One Trip Around the Sun
It was the last thing I wanted to do, drive to Jade's place and have to see her and Zach. But I couldn't just say no to my best friend, not when she said that she had to tell me something important. I had an idea of what this important thing was and it only made me want to see her less and less with each passing house. But like I said, I couldn't say no to her – I never could, and I never will.
Jade and I had met back in college, freshman year. We ended up in the same orientation group and ended up hitting it off right away, becoming damn near inseparable. Although we didn't live together our freshman year, being assigned to our own "living learning communities," we did whatever we could together, whenever we could. We even both decided to walk onto the soccer team together – Jade as a striker and me as a defender.
We had good times in college, especially after that first year, when we could live together. Attached at the hip, people often told us. Almost never saw one of us without the other. That was, until Zach came around and I saw less and less of Jade and realized more and more what she really was to me.
Zach was on the football team in college and was, and still is, the biggest douche bag I had ever met. Somehow though, Zach managed to worm his way between Jade and I, taking Jade away from me. Even to this day I don't understand how Jade can think that Zach, of all people, was the one that was meant for her. He liked to act like a bro, in all his frat boy and repressed homosexual ways. The guy still freaked out when someone pronounced his name wrong. I can even hear his snobby voice in my head shouting, "It's not Zack! It's pronounced like it's spelled! Za-Ach."
As graduation drew neared, and Jade and I grew farther apart, I came to some realizations on my own. Ones, that now, were so obvious, I don't know why it had taken so long for me to figure them out. At the time, I guess I was just too scared to admit it even to myself, much less Jade or anyone else for that matter. The more time that Jade and I had spent apart, the more I realized that I couldn't live without her. She was such an integral part of my life, that I wasn't willing to lose her – even if that meant dealing with the biggest ass that humanity had ever seen. I had to have her in my life, even if I couldn't have her for myself.
We had always joked that we were going to end up marrying each other and that if we weren't married by the time we were thirty, we were definitely going to marry each other. Our other friends had joked about how we wouldn't know what to do without each other, so maybe it would be best if we just got married. And as Jade drifted away from me, I realized that our little joke was something that I wouldn't mind – because at the end of it all, I loved Jade, truly and deeply. She was the wanted that I dreamed about and she was the one that I wanted to spend the rest of my life next to.
But instead of telling her how I felt, I put my own feelings aside, because having her in my life as my friend was better than not having her in it at all. I stood by and let her be happy with Zach, supporting her in anything she did and whatever she chose to do. Her happiness was enough for me – I could be happy as long she was happy even if it was with Zach.
After graduation, Jade and I remained friends, though it wasn't the same as it had been when we first met, but I took what I could get. Her and Zach ended up moving in together and I moved into my own apartment, by myself, with my only roommate being a mean, angry cat named Lucy. Jade went on to be a Physician's Assistant while I went on to be a research at the local cancer institute.
And now I was on my way to Jade's place, to hear the announcement that Zach had finally proposed to her, where I would pretend to be happy for her and force a happy smile. On the inside though, I would feel my heart clench in a painful squeeze as my last chance to get Jade would disappear.
I pulled onto Jade's street and drove slowly towards her house, trying to delay the inevitable. I took in the neighborhood, trying to see the things that I hadn't took the chance to see before. It was a nice, upstanding piece of suburbia, where everyone's lawn was green and each was adorned with at least one garden gnome. Perfect flowers were planted in perfect gardens, kept that way by the hard working, good people of the street. White picket fences surrounded most of the houses, all designed the same, just painted a little differently from the last. I could even hear the bark of some dogs over my music – the sad, pathetic kind that spoke of lost love, but was exactly what I was feeling at the time.
I couldn't avoid Jade's house forever though, and so I eventually came to a stop in front of a house that looked like all the rest, right down to the white picket fence. I thumped back into my seat, letting out a heavy sigh. I dawdled a bit in my car though, making sure I had my phone and my wallet. And my cigarettes, because I would definitely need those to get through the night ahead.
