Ever since I was young, I was known as the 'black crow'. Why? Because I had a dark, brooding nature. Oh, I don't feed on dead carcasses. But I was a bit of a mystery in my early years. Even now, I still am.
My life was neither happy nor unhappy. It did not have spurts of joy at every corner, but it wasn't cloaked in shadows, either. It was just an ordinary, average life that held no more surprises, a life where everything was a habit. Ice cream on Sundays when we were good; food that wasn't so plentiful to be called a feast, but was enough to fill the clamor of our stomachs; a mother who wasn't exactly doting but looked out for us; a father who had a job, brought home his wages, spent some of it on booze, but never hurt us. We weren't demonstrative of our feelings for one another, not even my father and mother. But I'd seen them share little, secretive smiles when I'd say something unprecedented; I'd heard the love letters my mother would read out loud to me; I've watched them take care of each other in their own quiet ways.
I was the same---silently doing things for others, silently watching out for others. I didn't say much, because I figured that in life, actions speak louder than words. Actions say what I feel. Actions are there to explain when you've run out of words in which to express them.
I was 7 when I met my first best friend.
She was a girl from the big mansion on the other side of the street. I was out that day, building a sandcastle in the playground's sandbox like my mother had told me to, since she worried that I wasn't interacting enough with other children my age, especially since the school had sent her a note saying I was reclusive and kept to myself, and was this caused by any problems at home? It wasn't, of course. I just found no need to go up to my classmates and talk to them when I could happily contemplate the clouds form themselves into such delightful shapes.
She happened to have been brought there by her nanny, because she had begged to be let out since her Ma and Pa weren't home yet. The nanny had indulged her, and had brought her to the park playground, where they found me, alone playing in a sandbox. The girl---who had golden curls, fair skin, and cherry lips---came over eagerly, wrapped in her furs while I wore a thick gray overcoat on that balmy winter's morning.
"What are you making?" she asked, her childish voice rising at the end of the question.
I looked up at her. "Sandcastle."
She waited. When I didn't say anything more, she pressed: "What's your name?"
I told her my name.
"How old are you?"
"I'm 7, too."
I return to building my sandcastle.
"Can you be my best friend?"
Those words were the start of our friendship.
We grew up, always there for each other, always talking about our problems and sharing our thoughts. She was the boisterous, playful one; I was the mysterious, quiet one. While she got into trouble for her tactlessness and recklessness, I bailed her out through my calm thinking and diplomacy. We were a team; we'd seen each other's first tears, first hugs, first everything. We were that close.
Until I began to feel that she was more than just my best friend.
I kept my feelings. I knew, and I was certain, that she would never see me as more than just her best friend. I silently suffered as she began to date; my heart ached at the intimate gestures she'd give me, like a hug, ache at the realization that it wasn't because she felt something for me.
I was just her friend.
I had my first girlfriend, and she'd hated it. She told me that I deserved someone better. I agreed, saying that I loved someone else. That was when she got all excited, asking me who it was. When I told her I wasn't telling, her face fell---or it seemed like it did. But in a flash of a second, the smile was back. I broke up with the girlfriend, who told me that no matter what, she still loved me. I told her that she would forget me, and I was right. By the next month, she had a boyfriend.
What probably hurt most was the fact that I could never really stop thinking of her, even when she was right there. How many times had her dates left her on her doorstep and I'd been there, looking from my window? How many times had they told me to take care of her, and I hated how they trusted me so much, that I was forced to bottle up what I felt inside? I was miserable. But I stayed as quiet as always.
There was one particular boy on campus who chased her. I asked her and teased her about it, but she would just blush, though I'd sometimes notice a minute flicker of disappointment. I took it as a sign that she probably liked me back. It weighed my mind down with that one thought, but I pushed it away. I'd always known that I couldn't have her. It still held true today.
January 4. Her 16th birthday. It was a beautiful Sweet Sixteen party we'd planned. But a few minutes before the party, I received an SMS.
"Black Crow and White Dove should not be friends any longer. Proud Hawk will take White Dove away."
It was then I knew that my world had turned upside down.