Playing it Cool

Summary: It wasn't that I was in love with the boy. It was just that maybe, I kinda, sort of have certain feelings toward him that could, in some way, be construed as feelings of more than friendship.

His room was a sty.

As usual, I thought, flicking a pair of worn boxer shorts out of the way with a pencil I found on the bedside table. God, you can barely see the floor! Ugh!

What is it about the male sex that leaves them physically unable to clean up after themselves? It's not quantum physics; take off shirt, fold shirt, put shirt in draw. If my five-year-old niece can do it, anyone can.

Cringing at the sight of even more dirty laundry on the bed, I grabbed the blue-and-white striped bed cover and pulled it toward the end of the bed. Clothes, books, and CDs crashed to the carpeted floor in quick succession. Nodding my head, satisfied, I pulled the bed cover back toward the head of the bed, letting it fall into place. Smoothing out the few creases that formed, I kicked my flip flops off, jumped up, settled back against the wall, and waited.

When I arrived thirty minutes ago, Mrs. Sloane – mother of Derek, my good friend whose room I was currently waiting in – informed me that Derek was in the shower. Before I could make it to his room to wait, however, Mrs. Sloane all but dragged me into the kitchen, where she insisted to know what was "up" with me. Of course, that was her not-so-secret way of prying into my relationship with Derek. It took me fifteen minutes to finally convince her that no, nothing remotely romantic was going on between Derek and me, and a further ten to convince her that no, I wasn't secretly harbouring feelings of love for Derek.

That last part may have been a little bit of a lie, but she didn't really need to know that.

It wasn't that I was in love with the boy. It was just that maybe, I kinda, sort of have certain feelings toward him that could, in some way, be construed as feelings of more than friendship.

But who doesn't have those sorts of feelings for the boys-who-are-just-friends in their life? It's a perfectly natural occurrence amongst young adults. Or so I'm told. By my mother who very much wants me to fall in love with Derek, marry him, and have a dozen kids with him. She's even compiled a list of different ways in which to accomplish this, and has even picked out my wedding dress and his suit, since apparently, it's a given that wedded bliss is in our future.

She sounds crazy, but let me assure you – she's actually crazier.

After my mini interrogation with Mrs. Sloane was over, I quickly made my way up to Derek's room thankful that no one else seemed to be home. Derek had four younger brothers who all happened to be under the age of thirteen. Which is just a polite way of saying they are all hyperactive, testosterone-filled devils. You never know when one of them is going to jump out from some room or closet and tackle you to the ground; something that has happened to me countless times, let me tell you. Derek is absolutely no help, either. You're more likely to find him laughing along with his brothers and egging them on, than actually helping me out. I still have bruises on my arm from when I was triple-teamed last week!

The little punks.

I shall get my revenge, though. Believe you me.

The sound of the bathroom door opening broke through my thoughts of revenge against the younger Sloane brothers. When Derek finally appeared in his bedroom doorway wearing only a towel around his waist, he paused and looked at me, frowning.


"Finally," I said by way of greeting. "You take longer than a girl. What the hell were you doing in there? Searching for gold?"


"Well, it's not like you need to shave anything. Unless…" I trailed off, glancing down at his legs.

"I don't shave my legs!" he snapped, crossing his room and rummaging through the clothes I had dumped on the floor.

"Then what could possibly take you forty minutes to do?" I asked, folding my arms across my chest. When he didn't answer, a thought crossed my mind. Raising an eyebrow, I said, "You weren't… you know…" I really didn't want to finish the question, so I hoped he understood what I was asking.

Instead, he turned around and looked at me with obvious confusion. "What?"

"You know… having a cold shower?"

"What? No!"

"Well then, what were you doing? You don't need to shave and you have very little hair to wash."

"So, just because I'm a bloke, I'm not allowed to have a long shower?" he asked.

I rolled my eyes. "Of course you're allowed to. I just didn't think you were one to have long showers. For as long as I've known you, your showers have only lasted two minutes. Four if you're tired."

"And you're around every single time I have a shower to time me, are you?" he asked, annoyance evident in his tone. He turned his back on me and resumed rummaging through his clothes. He had moved from the floor to his chest of drawers now.

