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Confession. It's such a daunting word. It just dominates the airspace after you say it. Its three syllables puncture a room like a 30 gauge needle to a fingertip. Okay, I need to shake off the med school mindset if I'm going to do this.
Do what, you ask? Oh, it's nothing big. I'm only planning to tell my fellow pea in a pod that I absolutely adore almost everything about him. People do this kind of thing everyday, right?
Eric Dunning has been one of my best friends since the first day of freshman year…er, night of freshman year. Oh wait, no! Get your mind out of the gutter-it's nothing like that. I went to go brush my teeth before bed, but the girl's bathroom had flooded due to some backed up toilet. Seeing no big problem, I decided to use the boy's bathroom. It wasn't my fault the architect of the dorm building had made the rooms adjacent. I walked right in and started my nightly ritual.
"You do know this is the boy's bathroom, right?" a humored voice asked.
"Yup, I do," I answered with a mouth full of toothpaste. Clearly, I didn't think it was that strange.
"But you're a girl." At this point, I had to look the guy in the face. It was too hard to find such a brilliant guy just anywhere. I'm too sarcastic for my own good, I know.
"I was hoping you were man enough for the both of us," I said as I turned to face him. And now that I think about it, I should have known I was a goner just from that one moment.
He laughed. And I guess you'd have to peg me as one of those hopeless romantics that sighs all too frequently and sobs unattractively whenever the opportunity presents itself. Sue me. His laugh made me want to melt into a puddle, reform into a body, and then melt again. On a less innocent note, I was experiencing an eargasm for the first time. That was probably why I had a vacant look on my face with a ring of foam around my mouth. It's the rabid look; it was all the rage back then.
"Are you okay?" he asked. "I'm practically blind without my contacts, but it seems like you haven't moved in the past couple of seconds. And I'm not sure, but I think you've got toothpaste on your face."
I wanted to die then. But I didn't.
"Um, ya. I'm fine. I just kinda gagged on…um, my tongue."
Even to this day, I know that has got to be THE dumbest sentence ever uttered in the history of the English language.
"Oh, okay," he smiled. "So, you live on this floor?" He moved to the sink next to mine and started brushing his teeth as well. I answered his question and continued small talk to avoid any awkward silences. You should know by now, I'm not good with awkward silences.
He lived in room 312, was majoring in biochemical engineering, had an unusual love for Pop-Tarts, was one of three children, disliked all things orange, and wished, more than anything-that he had an artistic bone in his body. I supplied my own list of credentials, dreams, and hopes in exchange. We had both finished any bathroom type of activity and were sitting on the sink counters facing each other. It quickly became the longest conversation I had ever had with a guy…in a bathroom no less. Who even has conversations with a member of the opposite sex in a bathroom of the opposite sex?
Since then, we've been two proverbial peas in a pod. All my random outbursts, strange eccentricities, and overall unusual nature weren't enough to make him run for the hills. Like any logical girl, I figured he was gay. Which inevitably led to the following conversation.
We had just finished a rousing round of flashcards in the study lounge, when we decided to take a break.
"I hope all this studying pays off," I groaned.
"Ya, we say that every time and then we both do so damn well on those tests that we get jealous of each other," he replied.
"No, I mean I really hope it pays off. I better be swimming in Benjamins one day or I'll denounce science and become a gypsy."
"A gypsy? Can you be a gypsy in New Hampshire? Besides, I know money isn't the only reason you want to become an oncologist." He was right. "I bet your tombstone will read 'Here lies Riley, she kicked cancer's ass daily.'" I snorted about as unlady-like as is possible. "And while you're saving people everyday, I'll be busy engineering something biochemical-y to better our society. So you see, we're really Samaritans at heart. Only difference is the attached six figure income." He smiled one of his smiles, and I swear that I had forgotten about three hours worth of studying. By then, I had established that I had some non-platonic feelings for my study buddy. And as is customary, I assumed there was some huge obstacle standing in my way. More often than not, it seemed to be the unfortunate idea that Eric Dunning was gay. I watched too many movies and listened to too many girls—an epic hubris if there ever was one.
I had to find out once and for all. I don't know what higher being gave me the guts to ask, but I like to blame the insane amount of Vitamin Water that I drink. "So aside from our professional futures, where do you see yourself in 10 years?" I wanted to test the murky waters before diving in headfirst. It was the only logical thought in my head that night.
"Um, I'm not exactly sure. I guess no one really is. Ideally, I'd like to be married and own a house that has plenty of room for my baseball cap collection," he smirked. "Career aside, I guess I'd want a kid or two. Besides, I don't think my mom would have it any other way. My brothers and I used to tease her and say we'd all join monasteries after college." I laughed politely. "What about you?"
Marriage? A monastery? Was I supposed to read between the lines?
