"You're such a jerk," she says, but she smiles and I know she's not really mad at me. When she's mad at me, which is a good ninety-seven percent of the time, she glares and scowls and pouts and her cheeks turn red with anger and she gives me the silent treatment. When she smiles at me, she's flirting. She doesn't realize it, but she is. And she doesn't realize it, but I flirt back.
That's what I'm doing when I give her a smirk – flirting. She thinks I'm just being cocky and arrogant, amongst other adjectives that mean pretty much the same thing. For such a smart girl, she sure is clueless when it comes to romance. Not that you could call what we have "romance". Because we're not even friends. But there is something between us. Something I don't quite understand, but I know it's there. I just know it.
"And you're such a bitch," I say. It's the same old broken record. She calls me a jerk, I call her a bitch, she gets hugely offended and makes me take it back. I refuse to take it back, she grumbles something underneath her breath that I cannot hear but I'm pretty sure it's an expletive of some kind, then she turns and leaves.
However, it's all different this time. This time, the name-calling does not seem to faze her. She still has that goofy smile on her face and I'm beginning to think the smile has nothing to do with me.
"Nothing you can say or do will hurt me today," she says in a sing-song voice.
I'm not sure why, but the voice irritates me. "Why are you so happy today?" I ask her, although I really don't want to know the answer. Because I don't really care.
"Because," she replies with a widening grin, "Preston asked me to marry him."
This news blows me away. Blows my fucking mind. Preston, her boring-as-hell boyfriend, proposed to her? He's such a dick. She thinks I'm a jerk? She should look at her loser boyfriend. Sorry, loser fiancé. He drives a goddamn Hummer, that's how much of an asshole he is. He drives to his Ivy League school everyday in his Earth-killing Hummer, and he probably doesn't even break for old ladies waiting to cross the goddamn street. What the fuck. She's happy because Preston proposed to her?
"Oh yeah?" My voice is cool. Cool, calm and gives no indication that I give a damn. Because I don't. I glance down at her hand (she has piano fingers, long and lean) and I see no traces of a ring anywhere. "Well then, where's the ring? Don't tell me he proposed to you without giving you a ring?"
"Oh, there was a ring," she says. Her green-blue eyes are sparkling in the sunlight and it's almost blinding. "It was huge. It must have set him back thousands of dollars."
Of course it must have. Preston Waters has money. Usually he can be found spending it in strip clubs, shoving bills into the women's g-strings. Nice to know he'd set some aside to buy an engagement ring for his girl.
She doesn't know about the strip clubs. Not that it would make a damn bit of difference, I bet. Love is blind and, amongst other things, stupid.
"Then why the hell aren't you wearing it?" I ask her. There is venom in my voice. I do not know where it's coming from.
She begins to glance at me suspiciously. Or maybe it's just my imagination. "Because I haven't given him an answer yet."
What kind of girl doesn't give an answer to a question like that? Why would she have to even think about it? Preston Waters is a catch. Rich. Handsome (according to the comments I've heard from other girls). Promising future. She would never have to worry about money, she'd have it made in the shade. They would live in a mansion atop a secluded hill somewhere overlooking the city. They would have three kids, two of them would be twins, and they would all look just like their mother. They would join a real exclusive country club, and they would vacation every year in the Bahamas. They would retire the moment they turned fifty and as soon as they shipped off the last kid to Harvard or Stanford they would move to Italy or France where they would live out the rest of their long, healthy lives drinking wine and playing cricket or whatever it is old rich people play.
"You're a moron," I say to her, and this time I'm not insulting her, I'm just stating the facts. "You know damn well your answer is going to be yes, so why the hell are you prolonging it?"
She blinks and I almost swear she looks like she's going to cry. But I must be imagining things, because I've said things a lot worse to her before, and she has never so much as shed a tear in front of me. But she is quick to recover. She inhales sharply and purses her lips together.
"It's a pretty big decision," she says. "I need to know for sure that I'm making the right one. What if Preston is not the guy for me?"
Typical woman. Always waiting for something better to come along, right up until the very last minute. But this time, there is nothing better. Who could be better than Preston Fucking Waters?
I'm not sure why, but I feel like being an even bigger ass to her than usual. Her indecision is pissing me off. Could she be any more of a moron? So I tell her this. In so many words.
