I remember the day London and I met. September 5, 2006. My mom, dad, and I had just moved here from New York City for my dad’s job and I was devastated. I had loved Manhattan— the tall buildings, the eccentric people, the smell of delicious food on the streets— but most of all, I loved the idea that something new and exciting was always happening. Now, all of that was taken away and we lived in a place where, as far as I was concerned, nothing ever happened—- Hawthorne, New Jersey. At only eight years old, I had my whole life planned on doing anything that would get me back to the city that I loved.
It was the first day of third grade. I walked into my classroom at Hawthorne Elementary, wearing my favorite outfit— my “I Love NY” t-shirt, black skirt, and black sneakers (remember I was eight)— and my teacher, Mrs. Burns, introduced me as a new student to the class.
“Good morning, class. This is Paris Montgomery. She is a new student here. She and her family just moved here from New York. Is there anyone who would like to move over a bit and allow Paris to sit with them?”
“Here we go,” I thought. “Who is going to want the new kid to sit next to them?”
A few, but long, seconds went by, and I saw a little hand being raised in the back of the classroom.
“Mrs. Burns, what did you say her name was?” a shy voice asked.
“Her name is Paris Montgomery,” said Mrs. Burns.
“I think she should sit with me then. My name is London Scott and it would only make sense for Paris and London to be near each other, right?”
Thinking back, I should have known from that moment what a nerd she was.
“I think that’s a very good idea, London,” Mrs. Burns responded “Paris, go take a seat in the back please.”
I walked to the back of the room, and when I got to the table where London was sitting (by herself) I felt like I was in the wrong class. She looked about five years old. Her hair was in two pigtail braids, and she was wearing pink leopard print pants, a pink shirt with a unicorn on it, and pink ballerina flat shoes.
“Hi,” London’s quiet voice said.
“Hi” I said, “Thanks for letting me sit with you.”
“It’s not a problem. Actually, if it makes you feel any better, I’m kind of new too. I skipped second grade and I don’t know anyone in this class and—” she was talking so fast it was hard to understand what she was saying. That’s still what she does when she gets nervous.
“Wait, you skipped second grade?” I asked, interrupting her.
London’s face turned red. She looked down and began fidgeting with her pencil.
“I, I think it’s cool that you skipped second grade” I quickly said, “I’ve never heard of anyone skipping a grade before.”
A huge smile formed on London’s face.
“Really?” London asked, relieved.
“Yeah” I answered.
“Well, I think it’s really cool that you’re from New York. I’ve read about it in so many books and seen so many pictures but I’ve never been there. I’ve always wanted to go, though. It seems so exciting to live there!”
“It is!” I said, thrilled, “It’s amazing, we should go together if I ever go back to visit!”
“That sounds like so much fun!”
London looked like she was going to jump out of her seat she was so excited.
“Oh! Could we see the—” London tried to continue when Mrs. Burns voice came from the front of the room.
“Ladies, I’m glad you’re making friends, but could you maybe wait until lunch to continue your conversation? Thank you.”
London and I looked at each other and smiled. Neither of us ever said anything, but it was as if by some unspoken pact that in that moment, we knew that we would be best friends for our entire lives.
All through the rest of elementary school we were inseparable. We learned everything about each other, and quickly realized how many similarities there were between us. We were both only children. We were both named after our parents’ favorite cities. We had the same birthday— February 4— only a year apart. Learning we had the same birthday was a big deal and meant the most to us. We took it as a sign that we were destined to know each other, like we were supposed to be twin sisters but the universe knew we would have been too hard to handle that way. Instead, we were made to be best friends, or, as we liked to call ourselves, “soul sisters.”
Even when we got to middle school and got separated into different classes (London was in all honors classes despite being a year ahead, and I— well, I was not) our relationship never faltered. If anything, the older we got, the stronger I think our friendship became. We realized how much we needed each other, and, let me tell you, there were many times when we really needed each other. We were there for each other through thick and thin, and we always had each other’s backs no matter what. We told each other everything with nothing off limits between us. London and I knew that we had an unbreakable bond— that regardless of what else happened in our lives, if we had each other, we would be able to get through anything.
It is now ten years later. We are seniors at Hawthorne East High School and closer than ever. Our birthday (my eighteenth and London’s seventeenth) is coming up in two weeks and we have been planning to take a trip to New York City, just like we said we would when we met on that first day of third grade. Although London has never been to New York and I have not been back since I left, we both intend to attend NYU when we graduate— London wants to be a writer and I want to pursue musical theatre. We plan to buy an apartment together and live in Manhattan, pursuing our dreams and being as successful as we can with each other by our sides. Then, after London has written a best-selling novel and I have a leading role on Broadway, if we want to we can meet someone, get married and have children… but we decided that’s really a choice for another day.
Now, all of those memories seem like a blur, and the future, which I once saw as inevitable, seems impossible.