Of Boundaries and Pranks: A Love Story
Summary: What's a guy to do when being friends is just not enough anymore? Be confused and notice things he never did before, that's what. And hope it will soon end, so his life would make sense again. Sadly, life's not co-operating. Humorous approach to a cliché budding romance - or so it was intended. Reviews most welcome.
A.N.: I slightly revised the story and for the sake of better comprehension divided it in two chapters. No major changes, though.
'Please, please, please, please, please….'
Andrew gritted his teeth at the monotone sound the girl sitting opposite him was emitting. For the last seven minutes she'd been moaning in a high pitched tone with occasional squeak thrown in for – he presumed – special effects. Since there was just one word in her self-composed 'song', he'd tried to stop listening after first twenty seconds, but the shrill sound was unbearable. It was very irritating. Andrew was about to give up. Besides, she'd been working like a crazed ant for two weeks and deserved to have some fun. He could give it to her; that's what best friends were for. The waitresses were starting to look real funny at them, too. And there was another reason. Lately, he didn't seem able to tell her no. Apparently their latest battle of wills was not going to end in his favour.
'Quit whining already, Emma! Alright, alright, you'll get your way today! Something fun? Okay, let me think. Errm… Hmmm… Oh, we could go out and have a picnic in the park. Weather's fine enough. Or, or, we could go to the Zoo! No, wait. I know. We could go shopping. What d'you say? You like shopping. That would be fun, right?' He looked a bit pained at the prospect but managed to cover it under a half smile quite decently.
'As much as I appreciate your self-sacrificing offer to spend endless hours in the mall, I actually already have something in mind, silly. I just asked to be polite,' Emma smirked, quickly accepting her victory.
Andrew raised an eyebrow when she called year's longest whine-fest mere 'asking'. She shrugged it off and resumed devouring half-melted ice cream in front of her.
'Well?' he asked after a long pause that Emma filled with enthusiastic ice cream consuming and spoon licking.
'Well what, Andy?' she returned with fake innocence and smacked her lips.
Andrew sighed and let his eyes wander out of the window. He hated the nickname, and she knew it. It seemed like today was just one of those torturous days. Perhaps she'd had the monthly misunderstanding with her mother last night, and Andrew was facing the consequences now. Or, she had PMS but God forbid he'd mention that. He gave her a long-suffering look and resigned himself to following the flow. Resistance was useless today. Patience was the key.
Sometimes Andrew could not figure out how they'd become friends in the first place. It had been over ten years ago, maybe they were different at the time. No, that wasn't true. They both had changed over the years; that was a given. They were grownups now but Andrew could still see in Emma the impish girl he first met as a fifteen year old student.
Not wasting time, Andrew managed to get himself in a detention during the first week at the new school. He'd been bored beyond belief when a petit girl with elfish face in the desk behind him passed him a note with detailed and surprisingly imaginative instructions for escape. Andrew passed the note back with few additions. She scanned the paper and nodded in approval.
In five minutes they created effective diversion and bolted. After hiding in the basement and a fit of laughter she appraised Andrew thoughtfully and then said with mischievous grin, 'I think this will be fun! I'm Emma. Want some ice cream?' They'd been inseparable since.
The hardest part of their friendship had been during high school years. Turned out they had some major clashes in characters, and extremely conflicting opinions about every essential question.
She thought academic education was above everything else, he absolutely did not. He loved squash; she considered it a pointless waste of time in a big glass box. He often found her manners over-enthusiastic and silly. She thought he was a covert prude. She read too much; he wouldn't touch a book if he could avoid it. She couldn't live without ice cream and hated cold weather; he believed ice cream was a stupendous mistake resulting from someone's attempt at voodoo cooking and relished in winter sports. She was very proud about her incredibly high intelligence coefficient; he thought instinct and luck were more important.
They bickered and quarrelled. They criticized each other, and then had spectacular yelling contests and magnificent public scenes that amused the rest of the school. They didn't speak for days after bigger fights; yet, always, always one of them would capitulate, swallow pride and make – preferably, public - apology. They both enjoyed publicity and attention the brawls attracted to them.
No wonder everyone, even their parents, had thought they were lovers. They were not, though. Of course, they had tried out some kissing and groping at a drunken party once. It had been like kissing a sibling. It'd simply felt very, very wrong. After the incident they sealed the deal – best friends in this life. Something more in the next one, if ever.
Over the years they became each other's confidants and secret keepers. They tested potential boyfriends or girlfriends by inviting them to dinner dates for three. Andrew remembered several hysterically funny scenes from such dates. Like the time when Emma had covertly invited his typical blond air-head of a date – there'd been a period when blond air-heads with impressive assets was all he dated - to tell the friends more about all threesomes she's participated in, loudly implying that she'd heard the girl was always up for it. That information had drawn a good deal of rapt attention from other tables. The poor girl hadn't caught on at first (not surprising at all, considering her flimsy mental capacity) but when she finally did, her face expression and bright blush of humiliation was worth millions. Seriously, people got paid lots of money for looks like that in all those hidden camera shows. She'd literally fled the restaurant after gaping in mortified silence at guffawing friends. 'She had it coming,' Emma had stated latter and explained that the nitwit bimbo had been a major wretch to a co-worker of hers, mocking him to no end for an attempt to ask her out. Andrew grinned at the memory.
