“Hold on a second,” I said through my phone as I was standing in the parking lot looking for my car keys. Ah, found them! “Alright, what were you saying?”
My best friend, Laura, always tends to ramble on a little and if I’m being honest, I occasionally tune some of the less important parts out. “I was seeing what you were doing tonight. Wanna come over? I’m bored.”
“Yeah, I’ll be over around 6. Make sure food’s ready because I’ll be starving by then! I haven’t eaten all day. See ya, hun.” I put the keys in the ignition and started to pull onto the highway, hoping to beat rush hour traffic. In the cold winter of Ohio, it’s always much more pleasurable to be snowed inside of a warm, cozy house than it is to be stuck on the highway with a semi-reliable heater in your car. I’m thankful Laura called because I haven’t had time to see her the past few weeks. I’ve been working on this big, commercial real estate project for my company and it’s been taking up most of my evenings and weekends. However, I finally have a reason to celebrate after wrapping up the first major step of the project and my team and myself will have the next week relatively free.
My road to the real estate company is somewhat different than I think what most people take. Laura actually got me into the company through one of her friends. She works in fashion merchandising, but knew a few people in the real estate industry from her college years. I didn’t know anything about real estate, but figured that I was willing to learn anything that could give me a stable paycheck. I started as an intern, learning the basics of real estate, but being a quick learner, I moved up the chain and am now often chosen as the project manager for many of my company’s larger deals.
Laura and I have been friends for about 4 years now. We met my junior year in college, her first year out of college, at a somewhat upscale bar in downtown Columbus. She was out celebrating her first big project lead at her company and I was with a few people celebrating a friend’s birthday. Within about the first 5 minutes of being at the bar, I realized the bartender had no interest in serving me, as she appeared to be spending her time schmoozing with some stuffy, overpaid businessman. After about another 10 minutes of waiting, this girl slides in beside me, reaches across the bar, grabbed two beers, and stuck some money where they used to be. I must have shown the shock in my expression because she just smiled and said, “This one’s on me” as she handed me one of her “stolen” beers.
The rest of the night, I kept wondering who she was and why she decided to share her little secret with me. There were at least 20 other people at the bar who were waiting for that rude bartender. Later that night, as I was headed out, she stopped me and asked when I was going to return the favor. “Next weekend?,” I asked. She smiled, “I’ll be waiting to collect.”
That night, as my friends and I were walking down the street trying to find a cab, my one friend, Jack started nagging me. “Hey Sara, you got a girlfriend or something?”
“What the hell are you talking about?” I asked, a little confused.
“That girl back there. At the bar. She was totally into you.”
“You’re crazy! She was just being nice.” The truth is that, at the time, I completely thought it was innocent. Jack was just giving me a hard time. After all, they all knew I was straight. I’d been dating the same guy for nearly 3 years before we broke up just last summer.
“Whatever you say, Sara. Don’t forget, this is the city. Some chicks dig other chicks around here. Not like that small country town you come from,” he chuckled.
I started to wonder about what Jack said, but by the end of the night had come to the conclusion that this girl, whoever she was, just wanted to be nice. Everyone can use a new friend, right?
As I walked into that same bar a week later, I have to admit I was a little nervous. What if Jack was right? What if this girl was actually “interested”? I’d have no idea what to even say or do. Oh well. I told myself to suck it up and just have fun. This girl was nice enough to get me a beer last weekend and the least I can do is pay her back.
I spotted her standing next to the bar, she was wearing a long-sleeved black shirt and dark jeans. Her wavy dark hair added a sense of mystery to her. It was almost as if, by trying to blend in with the business crowd in their dark suits and monotone attire, it made her actually stand out. She was very pretty, from anyone’s standards. I caught her eye and she smiled, waving me over to join.
“Hey, I wasn’t sure if you’d show,” she said.
“Are you kidding me? I always pay up.”
“I’m Laura, by the way. We never actually met last week.”
“I’m Sara, it’s nice to meet you, finally.” I hesitated for a second as she stuck out her hand to shake mine. She was looking at me very intently and it made me feel a little nervous. Her green eyes were a little mesmerizing. “Drinks?” I asked, breaking the silence.
