Aunty Sandhya had promised to bring a new friend to my third birthday party. I began ticking off boxes on my calendar, getting closer to meeting this mysterious friend. My day arrived and I could hardly contain myself. When Aunty Sandhya finally came home, I greeted her with a warm, tight hug and was close to crushing her body from the excitement and anticipation.
I quickly noticed that she was hiding a small, tiny girl behind her. I darted from left to right in an attempt to take a peak. I finally managed to grab the girl from her grasp and leaped for joy, laughing maniacally at my achievement.
“Her name’s Annie”, Aunty Sandhya said, quite happy I that loved my surprise. “Hi, I’m Zoe” I said, giving her a wide smile and a big hug. But I quickly remembered that I might hurt her so I loosened my grip a little. From that moment on, my best friend Annie and I were inseparable.
She was my best gal-friend. I fell in love with her sky-blue eyes and her silky golden blond hair which I loved to braid every so often. While my mother braided my hair for L.K.G, I would braid Annie’s too into a neat plait or a high pony on occasion. Alas, her hair didn’t stay silky for long. Her hair began to lose its golden colour and became drier, almost plastic-y. But the following incident really made things worse.
Annie and I loved to play on the swing in our backyard. I would always let her go first, buckle her in and push the swing ever so gently. It had rained quite heavily that weekend and the ground was wet with large puddles. Nonetheless, we continued with our normal routine. I pushed a little harder than usual though and she fell straight in the puddle that was conveniently right in front of us. She was covered in muddy brown and I apologised profusely, rushing her to the bathroom to give her a bath. She never looked the same again. Her hair dried up into a frizzy, dreadlocked mess. I had to resort to only plaiting her hair, for a pony tail would just stick out like five long, scrawny fingers pointing at you.
At least we had manicures together. I loved polishing my nails with a bright red and couldn’t help but share the same experience with Annie. Every weekend we’d paint our nails. To be honest, I did all the work. It saddened me to think that she never moved her fingers to paint MY nails for a change. But either way, we still had to take it off on Sunday because apparently, little girls shouldn’t wear nail polish to playschool.
Tilka akka once told me about drishti, an evil eye that stemmed from jealousy which would cause bad to happen to you. My immediate concern was Annie. Was everyone else putting an evil eye on her? I had seen my baby cousins with the drishti bottu and decided that it was best Annie had it too. I quickly looked about for a black marker but couldn’t find one. So, I had to make do with my mother’s blue ball-point pen. It was only after I put it on her that I realised a drishti bottu didn’t suit an American girl’s face. I tried very hard to wash it off but failed. I even made her hair frizzier than the last time.
The more time that went by, the more Annie began to change. She wasn’t as pretty as the day I met her. But I realised I changed a lot too. We didn’t hang out as often anymore. Especially since Mumma and Papa brought home another little girl, Bethany who they said was my new baby sister.
But this girl cried almost all the time and sort of stole all my parents’ attention from me. I don’t remember facing that with Annie. But I still liked her and wanted her to like me too. Mumma would sometimes lay her on my lap. I’d gently kiss her soft forehead and she’d cutely smile, a real smile, one Annie didn’t seem to have anymore. Bethany had a cute laugh that would come up when I made funny faces. I don’t think Annie had a sense of humour, let alone any kind of feeling. I loved it whenever my sister would warmly grip onto my finger, and I started to think that this was so much better than holding onto Annie’s lifeless hands.
More years went by and I replaced Annie with other girlfriends and a few boys too. I traded her for friends that laughed along with me and friends that wore new clothes every day. She slowly moved out of my bed, to the corner of my room and eventually into the loft. For some reason, I did not want my friends to see her. I’d cover her with either blankets or pillows, but later I thought it would be so much easier if I just put her up. I don’t use her anymore obviously. I’m too old to seen playing with dolls. Yet, I’m still too attached to Annie to allow her to make new friends with children younger than me.