A/N: I just want to write a few words of thanks to SamanthaNicole for playing the role of Beta for me on my first published story for Fiction Press. If it wasn't for her the crappy version with all the sp. errors and grammatical issues would have still been up and I would have been horribly embarrassed, lol. And if you have time go seach her and check out some of her stories, she's an amazing writter.
"Platonic love is like an inactive volcano"
I groaned in frustration as the sun continued its attack on the back of my neck. Sighing for what felt like the tenth time today, I pulled my hair out of its high ponytail in an attempt to stop my skin from going up in flames. The beach wasn't the best place to be this early in the morning, but it was the first day of summer. Our tradition had always been to spend at least half the day catching rays and being as lazy as possible.
Nearby, there was a cheer of victory and the equally loud groan of defeat as my best friend sidled over to my place on the sand and poked me in the ribcage.
"Stop that," I mumbled, burrowing my head deeper into my copy of Dante's Inferno.
Jude smirked, tearing the worn paperback from my fingers. He tossed it roughly five feet away before I could protest. I shot him a look of death, adjusting my bikini top.
"Come on, Sammy," he cooed, ignoring my angry looks. "You've been sulking all damn day. Play a game with us. Carter and Natalie are kicking my ass and you know Taylor doesn't play anything involving balls going anywhere near her face."
I hid a smile, looking up at the tanned blond who was now trying to escape being trapped into another round of volleyball.
"Why did you bring her, anyway? She's always fucking things up. She thinks the beach is for sun bathing and looking pretty."
Jude crinkled his noise. "But the beach is for sun bathing, Sammy," he said in a childish voice. When I didn't respond, he sighed. "And because she's my girlfriend. Because I care about her, and part of that means she needs to be involved in my life and meet the people I care about just as much. Taylor's been around for three months. Everyone else has gotten use to her. Why are you being so stubborn?"
"Why are you being so… stupid?" came my intelligent reply.
"Very original, Fletcher."
Truth was, I loathed the girl. Ever since Taylor and Jude had become more than just friends due to too many science partner projects, he had became less interested in hanging out with me, and more focused on taking her out. Whenever we did anything anymore, it usually consisted of a group of friends, or Taylor taking the fun out of everything, trying to keep Jude to herself.
It wasn't like I was jealous, or anything. More so annoyed. I didn't welcome change, and having my best friends of fourteen years putting me on the back burner threw me for a loop. I was used to having Jude all to myself. Call me selfish, but I liked the way things were. Miss Sunshine could not be a part of my exclusive, perfect little world.
Yawning, Jude ran a hand through his already messy brown hair. A few stray strands that never stayed in place fell into his leaf-green eyes, and his brows were furrowed in what almost looked like worry. Taking on a more serious demeanor, he leaned back against me and lit a cigarette I hadn't seen him take out.
"Smoking is bad for you," I said pointedly.
"What are you, five?"
Even though he couldn't see me, I stuck my tongue out. The air tasted like salt.
There was a brief silence between us, with only the shouts of Natalie and Carter to invade it. A cloud of smoke drifted lazily above our heads, and I stared at it in annoyance.
After a while, Jude pushed himself off of me, blocking my view of the ocean. "You know," he started slowly, "next year is my last, and then I'm off to New York State…"
I winced, and let my gaze drift over to two children playing. They were building sand castles, chasing each other around in circles. The water was threatening to overtake their masterpieces, and they were giggling as they tried hopelessly to push the water back.
"Sam?" Jude's hands found mine. I jumped, snatching my suddenly cold fingers out of his.
"I know. I know you're leaving me... us… soon, to chase your stupid dreams. I'm happy for you," I said bitterly.
Exhaling noisily, he averted his gaze. "Sammy, I'm not leaving you guys. I just need to get out of this damn place for a while. Clear my mind, you know? It's so smothering here. Besides, we have all of this summer and next school year to spend time together."
He grinned, patting me on the head. I tried ducking out of his reach, but he grabbed me by my arm and squished my body against his, forcing my face between his shoulder and neck. It was the first time he had really been friendly in weeks, like we use to be before talks of college and moving away. Before life started getting complicated. Before he replaced me. I sighed again.
"I know what'll happen," I said. "You'll be swamped with finals and other college stuff. You'll be too busy going to parties with Taylor, and you'll forget all about me." I was whining, but he didn't seem to notice.
Digging his fingers into my auburn hair, he twisted a strand about them. "You're overreacting, Sammy. How could I ever forget about you? You've been around forever. You're like a little sister."
