A.N: Pronouns abound. Also, I don't own any pop culture references made in this story or the title either (that belongs to Explosions in the Sky).
They're strangers when they meet. No, that's a lie. It would have been so much easier if they were.
She's his best friend's girl the first time they meet. At first he thinks she's cute. Not hot, not beautiful; really, nothing to write home about. He regrets this first impression.
She's treated like a princess, which, for her sixteen-and-a-half-year-old-self, is pretty special. She's doted upon, his best friend sees her as an angel, an absolute shining light in his dark life. No, that's a lie as well. Their lives are mundane, ordinary, with loving parents who love them and annoying siblings who begrudgingly love them too. No drama, save the occasional mini-episodes of teen angst here and there. But she's still an angel, whose smile beams when she gets swept up in a great big bear hug after not seeing his best friend for forever (read: two whole days), whose polite giggles aren't grating on his ears when someone tells a lame joke that no one else laughs at, whose lips are so soft and red before and after she gets thoroughly kissed. His best friend always gets the cute girl.
She's seventeen when she starts to grimace at every sweepingly romantic gesture her boyfriend does. The other girls coo and have their hearts melted when her boyfriend shows up at her locker with a single red rose, because he was thinking of her. For fuck's sake, she wants to scream, enough already. She doesn't want a prince to sweep her off her feet, she doesn't want a romantic doormat that just dotes and dotes on her all day, she doesn't want someone like who she has now. Her smile still beams when she hugs him tight though. She's a bitch.
He's the only one to see the exasperation flicker in her eyes right before she throws that pretty smile on her face. He's the only to notice her giggles have become chuckles, her big beaming smiles changed to cute little grins, her lips still as soft and red as when he first met her. He's seventeen when he realises she's going to break his best friend's heart. He's seventeen when he realises that maybe, just maybe she's more than cute, she's more than pretty. She's fucking beautiful. For fuck's sake, he screams at himself, stop being such a girl and go find someone to have sex with.
She's seventeen and two months old when she breaks his best friend's heart. His best friend cries, she winces as she sees his tears, he begs to reconsider, she sighs and pulls her hand out from his grasp. She pats his best friend on the back, tells him he'll be okay and walks away. She's a bitch. He's not there to witness the chaos though. He's caught with his pants around his knees and his hand on his best friend's girl's best friend's sister's breast behind the locker room.
They both come into school the next day, steeling themselves for whatever the world (read: their classmates) has to throw at them. It all gets a bit old after three days.
They get on with their lives. His best friend has another new girl to treat like she's the most delicate glass in the world. She doesn't flinch, not even a tiny bit, when she sees them canoodling in the common room. She just smiles, a smile that clearly shows she's cool with it, puts her headphones on and gets back to finishing her assignment. She aces that assignment. He gets caught with his pants around his knees and his hands on his best friend's ex-girlfriend's best friend's sister's best friend's breasts behind the PE shed.
They all meet again at university. He's meeting his best friend's new girl, who sounds just like all the other girls. She's the new girl's new best friend and housemate. Of course she is. His best friend stands there like a stunned mullet. His best friend's new girl stands stunned as well. He smirks. She chuckles and buys them all hot chocolate. When she gets back, perfectly balancing four hot hot chocolates in her hands, they're still shocked. She rolls her eyes and sits down. He joins her and she slides a cup his way. Fuck, she's still beautiful.
It should be more awkward than this. It isn't. The surprise ebbs away from their best friends' faces and conversation flows. He doesn't catch any pain, or any longing for that matter, in his best friend's eyes when he looks over at her. That's good. That's real good. There's a lull in conversation when both their best friends find it absolutely necessary to relearn the contours of each other's mouths. She just chuckles and turns away, facing him and gives him a pretty smile that makes him feel funny inside. And it's not just his soon-to-be-developing boner talking.
He sees her more often than he would like, because somehow, they all become this weirdly strange foursome. During the week, he gets on with his studies and work and beer-o'-clocks, she just manages to balance her studies with her part time job and a social life and their best friends have loud noisy sex on Tuesdays (at his and his best friend's place) and Thursdays (at her place). On Sundays, they have brunch at the girls' cute little unit. The lovebirds giggle and feed each other pancakes/eggs/cereal with the occasional pet name coming out of their mouths, he flips through the channels, before always settling on the sports channel and she is either hungover, grumbling about never ever doing tequila/vodka/ABC shots again, or flopping down on the couch next to him, asking him inane, albeit hilarious, questions about the footy (why such short shorts? Do they have to wear special underwear to prevent testicular exposure? Why do the goal umpires only get to wear the fancy white coats and hat? Where can she get one like that?). She always smells nice though. Like pomegranates. Or something.
They graduate, one by one, him first, her last. They're all scared shitless of what lies ahead of them.
