|Where I Do Not Exist
Author: Brittany Woods PM
Sylvia knows that she loves Parker and doesn't care that his best friend Smith thinks she's insane. Really. She doesn't care. She doesn't care AT ALL.Rated: Fiction T - English - Humor/Friendship - Chapters: 2 - Words: 4,731 - Reviews: 3 - Favs: 12 - Follows: 1 - Updated: 01-02-13 - Published: 12-12-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3082483
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
It wasn't intentional, falling in love with him. It wasn't exciting or glamorous. It was surprising, random, and completely unexpected. We were in the car on our way to school. He was driving and chattering away to his best friend about how awesome the football game was last night. I was in the back thinking about my third period Chemistry test and zoning out. He laughed particularly loudly at something Smith said and I snapped out of my trance. I stared at his profile as he drove. His brow knitted in concentration as he searched for a parking spot, the sharp point of his jaw bone, the tanned skin of his arm. My breath caught, my stomach clenched, and I suddenly felt all too aware of the size of the car. I could reach my fingers out and brush them over his arm if I wanted to.
And that's all it was. One moment I was a girl working tirelessly to succeed and the next I was hopelessly in love with the boy I'd known forever who wouldn't even know I existed if his Mom didn't make him drive me to school every day. Maybe I finally grew up in that moment. Maybe the blinders of childhood fell away and I finally realized that, yes, boys do exist and yes, someday I want one of my very own. Whatever happened, I hated it, because I was irrevocably in love with Parker Davis and he would never, ever love me back.
A Few Months Later...
"Sylvia! Parker will be here in five minutes!" Mom yells from downstairs.
I'm upstairs in my room staring at my reflection in the mirror. I've never been very aware of my appearance, but it matters so much more now. I've tried on everything in my closet, I think, at least three times and none of it seems good enough. My hair's too frizzy, my jeans are too loose, my sweater is bland and plain and not even remotely exciting. I miss the days when I'd sit peacefully downstairs enjoying breakfast until it was time to leave. I miss the days when beautiful words filled my mind instead of Parker's face.
"Syl! Are you sick?" Mom yells again.
I sigh, pulling my bag up onto my shoulder and meandering down the stairs.
"I'm ready, Mom," I say, glancing up and meeting her gaze. She looks concerned, briefcase in hand as though she waited to see me before she left for work.
"Are you feeling alright, honey?" Mom asks. "It's not like you to be running so late!"
"I stayed up late catching up on some homework," I lie, tucking a piece of dark hair behind my ear. "Guess I overslept."
"You do seem off," Mom replies. "Maybe try to go to bed early tonight?"
"Sure. Of course," I reply, smiling weakly.
"If you're sure that you're okay, I'm going to go," Mom says, lingering in the door way for a moment.
"I'm fine," I promise as cheerfully as I can muster. I follow her out onto the porch and kiss her cheek. "Now, go or you're going to be running late, too!"
"Okay. Okay. I'm going," she says. "See you at dinner."
I manage to keep smiling until Mom's in her car and driving down the street. Parker comes out of his house a moment later with Smith, stretching his arms over his head. My heart drops straight through my body and lands on the floor when I see the strip of tanned skin peeking out between his t-shirt and jeans. Smith has a ceramic mug in his hand and looks equally exhausted. Either they fight crime by night or they play video games every moment we're not in school, because they constantly seem exhausted. Plus, I'm not sure if Smith even has his own house. He's constantly at the Davis'.
"Man, I am not feelin' this today," Parker mutters, yawning.
I'm frozen where I stand. It's like the pavement has grown tiny arms and they're holding me in place. My cheeks are on fire and I'm seriously concerned that there may be a neon sign flashing above my head proclaiming my newly discovered can't possibly be another explanation for my complete change in behavior and he's going to figure it out any minute now.
"Where's that girl?" Smith asks, glancing around. He spots me and nods his head in that prototypical boy way. "What's up?"
"Um," I say, unable to say anything else because now Parker is looking at me. His eyes are such a beautiful bright blue and I gasp quietly, my legs turning to jello. A few months ago they were just eyes. It's still so disconcerting.
"Did you forget something?" Parker asks me. "Cause you're kinda just standing there and we need to go."
I blush an even deeper color, my eyes going wide. I glance to Smith as though I expect him to answer the question for me and he's staring back with an amused smirk.
"Hey, Park," Smith says, his eyes still on me. He's practically biting back laughter at this point. "Your Mom wanted you to put the trash can away, remember?"
