It was one of those things that had always eluded Oliver. He could understand Ububbubi Dububbubi spubeak, how clocks worked, how to amuse yourself with a ripe apple (that's how he and Aaron had invented "Apple Ball"), and even why fools fell in love. What he didn't understand was how fools admitted they were in love.
Simply put, he didn't know how to say, "I love you."
This was an unfortunate ailment of Oliver's because he had been in love with a girl named Kaleigh since their sophomore year in high school- that's two whole years- and he had never gotten up the nerve to ask her out, let alone tell her he loved her. His best friends, Aaron and Erin (the homophonic names had always been a source of great amusement to Oliver, especially since they loved each other like pepperoni loves pizza) had tried everything they could to cure Oliver. They tried to bring Kaleigh up at inconvenient times (inconvenient times meaning when she was in hearing range), blackmail, forcing Oliver to practice asking Kaleigh out on Erin (although they only tried that once; it was very awkward), and they even went so far as to forcing Oliver to slow dance with Kaleigh.
Oliver hated them for that. It was one of the most awkward four minutes of his life.
But today was going to be different. It had to be different. He had gone two years without ever telling her, and-
"I can't do it."
Erin and Aaron both rolled their eyes and Aaron said, "That's been your excuse as long as you've known the girl, and we're getting impatient."
"We're also gonna miss our chance to get off-campus lunch if you can't find your keys, Aaron," Oliver pointed out in hopes of changing the subject.
But his attempt failed. Erin threatened, "So if you don't do it for yourself, we will for you." She had that look on her face that made Oliver realize he was finally beat.
"Yeah… well…" Oliver glowered and crossed his arms. "That's easy for you to say! You two have been together as long as I've known you!"
Erin shrugged. "Just cuz Aaron has more nerve than you do doesn't mean you have any excuse." She beamed.
Aaron grinned devilishly. "And remember-"
Oliver knew exactly what Aaron was going to say because he had said it a million times before, and so he interrupted, "Nerve is just paralyzing fear on a sugar rush."
"Exactly! I'm glad I've finally gotten that through your head." Aaron looked quite satisfied with himself. He had a habit of confusing his predictability with leaving an impression on people.
Oliver gave Aaron a withering look. "Just because I remember your 'sage advice' doesn't mean I'll actually listen to it," he said dryly.
Aaron looked rather put out, and so Erin shot a disapproving glance at Oliver as she hugged Aaron, saying, "He's very sensitive. You should've known that by now."
Oliver rolled his eyes. "Yeah, about as sensitive as a nuclear bomb."
"Erin, he's being mean!" cried Aaron, returning his girlfriend's hug as if she would protect him from Oliver's sarcastic comments.
Erin laughed and kissed Aaron on the cheek. "Cheer up, emo kid." She looked pointedly at Oliver as she said, "And as for you, my warning still stands. You have 'till the end of the day."
Oliver already felt that paralyzing fear gripping him.
"You can't make me."
Aria chuckled darkly and said, "I made you admit it. I made you talk to him on multiple occasions. I made you dance with him that one time. I can certainly make you drop uber hintage that you like him."
Kaleigh scowled. She didn't exactly like the idea of flirting with the object of her affections, mostly because she was always terrified of saying the wrong thing and in the process, making him realize her feelings for him were far from platonic. "What if I don't wanna?"
"It doesn't matter," replied Aria coolly. "Cuz eventually, you're gonna realize that after all these years, you and him will finally realize, and pardon the cliché, that you two are meant to be." She beamed.
Kaleigh still didn't look completely content on this suicide mission, but she knew that if she didn't, then Aria would bug her about it until the day she died. "Fine," she said. "I give up."
Aria grinned. "I knew you'd see the light eventually," she laughed. "Now go ahead- he's right over there."
Kaleigh went pale at the thought of actually talking to him. "Well…" She swallowed hard. "What's my name again?"
Aria rolled her eyes. "Kaleigh," she said, slightly exasperated.
Kaleigh smiled nervously and took that fateful step forward. It was like her legs had suddenly taken over, even though her mind was screaming, NOOOOO! DON'T DO IT!
But before she could do anything about it-
She was doomed.
"Listen to me, dude." Aaron set down a can of Red Bull in front of Oliver (he had just given him a can of courage). "This is all you need. It doesn't matter how big of a coward you are, or if you never know what to say around her, because…" He paused for dramatic effect. "Red Bull gives you wings."
