A patch of warm sunlight fell upon my cheek, and I gingerly lifted my eyelids. My hand immediately curled around another, and I smiled as I saw a familiar sleeping face.

My best friend's shaggy dark hair fell into his eyes, and the fact that he hadn't shaved in a week increased his scruffy look. Cody's brilliant blue eyes were safely hidden at the time, and he had on a white tee-shirt. Its simplicity suited him well.

"Cody? You awake?" I whispered softly, even though I didn't want him to wake up. He didn't.

I let my head drop down on my pillow. Cody Williams and I had been longtime best friends. After we hit about freshman year, the gender difference never really mattered. He grew up with three sisters, and I grew up with two demonic boys. And by demonic, I mean the spawn of the devil.

Ever-so-gently, I brought his hand that I had been holding up to my pillow and lightly kissed it. We were both responsible enough that our parents let us sleepover at each other's houses without worry. We both has climbable trees right by our windows that proved very useful at night.

Small, tiny memories came wormed their way into my head like wisps of silvery fog. I unconsciously clenched my teeth.

"I can't believe we aced junior year!" I crowed on the way home from the very last day of school. "I thought I was going to fail Chemistry III for sure!"

Cody laughed in that carefree, sexy way of his. "Yeah. One more year and we're out of this small town."

"You doing anything over the summer?" I asked, prodding him in the stomach playfully.

He let out an "oof" and shook his head. "Not much. You?"

I laughed, entwining my hand with his. "Don't you know my social life better than anyone else?"

"So this means another hell of summer of Cody and 'that Hooks girl'?"

"Shut up! Some people just can't pronounce 'Tatianna', okay?" I scoffed, opening my binder and tossing forgotten homework into the air.

"You're littering," Cody scolded, grinning..

"So sue me," I replied, matching his brilliant smile. "Best f.ucking friends. BFF. I added, reciting our little oath.

"Forever and ever, you cheesy little girl.."

Those carefree summer days had been one of the best, I decided, watching Cody's eyelashes flutter as he breathed steadily.

In senior year, we ran into quite a bit of trouble. Even though Cody and I were still the best of friends, a new girl named Alison joined our friendship circle, and I soon considered her as my best girl-friend. Then. . . unconsciously, I fell in love with him. Hard.

I don't think he ever figured it out, but it killed me everyday, to want to tell Cody so much how I felt about him. But I was also scared to death about ruining our golden friendship.


My cell phone rang, and I eagerly snatched it up when I saw the caller I.D.

"Hey Cody."

"Listen, Tats? I need to talk to you," his low voice answered. "It's about this. . . girl."

"Oooh, Cody's got a crush?" I teased, trying to ignore my heart rate.

"Yeah. She's just. . . oh God. . . she's so funny, and nice, and so incredibly beautiful. Like, we're friends and everything, but I don't know if she likes me like this. God, Tats, I think she's so perfect for me," Cody rambled.

My heart sped up. "Do I know her?"

"You're practically best friends with her," he said. "we hang out everyday. I don't know. . . I mean, is it right to say that you've fallen for your best friend?"

Joyful tears leaked out of my eyes. "Oh my God, Cody. . . . I. . . I don't know what to say. . . "

"No, no," Cody rushed. "Don't tell Alison, I don't want her to know yet."

A cold feeling ripped through my heart, freezing it to small, dusty pieces.

"Wh-wh-what?" I whispered weakly.

"I know, it's kind of weird. But isn't Alison just so perfect? She's so smart, and nice, and when I hear her laugh---damn, I feel like I'm drowning." Cody paused for a moment. "Tatianna? You still there?"

"yeah."

"So do you think I should ask her out? I mean, do you think she likes me like this?" He pegged, unaware that my heart had been obliterated with his oblivious words.

"Cody. . . "

"Yeah?"

"I think. . . . I think. . . . " I scrunched up my eyes so that tears wouldn't fall out. "I think that you should. . . go for it."

"Thanks, Tatianna. I knew I could always count on you." And with that happy note, he hung up.

I kept the phone pressed against my ear long after Cody had left, wishing fervently that somehow, some way, he'd get back on the phone and tell me it was a joke, that he wasn't seriously in love with my best girl friend.

No such luck.

Finally, after maybe an hour, I slowly pushed the "off" button on my phone, crawled into bed, and sobbed myself to sleep.

A few tears came to my eyes and I scooted a little closer to the still sleeping Cody. I remembered how he had so excited asked Alison out, and how I had to wear a shiny fake smile around the two.

Contrary to Cody's thoughts, Alison was not the perfect girl, and they both ended their relationship a month later; Cody a little heartbroken, and Alison distant.

"Did you know you broke my heart?" I whispered, feeling him tighten his hand around mine in his sleep.

And then there was Daniel.

Daniel Cook has been one of those horribly popular jocks, with a notorious reputation around ladies. I shivered under the thin cotton cover at the memory of him.

"Whatcha doing all alone Tatianna Hooks?" a lazy, slightly stoned sounding voice drawled. Daniel stepped out from behind an SUV in the high school parking lot.

I was waiting for Cody to drive me home after a long day.

"Nothing that would interest you," I said shortly, smoothing my pleated black skirt and glaring at him.

The sun shone down on Daniel's dirty blonde hair and red Hollister shirt. He walked in a slightly drunken way towards me.

"Waiting for Williams, eh?"

I nodded stiffly.

"I could give you a ride, on one small condition," he leered. "We should get to know each other a little more, Tatianna."

"I'd rather eat mud than make out with a f.ucking manwhore like you."

"Ooh, you're good." He took a step closer to me, nearly treading on my laceless Converse shoes. "But it's just one little kiss. . . . "

I ducked as his head came towards me. Daniel banged into the fender of a truck and growled.

"Come here!" he ordered savagely, grabbing onto my thin wrists and jerking me towards him.

I struggled, but his steroid pumped muscles didn't budge. "Get off of me! Get off!" I shrieked.

"Feisty little girl," he mumbled slyly. "You're going to be fun---"

But he never got to finish his sentence. From out of no where, something attacked the guy and pinned him to the ground, swearing very loudly..

"Cody!?!?" I gasped in disbelief. "What are you. . . . what are. . ."

For it was my best friend, savagely kicking the crap out of Daniel Cook. For such a thin guy, Cody was pretty wiry and had enough muscles from swimming a lot.

"Cody! Stop it!" I yelled, not really wanting him to stop. Eventually, a teacher arrived and tore the two apart. It was a looooong and sulky ride back home.

I sighed happily. God, this boy had broken my heart over and over, and mended it back with gold thread countless times. If only. . . .

Shaking my head slightly and wiping off some stray tears, I watched Cody's sleeping face. Ever since I was little, I'd sneak over sometimes in the middle of the night if I couldn't sleep, or if my parents were fighting. Something about his warm blankets and steady breathing comforted me.

Cody had been with me through so many things, like my parents' bitter divorce. I remember how I had locked everyone out of my room, and he'd climb in through the window just to hold me and listen to me cry.

"Cody?!?" I whispered in disbelief as my bedroom window slid open and a familiar figure climbed in, swearing slightly as he got whacked my the oak tree.

"Your oak tree is vicious," he replied, lowering himself down onto my bed and slid over towards where I was huddled in a tight ball. "And the Tats that I know is too."

A small sob erupted from my throat. "Cody. . . I don't know anymore. I think I just want to curl up and . . . just sleep," I whispered, trying to wipe away my tear streaked face.

The thin brunette boy looked over to where I had taped up a picture of my parents, happily smiling and together, on my mirror.

"It's not your fault you know," He whispered gently, finding my hand and lacing his fingers around mine.

"I don't know. . . maybe if I was smarter. . . or more athletic. . .or more popular. . . maybe then they would have stayed together and had the perfect life," I whimpered.

"Tatianna, this isn't your fault. You need to stop blaming yourself," he said seriously. "If the mighty Tats goes down, what is the rest of Northside High supposed to do?"

I said nothing.

"Do you really think that anything you could have done would have kept your parents together? Tats. . . I dont want to be mean, but they married when they were 18. That's how old you are." Cody paused for a moment. "Sometimes young people dont' really make the best choices. But one good thing came out of their marriage."

"What?" I asked, leaning into him and breathing his soothing, spicy cologne.

"You."

I couldn't have thought of a sweeter, nicer, more perfect boy at that moment than my own Cody Williams. . . my heart and soulmate. He wasn't all perfect. He got jealous a lot too.

