THIS is B1. Hey. This story is... dare I say it?... kind of true. Actually, it's about... the other B. Who might kill me. And maybe B2 for giving me the idea to post it here.



With a cutting clatter, Jake's toy airplane slipped from his hands and hit the floor, only to skid under the bed where monsters watched from their cobwebs, waiting for little children for dessert. Well, at least they did in Jake's world. He got down on his knees and felt around for the plastic DC-10, but his arms were too short and stubby to reach it.

And from across the room, Tara sat watching her brother's pitiful attempts, stifling a laugh. He stood up and glared at her with all the menace of the 7-year-old boy he was.

"Get for me," he said simply, pointing under the bed.

Tara grinned back.

"Oooh, look who's not such a big boy after all," she teased, a pen in one hand. "I don't know if I should, I mean, when have you ever done anything for me?"

Jake thought about this, reached into his pocket, and held out ten cents.

"That's more like it." Tara stood, her slim form almost twice as tall as her little brother. With a small grunt she knelt and stuck her hand into the darkness, cringing as it brushed against some cobwebs. She grabbed the plastic toy and started to drag it out, stopping only when the tip of her pinky hit something else. Something familiarly furry.

"Hurry up!"

"Keep yelling and you'll never see your precious little plane again," she snapped back, bringing out the toy for him. He stuck out his tongue and she ignored him, reaching back under the bed until she could pull out the furry thing. It slid out covered in spiderwebs and dust bunnies, its blue jacket faded and moldy--a small stuffed bear.

Tara smiled.

"Come on, let's go," Alex said, hands in his pockets and an excited smile on his face. Tara laughed, turning back toward the house. "Wait, wait, I have to get my jacket!"

He stopped her and took off his blue one, handing it over. "No, here, use mine." He jogged in place. "Come on, we have to be back before it gets too dark."

She held out the jacket at arm's length as if it was going to bite her.

" just as friends, right?"

He stopped bouncing up and down and looked at her. "Yeah," he said slowly. "Just as friends."

She nodded and pulled on the jacket. "Okay, let's go."

"Eeeeew, what is that?!" Jake screeched, scrunching up his face at the bear. Tara swatted him away. "Just an old toy I found."

Jake pointed at it, eyes widening dramatically. "No it's not," he said in a singsong voice. "That's from Ale-"

She threw a pillow at him and then took the toy plane and tossed it out the door. "Fetch, doggy." Jake ran screaming to get it back, and she closed the door after him. She wasn't especially ready to tell anyone else about that summer, though Jake and their little sister Jess knew because they'd been there. They'd seen him.

Tara started to walk back to her bed, where her homework was scattered all over the sheets, but then stopped in the middle of the room and turned to her desk. Three quick steps and she was there, pulling open the right drawer and picking out a green mechanical pencil from the clutter. It wasn't anything special, just patterned with green leaves and sparkles, but she'd never used it because she didn't want all the shiny perfect leads to wear down. The pencil had no price tag because it had never had one--she'd traded it for ticket credit at the Timezone arcade...

"Could I have a card with $20?" she said, digging around in her wallet to put together nickels and dimes and quarters until she'd lost count completely. The Timezone clerk swiped a blank card into her machine, chewing a piece of gum and looking extremely impatient as she waited for Tara to make sense of the pile of change in front of her.

Beside her Alex shook his head, laughing. "Here, my treat," he said, putting down two bills on the counter. Tara looked up and swiped them off, trying to stuff them back in his pocket.

"No, come on, I have the money!"

"No, come on, I want to treat you."

In the end he won out (he always did, after all) and she let him pay for the card just like he'd paid for her whole lunch and some candy. But of course, as they were heading over to the Time Crisis game, she looked up at him and asked it.

"This... is just as friends, right?"

And he grinned down at her like he always did. "Yeah. Just as friends."

"Tara, do you have my cellphone?"

Her older sister's call made her drop the pencil, and she had to stuff it back into the drawer, feeling a little embarrassed for standing alone in the room with a silly smile on her face.

