"I warned you."

This sentence is never followed with anything good. Even if what it's followed by is;

"You know I love you Ellie. You are my best friend. But you are making a mistake."

I sigh, resentful, Beth is right. I know she is, albeit somewhat hypocritical. I can't say that though because I've done this before as has she. We are best friends with all the dark arcane knowledge that invariably entails. But she is completely right.

"I warned you about Will. He gets attached far too easily and you have John. You don't need anything else. And you were leading him on."

Again I sigh, trying to defend my corner and wondering why nothing can be as devastating as criticism from a friend.

"I was upset and things were funny and nothing actually happened. He just started to and I pulled back. I explained. It was all fine."

I can hear her frown down the phone, her 'how do I explain this' throatclearing.

"I know but he still got upset and you can't deny he's contacting you a lot."

"As a friend."

I shrug to myself; this conversation is going nowhere. She'll question me , I'll block and fillibuster to protect myself, question her and the cycle repeats.

"Beth, sweetie. I have to go. Loads of work, bastards have no sense of perspective, you know what I mean."

She cheers up. I know she's relieved, she's hating it too.

"Alright Ellie. I love you honey, stay in touch."

I smile, the constant reassurance of the existance of this affection is a comfort blanket.

"Love you too, bye now."

I hang up mother's white phone. Slide down the white wall hugging my knees and resting my head forward. It's not the end of the world. I'm only 17, love is earthshattering and yet superficial, this attraction is untenable and I won't walk away from John and all he represents. My mobile vibrates and my heart gives an agonising bound. Is it him? I pick up, opening the text and that tension releases when I see the name. "will mob". It's him, a grin with pure giddy teenage pleasure, scanning the flirtatious and sweet mundaneities. before I finish, the phone goes off again. I laugh, seeing John's name, same old delight; same old dilemma.

"you're so sweet."

I stare at the words, a sickly delicious feeling swooping in my stomach. No- one else would call me that. Lovely, loyal supportive at best. I come across as too abrasive, opinionated. I protect my friends more often than they protect me, in fact, their very refusal to do so is almost an act of protection in itself. Forcing me to hide the emtions that so gleefully dance to the foreground. But now I'm sweet. Even with John, there is still that element of protection, that I, the more experienced, protect him.

Now I'm being babied and love it. No true feminist backbone then. And yet this is farcical, ridiculous. The very act of thinking this costs me dearly. He is depressed, recently broken up and this is just carry off, rebound, meaningless. And besides the whole thing would be stupid. Destroy my fragile bulwark of friends and how would I live with out Stuart? This is an irrational thought and yet his abrasiveness is essential to my health and wellbeing otherwise I reel along from extreme to extreme. And yet, he couldn't forgive me this and I can't tell him. He may be more my friend now but John was there first and what do I say?

"I'm thinking of this guy but it's tied up with other things and I think I'm just kidding myself and I don't know where this will end up. If I can't tell Beth or Marie how can I tell anyone else exactly how I feel."

I breath deeply, time for calm, an explanation. John, well I guess John would be what is commonly described as my childhood sweetheart. We went to school together, not any more though, he goes to a different college. And a relationship slipped subtly out of friendship, creeping up so easily, I didn't even know it was there until he kissed me. And we are great together. Most of the time. It's just sometimes I feel very taken for granted, I was always there compliments are unecessary and so on. I realise you probably think I'm pathetic at this stage, so allow me to explain this only happens occasionally. Most of the time it's wonderful. Beth and marie, my closest, oldest friends adore him and his best friend, Stuart, is, as I say, completely essential. We take nearly all the same subjects sit together etc. Anyway, New Year's Eve. I've gone to stay with Beth, things with John are funny so I fliort, not meaning to be serious with Will. A friend of hers. We nearly, and I stress this word nearly because this is the difference between being normal and drowning in guilt, kiss. I explain I'm not really interested, we can't etc. He texts me obsessively. And it makes me feel ... wonderful. Needed.

The doorbell rings. I Run downstairs to open. John smiles at me, his slightly too long curly hair in his eyes again. "What are you doing here? You're supposed to be at college?" I say as my arms go round him. he laughs. "what kind of a hello is that?"