"Preston is the only guy for you," I say. "He's the only guy who has ever given you the time of day, and he is most likely the only guy who ever will. If you pass up this chance, you'll be passing up every chance you will ever have. If you tell him no, you're an idiot. If you tell him no, you'll grow to be an old woman who lives and dies alone. And if I were you, I wouldn't make him wait too long for your answer, or else he might start to actually think about what he has done, which is offer his commitment to you for the rest of his life, and realize what a horrible mistake he has made. So my advice to you – which I'm assuming is what you wanted here – is to go tell him that yes, you will marry him, instead of wasting precious time gloating to me about it."
Harsh, I know. But it had to be said.
Her smile has long since faded. Now her face holds no emotion at all. Her expression is blank as her eyes close briefly – so briefly, it could have simply been a blink.
"Fair enough," is all she says, in a somewhat robotic voice. Her eyes reopen and they look glossed over and I wonder briefly if she is going to cry.
She turns and she leaves.
And I feel like the biggest jerk in the world.
I dated her best friend for nearly a year in high school. That's how I met her. I disliked her right away, mainly because I got the impression she disliked me. I don't think she liked many of her friend's boyfriends. I think she was under the impression that guys were just out to get into her friend's pants.
Her best friend was hot.
And I did get into her pants.
But moving on.
Her friend, my girlfriend, moved away our senior year of high school and that is why we broke up. I received one e-mail from her during summer vacation, and then nothing more. All I was left with was a broken heart. And her best friend. Who hated my guts.
At first, it seemed like a pretty lousy prize. But then I started to realize I had fun fighting with her. Teasing her. Making her life a living hell.
I liked her smile. I made it my personal goal to make her direct that smile at me someday.
She did. Earlier today.
And I made her take it back.
I see him at the coffee shop with another girl, and I can feel my blood begin to boil.
Preston Fucking Waters is leaning over the table to kiss this girl on the lips. Shit, he is not even trying to be inconspicuous about it. The woman he proposed to could walk into this public coffee shop at any moment and catch them. But instead, I am the one to bear witness. I am the one who wants to bash his fucking face in right now.
"Hey!" I call out to him. He does not remove his lips from the skank in front of him. He probably does not know the "hey" was meant for him. So I grab the back of his jacket, and I tear him away from his public display of adulterous affection.
And then I hit him. I punch him in the face, right in the jaw, and it hurts my hand. It hurts like hell.
"What the -" he sputters. A small trickle of blood emerges from the corner of his mouth as he looks at me. I see the recognition in his face. Preston and I go way back. Back to high school, when I hated him for different reasons. "What the hell, dude?"
"How the hell can you cheat on her like this?" I ask, and I'm surprised at how frantic my voice sounds. God, I want to punch the guy again. "How can you be so goddamn cocky as to do this out in public, as if there is no chance she could catch you?"
He stares at me wide-eyed and confused. "I'm not cheating on her," he says, rubbing his jaw with his hand. "We broke up last night. Not that it's any of your fucking business."
I am stunned. I want to inform him that they didn't break up last night – he asked her to marry him.
Or did he?
He didn't. Damn. She lied to me.
That smile. That excitement in her voice. It was all a load of BS. Why the hell would she lie about that?
"Sorry," I mutter numbly as I turn to go. But his next words stop me.
"I guess that's good news for you, huh?" There is spite in his voice, and I don't understand what he's talking about.
But I don't ask him to elaborate.
I'd rather hear it from her.
I find her sitting on a bench at the park. She loves this park and comes here often. I know she and Preston used to picnic together here all the time.
Her head is lowered and her shoulders are shaking slightly. I think she's crying.
"Why?" I ask her, stopping to stand directly in front of her. I'm blocking the sun from reaching her and my shadow makes her appear small and fragile.
She raises her head to look at me and I see the streaks of nearly dried tears on her cheeks. Amazingly enough, she knows exactly what I'm talking about with no further explanation.
"Because a marriage proposal made for a much better story than saying he dumped me for another woman," is her answer.
I take a seat next to her and stare straight ahead at a group of kids playing Frisbee in the distance. "Well, I wish you would have told me the truth before I clocked the guy."
Her head swivels over in my direction and her eyes widen. "You didn't."
I can't help but chuckle. "I did." In retrospect, it's pretty funny.
I think about her question for a moment. Why did I assault the guy? Why did I care if he was cheating on her?
And why do I want to assault him again, knowing now that he had dumped for the girl in the coffee shop?
I shrug. "I don't know."