Pranks were things Emma and Andrew were good at, especially together. They pulled pranks on each other whenever they could. When they couldn't, they pulled pranks together on other people, and not all of them included public humiliation. They had more imagination then that.
On their prank-free time they discussed their lovers down to anatomy, complained about hard schoolwork, too much work, foolish colleagues and other everyday troubles. They cooked inedible fantasy meals and – after examining results - ordered pica on Saturday nights. They bunked over on each other's coach at least once a week when they were both dateless. They spent endless hours in the local park just walking and talking about everything under the sun. That was a lot of hours in ten years, and lots of words exchanged. Sometimes Andrew thought he couldn't possibly have anything else to tell Emma, or to learn about her, but life always presented something new and exciting.
And – most importantly – their friendship was still the most fun and safe thing in their lives. Which made Andrew's present problem all the more aggravating.
Andrew tried to force his wandering mind to return to the matter at hand. Emma was still occupied with the ice cream, oblivious to his reminiscent mood. What did she want? Get drunk? Go swimming? No, please, no swimming. Definitely not. Swimming had reverted Andrew to his current state of pathetic mess and guilty conscience.
And it was all Emma's fault, too. Really, if not for her brilliant idea to throw him a birthday party at the water attraction park two months ago, he'd be a sane and reasonable man today. But no, Emma wanted a grand, fun party to cheer Andrew up after he lost one of his biggest clients.
"You're gonna love it! Imagine swimming pools, waterfalls, hot air, tropical cocktails! Girls! Lots of wet, beautiful girls in bikinis! I'm gonna only invite people you like, no cousin Fred or Freaky Margaret. I promise! Although Margaret is fun… oh, well. Stop moping already and say yes!" She prodded him for days until Andrew agreed just to get her off his back. Emma could be persistent like that.
The party was fun, just as she predicted. Emma really hadn't invited any people he disliked. He loved the gifts. Emma concocted a new rum cocktail just for him. Music was good. Girls were quite lovely. He felt at peace with the world and wanted to thank Emma for the wonderful idea. He turned to the side of the swimming pool where she rested. And that moment the oddest thing happened.
Suddenly transfixed, he stood rooted to the spot and stared at the vision before him. Glittering water trickled down Emma's body while she unconsciously traced the wet drops on her hip with gentle fingers. She had a look of complete contentment about her, like a lascivious, happy kitten. Then she stood up languorously and waved him, flashing a brilliant smile. Andrew felt his mouth go dry. Some basic and dangerous notion erupted in his brain, screeched 'MINE!' and raced throughout him, leaving a hot trail. Feeling dizzy, Andrew forced his legs to move and promptly threw himself in the coldest pool he could find. It didn't help much. That night he woke up in cold sweat from delicious, sensuous nightmare where Emma was doing unspeakable things to him with her tongue while dressed in a tiny bathing suit. And that was just the start.
The following weeks were scary as hell, and very confusing. Noticing, watching, dreaming. Casual hugs Emma gave him so often turned into frightening and highly anticipated issues. Somehow, he'd never before noticed how enticingly her breasts pressed against his chest or how sweetly her hair smelled of roses and all things green. Now it was all Andrew could think about. Her signatory 'thank-you' kisses often made him hide in the bathroom to cool down.
Her sly smirks that meant she was in a mood to taunt and tease him, fluttering her eyelashes and looking all innocent angel and evil temptress at the same time now rendered him on the verge of doing something unthinkable. On good old days of the past he'd been ready to strangle her when she acted like that, he remembered nostalgically.
Somehow he had managed to keep his act together so far. Hiding the foolish slip of judgement was Andrew's top priority.
And foolish it was. He knew for certain he couldn't do anything about this new-found fascination. One simply did not give their best friend of all times even the slightest hint of that kind. No matter how much one wanted to. Drop it, mate, Andrew chided himself daily; you don't want to ruin things. This is wrong. This is Emma. She's your best friend, remember? You don't think about tangled limbs and hot, sweaty bodies where she and you are involved. You don't see things like that in your best friend. You simply do not notice her lips, and the line of her neck. You don't see the way she sways her hips. Or how her soft hair curls against her cheeks. It's the first rule in the 'Survival Guide for Best Friends of Opposite Sex'. You wrote that book yourself years ago.
You try something, you lose your friend. It'd never be the same. You don't want that, do you? Besides, it will all end any day now. You simply haven't had sex for too long. Anything female would look good by now. You just have to get laid and all this crazy stuff will be out of your head. And if you repeat that for enough times it might actually settle in your thick head. And the world would make sense again.
Sad part was, it looked like the crazy stuff was in no hurry to leave. To make it all worse – the fact that it could get any worse was surprising in itself – Andrew could swear he'd recently picked up more then one time when he could not read Emma. They'd speak, and something would flash in her eyes that he just did not get. Some of her smiles were so warm that they made his knees go weak. Andrew fancied he knew the smiles; he'd seen her smile like that at her favourite boyfriends. Two weeks ago, when he'd carried her across a large puddle, she'd clung to him just a tad longer then strictly necessary. And sometimes Emma ruffled his hair so tenderly that it was almost a caress. Andrew didn't dare to ask her what that was all about but couldn't help calling them 'mixed signals' in his mind. Talk about wishful thinking.