Snuck up on Me
I was unsure about how I was supposed to go about telling you. You wouldn't still be mad at me for what I'd said before I left, that much I knew, but I had reason to be nervous.
All I knew was that I was standing there trying to think of how to tell you I went and did something that neither of us dared to imagine happening ever. You were just sitting there with a book, and there was nothing coming from you to help me out. Thanks a lot. You'd done a lot of the work so far, but I didn't see how I could manage it if I didn't just do it myself.
I remember when I first got a hint that maybe feelings weren't so platonic on your part.
I was dating Zoë at the time, but she didn't have our lunch. You and I were sitting at our lunch table; there were a few other people sitting there with us as per usual, friends kind of, but you and I both know that it's our combined presence that defines this table. It's strange that we only met because Natasha, my girlfriend, was your best friend's second-best friend, and even then it took a couple of weeks for you to tolerate me and months for you to consider us friends; despite that, especially since the pyrotechnic breakup of Natasha and me, teachers who have you and me in class have been known to guess that we've been friends since diapers.
You were fiddling with your soda can and staring off in another direction. I tried to capture your attention a few times, which isn't usually a challenge—I just have to be exaggeratedly chauvinistic, and you give me that withering look despite being well-aware that I'm joking—but you seemed unaware of my struggles, and that left me a little pissed.
Finally, when I nudged your shoulder, you snapped your gaze towards me, looking startled. I raised my eyebrows and asked if you were dreaming about Matthew. You said no rather quickly and seemed surprised that I'd asked you; when I asked why, you explained that you'd stopped liking him back in January and you thought you'd told me.
That was unexpected. Matthew tends to come across as a freak of nature: a member of four varsity sports teams per year, dedicated player of some instrument I can't be bothered to remember, unflinchingly well-behaved, and, most importantly when it comes to you, incredibly committed to maintaining his flawless GPA. I wasn't surprised when Natasha told me you had a crush on him—that was when I was still dating her and she'd tell me things about you and Robin to make up for my lack of things in common with her. However, the fact that Matthew was so perfect made your apparent newfound lack of interest surprising.
Not nearly as much as when you quirked a small smile and said you liked someone else and that I shouldn't bother asking who because you weren't telling.
As you must have known would happen, I ignored your advice and began to pester you with questions about him. You kept your mouth firmly shut, although there was a secretive sort of smirk on your face as I asked what he looked like, how he dressed, if he was in any of the classes we had together. It was plain that you were becoming more and more amused. Finally, I became frustrated and asked if I even knew him.
You tilted your head to the right and raised one eyebrow slightly, looking at me almost coolly. Then you assured me that I knew him better than most. I frowned; you shrugged. Before I could try my luck with another question, you directed your gaze away from me to Katrina, one of the "others" at the table. There was something in the way your eyes lingered on me before you directed them away that made me wonder, though.
I went out of state for the week-long spring vacation a couple of months later, and while I was gone, I managed to get you to tell me who the "mystery" crush was. Not that I actually needed to know; I just wanted a confirmation. Over the weeks since you had told me about your indifference to Matthew, I had become more observant, and my suspicions were mostly proven.
It began when I started up with the questions again, this time using my medium of choice: text messages. I asked about his eye color—you said it wasn't blue; I asked about his hair—you said it wasn't blond; I asked what he had that Matthew didn't—you said sarcasm and the ability to make you laugh; I asked if he was short—you said he was taller than you and that gave him bonus points; I asked if he smoked or drank—you said that you'd never forgive him if he did.
Finally, you admitted you were surprised I hadn't even guessed anyone. I told you I didn't have to guess. You asked who I thought it was; I called you on your to tell you that your crush was me.
Maybe it was because we weren't face-to-face, but you didn't seem too nervous when you calmly affirmed my bold declaration. I told you that I'd had a feeling for a while; you said you knew that—why else did I think you'd answered the questions? I asked if you had wanted me to know. You asked if it mattered. I said I was curious. I heard the smile on your voice when you asked me if I thought I'd have gotten so far with my questions if you hadn't wanted me to.
Things didn't really change between us; I started dating Julie soon after my return from vacation, and no matter how carefully I searched your face when I happened to be with her around you, all I ever saw was polite interest in the conversation. You were proficient as always at keeping whatever you were feeling hidden.
Like everyone, Julie wasn't able to outright dislike you, because you're so unassumingly pleasant around people you hardly know; it's only when you really get to know someone that your biting sarcasm and sharp wit come out. However, Julie did complain about you to me on a few occasions, never calling you anything except "her," but she stopped when I informed her that you were among my best friends.
Even when I found things getting more serious with Julie, I could never seem to stop myself from asking you the same question every couple of weeks—I had to know if you still liked me.