"Fine, you have long showers," I conceded. I didn't come to argue with him.

When he finally found something clean to wear – a miracle considering the dump he was searching through – he told me to close my eyes. Not wanting to annoy him further – though I wasn't quite sure what I had done to annoy him in the first place – I closed my eyes and then, for good measure, slapped my hand over my closed eyes.

"Okay, I'm dressed," he said a minute or so later. Opening my eyes, I saw him standing in front of the mirror that hung on the inside of his wardrobe door. He had changed into jeans and a t-shirt, and was in the process of drying and styling his hair.

"Going somewhere?" I asked.




"So…" he mimicked, looking at me in the mirror.

"So, I dropped by for a reason," I said, as I tried to think of the best way to approach the topic I had come to discuss with him.

"And here I thought you had just dropped by to make my room even messier." He glanced at the clothes, books, and CDs I had dumped on the floor earlier, and raised an eyebrow.

"Honey, nothing in the world could make this room any messier than it already is."

I saw him smirk, and immediately felt better. I didn't like it when Derek was annoyed with me. We have only known each other for nine months, but it feels like longer. We are alike in so many ways, have a lot of things in common, and I've grown to care for him. A lot. A lot, a lot.

But no, I wasn't in love.

Not yet, anyway.

"Alright, Lindsay," he said, turning away from the mirror to look at me. He threw his towel over to his chair. It caught the armrest before coming to rest on the floor. I tried not to show my disgust. "I'm all ears. Why did you drop by?"

"I was just wondering if you wanted to tell me what the hell happened back there."

"Back where?"

Ah, evasive manoeuvres. Sadly for him, I am the Queen of Evasive.

"Derek," I said, looking at him pointedly. "Come on."

"Come on, what?"

I rolled my eyes. "Fine. Let me refresh your memory. About an hour-and-a-half ago, we were sitting with our friends in my lounge room watching TV and pigging out on food that will probably contribute to my death at some point in the future. Everything was fine and dandy when, all of a sudden, you get angry and almost get into a fight with Rob, who happens to be one of your best friends. Two minutes later, you leave in a huff without telling anyone where you're going and without telling us why, exactly, you felt the sudden urge to shove one of your best friends around. Sound familiar?"

He refused to look at me, which I found interesting. He was never nervous around me. He was the King of Playing It Cool. Yet here he was now, refusing to look me in the eyes and, if I'm not mistaken, fidgeting with a loose thread on his t-shirt.

Derek Sloane never fidgets. Something was most definitely up.

"Come on, Derek," I urged. "What happened back there?"

He shrugged.

I sighed.

I couldn't force him to talk if he didn't want to. I had tried that tactic once before. It had been about five months ago. He had received a bad grade on a paper for his Philosophy class at the community college we attended, and proceeded to sulk for the rest of the day. When I had grown sick of his sulking, I demanded to know what was bothering him. When he refused to tell me, I had threatened to take away his Playstation console, but that had done nothing to persuade him to talk to me. I tried a few other things, but to no avail. He never did end up telling me what had put him in a bad mood, either. I only found out when his mother needed someone to complain to about his sulking.

After that, I realised that if he wanted to talk, then I would have to wait for him to come to me. Patience had not been a virtue of mine before I met Derek, but since knowing him, I had become quite good at it; if I do say so, myself.

Looking at him now, I knew I was going to have to be incredibly patient this time. Something was not right in the world of Derek Sloane, and until he wanted me to know, I had to wait.

Getting up off the bed, I slipped my feet into my flip flops. Only then did he look at me, a frown on his face.

"Okay then," I said. "If you need to talk…" I shrugged a shoulder, not bothering to finish the sentence. He knew where he could find me. I waited a beat and then flip-flopped my way over to the door. Pulling it open, I was about to walk through when he finally spoke.

"He was bugging me."

With my hand on the handle, I looked at him over my shoulder. "Rob?"

Derek nodded, and then massaged the back of his neck. Another nervous gesture. Why was he nervous?


