I moved to Gulf Shores the weekend before my senior year. To me, at age seven-teen, this was very traumatic. I found myself having to take typing to graduate. I was in a class taught by “Miss K.” She was a prissy old southern gal who strolled around the room saying, “Busy your fingers! Busy your fingers!” and would then retire to her desk in the back of the class to touch up her makeup. I was nervous as could be my first day of school. I was doing a pretty good job at blending into the furniture when Miss K jumped up and ran over to me. She exclaimed, “Oh, Honey, you’re in the wrong class! This is Typing I!” I just looked at her. She went on, “There has been a mistake. We will just have to get this straight right now!”
The problem apparently was that I was typing too fast. She assumed I had taken the class before and should have been in Typing II. I explained I had indeed never taken typing and promised I would slow down if it would make her happy. She began a barrage of questions that I answered as best I could and after a few minutes, she told me that people who play the piano can often type fabulously and that I was obviously gifted. She then said there was no need to waste my time with the busy exercises, so why didn’t I find some way to amuse myself until test day. As we were talking, a girl with the curliest blond hair I had ever seen was also finished with her assignment and sat there staring at Miss K and myself. The teacher noticed she was not typing and told her to busy her fingers! Miss K noticed that she too had completed her assignment. I looked up at Miss K with my most convincing face and said, “She’s with me. We’re both amazingly gifted.” Miss K responded, “What shade of lipstick are you wearing? It’s absolutely divine! Well, you two run along, but don’t get caught on campus because I’ll sell you out faster than I would my mother!” So my friendship with Anne began.
Anne had lived in Gulf Shores a few days. It seems that it is just as devastating to move the week before your tenth grade year as it is your senior year. Anne named me The Queen since I was truly in charge of everything around me. I named her my Princess and promised her that one-day a young Prince would come and take her away from it all. Our relationship grew from there. She made what I predicted to be a terrible year a blast. I went off to college at the end of the year, but we remained as close as could be. When she graduated, she joined me at Auburn University. This is when our friendship deepened.
We were both independent and wanted our own space, but we often would stay over at the other’s house. Shortly after school started, Anne hit me with some news. She had colon cancer. She had been diagnosed as a child and was not expected to live as long as she had. She had not told many people and wanted to keep it quiet. She didn’t like the way people changed toward her when they found out about her illness. She told me, however, because she needed me. She had come out of remission. The next year was the longest of my life. Anne was the only person I knew that slept less than I did. And we had many a sleepless night. I still attended classes and would take care of her the best I could between them. We got her a puppy so that she wouldn’t be alone when I was gone. Lady was a black lab. She really perked Anne up. But there were many things Lady couldn’t do. That’s where I came in.
Although we still kept separate living arrangements, there were times when I wouldn’t leave her house for a month. Anne was the strongest person I had known. I watched her beautiful blond curls get limp and fade. I remember the night she brought me the scissors and asked me to cut her hair short. I swear I could hear that first strand of hair as it hit the floor. Anne could read faster than anything. She would go through ten to twelve books a day. I think I bought every book the used bookstore had in stock.
Chemotherapy was cruel to Anne. I watched her weight drop and her smile fade. I held her through the night while she cried until she couldn’t find anymore tears. I would cook her favorite meals and feed her only to have it thrown up all over us. I bathed her and carried her outside so she could watch Lady run. But through it all she had dignity and grace and pride. Anne is amazing. My most vivid memory of her is the two of us sitting on the bathroom floor at five in the morning; both of us covered in blood and vomit. She looked at me and smiled with her eyes. “I’m a Princess!” she said; then drifted into sleep with the corners of her mouth turned up.
She is back in remission now. She was even well enough to spend a week in Charleston with our friend, Denise, and me for my birthday the year after graduation. Having Anne back to her old vibrant self was quite the birthday gift. That Prince I promised her hasn’t arrived yet. But whoever he is, he’s the luckiest man alive.
***Anne is alive and well. She did find her Prince. She does really read like a house-a-fire. And we did get to skip every Typing I class that wasn’t a test day.
Anne and Denise and me on our Charleston trip.