I first met Janine in grade one when we wound up in the same class at the International School in Singapore. She marched right up to me and announced that she was a Viking warrior. My father had brought us to Singapore from New York when he took the managerial position at Raffles. Janine’s mother was a diplomat from Norway. We were both the only child and immediately became best friends.
We did everything together. We went to school together, we ate lunch together, we studied together, we attended one another’s birthday parties, we told each other our secrets, and went on outings together. Our parents did what they could to foster our friendship and Janine was often invited over to our house as I was often invited to hers.
I never knew my mother but Janine had both a mother and a dad. Her dad was a “stay at home” dad as he had no permit to work in Singapore. Some weekends he would take Janine and me on the cable car to Sentosa Island and we would spend the day with the butterflies there and eat local food in the Hawker Centers.
Everything was perfect until that day in sixth grade. I was excited that morning on the bus to school. I had made the cut for the Junior Rugby Team and I knew Janine was going to be proud of me. I spotted her, sitting on the concrete, leaning against a wall outside the library. She wasn’t smiling. I ran over and sat down next to her.
“Hey, what’s up?” I asked.
“My mom got a new assignment,” she said, “we’re going to Paris in two weeks. She says it’s great for her career, but I don’t know, Freddie. I’ll probably never see you again.”
We made the best of the two weeks we had. The zoo, the botanical gardens, everywhere we could think of to go; and Dad took time off work so we could see them off at the airport. Janine and I both laughed and roughhoused but it was all show. When her family made their way through security I watched them recede until they blended in with the crowd.
“Come on son,” Dad said, “we gotta go.”
That was twenty-five years ago. Last night there was a friend request on my facebook page from Janine. I accepted right away and went to her timeline. Her profile photo was familiar.
Fourth grade. Good times. Best friends.