She smiled again, “Absolutely.”
As I pulled up to her house and parked on my usual side of the driveway, I smiled to myself. I haven’t thought about how we met in a long time. We’ve come a long way since that day. We’ve been through the loss of Laura’s grandpa, breakups, and location changes. For the past 4 years, she’s been the person I could always rely on and I play the same role for her. It’s funny how two lives become connected.
“Hey, where are you?” I yelled as I walked in. I hear her coming down the stairs.
“You scared the crap out of me, Sara. Do you have to yell when you walk in?” She gave me a hug and kissed my cheek, as always. “You look awfully fancy today. How was work?”
I was dressed up especially nice today because of the meeting that I had on that big project. My regular workouts keep me in pretty good shape, so I had just bought an expensive suit that fit my athletic frame perfectly. My dark brown hair was straightened and the bright blue shirt I wore underneath brought out the blue in my eyes. I had to agree with her that I looked pretty damn good today.
“Oh you know, same old, same old.” I grinned, waiting to see her response to the next part. “Nothing major, just wrapped up the first $60 million of that giant deal.”
Pause. “Are you kidding me?! That’s amazing! I’m so happy for you, sweetheart! You should have told me and I would have made something more special than take out Chinese food.”
“Haha you know I love Chinese food! Why would I ever need anything more special than that and an evening with you?”
“You’re such an idiot, but at least you’re happy with what I’ve got. Seriously, congratulations Sara.”
The rest of the evening we just hung out, watched movies, and ate some semi-stale cookies we found in the cupboard. It reminded me of those first few months of becoming friends. I had my own apartment, but still being in college I dealt with unstable roommates so we usually hung out here at Laura’s house. She had bought this place right after she graduated from college and fixed it up. I’ve always loved it here. It’s cozy, but still fits her upbeat, stylish personality. I must have been smiling because she gave me this goofy look. “What?” I said.
“Why are you grinning over there? You look like you’re thinking about something awfully good. Please tell me you’re not thinking about Paul. I know you think he’s great, but I never liked him. He’s just….”
“Ok, ok! Stop haha. I’m not thinking about Paul. I was actually thinking about you, goof.”
“Umm…excuse me? I’m sorry, but I don’t think you should smiling like that when you’re thinking about me little Ms. Straight-As-An-Arrow,” she said, snickering.
“Hey now. You better watch it! First of all, I should be allowed to smile when thinking about my best friend. And second, just because I like guys doesn’t mean that I’m “straight-as-an-arrow” as you like to call it. I’m friends with you, now aren’t I?”
“Whatever you say, sunshine.”
Nearly 3 months after Laura and I became friends, she told me that she was a lesbian. I had kind of suspected when she never mentioned anyone when I would bring up the subject of exes, but wasn’t going to push the issue if she wasn’t comfortable. She was so relieved when she realized that it didn’t matter to me one bit which gender she had feelings for. She was my best friend and I loved her no matter what.
“So what exactly were you smiling about? I know it wasn’t just thinking of me haha.”
“Oh, I was actually thinking about when we first met. I was just thinking about how tonight reminded me of all those nights we’d just hang out here back when I was still finishing up college. All the stupid things we did. Remember that night when we got drunk and decided to have a foot race down your street? Mr. Hamilton was so mad when he woke up the next morning to us asleep in his front yard.”
“Wow! I completely forgot about that. Wasn’t that after Rachel and I broke up? You definitely did a good job of helping me forget about her that night. I still can’t believe we passed out in Mr. Hamilton’s yard.”
“We’ve had some really good times over the years. I’m glad they were all with you.” Laura got this strange look on her face after I said that. It was just for a second, but I know her so well I picked up on it right away. It was almost like she was disappointed when I said what I did. I brushed it off. Maybe I just thought I saw something.
“I guess I should head out. I don’t want to keep you up too late.”
“Oh, alright. You know you can stay here if you want. You’re always welcome. Not like anyone else sleeps in that guest bedroom except for you, anyway.” She looked a little hopeful, but the way she said it was quieter than her usual confident self.