"No, I think it's with Cathy!" She opened the door of her bedroom to let in some air and tried to go back to studying, but the memories were coming thick and fast now, as if she'd opened up a box of them and couldn't close it anymore.

"Tara, A guy left something for you," the maid said as soon as she arrived home on Valentine's Day. "It's upstairs." Tara kicked off her shoes and ran up the steps two at a time, pausing just before she flung the door closed behind her.

"Oh wait!" She leaned out over the stairs. "Please, please don't tell mom and dad. Okay?"

"Okay," the maid said, a little confused, and Tara turned to see a slim package on her desk. It was a wrapped box of three long-stemmed red roses, with a plastic top so she could see them inside and a gold ribbon and card completing the picture.

The card said, "From your secret admirer. Hahaha."

It didn't take her long to walk to his house, ring the doorbell, and smack him on the shoulder. "You are too corny!"

Alex grinned back. "So you got it? Do you like it?"

"Yeah, it's nice!" She realized what she was saying, hesitated, and then asked it.

"...Just as friends... right?"

For a moment Alex was quiet. Then he smiled and everything was back to normal. "Yeah, just as friends."

Tara was smiling again. It gave her a good feeling to remember him, partly because he'd been a really good friend and partly because she could think about what exactly happened back then, last summer.

What happened next?

Oh yeah, we... admitted we liked each other.

Tara sighed. That hadn't ended very well, back then. She picked up the bear and held it up to the light, frowning at where its outside coat was torn and the stuffing was peeking out. She'd have to stitch it up later. Right now she was supposed to be studying...

It was going to be hard and she wondered if she'd regret it, but Tara had to tell him. She didn't like him. She never really did. It was just that thing that all girls felt--if a boy tells you he likes you, there's a little voice inside you that tells you you have to like him back.

But now she knew that being 'together' was just making everything complicated. So Tara talked to him, and told him how she felt. And he looked hurt--she tried to ignore that--but he nodded and smiled and told her it was okay.

"So we're back to just friends?" she asked, trying to make a joke.

"Yeah." He said it a little bitterly. "Just friends..."

She wished the story ended there, that they'd gone back to being 'just friends' and everything had been fine and would still be fine, but things didn't always go perfectly.

Tara walked over to the window, looking out at all the houses on the street. His family had been renting that house, she told herself. It was only natural that they went and bought their own.

It was nighttime when Tara came home from her friend Janine's house, and she was surprised to see Jake and Jessie waiting for her in the living room. They looked up at her, giddy with excitement and trying to keep a straight face at the same time.

"Tara, Tara, this guy came and--"
"He waited for you for so long and--"
"He asked us where you were and--"
"He hugged Jake and he said it was for you and--"
"He told us to tell you this message!"

So they told her. Little kids have their own language and Tara didn't completely understand what her brother and sister were saying, but she did get the message.

I'm going today, he'd said. I'm sorry I didn't get to say goodbye. I still liked you a lot, even if we were 'just friends'. But this is the end, I guess.

All she had left was the stuffed bear he'd given her for Christmas. She found it really cute because it had a blue jacket that almost exactly matched his.

"Something to remember me by," he'd said, because they'd already known he was leaving.

"Just as a friend, right?"

He'd laughed. "Yeah, just as a friend."

It was just too much to take anymore. Tara tried to make excuses to herself, like the homework waiting or the fact that he hadn't called in a couple of months now, but on a strange impulse she picked up the phone and dialed his number.


"Hey. Alex? It's... Tara."

"Tara." Pause. "What's up?"

"Not much." She liked how he still sounded the same. "You?"


And then there was a short silence, but it wasn't too awkward. Tara waited.

"I miss you," he said, quickly as if he had to say it before he changed his mind.

If she was in a movie she'd have been wiping away tears or something, but Tara just grinned.

"Just as a friend, right?"

He laughed. "Yeah. Just as a friend."


(Please don't kill me :D)