Balls of Love
There was silence when I opened my eyes. And darkness. So much darkness. Oh my god. I'm blind! I could feel my nerves kicking in. Relax. Remember those yoga classes? Breathe in… Breathe out… No, no, no! I couldn't breathe. I was going to die. A virgin none the less. I'm sorry mum. I wept silently. I'm sorry I forgot your birthday ten years in a row. I'm sorry for blaming you when I wet my pants. I'm sorry-
I flailed helplessly, moving my arms away from my face… releasing the pillow I was holding against myself. Light. Precious light blinded me. And air. I gasped like a fish out of water, drawing in the much needed oxygen. I heard a stifled laugh and glared at the body, leaning against the door frame. Luke.
"Shut up!" I groaned, rolling over on the bed so the pillow was once again smothering me.
"Another one of your blonde moments Eliza?" Luke, the ever-loving best friend smirked. He managed to dodge the pillow which came soaring towards him, without even moving.
"I'm not blonde," I mumbled dejectedly. "I'm-I'm a brunette. With very blonde hair." I sighed inwardly, realising what I had just said. Luke apparently did as well, as another bout of laughter erupted. "I'm just having a bad day." I heard heavy footsteps drawing nearer towards me. Dear god no. Please don't. Anything but- The warm blanket was ripped off me. That.
"Eliza darling, it's only 7am. I highly doubt your day has been that bad," Luke replied soothingly as he lightly traced circles on my back.
"Oh, but it has." I moaned. "You have no idea. At ten last night, I came into my bedroom to go to sleep. And, then…" I paused for dramatic effect. "There was a person behind my curtains. I nearly screamed, but then the person jumped out of the window. It was so strange. Then, when I went to sleep, there was always this person touching me. At around 4am I woke up, but nobody was there. Whoever it was, what a perv. And then, this morning, I thought I was blind! Do you know what it's like to feel blind?" I didn't stop to let him reply. "No, you don't. Because you've never been blind!" I jabbed a finger into his chest as I said the last sentence. "So-So there!" I concluded proudly. "And… could you give my blanket back? I'm cold."
Luke looked at me, half with disbelief and half with amusement.
"Eliza, last night, the person behind the curtain was me. You told- no, you forced me to close your curtains. And then, because your window sill is about 30 centimetres off the ground outside, I decided to hop out the window. Don't you remember any of this?" Luke and I lived across each other in an apartment on the 7th floor. My window just happened to be facing the hallway of the 7th level. Although he lived just opposite to me, he often crashed at my place or I stayed at his, depending on whose food was most edible.
I glared at him. "Don't p-platonic me. Anyway,"
"You mean patronise?" Luke cut in.
"Yeah, yeah. You know what I mean. Like I was saying, let's just assume that was you, then who was that pervert who was touching me in the middle of the night? Can you answer that Mr. I-Think-I-Know-Everything?" Realising I was standing up in just my pyjamas, I sat back down on my bed and crossed my arms, satisfied that the point had been clear.
Luke sighed. "Eliza, Eliza, Eliza…"
"What?" I snapped. "I heard you the first time."
"Eliza," he repeated. "After I jumped out your window to go home, I realised I left my jacket in your bedroom so I came back in. You were already asleep, although I don't know how, but you looked so peaceful. I couldn't help but lay next to you and caress your hair. It was only for a while, then I left. Hours later, I return to see you fighting to get a pillow off your face." His lips twitched upwards.
I pouted. I hated that he was so smart and blunt about some things, but with others, he was completely, utterly, oblivious. I knew I wasn't the smartest cookie, in the world... alright, I was dumb, stupid, a bimbo, but at least I was truthful about my feelings. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I was in like with my best friend. I don't love him. I don't. I promise. He's just attractive, and sweet, and gorgeous, and considerate… Oh gosh, who was I kidding? I loved the guy, from his dark ruffled morning hair down to his bare, stinky feet, and all the delicious hard abs in between.
Realising I wasn't going to say anything, Luke asked. "So, are you going to give me my present now?"
