***Continued from the first part…“Oh. Hey, why don’t you come over here and talk to me? Then we don’t have to yell back and forth.”
It was like having one of the Ten Commandments given to me alone. This must be how Moses felt. I was scared to death and powerless to refuse. Running away didn’t even occur to me, and I’m glad it didn’t. See, in the minutes and hours that followed, Katie and I began a friendship that would last our entire lives.
It turned out Katie was a couple years older than me, not that I minded. Most of the time she didn’t seem to either. She’d come over to my house, or have me over to hers and we spent a lot of time getting to know each other. It was safe to say by the time school started, we were really good friends. Maybe even the best of friends. I never expected this from a fifteen year old girl.
The instant crush I had for Katie had grown too. It was no longer just a crush or even puppy love. This was the real deal. I think she knew it too, though she never said anything about it, and neither did I, taking my cue to keep quiet about my feelings from her.
She started dating that year too. I remember that all too well because I hated it. Even though we were still friends, when she was dating a guy I saw a lot less of her. And when I did see her, she usually spent a lot of the time we were together talking about the guy she was dating.
I hated hearing about it, but it never crossed my mind to ask her to stop. She was happy. Her eyes would shine and her voice took on a tone that sounded like angels singing in my ears. How could I ruin that for her?
It was worse when she and one of her boyfriends would break up. Then she’d become mopey and sullen, and very moody. Again, I didn’t say anything. Instead, I’d listen to her cry, maybe hold her hand if she reached for mine first, or just sit with her and stare at the wall. It would be fair to say that while she got to live, all I got to do was exist.
She did tell me all her secrets. Most I wanted to hear, but there were some I didn’t. Like when she was sixteen, I was fourteen, and she let a guy’s hand under her shirt for the first time. Or later, the first time she had sex. It was then I realized that Katie only ever saw me as a friend. A buddy. I would never be more than that to her. As much as this hurt, I swallowed my pride and my dignity, and let things go on.
There came a day when I was just about to turn sixteen. Katie had promised to bring me a present, but then never showed up that day. I was completely crushed. She’d never said she was going to do something before, then not do it. This was a first.
My parents didn’t know what to think when I went to bed early that night. I had to be alone though. There was no way I wanted them to see me cry. And definitely no way I wanted them to have any inkling of the reason why.
It was about eleven that night when a soft tapping sound on my window got my attention. It interrupted my thoughts, but I didn’t have any time to think or feel about it. The next thing I knew, the window opened, and Katie came creeping in.
“Billy?” She whispered from near my bed.
I debated ignoring her and was going to, but the next thing she did was sit down on my bed. Her cool hands felt so good on my burning cheeks.
“Billy, are you awake?”
“Yeah,” I whispered.
It was hard to say more due to the sudden lump in my throat.
“Good, I made it.”
“I made it here in time to give you your present.”
“Yeah, your birthday present, Goofball. Don’t you remember? I promised it to you today.”
“So why didn’t you give it to me earlier?”
“I was out with Brian. I only just got home. Besides, this isn’t the kind of present I can really give you in front of your mom and dad.”
Instantly, I was intrigued. What did she want to give me that my parents couldn’t know about it? I sat up in bed and reached for the bedside lamp.
“You can leave it off.”
“You want me to leave it off?”
“Just leave it off. Please?”
Not wanting to upset her after she went to the effort of coming to see me so late, I pulled my hand back to my lap and then tried my best to see her in the darkness. It took me a minute to realize she was shivering.
“Need a blanket?”
“I’m not cold.”
“You’re not? Feels like you are from the way the bed is shaking.”
Katie didn’t have an answer to that, and as usual, I didn’t press her for one. She never liked it when people pried. So, we sat there in silence, and after a minute, I realized we were both studying each other. Then, a few moments later, I understood something else. She was crying.
“Are you okay?”
“Are you crying?”
“Not your fault. Brian and I had a fight tonight, that’s all.”
“Don’t be. It’s not your fault we were fighting. But that’s not why I’m here.”
“I know. You said that.”
Katie let this go and again we sat in silence for what felt like a really long time. Then, in a very quiet whisper, she spoke again.
“Can we talk?”
“Well…yeah. Isn’t that what we’re doing now?”
“I mean really talk.”
Having no clue what she meant, I nodded. “Okay.”
“I know you like me, Billy.”
My heart and lungs stopped in that second. She knew. How, I had no idea. But she knew. Oh God, this was not going to end well.
“It’s okay, Billy. You’ve never made a big thing about it, but I know. I’ve known for a long time.”
Having never lied to her before, it never crossed my mind to do so now. When I didn’t respond, Katie went on.
“Billy, you know I like Brian.”
What kind of present was this? Yes, I knew she liked Brian. Is that why she was here? To break my heart? Some gift.
“But for now, just for tonight, I want you to pretend that he doesn’t exist. I want you to pretend that it’s you and I who are in love.”
My heart went from not beating to pounding hard. I was sure she could hear it because it was making me deaf. Did she just say what I think she did?
© 2016, Tim Hillebrant. All rights reserved.
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