I looked at my house out of the car window. No one was home this time of day. No doubt sister dear was out with her friends and both my parents were at work and would not be back until dinner. We were parked on the pavement outside and the girls were waiting for me to get out. Only problem was my legs were not working just then.
"Okay, you're gonna have to go in sometime, honey," Dawn said twisting around in the driver's seat to look at me.
"Probably best to go now and get it over with," said Stacey encouragingly.
"Seriously, that boy is such a drama queen," was Kailey's input from the passenger seat.
"Not now, Kailey," said Dawn, giving her a look.
"No really, okay so it was embarrassing to get his undying love discovered that way, but honestly the whole running away thing and 'go home, I'll come to you' thing is so soap opera-ish. It's not like anybody died or slept with their brother's pregnant ex-fiance or whatever."
"Maybe it is somewhat of an over-reaction," I said hesitantly, still peering out the window, "but I don't think we can measure our problems against other peoples. What's important is that our problems matter to us. They are just as important as everyone else's."
Stacey rubbed my head affectionately.
"See? This is why Dev likes you. You're so.... nice."
"Nice. One of those bland adjectives I'm always being accused of. Thanks," I said, smiling so she would know I was not taking the compliment the wrong way.
Kailey's face was pressed up against the glass.
"Do you think he's there yet? It's only been twenty minutes."
"Not unless he broke in," said Dawn, "otherwise we'd be able to see him. Bea, go in before you psych yourself out. Remember, the guy is in love with you. He's not gonna reject you when you admit that you feel the same way."
"And don't let him run off," said Stacey, "Feel free to tell him we're calling the police tonight if he doesn't come back."
"It's tempting just to see him escorted back home by burly policemen, preferably in handcuffs."
"Alright... I'm going now."
I took a deep breath and got out of the car.
"Don't forget that when you get a break from all the making out you're going to be doing we want you to call us and tell us all the gory details- Ow!"
I laughed and waved, watching Kailey rub her shoulder as they drove away. When Stacey wanted to she could pack a mean punch.
There was nothing left to do but go inside and wait for Dev. The phone was ringing inside as I unlocked the door. Hurriedly I picked it up before the caller could hang up. Perhaps it was Dev changing his mind.
"Yes? This is Bea."
"Oh Bea, honey, are you okay? It's Mrs. Templeman, I live in the house behind yours."
Mrs. Templeman was an OAP that had introduced herself to us when we had moved to America. As she lived on her own, she frequently called my mother to chat – or 'gossip', which was probably a more accurate description – and she always began her conversations by clarifying that she was the Mrs. Templeman that lived behind us, even though by now we knew who she was.
"Uh, yes, I'm fine. Is something wrong Mrs. Templeman?"
"It's just I saw someone jump over you back fence a moment ago. Are you sure you're okay? Do you want me to call the police?"
That must be Dev, I thought. He'd jumped the fence on many occasions before, usually to try and give me a heart attack.
"Oh no, that's fine. I know who that is."
"Are you sure? Then would you mind telling your friend that she shouldn't be jumping over fences. She could give a poor old woman a heart attack if they just so happened to be looking out the window at the right moment!"
"Yes, the girl who jumped over your fence. Well, as long as you're alright I won't interfere, but if you need me to call the police you just call me right back at anytime. I'll put 91 in my phone now just in case shall I?"
"That won't be necessary. Thank you... Mrs. Templeman."
Once the phone was back in its cradle, it was only a few quick paces to reach the living room and few more to reach the patio doors. As I slid the doors across it was easy to pick out Dev sitting on our bench at the end of the garden. He did not look any different, although I am not sure what I was expecting. He did not look up even as I approached him.
"My neighbour saw you jump the fence. She thought you were girl," I said, sitting beside him.
Other than a quick quiver at the corner of his lips he gave no other response.
"I guess she wasn't wearing her glasses. Although your slim shape does lean towards that of a ballet dancer."
Dev still stared toward my house.
"I realise my jokes aren't that great but don't I at least deserve a giggle or a remark on my intellect?"
Still nothing. I would have gotten more of a reaction from our garden gnomes.
"Dev, if you're not going to talk then you might as well leave again. I don't want you to go but I'm not the one that needs to explain myself, and if you're not going to say anything then there's nothing I can do."
