A Little Misunderstanding
It was deceivingly bright that day. The sun was shining down from a clear blue sky and not a cloud was to be seen for miles. It was early spring, that awkward time when the weather isn't whether it's cold or warm yet.
And so, on that day, Kristen left the house without a coat, while Ace brought a sweatshirt along with him just in case. And by the end of the day, as they sat side by side on the stone wall overlooking grassy Hyde Park, Kristen donned Ace's green sweatshirt as he sat beside her, not a goose bump to be seen on his bare arms. Their hands rested between them, the tips of their fingers just touching, warm against the cold stone.
Kristen glanced at Ace and he caught her eye. He gave her a little smile. It sent nervous thrills through her body, and she looked away. She didn't know how she was going to tell him.
Of course, it shouldn't be so hard. Just a few words, and – bam! – it would be over, done, finished, she did it. It was the reason she asked him to come out with her today in the first place. The weather was flawless, maybe a bit chilly now, but it seemed a much better opportunity than if it was raining.
It was a nice day to be outside, and the rest the city seemed to have the same idea. The park was packed, but Kristen and Ace didn't let that get in their way. They enjoyed the grass and gazed at the clouds, found a cozy bench to people watch, walked hand in hand. If only Kristen could truly enjoy it all.
Every time they held hands, every time he surprised her with a kiss, every instance of physical contact turned her into a ball of nerves. She couldn't do it, there was no way, everything was just so perfect the way it was. But she'd think about it, the reason she brought him out in the first place, and knew she had to do it. It was the only way.
The two of them had been sitting for a while in a content, comfortable silence. Or that's how it was for Ace, anyway. He'd just spent a wonderful day with his wonderful girlfriend, and he could hardly be more relaxed. But he knew Kristen. He knew her very, very well, and he could tell when something was off, no matter how hard she tried to hide it or how insignificant she attempted to make it seem.
He began to swing his feet back and forth against the stone wall, the rubber soles of his shoes bouncing off the rock. "So," he broke the silence, gently nudging her fingers with his. "You've been quiet."
She glanced at him. "Sorry."
"You don't have to apologize," he said, giving her a slight smile. "Something on your mind?"
Kristen automatically shook her head. Her immediate response to whenever she was asked that question.
"You're sure?" he said, not wanting to push, but knowing sometimes it helped to. "I mean, I'm perfectly happy to sit here like this with you, but…you're sure there's nothing on your mind?"
Kristen was about to shake her head again when she stopped herself. She had to do it at some point, so why not now? He was practically asking her to say it. Better to do it before she could think about it anymore, anyway.
"Well," she started, shifting her hand beside his slightly. "I guess there is something."
"Yeah?" he said attentively.
She nodded, swallowing. It was now or never. She looked at him. "Ace, there's something I have to tell you."
Ace had never been in a serious relationship before, but he knew Kristen well enough to recognize the ominous tone behind her words. And he'd seen enough movies to know those words always meant trouble, even in the Disney ones.
"Yeah?" he said again, trying not to sound any less upbeat.
"It's just," Kristen started, looking away. She glanced at their barely touching hands, "these last few months, I've loved them."
"So have I," Ace said, his fingers twitching beside hers.
"But…I don't know," she went on, sighing. "Things have been different lately. Or maybe, I don't know, maybe I've always felt this way." She looked up at him. "I mean, you're the best friend I've ever had."
Ace merely looked back at her. "Yeah, I suppose."
"So, well," she said. "I think this might have happened eventually. This kind of stuff usually does, you know?" She bit her lip, looking at him.
Ace tried not to focus her lips as he looked at her. He looked away. "I guess so."
"I just," Kristen said, looking down at the long green sleeve of Ace's sweatshirt. "I don't really know how to say it."
Kristen looked up at him, desperately hoping he would get the idea.
"I…think I get it, Kris," he said slowly.
Kristen looked at him, surprised. "You do?"
He nodded, not quite meeting her gaze. His hand twitched again on the cold, hard stone, but it only closed around empty air.
"Oh," she said, slightly shocked that he knew what she was getting at. Usually he didn't catch on so fast. In any case, she felt relieved that she didn't have to say it, but then again…she kind of wanted to. All those hours of rehearsing in front of her bedroom mirror gone to waste. Days of agonizing, all over nothing. She hardly even got a reaction from him.
She glanced at him again, trying to get a better idea of his thoughts, but he just sat there playing with his hands. He didn't even seem to care as much as she thought he would.
The two of them sat like that, lapsing into a slightly uncomfortable silence. Ace's feet hung limp and still over the rocks. Kristen looked at him again. Great, she said it, and now things just didn't feel right.
"We probably need to be getting home soon," he cut her off.
Ace jumped down from the wall before she could respond. She only nodded and followed him. She made to reach for his empty hand, but he shoved both of them into his pockets. He walked ahead of her and she followed, feeling slightly stung.
Ace couldn't help feeling the same way. She tells him that, and then expects him to hold her hand? Yes, he knew he was a pushover, but did have some pride.