It was almost a tradition for me. Every morning or when I next saw Luke, I would hand him a box. It was always wrapped prettily, with a dark blue bow tied at the top. Each time, Luke would pretend to guess what it was, but after the third time, he knew what it would be without even looking at it.
A ball. The balls were varied from cricket balls, to netballs, heck, even stress balls. Bewilderment couldn't even describe the looks I had received, but I knew deep down, that I wouldn't give up; I couldn't. After the Luke's surprise, and it was always a surprise to see which ball was uncovered; he would lean over and kiss me softly on the cheek and whisper a 'thank you'. I would smile faintly and reply with a meek 'no problem', but I knew it was a problem.
The present today was heavy. As Luke opened it, I fidgeted with my hands, staring at an interesting fleck of dust. Then it came, "Thanks Eliza," he smiled, and pecked me on the cheek, holding the bright green medicine ball in his hands. "I love it." I knew he didn't get it, but grinned nevertheless.
Suddenly, Luke cursed and glared at his watch. "I'm going to be late again. And I have a meeting." He scowled ferociously as if it was the watch's fault. I pat his shoulder soothingly.
"Well, I would say you don't have to go, but I know you do. What would your company do without you, their boss?" He smirked, and replied cockily.
"Exactly sweetums, my company would be nothing without me. Still, I have to get going. I'll see you at the supermarket right?"
"Yeah, at around 2pm. Bye," I replied. I waited and watched Luke's lean shoulder disappear out of view before I let myself sink back onto the bed, wondering how long it would take him to finally understand. And it was that thought that finally broke the dam.
It was another long day at the local supermarket, full of old women and teenagers trying to be discreet while buying pregnancy kits. I stood behind the cash register, bored out of my mind. I pulled my mobile phone out of my front pocket and texted Luke.
Hey. Bored. Wat r u doing?
Hey. Me too. In a meeting. Cant talk. Some dude is staring at me funny. I think he's gay and wants to get in my pants. Nearly done. C u soon.
I sighed. Irritated, I tapped the counter, waiting for a customer to buy something. I shut my eyes, thinking of my happy place. Mmm. So soft, so sweet. I love you so much. If I could marry you I would. You're the best bed in the world, yes you are. You're-
A loud shuffling sound forced me to open my eyes. A boy, probably no older than 15 was watching me, a predatory gleam in his eye, in other words, lust. I gulped. I knew I wasn't bad looking, but did the kid have to keep looking at me like a piece of meat? I felt like a cradle snatcher just looking at him and knowing he was thinking of me in that way. Not to mention, he had a seriously bad case of acne.
"Hey hottie," he sauntered up to me. I started panicking. Please don't be me. Make it whoever's behind me. I turned around slowly, hoping there was a gorgeous, leggy woman standing there. No such luck. Granny Fay, a regular at the supermarket smiled at me with her fake teeth and wrinkly skin. I smiled weakly and waved before gritting my teeth and turning back to the man, no boy, standing before me.
"Hey," he repeated, adding a wink. I resisted the urge to puke. "I don't have enough money. If fact, I'm missing 70 cents. Could I borrow 70 cents from you babe?" I hoped he hadn't noticed the sweat that was pouring down my face.
"Uh…" I stuttered. "No. Sorry. If you can't afford it, you'll just have to leave." Take a hint kid, and LEAVE!
The boy stayed where he was, in fact, he leaned even closer.
"Then how about 69? I'll bet you can offer me 69." Holy crap. Did he actually say that? The nerve of the kid. My eyes widened considerably.
"Look here kid," I snarled. "You're what, 6? Get this through your head, it'll save you a lot of…"
"Hey sweetheart," a familiar voice chirped, interrupting my rant. I turned around and saw Luke. A sigh of relief escaped my lips. I had never been so happy to see Luke before.
"Hey babe," I replied flirtatiously. "You're such a good boyfriend." Both the kid and Luke looks startled. However, Luke, being the smooth talker he was, wrapped an arm around my shoulders and squeezed lightly.
"You're not such a bad girlfriend. I love you so much," Luke grinned. My heart nearly stopped. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought he was being serious. I wish. I thought bitterly. The boy who was flirting with me took a step back away from Luke and I.