"Dude, really?" Parker asks, annoyed. "What are you now? My babysitter?"
"I'm turning over a new leaf," Smith responds, rolling his eyes. "Call it humanitarianism."
"Fine. You're right," Parker agrees, jogging around the car and out of sight.
I expel a relieved breath, my legs jerking forward and relinquishing control to me again. Smith chuckles, taking a sip from his mug.
"You better get in the car before he comes back," Smith says, smiling around the words. "Otherwise we might never get to school."
I nod, swallowing with difficulty around the lump in my throat. Smith shakes his head, laughing again, and holds open the back door for me. I stop right before climbing in and glance at him, my cheeks warming yet again.
"You're not going to tell him are you?" I murmur, finding it hard to look him in the eye.
"See the thing is, I like my life," Smith says. "If I tell him, you might die of embarrassment. I'm thinking that might be murder. At least second degree." I must seem confused because he laughs again, shaking his head. "Your secret's safe with me. Get in the car."
The driver's side door opens and Parker jumps in, shoving his keys in the ignition.
"Okay. We ready?" he asks, glancing at Smith.
Smith catches my eyes in the rearview mirror, his own, a deep forest green, crinkling in the corners.
"I don't know, are we?"
I blush again and stare out the window the entire way to school. If I manage to make it through all of this, I am going to need so much therapy!
A Few Months After That...
I'm in the kitchen making breakfast when there's a pounding on the door. Swiping butter over my toast as quickly as possible, I rush to the door and pull it open, stopping mid motion when I see Smith standing on my porch.
"Is it time to leave?" I ask in confusion, glancing at my watch.
"No," he replies, pushing past me and into my living room. He nudges me away and shuts the front door.
"Smith, what are you doing?" I ask, raising an eyebrow at him.
"We need to talk. You should sit down," he says, pacing back and forth.
"You're really confusing me," I point out, curling up on the couch and watching him pace. "Just FYI."
"Look, the thing is... I have some bad news," he explains, stopping and fixing me with a serious stare. "Side fact: We need to do this fast cause I told Park that I needed to step outside and call my Mom. He'll have questions if I'm found here."
I take a bite of my toast, used to Smith's antics at this point, and calmly reply, "I'm not the one holding whatever this is up right now."
"True," he agrees, nodding once. "This is gonna hurt so I'm just gonna do it real fast like a band aid."
"The most humane way," I reply.
He takes a deep breath and runs a hand through his hair.
"Syl, Park has a girlfriend," he says, wincing in preparation for however I might react.
My jaw drops and my toast falls from my hand.
"Who?! When?!" I demand.
"Bianca Miller and as far as I can tell, ten minutes ago," he says, pacing again. "I have no idea. I hadn't heard a thing about it."
Smith, surprisingly, has kept my secret for me for months now. He even goes out of his way to make sure that my paralyzing nerves in Parker's presence don't swallow me whole. It's kind of made us friends in a way which is really odd when I think about it. I mean, he's kind of popular and Parker's best friend, yet he's helping me. Either way, I find his antics and erratic behavior entertaining. Smith collapses onto the couch beside me, sighing. He's deflated a bit now that he's come here and spattered my heart all over the floor.
"Man," I say, taking my toast when Smith picks it up from my lap and sticks it under my nose. "That sucks."
"Yeah, I know," Smith replies empathetically.
"I can't really say that I'm surprised, though," I say, taking a small bite of my toast. It tastes like ash and I wrinkle my nose, tossing it onto the coffee table. "It's been months and I still can't bring myself to say a single word in the car. It's not like he was moments from returning my affection."
Smith mumbles something, but I can't make it out. I glance at him, eyebrow raised, and he clears his throat.
"Can I have that toast?" he asks, pointing at my discarded breakfast.
"You're so weird," I say, smiling and forgetting my broken heart for a moment. "But, sure. Why not?"
"Thanks," he says, not meeting my eyes as he takes it.
I glance at my watch and hit his arm with the back of my hand.
"You need to go if you don't want Parker to see you here," I tell him. "We're leaving in, like, ten minutes."
"Right," Smith replies, serious again. "See you at the car."
"Hey, Smith?" I say as he rushes over to my door. He stops and turns to me, his hand on the door knob. "Thanks. You know, for warning me and everything."
"No worries," he responds, smiling slightly before slipping out of the house.
