I wouldn't call myself a very jealous guy. Hell, I'd say I'm pretty damn decent as far as people go. But there was just something about John. Something about him the curdled my very blood with rage. He was good at everything; HAD been good at everything, ever since I met him when we were in kindergarten together. He did the best finger-painting, macaroni art, he read more quickly and eloquently than anyone in the class, hell, he was up to a high school reading level by the second grade! Not to mention the fact that he was a regular social fucking butterfly, especially in high you know what the weirdest part is?He was also a goddam SAINT!Just about perfect in all regards. As for myself, I haven't had half the luck or popularity as John.

Scratch that.

Not even one-hundreth of a thousandth. Even that wouldn't be so bad if I could hate him from a distance; if I could just bubble in my own cauldron of resentment in the dark without his shining light to make it hotter. We're best friends, of all things! The irony of it is enough strangle me.

Don't get me wrong. I do think John is a great guy. Hell, he's a regular returning messiah. He's funny, charming, intelligent...we've even spent several sleepless nights just talking together. But I can't help it. His shadow stifles me like a death shroud. God... what's wrong with me?

Sighing, I closed my many of these things had I gone through? Five? Ten?And all about pretty much the same thing...bah.I locked the journal away in my desk drawer and reached for my was John's 21st 't want to be late. I grabbed his present from the table, a new sweater and a bag of Mars bars. The Mars bars were his favorite. The sweater was my lack of time to think of a better gift. I looked at my watch. 5:14. Shit! I was late! I whisked up my keys and barreled through the door, almost falling down the steps of my apartment building in the process. I sighed in relief at the bottom of the stairs. A broken neck does not constitute a happy birthday. Not for me, anyway. It would probably just be another kudos point for John to visit my broken ass in the hospital on his birthday. I ran down the hallway and out the front door into the busy city streets, this time successfully falling down the porch steps. Groaning, I picked myself up from the pavement.

"Nice acrobatics, Dave." Oh god, not her.... I thought as I turned to respond. Luckily, the enormous amount of pain I was in gave my subsequent flinch a good excuse. It was Elizabeth.

"Thanks," I mumbled.

Her lips turned up in a wry little smile. "Well I guess I can give you an eight for the execution, but only a two for the landing. Hurt anything?"

This was so embarrassing. Sitting on my ass in the middle of the sidewalk in front of the girl I'd always... "N- *hrm* - no. I'm fine."

"Are you sure? You're shaking pretty bad." she looked concerned now.

"No, I'm sure I'll be fine. Just... fine." I got up and hobbled to my car. Dammit, why'd she have to be so damn beautiful?

Everything she did touched me to my very soul, paralyzing me as the red-hot waves of molten copper that framed her angelic face washed over my body, laying me bare to those eyes, those horrible, lovely green eyes. If only I could just talk to her directly, be more like... John. His name snapped me out of my reverie with just enough time to slam on the brakes. Cursing, I stopped just inches from the blue VW Bug's bumper. I sighed again. Just another one of those days. Well.... another day in general, really. Stupid shithole apartment; Stupid piece of shit car; Shitty life. SHIT.

I was able to make it to John's place halfway through the party. An interesting collection of music wafted through the party with an emphasis on the bass, though not loud enough to evoke the wrath of the neighbors. Surprisingly, no one was piss-ass drunk yet. You'd think they would have downed a few kegs by now; it was John's 21st, after all. It took me a few more seconds to register the cause of this mass sobriety: There was no alcohol to drink in the first place. Just a table lined with presents, snacks, and two bowls of punch (not spiked, unfortunately; I checked). I sighed and closed my eyes. It was just like John to avoid the biggest blight on the face of society. Especially when I could really use that drink. Goddamn saintly son of a-

"Hey! Dave!" my eyes snapped open again as I assumed my cheeriest facial mask. John pushed effortlessly through the crowd to approach me, his blonde hair shining like the proverbial Golden Fleece.

"Happy Birthday, chief!" I said a bit too enthusiastically, almost shoving my present into his chest. He didn't notice. He shook the box expectantly.

"Sounds like… new clothes! And…" another shake, "candy bars, right?"

"Mars Bars. Your favorite."

He beamed. His pleasure was oddly genuine. "You know me too well, buddy. But I guess I should expect that from my best friend, eh?" he chuckled.

You don't know the half of it… "Yeah. So where's the booze?"

John laughed again, his perfectly white teeth gleaming in the light of the setting sun outside. "I don't have any. I figured the party would be more fun without anyone breaking anything, especially themselves."

I laughed half-heartedly. "Yeah. Good point." God I needed a drink.

He suddenly grew more serious, his eyebrows meeting in the middle of forehead, clear blue eyes flickering between the floor and me. "Listen. There's something I have to tell you after the party, so… hang around, ok?"

I met his partial gaze and nodded. It wasn't like I had anything better to do anyway. Besides, it looked pretty important. Was it possible he'd finally made a mistake, screwed something up? Had a crack formed in his Mother Theresa façade? If there was anything he wanted to tell me that proved he really was human like everyone else, I definitely wanted to hear it, if only for my own personal peace of mind.

Despite the lack of alcohol (or maybe because of it), it was a while before the party ended and everyone cleared out. I spent most of it drinking punch silently in the corner. I didn't really know anyone there anyway, and I wanted to speculate on the big secret John was bursting to tell me. Knowing John, crime was out of the question. He also had a ridiculously clean bill of health, so scratch a fatal disease. Did it have anything to do with his love life? It struck me then that I'd actually never seen him with a woman… ever. My eyes almost popped out of my head as I chocked on my next sip of punch. He must be gay! And who's the person he's closest to? Great. Now he's going to come on to me. I made a quick scan of the room. There were only a few people still sitting and talking around the coffee table, and John was nowhere in sight. Now was as good a time as any to make my escape. I got up and quickly yet calmly made a beeline for the door. But just as I was about to grab the doorknob, "Where you going, Dave?" Right on cue.