His neutral expression made my heart break a little more. I wanted to coddle him, as I'd always done, but Dev was supposed to be an adult and he was acting like a kid.
I sighed and got up, but had barely made it a step when I felt his hand grab mine.
I looked back and slowly seated myself back on the bench. When he still said nothing, just held my hand, I decided maybe a little coddling was needed after all, and a certain amount f courage on my behalf, too.
"Dawn said that I needn't be afraid of what you might say because there was no way you'd say anything to hurt me," I said, modifying her words a little. "The same goes for you. You heard me on the phone. You can at least guess how I feel. I'm not going to cut you down. So what are you so afraid of?"
"Messing it up."
It was amazing, the relief that just three words could give, and it wasn't even the three words I was ultimately waiting to hear.
"You've already done that," I said, ignoring his wince, "You ran off when you should have stayed and talked to me. And things are different now between us because of things that have been said. You know we can't go back to how things were, and I don't even want to anymore. But before anything, I need you to talk to me."
"We could always talk about anything," said Dev, a tiny smile creeping onto his lips.
"And it's no different now. And while we could talk about anything I've come to realise we didn't talk about everything, and Dev, I need to hear the things you didn't say."
He still seemed to be indecisive about something. The wait seemed endless but I'd said my piece. It was finally his turn. Eventually I heard him take in a breath and exhale, and he began to talk.
"I'm sorry. I ran off and I shouldn't have, but I saw you at the front door and I panicked. All I know is that I wanted to get out of there, so I did."
"You were embarrassed," I said tentatively, and he looked away briefly.
"Not just that. I wanted... I didn't want you to find out that way. If I'm honest I'm not sure that I wanted you to find out at all. I mean I already almost ruined everything once at that party. You have no idea how much you've helped me over the years. I just couldn't face losing that, even if it meant that I couldn't have you."
My heart glowed but was also pained by his words. I'd always known that I could help him in his moods when others were not able to and that we got along really well together, but it appeared that I had much more sway with him than that which, thinking about it, was a little scary.
"Stacey worked it all out, of course. How could she not, knowing us both the way she does? I don't know how long she's known it for and I guess I have to thank her for not telling you before I could... Well, it didn't turn out that way, but I really don't think she'd have gone over to tell you. She might have made it to your driveway but I don't think she'd have followed through."
"I know. She's not that mean," I said, smiling. "What were you fighting about?"
He laughed, short and harsh.
"I don't even remember now. Something stupid, probably, as always."
His hand that still held mine tightened and I squeezed back.
"We'll fix it, this... whatever it is between you and Stacey. We'll fix it, somehow."
His smile was more genuine than any that I'd seen so far, which gave me hope.
"I know, Bea. You fix everything. And to be honest I know if I just pulled my act together then Stacey would stop bugging me."
I nodded. I, too, had always wished he'd pull his act together. He was so much smarter than all that.
"She hates that you drink so much and that you started smoking. I think she knows that you have a lot of potential and you're just not... utilising it as you should."
"Is that how you think too?"
I could hear the silent question in his voice, the approval he had always seemed to seek from me. He really was worse than a child sometimes.
"You are one of the brightest people I know. You could have gone to an Ivy League university, but you go to the state college. And yeah, the drinking and the smoking? It would be nice if you could cut them out, or at least cut them down a little."
Dev's smile was rueful.
"Yeah okay, I picked up some bad habits, but I chose to go to state college for a reason. Don't tell Stacey or anyone this, but money is tight in my family right now, what with Mikey being a surprise addition to the family. I'm good, but not a genius, so even with the scholarships they offered it would still have been a struggle. You know that Stacey wants to go to a college out of state, and Mikey is cute but he's expensive to keep."
"I'm sorry Dev, I didn't know."
"I know you didn't. I'm a triple major and when I graduate I have several companies that are already interested in giving me a job. Plus, being a few hours drive away means I can come back home as often as I need to, and it means I can see you, which is pretty important to me."
I looked at our hands locked together. His hand that seemed so big engulfed mine almost entirely, and the feeling of safety I'd always felt in his presence washed over me once more. Truly, it baffled me how I could not have noticed my feelings sooner than I did.
"Stacey said that you come back a lot of the times because of me."