“Maybe a rain check for later this weekend. I’ve got a few days off, so I’m sure I’ll end up staying over here past my bedtime at least one of those nights. See you tomorrow? Call me when you get done with work.” We hugged at the door. “Love you, Laura.”
“Love you too, Sara. Be safe driving home.”
“Always. Night!” As I got into my car, I couldn’t stop wondering why those last few minutes felt a little forced. Was it just me? Maybe I was reading too far into things. Could have been that she was just tired. For some reason, though, it kept nagging me in the back of my mind.
BEEP! BEEP! BEEEEP!
“Ugh, you’ve got to be kidding me. Morning already?” Laura slowly stretched her limbs and began opening her eyes. She was still tired from barely getting any sleep last night. After spending the night with Sara, reminiscing about old times, she couldn’t stop thinking about her.
She kept replaying that first night that she saw Sara for the first time, standing by the bar, irritated as hell. She was obviously a college student, but looked like she held herself with confidence. Definitely a little older, has some experience and stories to tell. Damn, she was sexy. Gaining the courage, Laura slipped in right beside her, swiped some beers behind the bar and as she left her money there, caught the first up-close glimpse into those gorgeous, blue eyes. For a second, Laura was at a loss for words. Then again, it looked like this beautiful girl was still a little shocked, so Laura took that time to regain her composure and offered the blue-eyed girl a beer. For Laura, that was the first time she’d ever really taken the initiative, but there was something about Sara that just pulled her in.
The rest, unfortunately, didn’t go as smoothly as that first night. When Sara showed up that next weekend, Laura could immediately tell that Sara was just innocently being nice and repaying her for the drink she had gotten her last week. At first, she was crushed, wondering why she always fell for the straight girls, or the girls who were already taken, or even worse, the girls who were just curious and playing around for a few months. Still, there was something about Sara that was different. If nothing else, she was a great person with an amazing personality. Her smile made everyone around her happier. And that body definitely turned more heads than Laura would have liked.
The initial attraction that Laura had felt grew as the two became closer, but she always did a good job of hiding it. She realized that the two of them being more than friends wasn’t going to happen and found a girl every now and then that would distract her from Sara. The only girl who had even come close to fully stealing Laura away from Sara was Rachel. But then when Laura caught her cheating, that was the end of that chapter. That night, as Sara helped her forget about Rachel with friend time and a lot of alcohol, Laura began to think that maybe there was hope for her and Sara. As they were laying in Mr. Hamilton’s front yard, exhausted and near sleep, Sara rolled over towards her and whispered in her ear.
“I was always jealous of Rachel. I didn’t like seeing you so in love when I knew she wasn’t right for you.”
Before I had the chance to respond, though, Sara was passed out and the next morning seemed to have no recollection of that night. That was, until last night when she started bringing up all of those old memories. I’ve been doing great not thinking about “us” for so long. Now, all of those old feelings were coming back up and I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to hold them back this time. Four years of loving her was starting to take its toll.
“Can you come over tonight? Wanna do pizza for dinner? I’ll be back around 5 if you want to come over after that. -Laura”
I kept reading that text, wondering if there was more meaning in it than it appeared. Laura usually doesn’t text me. She always calls if she wants or needs something because she thinks that texting is a lazy form of communication. “Why is it so wrong for me to want to hear an actual person’s voice on the other end of a conversation?” she’d say. Me, on the other hand, can’t text enough. I’m one of those people with unlimited texting and use it to my absolute advantage.
So why did she decide to text me now? Things have felt a little different between us the past few days. Ever since I brought up how we first met, she’s seemed distant. Did I say something wrong? I wasn’t sure. I figured that I’d bring it up tonight and hopefully clear the air. Maybe I was just imagining things, she’d tell me I was crazy, and everything would go back to normal.
At about half past 5, I pulled into her driveway with a large pizza in hand. Half mushrooms and onions for her, half pineapple and ham for me. She never understood why anyone would want fruit on their pizza, but every once in a while I see her sneaking a slice of my half. “Hey, I’m here! Better get your butt down here while the food’s still hot.”
