On February 17th, my friend Leila passed away, after a hard-fought battle with cancer. Despite the distance between us since we went through grade nine together, this has absolutely crushed me. So, I’m going to take a note out of Zoe‘s playbook, and tell you about her.

First of all, Leila was gorgeous. And ridiculously smart, and so talented. Complete triple threat. She was one of those people who made everything look effortless and stylish.

I remember being little 15-year-old dorks in religion class, and creating our own religion (shoe-ism), because Leila had ‘discovered’ the joy of shoe shopping. I can even tell you what the pair she’d bought that weekend looked like, when she drew it in my notebook (they were red and white high-heeled Mary-Janes that kind of looked like sneakers, if that makes sense. She was wearing them to a wedding.)

I remember us trawling the school for donations for a charity – every donation got a sticker. But some of the admin staff didn’t want a sticker. So we took a sticker for ourselves for their donation. And $10 surely bought a LOT of stickers, so we ran with it. We were covered in them, and so happy (no seriously, on each pleat of our skirt, on the toes of our shoes, our ties and collars and I still have every single one of mine pressed in a sketchbook somewhere.)

I remember getting into a paint battle in art – I swiped her face with blue paint, and she grabbed my wrist with a paint-covered hand. That handprint is still on that jumper, thirteen years later. Maybe it was gesso? I don’t know. But we had fun.

I remember after-school art, where we would laugh and draw and paint. I remember that she never read ‘What Katy Did’ and thought it sounded boring. I remember she loved Good Charlotte, but she still burned me a mixtape of all my favourite songs I didn’t own, even though I’m sure my taste in music pained her. No, I know my taste in music pained her.

For that year, she was one of my very best friends. I don’t think she ever thought of me that way; I kind of forced my friendship on her. She was far too cool to be friends with a nerd like me.

I remember her disappointment when I told her I was leaving, and I was surprised. Mostly because I was always leaving people behind, and I was kind of numb to moving on and being forgotten.

Leila taught me so many things. She reminded me how much I loved art, and inspired my drawing again – I think I’ll always be trying to match her sheer artistic talent. She is one of two people responsible for my website obsession of my teens, and the person who pretty much taught me how to read HTML. I think there are only a handful of people left in my life that understand what a fucking huge deal that is.

She’s the picture in my HSC art project.

One year, we went to school together, and she was such an influential part of my teenage years that it feels completely impossible that she’s gone.

She reached out to me a couple of times over the last few years, and I fucking hate that my own personal problems stopped me from reconnecting more than a quick chat, from meeting up and maybe being dorks together again.

But I will hold those short conversations close, and I hope wherever she is now, she knows that I will never ever forget her, and this fucking sucks, and even if her presence was just a photo on Instagram or some sass on Facebook, it meant a lot to me.