old Friend

PROMPT: Pick a really memorable person from your childhood. Describe them. Avoid adverbs.

Mona was her name. It was an old lady name. That’s what I thought when I first heard it. And she kind of looked like an old lady. Even at six years old. Her hair was wispy, and her mum always kept it in two braids that sat neatly at the back of her head. She had a rim rod posture, and her green school dress was always pressed and proper. I remember her school jumper. There was nary a lint ball in sight. And on the bridge of her nose sat hexagonal frames, big enough to cover her eyebrows, and always slipping down her nose.

She was my best friend. We shared a class and a teacher, and the same love for barbie dolls. Mona spoke in a clear voice, compared to mine, which was low and seldom heard. Needs to participate more in class was something every one of my primary teachers said about me. Not Mona though. She wasn’t loud, and never sought to be the centre of attention. But she had a confidence that I always envied. A quiet conviction and poise that I never learned to emulate, though I tried.

But perhaps the thing I most remember about Mona is the day we swapped barbie dolls. They were tiny dolls with plastic ball gown dresses that could be removed, and opened to reveal a room inside. My one was a brunette girl with a pink dress, and the room inside was a bedroom. Mona’s was a blonde girl with a blue dress, with an ice cream parlour inside. And – the crowning glory – both girls’ hair was scented. I can no longer recall what my doll’s hair smelled like, but I will never forget the scent that Mona’s doll’s hair was drenched in.

Vanilla.

I didn’t know that’s what it was, not until years later. I only recognised it as my most favourite smell in the world. After Mona and I swapped our dolls – because that’s what best friends do, right? – I kept her doll for at least fifteen years before it became lost somewhere. And the smell never went away. That vanilla scent lingered all those years later, and whenever I happened upon the doll in annual clean-ups, I’d smell her hair and remember what life was like all those years ago, as a six year old, with the most wonderful friend. And I wondered about Mona and where she was.

Because, see, the terrible truth about Mona is that she changed schools at the end of that year, and I never saw or heard of her again. Mona could be long gone, but her memory lives on in my own. Perhaps one day our paths will cross, and we’ll both reminisce about those days twenty years ago. Or perhaps we will see one another again, but she won’t remember me, or anything about our friendship, or those dolls we swapped. Perhaps I left her mind as soon as she left our school.

And that’s scary.

Because what could be worse than being forgotten?

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