The girls read each other's papers, walked up the hill to their favorite coffee shop, watched movies in each others' dorm rooms, laughed and cried and journaled and dreamed. They lived through the fiction they voraciously consumed and wrote about for various professors who challenged them. Boys came and went as the girls' friendships lingered on.
On one occasion, the girls' parents came into the city for an event - homecoming maybe? (My brain is tired.) With passages of fiction always alighting their brains, the girls tended to quote poets, make inside jokes, demonstrate grand gestures, laugh freely and easily. The parents, amused, shook their heads at the girls and were glad to see such a display of obvious affection between their not-quite women, just past teenage kids.
I was/am one of these girls. My dad, always himself full of life, wrote me a card a few weeks later, after the Night Our Parents Met. He rarely wrote letters or cards, and finding one in my student mailbox always surprised me in the best way. I can still see his handwriting, the words something along the lines of: "I loved meeting your friends and seeing you with them. The four of you - the Femmes Fatales! You will always give light into the world."
Femmes Fatale. From the moment I shared the phrase with the girls, it resonated. We Thomas Hardy, Flannery O'Conner, Emily Bronte readers loved the drama, the alliteration, the exotic sound of it. We carried it with us quarter after quarter of English literature, theory and writing classes, straight onto the plane with us across the Atlantic to England, where we studied abroad the Fall of our Junior year.
It stayed with us through graduation. We weren't always 100% close, there were a few fallings out, the general meanderings of young-20 friendships. But ultimately, the love, care and adoration remained. My dad would have loved to have seen the Femmes graduate, but he couldn't because he was in the final stages of cancer, which would take him away two months later. I imagined his smile though at Ivy Cutting, at the ceremony and the parties leading up to it - watching our ease around each other and the joy of accomplishment that we shared together.
They drove me up to my parent's house when I got the call that my dad had finally reached the end. Holding my hand in the car, my shell-shocked silence welcomed and embraced. A bond that strong needs no words, even when words had so significantly created the bond. They attended my wedding, saw me off as B and I left for Hawaii.
The name resonated through the years, through relationships, both bad and good, travel, job misses and hits, adventures, ups and downs. We have shared our experiences with challenging children, the triumphs and frustrations of it. We didn't always keep up on the ins and outs of each others' lives, but the Knowing remained. One Femme sadly dropped out of our lives, but the other three remained strong.
Two ended up living back lived in Seattle, after a few years of moving across country and, in Cara's case, across the ocean. They married and set up homes across the biggest little small town in America, Seattle, their busy lives preventing regular visits like we had in college. I moved from Hawaii to Arizona, always finding time to meet up whenever I visited my childhood city. Or trying my very hardest.
Liam's sickness prevented me from attending Lindsey's wedding, but I made it to Cara's. I missed several big events but did find myself blessed to attend a baby shower. We had lunch together when I was pregnant with Audrey, had dinner with our husbands a few times when we reunited in the city. Our husbands would smile and shake their heads, watching us interact - kind of like our parents had before.
Over the past year or two we found ourselves group texting, sharing joys and rants, advice and inside jokes electronically instead of arm in arm on Queen Anne, wearing long 90's skirts, Docs and giant flannels. It became the next best thing, adding richness to our busy lives.
Last weekend, we made reality a dream we had been harboring for years. A Girls Weekend, a Femmes Fatale reunion without kids or husbands or responsibilities. Cara flew in from So Cal, Lindsey from Seattle. I picked them up on the heels of an extremely stressful day and week, but as soon as I saw them it melted away. They looked as fantastic, vivacious and engaging as they had back in the day. We met B for dinner, warming up to each other. Within minutes, it felt like no time had passed.
We drove up to rainy Sedona, laughed hysterically on a Pink Jeep tour, telling jokes and posing for cheesy pics. We talked for an hour in a spa room, sharing the deepness of kids, life, husbands, and more. Peppered through all conversations was that Knowing, those memories from 20 plus years that can't be duplicated or forgotten.
From Sedona we drove to Scottsdale for dinner, drinks and sitting together pool and patio-side, as content in moments of silence as in deep conversation. I dropped them off at Sky Harbor Airport with my heart full, with some sadness, but with grand plans for continuing the Femmes reunion tradition - next year in Washington, the following year in beautiful So Cal, on Cara's turf.
My dad would approve, his eyes twinkling down on us like they did in 1993. The night he coined our name. Some friendships come and go, but others remain true, bringing the best of you out into the open, creating blessing upon blessing of present joy and lasting memory.