Well at least it wasn't John. I turned around to face the little group sitting around the coffee table. "I was just going to go home, I guess," I replied.

Alex's eyes crinkled in a laugh. He was one of those guys that would develop crow's feet at 35. "Man, the party ain't over 'til it's over! Come over here and talk, man!" He motioned to the seat next to him on the couch.

I shook my head. "No, that's ok. I have work tomorrow and-"

He whistled and drew a little flask from his jacket pocket, shaking it slightly to denote its obvious contents. The little group of women flocking around him giggled softly. "Like I said; party ain't over," he smirked, "Looks like you need a drink anyway."

Was it that obvious? "Yeah, alright," I took the flask as I sat down and took a long draw. Whiskey. I coughed a bit as I handed it back. Strong whiskey. I sat back to wait for the liquid fire to take its effect. Delicious warmth seeped into my stomach, settling me farther into the couch. "So… what's up?"

"I was just about to ask the same question 'bout you," Alex laughed, "you look pretty stressed." The girls nodded in agreement.

"Just… work and stuff. You know how it is…"

He chuckled. "Alright, lemme rephrase that. You look more stressed than usual. What's up?"

"I told you. My boss is just whipping me like a slave driver."

"Oh yeah, because the used book store business is the most hectic there is." More giggles and nods.

"Well we've gotten in a new shipment in from eBay and it's been even busier than usual lately."

"So you're up to a whole ten customers a day, now? Damn, business sure is booming, man." Alex's entourage continued to giggle and nod as he took a drink from his flask. They reminded me of bobble-heads. I kept back an involuntary snigger at the thought.

"C'mon Dave. What's up?" Alex asked after finishing his draw. He passed the flask back to me. I took another drink.

"Well, John said he wants to tell me something after the party."

"So?"

"Well… I think he may want to… uh... I mean, I've never seen him with any women, and…"

Alex and his groupies laughed. The sound reverberated through the room, and I looked back to make sure John wasn't coming to see what was up. Alex wiped a tear from his eye as he calmed back down. "Dude, John is the farthest thing from gay. You know where he is right now?" He pointed toward the bedroom door. As silence settled in the living room, other noises made themselves evident.

"Oh." I said.

Alex sniggered. "Yeah, Jessie Richards. They've been going at it for a while now."

I let out a sigh of relief. "How long have they been together?"

He checked his watch. "Two hours, about."

"Ah."

"Yeah. John don't get into relationships, far as I know. "

"So he's a player?"

Alex smiled. "No man, I'm a player. John doesn't have to try; women come to him. And as far as I've heard, no one goes home unsatisfied. Right ladies?" The bobble-heads nodded emphatically.

"He even calls afterward," one of them piped up.

"And he makes little dates, too," another added.

"John is such a sweetheart!" a third exclaimed.

"He really is!"

I didn't understand it. Usually women hated guys like that, especially if they felt they had to share him, but they all seemed content to share him! Son of a…

The bedroom door opened and a slightly messy-looking Jessie Richards stepped out into the living room, followed by a still-pristine John. She reached up to give him one last passionate kiss before leaving (she had to reach pretty far; John was a tall guy). When she was gone, John walked over to our little group and plopped down on a couch between two of the bobble-heads. "How's it going, guys?" he grinned. The girls giggled and wrapped their arms around him.

Alex took a swig from his flask and deposited it back in his jacket. "Going pretty good, Johnny. Great party, man."

John smiled again. "Even without the alcohol?"

Alex patted his jacket pocket. "Well I brought my own, but I think I would've had a good time even if I'd forgot to tote it."

"Glad you had a good time. What about you, Dave?"

"It was all right," I replied.

"Oh good. I didn't really see you do much talking, so I was afraid you got bored or something."

I shuffled nervously in my seat. "Uh… well I'm not really a social person, anyway. It's cool."

John's eyes searched mine for a few seconds, a touch of concern darkening his face. He knew me too well to take my bullshit excuses. Alex was first to interrupt the awkward silence.

"Yeah, well I'm gonna get going. I promised these girls a tour of my place." He got up and crossed to the door in a hurry, bobble-heads in tow. John directed his gaze back to me. Looked like it was time for the moment of truth. I went over the possible scenarios once more in my head. Now that I knew he wasn't going fabulous on me, the possibilities were wide open: woman troubles, STDs, pregnancy… I was almost excited to hear about it. John had finally fucked up.

I found I was able to meet his steady gaze when I returned from my musings. It looked as if I wasn't the only one lost in my own thoughts. "Um…" he blinked, his eyes refocusing into mine. "I really don't know how to say this."

My curiosity was at its peak now. Looked like a little prodding was in order. "Actually, I think I have some idea of what this is about." I said.

A gauze of confusion placed itself onto his face. I guessed he hadn't expected me to figure it out on my own. "Wha… are we talking about the same thing?"

Time to milk this puppy. "It's ok to be scared, John. Everyone has to go through this at some point, especially people in your kind of position."

The look on his face now was almost priceless. His eyebrows shot up and his jaw dropped at precisely the same moment. "Bu-but… how did you…"

"It's only logical. I've been thinking about it all afternoon."

One eyebrow lowered. "Logica… What the hell kind of logic did you use?"

What kind of a question was that? "The same kind of logic you use, genius."

The other eyebrow followed. "Dave, there's no possible way you could logically reason that I-"

"-got a girl pregnant." I interjected triumphantly.

"- am a demigod," he finished.