Eventually, I reached for my keys and turned them out of the ignition, shutting down the car. I still didn't get out though, not ready to face the reality that was waiting for me behind the baby blue door of Jade's place. Instead I listened to the hisses and clicks of my car as it cooled down – and I gave in to a memory that was tickling me in the back of my mind. It was from junior year, after we had lost the soccer championships by one goal, and we had gone out and gotten shit faced. We had downed beer with a vengence, determined to drown our sorrows in alcohol.
Jade and I had stumbled back from the bar, our arms around each other shoulders, trying to keep the other from falling, and singing drunken songs that didn't sound like sounds at all, but a bunch of random words and noises thrown together, interspaced with screeching giggles. The girl working the front desk immediately recognized us as the hooligans that ran rampant on campus and in the dorm. She smiled at us, with just an amused tilt of the lips, and nothing else, only letting us in as she shook looked into her lap. Shaking her head at us, I remember seeing her shoulders shake in laughter at our antics – which of course had sent me into screeching giggles which then made Jade laugh too.
The two of us tumbled through the door into our main lobby, pulling on each other to keep ourselves up, laughing like hyenas all the while. Jade pulled away from to hit the up button on the elevator and teetered her way back to me, a huge drunken smile on her face. I smiled right back and opened my arms wide to fling them around her neck as she put hers around me in return. We rocked back and forth, continuing our drunken duet as we waited for the elevator to bing! on the bottom floor.
It finally came after what had seemed like hours to my drunken mind, and we basically fell over ourselves trying to get into the elevator. I punched the seventh floor button once and then banged on the close door buttons that never work in any elevator ever. I could hear Jade giggling at my antics, but she didn't comment on it. The elevator arrived on our floor and we tumbled out, me first with Jade right behind me. I could hear her bumping into the walls as we made our way to our room and I started to burst out into giggles causing me to lose my balance and bounce off the walls a few times.
When we, at long last, made it to our room, we let completely lose. We cackled like mad women who had just gone insane. No doubt our floormates hated us with a passion that night. I struggled to get out of my sweatpants – because there was no way I was going to dress up to go out, as miserable as I had been after the game – and nearly fell flat on my face. Jade let out another burst of wild laughter and I just threw a few choice words at her over my shoulder that made her laugh even harder. I eventually got down to my bra and underwear and stumbled over to my bed where my pajamas were. It was hot that evening so I decided to forgo the shirt and just put on my light flannel bottoms instead. I crawled into my bed and immediately faced the wall, half way to dreamland when I felt my bed dip down behind me. I cracked an eye open, peaking over my shoulder, and saw Jade crawling in my bed.
"Jade," I murmured, sleep having quickly taken over, "what are you doing?" Jade ignored me as she made herself comfortable on my bed, just her normal tank top and shorts on for sleep. She shifted about some before deciding to put her back to me. I thought that that was going to be the end of it so I turned back over, ready to let sleep claim me when I felt a hand fumbled its way along and over my side, searching for my arm.
"Jade, wha-" I began, but soon figured out when she started tugging on my arm, signaling that she wanted me to turn towards her. I squirmed around in my place, crushed between the wall and Jade, trying not to push her off the bed by accident. I managed to flip flop my position, but Jade continued to pull on my arm, attempting to pull me even closer so her. I scooted my way closer until her back was flush against my front and she had drawn my arm around her.
"Cuddle with me," mumbled Jade, the words almost intelligible with her voice thick with sleep and drunkenness. I pulled my head back to stare down at Jade, perplexed at her request. It wasn't like she didn't like to be all up in people's business, because she did, but she didn't normally just crawl into people's arms and force them to cuddle with her, even me.
I was about to probe Jade further about the need to cuddle out of nowhere, but I could feel her breath even out, each one getting deeper and longer, letting me know that she had fallen asleep. I thought about shaking her awake, however I just laid my head back down and curled my larger, body around hers, tangling my feet and legs with hers like we had done this a million times. I buried my nose into her dyed blonde and blue hair, smelling alcohol and smoke and something distinctly Jade. Without realizing it consciously, my breathing even out to match hers and I fell asleep without any hesitation. It was the best night's sleep that I had ever had.
