"The physical part of our friendship happened along the way and it was just as beautiful," Robyn Crawford tells PEOPLE of her bond with Whitney Houston
In her new memoir, A Song For You: My Life with Whitney Houston, excerpted exclusively in this week’s PEOPLE, Crawford writes that she and Houston fell in love the first summer they met in 1980. Crawford was 19 and the singer was about to turn 17, and they were both counselors at a summer camp in East Orange, New Jersey.
“We wanted to be together and it was just us,” Crawford tells PEOPLE.
“The physical part of our friendship happened along the way and it was just as beautiful,” she says. “We were on a journey together and and we were connected.”
They shared their first kiss together that summer when Whitney invited Robyn over to her house.
“We talked and talked,” writes Crawford. “And then all of a sudden, we were face to face. The first kiss was long and slow, like honey. As we eased out of it, my nerves shot up and my heart beat furiously. Something was happening between us.”
The pair were intimate shortly after they shared their first kiss. They spent the night at the home of a friend.
“At the apartment we took off our clothes, and for the first time, we touched each other,” she writes. “Caressing her and loving her felt like a dream.”
As Crawford recounts in her book, the physical part of their relationship ended after a few years, when Houston said they could no longer be intimate shortly after she signed a record deal with Clive Davis at Arista, in 1982.
“She said we shouldn’t be physical anymore because it would make our journey even more difficult,” Crawford wrote in the book. “She said if people find out about us, they would use this against us, and back in the ’80s that’s how it felt.”
Crawford added that Houston’s family — especially her mom, Cissy Houston — told them “it wasn’t natural for two women to be that close.”
“But we were that close,” Crawford wrote.
Crawford said she “found comfort in my silence,” and that she and Houston “never talked about labels, like lesbian or gay.”
“We just lived our lives and I hoped it could go on that way forever,” she continued. “Whitney knows I loved her and I know she loved me. We really meant everything to each other. We vowed to stand by each other.”
And that she continues to do. “She was the friend that I prayed for,” says Crawford.
Of writing the memoir, Crawford said, “I wanted to lift her legacy, give her respect and share the story of who she was before the fame, and in that, to embrace our friendship.”
For more of Robyn Crawford’s memories of Whitney Houston, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday.