I plastered a smile on my face as soon as I got to the airport and ducked into the nearest ladies washroom I could find. Stood in front of the mirror, checking my face for a trace of the tears I had cried in the bus on the way. Apart from some faint dark circles under my eyes, I was good to go. I made a mental note to buy some more of that tear proof makeup, it really did work! And as a plus, I would look good when I was saying goodbye to Ryan.
At the thought of Ryan, I felt my eyes brim over again and I leaned against the sink to steady myself. Stupid, stupid Ryan! Why did he have to be so damn good at basketball, so good that he secured a basketball scholarship at Duke University and was leaving in less than an hour? It wasn't that I wasn't happy about Ryan's achievements; he'd surprised me along with everyone who knew him when he had showed us his Duke Acceptance letter. In high school Ryan was famous for his cocky smile, his beautiful girlfriends, his great game and his slacking off. Between us, we always had more than three detentions per week. We were best friends. Life was all good. Except it wasn't. Because now, he was going to be exactly 2498 miles away from me and the next time I would see him was in December. The tears threatened to overwhelm me again and I held them back. I had to be strong, just for a few hours. There was time enough to cry when Ryan was gone. I smiled a bit, thinking that for once I would have something in common with Ryan's beauty queen girlfriend, Khandi- we would both miss Ryan like crazy. But we already did have something in Common, me and Khandi; we were both in love with Ryan.
It had begun as a joke, the strong feelings I now had for him. After all, I've known him all my life and the last thing I ever expected when I hit 15 was to fall for my best friend. But we played Spin the Bottle at my 15th birthday party and when it was my turn to Spin, the bottle had pointed straight at Ryan. So we got up and he led me outside because, as he explained to me, he didn't want any nosy people distracting him. I really was not expecting him to softly tilt my head back, run his hands through my hair and smile just before he kissed me. I was definitely not expecting his lips to be so soft and to taste of cotton candy as they moved gently over mine. I didn't think I would kiss him back, but I did, and that was the moment I fell head over heels for my best friend. Of course, I couldn't tell him. At the time he was dating the first in a long line of beauties, a girl called Anthea, if I remember correctly. Plus, I had read too many horror stories about what happens when you start dating your best friend and Ryan was pretty much the only close friend I had. I didn't want to lose what we had, so I just kept my crush to myself. As it happens, my crush grew bigger, bigger, til it was definitely love. And now the only guy I had ever loved was leaving, and there was nothing I could do but smile bravely as I said goodbye to him.
My cell phone chirped, sounding obscenely loud in the silence of the washroom. I felt around in my handbag for it and unflipped it. Khandi. Great.
"Hi, Stacie, where are you?" she asked in that annoying, breathy voice of hers. I hated it. She thought it was sexy but I personally saw nothing sexy about sounding like you had just run a 3 miler.
"At the airport. Where are you guys?" I asked, checking my reflection again.
"We just got here. Meet us in the Departure lounge," she replied, sounding business like as usual. I hated it when anyone but Ryan and my Dad bossed me around and Khandi knew it. She also knew that if she was a perfect bitch to me, I wouldn't tell Ryan because I'm not one of those girls who complain about people being mean to me. I outgrew that in the 4th Grade. Sometimes, I thought I sensed that Khandi knew I had feelings for Ryan because whenever I was around them, she acted a bit too touchy feely and she was always trying to hook me up with her boring friends. Plus, she was always way too mean to me, even though I had never dissed her before. As soon as Ryan left, I was planning to delete her contacts from my phone, block her on Facebook, Myspace and Hi5, and generally act like she didn't exist. I was looking forward to that.
"Okay," I sighed. There was some background noise and I wondered vaguely what she was doing. Shouldn't she be saying bye and hanging up? We didn't have anything else to talk about. Then I remembered that it was her minutes being wasted, not mine, so I held on.
"Hey, Stace? That you?"
Oh, sweet Lord. It was Ryan.
"Hey, Ryan," I said softly.
"Where are you for real? Khandi says you still at home, but I don't believe her for some reason."
I could tell he was laughing on the other end. Ryan knew that Khandi and I didn't get along and he was always trying to get us to like each other. Needless to say, he had failed more times than I cared to mention. I was open to trying to get along with Khandi, but she just hated me.
"I'm in the washroom at the airport," I told him.
"You okay? Want me to come there and get you?" he asked in a concerned voice that almost made me melt. I shook my head, like he could see me over the phone.
"No, I'm cool. I'll be at the Departure lounge in a few minutes," I said, trying to keep my voice calm.
"Kay. Did you come with your dad?" he asked.
"No, he had to work."
My Dad and Ryan bonded over almost anything. They IM'ed each other constantly, exchanged baseball cards and watched NHL games together. When Dad found out that Ryan was going to Duke, he was probably happier than Ryan himself.
"Oh, crap." Ryan was silent for a long moment. "I guess I'll have to call him. Yo, you coming or what?"
"I said I'm coming," I grumbled, reaching into my handbag for my No. 5 perfume spray and spraying myself with it liberally.
"Okay, okay, I'll keep a lookout," Ryan laughed. His voice turned serious. "I'm real glad you decided to come say bye in person, Stace. It would have been so weird if you had just sent me an email."
"Stop it, you'll make me start crying again," I sniffled. Why did he have to be so sweet? Why?
"Hurry up and get here then! Don't lose your way, aight? Love ya Stace."
He always said 'love ya' at the end of each and every phone conversation we had, something that made Khandi mad. It was our own crazy ritual.
"Love ya, Ry," I said and hung up. Khandi would probably have killed him if we had stayed talking much longer. I took one last look at myself in the mirror, dusted my shoulder off and walked out of the washroom.
By the time I found the Departure lounge, I had regained my composure. Ryan saw me first and he jumped up from where he had been sitting with Khandi, his parents and his little sister Roxanna to hug me.
"So you finally showed," he said in my ear as he rubbed my back vigorously.
"Did you think I wouldn't?" I joked. He took a step back and looked at me for a few seconds. I tried, but I couldn't look him in the eyes.
"I'm glad you did," he finally said. Not wanting to be left out in the cold, Khandi came up to me and gave me about 5 thousand air kisses on each cheek.
"So glad you could make it, sweetie," she said breezily.
I said hi to Ryan's parents, who were like my parents. They'd taken care of me when my Mom had died and my Dad had been in hospital for two months. And Roxanna was like the little sister I never had. We found common ground on our dislike of Khandi.
Khandi got us organized to take photo's, prompting Roxanna to start crying and hug Ryan, wailing "I don't want you to go, who's gonna coach me in Basketball?"
"I will," Khandi chirped.
Roxanna gave her a dirty look before replying "I don't want you. You can't even dribble!"
I fought back the urge to laugh as Ryan's dad took photos of us on his digital camera. Ryan and Khandi went to get Ryan checked in and I stood with my arms around Roxanna, who was still crying, making small talk with Ryan's parents. I felt pretty proud of myself. I wasn't acting up or anything. Granted, I had barely spoken to Ryan. I was doing my best to avoid him, because I knew if I talked to him, I would say something I shouldn't. Still, even though I patted myself on the back for being 'grown' about this whole situation, I couldn't help thinking that Ryan knew I was avoiding him and knew it was only a matter of time before he called me aside. You can't be friends for so long without knowing these things. And I was being nice to Khandi, I was being bizarrely chipper and loud, so I knew someone had to notice that my happy face act was just that- an act. Sure enough, after he had put his luggage on the baggage carousel, Ryan came up to me.
"Yo, Stace, wanna come check out the gift shop? I got to buy my grandma in Charlotte a present," he said. I nodded and he put his arm around my shoulder and hustled me around the corner to the gift shop. We picked out various useless items in silence until Ryan asked me out of the blue, "What's eating you, Stace?"
I looked up hurriedly.
"Nothing," I said quickly. He set down the miniature gold tea set he had been looking at and moved closer til he was right in front of me.
"Yeah, right. You been acting weird ever since you heard I was leaving. You never look me in the eye anymore. You flinch every time I touch you. And today, you acting so damn happy I'm starting to think you want me gone," he said squarely. That sent me over the edge and once again I felt tears roll down my cheeks.
"You think I want you gone?" I sniveled, looking up at him for the first time. I noticed that he looked as upset as I felt, and I felt like the biggest type of loser. Here I was, wallowing in a pit of self pity and my best friend was leaving and feeling as bad as I was. Ryan shrugged.
"I don't know, Stace. I can tell there's something wrong, and it probably has nothing to do with me leaving. You okay?"
"Why don't I believe you?" he mused, almost talking to himself.
"I don't know," I said. "I'm sad that you're leaving. I mean, you are my best friend. It would be weird if I was okay."
He sighed in answer to this and looked me in the eye for a couple of seconds. He looked so sad and so cute, that it was all I could do to stop myself from holding him as close as possible.
"Look, Stace, I know we haven't hung out as much the past few months, but….." his voice trailed off and he gave me a puppy dog look which almost broke my heart.
"I know," I whispered. Of course I knew. He had been playing house with Khandi, who would keep him under lock and key if she could. In fact, at this very minute, she was probably bugging Ryan's parents to come look for him.
"Thing is, I just- I don't know how to tell you this," Ryan sighed.
Well, of course, that fed my curiosity.
"What?" I asked slowly. I had the feeling I wasn't going to like it.
"Khandi is- well, me and her are-" he started, looking pained. It suddenly hit me and I looked at Ryan in dismay.
"You and Khandi are getting married?" I exclaimed. The look of shock on Ryan's face confirmed it.
"Stace, when-" he said but I wasn't done yet. With tears running down my face, I let him have it.
"You can stand in front of me and tell me you have a chronic disease, I can deal with that. You can tell me you're moving to Alaska, I can cope! But how do you expect me to react when you tell me you're getting married to Khandi? Do you expect me to smile and say congratulations? Because I can't, Ryan! I just can't say congrats, I can't be happy for you. You can't ask me to do that!"
I knew I was being loud, but I didn't care. I was through with trying to act like I liked Khandi. I wasn't thinking along the lines of 'if I can't have him, no one can'. I was thinking 'he's going to be so miserable if he takes up with Khandi'.
Ryan's shocked expression had been replaced with a surprised and amused one. I thought it was very unfair. Here I am, crying my eyes out over him, and the love of my life wants to start laughing? I drew myself up to my full height of 5"3, took a deep breath and said in the calmest voice I could conjure "I think I'ma go back to the Departure lounge."
I turned my back on Ryan and started to walk out of the gift shop. Before I had even gone two steps, Ryan pulled me back and turned me around to face him. He ran his hands through my hair and gave me a concerned look.
"Stace, what is wrong with you?" he asked seriously, wiping away my tears. That made me cry even harder.
"You're leaving, you just told me you're getting married to someone I hate- Ryan, I know we're supposed to be best homies, but I don't think I can take it," I sobbed.
"Are you feeling okay?" Ryan asked again. I was getting sick of that question. Hell no, I wasn't feeling okay. At the rate things were going, I wasn't sure if I would ever feel okay again.
"No, Ryan, as you can see, I'm not feeling okay! How can I feel okay?" I prattled. "The one guy, the one guy I've ever loved is leaving and he tells me he wants to get married to a girl who would be happy to see me dead! I am-oops."
Me and my utterly huge mouth.
Ryan narrowed his eyes and stared at me. His hands were still on my shoulders and I started to tremble. Why, oh why had I even turned up? I should have stayed at home like I had originally planned, then I wouldn't have let slip this huge secret of mine.
"So, I'm gonna assume that this guy you love who's leaving is someone I know?" Ryan finally said, a teasing tone in his voice. I slumped and looked down at my feet. I really could not take anymore. I just wanted to go home, lock myself in my room and cry.
"It doesn't matter," I said quietly, not meeting Ryan's eyes. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered anymore.
"It does matter," Ryan insisted. "He's making you cry, so I figure you should tell me who he is and I should go kick his ass."
"Ryan- stop it. Please. Just stop it," I wept, tears falling onto my Timberland boots.
"Aw, please, Stace. Stop crying. You know I hate it when you cry," Ryan said, pulling me into a hug. I leaned against his hard, muscular chest and cried into his white t-shirt.
"Well, you stop bullying me first," I sniffed.
"Okay….so this guy you love. I'm assuming it's me, right?"
"What's the point? You're into Khandi, it doesn't even matter," I replied.
Ryan stepped back from me and once more wiped the tears from my face.
"It does matter," he said softly. "It matters very much."
And before I knew what was happening Ryan had bent his head down, put his lips on mine and was kissing me so softly and sweetly that I couldn't believe it was happening. He licked my lips and slowly sucked on my bottom lip, his hands moving down my back gently. His mouth tasted of mint bubblegum and as his tongue touched mine I kissed him back slowly. I was sure this was happening in some dream, but like all good dreams, I didn't want it to stop. After a long five seconds or so, Ryan pulled back and looked at me like he wasn't quite sure where he was.
"Wow," he murmured. I put my hand up to my mouth.
"Ryan, what…." I started, and then my voice trailed off. What had just happened? Had Ryan just kissed me or was I imagining it?
"That was even better than I imagined," smiled Ryan.
"You just-" I started.
"Kissed you, yeah." He looked pleased with himself.
"But, you and Khandi-".
I seemed incapable of speaking in full sentences. I didn't know if it was because of the kiss, or because I was shocked that Ryan, my best friend, had kissed me. Probably both. Rule No. 2 in the Friend Rule Book- you don't kiss you're friends unless you're drunk, very stupid or you love them.
Ryan sighed and hugged me closer before he answered me.
"I never told you I wanted to marry Khandi. I was actually gonna tell you that I was about to dump her, then you had to drop your revelation." He gave me a self-satisfied grin. "And what a revelation it was."
I still didn't understand. At all.
"So, if you're dumping Khandi- why did you kiss me? Why did you kiss me at all? I mean, just because I told you- what I told you, doesn't mean- anything," I said. I really didn't understand what was coming out of my mouth, but at least I was talking in semi-sentences again.
"I kissed you because I've been wanting to kiss you for years," Ryan told me simply.
My mouth opened in shock.
"What?" I exclaimed. Ryan shrugged.
"I love you, Stace. I've loved you for a span, but, damn. I know how many friendships been ruined because one friend fell for the other friend and I didn't know how you felt about me. Scared of rejection, I guess. But there, I've said it. I love you. And I'm guessing that, since you said you love me too, we can work something out?" His brown eyes were hopeful and my heart, which had sunk down to my boots when I woke up, surged up into my mouth, it seemed like.
"Yeah, we can probably work something out," I whispered. Ryan grinned hugely and wrapped his arms around me tight.
"Come here," he whispered in my mouth, just before he kissed me again. The second time was even better than the first time, if you can believe that. I don't know how long we stood there, in the back of that old gift shop, kissing and talking but all of a sudden, I heard someone screech Ryan's name. We hurriedly pulled apart. Standing there in front of us was a fuming Khandi. She glared from me to Ryan, who once again seemed to be on the verge of laughter.
"How could you do this to me?" she yelled. "Did you bring me to this airport just to make a fool out of me with, with- this?"
Khandi pointed at me when she said 'this', which was a bit rude, I thought. Fortunately I didn't even care. At that, Ryan pulled me even closer.
"Look, Khandi, I've been telling you for weeks that you and me are just wasting each others time. You never listened. So if 'this' is what it takes to get your attention, fine with me," he explained to Khandi patiently. I stared up at him in consternation. Did Ryan just say that he was kissing me to prove a point to Khandi? He must've felt my eyes on him, because he looked down at me, gave me a squeeze and said to Khandi "Plus, I love Stacie."
I gave a sigh of relief.
"As a friend, sure. But come on, Ryan, sweetie, look at her!" Khandi gave a tinkly laugh and pointed at me. I probably looked terrible, with my face streaked with tears, my hair sticking out of its ponytail and the sleeves of my t-shirt all creased from when I was wiping away my tears with them. "She's definitely not the type of girl that you'd want to be by the side of a pro basketball player."
Ouch. Coming from Khandi, that hurt. I had been taking her B. S. for two years now and this was definitely a low blow. I opened my mouth to retort but Ryan got there first.
"We all have different opinions, Khandi. I think that Stacie's beautiful." He looked into my eyes as he said that and we both smiled. Khandi rolled her eyes.
"Screw the both of you," she spat vehemently. "I'll find someone better than you, Ryan. You'll be so damn sorry."
And with that, she turned on her heels and swept out of the gift shop.
"Wow," I said in awe. Ryan sighed.
"You think I should go after her and try make her understand?" he asked me. I glared up at him and he gave a cute smile that tugged at my heart strings. "Just kidding."
Then he kissed me again.
After that, we went to join Ryan's parents and Roxanna in the lounge. Everyone was more than pleased with the new developments. Ryan's mom even went as far as welcoming me into the family and wondering what color the bridesmaid's dresses should be. Ryan's flight was called and as he hugged me goodbye, he whispered "I love you" in my ear. I felt my heart swell with love and I whispered "Back at you, babe."
The tears threatened to come again as Ryan walked to the Departure desk, but since even Ryan's mom was dabbing at her eyes, I felt that it was okay for me to cry. But now I knew that they were tears of happiness since I now knew that no matter what happened, me and Ryan were together. And even though I was saying goodbye to him, I hadn't lost him. In fact, I had pretty much won. Which was cool with me.
Noie: glad u liked it! I have another story in progress, u might like it, I hope u do!
Karlo: I'm glad u liked it!
RoseLife: Haha! I think Khandi must have been French in another life lol! Glad u liked it!!
Lady Rai: I'm so glad u liked it!
Engimatic.Night: Yeah, I thought it was clichéd as well when I was writing it, but I thought what the hell lol! I wrote it 4 my English class but I liked it so had 2 put it up.