She makes a move the night she graduates. He rocks up to a bar with some work colleagues and sees her there with her other friends, all aglow, excited and anxious, with that just-graduated look. She's beautiful. He's sipping on a beer, talking about something or other with his workmates when she sidles up to the bar next to him and bumps hips with him, a cheeky grin plastered on her face. They go shot for shot, until, four shots in, she desperately needs some air. Also, she wants to get away from that creepy guy leering at her boobs across the bar. Her hand finds his and he tags along, fingers intertwining with hers as the cool air hits their faces and wakes them out of their slightly drunken stupor.
They stand in silence; unusual because she's a talkative drunk. He stares. She stares back, her face a cryptic crossword he contemplates solving. And then, lo and behold, she leans forward and presses her lips against his. It's not demanding, it's not a drunken faux-passionate need-to-have-you-naked-in-5-4-3-2-1 kind of kiss. It's soft and lingering, tastes of moscato and beer. It's dizzying, overwhelming, too much, not enough. He forgets to respond. She pulls away, her face masking the hurt, but he catches that flicker of pain in her eyes before she fixes herself up, murmurs a soft sorry and heads back inside. Fuck, she's beautiful. He leans his head against the brick wall and takes a moment. The smell of pomegranate lingers in the air.
He gets caught with his hand up some other guy's girlfriend's skirt that night. She's gone home (alone) long before it happens.
She moves away. He never got the chance to properly tell her how he feels. After The Kiss (he's capitalising it, because damn. Damn.), she went right back to being friends with him, even after the nasty breakup between their respective best friends, waterworks mostly on his best friend's side. They never bring up The Kiss ever again, for shame on her side and pure unadulterated awkwardness on his behalf. He may have dropped a few hints here and there, glances that lingered for too long, hugs that held on just that bit tighter, laughs that were tinged with fondness and longing for her. She responds to each dropped hint with a soft hopeful smile, a slight tilt of the head, encouraging him to go on, do it. But he always (always) scratches the back of his head, smirks shakily and changes the topic. And she always rolls her eyes at him.
She moves away. She finds a new boyfriend, one who treats her just right. Not too doting, not too apathetic, just right. But it's not. She feels bad when she imagines the hair she's running her fingers through is darker, thicker, less curly. How the hands gripping her hip during sex should be rougher, callused and more delicious against her skin. How the arms around her and the body pressed up against her during a hug should smell more like freshly cut grass and sawdust. How the lips against hers don't taste like him.
She feels bad. She breaks up with this boyfriend. It's for the best, she tells him, watching him nod understandingly, annoyingly understandingly, because he's just right. Just so right. She's the wrong one. A kiss on the forehead, a murmur of some sort wishing her the best and then he's gone. He's gone.
He stays behind. He finds a new girl. She's a bit like her, but with just enough difference between the two of them to not make his heart ache when he looks at her face. She's pretty, this new girl is. All big eyes and red lips and soft shiny hair (just like her), but bubblier and so goddamn optimistic and so much, so much sexier than her. But she's not as beautiful. He doesn't know who he wants more. No, that's a lie. He knows. He just won't admit it. That is also a lie. He admits it.
He moves away. His best friend gruffly wishes him the best of luck with his new job before going back to doting on his girl, a different one but all the same, one who adores every single speck of attention showered her way. Even after eighteen months. He thinks his best friend has found a keeper. His own girlfriend looks at him with big puppy eyes, begging him to stay. To stay for her, she pleads, dignity be damned. He feels bad when all he can think of is how he should have asked her to stay. How if she had let her lips linger just that nanosecond longer, he would be kissing her, right here, right now. How his current girl's lips aren't as red as they were when they first met, while hers always looked like she had just been thoroughly kissed. He wishes he had thoroughly kissed her.
He moves away. He still keeps in contact with his mum, his best friend and some other guys from here and there. Facebook tells him that she's in a relationship, she's no longer in a relationship, it's complicated and now she's single and then she doesn't advertise her relationship status anymore. She's a bitch. He doesn't write on her wall, but hungrily looks for any updates about her whenever he logs on. She's cut her hair, she's got a new car that actually works, she's got a promotion at work. He falls in and out of like fast with girls who remind him of her. It's not enough, it's too much, it's all-consuming and he kind of hates her for it.
She's at the train station after a long day at work when he sees her. Her platform tells him she's miles from where he's headed, in the opposite direction too. Same old story, every time. She's still beautiful.
Fuck it. Her train arrives and he's walking towards her. He boards her train and pushes past people to plop down in the seat next to her. It's ungraceful, to say the least, and a bit rude, but he doesn't care. She looks different, like the working world has beaten her down a bit. But when she glances over at him, her eyes, gosh her eyes, are the same. They widen in delighted surprise as her lips break into a beautiful beaming smile.
His hand brushes against hers. She slips it into his. His fingers lace between hers. It's like coming home.
A.N: Well. That all came to me in one day because clearly fate was telling me not to do my pathology assignment. Please review, that would magical and amazing and you're all such beautiful people (does my complementing get me anywhere when it comes to reviews?).