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Best friends, a love story

“Wanna hear something super bitchy?” is a kind of love language.

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Part of the Romance Issue of The Highlight, our home for ambitious stories that explain our world.

Aude and I met the summer after we both graduated from college. I hadn’t really known that you were allowed to make a new best friend as an adult.
We spent those first few years walking between our apartments, splitting beers and cheeseburgers, and comparing notes on our crushes and kisses and heart bruises.
There were...a lot. Boys who tested us and boys who failed our tests...
Boys we never quite warmed to and couldn’t figure out why...
Boys who we thought would stick around, and didn’t, or couldn’t.
Sometimes we cried together after an end came, and sometimes we rolled our eyes and breathed huge sighs of relief.
I spent so much time in relationships worrying about being left. Aude never thought I came on too strong or didn’t know what I wanted.
Sure, we could piss each other off, but no fight was ever final, no negative quality ever a reason to think the other unlovable.
“Aude is the love of my life,” I sometimes say, mostly joking.
The person I am with now is not like Aude.
But I partly learned to love him through loving her; I partly learned to be loved by him through being loved by her.
Alanna, to her therapist: “I don’t think that I have to be more or less than I am to be worthy.”
Aude has someone too now, so kind and thoughtful we weren’t sure at first if he was real.
When she met him, it was like seeing her come home, lowering her shoulders, and heaving an exhale.
It’s not like our romantic relationships solved anything, probably to the chagrin of our 22-year-old selves.
We still need each other, and the knot of friends we’ve amassed together and separately.
We don’t expect or want our partners to be all things, even though a lifetime of wedding invitations and romantic comedies might suggest otherwise.
Aude is who I turn to with my juiciest bits of gossip and my most tangled emotional queries, sometimes in the same breath.
Why not have a partner AND a best friend, we wonder? Why kill two birds with that particular stone...
When two birds (or three, or four, or seven) is just a better number of birds to have?
There should be anniversaries for the day your love for someone becomes unconditional, except it happens so quietly you probably won’t notice until it’s been that way for years.

Alanna Okun is a deputy editor at Vox. She is the author of The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater and the forthcoming Knit a Hat.

Aude White is a graphic artist whose work has appeared in the New York Times, New York Magazine, The Believer, and more.

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