Shasta Lopes was a flight attendant for Continental Airlines when she walked into a New York City bar and met the British man she would eventually marry. A few cheeky pints would evolve into mutual affection, which would lead to a long-distance relationship and an engagement. The two would wed just one year after first locking eyes, and Shasta would move to Scotland to live her “happily ever after.” It would be a story for the ages, and one that her friends would liken to a fairytale…until, of course, it wasn’t. 

Moving to another continent for someone is quite the gesture of love, and Shasta was happy to do so even though, as she now puts it, “what sane person moves from New York City to Aberdeen, Scotland?”

Shasta had given up her job as a flight attendant when she moved to the United Kingdom in 2007, and later found herself missing the friendly skies – so when she saw that British Airways was hiring in 2011, she wanted to put her hat in the ring. The only problem? She’d have to move to London if she got the job. 

“I spoke to my husband about it, and he said he was all for it,” Shasta recalled. “But when I was hired, he said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to make the move.” 

Not one to give up a great opportunity, Shasta packed her bags and headed for London. She moved in with Tori, a new friend who she had met during the British Airways interview process. They lived together for six months, until Shasta’s husband finally joined her in London. 

“We got a place together, but by that point I was already drifting away from him,” she said.

It didn’t help that her husband had recently decided he wanted children – something Shasta had always been firmly and vocally against. “I didn’t want kids, I’m a cat person!”

Her husband eventually said he could live without having kids, but Shasta wasn’t prepared to stay in the relationship. “I knew there would come a day when he would resent me for not giving him any children, and I didn’t want any part of that.” 

The two got divorced in 2013, and he got custody of the two cats. All of a sudden, Shasta was in a foreign country without her husband, her beloved pets, or family. 

“I was on the floor crying as I watched him put the cats in their carriers and take them away. I was a total wreck.” 

A friend’s support through divorce’s storm, cocktails included

Tori, who had become a close friend at that point and had previously offered to hide the cats in a bold pledge of allegiance to Shasta, was waiting around the corner as the custody exchange was happening. When she arrived at Shasta’s flat, she had just one instruction for her friend: “Get your bag, we’re going out.” 

“We went out for cocktails at a cheesy bar nearby, and she was able to make me laugh and get my mind off things.”  

Shasta says that one of Tori’s greatest strengths is that she has an amazing ability to read people, and cares deeply about those who are lucky enough to call her a friend. 

“A lot of people tend to back away when someone is going through a hard time, because they don’t know what to do or say. But Tori was always there, and never stopped asking me how I was doing.” 

And if Shasta ever tried to pretend she was fine when she wasn’t, Tori would call her out for lying. 

“She would tell me that she knew I wasn’t fine, and then she’d just sit there and listen. She made it so obvious that she genuinely cared and wanted to help me.” 

Shasta Lopes credits her friends for help her get through divorce.
Shasta learned the importance of allowing friends to help in times of trouble. (Photo courtesy of Victoria Smith-Jaynes)

Another friend swoops in to fill the void of post-divorce life

Shasta had considered moving back to the U.S. after the divorce, but ultimately decided against it. However, if she was going to stay in London, she was going to need a flat mate. She started the search and soon found Jack, a friend of a friend. 

She hit it off with her new roommate, whom she describes as “the sweetest little Yorkshireman.” Soon, their days were filled with walks, talks, and embracing their mutual love of strong ales.

“We’d go to the pub and drink old man beers and walk around the neighborhood petting all the cats we saw because Jack is a cat person too.” 

Around this time, Shasta had realized that one of the loneliest parts of being divorced was not having a companion to do the little things with, like watching TV in the evenings. Luckily, Jack was more than happy to fill that void. 

“He didn’t like ‘Game of Thrones,’ which was the show I had watched with my ex, so we started watching reality shows,” she said, recalling that “Ru Paul’s Drag Race” was one of their favorites. 

“I went from hanging out with my husband to hanging out with my gay roommate, and it was actually better because I got all the good stuff and none of the drama.” 

Unlike Tori, Jack had never met Shasta’s ex-husband, and that was actually kind of perfect. 

“It’s like he knew that his role was just to distract me, so that’s exactly what he did.” 

Allowing friends to help can lighten life’s burdens

Describing Tori and Jack as her “rocks,” Shasta says she’s not sure where she’d be today if her friends weren’t there to support her during the darkest of times. 

“I can honestly say that I might have gone back home to the U.S. if I didn’t have them,” she said, adding that all three of them are great friends to this day. In fact, Tori and Jack even moved in with each other as roommates at one point. 

Shasta says that anyone who is lucky enough to have their own Toris and Jacks in the midst of their divorce should be thankful and willing to lean on them whenever needed. 

“Don’t assume that people in your life are saying they care just because it’s what they’re supposed to say. If they’re offering to help, or offering to listen, then they care about you. Don’t be afraid to let them in.” 

Shasta, now 45, currently resides in Bristol, England, and works as a production housing coordinator for a major streaming service. She lives with her boyfriend Gareth and cat Arbie (whose full name is Notorious Arbie G), and part-time with Gareth’s eight-year-old daughter. She has no plans to marry again.