I shook my head and pulled myself from my reverie. I had been outside way too long. It was time for me to get my shit together and see Jade. I let out one last sigh and pushed open my door. The cool evening breeze whipped around me and lifted my dyed red hair around my face. Some of it got caught in my mouth and I reached up with my hand to pull it away, spitting a bit as I was annoyed. Turning towards Jade's house, I took a calming breath and made my way towards her front door. I had to unclasp the white picket fence before I could get into the perfectly cut front lawn and up the couple steps to her door.
Pausing at the front door, I tried to collect myself a little more before I rung the doorbell. I shook myself a bit, reached my hand out, and punched the doorbell. I could hear it ring from where I stood outside. It was another moment before I heard someone on the other side of the door. The latch clicked and the door was flung open in obvious excitement. Behind the glass door that still separated me from the house, there was my Jade, bright eyed and flushed in exhilaration. A face splitting smile made its way onto her face as she reached forward to open the door for me. I stepped away from and around the door and slipped my way inside. Almost immediately I was assaulted with the scent of high end perfume which almost smothered out the smell that was distinctly Jade that I remembered from college as she hugged me with enthusasim.
"I thought that you were never going to get here!" Jade had whisper-yelled at me as she stepped away and began to pull me further into the house. I could see the little bounce in her step, signaling that she was happy – really, very happy. A little, sad smile came to my face that she didn't see. I let it turn into a full blown smile right away when she glanced over her shoulder at me, pulling me into the dining room at last.
At the table sat Zach and I could see that he had a smug smile on his face. Jade let go of me as she went around the table to sit next to Zach, giving him a peck on the lips before she sat down. I placed myself in a closer chair, opposite the happy couple. My mouth began to dry out at the sight before me.
Jade squirmed in her chair like an impatient, but excited, child as she watched me settle myself in. No sooner had I sat back into the chair and looked up at her that she had placed her left hand out, showing me the flashing diamond that was nestled on her ring finger. I took her hand in mine and scooted myself closer, pretending to looking intently at the ring. What I wanted to do instead of playing the good best friend was rip the ring from her finger, throw it in Zach's face, and scream about how he couldn't have her. But I just moved her hand from side to side, my mind running with thoughts.
"Congratulations you two," I said in a soft voice as I pulled my hand from Jade's for what was probably going to be the last time, "I see Zach finally grew a big enough pair to finally propose." Jade let out a happy trill of laughter and Zach gave a gruff frat boy laugh at my comment.
"Ooooo, thank you, thank you!" spoke Jade, bursting with excitement and happiness, "I was so surprised when he finally did it! My first instinct was to call you and let you know, but I thought you might like the surprise too!" Jade had turned towards Zach during this and leaned in for another kiss. He gave a smirk and pecked her on the lips once more, moving his arm to lie across the back of Jade's chair.
"Hun, why don't you grab some wine from the cabinet down stairs? Maybe some of the Chardonnay?" suggested Zach when he pulled away from Jade. She gave him a huge smile, throwing some of it at me, before she bounced out of her chair and out of sight to do exactly that. It left me and Zach alone, and since I didn't care to talk to him, I rested my arm on the table and sat my chin in my hand, taking in the décor of the place.
It looked like anyone else's dining room. Family photos from both Zach and Jade's families lined the white walls. There were a couple collages with their time together and their time with other friends. I spotted one amongst Jade's that was of the two of us when we had first met. We looked so young in the picture at only eighteen. I guess a lot could happen in ten years. A fish tank full of colourful little fish rested in the corner, glowing brightly. Little flowers were resting on top of it.
I turned back to Zach, drawing myself from thoughts. "What did you say?"
"I said," smirked Zach, an irritating air of victory and assholeness hanging around him, "I win." I raised my eyebrow at his statement and pulled back from the table to sit straighter, higher.