I closed the door once more, but stayed standing beside it. He glanced at me, and then pulled his chair out from under his desk. Lowering himself into it, he leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees.

"Because he…" he paused, almost as if reconsidering telling me. Then he sighed and blurted out, "Because he had his hands all over you."

Um, what?

I looked up at the ceiling, and went over the events of the afternoon. I remembered our friends Anna and Brad blatantly making out in front of us, and I remembered Rob throwing pillows at them to get them to stop. When they didn't stop, Rob came over to me and told me that we should start making out. He wrapped his arms around my waist and tried to kiss me a few times, but, that being the very last thing in the world I would ever want to do with Rob "I'm a Skeeze" Willis, I managed to fend him off. When I escaped his hold and made sure he was at least an arm's length away from me, he told me he had only been kidding around.

For the rest of the afternoon, however, he would somehow find a way to touch me. He rubbed my shoulders because I was "tense", tried to give me a foot massage, and even pulled me down on to his lap when I walked past him. While it annoyed me, I knew it was all harmless. Rob may be a sleazy jerk, but he would never actually do anything to hurt a girl, especially one that happened to be his friend. He was "just playing" as he put it countless times. It also wasn't the first time he had been overly touchy with me or Anna, or our other friend, Carly. He does it all the time and Derek knows that.

So why would he suddenly get angry by it?

"Lindsay?" Derek asked.

"Um, I'm trying to figure out what that means, exactly. 'Because he had his hands all over you'," I repeated.

"You really need me to explain it to you?"

"Well, see, that kind of statement could be interpreted in one of two ways, and I'm not entirely sure which way I should interpret it since I really have no evidence to back up my choosing one interpretation over the other."

Derek stared at me for a long time before speaking.

"I'm going to pretend that made sense-" a wise decision, in my opinion "-and ask you what the two interpretations are."

I had been hoping he wouldn't.

"Well, one interpretation could be that you were angry that it was Rob who had his hands all over me, as you put it, rather than you having your hands all over me."

I looked at him and waited for a reaction. I didn't get one.

"And the other?"

I cleared my throat. "And the other could be that you were angry that it was me that Rob had his hands on, rather than… well, you… that he had his… hands on."

I still didn't get a reaction.

Now I was the one who was nervous.

"So basically, what you're saying is that you don't know whether I'm gay or straight," he summed up.

"No." I stretched the word out, rolling my eyes slightly as a way of saying that I think he's crazy for even thinking that. "Basically, I'm rambling like an idiot."

The left corner of his mouth curved up ever so slightly. "You do like to ramble," he murmured.

"What you said surprised me, is all. I was stalling."


"Because you've never given me any indication before that you had those kinds of feelings for me."

"And yet, here I am, doing just that."

I nodded. What was I supposed to say? 'You've made my dreams come true! Let's get married and breed like rabbits so my mother will finally stop pestering me about you'?

I don't think so.

When the silence continued, I couldn't take it anymore.

"Okay, so why now? Why are you telling me this now?"

"You asked," he replied, simply.

"I asked you what happened with Rob," I pointed out. "I didn't ask you to declare your… to reveal your feelings for me." I quickly amended the end of that sentence. Wouldn't want him to think that I believe him to be in love with me, right?

"Well, what happened with Rob was because of you, so I don't really see how I could have explained it without telling you how I feel."

I frowned. When did he get so smart?

"If I hadn't have asked, would you have ever told me how you feel?"

He looked down at the floor, as if lost in thought. I had to assume that his taking so long to answer my question meant not-so-good news for me.

"Honestly, I don't know," he said, looking up at me. He shrugged. "I don't know."

Another silence filled the room, which was rare when we were together. Usually, we never shut up when around one another. We had even taken to watching movies at home rather than on the big screen because we liked to chat and commentate the whole way through. Apparently, that's frowned upon.

"Well, while I'm not overly encouraged by your 'I don't know' answer," I began, raising an eyebrow at him, "I guess now is as good a time as any to tell you that I have those kinds of feelings for you, too."

Now I was really, really nervous.