Like that time I had gone to the Winter dance with Tom, one of his buddies. Cody was jealous and hostile the whole week, until I broke up with Tom.

At the time I thought he was jealous because he liked me too. But later I decided it was just a best-friend kind of jealous, which was not the kind I wanted.

But oh. . . we had so many good times together, like just simply raking the leaves in Mr. Simmons's yard. Throwing leaves at each other like maniacs was pure bliss in those troublesome times. So was having those cherished snowball fights in the winter.

"I got you!" I yelled, almost hoarse from screaming so much. My cheeks were pink with the cold and I had my deerstalker's hat on lopsided.

"No you didn't! You missed!" Cody called back from behind his fort. He was always so good at making things out of snow.

With my drenched gloves, I packed another snowball and launched it at his bright green parka, a satisfying thunk sounding in the air.

"Ha! Gotcha that time!"

But before I could even react, Cody had sent another one at my face.

I howled, clawing at the icy cold mush sliding down my coat. "You f.ucking little---"

Cody laughed manically and crawled over the best he could in his soggy jeans. He pulled off his flannel gloves and gently, oh so gently, wiped the snow from my face.

His hands had been surprisingly warm, and he grinned at the sight of my crooked hat.

"Thanks," I murmured.

"You're welcome." He crawled back behind his fort, and without warning, two new snowballs were flying at me. Both hit me squarely in the shoulder, and I shrieked, half in exhilaration, half from the cold.

"This means war, my best f.ucking friend."

"I wouldn't have it any other way."

I shifted my position on the bed and looked up at the numerous posters pasted around the room. Reliant K, the old Greenday, AFI, Coldplay, and a whole bunch of smaller bands I didn't know existed.

There were lots of pictures of the two of us, ranging from age 7 to age 18. My eyes traveled from these pictures and fell upon a hunting magazine with a gun on its cover, and my heart twisted a little.

Cody ran into really hard times when his older brother shot himself, and his parents started to travel a lot, leaving him at home by himself. I often went over to his house or just stayed with him, but I don't think he ever was the same again.

He used to get pretty decent grades in school, since he always dreamed of becoming a screenplay writer. He really was into drama and movies. . . . we'd go see a movie almost every weekend. Cody even worked afternoon shifts at the local theater so that we could get discounts.

But his grades began to fall, and he was caught several times trying to leave the school campus before the day was over. From other people, he became quieter, more secretive. But I didn't notice.

Gone was the mischievous sparkle in his eyes when he laughed, replaced by a dull, vacant look. I never really discovered just how much in trouble Cody was in until that fateful March day.

My home phone rang shrilly, on and on. I was lying on my bed, thumbing through the latest People magazine and didn't bother to pick it up. Besides, most of my friends never called me at home. That was what my cell was for.

Eventually the machine picked it up, and I gave a start when I recognized the breathy voice on the other end.

"Tats? I can't take it anymore. I. . . I. . . I need to end it. My parents don't care about me. My brother isn't here anymore. I'm going where he is. I just want you to know that. . . well. . . you're my one and only best friend out there." Here he broke into a strangled sob. "It'll just make things better if Im not here---"

With alarm and worry, I picked up the phone, hoping to God that it was all a joke.

"Cody? Cody, are you there?"

"Tatianna?" He answered slowly. "Did you hear me?"

I took a few calming breaths, but they didn't really work. "Cody, you need to listen to me. You need to stay right where you are. I'm coming over. Now," I said firmly.

"Tats, it's better if I go. Everyone will be happier."

"NO!" I almost yelled, my heart thrashing wildly. "NO! NO! NO! Cody, you can't go!"

"Why not?" Cody asked back, bitterness in his voice.

I took another breath. "You're. . . you're being selfish."

"What?!?" there was definite anger in his voice.

"Cody. . . you're thinking only of yourself. I mean, what am I supposed to do with my best friend gone? What do you think your parents are going to do?" Tears streamed down my face.

"My parents won't care. They never have and never will."

"You need to listen to me!" I shrieked back. "Forget your parents then! How the hell am I supposed to live, knowing that you are gone?"

"I guess you'll have to figure that out, Tats."

"Cody!!! I mean it!" My voice started to go hysterical. "You can't go without me!"

"Tats. . . . yes I can."

