1) Don’t get too close to a guy you see everyday
2) Don’t become really good friends with him if you are already attracted
3) Don’t let him give you hugs for random moments outside of saying hello and goodbye
4) Don’t let him see you without makeup
5) Don’t let him see you cry
6) Don’t become best friends
7) Don’t fall in love with your best friend
8) I said don’t…..
I know these rules as well as I know the back of my hand, but just like the back of my hand there are moments of, “where the hell did that freckle come from!” No matter how well you know something, it doesn’t mean it won’t change.
It’s easy, I will get right to the point, I met him on a Thursday morning on the first day of class. It was my final semester in college and I was more than ready to be done with it. I have heard the age old saying, “college isn’t about learning, it’s about putting up with all the bullshit to see if you have enough guts to wade through the massive stinking piles surrounding you.” I was done wading, and ready to start living.
It was the first day of Applied Arts, a mess around class that basically allowed you to fool around for most of the semester. You had six weeks to build three separate master pieces, with any form of structure, any use of materials, you just made random shit for six weeks and then presented it at the end of the class at a gallery art show. It was my last class, and the only class I had all semester long, my days would be easy sailing from here on out.
I sat down in a chair toward the middle of the wide classroom, and watched as the expansive room filled up with well over 50 students. Most of them I knew, but like most private schools with off campus living, I wasn’t all that close to many people in my classes save a few. Perhaps I would be making more friends before the end of the class.
I shouldn’t have thought that, I should have just kept to myself and choose a seat right up front, but as fate would have it I didn’t. As fate would have it, he sat next to me. Taylor Garland. I’d seen his face several times before, but we had never shared a class. It didn’t stop him from sitting next to me and saying, “Hey Grace,” like he had known me for years. It didn’t stop him from making silly jokes throughout the first day of lecture like we were already best buds, and it didn’t stop him from asking for my number as a work buddy when the Professor said we would need a partner for our first project.
I won’t lie, the first three weeks went by uneventful enough. After the first day of being shocked by the up close view of his stunning copper brown hair, and seriously brilliant green eyes, I was able to keep my girly-ness in check. I didn’t swoon when he walked through the door, and my breath didn’t catch in my throat. For three whole weeks he was just a friend, a sweet natured, easy going buddy; then one day all of that changed.
It was a random day in the middle of the week and I was running late for class. I lived less than mile away from school but it was still a hefty jog if I was going to walk. I hated being late, and to be honest it had nothing to do with my teacher giving me the evil eye, it actually had everything to do with Taylor. Even though I hated to admit it, I loved every second I had with him, and it was slowly becoming a problem. I would rush to class and get there before he would casually saunter in, and at the end of class I would slow my pace and put everything away one little piece at a time. I wanted more minutes next to him, and as much as I was trying to deny my affection growing, I just blamed it on the fact that he was a good friend and I enjoyed his company. What dirty evil lies I feed myself, nasty dark bitter lies.
Not only was I running late, but I was also unable to get my car to start, and me being the idiot that I am decided it was a great idea to call Taylor. “Hey, I don’t think I am going to be able to make it to class today. You think you can handle taking notes for me?”
“No!” Was his first response. “I’m not even there yet, if you aren’t going I’m not going. Where are you, I’ll come get you.” I should have said no, I should have lied, I shouldn’t have told him exactly where I was because then he would know where I lived. I shouldn’t have told him that my car wouldn’t start forcing him to offer me a ride every day for the remainder of the class. Most importantly I shouldn’t have gone with him to the bar he took me to instead of being in class like we were supposed to be.
The first drink was ok, but the second one was uncalled for. The third one should never have happened and the fourth one I totally blamed on Taylor. We were giggling, and groping onto one another in our stumbling drunken state. We left his car at the bar and somehow managed to make it back to his apartment. We laughed and giggled the whole way down the hall to his room, and we stayed up all night playing stupid you tube videos and laughing at dumb music videos. We both agreed it was time to sleep at 5 in the morning, and we both equally crashed when our heads hit the pillow on his queen sized bed.
