We were eight. Eight. Honestly.
I mean, it's almost nine years later, and he still won't get over it. Then again, it's not like I'm surprised by this, but still. His Berlin Wall seriously needs to come down. Plus, if he never gets off his high horse or pedestal, he'll probably die alone and bitter. No girl wants a guy more immature than their ten year old little brother.
There really was no point to the way he reacted. No logical explanation, just him being stupid. Here is what happened, by exact definition:
I sunk his battle ship.
Yup. That's it. All I did. Eight years old, after school, a Tuesday, in daycare. We were the last two kids left; his mom was my ride, as we were neighbors. His mom was usually behind schedule, so to kill time, we would explore the games available. But this particular night, Mrs. Gunderson was particularly late.
We had already played Candy Land, Shoots and Ladders, Guess Who, and every card game either of us knew. We were about to give up and go see what the playhouse had to offer, when Ryan disappeared into the back closet and emerged with an old copy of battleship.
As I looked down at the box he placed on the table, a sinking (no pun intended) feeling in the pit of my stomach began to form.
I had played battleship before, against my math wiz of a cousin, and although I was a newbie, I was amazing. I didn't even try, but all the right moves came to me anyway. It's a useless talent, really, because I have no intention of a career in the Navy.
I tried to tell Ryan this, as he was an incredibly sore loser who would probably throw a fit if I beat him, which I inevitably would.
For instance, when we played the card game War, and I stole his ace in a battle, he blew up. He screamed in my face, calling me a lying cheater and demanding I find a match to his next card so we could have another battle, for him to reclaim his card. And then, when I refused and called him ridiculous, he pouted and wouldn't look at me until I forfeited.
Anyway, like I said, I did try to warn him. But, being Ryan Gunderson, he just laughed and snorted in my face.
"Colie," he drawled patronizingly, "c'mon. You couldn't beat me at anything else; what makes you think this, a smart-person game that requires a lot of, you know, brain power, will be any different?"
I opened my mouth to retort, but snapped it shut, narrowing my eyes. Well, I thought angrily. If I hadn't let you win, you wouldn't be talking to me right now. But fine, if that's the way you want it, I'll show you.
Twenty minutes later, his face was growing considerably red, considerably quickly. When it was my turn, he finally exploded. "You sunk my last battleship!" Were my life a cartoon show, I would be able to see the steam brewing from his ears as he plotted his next attempt to drop an anvil on my head.
"I can see that," I pointed out, swiftly moving to put the game back into the box. I was ready to be done with this game.
"No fair!" He huffed. "You cheated!"
It was my turn to get red-faced.
"Excuse me?" I exclaimed, head snapping up, an incredulous look on my eight-year old face. "I tried to warn you that I'm great at battleship!"
"Nu-uh!" He protested, crossing his arms angrily. "You didn't. You didn't tell me on purpose!"
"Yes," I said, "I did. You're just a sore loser Ryan, face it. I beat you, and you're upset about it. Admit it."
"Am not!" Ryan cried, jabbing a finger in my face. "You're just mad that I beat you at everything, so you lied and tricked me!"
I rolled my eyes, shaking my head in an 'I-can't-believe-we're-going-through-this-again' kind of way. "Ryan. I beat you. It's just a game, get over it!"
"Rye-an," I whined, running a hand down my face. "Come on."
"You sunk my battleship! That's…that's…the worst thing a person can do to another person! Ever!" He yelled. I flicked my eyes over to where the daycare lady, who was supposed to be watching us, lay strewn across the couch, snoring softly. I was on my own.
Knowing better than to add fuel to his fire, I threw up my hands in the air, pushed my chair back, and moved outside, to where the playhouse was. Fine, I thought to myself. If he's going to be this much of a jerk, then I'll just go play House by myself.
I got to the start of the stairs when I heard Ryan's chair squeak against the floor as he pushed it back, running to catch up with me. "I want a rematch!" He called from the doorway.
"Give it up!" I yelled back, not looking back.
"No!" He cried. I made it to the middle step before he ran ahead of me, stopping on the stair before me and blocking my path. "It doesn't work like that! I always win."
