ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke have been best friends for over 25 years. They created this website to celebrate books women (and men!) love and to have a place to talk shit about reality TV stars. They have also published three novels with Simon & Schuster/Atria Books. Your Perfect Life is a hilarious and heartwarming story of two childhood best friends who switch bodies at their twenty-year high school reunion. The Status of All Things, is a cautionary tale of a woman who realizes she can change the course of her entire life by what she writes in her Facebook status. And The Year We Turned Forty follows three women who get the chance to relive the year they turned forty, a year they each made decisions that altered the course of their lives.
The loud sigh pierces the air between them.
“What?” Liz asked, even though she already knew the answer. She had requested the check when Lisa’s wine glass was still half-full. Liz was antsy, her back aching from the wooden chair at The Cheesecake Factory.
“The check,” Lisa confirmed. She didn’t need to say more.
We’ve been together for twenty-eight years now, our arguments having taken on a shorthand developed back when MC Hammer pants and shoulder pads were in vogue.
The tightness of Lisa’s jaw revealed the thoughts swirling in her mind before she spoke them. Selfish. Thoughtless. Rude. We argued while the young couple at the next table pretended not to listen. Lisa said Liz had hurt her feelings. (She does that sometimes.) Liz thought Lisa was overreacting. (She does that sometimes.)
Our argument became a culdesac and we circled it until Liz held up a finger and took a call from her husband.
Her other spouse.
We consider ourselves married too. We are each other’s sounding board, co-author, and business partner. And Lisa is the only person whom Liz will fight with in the middle of a chain restaurant.
Lisa burst onto our high school campus in 1987 with little red glasses and an enviable LA Gear jean jacket. We clicked right away, having no idea then how we’d bob and weave through each other’s lives for the next three decades.
We attended the same college together, but nearly apart. The summer after graduation had been a rough one—we’d both done and said some stupid things to each other. We headed to campus with trepidation; fearful that the only person we knew in a sea of eighteen thousand might not be our best friend anymore.
As Liz unpacked in her dorm room, she already felt homesick. When she could no longer take the silence, she forced herself down the concrete stairs to Lisa’s room. “Hey,” Liz said.
“Hey,” Lisa echoed, and beckoned Liz inside, pushing the framed Luke Perry poster off her bed to make room. And just like that, our slate was wiped clean.
We pledged the same sorority. We both majored in communication. We became roommates. We weren’t Liz or Lisa any longer. We were Lizandlisa. It was then that we’d first discussed writing together. We’d lay at the pool and bat ideas back and forth like a tennis ball.
We found ourselves at another crossroads after college graduation, our friendship having taken a sharp left turn—the little things we’d left unsaid finally festering into a tornado. We’d begun to bicker constantly, small chards of resentment wedging themselves into the cracks of our foundation. And we’d also cultivated other friendships that had begun to threaten our own. We had grown apart in the very worst way—on purpose.
“We’ll still see each other,” Liz said, as Lisa slammed the trunk of her cherry red Honda Civic, all of her belongings shoved inside haphazardly, reminding Liz of the overstuffed carne asada burritos we’d often order after a night of partying, the sour cream and guacamole threatening to burst out with each bite. “Right?”
“Of course,” Lisa insisted and climbed into the front seat. We didn’t hug. We aren’t huggers.
We didn’t see each other again for months.
Our breakup was amicable. Lisa began a career in television and Liz took a position in sales. Lisa moved to the beach and Liz settled miles down the coast. We started working on figuring out who the hell we were supposed to be without each other, the process long overdue.
Ironically, it was another breakup that brought us back together a few years later.
“It’s over,” Lisa said when Liz picked up the phone after her long-term relationship had ended.
“Tell me everything.” Liz said, the nerve endings beginning to reconnect, the muscle memory of our friendship building once more. We certainly weren’t perfect, but we did excel at one thing—being there for each other when it counted.
It was years later that Lisa penned a chapter of a novel while on vacation. She emailed it to Liz, declaring it was time to write that book they’d always talked about. Soon we had a finished manuscript.
Liz’s writing was often messy and lazy, but also creative and soulful. Lisa’s was detailed and disciplined, but still beautifully descriptive. Liz was the sea, rhythmic and whimsical. Lisa the dock, sturdy and dependable. People were often baffled by our bond both on and off the page. It shouldn’t work, but yet, it did.
Five years and three manuscripts later, we landed our first book deal. Instantly, our identities morphed again. Lizandlisa was back! Two best friends! Who write together! And both get blow outs and eat quinoa!
But being lizandlisa can also be apainintheass. We’ve battled over edits. Doors have been slammed because of query letters. And let’s not forget the epic argument in a New York City cab after we’d secured our second book contract—our friendship crumbling under the pressure of an earlier business meeting. But unlike in college, our love and respect for each other had grown deep roots. We now understood the power of loyalty. It is everything.
Back at The Cheesecake Factory, Liz ended her call and glanced at Lisa’s goblet of cabernet, her pinched face reflecting in its glass. In an hour, we would be standing before an audience at Barnes & Noble to discuss our third novel—and our amazing bond. People would expect us to be like our Instagram posts—cute and impossibly in love with each other. They’d place our friendship on a pedestal—hoping it was as polished as our website.
Liz let out a breath and shook the ice in her otherwise empty glass. “I’m sorry.“ She didn’t quite mean it. But she knew from history that she would soon.
“Let’s get out of here,” Lisa said.
“Are you sure?” Liz asked, nodding at Lisa’s drink.
“It’s just wine,” she said and smiled.
And just like that, the slate was wiped clean again.
WHO IS YOUR BEST FRIEND? TELL US or leave a comment on the blog below or on our Facebook page and you’ll be entered to win a copy of THE GOOD WIDOW! (US entrants only, please.)
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