Oliver raised an eyebrow, but he couldn't help but smile. "So… are you the new Red Bull poster boy?"
Aaron smiled. "Why yes. Yes I am." He patted the Red Bull and pushed it towards Oliver. "Drink up, my cowardly little friend."
Oliver shot Aaron an annoyed look, but knowing that as weird as he was, Aaron knew what he was talking about, and so Oliver opened up the can and took a long drink. After a moment of waiting for it to take effect, he told Aaron, "It's not working."
Aaron rolled his eyes. "Of course it isn't. You need to drink the whole thing." He made it sound as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, which in his mind, it was.
Oliver sighed and drank up the rest of the energy drink.
Aaron looked at Oliver expectantly. "Well?"
Perhaps it was that Red Bull certainly did give you wings. Perhaps it was that it brought out the courage Oliver never knew he had.
Perhaps it was the placebo effect.
At any rate, Oliver felt he could climb the highest mountain and swim the deepest sea! And he certainly felt he could ask Kaleigh out.
He had this spark in his eye that could only come from being brave and stupid and excited. He stood up and looked around the courtyard, and then he saw her.
He saw her talking with Sam McGuffery.
Suddenly, the Red Bull wore off.
I feel like an idiot… Kaleigh couldn't help but think that this was all a horrible mistake. After all, all that stomach-lurching, heart-stopping, breath-taking crap couldn't possibly be healthy for you. The bright side was that she hadn't blurted out that she wanted him to ask her out.
"You look a little freaked." Sam was a very good judge about how people were feeling (one of the reasons Kaleigh ever fell for him).
Kaleigh laughed nervously. If she were an anime character, she would have been in chibi form with that big blue drop on her head.
You know what I mean.
"I dunno what you mean…" she said, feeling rather harried. It was times like these that she wished that she didn't wear her heart on her sleeve.
Sam raised an eyebrow.
As if that eyebrow-raise were some sort of cue for a dramatic moment of awkward truth, Kaleigh freaked. "I like you, but not like how you would like a friend or someone you would randomly say 'hi' to in the hallway, but like-like, like how whenever you're around someone, you start feeling weird and you turn red and you make me feel weird and turn red and I wish you would just ask me out or make me shut up somehow and I didn't mean that the way it sounded and if you'll excuse me, I need to go to the bathroom!" And with that, Kaleigh raced back to Aria.
"I got the blues… wabadadum…"
"Dude, that's not how you sing the blues," said Aaron, who couldn't help but laugh at his somber friend, who was currently drowning himself in Dr. Pepper.
Erin cracked a grin and said, "Oh, it doesn't matter. He'll be fine!" She motioned to Oliver's choice of beverage. "Look, he went straight to the doctor!"
There was a pause before the boys understood what she meant. Aaron, of course, started laughing, and Oliver just shook his said, saying, "That's awful…"
Erin had only one thing to say for herself: "I am the master of bad jokes." It was funny how she seemed so proud of this self-bestowed title.
Oliver didn't seem so amused at Erin's mastery of puns. Far from it- he was on the verge of utmost depression. He took a swig of Dr. Pepper. "She's going out with that stupid, sensitive, poet guy." Oliver stared at the beverage hatefully. "Sam McGuffery."
Erin and Aaron exchanged a look that said, This boy needs therapizing, and they sat down on either side of their forlorn friend. "Dude… she's just a girl." Upon seeing the look on Erin's face, Aaron hastily added, "But you never know. She could be the one."
Erin seemed satisfied with Aaron's quick fix statement, and she patted Oliver on the back and added, "You'll never know unless you fight for her." She smiled.
Oliver sighed. "But what am I s'posed to do? Grab her in the hallway after class, declare my undying love, and kiss her right then and there?" The inner daredevil in him loved this idea.
Erin shrugged. "Whatever works." She and Aaron started to grin- it was scary how they did so perfectly in sync.
Oliver was still skeptical about the whole idea; he didn't exactly like the idea of proclaiming his undying love to a girl who so obviously liked one of the more popular boys in school.
"I'm proud of you. I really am."
"I think I'm gonna be sick…" moaned Kaleigh, leaning against Aria's arm. After she had declared her immense like for Sam, she didn't even give him a chance to catch up with her, let alone respond, even though she heard him calling after her.