"Well, not today you didn't. Jeez Ryan, grow up!" I said, putting my hands on my hips.
"Look, Colie," he said, slightly (but not much) calmer. "It always has to be this way. I need a rematch."
"For the last time Ryan, leave me alone! You're just making everything worse." With that said, I moved to push past him. He moved with me, stomping his foot, effectively blocking my path again.
"You don't understand! This is the way it has to be. I'm supposed to beat you. I'm the boy and you're the girl." The moment those words left his mouth, he began to pale. He had met my mother, after all.
I'm not some self-righteous feminist, and I definitely wasn't at age eight. But every girl (especially those who live with a divorced mother who can't utter the word "man" without slipping into a huge tirade about their evils) gets pissed off when they're called inferior.
Therefore, I felt—and I still stand by this reasoning—I had complete justification to do what I did. I drew back my arms, blinded by my rage, and shoved my hands at Ryan Gunderson. He was on the last step, so when he stumbled backwards, (though probably more out of shock than pain) he fell straight into the mud puddle at the base of the stairs.
He stared up at me, shocked above all. His mouth opened and closed a few times, vaguely resembling my goldfish, Guppy.
My pale face was still flushed with anger, and while I felt extremely guilty for pushing my best friend in the mud, I still had too much pride to offer to help him up or apologize.
So I did the mature thing:
I stuck out my tongue, glared, and strutted away.
When his mom finally picked us up, he wasn't speaking to me. This, at the time, was fine, because I didn't want to speak to him either; as far as I was concerned, he could play by himself. I didn't need him. I didn't need anyone. I was a rebellious, mature girl, who was definitely stronger, smarter, and all around better than Ryan Gunderson, after all.
She honked the horn, not even noticing when Ryan, caked with dry mud, slid into the car after me. She chatted away busily on her car phone for the first ten minutes, but when she finally hung up, it still took her a few moments to realize her son was covered with mud.
I saw her alarmed eyes in the rearview mirror. When we pulled up to a red light, she whipped around, staring down at her son. "Ryan, what on earth happened to you?"
Ryan opened his mouth to reply, and probably whine at her at how horrible I was, but I quickly beat him to it. "He fell in the mud," I quipped, which technically wasn't a lie.
She rolled her eyes and turned back to the road, saying, "Oh, Ryan. Honestly, you know better than to play in the mud. Now you'll need another bath." I snickered. He was notorious for hating bathes. Ryan's face quickly flushed again as he turned to me, shooting me the ugliest look I had ever seen.
Looking back, I realize that was probably the time I should've apologized, or mouthed something other than, "Nah-nah-nah-nah!" with my thumbs touching my temples as my fingers wiggled. But I didn't, and that's why I am here today telling you all this.
Fast-forwarding to the present, we're almost seventeen now, our birthdays only one month apart (he was older by twenty-nine days and three hours, and never let me forget it), and I think he's still mad at me. Well, no, I'm positive on that.
The math equation on this problem is fairly self explanatory:
A super competitive boy plus a sunken battle ship, minus nearly eight years of friendship, and plus the sum of being pushed into a puddle of mud by a best friend and not apologizing equals hatred.
After that fateful Tuesday, when I got into Ryan's car that morning for our carpool, he wouldn't even look at me. I mean, I had long gotten since over it; why hadn't he? It was a whole day ago.
I asked him what was wrong, but he ignored me. Twice.
All right, I thought at the time, he'll forget in a day or two. Just give him time.
So, instead of eating together like we always did, I ate lunch with some girls in my class, and he with some boys on his little league team. I figured he'd get over it the next day, and it wouldn't hurt to have friends other than Ryan.
But he didn't. It was my mom's day to drive carpool and he still wouldn't talk to me. He was polite to my mother, of course (he always had been a huge suck up), but if I asked him a question, he would only answer if my mom was tuning in to our conversation.
I gave up trying after a week.
After that, everything began to change. I was invited to his birthday—his mom insisted—but he refused to open my present. When I turned nine twenty-nine days later, he was, of course, invited, but made an excuse not to come.
We started eating with different people, people who would later become the jocks and the artsy kids. I stuck to my music, he to his sports.