After the fifth time of you saying yes—Of course I still like you, why do you keep asking?—and the fifth time of me evading your perceptiveness—I was just checking, you know how I like to have my ego puffed up—I realized that I should stop asking, but I didn't.
You always rolled your eyes and accepted my claim of being self-centered, because I am and it was a plausible excuse, although you did always seem a little disappointed at that blatant flaw in my character; I knew the real reason, though, and it was unsettling. How were you supposed to guess that even if I couldn't promise you a single thing, I was afraid of you moving on to someone else? Not like you've ever been the type to change crushes every two weeks—I knew from Natasha that you'd liked Matthew for over a year; I just kept expecting you to reciprocate the feelings of one of the guys who liked you—Leo or Jonathan, among less serious ones.
One day near the end of lunch, with a valiant effort at remaining offhand, you informed the rest of us that Leo had asked you out. Everyone was shocked, because he's renowned in the school for being a pot-head with a penchant for dating ditzy freshmen three years younger than him—why was he going after you, a famously innocent junior with an intimidating GPA and cold disdain for drug-abuse? It wasn't an insult to you that everyone was astonished, and you knew that, so you just shrugged and told us you'd said no, of course.
I wasn't surprised like everyone else. He sought you out a lot, often during the few minutes per day you'd spend after school chatting to me and Julie. I'd noted the way he looked at you almost possessively, how he was particular about letting you know how cute he thought you were and making you stall for words awkwardly, and most of all, his daily insistence that you hug him. Being you, you'd always smile slightly and accept the hug, but you'd step away quickly, brushing your nose in discomfort.
If someone had asked me to hazard a guess at his motivations, I'd say that Leo wanted to date you because you were everything he wasn't. Maybe he felt that if he were able to obtain something uncorrupted, it would somehow make things easier for him. It would have been too blatant for me to assume the role of protective male friend, so I didn't, but I hope you know that if he had ever actually tried something, I would have stepped in.
While you had been careful to avoid my gaze when you first dropped this information, it didn't take long for your curiosity to overcome you; your eyes flicked upward from the table to gauge my reaction to your being asked out. I was expecting that, though, so I kept the smirk in place and the expression easygoing as I told you that he'd probably been too stoned to remember and you'd have to reject him again soon.
Jonathan was less dramatic. The constantly irritating, pompous kid was always trying and failing at getting you to realize that he liked you. What did he expect? He only had one class with you, and it happened to be the only class you had with your best friend Robin and also one of three periods you had with me, including lunch. You were too busy with us to be receptive to his inept flirtation.
Besides that, he was short and nerdy-looking with a whiny voice and pretentiousness that quite obviously grated your nerves; you never let your annoyance show, but there was a subtle tightening of your jaw whenever he wandered over to talk to you. I can't really blame him for liking you, though, because you were always nice to him, and you always called him "Jonathan" instead of "Jon" or "Johnny" like everyone—it probably made him feel special and shit.
Despite attention from other guys, you continued unperturbedly answering me in the positive when I casually asked if you still felt "that certain way" about me, and I was always relieved.
I knew my trip with Julie would be a failure before I even started it. It was all your fault, too.
Just before we were going to leave, I asked you—out of curiosity—what you had expected from telling me how you felt about me. Your jaw dropped slightly, and you asked if I was serious. I said I was, and you got more than a little miffed with me. You told me that, if I would remember correctly, it was me who had pestered your feelings out of you, and just what were you supposed to say to a question like that?
I was all too aware that I was treading dangerous waters when I detachedly asked you if you thought I felt the same way. You gave me that contemptuous glare, the one you save for me when I'm being a "sexist pig," but it lacked the tiny, fond half-smile to soften its effect. You icily declared that you weren't going to touch that question with a ten-foot pole and that I should answer it for myself first, because you were the one who had put feelings on the line, here. I held up my hands defensively, saying it was just a question. Then you relaxed slightly, managing a genuine if shaky grin when you said to have fun with Julie.
On the way to our destination, she kept on asking why I was so distracted and wouldn't believe me when I told her I was just thinking; finally I told her the truth, albeit rather vaguely, and said I had realized something disconcerting. Just a few days into the trip with Julie, we broke up in a rather venomous argument about loyalty; I decided to book it back home early.
I had hardly dropped my duffel bag in my own front hall before I turned around and got back in my car. You needed to be told.
Two minutes later, I was at your house, obsessively zipping and unzipping my winter jacket while I waited after ringing the bell. Your mother answered the door, and before I could ask, she told me you were at the bookstore.
I had to laugh—I should've guessed your whereabouts. As I drove, the beginnings of a plan started in my mind; assuming you were as easily startled as you were a week before, it was flawless. It wouldn't be perfect but it would have to do, because a bookstore's as good a place as any to make a declaration, don't you think?
Bwahahaha. See my profile for an A/N, but just out of curiosity, does this little tidbit remind you, dear reader, of any other works:)