To my darling Rabbit and Bear. Thankyou. I love you.
How bad is it to fall in love with the same girl as your best friend? Especially when he's known her first and has let everyone, including her, know how he loves her. I didn't know her well enough to love her yet. I was limited to like and infatuation.
Albany: January 2008
I had gotten an email from my best friend, Bryce, raving about this girl that he'd just re-met. A friend the rest of us had always thought of as asexual had become immediately infatuated with her. He had some memories of her when they were younger but had complained to him before about being made to spend time with this family friend he barely remembered. Funnily enough he omitted that in his gushing. A farm girl who seemed to be as at home in the middle of nowhere surrounded by animals as his friend was a rare find. Especially one that seemed to be as quietly happy and as empathetic of his friend's need for quiet and early mornings.
I met her for the first time when our family friends arranged to go sailing. As usual Bryce was there, this time with a little blonde shadow. They ended up being split up however, Bryce on the other witch while she was on mine. My dad was explaining to her the terms and what her jobs were and she was nodding seriously. I had to suppress a laugh due to her solemn expression. I was a little worried she would be somewhat ditzy and cause an accident but it turned out I had nothing to worry about in that aspect. However I was worried about the number of bruises she was going to have when we returned to shore. She was quick and quick witted but seemed to attract accidents. It seemed to be almost every time I turned to face her she was hit by one of the clips used for parasailing, or being knocked into something by an unexpected wave. Even with all this happening she appeared to be having the time of her life; returning insults laughingly with the other boat as we attempted to beat them back to the shore.
When we got back there was a picnic waiting and we dived in. I was surprised of the sheer volume of food she consumed, especially given that she was so small. After they'd finished the older guys started mucking around with a soccer ball. She was watching them longingly and I was about to suggest that we go join when they called the younger kids over. She had had one of the littlest boys sitting on her lap, something which surprised me because I knew he was very shy and that they had only met that morning. As he stood up to go join them he turned and held out his hand. She smiled and stood up, his smaller hand clasping hers as they went to join in. After some hesitation she started interacting with the older guys as well. They assigned her to a team and were obviously going as easy on her as they were with the younger kids. Well this was until she slide tackledDylan, my older brother, and while he was still recovering from the shock of it, had scored against him. She was treated as an equal then, even being five years younger. I had figured earlier that she knew how to play but I was surprised at just how good she was; the slide tackle was only the beginning.
By this time I had joined in and was having fun trying to match her speed and thinking. She had just made it through my defence when I turned around to hear a painful sounding thwack. She was on the ground, curled into the foetal position while Alex, the family friend my brother's age who had been a pain in the ass as long as I can remember, was spread out next to her. Both were unconscious. Everyone gathered round as she slowly opened her eyes, went to get up and stopped with a pained moan. Dylan helped sit her up and was murmuring questions. She answered in equally light tones and he seemed to be satisfied that she was going to be ok. Alex had been helped up and was looking confused. He had a massive lump growing on his forehead. By this time the parents had realised that something had happened. Having more than enough people fussing over them Dylan moved away. As he approached me he began to laugh. When I questioned him he smiled.
"How much do you reckon she weights?" Dylan asked.
I shrugged, "No idea, forty kilos?"
"Not even that I reckon," Dylan said. "Alex on the other hand weighs seventy kilos, probably more. And he has a good two feet of height on her. She's fine other than a headache and a bit of a bruise. Alex has concussion and will probably have a headache for days."
I saw the humour in it too. If she was a guy she would be bragging about how she had taken out a guy approximately twice her weight and a far bit taller than her. As it was she was obviously guilt stricken at the thought of hurting anyone.
We had already arranged the next day; Bryce's family had invited us to go out fishing and doughnuting on their family boat. I noted she was very quiet and soft-spoken, tending to hang at the back of the group – preferring to watch rather than be watched. Every time someone brought up yesterdays accident she cringed and guilt flooded her face. Alex hadn't shown, apparently his head hurt too much for him to leave his bed. The rest of us were truthfully a little glad.
When the attention wasn't being focussed on her she visibly relaxed and it was obvious she was comfortable with Bryce. I listened in to hear them arguing about fishing. They had gone out early and she had caught more fish than everyone else combined. This wouldn't have been a problem except she hated fishing and had tried hard –and obviously unsuccessfully – to talk her way out of it. He was teasing her about kissing the fish she had returned to the ocean while she was trying to argue her position of the fish drowning/suffocating debate. I had to admit I understood why Bryce was attracted to her. She wasn't classically beautiful. She was pretty and pretty cute but she didn't stand out. Her short blonde curls, which she attempted to restrain in a ponytail, framed her face and accented her green eyes that contained ever changing specks of colour.
She was still in Albany but staying with friends from school. She came down to the beach to see Bryce again and we all went swimming. She was tiny. I hadn't realised how tiny before as she was wearing baggy clothes or a thick wetsuit but with just a bikini on you could see her individual ribs. Even so short and thin she managed to keep up when they swam against the waves out to the *raft. The way her slender body flowed into the water when she dived was a sight to see. When we got back to land we gradually migrated to the playground. She ran to the swings with a smile usually only found on the face of children. The way she flew on the swing, her laughter and smile cause me to realise something that horrified me. I was beginning to like, and possibly fall in like, with the same girl as my best friend.
