Ethan was my best friend. My very best friend in the whole wide world. I had only known him for eight months, but in those eight months, we got to known each other perfectly. We could read each other's minds, practically. I could tell him anything and he listened to whatever I had to say. And vice versa. He was always there. He had the most amazing little quirks too. He was so utterly clueless about everything, and he couldn't follow directions if his life depended on it. He was so comfortable to fall asleep on too.
All of my friends would nudge me and whisper, "you should go out with him". I would always just smile and shake my head. Ethan and I weren't like that. Sure, I mean, he was cute and everything, utterly adorable, but he was like a puppy. Or my little brother. And I would not date a puppy. Or my brother. And I knew he didn't like me either. That was one of the comforts of our friendship. There were no awkward feelings.
Ethan was in every one of my classes. His locker was beside mine. And he was on my morning and afternoon bus. That was how we met. I was new to the area, and I accused him of stalking me on the first day of school. I'm still kind of embarrassed over that confrontation. But, he forgave me, because that's the kind of guy he is, and became my best friend.
"Would you like a potato?"
I looked up from my math homework, which I was doing at lunch instead of actually eating. Ethan was standing above me holding out a potato.
"Uh." Honestly, how do you respond to someone passing you a potato? A sandwich is normal, or a piece of fruit is fine, but a potato and only a potato? Not a clue. "Is it raw?"
Ethan scoffed. "Do you really think I'm strange enough to just offer you a raw potato?" He thumped into the seat beside me, his blonde hair going everywhere.
"Yes," I replied without hesitation. A strong memory of a sword fight using a feather duster and a pink flamingo was heavily on my mind as I answered.
"It's baked." Ethan sat the potato on the table and dove for his bag, which he had dropped at his feet. He pulled out a knife, butter and sour cream. "Mom sent me to school with two of them and I know you haven't eaten yet." He turned accusing eyes on me. "You need to eat. You are way too damn skinny."
"Skinnier than you!" I taunted as he prepared the potato.
"This is pure muscle." Ethan flexed, showing off the hard earned muscles from four years in boxing.
"Four hundred pounds of it?" I asked.
"You know that I'm not even two hundred pounds." Ethan handed me the potato covered in sour cream, butter and . . . cheese? I hadn't seen any cheese. "Eat it. You're lucky if you're a hundred pounds."
"One twenty five," I snorted, but ate the potato anyway, knowing he would never leave me alone if I didn't.
As I ate, Ethan skimmed my math homework. He was also the brains of the operation. Me? I have the role of the pretty face. Which, in all honestly, really isn't all that pretty.
"They're all right," he pronounced as I finished the end of the potato.
"Good. And I wasn't doing any of them again even if they weren't wrong." There was more to life than math. And there was no way I was wasting more of my time on that crap than I already had.
"Let's walk," I decided, shouldering my bag. It was a beautiful day outside, spring fully settling in.
"Fine," Ethan grumbled good naturedly. He grabbed his bag too and we left the library and headed for the main doors, which were the furthest away from the parking lot. I would hate to have a bunch of stupid cars and screaming people destroy my perfect day.
"Wait," I dropped to my knee right a few meters away from the door. "I need to tie my shoe."
Ethan sighed, tapped his foot and bounced back and forth. I just smiled, and took more time than necessary. He wasn't impatient at all; he just liked to be a nutcase about things. I shook my head at his antics. He now looked like he was doing a demented version of the potty dance. As I tilted my head to the left, I noticed something. A gun. A gun was dangling out of someone's hand.
The gun was raised, and I raised my eyes too. Ethan's back was turned. He was waggling his butt in my face, so he didn't see the guy who was about to shoot him. I didn't recognize the kid. I only recognized that my best friend was in danger. So, I did what any best friend would do. I jumped to my feet.
And took that bullet.
I took the bullet and forced us both to the floor, me on top of Ethan. The shooter just passed by, heading toward a mob of fleeing students. I rolled off of Ethan once I was sure the shooter was gone. He immediately popped up.
"Jesus." His eyes widened as he took in my bloodied appearance.
"It's not that bad," I gasped, but it was worse. I could feel it. My limbs were aching and cold already.
Ethan stared at me in horror. He gently touched my face.
"Ethan, get to safety," I commanded, although my voice was weak and lacked the authority I wanted to hold.
"I'm staying with you."
"Go." I ordered, feeling stronger, driven by the desire to keep my best friend safe.
Ethan stood, but remained by my side, wavering. "Safety, Ethan, now!" The effort that took was momentous.
He took a stuttering step toward the door and looked back at me, and my ever growing puddle of blood. I could see the tears in his eyes.
"Hey, Ethan," I called, and he fully turned. "I love you." And I didn't mean it romantically, and he knew that. Even so, he smiled. "Now, go be safe."
"I'm so sorry I have to go," he whispered, "forgive me."
"Of course." Although I hated to see him leave, I had to get him to safety, to see him walk out those doors unscathed.
"I love you too, Jessica." And then he was gone and I was dead.