"Oh, that's cool. I guess I'll be in the same place. But I've never thought about joining a convent. I think you'd make a better monk than me."
"Uh-oh. We're back to you thinking you're a guy again. You know, you should seriously get some counseling for that," he joked.
"Crap, I meant you'd make a better monk than I would a nun…I think."
"Are you suggesting I have what it takes to be one of the few, the proud, the monastic?"
"Uhh, no?" I was way off topic now. How to steer the conversation back to a more relevant subject? "But you could be a monk if you wanted. It's not like you run around with a bunch of girls attached to your hip." Now this is the point some magical sprite or fairy should have come along and whacked me on the head with a frying pan. There should have been some sort of intervention! "You're entirely too comfortable with my oddness and you said you've never had a serious relationship and you say you don't want a girlfriend but it's not like you couldn't snag one. So then being celibate shouldn't be too hard since you—"
"Riley, SHUT UP!"
I was literally quaking in my shoes as I replayed what I had just said in my head. I was too afraid to look him in the eye. He was probably ready to murder me with blunt edged flashcards.
"You're not that odd. You just think you are. Kind of a bit self-centered." My head whipped up. Damn his smile. "I've never had a serious relationship to your knowledge. There are a few things I don't tell you, you know. I don't want a girlfriend because I don't have the time for a relationship—you've seen my schedule. I wouldn't want to sacrifice time with a girl I liked; it wouldn't be fair to her or to me." I just sat there with my famous vacant look. "It's good to know you think I can snag one. I knew you had a thing for me, Riles." I would have blushed had my poor circulation suddenly disappeared. "And as for being celibate, it's pretty difficult to completely abstain from such thoughts or acts-especially if you've already been with someone," his smile faltered, but only for a second.
"You've…?" I asked with my eyebrows. Facial expressions are truly a girl's best friend.
He scratched the back of his head, something I noticed he did when he was nervous. "Ya, I've…" You would think we were both in middle school the way we trailed off indiscreetly. "But does that matter? I'm sure most people have. Even big geeks like me. Some people are just too vocal or public about it. I guess we just matured faster."
"On what planet are you a geek?" I quipped. That question had slipped out unintentionally and left me flushed.
"Well you don't consider me a frat boy, do you?" he teased. "I can go on and on about how hot Sophia Bush is. Or how attractive I find Kristin Kreuk. I can even tell you whose 'ass' I would 'tap' as we walk to class. I just figured you wouldn't want to know," he stated while giving me an annoyingly cute/coy look. I crinkled my nose and furrowed my brows in response. "So you see, by my loose definition, I am a geek. Even if labels are overrated."
"Gotcha. Fast-forward ten years. You. Married. Kids. Career. Success."
"Don't forget love. The poet in me would never let me live it down." I was crazy about this boy more than I understood at the time. "Should we get back to studying now that I've reaffirmed my sexuality?"
Flabbergasted, I squeaked a "What?"
"Well, I'm going to assume that weird, random conversation was not one of your usual tangents of thoughts being verbalized but something you've thought about for a long time. Am I right?"
Where the hell did he get off being so smart? I caved in a millisecond. "Guilty as charged. I just—"
He smirked, again. But this time with a strange twinkle in his eye. "I figured as much. So, moving on. Name three cancers that can metastasize to the lungs."
He wasn't gay. I didn't look like Kristin or Sophia. I was going to fail the quiz tomorrow.
It's been about four and half years since I've been friends with Eric. Probably about three years that I've been in this messed up state of whatever the hell you want to call it. I got into grad school and am currently doing as well as can be expected. I keep in touch with most of my college friends and visit my hometown as often as I can. I started dating junior year conveniently after Eric became someone else's boyfriend. Disgusted with myself, I ended that relationship. Eric's girlfriend ended it about a year after that. When we both got into grad school, I hoped the distance would help me get over him. Little did I know that schoolgirl crushes are ten times worse when you're in your twenties. Absence was a bitch and it made my heart grow fonder. So much so that I spent winter break in England with my cousins. I brilliantly deduced that if I saw him again, I would fall apart both metaphorically and physically. A month later in another country, I realized that all I wanted to do was tell him. Finally verbalize it and make it real.
So that's where I find myself now. I didn't even bother to drive home first and dump my bags or meet my family. Women on missions don't have time for pleasantries.
My heart involuntarily starts to race because, let's face it; people do not do this kind of thing everyday. I suck at giving myself pep talks.
Gathering my wits, I reach out to ring the doorbell when it flies inward to reveal Eric. My eyes crinkle at the sight of him as the Mothra in my stomach starts to multiply.
"Riley?" he asks in disbelief. I'm not going to lie, I love the way he says my name.
