A/n: This is sort of a therapeutic story for me because most of the occurrences here are based on real moments (I've changed the names of my friends, mostly). It was inspired by the chorus of the Rob Thomas song "Getting Late" and I've put the lyrics below in case you're interested.
The pacing of this story is going to be a lot different from my other stories, simply because it's spread out over at least six years (maybe more by the end. I haven't quite decided how it ends yet).
I hope you like it and review, but as I said this is more self-therapy for me and I decided to share.
While you're watching over
The moments that make up your life
Well it's getting late
That's the way it is
You can't deny
When it feels like this
And it's strange
What it's bringing out
You're gonna open up
'Cause you can't stop now
Oh you can't stop now
While you're watching over
The moments that make up your life
It was a chilly day despite being June, and my heart was in my throat. So many people had gathered, and I was so overwhelmed I couldn't move.
I'd never thought this day would come. Not in a million years had I actually believed this could happen. Not the day he told me he was joining the military, and not the day I found out he was going to Afghanistan. I had never truly believed it.
And yet, I stood there, my hands shaking as I held the flowers tightly in my grip. People's voices murmured in my ear, and all I could think about was the moments that made up our life together.
I fought the tears in my eyes and tried to swallow the lump in my throat.
We were in elementary school together. I don't mean it like people normally do. Usually when someone say that they mean that they attended the same school. Ken and I had the same teacher for four years. We weren't best friends, but it was nice to walk into class on the first day of school and already know you already had a friend in class.
When we reached middle school, he was upset because we wouldn't see each other every day. One of both our mothers' favorite stories is about how he came home in tears the day he found out there was no guarantee I'd be in any of his classes. We lost the comfort of having each other in class.
He was my first crush.
I'm in love with him. I am completely head-over-heels, drowning, fall-flat-on-my-face in love with him.
My best friend.
Six years we danced around each other.
These are the moment that make up our life.
I just sat in the passenger seat of the car as my sixteen-year-old brain tried to comprehend what Riley had just said.
Ken had asked her out. She was his girlfriend now, and neither of them had mentioned it for a week.
I was jealous. I was so insanely jealous that I couldn't hear anything else she was saying.
I was the one he flirted with a lunch, not Riley. I was the one who had always been there for him.
But he'd asked her out and I was absolutely crushed.
"Sara?" I turned to look at Riley in the back seat, who had been chatting happily with Janet about her new relationship. "You okay with this? I know you like him."
My throat was suddenly so dry I didn't know if I could form words. But I still forced a smile onto my face. Riley and Janet were always talking about how we were best friends. Best friends didn't date guys they knew their friends really liked.
Instead of saying what was in my head, I said "Sure."
Ken frowned at me as we sat down at the lunch table. "Erik's not a good guy Sara."
I wanted to scream and slam my hands on the table as I took in the concerned look on his long features. I wanted to tell him that it was nice to be wanted by someone. To know that someone liked me for me.
Instead, I didn't say anything.
And when a couple months later, despite me saying no, Erik talked me out of my clothes, I didn't say anything. I didn't want to tell Ken that he'd been right. I didn't want to admit to any of my friends that I was that weak.
So when Erik cheated on me, no one knew how much worse it was because of that.
I leaned against the foot board of his bed, watching the computer screen over his shoulder.
Ken's entire attention was focused on the video he was editing, and I was supposed to be reading a book until he was ready for the sound to be edited. This was how it worked when one of us had a video project for class. He edited the video and I did the sound because I was significantly better at it than him.
His phone buzzed against the top of his desk and he scooped it up, glanced at the screen and then dropped it back to the desktop.
I frowned at the back of his head. "That's Riley" I said.
He glanced over his shoulder at me, and unreadable expression in his eyes. "I know that" he said, annoyed sarcasm heavy in his voice.
I knew it wasn't directed at me. It never was. Well, sarcasm generally was, but he never got annoyed with me.
So I frowned at the back of his head as he continued to edit my video project.
"Everything okay with you guys?" I asked, my book now completely forgotten. They had been dating over a year and while I knew things weren't perfect with them, I wanted to make sure he was all right.
"It's fine Sara" he replied, but I could hear the tension in his voice. "She's just mad at me."
I pursed my lips and pushed them to the side of my face as I thought about what I could say.
Ken and Riley really cared about each other, and after a year I had accepted the fact that he'd chosen Riley and didn't feel the same way about me. I was content with just being one of his closest friends.
"What'd you do?" I asked, sliding my finger between the pages of the book and closing it.
He looked back over his shoulder, considered me for a long moment, then looked back at the computer. "I don't actually know."
I sighed knowingly. Riley may have been a good friend, but she could be a bit irrational sometimes.
"You ready to do some sound editing?" He asked, getting to his feet. "I've got a new program."
I chewed on the corner of my bottom lip as I got to my feet and took his spot in his prewarmed desk chair. The sound editing program was booting up, and he leaned over my shoulder to show me the basic functions.
I tried to focus on what he was saying and not the fact that he was close enough I could feel his body heat.
A knock on the door saved my brain from going places and his mom stuck her head in. She gave me a huge smile, which I returned. I absolutely adored him mom, especially when she walked into his room with food, which usually happened whenever I was over.