Kristen trailed slightly behind him, wondering what exactly she did wrong. Perhaps she assumed too much, that he would respond enthusiastically, maybe at least let her know if he returned the feelings. Instead he turned icy, which wasn't even like him. She didn't understand at all.
They walked in silence. Ace kept his hands in his pockets and Kristen glanced at him every so often for any sort of reaction. To her increasing frustration, she didn't get any, unless you called his stony silence a reaction, which she didn't. Finally, when they arrived at the street they usually split up, Ace turned to her.
"Well, I'll see you around," he said, not quite meeting her eyes. Then he turned his back on her and began to walk home.
Kristen watched as he walked away. Just walked away as if she hadn't just revealed some of her deepest feelings to him. She thought – knew – that Ace was different, but it all came down to one thing, really. He was a boy, a boy that toyed with her emotions just like the rest of them, and they were all the same, every last one of them.
Her frustration mounted, and she curled her empty fists. She was done, so done with all of this.
"Ace!" she shouted, starting after him. "Ace McLean, don't you just walk away from me!"
Ace turned, surprised. What did she want now? To break his heart even more?
"What?" he said as she stopped in front of him. Her face was red, her eyes narrowed at him.
"'What?'" she repeated. "That's all you have to say? 'What?'"
"What do you want me to say?" he said, narrowing his eyes slightly.
"Oh, I don't know," she said. "Something with a bit more feeling, maybe!"
He felt a twinge of annoyance. What did she want him to do, break down crying at her feet? Give her some sort of satisfaction? He glared right back at her. "No, I don't think so."
Her face burned. "I can't- I can't believe you," she said. However, there was a odd quiver behind her voice. Ace knew he shouldn't feel bad.
"Yeah, well," he started, looking away from her. "Can I at least have my sweatshirt back?"
She sent him a glare that would have frozen a lake, then grabbed the hem and pulled it over her head in one quick motion. She balled it up and threw it in his face. "Take your stupid sweatshirt."
"Why are you mad?" he said. It wasn't like he did anything to her.
"Why am I mad?" Kristen said, staring at him incredulously. She gave a laugh. "You're kidding me, right?"
"No," he said, drawing his eyebrows together.
"Fine," she muttered and turned away from him. She crossed her arms. "Just forget it, Ace."
He felt a surge of anger at her words. Forget it? She broke his heart and acted like it's his fault, and now she expected him to forget it? "No," he said, taking a step toward her. "No, I won't forget it. You're kidding me, right?"
She only stared at him. He had to be joking. He was Ace, he never said things like that. He would never break her heart. Never…not like all the other boys. Ace was her best friend, Ace knew her better than anyone, he loved her. She could have sworn he did.
"Fine," she said, her voice quieter. She looked away from him. "I hope you're happy, then."
Now it was his turn to stare. He gaped at her until he was capable of producing words again. "You- you dump me, and you're acting like I'm hurting you?"
Kristen looked back at him, shocked. "What?"
He bunched up the sweatshirt in his hands and sighed, glancing at her. "You're killing me here, Kristen."
"What're you- Ace, what are you talking about?" she said, confused. "I'm not dumping you!"
Her looked up at her, unamused. "Yeah, then what are you doing?"
"I- Ace, you- you-," she said, unable to find a word that encompassed what an unbelievable idiot he was. Her shoulders fell as she looked at him hopelessly. "I'm telling you that I love you, you enormous prat."
Ace only stared, gaping uncomprehendingly at her for a moment. The green sweatshirt slipped out of his grasp as he took two broad strides, closing the distance between them. He cupped her face in his hands and gave her a deep, long kiss. She felt her own arms unfold as she drew closer to him. The kiss was warm in the chilly spring air, and she felt it down to her toes.
When they finally broke apart, their eyes met. Kristen's face was still red. Ace wrapped his arms around her and held her to his chest. They were quiet for a while, until he finally broke the silence.
"Blimey, Kris," he said. "I'm really stupid. I'm sorry."
"It's alright," she mumbled against his shirt.
"No," he said, shaking his head. "I mean, I love you too."
She pulled away slightly, looked up at him, and kissed him again. "I know."
He smiled and took her hand. "Well you're a lot smarter than I am."
"I know," she said again, and smiled back. She squeezed his hand. "I should have been clearer, and I misunderstood as well. How about we just forget all this?"
"And just remember the last part? Sounds good to me," he grinned. He leaned in and kissed her again. She tugged on his hand and pulled him closer. When they broke apart they grinned at each other.
"Come on, I know a great place we can go for dinner," he said, intertwining their fingers.
"Okay," she said. "I am pretty hungry. Just let me pay this time."
"What? No way," he said as he reached down to grab his sweatshirt from the ground.
"You paid last time," she said.
"Because I'm a gentleman," he said.
She rolled her eyes. "A broke gentleman."
"Fine," he said. "You can pay as long as you promise to keep my sweatshirt." He threw it over her head.
She pulled it down and pushed her arms through the sleeves before taking his hand again. "You have yourself a deal."
They continued down the sidewalk, hand in hand, as the last of the early spring sunlight glowed behind them.