My mouth purses up and my throat clenches as I look up at him in awe. His dark brown hair, now a length much longer than it was in college, curls at his ears and nape. His bottle green eyes glint in the artificial hallway light as he hunches towards me. Defying the laws of nature, he seems to have grown another inch. One more inch to adore, I muse.
He gives me a 1000-watt smile before slipping his arms around my waist and effortlessly picking me up. A girl only dreams about these things…
"What are you doing here? Didn't your flight get in just and hour ago? Why aren't you at home? Oh, it's so good to see you!"
His rapid onslaught of questions and my airborne state leaves me mute again. He puts me down and wraps his arms around me in a tight hug. I close my eyes and inhale his cologne.
"Come in but please excuse the mess." His voice brings me back to Earth as I find my words.
"So, how have you been?" I ask as I move to his couch. Probably better than I have.
"I'm doing well. How was England? Any chap catch your heart?" I falter before answering. Did we have to steer into our love lives so fast?
"Nah, you know me. I'm too loopy for any uptight Englishman."
"Ya, I suppose you are." He averts his eyes and shifts in his seat. "I got something for you, but you have to promise not to laugh." For me? He leaves the room for what I assume is the kitchen and returns with a horribly disfigured cake. "I made this for you. I thought I could bring it over tomorrow but now I guess…"
I do all I can not to laugh, but a giggle manages to work its way out of me as he looks on in disapproval.
"You're laughing. I told you not to laugh. You know me, so you know my talent for baking is equal to your talent in singing," he points out. My giggle vanishes as I ready myself for a verbal battle. Back to the basics of our friendship.
"You can't go there. Singing is a gift I wasn't given. Baking is just a gift you weren't meant to have."
"Oh, so you're an expert on what I'm meant to have?" Arguing like this is ironically what makes me so comfortable around Eric.
"I've known you long enough; you could say I'm an expert."
"An expert? Well, I guess it works both ways then. I know what you're meant to have."
"Oh ya, and what's that?"
"A number of things. Starting with this cake." I smile. As hideous as it is, I can't deny that it is probably the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me. "You're meant to love it in all its deformed glory."
"You're meant to give up baking after this Frankenstein is devoured," I counter. He laughs the same laugh I've grown to love.
"Okay. Three strikes, Riles. You laugh, you make fun of my cake, and you say I shouldn't bake. Your face was definitely meant for frosting." He scrapes the vanilla goo off of the cake and treads closer to the couch while I mockingly quiver in fear.
"There's no way you're going to actually put that on my face. I will so kick your ass."
"But you were meant for it Riles," he says as he moves closer. I whip up and reach for the cake now sitting on the coffee table. My lightning quick movements aren't fast enough as I feel the cool touch of frosting on my cheek.
"You are so dead!" I screech as I dive for the cake. Picking it up, I turn to face his hunched form on the couch. The bastard is still laughing. "God, I hate your laugh. It's the single most frustrating sound I've ever heard."
He abruptly stops laughing and puts on an uncomfortably serious face. "Frustrating? How can a laugh be frustrating?"
"It just can," I sigh. It was now or never. "Your laugh is this maddening tool you seem to whip out whenever…" He knits his brows in further confusion, looking both adorable and annoying. I chicken out, and without a moment's hesitation, I plant the cake in his unsuspecting face.
"What the hell, Riley!" he sputters as I laugh uncontrollably.
"The cake was actually meant for you," I say as I step away from his vanilla frosted face.
"That's it. I made this cake for you, and you're going to have some." Then, in what most die-hard romantics would have predicted, he takes my arm and pulls me to the couch, grabs my face with his slightly frosted hands, and proceeds to rub his face in mine. "I guess I should explain. I don't—"
I am oblivious to whatever he says after that as I plant my mouth on his. The feel of his lips, along with the taste of vanilla, leaves me paralyzed from the neck down. Presumably a one sided kiss in my mind, he notices my stiffness and moves his hands to my shoulders, pulling me closer to him. It's then that I notice he's responding. His more experienced lips pull at mine as I pour years worth of affection into the kiss.
"You know, I've been thinking about doing that for a while now," he says after we pull apart.
"What? You have? Why didn't you just tell me? And stop smiling, I'm going to lose it." My heart was threatening to shut down.
"Well, you know how it goes. Geeks never get the girl," he smirks.
"This is insane. You should have just said something. I would have, but you know I'm not good with that kind of thing. I had decided I would tell you today but then that all went out the door! And anyway, on what planet are you a geek?" I huff out in frustration.
"I think you're supposed to be happy right now and not attractively angry with me."
"How can I be attractive with cake topping all over my face? It doesn't make sense."
"On my planet, it does. Just like how you and I make sense." He gives me one last smile before meeting my lips halfway.
Old, old , old file on my computer. I'm sure it can do with some serious tweaking but for now, it'll stay like this. Review if it strikes your fancy. ; )