I wake with the anticipation of seeing a very dear person to me, Rachel, who unknowingly made a massive contribution to the person I am today.
March 2012, almost four years ago.
I was still living with my aunt on the Wirral, still 18 and victim to my teenage worries. I was a few months into my A-Levels at Liverpool Community College and had heard that it was wise to volunteer so as to give your personal statement that special sparkle (highly aware that the implied altruism is wholly selfish.)
I walked into the Oxfam on the middle of the popular Bold Street, Liverpool, feeling a little nervous at the prospect of applying for a job.
A calm, kind looking brown haired girl sat behind the till, and I said hello and asked her about how to apply for a volunteer position at the shop.
She smiles and tells me to fill in the application form and bring it back and I’ll be contacted!
I smile, thank her, back out the shop and fold up the sheet, putting it into a bag to be filled in at home…
I got the call.
And we worked with each other for a year in the shop, Rachel always seeming a kind and intelligent person, but seemed to be holding back something in her character.
That something was performance, and she told me, a spring day in 2013, that she was going to start dancing burlesque. Of course, knowing little about it I was slightly bemused, but wished her all the luck in the world in what she wanted to do.
Just under four years of knowing her on the 4th January 2016, I met Rachel in West Hampstead with her boyfriend Michael and mine William.
Rachel has since given up burlesque, leaving the glamorous persona, Mimi Amore, that she excelled at portraying, but was forever just that; a persona.
Now, she lives as a nomad, travelling the world in search for human connection, gaining a oneness with nature and most importantly herself.
I leave my boyfriend’s Hackney flat, taking the Overground to Camden Road to make a costume change, as it were.
I pick up a silk blouse with glittering embellishments, a fox fur hat and stole slipping onto my head and shoulders, tight black leather gloves on my hands and a Princess Dianaesque pearl and diamond earring, a square sapphire serving as its opulent face (the jewels were of course as real as the plastic ones on my blouse.)
I pack my eyeshadow palette, a little oud and step out the door, conscious that I’m predictably late , hurrying back to the Overground station, ten minutes away from my front door.
On the train now, I receive a message from William saying “turn to your left” and he’s sitting in the next carriage.
I gather my things, sliding into the seat next to him and we chat about being slightly late, but at least we can arrive together.
I choose a wintery look for my eyes, matching the vivid blue of my blouse and the glittering silver of my earring.
We climb up the stairs, seeing no sign of Rachel or Michael at the exit. I ask the ticket attendant if there is a tube station for West Hampstead nearby, and he points me down the street.
Never having been before, I admire the familiarly London Victorian urbanity, walking a short way to the Underground.
Again, no sign of Rachel, so I ask to borrow William’s phone to make a call, but in a flurry of fabrics and shaggy, brown hair, our favourite nomads arrive.
Many smiles, kisses and hugs are exchanged, and I say how happy I am that after all the missed meetings and inconvenient times, she was finally able to meet my other half and I him for the second time. We finally got our double date!
I leave William and Rachel to discuss travelling to India, a topic they both hold very dear to their hearts and I speak to Michael about language; whether he was able to learn Portuguese, what they mean to me, the spiritual connection to other people they allow.
Our conversations shift and bubble whilst we search for a place to settle and eat in each other’s company. It’s either too early in the day or too early in the festive period, because all cafés seem to be firmly shut during our mid-morning reunion.
We shrug and are grateful for the walk, fresh air and opportunity to explore West Hampstead.
At the top of the high street, satisfied that we’ve left no gastronomic rock unturned, we choose David’s Deli, a rather old school looking place but with an inviting awning and outdoor seating.
A Middle Eastern man with a kind face offers us a table, and we sit outside, away from the smoke of the kitchen. I order scrambled eggs with salmon and mango juice, a little comfort food to ease my winter sniffles.
We discuss our relationship with the modern world; the materialistic drag of our old lives and how we all seemed to be running from it but still feel the tinge of pain in our adult lives; how different music styles from around the world evoke different feelings; how William and I must join the two on their journey in Indian in the coming Spring.
Our plates and drinks arrive one by one, that pre-brunch agitation slowly sliding away.
Our plates are empty, our hearts are full and it’s time for William to hop on his Brompton and return to work. Rachel and I look at each other, hungry to devour the treasures that West Hampstead’s charity shops have to offer!
In London, in my new, fulfilling adult life, the troubles of the past remain in my mind but like many in the present and in times gone by, London has served as a sanctuary; a place to embrace and enchants my individual spirit.
That blissful return to what brought us together as friends feels like the end of a movie, the finishing of a novel.
That circle has gone round but our journeys are just beginning.