Even though it may seem like my life is an open book to those of you who read my blog, I have a few skeletons in my closet. No, nothing really deep, dark and mysterious, just your garden-variety embarrassments and lapses in judgment that come with a typically misspent youth. We all have secrets. Not the kind that would make us good blackmail subjects, hopefully, but stuff we'd rather not have broadcast to friends and family indiscriminately. And if we are very lucky, we have one or two friends who know all of our secrets. I know I do. And thank God for that. If I know anything it is that we're only as sick as our secrets. And, in truth, I don't have any. Not really. There isn't anything about me that at least one other person on this planet doesn't know. And how awesome is that? There are people out there that have seen me in the most unflattering light possible and still love me. For a long time, even. In the words of Pia Cuelebre of Thea Harrison's Elder Races fame, I am so, so lucky.
Why am I contemplating secrets and friends right now? Because I'm just about finished with Cleo Peitsche's Sharkshifter paranormal romance series (five novella-length books), which has been the most perfect vacation reading ever, by the way--light and hot and not too demanding-- but thought-provoking nonetheless. And Ms. Peitsche has highlighted an important aspect of a truly wonderful life-- friends who will keep our secrets safe and who we can trust with our very selves. No matter what.
In the Sharkshifter series, Koenraad is a guy with secrets. And not just that he can shape shift into a 20-foot Great White Shark (which is pretty cool--I haven't come across the whole shark shifter sub-genre of paranormal fantasy before, and I'll be on the lookout for others in this category). No, Koenraad has many more secrets than that-- the kind of secrets that would get him into hot water with the Shark shifter ruling council and could cause his son to be summarily executed. Koenraad labors under many burdens, but the good news is that he has a best friend, Spencer, to stand by him and keep his secrets, no matter what.
As you all know by now, I don't have a ton of friends, but the ones I have mean the world to me. I've known some of them for the vast majority of my life (since I was two, four and six, respectively). When someone has known you that long, they know everything. I don't have sisters, but I imagine it's like having a sister you've chosen. We don't have to stay close, but we want to. These women are the sisters of my heart. As I've written about before, they knew me before I knew myself. There is absolutely no hiding from them. And it is such a blessing to be known for exactly who I am and the multiplicity of thoughts, words and deeds that make me tick.
In the series, the most notable aspect of Koenraad's and Spencer's friendship is Koenraad's unshakable faith that Spencer will stand by him, and keep his secrets. No matter what. There is no fear of betrayal, no doubts, just the certain knowledge that this friend of his heart has his back, even when it's uncomfortable for him to stand firm. It's the most amazing feeling in the world. In the paranormal genre, the situations are exaggerated, of course, to make a point, so the situation with Spencer and Koenraad is life and death, but it makes the feelings between them crystal clear.
Recently, I was given an opportunity to realize just how valuable and fundamental to my existence these relationships are to me, and how much that unshakable faith defines my identity. While I was away on vacation, I got a text from my oldest friend. She asked me to contact her immediately, which was unusual, so I dropped everything and called her. She was almost inarticulately upset (and she is incredibly articulate), asking me why I betrayed her. Then it was my turn to become inarticulate. In the end, it turned out to be a major misunderstanding/miscommunication that was resolved relatively quickly. But the pain from the phantom limb lingered.
I was shocked at how much my world tilted in an awful roller-coaster kind of way when I thought my friend believed I'd betrayed her trust and broken the sacred girlfriend code of silence (the Mafia has nothing on lifelong friendships among women). Thou shalt not mention youthful indiscretions, old boyfriends, embarrassing anecdotes that involve heavy drinking, or anything having to do with quasi-illegal activity. The girlfriend code covers all. No exceptions. I was horrified to think she thought I'd broken the rules. She was horrified to think I had. We both had trouble wrapping our heads around any of it--hence the nonsensical babbling that erupted from both our mouths. It rocked our worlds in a way that said a lot about our friendship and also who we are as people--we are women who have the ability to trust another person so completely that the possibility of betrayal basically scrambled our brains. That says a lot about both of us. It also meant that we immediately looked for alternative explanations for the snafu, which we found.
In Cleo Peitsche's Sharkshifter series, her depiction of the relationship between two old friends who would do anything for the other ranks as deep truth in fantasy fiction, which is my favorite paradox, wrapped up in a bow just for me. For you, too, whether these books inspire us to contemplate true friendship or aspire to it, the stories make us better people. And I'm grateful for the reminder. Not to mention the fun story and provocative erotica. A trifecta of goodness.