What would it be like to befriend your favorite celebrity? What would you do together? What would you joke about? Fight about? In our series Friend Fiction, we imagine the answers to these questions.
It’s a warm, blissful afternoon in southern California. Close personal friends Jennifer Garner, Ina Garten, and I are in Jen’s garden (“More like Garten, am I right, Ina?” I joked earlier — twice, because she didn’t laugh the first time; she must have missed it) gathering food to make a lavish meal for her 46th birthday.
At one point, Ina posts an old picture of her and Jen on Instagram, with some caption about how much she loves foraging in her garden and cooking together. It hurts my feelings that she doesn’t even mention me in the post, since we’re kind of like the Three Musketeers, but I don’t say anything. It’s my best friend’s birthday, after all, and I don’t wanna make a scene. And as Ina would say, “What are we?! The Real Housewives of Whatever-the-Heck?” Ha ha. She’s definitely the Wild One of the group, always saying whatever’s on her mind.
As we wander through Jen’s orderly rows of Tuscan kale, picking out the best leaves for our meal later this afternoon, we reflect on how our lives have changed in the past few years. We talk about Ina’s trip to Paris (“I could eat pain-au-chocolat for breakfast every day!” she laughs) and Once Upon a Farm, Jen’s new organic family food company, and my succulents that keep dying, and how, despite all of life’s unexpected twists and turns, we can always count on each other.
“I just feel so blessed that me and my daughters get to be surrounded by so many strong, talented women,” Jen smiles, her big, hazel eyes filling with happy tears.
“Ohhh, Jen,” Ina coos, setting down her wicker basket full of heirloom tomatoes and beets, and wrapping her arm around Jen’s shoulders. Then Birdie, Jen’s goofy Golden Retriever, runs up and licks Jen’s face and she and Ina laugh and hug each other tighter. There’s not really room for me in the embrace, so I assure them I’ll get in on the next one.
When Jen’s ready, we go pick some blackberries for a pie, and Ina grabs some hydrangeas for the table. Pleased with our haul, we return to Jen’s house, pour three glasses of a Grüner Veltliner Ina said is “absolutely divine,” and start cooking. Jen throws together a bright, fresh caprese salad, and Ina prepares one of her famous roast chickens, and I set the table, carefully displaying the fresh-picked flowers.
“Jen,” Ina says, checking her Instagram as we sit down to eat, “people are loving this picture of us! A woman named Sarah commented saying she wants me to tell you she loved you in 13 Going on 30.”
I bristle slightly. Do I think Ina is trying to wedge her way between me and Jen? Of course not! I just think three can sometimes be a tough number, friend-wise.
After we finish eating, Jen sighs, stretching languidly in her chair. “Oh Ina,” she says, “I’m 46 now. I’m a single mom with three kids. I’m still fighting with my ex-husband, who, by the way, happens to have the worst tattoo in the freakin’ world. How will I ever I find something like you and Jeffrey have?”
Ina laughs, and makes a joke so filthy I don’t feel comfortable repeating it here, but let’s just say it involves using a pineapple in some truly shocking ways.
“But seriously, Jen, friendships are the most important thing in the world,” Ina says, squeezing Jen’s hand. Feeling a little left out, I reach across the table — jostling a vase of hydrangeas on the way — and place my hands over theirs.
“I’d die for you ladies,” I whisper. They pull their hands away. We are best friends.