I sat between them.
On one side, Lee, the boy who loved me that I might love back.
On the other, Aaron, the boy I had thought I loved that loved my best friend.
We must have made an odd trio, sitting there on the stone wall outside the school without a short gene between us. The boy on my right with that striped sweatshirt he wore all the time and his large nose and broad smile. The boy on my left with a white button up shirt and his square frame glasses and the corners of his mouth curling up. And me in the middle, with the flip flops and leg-warmers and the red lipstick I'd borrowed from a friend during second hour.
We were all there for different reasons. I was waiting because I was giving Kayla, my best friend in the whole wide world a ride home, as I did every day for the entire year. (She was inside getting the math assignments she'd missed from being sick for the two days previous). The boy on my right was there because he was waiting for her, because as I and the boy on my left both knew, he was toying with the idea of asking her to Homecoming. She'd say no of course, because she wasn't going this year, as she hadn't gone the two years before. The boy on my left was there because I was, and (he said his car had broken down though he had said that for several weeks now), he needed a ride home. Though my guess was that the car was sitting in the driveway at home, fully functional.
The silence between us was comfortable, because even though many words between us went unspoken, we all knew them by heart anyway. None of us spoke until she came bursting out the front doors, glasses askew, wearing a tie-dye shirt and blue jeans and toting a beige messenger bag. Even then, she was the one to speak.
"Let's go get pizza," she said, surprising us all. It was rare that she suggested we do anything; she was the one who went home and did her homework and spent the rest of the evening sifting through a stack of books from the library. A few phone calls later, we were all loaded into my little blue Saturn, the tinkling piano chords of Regina Spektor coming from the speakers.
Bellow's was our favorite pizza place in town. It was everyone's favorite. A local place, run by an aging man and his four children, three girls, one boy. It was a small place, but it was cozy, with the warm wooden paneling on the wall and the single bathroom at the back, through the kitchen. We sat in the same booth we always did, right by the window, Lee and I with our back against the window, Aaron and Kayla across from us. One large pizza with onions and green pepper soon sat before us, divided equally into eight slices.
After the pizza was nothing but crumbs on the platter, we payed the bill (Lee insisted on picking it up, but Kayla made him let her pay half) and left. I left Kayla and Aaron at her house after his declaration that he could walk the rest of the way home, leaving me alone with Lee.
Altogether not an unpleasant prospect.
I'd only known him for a year, to be honest. He was a grade above me, although that didn't seem to matter with him, as it did with some people. And every time he looked at me, I felt my knees go weak and my stomach start to flutter. We'd met through a mutual friend, and quickly learned we had much in common. Like the fact that we thought Kool-Aid was the drink of the gods, and the fact that we both got upset over book characters, though I was the one who cried. The fact that our favorite band was Death Cab for Cutie, and the fact that we both hated spaghetti.
The route I took to his house (which was just a mile from mine) was a bit longer than necessary, though he didn't voice any complaints. He just sat there, staring out the window, a familiar half smile on his face and the top two buttons of his shirt undone, showing a small patch of soft brown skin. I flicked my lights on as dusk arrived, letting my arm hang out the window and listening to Lee sing along softly with the chorus of Braille. At seven thirty I pulled into the driveway of his old, ivy-draped house. Without the noise of the engine or the music, we could hear the crickets chirping in the grass.
"Do you want to come in?" he asked, his soft voice loud in the still evening. "My parents won't be home until late." I looked up at the now familiar, white house that seemed almost blue in the fading light, with the old red car he usually drove to school parked in the grass, words written in the dust on the back window. I took a deep breath, holding it briefly before letting it out with a slight hitch.
I nodded, not trusting my voice.
Once inside, I sat on one of the three rickety bar stools at the island and he went to the refrigerator, his backpack discarded on the floor with his shoes. Without asking, he poured us both a glass of strawberry Kool-Aid. He knew what I would say if he asked what I wanted, of course. We had repeated this ritual countless times since the beginning of the school year. Nothing had ever happened. We would sit there, sometimes in silence, sometimes talking softly over the customary hum of his brother watching television in the living room. Not tonight. His brother was at a friends house until ten, he told me when I asked. Finally, after the last drops of Kool-Aid had been drained from my glass (he had finished his several minutes prior, I drank mine slowly to prolong our time together) I took my glass to the sink and set it upside down on the stainless steel. Then I turned to face him, resigned.
"Will you need a ride tomorrow?" I asked, each of us studying the ground at our feet, the faded brown laminate tiles. He shrugged with one shoulder, his customary non-committal gesture.
"I guess so." As much of an answer as I was going to get from him. I turned to leave, sliding my feet into the pink flip flops that hid the tan lines on my feet. We never said goodbye, though I wasn't entirely sure why.
"Wait," he said, a break in the routine and I paused, as though my feet were stuck to the tiles beneath my feet. There was a short moment when we both stood there, and I noticed the way the yellow kitchen lights reflected off his brown hair, the tiny dots of light that shimmered on the lenses of his glasses. Then he took two stocking footed steps towards me and gently took my face in his hands, his long pianists' fingers sliding softly against my skin. And I knew what he was going to do, realized that he'd meant to do it all night. He leaned towards me, his eyes darting down to my lips only once before his mouth brushed mine.
We stood there for a long time, not moving, unwilling to break the moment, two pairs of brown eyes closed. Then there was a low, guttural rumble as the refrigerator started up, the lights dimming almost imperceptibly. We started, bumping against each other. Then he released me, letting his hands fall limply to his sides. He took a small step backwards, putting that customary space between us once more, a faint smile tugging at the corners of his mouth.
"I'll see you in the morning," he said, the clock on the wall chiming eight o'clock with a chorus of Pachelbel's Canon. I fumbled with the handle on the screen door, feeling my breath leave me when the chilly air outside hit my cheeks.
"Yes," I replied. "See you tomorrow."
Hmmm...I like the beginning, and I like the end, and I kind of hate the middle. And I think that the writing style changes too much. Same characters as Hey Jealousy.