"Dude, sorry. I didn't know she was taken," although he shrugged, his eyes were wild with fear. "She was all over me, I couldn't stop her." My jaw dropped open. Luke seemed to freeze. I looked up at him nervously. His eyes were blazing with unrestrained anger, whether it was directed at me, or at the boy, I wasn't sure.
"L-Luke. I wasn't. I swear." I pleaded. Luke snapped out of his trance and glared at me, releasing his hold around me. The boy only added fuel to the fire.
"She was begging for it. I told her I had a hot girlfriend already, but…" the boy trailed off. "Dude, control her. She's a cougar." And, with a quick wink towards the stoic Luke, he left the supermarket, whistling a happy tune as if he had fulfilled his 'Destroy a friendship' quota of the day.
"Oh my gosh," I whispered disbelievingly. Luke looked at me, and I saw all the emotions swirling within him. Hurt; betrayal.
"You didn't tell me you had a boyfriend," Luke joked feebly. But I could tell he was hurt.
"That's because he's not!" I exclaimed. Yeah, because I just randomly hook up with high schoolers every day, even though I'm a 23 year old woman.
"Y-Yeah sure," he answered, clearly not believing me. "Well, I have to go now."
My eyes widened. "You just got here, how can you be leaving?"
His voice was harsh and cracked through the air like a whip. "Well, believe it or not, I do have a life that doesn't involve you." He snapped.
That hurt. I could feel my eyes watering, but I blinked back the tears and tightened my resolve. "Really? Like what? Helping out at the soup kitchen?"
"My sisters in hospital." Luke and his sister were close. There was an 8 year age difference separating them, but they loved each other nonetheless. Laine was a sweet girl; she was like the sister I never had. When we were all young, we would go to the park together and play on the swings. Luke whined each time we suggested it, but there was always a slight smile gracing his face.
But, when Laine turned 13, she was diagnosed with Cancer. She had been fighting it for years and although the chances of her fighting it off were high, she often had horrible headaches and dizzy spells. But this was the first time she had landed herself in hospital.
"Luke," I whispered. "I'm so sorry. I didn't-"
"Yeah, bye," he replied raggedly, and walked away.
Luke and I hadn't spoken in days, not due to my lack of trying. Luke avoided me like the plague. Although we lived across each other, the moment I turned my light on, Luke would turn his off. When I left my house for work, instead of going to work at the same time, he preferred staying behind and being late. Even when his food expired (and I knew this because I heard him throwing up one night), he didn't bother coming around to my place. I hadn't been to his place in weeks, but I could still remember the exact position of each vase and each chair in each room. But, every day, just after I left my place for work, I would keep up the tradition and place a present at his doorstep. I knew he received them all, because by the time I returned home from work, it would be gone.
After 5 weeks of not speaking to each other, I was stressed and wounded. Had Luke forgotten me? If he had, was I really that easy to forget? That thought nearly brought me to tears. I was in love with him. I knew that for a fact. Just not seeing him was like not breathing, it was a necessity.
I took early leave one afternoon so I could return home earlier than usual. I waited until Luke arrived at his doorstep and was fumbling with his keys when I opened my door.
"Luke," I said firmly. Startled, he turned around.
"Hey Eliza," he avoided eye contact with me, and shuffled towards the now open door. "How've you been?"
The moment he said that, I felt as if he had stabbed a knife through my chest and twisted. It was as if there had never been an argument between us. As if we had no qualms with one another. As if he had forgotten all about us.
"Why have you been avoiding me?" I queried, desperate to have at least some answers.
"I haven't," Luke lied, running a hand through his dishevelled hair. "I've just been really busy."
"Yeah?" I sneered, not letting my wounded pride show. "Doing what?" I cut him off as he began to reply. "And don't lie to me."
He sighed. "I-I've been busy sorting my feelings out." He looked at the floor as if he was ashamed.
"What feelings?" Did he have a girlfriend I didn't know of? Maybe Laine was even sicker and he was trying to accept it.
Luke groaned. "Have you ever touched somebody, like, holding hands, and felt something, a connection?"