At least her feet weren't traitors like her stupid mouth.
"Kaleigh, you did good!" said Aria reassuringly, patting Kaleigh's head. Kaleigh looked up at her miserably and Aria continued, "Now he knows you like him."
"I shouldna done it…" cried Kaleigh, collapsing on the bench, mentally kicking herself over and over and over and over and… you get it.
"Um… I don't think now's the time to be throwing a pity party," said Aria, who suddenly sounded a bit excited.
Kaleigh sat up and paled.
It was him.
"Kaleigh, can we talk?" asked Sam, who was torn between nervousness and happiness. After all, wouldn't you be if you found out someone liked you and wanted you to ask them out all within ten seconds? Granted, the next two seconds of Kaleigh bolting down the hallway dazed Sam a little bit…
Kaleigh nodded, turning an interesting shade of red. Aria took the hint and stood up, saying, "Well, I think I have something to do." She loved forcing her best friend into doing things that freaked her out.
Kaleigh opened her mouth in protest, but before she could yell, "DON'T LEAVE ME ALONE WITH HIM," Sam said something that stunned her into absolute silence.
"D'you wanna go see a movie on Friday?"
Kaleigh stared at him for a moment. "Uh… um…" She cleared her throat. "Yeah. OK." She laughed nervously. "That'd be great."
Sam smiled. "Great. Pick you up at six?"
Kaleigh nodded, still a little taken aback at what just happened. "Six is good…" She could feel herself turning red. How mortifying.
Sam's smile widened. "Sweet. I'll see ya then."
As he walked away, Kaleigh smiled. She sat there for a few moments, suddenly squealed with joy, and ran to find Aria. "RIA, RIA, RIA…!"
He caught her after school as she was packing up her things and pulling her coat on. Breathe in… breathe out… breathe in… breathe out… Oliver didn't exactly know how his legs were moving forward even though his heart was pounding a million miles per hour and he kept thinking, No, no, no, no, no, no, no…
Crap. Oliver swallowed hard, smiled nervously, and stammered, "H-hey, Kal-Kaleigh. Uh… what's up?"
Kaleigh smiled and said quietly, "The most wonderful thing in the world."
Oliver mentally cringed. "Um… care to elaborate?" he asked, trying to seem nonchalant. It wasn't working very well.
Kaleigh laughed quietly and answered, "Sam McGuffery asked me out." Inwardly, she was positively jubilant.
Oliver nodded. "Oh…" He kept staring down at the floor as if he expected it to rescue him. "So… you must be really happy." Idiot.
Kaleigh grinned. "You have no idea," she laughed. What killed Oliver was that she sounded a million times happier than he'd ever heard her before.
Erin's voice kept echoing back to him, You'll never know unless you fight for her.
"Yeah… well…" Oliver didn't dare look up for fear of ruining Kaleigh's relationship with Sam before they ever went out. Besides, if he looked her in the eye, she would see into his soul, and his soul would show her how heartbroken he was.
"Why do you keep staring at the floor?"
Drat. Oliver cleared his throat and lied, "It feels like my shoe's untied, but it isn't." He looked back up with a sheepish smile.
Kaleigh laughed. "That's kinda weird," she said.
Oliver laughed awkwardly. "Yeah." He looked back down at the floor, running his hand through his dark brown hair, and said, "But it's been a pretty weird day." His smile turned sad. "Was gonna ask this girl out…" He shrugged. "Never did." He looked back up, meeting her straight in the eyes.
She saw into his soul, and her smile softened. "I'm sorry," said Kaleigh quietly.
She knew, even if he didn't say it, because his eyes said it for him. But it didn't matter anymore, Oliver thought, because he couldn't do this to Kaleigh. He couldn't take away her happiness just because Sam had taken his.
"Yeah… well…" Oliver started to back away. "I'll see ya tomorrow…"
Kaleigh nodded. "Bye, Oliver…" she said.
As Oliver turned around, he heard Kaleigh shut her locker. He kept hoping to hear her sigh or something like that, but he didn't. He heard someone walking down the hallway and then, "Hey, Kaleigh."
"Hey, Sam. What's up?"
She sounded so nervous, but so wonderfully happy. Happy without Oliver's love… because she had Sam's.
Oliver felt his heart sinking.
It was worth it.
Version 3.0. :)
Have some brownies.