I started sobbing into the phone. "You're the best friend I've ever had! You're going to college this fall, on a f.ucking swim scholarship!! You've got a great life ahead of you." I broke down. "Why are you going to throw all of that away? Don't you care? About yourself? About our friends? About ME?!?!"

The other line became quiet. I started praying.

"I do care, Tats."

"About what?" I sobbed.

"You."

"Then wait for me, okay?" I begged. "Let me at least spend the last minutes of your life with you? Can't you grant me that one wish?"

Silence.

"Cody?"

"Fine."

Temporary relief washed over me, and I practically flew, sock feet in March, across the yard and into the familiar old Williams house. I tore open the door, thundered through the kitchen, and flung myself down into the furnished basement.

Cody sat against the wall, a bottle of vodka in one hand and a small revolver on the other. His blue eyes eyed me warily as I approached him, trying to wipe off my tears.

"Cody?!?" I whispered, slowly sitting down beside him. "Are you still with me here?"

a strange, ghostlike smile spread across his beautiful face. "Tats."

I grabbed both of his thin, ice cold hands and tried to spread some warmth into them. "Don't worry Cody. The world may not care about you, but I do."

Cody muttered something under his breath.

"What?" I pried gently.

"To the world you may be just someone, but to someone you may be the world," he hoarsely whispered.

I smiled through my tears. "You are my world, Cody Williams."

Another strange grin. "You are mine."

Slowly, oh-so-slowly, I reached over and took the gun away from his limp hand. Cody didn't make any move to object.

I unloaded the gun, knowing how to because my father used to hunt so much, and kept a small collection f the weapons. Then, I tossed the useless thing aside.

"Remember when you comforted me when my parents divorced?" I said.

Cody nodded, almost dazedly.

"Well, I'm going to help you get through this, okay? You were there for me. I'm here for you." With that, I hugged my best friend as tight as I could. "BFF. Best f.ucking friends, Code-man."

"Forever and ever," he croaked.

Cody seemed to collapse in my arms, and started sobbing quietly. I don't know how long we sat in his basement, me holding him and him talking and cursing and confessing everything. But I knew that Cody, my best friend, was going to be alright.

The pillow my head was on was thoroughly drenched as I realized how close I had come to losing him. A thousand times a day I cursed myself for not telling him the truth, for not telling him that I honest-to-God loved him.

I looked over at Cody and smiled at his still sleeping form. Maybe now was the time.

"I love you Cody Williams," I said quietly.

Just as I had half expected, half hoped, nothing happened. Then a bold idea wormed its way into my mind.

I hesitated, watching him sleep so peacefully. Then, before I could stop myself, I leaned over, took a deep breath, and kissed him on his perfect, angel-like lips.

At that moment, Cody's eyes flew open and his brilliant blues were exposed to me. I gasped, broke away, and blushed terribly.

"I. . . . Im sorry," I whispered.

He stared at me for a moment with an unreadable, dazed look on his face. Then, without even thinking for a moment, Cody's hands reached out behind my neck and pulled me into him for another, mind blowing kiss.

I wanted to stay in that heavenly bliss forever, inhaling his sweet cologne and boyish smell, running my hands through his soft, blackish hair, and putting all of my weight onto his warm body.

But maybe seconds or minutes or maybe even hours later, I broke a way first and gaped at him.

"Why did you. . . what did you. . . how. . . . " I stuttered, getting lost in his eyes.

"What took you so long, Tatianna Hooks?" he whispered as a reply.

I blushed again and laid my head on his chest. "Ever since senior year. . . . but how did you know?"

"I woke up when you were sobbing. In time to hear you say that you loved me," He smiled.

"And you. . . what about you?"

Cody ran his hand through his hair. "Loved you since you went out with Tom."

"So for a year we've been best friends when we could have been going out?" I asked in disbelief.

"It doesn't matter anymore," he assured me, giving me another delicate kiss. "God, you're so beautiful."

"Right back at ya," I answered, with a bit of sauciness.

"BFF?" he questioned, enclosing my hand within his own.

"What, best f.ucking friends?"

"No." That sexy grin was back on his face. "best f.ucking boyfriend

"That doesn't match," I argued lightly.

"Does it matter? BBF. Whaddaya say?"

"Forever and ever," I concluded, a new sort of light happiness spreading within my body.