I had entertained thoughts of revealing my feelings to him in the past, but never actually followed through with it because I didn't want to risk ruining our friendship. Not to mention the whole rejection thing. I don't think I could have handled a case of unrequited love. But since he had admitted his feelings to me first, I felt more confident telling him about my feelings.

At least, I did a minute ago. Now he's looking at me with complete surprise, which has me wondering whether telling him was actually a good idea or not.

"You look surprised…" I said.

"I… I am surprised," he admitted. When I didn't say anything, he continued. "It's just… I'm not your type of guy."

"Okay?" I said uncertainly. Where was he going with this?

"I mean, I never expected reciprocation," he clarified. "Which, I guess, is probably why I didn't tell you sooner," he added, more to himself than to me. "I've seen the guys you've dated, and I'm nothing like them."

"Of course you're not. They were jerks and treated me like crap. You are good and kind and while you don't treat me like a princess – much to my disappointment, by the way – I do know that you care about me."

I mentally rolled my eyes at myself. God, I'm such a sap!

"I do. Care about you. And if you want, I can treat you like a princess," he offered, grinning. He seemed much more relaxed now.

I was still a bundle of nerves.

When neither of us made a move or said anything, my nervousness skyrocketed. What now? Do we pretend we never had this conversation? Do we kiss and start making out? Do we organise an official first date? Do I ask him out on an official first date before organising said date, or do I wait for him to ask me?

"What are you thinking about?" he asked me suddenly. I'm fairly certain he could see the obvious distress I was feeling, on my face.

"I'm thinking, what now."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, we both just admitted to one another that we have feelings for one another that go beyond friendship, and now I'm wondering what to do."

"We have to do something?"

"Unless you'd like to stand here for the rest of our lives feeling awkward, then yes, we have to do something."

He seemed to think about that for a second, his eyes never leaving my face, and then he said, "Okay."

Okay? Okay, what?

Before I could think on it further, however, he was standing in front of me and cradling my face in his hands. How he moved so quickly, I'll never know. Nor did I really care a second later when he briefly touched his lips to mine once, twice, three times. The moment was over far too soon, in my opinion, but I didn't say anything.

He smiled down at me. "Less awkward now?" he asked.

"Yes, yes it is."

"Good," he said, lowering his head to kiss me again. He didn't try to pull me toward his bed, which I appreciated. If he had, I probably would have freaked out. Kissing your friend for the first time is weird enough. Having a full-blown make-out session with them minutes after telling them you like them, is even weirder.

I pulled away from him a few minutes later. "A little clarification: are we officially boyfriend and girlfriend now, or are we just dating?"

He frowned. I don't like it when he frowns. "What's the difference?"

"Well, official couple means just that. Dating implies spending time with more than one person during a given period of time."

"Official couple," he said firmly. "Unless you don't want…"

"No, no, I do want," I interrupted him. "I was just checking."

He grinned at me, and then lowered his once more. Before he kissed me, though, I pulled away and said, "On one condition."


"We don't tell our mothers we're officially a couple; not yet, anyway"


I raised an eyebrow. "You mean you want my mother measuring you to make sure the wedding suit she has already picked out for you, actually fits?"

"Oh. Good point," he said. "Okay, I can live with that. Any other conditions?" he asked.

A low rumble in the hallway informed me that the younger Sloane brothers had arrived home from wherever they had been.

"Just one," I said, turning around to face the door and pulling him behind me. I pulled open the door slightly and peered through the crack. From my position I could see right into the bedroom of Derek's twin brothers, Dylan and Damien. They were the older of the younger brothers, and were currently fighting over who got to use the computer. I looked over my shoulder at Derek and grinned. "Right now, you help me get back at the twins for instigating that little triple-team tackle last week, and from now on, whenever your devil-incarnate brothers tackle me, you actually help me out. Deal?"

He grinned back at me. "Deal."

With a firm handshake and a quick peck on the lips, he pulled open the door, and led the way to the twins' bedroom.

I told you I'd get my revenge on the little punks.


While this probably needs to be polished just that little bit more, I had a lot of fun writing this, so if you read it, let me know what you think. Thanks!