Yes. When I touch you, I feel a spark so strong it could set the world on fire. "What do you mean?"
"It's just, uh… Lately, I've been having these less than platonic feelings for this girl." He shuffled awkwardly.
My heart shattered. Pieces of the remains lay on the ground. I beamed. "That's great! Who is this unlucky girl?" I teased. Sure I was a blonde, but I did have a brain despite popular belief.
Luke's awkward smile faltered. "Well… You know what? Don't worry about it." I released the breath I hadn't realised I had been holding. At least he wasn't going to torture me about it. But my mouth had other ideas.
"No, tell me." I pleaded. No. I didn't mean it. I don't want to know about the woman you love, the woman who you're probably going to marry, the woman who's going to bear your children, if it's not me.
I looked into his dark brown eyes, swirling with uncertainty, hurt… and was it rejection?
"Come in Eliza," he breathed, opening the door to let me in. The place was a mess. Where there used to be a wooden table, there was now a mound of pizza boxes, stacked upon one another. The floor was dirty and probably infested with rats. I couldn't help the gasp that escaped my lips.
"Yeah, sorry," Luke smiled his trademark smile, but it wasn't as natural. "This girl has really got me whipped." This time, I let a bit of my soul shine through.
"Great." My voice cracked. "Hope you have a lovely life with her." I said the second part sarcastically. I glanced up at him, his eyes suddenly filling with hope.
"Do you want to sit down?" He asked.
"Uh, just a sec, I need to go to the toilet. Do you mind?" I replied, shuffling my feet. I actually needed to go, although, I did feel like bursting into tears. He nodded and pointed in the direction of the toilets which I knew off by heart due to the amount of times I had been invited over to his place.
There was a short corridor before I reached the toilet. Next to it was the gym room. I peered into it, expecting to see the usual weights laying on the floor and the bench press machine in the middle of the room, but they were gone. No, they had been pushed to the side to make room for balls. Hundreds and hundreds of them. Cricket balls, soccer balls, baseball balls, bowling balls and also the paintball ball I had given him the day before.
I must have stood there for at least a few minutes, since Luke called my name. I didn't reply, only stood there, staring at the balls, the balls I had given him. He had kept every single one. All 728 balls, beginning from the day I had realised I was in love with him, one for each day.
I heard pounding footsteps, then silence. Luke swore under his breath.
"Look, I was going to tell you just then, but, the girl who's got me whipped is…" he stared at me hopefully. "You." I looked at him, silent.
"Eliza, I've been in love with you for a long time. I've always liked you, ever from when you parents introduced you to me. You always had a way of making my palms a little sweaty, and my heart beat that little bit faster. I never acknowledged the symptoms because I didn't want to sound like a pansy." He searched my face for any signs of response. He found none. "You've known me my entire life. You know all the crap I've done and who I am. But, I realised I love you. Ever since I was small, I imagined I would fall in love with this perfect woman with amazingly good looks. But, I realised that I don't need you to be perfect. I love you just as you are. I've loved you ever since I walked in on you fighting to get a pillow off your face. And I realised that I love you, as imperfect and flawed as you are. And, I'm hoping you feel the same way, so, Eliza Prits, will you be my girlfriend?" He looked at me desperately, almost willing me to say yes.
"You…" I was stunned. He had insulted me, told me he loved me and asked me to be his girlfriend all in one breath. Amazing. Then, I beamed. "Yes you jerk-face!" I laughed, throwing my arms around his neck. "Of course I'll be your girlfriend. I've only loved you forever!" His body relaxed and he breathed into my neck.
"I love you so much." Suddenly, he released me. Luke looked at me, bemused. "Wait, why did you give me so many balls? Every day, you gave me one. Why?" He extended his arm towards the many balls inside the gym room.
I smirked at him. "I know I may be stupid, but even you can't be that dense. I hoped that if I gave you enough balls, you'd finally get the balls to ask me out."
Luke laughed and held me tighter against him, unwilling to let me go. I pushed gently on his chest.
"I love you Luke."
"I love you Eliza."
"But I still need to go to the toilet."