After a brush with death came our life-affirming friendship.
words: Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett
I met Holly in one of the worst periods of my life. Two weeks after moving into a house with friends in north London, a man tried to strangle me to death. Traumatised, I couldn't continue to live in the area, so moved in with my grandmother and set about looking for somewhere new. Holly, a friend of a friend, offered to cover my rent in the old house.
At the time, probably because of trauma, I felt disconnected from everyone. I would float zombie-like into lectures, lost in my head. Two of my closest female friends had stopped speaking to me _ one has said that I was boring, the other simply drifted away. I was sad and was drinking too much. I probably was boring. All I knew is that I needed them and they weren't there.
The house hunt was long and dispiriting, as house hunting in London often is. Holly was also looking, having gazumped for my room in the old house. Eventually, I found a decrepit flat above a pub that had two rooms going. It had orange carpets, a bathroom shared with the pub landlord, and subsidence. Our flatmate was a permanently high actor in his fifties who had written a bestselling novel about crack addiction in the projects.
Thus began some of the strangest, drunkest, funniest days I have ever experienced. We laughed, we drank, we drank some more. We talked intimately about our lives and ate lots of camembert. Once Holly realised that you're not supposed to remove its box before baking it, with spectacular consequences. One night, our landlords banned us for having any more parties, though the only guests had been us, singing loudly to the music of our youth. As a bonus, our flatmate provided excellent marijuana, and offered to give any man who came round a "taste of New York justice".
New York justice is definitely what Holly's then-boyfriend deserved. I was there when he hit her in the face on her birthday. We went home, ordered alcohol and cried, then laughed, then danced it out. I helped her through the break up, and she helped me through the anguish of having felt so close to death that surviving it left me feeling only half alive.
Before Holly, some of my female friendships were tinged with judgement. I was made to feel that I wasn't cool enough, that I was boring, or stupid; my opinions not worthwhile. With Holly, I could say anything. She was fun, with a deadpan sense of humour. And she was honest. If she was pissed off at me, she would tell me. We only lived in that crappy flat for three months, but I knew our friendship was for life.
That was six years ago. Since then we have written a blog, and then a book, together. We have kind, decent boyfriends who don't cheat on or hit us. We drink less. Our carpets are no longer orange. The once grotty pub has gone gastro. Nest year, I am getting married, and Holly will be my so-called 'maid of honour'. But as far as I am concerned, she's my best woman. Not just for the day, but always.
Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett and Holy Baxter are co-authors of vagendamagazine.com and The Vagenda: A Zero Tolerance Guide to the Media, published by Square Peg.
Find more stories of female friendship in our Sisters Issue.