“I’m coming, I’m coming. Thanks for grabbing dinner. I was in a rush all day at work. We’re putting the finishing touches on our spring line orders.”
“You’ll just have to wait and see, now won’t you.”
“You’d think having a friend in the fashion industry would have more perks.”
“Very funny. So what have you been up to all day?”
I thought about that, trying to remember what exactly I did today. When you’re not working, you completely lose the concept of time. “Umm…watched tv, paid some bills, watched some more tv, and went for a run.”
“Must be nice to not have an 8-5 workday like some of the rest of us.”
“Yeah, yeah.” I just laughed and smiled at her. She has more days off than I do to just work at home. When you’re not in the middle of an ordering season, most of the work can be done from a home office and Laura takes full advantage of those days. The next hour flew by talking more about work and what some of our old friends from college have been up to. We eventually moved things onto the couch in the living room, seeing if any good movies were playing. After flipping through, we found Pretty Woman and decided to watch what was left of it.
As Julia Roberts was in the middle of her transformation during the epic shopping trip on Rodeo Drive, I started to feel the tension building in the room again. What was with this? Why were things feeling awkward between us lately? I glanced over to Laura and she had this far-off stare in her eyes, like she had no idea there was even a movie on the television. Wait, was she crying?
“Hey, sweetheart, what’s the matter?” I asked, concerned for what or who had upset her. I’ve always been protective of Laura because as confident and sure as she appears, she’s had her heart broken more than a few times.
“What? Oh, nothing. It’s just the movie.”
Looking back at the movie and thinking that this is the “happy” part of the movie, I wasn’t buying it. “Laura, you know you can tell me what’s wrong. You’ve never hidden anything from me before.”
She looked as if there was this internal war going on inside of her, I could tell she was struggling. “Sweetheart, seriously, what’s going on?” I scooted closer, wrapping my one arm around her and pulling her into a hug. I could feel her sniffling gently against my shoulder.
“I don’t want to lose you,” she finally said.
Completely confused now, I pulled back and looked into her green eyes that were now full of tears. “What are you talking about? Why would you ever lose me?”
She started to get up, pulling away from me and began telling me to just forget it. “Nevermind, it’s not important. I don’t know what I was talking about. I’ve just had a hard day.”
I wasn’t about to let her get away that easy. I held onto her hand and kept her in place right by the couch. “Oh no, you don’t. Hold on a second. Tell me what this is all about. What do you mean ‘you don’t want to lose me’?”
Right then, she looked at me. No, she looked into me. I could see her pleading with her eyes something that I’d never noticed before. I’ve never seen her look at me that way. Not since I first met her, at least.
She pulled her hand out of mine and placed it on the side of my face. I was in a trance and wasn’t sure what to do. I couldn’t move as she started to lean down towards me. I knew exactly what was coming next. How had I never seen this before? Was this a new development or had she always looked at me like this and I just never noticed?
Her lips were so close, we were sharing the air between us. I closed my eyes, but just as her lips started to touch mine, I pulled away. What were we doing?
That was the last thing I said to her as I got up off the couch, grabbed my coat, and left.
Laura was laying in bed, tissues all around her. She had cried for nearly 2 hours straight before she had exhausted herself. Why had she done that? Sara was her best friend and meant everything to her. Was this long-time crush seriously worth risking their friendship, all that they had been through together? “Why am I so stupid?” she thought to herself.
Just then, she heard a car pull in the driveway. Her heart skipped a beat, wondering if it could really be Sara coming back this late. It was nearly 2 in the morning. Probably just someone needing to turn around. But then she heard a key unlocking the door and someone quietly slipping inside. It had to be Sara. She was the only other person to have a key.
Laura got up, trying to make herself look like less of a mess, but there really wasn’t much purpose. Sara had seen her at her absolute worse before and considering the circumstances now, Laura figured she’d understand. Laura made it to the top of the stairs before she saw Sara halfway up them already.
Without saying a word, Sara made her way to the top and pulled Laura into a long, tight hug. “I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have left the way I did.” Sara whispered in the darkness.
Laura started to tear up again, but she was so exhausted that nothing really came out. “You don’t have any reason to be sorry. I’m the one that…”