This is not a book review.
This is a real-life story about friendship, loyalty and courage.
You see, I have had my very own lady with a down-the-back dragon tattoo since I was sixteen years old, long before I had ever heard of Stieg Larsson.
This lady is one of my best girls Maria (also know as “Naughty” for various reasons that will become apparent), one of the bravest, brightest, and funniest people I have ever had the pleasure of calling my friend.
Maria and I met whilst working at Morgan – a now-bankrupt fashion label that was a concession in our city centre House of Fraser. She was all dark locks, flick eyeliner and effortless cool. I on the other hand um….wasn’t. Think too much bronzer, a barnet inspired by S Club 7 and a penchant for shiny stretchy lycra (I can let myself off a bit, it was afterall the 90’s folks)
I automatically assumed Maria was way too mature (someone who’s 19 when you are 16 is like so much older you know?) and sophisticated to be associating herself with the likes of me.
But I was wrong. After deciding I was determined to befriend this mysterious pixi-esque creature even if it killed me, I continued to follow her around the shop floor for what felt like years (in reality it was more like a few consectutive weekends) until we finally bonded over our 50% Welsh heritage. Of course her other 50% was sexy Spanish where as mine was….Brummy.
Turns out Maria totally lucked out on the exotic gene pool.
What followed were some amazing years of growing up, staying out late, inappropriate boyfriends and crazy weekends away. Maria was always the wild one where as I was more reserved and straight-laced, she really brought me out of my shell and taught me to live every moment to the fullest, “Bask in the sunshine don’t hide in the shadows” was her moto. Maria even bought a UK map and we used to close our eyes and stick a pen on it somewhere and go where-ever the nib landed, the most memorable being a few trips to Dublin (because way back then you could genuinely fly with Ryan Air for just 1p – yes really).
And then I guess we did grow up (almost) and everything became a little more serious on the career front. Where as I moved as far away from fashion as you could possibly get, Maria decided it was her calling and did everything she could to get what she wanted exactly when she wanted it. I on the other hand seemingly drifted from one job to another with no real focus or ambition.
Maria landed herself a job with Agent Provocateur where she excelled. She ended up moving over to Ireland on her own to help set up a new shop. After 8 months of rain and with Taytos being the only available crisp, enough was enough and she packed up her pink dress and was lured to the Orient to spread the joy of luxury knickers in Hong Kong. It was the promise of fabulous party with Dita Von Teese that sealed the deal. Whilst in Hong Kong, Maria was offered an amazing opportunity with Lane Crawford (think the HK equivalent of Selfridges) to become the buyer of all the finest lingerie and beachwear the world has to offer.
Five years down the line, starved of Mr Kipling, Maria decided it was time to come home (Thank the Lord – I missed her loads) and was quite adamant there was one place and one place only she wanted to continue her career – Net-a-Porter.
Guess what? Maria is now the Lingerie and Beachwear Buyer at yep you guessed it…. Net-a-Porter.
Yes she is determined and successful and driven. And no, the road to the ideal is not without its potholes and its (sometimes ruddy gigantic) bumps.
What I failed to include however is Maria has achieved all of this whilst suffering from an often dehibilitating and incurable disease.
I shall not go into detail. For Maria is not one to complain or dwell.
I guess it would be obvious that as I describe Maria as one of my best girls then she would have been one of my best girls for W-day.
Apart from the logistics (she was in HK at the time) I knew tottering down an aisle in a white mini dress, huge bouquet of Hydrangea held aloft whilst everyone looks at you would be the last thing on earth she would choose to do. And that was fine by me. If I’ve learnt anything it’s that friendship is as much about mutual respect as it is love, loyalty and finding pleasure in each others company. I wanted one of my best friends to enjoy my big day as much as possible and if that was sitting by my Nana Lily watching me walk up the ailse rather than follow me down it then so be it.
To be honest I was just bursting with happiness at the fact she was willing to travel half way around the world just to watch me say I do.
Maria is back in the UK now so we see each other and speak more frequently, although a combination of her buying trips to Milan, Paris and New York (yes – her job really is that fancy) and us living a few hours apart means it probably isn’t as much as each other would like.
But there is email. And text. And Skype. And a million other types of communication. After my BBC News appearance a pretty old-fashioned postcard arrived through the letterbox, from Maria, telling me how proud she was and that she was rooting for me all the way to finally quitting my day job and making RMW a full time commitment.
A small gesture, but such a huge boost of confidence, and in some ways a great big kick up the ar$e. What was I waiting for? If Maria thought I could do it then maybe I could.
Out of all the people I told she was the least surprised about us having secured investment for the brand. Apparently that was just it – she wasn’t in the least bit surprised.
It turns out she has just as much faith in me as I have have in her.
And that folks is what a true ever-lasting friendship is all about, bridesmaid or no bridesmaid.
Oh and yes – she has the most exciting wardrobe I have ever experienced many hours of snooping in.
So then lovelies, any friendship stories you would like to share? anyone who you have in your life that helps make it that little bit brighter?
Big Courageous Love