I woke with a slight headache, a rolling stomach, and a preconceived notion that I had mascara running down my face. “Hey, you have mascara running down your face raccoon,” he said without a pause when his eyes first split open.
“Thanks,” I replied sarcastically. “Your hair looks like Alphalpha and Einstein put together.”
“Wicked.” He said on a yawn. “Breakfast?” And that’s how our routine of sleepovers started. We never undressed around each other, we cuddled slightly but not obscenely, we just loved being around one another. There was slight sexual tension, but I only ever saw it on my side, I never really knew if he felt the same way. Maybe one morning I woke up to us spooning and I felt a little more of him than I should have, can’t say I regretted it, but I can say it made my cheeks flame bright red and I quickly scooted away so he didn’t know I noticed.
Two weeks before our class was over we were listening to a lecture on the practical use of wire in plaster molds. Maybe 15 minutes into the teachers introduction to new metal materials I felt Taylor’s hand moving up my calf the tops of my black zipper boots. He reached for the zipper and pulled it all the way down leaving my boot to flop open like a peeled banana. He didn’t fix the zipper he just left it wide open flashing me with a daring smile with the words, ‘wanna play?’ sparking from his grassy eyes. For the next 45 minutes I endured, ok maybe I thoroughly enjoyed, Taylors hand slowly sliding up my calf and then slowly zipping down my boot as his fingers trailed over my skin to the tops of my ankles before I reached down and zipped the boot back into place. Zip. Caress. Zip. Repeat. When class was over he reached over and gave me a hug. “Hey be right back, I have to head to the counselors office, but I’ll meet you out front in about 15 minutes ok?” I nodded, and that was when casual un –needed yet totally wanted hugs popped into our lifestyle.
Three nights after the boots charade I found myself doubled over in fit of pain begging any god that would listen to fix me. Which is ridiculous when you think about it really, there is no point begging for anyone to fix the problems of being a human, but it would be nice if someone listened. I didn’t get a god to help ease my pain though, I got Taylor. As the kidney stone worked its vicious tricks inside my body threatening to cleave me in two, Taylor walked into my room screaming at me to get off the pot. It was funny, but I couldn’t laugh, instead a stream of tears slipped through my lashes and I cried out like a woman giving birth to an elephant. I wish I was exaggerating, but I’m seriously not. Those little spiky calcium bastards hurt like a bitch!
“Grace, babe, what’s wrong?” Taylor asked as he fell to the floor in my bathroom. He had pounded through the bathroom door like a battle ram almost like he thought someone was murdering me, but when he saw me cowering on the floor in a pile of messy sweat ridden clothes and massive tears streaming down my face his eyes flipped over to concern in an instant. He called me babe, was all I could focus on. Which seriously was ridiculous looking back at the situation. I was on the floor in a fit of pain, a kidney stone was stabbing my internal tubing like a blood crazed axe murder and the only thing on my mind was, he called me babe. Crazy, I was going crazy. “Tell me babe, what’s wrong?”
“Kidney stones,” I whisper on a wave of pain desperately trying to hold back the tears. Before I could stop myself though, I thought of Dane Cook, don’t ask me why because I will never understand why it popped in my head. We had only watched the stand up video one time that very first night we were together but before I could hold the reins on my idiotic rambling I looked him dead in the eyes with tears streaming and said, “I did my best.”
That was when I no longer saw him as just a school friend, he was a rock of strength for me. He was my go to friend to call in all situations. When I locked myself out of my apartment he climbed through the window. When I stubbed my toe walking to his car he lifted me up and carried me the rest of the way before running (and I mean quickly running) back to the school to grab me a band-aid. To answer any questions popping up in your head no we hadn’t kissed, we hadn’t cuddled naked, or do anything that involves the naked tango. We were just friends, really good, really close best friends.