I meet them in the driveway ten minutes later, my skin tingling the way that it always does when I see Parker, but now it's tainted by a new round of sinking regret because he'll never be mine.
"Hey, Smitty," Parker says, his voice filling my stomach with butterflies. "You can sit up here for now, but get in the back when we pick up Bi, okay?"
I realize then that the universe hates me. Not only is Parker off of the market, but I must watch him and his girlfriend together a mere thirty minutes after learning of her existence. The world is a cruel, cruel place. The drive to what I assume is her house takes an eternity and thirty seconds all at once. I've seen Bianca Miller around school, though she's hardly the kind of girl who would associate with me. She's gorgeous, tall, popular... everything that Parker is and the complete opposite of me. I'm short and awkward and so not right for him. So why does he have to be the boy? The one that I want so badly?
We pull up in front of a huge brick house and Bianca comes fluttering out. Smith jumps out of the front seat and holds the door open for Bianca before climbing in beside me.
"Hi!" Bianca exclaims enthusiastically, leaning over and pressing a kiss to Parker's cheek. I suddenly feel the need to vomit, so I look away.
"Hey, babe," Parker replies. I can hear him smiling. This is torture.
Smith nudges me rather hard with his elbow and I gasp, rubbing my side. He catches my eye when I turn to glare at him, nodding imperceptibly at the front seat.
You okay? he mouths.
I shrug, scowling, and turn away.
The First Few Days of Summer and Freedom...
Parker and Bianca broke up right before Junior prom and he spent the last few weeks of school in a terrible mood. I'd been thinking that it was finally my chance. That I could finally get him to notice me. According to Smith, though, Parker is still heartbroken and that's probably not going to change. I, however, am determined to start talking to him, at least. Senior year is my last chance. It's been a whole year of this which means that it's not fleeting and it's not going to go away. I will make this happen, no matter what Smith Murray has to say about it. The annual Davis' summer picnic, which Mom and I always receive invitations to because Mom and Mrs. Davis are relatively good friends, is happening in a week and I'm going to talk to Parker if it kills me.
My phone rings and I grab it, smiling when I see Smith's name.
"Hey!" I say. "Is Bianca going to be at the Davis' picnic on Friday?"
"Hi, Smith! How are you?" he replies. "Why, I'm swell, Sylvia! Thanks for asking!"
"I'm sorry," I respond, feeling immediately guilty. "Hi, Smith. How are you?"
"Why, I'm swell, Sylvia. Thanks for asking," he repeats cheerfully. "So, I called to tell you that I finished the book that you lent me. Surprise, surprise. Poetry still sucks!"
"How could you even think that?" I demand. "Pablo Neruda writes beautifully, not to mention bilingually. It's impressive."
"It's unnecessary," he replies. "Why doesn't he just say what he means? 'Don't go far off, not even for a day, because - because - I don't know how to say it: a day is long and I will be waiting for you'. Seriously? What's wrong with, 'I'll miss you'?"
"You obviously just don't have a romantic bone in your body," I say, rolling my eyes.
"Well, if you're expecting Park to be the kind of guy that spouts off this crap," Smith says, disgust evident in his voice. "Then you are in for a big disappointment, Syl."
"Which brings me around to my original question," I reply. "Is Bianca going to be at the Davis' picnic on Friday?"
"I don't believe so," he replies, flatly. "Why?"
"Because I need to start laying the ground work if Senior year is going to be my year,"
I respond, pulling a dress out of my closet and holding it up to my body. I tilt my head, considering my appearance in the full length mirror.
"Are you sure that you want to do this?" Smith asks. "I know that you see him every day, but you don't know Parker at all. Have you guys ever talked?"
"A few times," I reply defensively.
"About anything that matters," he amends.
I pull my phone away, glaring at it, before pressing it to my ear again.
"Look, Smith. We just discussed your inability to understand the ways of a heart in love," I tell him impatiently. "I just know okay."
"Fine," he replies, sighing. "I'll call in re-enforcements."
"What? Re-enforcements?" I say, dropping the dress from my hands.
"Just be at your house Friday at three," he tells me before hanging up without saying good bye.
At precisely three o'clock on Friday there is a knock on my front door. I open it to find Smith and the most stunning girl that I've ever seen up close. I recognize her from when I was a freshman, but I was even more awkward then, so I never met her.
"Sylvia, this is my sister Abigail," Smith says, motioning between us. "Abbs has come to save you from yourself, Syl."