I stiffened at his words, and resumed a sitting position. Snubbing out his cigarette in the sand, he gave me a questioning look. "That's just it, Jude! We're friends. Who's to say you won't go off into the city, make a life for yourself while I'm stuck here being the kid sister? I've always been here and I always will be. All I've ever been to you is a girl you grew up with."
Jude opened his mouth to speak, when a blur of white invaded our space, hitting me squarely on the leg. A boy of about eighteen rushed to our side, laughing while his cornsilk curls whipped about his face in the wind.
"Hey, fuckers," he chimed. "Nat and Taylor are getting bored, and the sun's going down. We were thinking about heading to Tom's Ice Cream Shop. It's like hell on earth out here." When neither of us spoke, he looked from me to Jude in puzzlement. "What the fuck is wrong with you two? I didn't come all the way out here to attend some fairy sob-fest."
"You live down the street, asshole," Natalie called, coming up behind his with the blond witch in tow. I cringed.
Carter rolled his eyes, giving her a playful shove.
"So, what say you mateys? Ice cream, my treat?"
I nodded solemnly, casting a sideways glance at my best friend, who was avoiding my gaze and currently twisting his fingers into his girlfriends hair, just like he had done to mine a few moments ago. I bit my lip in annoyance and stood up, brushing invisible sand from my khaki shorts.
"I'm in," I announced to no one in particular.
"Me too," said Jude, following suit.
After everyone else's agreement, we began packing up towels and sunscreen.
"I'm going to order the biggest, most amazingly awesome ice cream float on the fucking planet," exclaimed Carter twenty minutes later. The ride downtown had been awkwardly silent, save for odd glimpses Jude kept shooting me between lights. I had the feeling he wanted to lean over and say something, but just couldn't figure out what.
Natalie giggled. "Trying to compensate for something, Car?"
The athletic blond let out a forced laugh and gave her the finger. They were always doing things like this.
Gasping in mock surprise, Natalie's eyes grew wide with shock.
"Why Carter Samuel Lee! Is that an invitation to… to fornicate with you? I'm not that kind of girl, you must know!"
Taylor chuckled beside me.
"So, Sam, pick anything yet? I've just decided to grab the tab. My father won't mind." She beamed.
I pursed my lips at the casual use of my nickname; the name only my friends were allowed to use.
Carter pushed me out of the way and began groveling at Madame Lovely's manicured toes. "Thank God. It would have been so embarrassing for everyone to order, and me having to admit being poorer than a prostitute with an abusive pimp," he declared, earning him confused looks from everyone in the shop; none of use really knew if he was kidding or not. He looked up at Jude and winked. "This one should definitely stick around. Don't fuck it up, man."
"Oh, get up, you idiot." Natalie muttered, looking both panicked and peeved.
Taylor reveled in having caught a compliment, Jude shifted from foot to foot uncomfortably, and me? Well, I just stood there with a sour look on my heated face.
Taking notice of the awkward silence growing between us, Car turned to me. "What the f-"
"I think I'll go pee now," I announced loudly, shuffling towards the restroom.
Picking a stall as far away from the entrance as possible, I sat atop the seat, silently thanking God that there was no one else inside. I leaned over and pressed my forehead to the cool tile wall and sighed, cursing myself for acting like a psychopath. I was being stupid and unreasonably selfish. Where the hell did I get off acting the way I just had? I should be bubbling over with joy that Jude had found someone he could be happy with.
"But why can't it be me?" I murmured hopelessly. I had been there for him his entire life. When he lost his virginity, who was there to listen to him go on and on about how nervous he was, and promised never to tell a living soul? Me. Who was there when his mother died, and his father left because he couldn't bear to see his wife's eyes in their only son? Me. I was always there to patch things up, or heal his wounds
Out of nowhere, guilt began to rack my body as I thought of everything he had been through, and how self-involved I was. I had refused to accept his need to leave Branchville and finally live a normal life on his own, with the girl he cared about, no less. A girl who was perfect, a girl who was everything I wasn't and could never be.
"Oh God," I breathed, my voice hitching. I was turning into one of those teenage clichés where the girl falls in love with her best friend, only to find out a little too late. I was being pushed aside by someone more interesting and fun to be around. My time as the only girl in his life had abruptly ended.
"Why are you acting this way? It's Jude we're talking about! Jude Bradley Rowe, the kid you used to carpool with and build tree houses and have Barbie and Superman-themed sleepovers with."
It was all too much for me to handle.
Giving myself a mental shake, I stepped out of the stall, walking up to the plain onyx sink to stare at my reflection. My hazel eyes looked tired and red, my hair standing on end. I was a wreck, but I couldn't go back out there a total mess. Turning on the tap, I collected a stream of cool water in my cupped hands and brought it up to my hair, smoothing back the flyaways.
