Viewers have been left emotionally raw after the final episode of Fleabag, which (sidestepping any spoilers about romantic storylines) gave us the real love story we all needed: that of Fleabag and her sister, Claire.
In the first series of the now-cult BBC show, the siblings didn’t see eye to eye, with frequently frosty exchanges and clashing heads – even, hilariously, at a feminist lecture. But as season two progressed from the devastating ’toilet scene’ to their final united front, we watched as antagonism gave way to mutual understanding, unwavering support (“hair is everything!”) and fierce loyalty.
Feelings which we know were there deep down all along. “That’s the true heart of the piece,” Sian Clifford, who plays Claire to Phoebe Waller Bridge’s Fleabag, told HuffPost UK. “I think sisterhood is so special, so important and so beautifully portrayed in this. That was very important for us to celebrate that relationship and for that love story to find its way home.”
Their display of sisterly love, which doesn’t often make primetime TV (it’s not as sexy and doesn’t include men), has left lots of women wanting to text their sister immediately and say: “The only person I’d run through an airport for is you.”
My own sister, Sarah, and I have had at least five airport meets. There were the two years when I moved to Puerto Rico, and later Chicago, and saw her only at six-monthly intervals. Now she lives on the west coast of Canada and we’re back to conducting our relationship across continents and time zones, savouring those long hugs at departure gates.
Sarah is the only person in the world who, within the same breath, I would stab – she can be mean in the way only someone who knows you so well can be – and willingly put my life on the line to defend against anyone who hurt her.
The day she came into my life (two years and three months after I was born), I cried on my mum’s hospital bed because I thought I’d made her cry. Ever since, she has been my greatest ally – through death, divorces, family breakups, therapy, cheating and more breakups. She’s also the only person I trust to buy me clothes and send me a damn good dog meme.
Abi Bennetts, 22, from Milton Keynes, knows the feeling. Her sisters – identical twins Ellie and Zoe – are 18 months younger than she is and the only people she simultaneously wants to kill, but would also kill for. “Sisters are such a complicated relationship and I feel like I hate them half of the time but they’re my greatest allies when things go wrong.”
Bennetts says she was particularly grateful for her sisters when her dad, like Fleabag’s father, remarried another woman. “We all came together to stay in Warwickshire for the wedding. We had to really team up to meet this new woman, and agreed to all be the witnesses on the day. At the end we got absolutely hammered together and danced the night away to ABBA.”
“We don’t always see eye to eye in day to day life but if any one of us is ill, heartbroken or throwing up hungover at a family event we always have each others backs and show up.”
Bennetts says her sisters are also the only people in the world she’ll tell her deepest and darkest secrets to – even if they haven’t spoken for months.
My former colleague Micha Frazer-Carroll, 24, says her relationship with her older sister Pascale, 26, is summed up by one extraordinary act of kindness. “When I was 18 and dropped my phone in a club toilet, without missing a beat, she shoved me out of the way and plunged her hand into the toilet to fish it out for me. That’s unconditional love!”
Despite their occasional spats, she says her sister is forever her best friend. “Talking to her about life will always be different to talking to anyone else – she just gets it; the family environment we grew up in, the media we engaged with, going to a majority-white school as a mixed race girl – so many shared experiences.”
“She’s also two years ahead of me so always doing something amazing, or imparting life wisdom that I’m yet to come across yet. She’s a great role model and very supportive.”
Hayley Charman, 30, from Suffolk has such a close relationship with her sister Lorna, 27, that she says they feel like twins. “We are just in sync, we have those knowing side glances, in-jokes, hilarious and endless Whatsapp messages.
“Countless times during our teenage years I have looked after my little sis after too many drinks, putting her to bed with a cup of tea and toast. Wiping away her tears and reapplying her make up after she broke down about me leaving for university (she needn’t had worried, she visited all the time).”
Lorna was even invited along on Hayley’s first date with her now-husband. “It was an incredibly unorthodox first date, we were all around Liverpool Street so I told her to come along and meet him! Poor chap. He must have really liked me.”
Charlotte O’Growney, 23, and her sister Emily, 21, have a best friend relationship – describing themselves as the absolute opposite of Fleabag and Claire at the beginning of the show – but say they related to the relationship as it developed.
“It made me feel a bit sad to see how cold they were with each other. You could feel in their scenes together that they both wanted to reach out but couldn’t for whatever reason. As such, watching them grow closer as the show progressed was one of the most heartening parts of Fleabag for me. It made me think I’ll do whatever it takes to make sure my sister and I never drift apart!”
O’Grady says she frequently ends up using all her phone minutes chatting to her sister and updating her on every part of her day.
Thinking back on their relationship, the moment that encapsulates their loyalty was in sixth form when her sister got in trouble for her school uniform. “She got called into the deputy head’s office because her dress was deemed too short (it wasn’t, she’s just very tall),” says O’Grady. “I was absolutely fuming and spent hours crafting a several page long letter about how policing females for their clothing was morally wrong and the teachers should be ashamed of themselves.
“The next day my sister received a huge apology and was never picked up on her clothing again. We always stand up for each other, no matter what!”
For Skye, 31, and Sedona Ferguson, 24, Fleabag painted the complicated relationship between sisters – not always loving but definitely always supportive. The women, who live together, don’t always get along.
“When we fight, we fight – there really is no holding back. I do remember once getting in a lot of trouble for biting my sister so hard she had a bruise because she poured juice in my hair (in my defence, I was about nine...),” says Skye.
“We always fight when we go back to our mum’s house, I think we both just revert back to being children and screaming teenagers again. But we can go from screaming at each other to laughing pretty quickly.”
They’ve also had their own airport moment. “My sister used to live abroad so we only got to see each other once or twice a year and she hadn’t been around for my birthday in a really long time. For my 21st, I had a big party planned in London. We pulled into Paddington station and my sister was waiting on the platform – she’d come back from Dubai to surprise me.”
Now they rely on each other – for even the smallest of things. “I call my sister to ask her opinion on literally anything and everything. I am actively trying to make more decisions on my own, but I have even been known to call her and ask which cereal to have for breakfast.”