"Hi!" Abigail says, smiling brightly. "It's nice to meet you. Smith talks about you all the time."
Smith glares at her and clears his throat.
"You girls have fun," he grits out between clenched teeth. Fixing his sister with a hard glare he adds, "And behave yourself, Abigail!"
"See ya!" she exclaims, pushing him out of the way and closing the door in his face.
"Um, I guess you're my re-enforcements, then?" I ask quietly, blushing.
"Wow, you are shy!" Abigail says. "And adorable, by the way. So, you love Parker, huh?"
I sigh. "Yeah. Only he's never going to love me back if I don't, you know, talk in front of him."
"Well, how about we give you a little confidence boost, then?" she suggests.
"How are we going to do that?" I ask, glancing up at her nervously.
"Trust me, honey. You're in good hands," she promises. "I'm a pro. Where's your room?"
Two hours later we're walking across my back yard to Parker's house and I've never been so nervous in my entire life. I'm wearing what I previously thought was a long shirt as a dress, my hair is gigantic, and Abigail has replaced my glasses with my rarely used contact lenses. According to her I look awesome, but I think it's more likely that I look like hooker barbie.
"Are you sure about this?" I murmur to Abigail frantically as the party-goers come into view. "Parker is going to like this?"
"He's gonna love it," she promises, squeezing my elbow. "I thought that I told you to trust me!"
"I'm trying," I mutter, standing up straighter when I see Parker and Smith.
Smith sees us first, the cup in his hand falling to the ground and his jaw dropping.
"See?" Abigail whispers excitedly.
I feel a surge of confidence as Parker glances over and does a double take. An actual double take! At me, of all people!
"Hey, Abbs," Parker says, smiling at her. He glances at me and I feel like I'm trapped in quick sand. "You look... different, Sylvia. Great, actually."
"Thanks," I murmur, blushing.
"Smith, can you show me where the kitchen is?" Abigail asks, grabbing her brother by the arm. Smith yanks his arm away and glares at her.
"I think you know where the kitchen is, Abbs," he snaps.
"It was a long school year. Lots of alcohol. My brain's not at it's sharpest," she replies, grabbing his arm again and pulling him away. "Be right back, guys!"
"So, how's your summer so far?" Parker asks, smiling at me.
I tear my eyes away from where Abigail just dragged Smith and do my best to smile at him and not melt.
"Pretty good. A bit dull, but at least I'm catching up on my reading," I reply. "How about you? Have you started the senior book list yet?"
"I never read that thing," he responds, waving off the question. "Hey, you want a drink or something? I've got some vodka stashed under my bed."
"I don't really drink," I reply.
"Oh, come on," he says, leaning in and winking at me. "It'll loosen you up."
"But my Mom's here," I point out. "Your Mom is also here. Don't you think it would be kind of bad if we were suddenly intoxicated?"
"They won't notice," he replies and I realize that he's so blunt about it because he already is drinking. I can smell it on him.
"Maybe some other time," I say, smiling weakly and hoping that he doesn't think that I'm too lame.
"You want to go make out, then?" he suggests.
"Um, not really," I reply, annoyed.
"Whatever," he mumbles, glancing away.
We kind of run out of things to say then. I don't know what to say, obviously, and Parker stands there drinking out of his cup and looking everywhere but at me. This isn't at all what I pictured and I need to go home. Like, now.
"Um, can you tell me where your bathroom is?" I ask, glancing awkwardly at the ground.
"Through the back door, second door on your right," Parker replies, seeming relieved.
"Thanks," I say, rushing away as fast as I can.
I hear voices as soon as I open the back door and recognize one as Smith's.
"I told you to make her feel more confident not skank her out!" he snaps. "Now he's going to hook up with her, ignore her, and she's going to feel like crap. She's gonna think that he likes her back and he's never going to."
"Maybe you should have grown a pair and said something then!" Abigail exclaims. "It's not my fault!"
"I told you that she was stupidly in love with him!" Smith growls. "Weren't you listening? God, Abbs -"
I clear my throat, wishing the floor would open up and swallow me whole. Smith and Abigail stop speaking and look at me. Abigail goes very pale and Smith looks like he's going to be sick everywhere.
"Syl," he says, stepping toward me.
"You could have just told me that you didn't think I was good enough for him, Smith," I murmur, forcing myself to look at him. "In fact, I even kind of get that. We're supposed to be friends, though. Do you really think so little of me that you believe that I'd hook up with him out of no where? Then again, maybe we're not friends."
