"You're such a dork," announced Cade
"Oh yeah?" I whipped my head around trying to keep up with the subject change. We had been talking about Cade's love of 80s rock and pop and I was not sure when we had switched topics.
"Yeah," he replied and sent a pebble skittering in front of us on the sidewalk. We were just heading home from my birthday celebration at our favorite pub. Cade was escorting me home as usual. There had been a string of assaults in the area and my normally over-protective best-friend was even more so of late.
When an elaboration did not seem to be forthcoming I broke the silence. "Why is that?"
"You're a fucking walking cliché," Cade shoved his hands deeper in his pockets and nudged me with his shoulder. The nudge and the half smile he sent my way took some of the sting out of the accusation.
I shrugged. I could not refute his statement. I did love a good cliché, especially if it was a love story. "Clichés are the best part of my life."
"They are a fantasy," Cade, the ever practical, ever logical pointed out.
It's probably why we got along so well. Cade was my grounded economist planning and weighing each step before he took it. I on the other hand was his flighty artist who couldn't keep a "real" job and instead worked three part time jobs trying to pay the bills while pursuing my dreams, whatever those dreams might be that day.
"Why is it bad to have a dream?" I asked.
"That's just it, Riri, it's a dream it's not real life." I shoved him off the sidewalk and into the road. I hated when he called me Riri. It was my mother's pet name for me. My father had named me Rhiannon much to my mother's dismay and she had avoided it by calling me Riri. I always felt like I was a four year old in a tutu when people called me Riri and Cade knew it.
He chuckled and stepped back on the sidewalk and pushed me gently into a lamp post without breaking stride.
I punched him gently in the arm in retaliation. "I have enough real life in my life thank you very much. What I want is fantasy."
"You can't always get what you want," Cade intoned.
"Speaking of clichés," I said drily.
I stopped walking, forcing Cade to stop and focus on what I was saying. "But seriously, even the strictest diet has cheat days. That's exactly what my fantasy world is a cheat day. My sweets in a life of health food." I began to walk again and added grimly, "Or more likely whatever little food I can afford."
"Don't get melodramatic. It's not that bad."
"Most days, no, but I'm living on homemade bread because flour is the last thing left in my pantry and I don't get paid for another two weeks. I'm allowed to have a brief moment of self pity and more importantly I'm allowed my escape." I opened the door to my apartment building and nodded towards the stairs silently asking Cade if he wanted to come up for a bit.
He nodded and came into the lobby and began to follow me up the four flights of stairs to my apartment.
"I suppose." There was a pause in which the only sound was that of our feet echoing in the stairwell. The hollow sound only added to my slight melancholy. Cade finally broke the silence with a quietly murmured, "You know you can always ask me for help. I won't let you starve."
I sighed heavily and glanced back at him as we rounded the first turn in the stairs. "Yeah, but I need to support myself."
"I get that," Cade assured me. "But seriously don't hunger strike against the world if you don't truly want to."
We made it up another couple flights before my mind drifted back to why Cade had called me a dork. He would never call me a dork because of my lack of steady income and would support me if I really needed it, but he would call me out on my highly vocalized love of romances.
"I wish my life were more of an eighties teen movie," I sighed.
"Not a classic romance?"
"What like Pride and Prejudice?" I had kind of liked the novel but had never loved it the way people always expected me to.
"I was thinking more Romeo and Juliet."
"Eww! Way too morbid!" I rejected that idea as I held open the door to my floor. "And you thought I was melodramatic. Eighties teen movies is way more my speed. Kind of shitty circumstances but a happy ending. No death and doom. Guy gets girl. All worries end with the raised fist, a boom box, or a pink dress." We slowly made our way down the hall. My apartment was at the very end. I began to dig in my bag for keys. They were never where I wanted them to be, namely right on top and convenient.
"Sounds nice. But not real."
"Yeah," I replied head deep in my bag digging for those stupid keys. "I don't even have a prospects of a romantic gesture because there are no men in my life." I found the keys and held them up triumphantly.
"Hey, I resent that," Cade said in a mocking tone.
I turned and laid a placating hand on his chest. "I meant guys who are interested in dating me." I turned and started to open the locks on my door. I smiled and joked, "You are the only man in my life."
"Can we keep it that way?" Cade asked from behind me.
"Hmm?" I was working on the deadbolt which was fairly tricky and did not always want to open the first try. It took just the right touch to get it to unlock.
"I want to know if you'll let me be the only man in your life," Cade asked a little more confidently as I pushed open my door.
"What?! How!?" I asked flabbergasted. On the other side of my door, my tiny studio apartment was filled with what seemed like thousands of pastel balloons. I stepped inside gaping at the sight of balloons floating through my dim apartment. The entire ceiling was covers and the lights from the window reflected them on my hardwood floor.
I heard the door shut behind me but couldn't take my eyes off the balloons.
"Happy birthday, in true fantasy fashion," Cade said softly. I turned to him and grabbed him for a bear hug. I was on the verge of tears. This was by far the best present I had received.
I felt Cade's next words ruffle the top of my hair. "Will you be my girlfriend?"
I was shocked by the question, though with his two previous statements floating around the back of my head I probably should not have been as surprised as I was. I pulled back to look at his face and said the first thing that popped into my head. "But, Cade, you hate these kinds of things."
Cade did not let me go. Instead he held me loosely around the waist and explained, "And you love it and I figure clichés have to start with some grain of truth. And I was sick of being just the guy next door, pining after the worldly, jaded girl who was just too cool to notice his lowly self." A hint of uncertainty began to cloud his eyes despite his self-depreciating grin.
I pulled out of his arms and smacked him lightly on the chest, "Stop! You are amazing."
"You've avoided the question. Let me down easy if you're going to reject me." Cade stuck his hands in his pockets in a his typical nervous gesture that I had been too blind to notice he had been doing all night.
"You've got it all wrong you know," I said. Because he did have it all wrong. He was amazing and I had noticed him. I had just been too afraid to do anything about it. I had thought it was just one of those things that every platonic relationship went through. That brief period of insanity when you fell a little bit in love with your best friend.
Cade's hopefully expression was wiped clear off his face and replaced with a blank look that I knew was a mask for his disappointment. "I'll just leave then." But he made no move to leave. Knowing Cade he was trying to formulate the next logical step and how to say that we should forget this happened and be friends.
That wasn't going to happen though. No way we could be friends after this.
"No, stupid." I said with a grin starting to pull at the edges of my mouth. "It's supposed to be sixteen candles on a cake. Not a hundred balloons!"
"99," Cade corrected. His smile began to return. "They aren't red but I thought it was a good mix of your movies and my music. It's us, really."
I closed the distance between us and grabbed his face pulling him down for a kiss. When we finally surfaced, I whispered against his lips, "Cliché or no, will you be my boyfriend?"