|Hiding Under My Bed
Author: DarlynH PM
I was independent. I was fabulous. Also, I was nineteen-years-old, and I wasn’t supposed to be under my bed, hiding from my best friend. It just wasn’t supposed to be.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Humor - Words: 2,685 - Reviews: 22 - Favs: 47 - Follows: 5 - Published: 11-02-09 - Status: Complete - id: 2736963
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Hiding Under My Bed
I was independent. I was fabulous.
Also, I was nineteen-years-old, and I wasn't supposed to be under my bed, hiding from my best friend. It just wasn't supposed to be.
"Jess?" I heard Joel's voice from the doorway. "I know you're in here."
I retreated further into the bowels of my bed. Something hit my foot, and I found myself staring at the teddy bear that Tim, my ex-boyfriend, gave me three years ago. Wow, I thought that thing had dissolved into dust years ago. Amidst the sea of forgotten underwear, make up, and--surprisingly--homework, I wanted to be invisible. Joel shouldn't find me, no matter what happened.
From my position under the bed, I could see Joel's feet, clad in black Converse sneakers. He stepped into my dorm room, and it took all of my instincts to stop myself from bolting.
See, if I hadn't fallen in love with Joel, we wouldn't be in this situation.
Joel and I first met when we were two. Our mothers had been good friends since college, so they saw no harm in raising us together. We used to take baths together, go on trips to the playground, and everything.
In the first grade on the first day of class, we were assigned to sit next to each other, and that's when this whole thing started. He told me I had big ears, so I kicked him in the nuts. We'd been inseparable since then.
Throughout grade school, we stuck together like glue to construction paper. He never forgot to give me a card during Valentine's Day, one of those immature-looking and freakishly corny cards with little red hearts. I always told Joel I hated them, but I kept every single one.
In high school, Joel transformed into Mr. Popular. He grew into his two front teeth, so he no longer resembled Bugs Bunny. His unruly black hair was suddenly considered cool, and girls were falling at his feet. The smile I used to think was so funny became endearing to the rest of them. He became a player for the basketball team, and that brought on a ton of new friends.
I, however, was still the same geeky Jessica Navarro who hid behind her glasses, and squeaked at the sight of other males aside from Joel. I was still the same badly dressed freak show without an ounce of hand-eye coordination. God, I was embarrassing in high school.
At that point, I was sure Joel and I were going to grow apart, but he proved me wrong. Even with his new jock friends, he never hesitated to ditch them for me. He was still the same Joel who told me I had big ears.
I didn't realize I was in love with Joel until sophomore year. I could still remember the exact moment when I found out.
The gym was alive with excitement, as we all crowded around one another. You could almost feel the tension in the air. Below the bleachers, the basketball players were running around the court, looking like red and white blurs. Our school was playing against Saint Dominic, our biggest rival. The players from the Saint Dominic team were clad in green and blue, and they were hungry for a win. The score was 43-42. We were on the losing end with eleven seconds left on the clock.
Bobby Cortez dribbled the ball and passed it to Joel. Even if his back was turned to me, I knew it was him. I recognized his wide shoulders and the way he looked back and forth, in case someone tried to steal the ball from him. The number 16 was emblazoned in white on his red jersey.
The clock started to tick loudly. 10. 9. 8. 7...
All of Joel's teammates were guarded. He was the only one with the chance to shoot. He pivoted and jumped up. The ball flew out of his hands, and straight into the ring. A three-point score.
The buzzer sounded, signaling the end of the game. The score was 45-43. We won.
The gym erupted with cheers from our side. I started screaming my lungs out and jumping around. We were all hugging one another. Our school had beaten Saint Dominic, and we could reign this over their heads for one more year. It felt good.
From below, I could see Joel being congratulated by his teammates. They patted him on the back, and Bobby even hugged him. Joel was laughing, and all of a sudden he looked up, like he was looking for someone. Our eyes met.
Joel smiled and I smiled back.