After five minutes of wrangling with my elbow length tresses, I was satisfied with my appearance, and ready to face the world anew. "Just go out there, act like you've got rays of sunshine shooting out of your ass and suck it up."
With a forced smile plastered to my face, I exited the bathroom, a new bounce in my step. I had barely reached the corner when a solid figure bumped into me, holding me steady by the shoulders.
Grunting, I looked up, ready to throw a bitch-fit at whoever was trying to ruin my artificially good mood. "Oh," I managed to say as my gaze met with a pair of green eyes. They were full of confusion and electricity. And oddly familiar.
"Samantha," Jude said simply. "You were gone so long I… we were worried."
Something about his tone made me nervous. It was too soft… too cautious. Lightly removing his hands from my shoulders, he shoved them into his pockets. I clumsily pulled at the hoodie that was tied around my waist; suddenly I felt a little too naked in my skimpy black bikini top. We stood there for what seemed like hours, gaping at each other.
"I, uh… I'm sorry about the thing back there. You know Carter, he's so... so him, and he doesn't know when to shut the hell up half the time."
I snorted. It was hilarious that Jude was the one standing here and apologizing for the same guy who had shaved both his eyebrows junior year, stripped him naked in his sleep and posted pictures around school, just for the hell of it.
"No need. I was rude. We're all friends here. Friends do that kinda stuff all the time, right? Friends, friends, friends," I said airily.
Jude cocked his head to the side, making him look irresistible.
"What?" I asked, stomping my foot in halfhearted anger. "What's so funny?"
Shaking his head, he peered up at the ceiling.
"Damn it, Sammy. I thought today would be perfect. We'd cut class like we always do. Play some volleyball, come here and just hang out... just like we do every summer, you know? I didn't think bringing Taylor along would piss you off so badly."
I felt my cheeks burn, and before I could turn away, Jude had caught my chin between his fingers. And they were trembling.
'What the fuck?' I thought, taking a line out of Carter's extensive vocabulary.
"Jude, I-I'm sorry I've been acting like such a bitch about Taylor. You obviously care about her. She cares about you too, and if that's what makes you happy, then that makes me happy. I'm happy for you," I rambled on.
His hand was still cupping my chin, and I moved to release myself from his grip, but his other hand reached out and caught a fistful of my hair. "Sammy, you're lying," he breathed, touching his forehead to mine.
I went rigid. I could feel my throat close up and tears start to form, but I blinked them back. "I'm not. You know I want nothing more than for you to finally enjoy you're life with someone who loves you. She's... she's good for you, Jude." Lies, lies, lies.
Jude removed his hands from my face and placed them on my waist, causing my heart rate to speed up dangerously. I was afraid to meet his eyes with my own. With him being as close as he was, I was flustered and absolutely out of my element.
"What are you-" I began, but he silenced me, slowly backing me up against the wall, his body pressing against mine. Bad, bad, bad. This was entirely too intimate. I'd never even seen him this close to Taylor before! Shame began to set in, but it wasn't enough to move me from his arms. I had been waiting for this my whole life; I'd be damned if I ran away now.
"Sam… Samantha. I don't…" He sighed. "Fuck." His voice sounded pained. He was battling something internal at this very moment, but still he held onto me.
"What the hell are we doing? What am I doing? I can't-" His eyes were glazed over as he spoke. "What are you doing to me? We're friends… right?"
"Best friends," I managed to choke out as he pulled way, leaving me oddly empty. I stood there, unable to grasp what was happening.
"Damn it, this is crazy! I have a fucking girlfriend. I like her. You're Sam; you're my family. This isn't right."
"It feels right to me," I said wildly under my breath, barely audible to even my own ears.
"Shit," I heard Jude hiss, and my head snapped up just in time to see him rushing towards me again. His green orbs bored into mine, and he grabbed me, slamming me back against the wall with more force than last time. His breath was ragged as he ran a hand down the length of my face, ending just below the band of my shorts.
"Taylor…" I said with uncertainty. Right now I didn't really care; it was mostly for the sake of dissent. I wasn't a boyfriend-stealer, even if he had been mine first.
His face was inches away from mine, my head spun with all types of questions and fears I couldn't express just yet. We had hours to figure it out; days, months, even years to unravel what we were and could someday become.
With a lopsided grin, Jude, my best friend in the whole world, pulled me closer, as if we could become one that very second, and whispered, "I like redheads anyway," before bringing his lips down on mine, sending us both into heaven and hell.