When Darrell first writes to Gwen it is out of pity. Gwen's pale, tearful expression when she was in the dormitory after hearing about her father is still imprinted on her mind, and she can't shake it. She knew something was wrong immediately, and not because of the quantity of tears, but the nature of them. Sobs released into the world without a sympathetic audience, tears flowing down her face not in an attempt to make people feel sorry for her, but simply because she was upset.

She realises now it was the first time she saw the real Gwen, stripped bare of all silliness and pretence.

She writes out of pity in the beginning, and then later out of admiration, out of friendship. Gwen is coping so well with work and her family and everything, a woman of the world, it seems, a girl who has had to grow up and experience life, while Darrell is still at university, still a child in many ways. The tables have turned and now she finds herself turning to Gwen for advice sometimes, seeking what feels like ancient wisdom even though there's only a few months of a difference in their ages.

Darrell suspects that she would not be able to be so strong in Gwen's position. It is an unsettling thought. She has always considered Gwen such a weak creature that naturally she was superior in comparison, but when she thinks about it – having to give up her beloved university for the sake of tedious labour and caring for an ill relative – she knows it would be difficult. She would do it in a heartbeat, of course she would, but it would hurt.

And Gwen still has an ideal of Darrell in her head, insists on praising her for her courage and strength, and eventually Darrell realises she must tell Gwen that it is Gwen who is the braver of the two, Gwen who has been strong, and Gwen who deserves respect.

Because she does respect Gwen. This comes as a slight shock when it first reveals itself to her. Her growing fondness for Gwen is not a surprise; she has been aware of that for quite some time, but respect – respect is something different entirely, and admiration even more so, and she finds that both these things contribute to her weekly compositions to her friend.

How strange life is, she thinks as she puts pen to paper, that the girl she once pitied and despised has become her closest and most cherished confidante.

fin