"You win what?" I asked as I stared Zach down. A smug, shit eating grin came on to his face, and I knew what he was going to say next. And I knew that I wasn't going to like it one bit.
"Jade," he said as he sat back, his hands coming to rest behind his head, "I win Jade. You lose Jade. But the point is, I win her and you are left with nothing." Anger pulsed through my body at his claim of Jade. She wasn't something that was to be won or lost. She wasn't just some prize at the end of game.
"You didn't win anything-" I began, but was cut off as Zach interjected his own thoughts.
"But I do. Do you really think I'm that stupid?" Zach said as he leaned forwards towards me. I pressed myself further back into the chair, trying to get more distance between the two of us. I could feel my stomach drop out at what he said. I knew where this was going and I didn't even want to start in that direction.
"You love Jade," announced Zach, victory oozing from voice, along with condensation and even slight disgust, "You love Jade and way more than in a best friend matter." Zach's voice spit out the words best friend, taking on a mocking quality. I could feel embarrassment and shame flush through me, making my face turn red and my hands shake. I wanted nothing more than to reach out and sock Zach in his pretty boy face. To break and bloody his nose and knock his teeth, to just ruin him. But I didn't, I couldn't. Jade would never forgive me if I hit Zach. I would never forgive myself for giving into him, to giving him even more than he already had on me.
"Did you tell her?" I asked with a tremble in my voice, fear choking me.
Zach's smirk only grew bigger as he sat back into his original position. "Nah, obviously not. You think she would have called you over if I did?" I didn't know if she would, but I hope she would have anyways. The Jade I knew would have. She would have confronted me about it too by now if he had told her anyways.
I relaxed a bit and blew out a soft breath. If I could just keep it a secret from her forever, that would be great, but I knew Zach had something else to say. Or else he wouldn't have brought it all up in the first place, especially not with the air of victory.
I opened my eyes and looked directly into Zach's. "What do you want from me?" I could see his grin getting even bigger, if it was possible, his teeth showing like a shark's now.
"After this wedding, I want you gone," stated Zach right out, "I can't get rid of you yet, since Jade is going to want you in her wedding. But once everything is said and done and she has my last name, I don't want to see hide nor tail from you."
Cruel. Cruel,cruel, cruel, was all that I could think of as I stared at Zach in shock. How could someone ever be so cruel. "But I –"
"Don't care. I want you gone. Forever," said Zach, his hands coming down hard on the table, his words blunt. So blunt that they felt like they had punched a hole in my chest, right where my heart was.
I didn't know what to do. How could I ever agree to something like that? Without Jade in my life I would be nothing, nothing. I couldn't risk losing her to Zach like that. I would rather have him tell her about my feelings and Jade herself get rid of me than Zach be the one to control the situation. No, I wouldn't do it. I wouldn't leave Jade by Zach's rules.
I stood up from my chair pushing it back and resting my hands on the table. I leaned in towards Zach, right up to his face, and whispered, "No."
Zach flew up from his position, sending the chair tumbling back with a thump from hitting the floor. He took a mirror position of mine, his face red from anger, and leaned in to the point that I could smell his hot breath.
"No? No! If you don't think I won't tell her you little faggot bitch-"
I couldn't take it anymore, not from Zach. The next thing I knew I had swung my arm back and Zach's eyes opened wide in disbelief. I punched him with everything I could muster, right in the middle of his face. I could even feel the bones of his nose grind and break underneath my knuckles. Zach stumbled back and let out a howl of pain as he brought his hands to his face. I could see blood dripping from between his hands onto the white floor.
The sound of breaking glass rang through my ears and I whipped around to see Jade standing there, incredulous. Her mouth was parted, just by the smallest amounts and her eyes were wide. Her hand was still extended, grasping the air for where the broken wine bottle had once been. She met my eyes and I could only stare back at her, words lost.
"What…? Poe, what happened here?" asked Jake, looking at me for answers. I could only shake my head and open and close my mouth. There was so much, I didn't even know where to begin.