She left Albany a few days later, with a letter from Bryce declaring his love. I was there when he waited for a reply – a letter, a phone call, anything would have done. None came. I guess she had either not liked him back or been unsure of how to respond. As days turned into weeks I watched my friend's spirit fall after every unanswered phone call and email. Hate is a strong word, too strong a word to use in this case I suppose but I began to deeply dislike her for the pain she had inflicted on my friend.
This was why, almost three years later, I was surprised when I heard she was invited to Bryce's intimate 18th as I thought it was only going to be Bryce, two of our close friends and me. As Bryce was playing hockey and working in Perth now, he wasn't able to come home for his birthday so we had driven the six hours to surprise him. She had changed in the three years since I had last seen her. She'd grown slightly taller and had put on some weight but was still extremely slender. She also seemed to have aged, looking less like a child and more like a woman. I also noticed while she seemed more confident and outgoing she was also more self-contained and harder to read.
Her lips twitched as they told her how I had embarrassed myself not long before. An incident with an attractive girl and a glass door; a story best forgotten for my self-esteem. She smiled and her gaze catching mine quickly before she glanced back to face Robyn. I wondered if her laugh had changed from the tinkling that it was last time I saw her.
We went out to dinner, which was an awkward drive. Due to being the smallest she had been bundled into the middle of the back seat. Due to not being the quickest I was also seated in the back. Unfortunately there was not much room, meaning that from her knee to her shoulder her body was pressed gently against mine. As I fiddled with the GPS she leant over to help, making a soft comment about men and directions. I replied in kind and we bantered most of the way to the restaurant. I saw Bryce glance in the revision mirror from his spot in the driver's seat. I wasn't sure whether the soft smile on his face was because his friends were getting along or simply for her. Later I bit my lip as I watched them interact, trying to bump each other off the path, sticking tongues at each other and laughing. Her laugh hadn't changed. I wondered if Bryce's feelings had and what her feelings were.
As Bryce's favourite restaurant was a fish and chip shop we went there. I sat across from her at dinner, watching worriedly as she picked at her food. I was slightly relieved when I found out it was due to her having been at a lunchtime party and eating a little too much there. She offered some of her food to me once I had finished mine but I declined ... until she looked away and I stole some of her chips. Bryce's cousins giggled and pulled at her sleeve. She leant down so they could whisper in her ear. After which she turned and stuck her tongue at me.
I pulled Bryce aside to ask him why she was there. He explained that while they had a turbulent history she had explained why she had done what she had, and that since then they had become quite close. Especially since he was living in Perth. I walked down the pier to find everyone else and found her watching the fire-dancers. The look of pure awe on her face made me want to show off. I didn't want to be obvious though, so I didn't say anything then. When she returned to the table full of praise for the performers Robyn mentioned that I had done some fire-dancing and was quite good. She turned to me with eyes lit up that dulled slightly when she obviously remembered my cast.
"Is there any chance you could show me a little without hurting your wrist?"
I nodded, looking forward to the chance to show off and maybe impress her a little bit.
That night she stayed over. We were both downstairs on spare mattresses while everyone else had bagsed beds upstairs. We were going through music tastes and the others gradually trickled upstairs. When we were told to turn the music off we sat on the couch and had a whispered discussion about books. I had no friends who had any interest in science fiction books so I enjoyed being able to discuss the pros and cons of authors and series. Eventually the others yelled at us to go to bed, so we did, though it took me a while to get to sleep knowing she was mere meters away in thin pyjamas.
She was next down in Albany for her university holiday. She stayed at Bryce's house, causing me some concern but I hoped with all my heart I was right when I thought Bryce was over her. Though when I heard about them going for walks together every morning my mind was working at a million miles and hour, working out all these possible situations.
I took her out sailing and for picnics. Whenever possible I tried to spend time with her alone, trying to get to know her better. Trying to change a loose friendship into a closer one ... and maybe one day more than friendship.
We spent much of the next six months talking to each other on a daily basis. She became one of my closest confidants though I never mentioned my thoughts and feelings about her, and she had never brought up either. Our relationship remained in an awkward just-friends or more-than-friends flux.
I moved down to Perth so I could study at Uni. She had been living on campus the year before but found it difficult due to self-absorbed housemates. I was looking for another housemate and offered her the room. She accepted gratefully and I really, really hoped it would work out.
It did. Living together worked smoothly. We grew even closer. As she was in her second year and I only a first year she helped me with some of my work. We cooked and cleaned together. Making time to catch up for things like movie nights and picnics.
I had been meaning to bring up our relationship and what exactly it was but it wasn't easy. In the end it wasn't something we had to really talk about. We had been watching a movie and I was spread out on the couch while she was curled up next to me, her head resting lightly on my chest. She tilted her head up to say something as I looked down, moving our lips to only a centimetre or so apart. I looked at her eyes which were focused on my lips so I leant forward to gently brush her lips with mine. Her eyes fluttered closed and she let out sigh as I pulled back.
I opened my mouth, closed it and cleared my throat. "So ... um."
"Yeah?" She looked up at me, biting her lip. I nodded and her face lit up before she hid her face in my chest. When she looked up again, she had a shy smile on her face that made my heart stutter and that was when I knew that everything was going to work out wonderfully.