"Sylvia, that's not what I meant," he says desperately, stepping up to me.
"Yeah it is," I reply, glaring at him. "But that's okay. I guess I just realized that there are two guys here that I don't know as well as I thought I did." I turn my gaze to Abigail and muster as much of a smile as I can manage. "It was nice meeting you, Abby. Thanks for helping me, but we were idiots to believe that anyone would see me differently because of it."
I run out of the house through the front door, ignoring Smith as he chases after me and somehow manage to make it to my room before I start to cry. Boys suck.
Another Three Weeks...
My phone buzzes again and I resist the urge to throw it against the wall. It's just Smith. He must be overwhelmed with guilt for pretending to be my friend for almost an entire year, because he hasn't left me alone since the barbeque. Today's text says Will you talk to me already? God, Syl! There're some important things that I need to say to you!
I roll my eyes and shove my phone under my pillow with a snort.
"Like I'd believe you," I mutter to my empty room.
The dumbest thing of all is that I actually miss him. He's been an almost permanent fixture in my life for a year and now he's just gone. It's annoyingly unbearable. The ironic part is, I could care less about the whole Parker thing. It occurred to me about a week and a half into my wallowing that aside from the first three months, I never thought about Parker when he wasn't right in front of me. I don't think that I ever really loved him at all. I thought about – think about – Smith all of the time, though. Constantly. I know what that means, but I refuse to let myself think the words.
"Honey, are you awake?" Mom asks quietly from the other side of the door.
"Yeah," I reply, sighing.
"Have you been outside yet today?" she asks.
"No," I say.
"I think you should go outside," she says.
"Okay. I will later," I reply.
"No," she says more sternly. "Right now."
"Fine," I snap, groaning. I stand up and pull on a hoodie, zipping it up to the neck even though it's July. Shoving my phone in my pocket, I pull open my door and glare at Mom. "See? I'm going!"
"Good," she says, smiling. She fluffs out my hair again and kisses my cheek. "You look beautiful."
"I'm wearing pajamas," I say scoffing as I walk past her and down the stairs.
"He won't mind!" she sings after me.
"I have no idea what you're talking about!" I shout back, yanking the front door open. I gasp when I see why Mom wanted me to go outside.
Starting on the porch, straight down the sidewalk, and all through the street are words carefully scripted in chalk. I glance down and read the porch first. It's a Wordsworth poem. One of my favorites about daffodils and dancing through them. Following it are words by Byron, Dickinson, Cummings. So many of my favorites. I walk through them in awe, reading each one. The last poem when I reach the street is Pablo Neruda. I Do Not Love You.
I couldn't breath if I tried.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way than this:
where I do not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.
My phone buzzes again and I pull it out, answering without looking. I know who it is. Of course I know who it is.
"I told you that you should be honest, but I'm a hypocrite, Syl," Smith says, his voice sending a thrill through me. "I couldn't be honest. These guys, though, they know what they're doing, so I thought I'd borrow their words for awhile."
"I thought you said poetry was stupid," I reply dumbly.
"Not stupid," he admits. "It's just that real words are better. It was never that I thought you weren't good enough. Park's my best friend and everything, but I want you for me, Syl."
"Where are you right now?" I demand, my eyes filling with tears.
"Turn around," he murmurs.
I do and he's standing there, his cheeks flushed. He pulls awkwardly at his hair and I laugh, filling with so many emotions for him that I can't believe it took me this long to feel them.
"I'm so sorry, Smith," I tell him. "I should have seen it sooner. I was an idiot. I was oblivious."
"You were," he agrees, smiling at me. "I like you much better like this, you know. Aren't you sweating, though? It's, like, two hundred degrees out here."
"I'm practically dying," I say, laughing.
"Well, don't die before I can kiss you," he replies. "I've waited way too long for you to die before I've had the chance. It would be an incredibly jerky thing for you to do."
"What are you waiting for?" I ask breathlessly.
"Want to get out of the street first?" he asks. "I didn't really imagine listening for cars while I made out with you."
I stuff my phone in my pocket and run to him, jumping into his waiting arms. He holds me against his chest tightly and rubs my back, placing me down on my feet a moment later.
"So does this mean you're over Parker?" he asks hopefully, pressing his forehead against mine.
"Who?" I ask, raising an eyebrow.
He sighs and presses his lips to mine and it's everything. Ten million times better than anything I ever pictured, because it's real and it's returned and he's mine.