Although we had only known each other a short time, he had a way of making me think I was the only person in the world that mattered, and that he had thought only of me in his 18 years of life. A girl of 16, my heart was too pure and trusting to recognize the difference.
I had seen him around before, but it wasn't until he began to date my best friend that I really got to know him. He had made a reputation for himself - and not of the good variety - but my friend saw something genuine in him, so I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I appreciated the fact that he encouraged us to hang out as a group, unlike many of her previous boyfriends who wanted only to take advantage of her low self esteem behind closed doors, rarely wanting the best friend tagging along and raining on their seductive parade. The three of us hung out a lot together, often with one or two of his buddies, and I began to accrue a number of new friends. And in my best friend's boyfriend, I gained an unbreakable bond.
As their relationship went on, it began to have its ups and downs, as most high school romances do. Eventually, the downs began to outweigh the ups. They had broken up and gotten back together more times than I could count, and among the many fights they had, I always seemed to be caught in the crossfire. I was the middleman. She sent me to him to see if he was still angry with her. He, in return, poured his heart and soul out to me, pleading me not to tell. Too many times, I didn't know who's best friend I was supposed to be, and it was devastatinglydifficult being loyal to both.
The relationship ended for a final time, and at last I was relieved from the pressure of playing the mediator. My best friend got a new boyfriend - this time the kind who didn't like to share - and I went back to only seeing her when her new beau let her up to breath.
I still saw him around after the breakup - we still hung out with mutual friends from time to time. At first it was awkward. He knew where my loyalties were and I knew he was supposed to be the enemy - my best friend's EX. As time went on things matured between us and we were able to laugh and joke and even have serious talks like we used to. The only difference was it wasn't about my best friend anymore, which was a relief. She knew that we remained friends and gave me her blessing - encouraging me that he would be lucky to have a friend like me in his life.
One chilly April night he and I were both at a friend's house. It seemed like any normal boring small town weekend. We had hung out hundreds of times together. But that night, I noticed he was acting strangely towards me. He was flirting, which wasn't anything out of the ordinary, but it turned from friendly flirting to real flirting that night. I didn't think much of it; I figured it was all in my head. But then, as ridiculous as it sounds, I noticed him looking at me differently than he ever had before. His eyes had a different light in them as he stole glances my way, and suddenly my stomach was in knots - something that had never happened around him before. I didn't understand it, and more importantly, I knew it couldn't happen. I could NOT have butterflies for my best friend's ex boyfriend, and he could NOT look at me like that. But he did. And I did.
The evening turned to night, and he got up to leave, hinting that I should leave with him. My better judgment told me to stay behind. Earlier, my best friend had asked me to talk to him for her. Rumor was he was getting back together with an old girlfriend. The fact that my friend wanted the dirt on the situation was proof to me that she wasn't over him, and that alone was reason enough not to leave with him, with the looking and the butterflies in the picture now. Disappointed that I had chosen to stay behind, he asked if I would stop by his house on my way home, insisting he had something important to talk to me about. Right...like that's a good idea....
My heart was thumping out of my chest as I turned onto his street. I didn't know what I was doing. I knew we weren't going to be talking about his ex girlfriend--either of them...not with the way this weird night was going.
As I pulled into his driveway I saw him leaning against his car, as if he had been waiting there all night for me. I suddenly had flashbacks of Molly Ringwald getting her first glance of Jake Ryan leaning up against his red porsche in Sixteen Candles. I got out of the car and walked toward him. I suddenly felt ridiculous, convincing myself that all the "looking" was in my head, and he had probably asked me there to talk about getting back together with my best friend - it was about that time in their on again off again fiasco they called a relationship. The butterflies in my stomach fell away as we exchanged casual greetings. I assured myself this was only a friendly visit as I dug my hands deep into my jacket pockets, protecting them from the cool night air.
Although I had succeeded in convincing myself of the completely platonic status between us, I couldn't lift my eyes from the ground. I knew he had no clue what I had been thinking all night, but I felt a little embarrassed - even more so when he proceeded to tell me he needed my opinion on his plan to pursue a girl - the rumored old girlfriend, I assumed.
I didn't even listen to him as he continued to tell me about her. I was too busy thinking to myself how delusional I must have been to see something that clearly wasn't there. As I argued with myself, I almost didn't notice his hands slip through the loops of my arms until I felt his warm embrace pull me closer to him. He leaned back against his shiny old sports car parked in the driveway, pulling me closer and closer to him. I finally looked up and realized --
I was the girl.
Suddenly I was a little more interested in what he had to say.
I listened as he told me about how much he cared about me, and how close he felt to me, how I was the one he should have been with all along. I was paralyzed as he told me over and over again how beautiful I was. I completely relented when he pulled me as close as possible and leaned down to kiss me for the first time. I didn't resist the second or third time, either. My knees were shaky and my butterflies were present and accounted for. At 16 years old, the moment was like something right out of a movie. Needless to say, my "completely platonic" theory had just gone straight out the window.
We stood there for the longest time, holding each other and stealing kisses. I thought about how great it would be to do this every night. In the back of my mind, I knew it could never work, so I took in every moment that his arms were wrapped around me. Even though I had found this person who I had truly grown to care for in many more ways than one, I knew I could never be happy with him. Even though I would be with him, I would still be too lonely to bare it - I would be lonely for my best friend. My best friend, who had been there since the 2nd grade, who I laughed and giggled about boys with, who had seen me at my worst but still loved me unconditionally. She was my confidante, my shoulder...my sister. Standing there in his arms, I knew this was as far as it could ever go. I leaned back and my eyes shifted to his, and I could tell by the look he gave me that he knew it, too.
At first he argued that we wouldn't be doing anything wrong and that you can't help who you fall for. I agreed, but even though you fall doesn't mean you have to act. I assured him I cared for him deeply - as deeply as my 16 year old heart could care - but I simply couldn't throw away a friendship that I knew would be there long after he was gone. He insisted that he wouldn't give up that easily, that his unyielding pursuit of me would finally cause me to cave. I smiled and welcomed the challenge - I knew I would never turn my back on my best friend, and what girl doesn't like to be chased?
He kept his word for a short time - then a week later he was back with that rumored old girlfriend. I was hurt and furious at the same time, but had no one to share it was. I had spared my best friend's feelings by keeping that cool April night all to myself. Which was fine because he apparently forgot all about it the moment I pulled out of the driveway. Among the hurt and anger, I was also relieved, and had a strange sense of pride. I had made the right choice. Still only a child, I managed to put someone else before myself and recognize a lifelong relationship over a fleeting one. It was a taste of growing up. And it was bittersweet.
I eventually told my best friend everything, and years later we still laugh about the stupid things we did back when. That boy always comes up in conversation, and we still even see him around town sometimes. We'll never know which of us he was really in love with, but that's okay. Because we have each other. And the love of a best friend, of a sister...well, there's nothing stronger.