It was like slow motion. In my ears, the cheers faded away and everything became silent. I didn't notice the people around me anymore. There was only Joel and his smiling face as he beamed up at me. It hit me then.
I was in love with my best friend.
I tried to ignore it, and acted like I didn't just have a major life-changing epiphany. I mean, how could it be possible? This is Joel we're talking about. We used to take baths together when we were two, and we used to go to each other's birthday parties when we were kids. I kicked him in the nuts in the first grade. It couldn't be possible.
I had a theory about the whole thing. My feelings for Joel could be compared to a pair of sneakers. I was going to grow out of them sooner or later. Well, that was five years ago. I had outgrown half a dozen pairs of shoes, but I still hadn't outgrown Joel.
And now he knew.
Well, sort of.
Last night, on Joel's twentieth birthday party, something sort of happened. We went out drinking with a couple of friends. At around three in the morning, we decided to go home. We were all pretty drunk by then, and, for some reason, Joel and I found ourselves in his dorm room.
Once the door was closed, we just looked at each other, wondering what the hell was going on. The room was dark, but some light drifted in through the window. I could see Joel's face in the semi-darkness. He was staring at me, like he was memorizing every single detail on my face, and I never wanted him to stop. I wanted him to look at me like that forever.
Joel took a step forward and said, "Jess." He pressed his forehead against mine, and my mind went blank. I didn't know what was happening, or what was going to come next. My heart started beating wildly in my chest, and I stopped breathing.
"Jo--" I started.
He kissed me, and I lost my sanity. My arms automatically found their way around his neck, as his tongue pushed its way into my mouth. His hands roved over my back, and pulled me tighter against him. I ran my hands over his hair, something I'd wanted to do for so long.
Just as suddenly as he kissed me, Joel took hold of my shoulders and pushed me away.
"Do you really want to do this, Jess?" he asked, looking at me.
What our relationship was going to be like after this rested on my answer, but I didn't think about that. I was too lost in the moment.
I didn't say anything. I simply took hold of his hand and tugged him towards the bed.
That was last night. When I woke up that morning, Joel was still asleep. The implications of everything that happened crashed down on me. God, I never thought Joel and I would ever encounter the awkward morning-after talk. I didn't want to hear him say that I was just a friend, and that last night was simply a result of two drunken people who got a little too excited.
So, trying my best not to wake Joel, I quickly put on my clothes and left. It never occurred to me though that he'd storm into my dorm, looking for me.
The second I heard him angrily ask my roommate about me out in the hallway, my immediate reaction was to hide under my bed. It never even occurred to me to lock the door. God, I was stupid.
So, there we were.
Joel going ballistic looking for me.
Me hiding under my bed.
It definitely deviated from the typical fairy tales.
"Jess, will just come out and talk to me?" Joel kneeled down, and I found myself staring into his brown eyes. I had been discovered. He raised an eyebrow at me. "Hiding under your bed? I thought something like this was beneath you."
Joel stood up, waiting for me to come out from my hiding place. I closed my eyes, willing the floor to swallow me. The floor didn't obey, so I really didn't have a choice. With as much dignity as I could muster, I came out from under my bed and stood up. Joel just stared at me. My plan was a complete and total bust. I hadn't avoided the awkward morning-after talk at all. I just managed to delay it.
"You ran out on me," Joel accused, arms crossed over his chest.
"Of course not." I glanced at the door. If I suddenly bolted, was there a chance he'd catch me? "I just walked out."
"We need to talk about last night." Joel looked down at me, waiting for my reaction.
"What about last night?" I was practically hyperventilating. "I don't remember anything, at all. I mean, last night was just like any other night, right?" I didn't wait for him to answer. "So, maybe we could just pretend like nothing happened, you know? Everything could just go back to normal."
Instead of agreeing with me like I expected, Joel sighed and said, "You're wearing my shirt."
I looked down at myself and gasped. Indeed, I was wearing Joel's green Starving Artist shirt, his favorite. He had been wearing it last night, and everything that happened suddenly came back in full force. I turned red, and made a beeline for the door.