"Yeah, well, that's true. Remember my horrific quoting from that chick flick vampire movie?"
"What I said is true. I come back to get my fix of you. You clear my head and calm me down when I get frustrated. I think that's why mom invites you over so much. I must be nicer when you're there than when you're not."
"She invites me over because I compliment her on her cooking while the rest of you just scoff it down."
"I'm sure that's also a factor."
"So once you've had your 'fix' of me, then you're good? Then you can just go off and be okay for a while? Is that what you're saying?"
The look in his eyes told me otherwise before he even spoke.
"If it were up to me then you'd never leave my side."
"That's really corny," I said, smiling anyway, "and Stacey would probably be angry if I did that. She likes to have some brotherly attention occasionally."
"I guess so," Dev said, brushing my cheek with the back of his hand. "But I'd fight her off."
Where his skin touched my own I felt tingles, like some kind of slow electric shock. Although my heart was jumping wildly in my chest and the adrenaline that was flowing through me was making me feel a little queasy and lightheaded, I let go of his hand to wrap arms around his neck and pressed my head against his neck. I could no longer see his face, which was probably a good thing as it meant I could concentrate a little bit more through the adrenaline rush, but one of his arms snaked around my waist while the other buried itself in my hair. Dev was breathing deeply and I closed my eyes against the view of the garden. Perhaps it was true that I needed my fix of Dev too.
"I'm sorry for throwing jell-o at you."
His laugh was sudden and comforting. I couldn't keep my smile off my face.
"That's ok, I deserved it. First kisses are supposed to be special, right? Not a part of some dare."
"Oh, so you're assuming that was my first kiss?"
"I'm not assuming anything. I'm just saying that our first kiss shouldn't have been because of a dare."
"Saying 'first kiss' means you're still assuming things. You're assuming there's going to be a second one."
"Well, a guy can hope."
"You don't have to just hope, you know," I said, pulling away just enough to look him in the eyes.
He was quiet, too quiet, and just when I began to worry that somehow, god knows how, I'd actually gotten it all wrong, he leant in, and somehow, I temporarily forgot how to breathe.
Perhaps if he had kissed me one time when we were sitting in his room talking and listening to music I would have been alright; or maybe when we had gone on one of our spontaneous drives to get ice cream. In any situation other than this one, I might have experienced a good kiss, a great kiss, and been able to cope. However, I had been Dev-less for over a week. I had never gone more than two days without hearing from him, and I had been in a constant state of worry, not to mention some major angst-ing about our relationship, which all meant that I was one huge bundle of nerves and when Dev finally, finally kissed me, I forgot how to function properly, which was only slightly inconvenient.
It was also nothing like the quick smack of lips that we experienced so many years before. This was slow; building heat and pace steadily until the need to breathe properly overcame us both and we parted, gasping for air. And then we were laughing; laughing because it had taken us so long to get to this point, laughing because it had taken a lot of drama to get here too and laughing because we were both undeniably happy.
"No more smoking," I said. "I'm not kissing a cigarette."
"Okay," he said smiling, brushing some stray hairs away from my face.
"And less drinking. If you are ever paralytic there will be no more cuddle sessions. You're on your own."
The way he crinkled his nose slightly made my heart stutter. Had that small movement always been so cute?
"Can't have that."
"And don't tell Stacey too much. Besides the fake retching she will do the 'I told you so's' will be much worse."
"Agreed... although I don't usually discuss my love life with my little sister."
We sat still, wrapped up in each other for a while longer. The bliss of seeing him again was ever present but the intensity was starting to fade. It cleared my head to a number of things that suddenly occurred to me and I looked back thoughtfully towards my house.
"Hmm, we should probably stop Stacey calling the police now."
A/N: Yes, you're eyes are not deceiving you, this is the last chapter for The Complex Nature of Friendship. For some reason I don't work well during the summer holidays when I have nothing to do, but as soon as Uni starts and I have homework, bam! I get hit with inspiration. Typical.
Anyway. This is it for my 3-parter. I hope you enjoyed it. It's a little bit fluffy but I do love a happy ending. Feels good to finally finish this story after so many years! Please review if you can as I appreciate any reviews, whether it be a criticism or a simple "I quite like it."
I think I'll get back to my one shots now. They are my main love after all.