“Are you going to take in a new tenant and puppy?” Ceece wrote a text message.
Ceece was a handsome, smart blonde with a slim, athletic build and a degree in finance. She was the kind of 23 year old you might hate as she seemed a little too blessed. Unless you knew the truth.
“Why does the dog have to come?” my husband asked.
“It’s a therapy dog,” I explained. “She got it when Barb died.”
Barb, Ceece’s mother, was my best friend. We met when I was Ceeces’s age working in the advertising department at Bantam Books.
It was the worst time of my life. My father went to jail, I had an eating disorder, and I had just lost my mother. I was cold and angry and a liar. Most people would have given up on me. Not Barb. At 6 feet tall, she towered over my 5-foot-2 self, fixed her piercing blue eyes on my hazel and told me that she really wanted to be my friend, but there were certain rules I had to follow to make this happen happened. The most important thing was that I always had to tell her the truth.
Almost three decades later, when she rose in the publishing world in New York and I was building a television career in Los Angeles, we were long-distance friends based on that promise of honesty and trust. We could and have told each other everything, first writing epic letters, then epic e-mails. My husband came in once and stared at the pages of writing on my screen and asked if I was writing a script. “No, I said.” It’s a letter to Barb. “
In the end, we all celebrated our monumental milestones together. We got married that same year and joked that we married the same man. Both of our husbands had imperturbable temperaments and, oddly enough, were managers at consumer banks. We bought similar first houses: Barb’s was a delightful 19th century farmhouse, mine was a delightful Spanish style from the 1920s.
Then we both bought the same second house, newer and in a more kid-friendly location, when the first turned out to be completely impractical. We both got pregnant and had a baby that same year. We both had two kids, a boy and a girl, and we would both tell you that we couldn’t have survived the dark days when they were little without our amazing “Super Dad” men. Whatever we went through, we were there for each other and it helped that we went through the same things so often. But when I had to name the best Barb gave me, she believed in me even when I couldn’t believe in myself.
Then one day she was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given three months to a year to live. When she did it after a year, I thought we were home free. Until she was suddenly gone. For months after that, I woke up sobbing in the middle of the night. I had lost my oar and my oar, the person who taught me to love unconditionally.
In February 2019, my daughter was in college, my son had just moved out, and I was just a few days in my new life as an empty niche when Ceece texted. She got a job offer in Los Angeles. Could she stay with us? Of course I said yes.
Weeks later, after spending $ 1,500 shipping her car, all of her belongings, and a giant 10-foot cactus from the west, she arrived to find out that the position she had been offered was not guaranteed . The woman who hired her said her boss wanted two candidates to choose from.
“What if I don’t get the job?” she asked me, her eyes blinking back in horror.
If I told you that she didn’t get the job, the cactus arrived brown and limp, and the groomer found a lump under her dog’s fur, you might think that I’m dramatic. But that’s exactly what happened.
“It’s not cancer,” I said, waving the idea off with my hand.
“Actually, the vet said it could be cancer,” she told me. “He’ll take it off.”
Ceece seemed cold and angry and shut me out. I didn’t lose the fact that I was the same at her age after losing my mother and that her mother was the one who saved me. There was also a lot of pressure. I was worried that she was not doing well, but I didn’t know how to help.
Ceece sent out résumés, watered her cactus, and took her dog in for surgery. Sometimes she didn’t come out of her room all day.
Then came the time when we were walking around Lake Hollywood. It was a perfect day in Los Angeles, after the rain, the fresh air and the turquoise blue sky. Suddenly the Hollywood sign came into view.
“When your mother first came to LA, I took her to see the sign,” I told her. “You know how she was. Loved celebrities. Called them “stars”. “
“She was a great person,” I said. “She changed my life.”
First Ceece rolled his eyes. Then she asked me to tell her about her mother. So i did. After that day we explored the city together. We went to the farmer’s market, the county museum, and housewares to buy pillows. I learned that she really loved plants, purses, and quesadillas. Sometimes we laughed a lot. Sometimes we cried. As it turned out, I didn’t have to save her after all. She just needed a friend. Me too, since I’d lost the best I’ve ever had.
The production company didn’t like the candidate they’d hired and asked Ceece if they were still open for the job. My heart was broken when she moved across town to her own apartment six months later. But I knew how to deal with it. After all, her mother had taught me how to be long-distance friends. And both the dog and the cactus were alive.
Gayle Abrams is a television writer and producer.