"Are you still awake?" Aaron whispered. I looked up, still curled in the fetal position on the seat. The handle jabbed into my ribs as the bus lurched, and I quickly sat up.
"Yeah," I replied, glancing over at the girl next to me. Isabel was fast asleep, her stuffed tarantula clutched in her hand.
"So, are you ready to tell me the story?" He asked me. His best friend looked up, apparently still awake, as well. Great, guess Melody would get the story, too. I nodded, sighing.
"Okay, I am giving you a choice." I decided. "November 2010, or December 2011? And then I've got one question for you."
"Where do I come in?" He wondered.
"Okay, basically, I had liked this guy in eighth grade. I am not currently naming him, unless you really want to know."
Melody opened her mouth.
"La-ter. To make a long story short, he was a pretty big jerk. He basically told me he liked me, and then asked someone else out on the same day. Yeah..."
"I'm sorry." Aaron muttered, giving me a sympathetic look.
"Its fine, I'm over it." I replied. "Well, onto the part where you came in. Do you remember in jazz band, when we played that ballad, Goodbye My Heart?"
"That first time, when you were playing the piano, that's when I started liking you."
"Yeah, I kept it secret for a while. Truth is, after what happened with Other Person, I really didn't know how to act, and stuff, so I didn't want to tell you. Really, the only experience I've had with relationships has been bad. Other Person was kind of a player, so, yeah..."
"I'm sorry," he said again.
I just shrugged.
"The next major thing was the Swing Dance." I continued. "My biological dad figured it out pretty quick. Like, he noticed me watching you help set up the stage thingy, he started teasing me, and then I pretty much told him I like you.
You were actually the first person I ever danced with. My brother had asked me, just because he noticed I was following my dad around, but I said no. And then Alex asked me, and I said no again, but then I felt really bad for rejecting him, and I ended up just running off."
"And is that where he comes in again?" Melody asked with a smirk. She poked him in the forehead. I shut my eyes, reliving the moment when we were all sitting on the bench, backstage at Disneyland, and they accidentally almost kissed. I felt my fingernails digging into my palm, but the hands didn't even feel like mine.
"Yeah." I replied, shortly. "Back then I was really shy around you, and so I was just glad we were having a conversation. And then when you asked me to dance, I was really, really happy. Did you notice me shaking, though? I was shaking for like, half an hour after that."
"Wow," he muttered, looking down. Ryan's arm was draped over his shoulder, his mouth hanging open. He moved Melody's brother off of himself and leaned him up against his Disneyland Pillow Pet.
I smiled, watching the freshman boy snuggle into his Pillow Pet. Then I looked back up at the junior and sophomore sitting in front of me, continuing my story.
"And then we basically spent the weekend at my dad's friend's house, or whatever. I was really bored, and that's when I wrote that Swing Dance poem. The day I gave it to you, I'd spent jazz band copying it onto a piece of paper. And then when I chased after you, you'd thought it was a piece of paper you'd dropped.
What was your reaction when you read the poem? That's not my one question, by the way."
"Uh, well, the first thing I thought was oh, great. I didn't want to hurt you, so I told you LDS people can only date when they're sixteen."
"My parents said it was seventeen for me." Melody interjected. Her voice still sounded raw from her sore throat.
"Why?" Aaron asked in disbelief.
"Eh, I don't know." Melody replied, shrugging. She glanced at me. "Continue."
"Yeah, well, we had a sub in language arts, so I ended up spending fourth period curled up in a corner, sobbing."
"I'm really, really sorry." Aaron apologized again. I shrugged, watching Melody attempt to get up off of his lap. She finally stood up, and headed back into the bathroom.
"I'm over it. And that's basically the end of my story." I whispered. Aaron sighed, closing his eyes. That's when I remembered my question.
I decided to let him rest for a bit. I closed my eyes, resting my head on my knees. Stupid, stupid me, stowing my pillow under the bus.
"Wait," Aaron whispered. I jerked my head up, realizing that his face was literally inches from mine. He pulled back a bit, embarrassed. "What was that question you had?"
I took a deep breath, preparing myself for all possible outcomes. Opening my mouth, I stared at his face, taking in his silver eyes and chapped, pink lips, hiding an adorable mouthful of braces. I closed my mouth again.
With a fresh surge of courage, I breathed, almost silently, "Do you...actually...like me back?"
"Sarah," he sighed heavily. We both closed our eyes. This was it, the moment I'd been waiting for since I made that fateful decision to give him the poem in May. It wasn't supposed to come this soon; my birthday was still over five months away! But now it was happening.
"Sarah, you're one of my best friends. I love seeing you every day in health class and after lunch. You make me happy. But... I just like you as a friend. That's it."
I sat there, motionless, unable to breathe. Finally, I choked out a strangled "Okay."
"I'm sorry." Aaron apologized for the fourth time.
I didn't reply. Instead, I turned around and buried my face in the back of my seat, trying my hardest to muffle my sobs. Time passed; what felt like eternity was probably only a few short minutes. Drying my tears, I turned back around. He sat up as soon as he heard me turn.
I leaned forward. Ran my fingers through his hair, as I'd longed to do countless times before. Then I withdrew my hand, squeezing my wrist as hard as I possibly could, digging my nails into the flesh.
"Should I just give up?" I whispered in his ear. I didn't even know what I was referring to at the time.
"No, don't give up. Never give up, it would make me sad." Aaron sounded like a child, and I was struck with an overwhelming urge to kiss him. Instead, I buried my face in his hair, my lips barely brushing his ear.
"I'm not giving up." I whispered, and then abruptly, I pulled away, curling up into a tight ball.
"Goodnight, Sarah." Aaron whispered.
I did not reply.