"Not this time, Jess," Joel said, grabbing my arm. He turned me around to face him. "I'm not letting you run out on me again."
"God, Joel, I don't want us to have the morning-after talk, alright?" I tried to tug my arm away, but he wouldn't budge. "You're my best friend, you know? This is just way too awkward."
"First of all, this isn't the morning after talk." Joel shook his head. "This is the trying-to-escape-the-morning-after talk. Second of all, you're my best friend too and that's exactly why we need to do this."
Upon hearing his words, I felt my heart sink like an anchor into the nearest ocean. Second of all, you're my best friend too and that's exactly why we need to do this. I was right. What happened last night didn't mean anything. To him, at least, and that was exactly what I didn't want to hear.
"Joel, what happened last night was great, but let's face it." I straightened my shoulders, prepared for the blow to come. "We're good friends, and it didn't mean anything."
"Bullshit," Joel said, letting go of my arm.
What? My ears perked up. Maybe last night did mean something after all, but I stopped myself. I really shouldn't get my hopes up. They were just going to shrivel up like raisins and die.
"Jess, who's the one person who knows you better than anyone else?" Joel took hold of my shoulders and looked into my eyes.
"You, of course." I didn't even have to think about my answer.
"I can tell when you're lying," Joel said, pulling me closer. "And you were definitely lying just now."
He kissed me, and this time it was even better than the first one. His tongue delved into my mouth, taking it slow like he had all day. He took hold of my cheeks, holding me in place. It took every ounce of my strength to stop myself from kissing him back. This wasn't how I wanted us to end up. I didn't want us to be fuck buddies. It was too cruel. I ended up pushing him away, before I couldn't stop myself anymore. He looked at me, a look of puzzlement on his face.
"You know what?" I said. "I don't think you know anything about me, at all."
It was partly true. I had been in love with him for practically my whole life, and he had no idea. If he knew me for real, he would've figured it out a long time ago.
"I could say the same about you." Joel ran a hand through his hair, sighing in frustration.
"Are you kidding me?" I said indignantly. "I know practically everything about you. You're Joel Castro, the kid who used to tease me about my big ears, the guy who gives me a cheesy card every Valentine's Day, the guy who became super popular in high school--"
"The guy who wore a jersey with the number 16 on it for four years," Joel finished for me.
"What?" I blinked, wondering what he was talking about it.
"You've never figured it out?" Joel looked like he couldn't believe it. "You were born on October 16. I wore a jersey with the number 16."
I couldn't believe the words that came out of my mouth. The part of me who was too scared of getting hurt had taken over. I loved Joel too much, and I simply couldn't believe he loved me too. I'd been hoping for this moment for five years, and now that Joel was right there, I was pushing him away. What the hell was I doing?
Joel blinked, like I'd just slapped him. He turned and headed for the door.
I panicked. This was decision time. What was I going to do? Was I going to take the plunge or was I simply going to let him walk out the door? Either choice seemed to involve a lot of emotional pain.
I had decided. I was taking the plunge.
"Give me five minutes," I said, looking alarmed. He stopped when I called out his name, but he still hadn't turned around.
I knelt down and reached under my bed. Please, God, I thought. Please let me find it. Bingo. There it was. I closed my fingers around it and emerged with a dusty shoebox. Joel turned around and looked at me like I was crazy.
"Look." I took the lid off the shoebox. All the Valentine's Day cards he'd given me since the first grade until last year tumbled onto the floor. They laid in a mess of pink, red, and white construction paper. Some were yellow with age, while others looked newly bought. I looked up at him and bit my lower lip, hoping against hope that he'd stay. "They're all cheesy, but I love every single one."
Joel didn't say anything. In a second, he was holding me in his arms like he never wanted to let go. I buried my face in his chest and inhaled his scent, peppermint with a hint of coffee. I was going to remember it forever.
"Please don't go," I said, hugging him back with as much force I could muster.
"I'm not going anywhere," Joel said.
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