When he stood in front of the class on the last day, I knew I was in trouble. I knew I was done for. I couldn’t stop staring at his lips. They were so beautiful as he spoke, I wondered right then and there what they tasted like. I was desperate to know, but I knew I wasn’t allowed to have that knowledge. Best Friends don’t kiss each other, they don’t, and that’s because Best Friends don’t fall in love with each other.
All my rules, every single one of them snapped in two, I let all of them fall through my fingers because of this one beautiful man. I was stuck then, because I couldn’t look at him any other way. My eyes lingered longer. My hands itched to slide through his hair. I just wanted to be close to him, I wanted to hold onto him and have it be more than just friends.
On the evening of the Art Show I dressed my best to impress. Little black dress and strappy black heels, hair curled and make-up on, I was a much hotter version of my typical dressed down state. By the looks in his eyes when he picked me up, he thought the same. “Hey sexy lady, you need a ride?” He cooed at me from the street as he pulled up to the curb.
I giggled and tried not to let my imagination run wild with hunger over what he just said. I didn’t want to let my thoughts slip into more dangerous territory, but staring back at his crisp grey button down and black slacks, I knew I wasn’t going to win that fight. I was losing, quickly. The night was amazing, and like always we had our own secret fun between just the two of us while we were surrounded by people that we didn’t much care for.
I told myself no, I swear I screamed it when I looked up into his face as the lights dimmed and a short video popped up on the far wall running through a montage of school work unable to make it to the Art Show. His eyes locked on mine too, a small dare of, ‘let’s see who blinks first.’ But the perversion of our games usually headed down a more dramatic ending, and as the music grew louder, the space between us grew smaller. I felt his breath across my lips, and my eyes slipped close before I could stop them.
What happened next I didn’t plan because there is no way for me to plan things like this. You don’t just decide, a best friend is just that…a friend. But not Taylor, he was more than that to me, more than I could have expressed to him in single words or looks. I didn’t know how else to explain it to him, and instead of thinking through my actions I did what any completely insane love sick puppy girl would do. I slammed my lips against his causing him to jerk into sudden stillness with shock. It was only for a second, but the butterflies that swarmed in my stomach made it feel like hours.
“Um…,” he said immediately after I pulled back.
“Yeah,” I replied, my eyes still closed tight. But I didn’t stop there, why would I? There was no reason to be realistic and think that after a sharp biting kiss that me speaking was a good idea. I wasn’t in my right mind, I was losing my shit, but I did it anyways. Such an idiot. “I’m falling in love with you.”
Those words, they are death when unwarranted. They are cruel evil punishment when not expected, they are sharp grating knives when used without consent. He didn’t reply, he just stared at me, his glossy green eyes blinked several times but he didn’t speak. His hands reached out for my waist and he pulled me in for a soft hug. My heart felt like it was about to leap out of my chest. “I think we should go home Grace.”
He gave me a hug, so that was sweet. He drove me to my apartment, but he didn’t stay over. He said he had work in the morning. I didn’t see him the following day because I had work that evening. One day led into two, which trickled into four. It was the longest amount of time we had been apart since we met. I felt like my body was literally dying from the inside. My heart felt like a withering stone flaking into useless ash inside the barren cave of my chest. I not only pushed him away, I kicked him out of my life with six simple words.
My heart only fluttered fifty thousand times when I saw his car parked outside my apartment the next afternoon. My steps only felt like 100 pounds of lead as I saw his shoulder leaning against my door like he was trying to force the wood open by his weight alone. I might have stopped breathing when he turned toward me his eyes wide and sad like he hadn’t meant to kill the joyful bouncy puppy like friendship we originally had before he suddenly disappeared. I tried to speak, but the words just wouldn’t come out.
He took three steps toward me and stopped before his hands reached out and pulled me into the tightest hug I had ever experienced. I breathed him in because it felt like he was saying goodbye as much as he was saying sorry. I tried to remember the feeling of his warmth because it felt like I would never get to feel it again. I felt his face nudge closer to my ear as the heat of his breath slipped down my neck before he whispered the words that would change my life forever. “I love you too.”