After a while, I didn't know why, but I slowly began to hate him. I especially hated that my last name was Gates, and always right in front of him in assigned seating, so he would always tug on my hair and act innocent when I whipped around or told on him.
Suddenly I blinked, and it was a mutual agreement that we wouldn't even talk to each other. We still shared a carpool until he got his license, and then I got mine a month later, but throughout those awkward years with tension crackling in the air, it was pure torture. Our parents got the hint, eventually, when we were eleven.
We stopped going over to each other's house, stopped going to the other's birthday parties, and stopped hanging out, period.
That's not to say we didn't acknowledge each other. If anything, Ryan refused to let me not acknowledge him, constantly poking me and sticking out his tongue (though he stopped that habit around age twelve), or pulling at my hair, or spreading rumors that I was secretly a male, and so on and so forth.
By the time we were juniors in high school, everyone, even those who didn't know us personally, knew of us. Then again, everyone knew who Ryan was. Perfect, godly Ryan; he could do no wrong. While he wasn't class president or top of the class, he was nice to everyone, captain of the baseball team and one of the better looking guys in the school. If I had a dollar for every time his "honey-colored hair blowing wildly around his flawless cheekbones" was mentioned, I'd be rich. In short, he was loved by all.
Well, except for me, of course.
Frankly, I'm nothing special. I'm just Colie Gates, base guitarist in her best friend's garage band. I'm just Colie Gates, B-plus student. Colie Gates, the nice girl. Colie Gates, one hundred percent average. Poo-brown hair, blue eyes that certainly aren't a window to whatever soul Ryan stomped on, and an average figure, I would not stand out in any normal situation.
I'm not ugly, I'm not gorgeous, I'm not the best at academics, I fail utterly at everything sporty, and I'm not particularly popular. I'm the shoulder for crying, the one for when you just want to talk. No one considers me especially recognizable, but I don't go unnoticed. I'm a good kid; just people smart and not, by definition, book smart.
But you might as well ignore everything I've just said, because everyone else certainly does. I'm not well known for any of these traits. In fact, they're pretty much overlooked.
I'm known as being the one who can't stand Ryan Gunderson.
People just can't wrap their minds around the idea that I don't think Ryan Gunderson is the greatest person on the face of the earth. They don't know him like I do, that he was so highly competitive he would willingly lose a best friend just because she sunk his battleship and pushed him in the mud. Hell, they think him being hyper competitive is some sort of good thing; something about our baseball team being 9-0. They can't—no, won't—see his flaws.
Unless, of course, you knew my side of the story. Like Natty, otherwise known as Natalie and/or my best friend, does.
And now we skip to today, where Natty, our lead singer and guitarist, Luke, our drummer (and Natty's boyfriend), and I are in the middle of rehearsal. Mom never uses the garage, so we've deemed it our perpetual practice space.
Natty's voice fades, signaling the end of the song, and Luke's drumming begins to quiet. I'm the last one to end it, with a slow strum of my strings.
"Good job, guys," I say, wiping my brow and flexing out my sore fingers. Luke grins and reaches into the cooler next to his drum set, throwing Natty and I two bottled waters. We talk statistics for a few moments, saying what we liked and didn't like about the past few songs, until Natty saunters over to Luke and plants herself on his lap. At that point, I'm left in the dust, long forgotten.
Now, I love those two, but there's only so much cuteness I can stand. Sometimes (more like always), PDA isn't the best option; even if your only audience is your personal third wheel. So instead of watching my best friends exchange saliva, I head inside and grab our new songbook, which Natty and I have already begun to fill.
When I come out, a few things happen. The first is a sound, when Luke is high-fiveing someone. The second is a voice, which is Natty's, letting out a good-natured belly laugh. The third is a sight: a horrible, horrible sight.
Ryan Gunderson is in my garage, standing dangerously close to my base, high-fiveing my best friend's boyfriend and making that said so-called "friend" laugh. I blink, even going so far as to pinch myself, but he's still there when I open my eyes.
Um. Did I miss a memo?