"I've got some fruit for the two of you" she said, setting the bowl of pineapple down on the corner of the desk.
"Thanks!" I exclaimed, picking up the bowl. "I love pineapple!"
Her grin widened as he son mumbled his thanks and she backed out of his room again, pulling the door shut behind her.
I didn't ask him again what was going on with Riley.
The small piece of paper fell out of my locker and panic flew up into my throat as I scooped it up. Janet gave me a weird look as I shoved it into the pocket of my jeans.
"What was that?" She demanded, and I looked up at her, scowling.
"Nothing" I muttered darkly, trying to fight the panic that wanted to rise up in my chest. Turning, I reached into the locker I shared with Janet to get one of my notebooks when I felt a small hand slide into my pocket. "Janet!" I exclaimed, and tried to swipe it back. It was too late though. She'd opened the note and she was currently staring at it with huge eyes. Then she turned those huge eyes on me and held out the note wordlessly. I took it, scanned it, and frowned.
You can dig me up a grave
And try and stick me in the ground
You can tie me to the bed
And try and beat me half to death
But you can never keep me down
And I will survive
'Cause you're my Mississippi Princess
You're my California Queen
Like the Duchess of Detroit
And every city in between
You can slap me in the face
You can scream profanity
Leave me here to die alone but
I'll still follow you home
I'll still follow you home.
I took the paper from her, folded it back up and opened one of the smaller outside pockets of my messenger bag.
That was a mistake because Janet saw the others then. She smacked my hand aside and pulled the others out. I knew exactly what was on the other ones.
Wake up call
Caught you in the morning with another one in my bed
Don't you care about me anymore?
Don't you care about me? I don't think so.
Six foot tall
Came without a warning so I had to shoot him dead
He won't come around here anymore
Come around here? I don't think so.
And another one was
You belong to me,
My snow white queen.
There's nowhere to run, so let's just get it over.
Soon I know you'll see,
You're just like me.
Don't scream anymore my love, 'cause all I want is you.
Janet looked up at me, her eyes huge and worried. "Sara. . ." She trailed off as I snatched the notes back from my best friend and shoved them back in my bag. I should have just thrown them out. I shouldn't have kept them.
I bade her a quick "see you later" and dashed off to my class.
By the time lunch rolled around, I should have expected it. I should have known he'd know. I should have known that Janet would tell Ken about the notes, so when he cornered me about them, I meekly handed them over and watched his face darken.
After we'd eaten lunch, he bullied me into going with Janet to the guidance office to show the notes to my guidance counselor.
The next day he and our friend Matt took one of the stalker notes and tried to put it through the vents on the locker. Turns out it didn't fit, which meant someone had been opening the locker I shared with Janet.
She absolutely flipped out and she told my guidance counselor, who told my class principal, who then put a security escort on me between classes.
Being seniors, my friends and I had walk-off passes so we could go get food from one of the nearby food places.
Janet and I were heading out to one of them when we found Ken waiting for us at my locker. "Where're you guys going?" He asked, an eyebrow raised.
I looked sheepishly at the ground as Janet scowled at him. "We're heading over to the deli for lunch" she replied. "Problem?"
"You're not going alone" he said, and I knew he was looking at me. Sure enough when I lifted my gaze from my shoes, his blue eyes were fixed on me with a very serious look.
"I'm not alone" I protested. "Janet! See, she's a person. Hence" I pointed at myself "not alone."
His trademarked smirk twitched his lips upward and it only made me scowl at him. "Well, whatever. I'm up for deli."
"Fine" I muttered, starting to walk past him. He slung his arm over my shoulders and I automatically adjusted the strap of my bag so it wouldn't bang into his hip as we walked.
"Hey, I'm playing bodyguard until this is over Sara" he said, voice low.
Coming out of any of my other friends this idea would have been ridiculous and no comfort at all, but Ken was different. He'd been taking karate classes forever, and he was taking his black belt test in the spring.
Plus, I knew without a doubt that he'd do anything to protect me.
I glanced at the caller ID on my phone when I picked it up, and couldn't help the smile that crept across my face.
Going to different colleges meant that I barely saw Ken, except the occasional weekend when we didn't have too much schoolwork.
"Hey" I said as I pinned my cell phone between my shoulder and my ear. I dumped my textbooks off my lap and settled back against the pillow on my bed. "What's up?"
"So" he drew it out just slightly and I rolled my eyes, immediately knowing I wasn't going to like what he was about to suggest. "I need to use you as a reference."
I sighed, looking up at my ceiling. "For what?"
"I'm signing up for the National Guard." I was completely speechless, and just sat there with my mouth hanging open. "Sara? Still there?"
"Yup" I replied, my voice strained. "Why?"
"Because I need a reference."
"Ken. . ." There was a warning in my voice, and I heard him chuckle in response to it. The guy was infuriating.
"I get my school paid for this way" he replied, and I could feel the fear tightening my chest. "They'll only call you if I go AWOL or crazy or some shit."
If he'd been within arm's reach of me I would have shaken him until his head rattled.
"You know I'll do it Ken" I replied, a sigh in my voice. "Though if you get blown up I'm going to be extremely upset with you."
"Yeah, well I'll try not to" his reply was sarcastic, but I could hear the smile in his voice.