She accepts my answer and we sit in silence for what seems like forever.
Until I speak up. "I'm sorry. About what I said earlier. I didn't mean it."
She glances at me sideways and I realize then that the tears have stopped flowing.
"I just couldn't stand the thought of you marrying that guy," I continue, before the words have even formed properly in my head.
"Why not?" She has shifted her body so that she is facing me now.
I shrug. "Because you could do much better." That's all I allow myself to say.
"But," she says, "you just said earlier that he was the only guy who would ever -"
"Oh." She looks away from me and slouches into the back of the park bench.
Another silence ensues before she says, "It was stupid, telling you that Preston had proposed. It wasn't really planned. It just came out. I guess...I guess I was too embarrassed to tell you I got dumped. I thought maybe you would rub it in my face or something."
"I wouldn't have done that," I say, but I'm lying. I would have. Because I'm a jerk, and because that is exactly what she would have expected from me.
"But the truth is, I'm not even all that heartbroken about it," she says. She's staring down at her lap now. "And I don't blame him for finding someone else. He was starting to suspect that I was falling out of love with him."
My eyes widen with surprise. This is news to me. All this time, I've been under the impression she still worships the guy."And were you?"
She is silent for a moment as I begin to study her. I used to sometimes refer to her as The Beautiful Girl's Sidekick. I used to tease her about being too short. I used to kick the back of her chair in math class just to annoy her, and sometimes I would place random objects in the hood of her sweatshirt to see how long she could go without noticing them. Sometimes she would walk around all day with pens, calculators, paper airplanes poking out from underneath her hair. I used to torment her, and now I'm starting to ask myself why.
She's pretty. Not stop-traffic pretty. More like girl-next-door pretty. I'm noticing it now, and I'm berating myself for having not seen it before.
And suddenly, Preston's words from the coffee shop begin echoing inside my head. "I guess that's good news for you, huh?" At the time, I hadn't known what he meant.
But now, it all makes perfect sense.
I'm happy Preston didn't propose to her. I'm happy they broke up. I'm happy I'm the one sitting next to her on a park bench. I'm happy that for once, we're not arguing. We're not exchanging witty barbs. We're not exchanging "if looks could kill" glances. We're just existing, side-by-side, as two people who aren't friends, but who aren't really enemies either.
And I think I want to kiss her.
She is still mulling over what to give me as a response to my question, but she doesn't need to give me any answer at all. Her silence speaks volumes.
But then she speaks, and once again she manages to blow my mind.
"Honestly? I don't think it was so much as falling out of love with him, but falling in love with you."
She keeps her gaze glued to those same kids playing Frisbee. She looks somewhat fearful, but at the same time relieved. As though she had just gotten something off her chest that could potentially destroy her, but either way the load is off. And the ball is now in someone else's court.
I thought just a moment ago that I wanted to kiss her. Now I know I do.
So I reach out and touch her hair with my fingertips. Her eyes close at the simple gesture and as I slip my hand around the back of her neck and move closer to her, she inhales deeply.
"I'm about to kiss you," I murmur softly in her ear and I can feel her shiver slightly. "But only because I feel sorry for you." I'm being facetious and she knows it.
Her eyes flutter open as she turns her face slightly toward mine. "You're such a jerk."
And that's when I end our normal routine by bringing her face closer to mine. By pressing my lips gently to hers.
Her lips are soft and they taste like watermelon lipgloss.
Our kiss is simple and brief and that's all we need. There'll be plenty of time for more later.
When we part, when we both open our eyes and stare at each other like it's the first time we've ever really seen one another, she smiles.
I used to like her smile. Now that it's directed at me, I love it.
I return her smile not with a smirk, but with a smile of my very own.
Perhaps I was wrong, what I said earlier. Maybe you could call what we have a "romance" after all.
Author's Note: This is my first OneShot ever. I wanted to try it, especially since I'm experiencing some writer's block with my other two stories. I have to say it was fun to write, although I'm not sure how I feel about it. It's in the perspective of a male, which is ALWAYS a blast to write. If you've never done it, I highly suggest it. Also, it's in present tense, which is pretty interesting to write as well. This was fairly quick to write, so it didn't take too much time away from my other stories. I have over 3,000 words written for the next chapter of "Once Bitten" and have started the next chapter for "The Importance of Getting Revenge" as well, so those both should be up shortly. In the meantime, I enjoyed writing this, whether it was good or not!