"Oh, hey Colie," Luke chimes, seeing me descend from the garage stairs. He nods his blonde head towards the offending pest. "Ryan just stopped by to compliment us on our last set. You didn't tell me you were neighbors."
I pause, taking in Luke's words. "How do you know Ryan?" I ask warily. He doesn't go to our school, rather a private one on the other side of town, so he wouldn't know of the infamous mutual hatred.
"Little League," he answers, turning to Ryan for confirmation, "We were about…nine, ten, right? Wow, been a while. I can't remember the last time I touched a baseball bat." He and Ryan laugh, like they're all buddy-buddy and this-fancy-seeing-you-here!-occurrence is funny, even though it's not.
"Oh," is all I manage, trying to keep the disapproval out of my tone. I spare the oblivious Luke, instead opting to shoot Natty a look, who seems to shrink slightly. Unlike Luke, Natty does know of the situation at hand, and therefore isn't excused for consorting with the enemy.
"Hey, Nicole," Ryan drawls, quirking an eyebrow. My nostrils flare; he has always known from the day I could speak that I hated my birth name. Even my teachers quickly caught onto the nickname.
I wrack my brain, trying to remember any embarrassing nicknames Ryan has, but none come to mind. Damn his normal name, I curse inwardly. Finally, I have to settle with a seething, "Hello, Ryan," and a disdainful sniff of the nose.
If he's annoyed, he doesn't show it. He adjusts the baseball cap on his head. "You guys sound great. When did you start playing base, Colie?"
Well, when did you start being nice? I want to ask, but I hold my tongue.
Narrowing my eyes, I watch him closely. Has he forgotten he was the stubborn asshole who started this whole thing, or that we currently had established a mutual hatred? Has he forgotten The Rules? The whole thing was practically his doing, and now he's standing in my garage, complimenting me and my friends?
Oh. Oh. I see his game. He's trying to steal my best friends! That jerk! When have I ever tried to associate myself with his meat-head friends? Never, that's when! Does he not know we have The Rules to follow?
"Age twelve," I answer, voice clipped. "You wouldn't know that, of course."
He rolls his eyes, but doesn't leave. Out of the corner of my eye, I see Luke shoot Natty a confused glance, who simply returns it with a 'you-don't-want-to-know' kind of head shake.
"So…" I stall, trying to think of an excuse for Ryan to leave. "We've got a lot of practice to do if we're going to finish our demo," I wave the songbook in my hand around, "and I don't think you want to listen to a bunch of tweaking instruments. They're not used to the song, so…I guess this is it. Thanks for stopping by, and for the compliments I guess. Bye now."
I make shooing gestures with my hands, scuttling over to where he stands.
By now, Luke looks bewildered. I suppose it's because Luke has never seen me as anything other than Natty's best friend, a somewhat quiet, somewhat quirky base guitarist who only has nice things to say.
"I don't mind listening to the work in progress," he says, brown eyes twinkling as he gently moves my hand away. My scowl deepens. "I'd actually love to hear you guys up close. I could only hear you from my bedroom window, across the street."
"Cool," Luke says, nodding. He takes a seat on his drums, grinning from ear to ear.
Uh, no, Luke, I think, not cool. Not at all.
I send Natty a pleading look, but she squirms and shrugs helplessly. Taking obvious joy in watching me drown all my anger, Ryan flashes me his pearly whites and takes a seat on the futon next to my amp.
He so did that on purpose. Well, I mean, there isn't really anywhere else to sit down, but he could've at least asked where to sit, so I could say the floor. God, that is just like him.
Ahhhh! The cliche! IT BUURRRRNNNSSSS.
it's been a while, huh? junior year is hectic, and between having a new job, SAT/AP work, and hanging out with my friends, i've hardly had time for myself. i wrote this a while ago, and it's been sitting on my computer for too long. thanks to sally can wait for being a lovely beta. :)
review and i shall update soon. just a short story, probably 2-3 chapters. maybe 4, but i doubt it.
i'm writing a story! fo realz this time. it's about getting over who you've become. my main character is not a heroine, she's not your best friend, but she is backpacking across europe with a prudishly yummy british nerd in search of her brother. ooh la la! more soon.