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You Belong With Me
“I’m sorry, Chels. I can’t go today.”
I forced back an impatient sigh, waiting to hear his excuse for why he was bailing this time.
“Lorena wants to go shopping today. Homecoming is in a week and she says that we put it off for too long,” he went on, giving his excuse. “You know how everyone does the whole coordinating outfits thing. She wants us to match.”
I knew it. It was always Lorena. Ever since that girl came into his life, it’s been all about her. She barely gave him enough room to breathe and her entire agenda for him did not include me. When she transferred to our school from Madrid last year, I had thought it would be fun to know her. I could ask her about Spain and how it was different from the states. But my little fantasy turned out to be totally wrong. She had zoomed in on my best friend—and the guy I had a huge crush on—and stolen his heart in nothing flat. Stupid, pretty Spanish girl.
“Alright,” I muttered. “I’ll see you later.”
I hung up the phone still grumbling. It had been this way for a long time. Since Lorena had started going out with Tristan, we had barely spent any time together. We had been best friends since the third grade. We had grown up playing street hockey with the other kids in our neighborhood, gone through middle school together, and then approached high school tentatively. Together. And Lorena had ruined it.
Tristan had asked Lorena to Homecoming last week and had made a big production of it. He had left a rose in her locker and a card, and even made a huge sign on the whiteboard of her first period class. I wished that it had been me he’d asked, but how could I hope for that when he had his girlfriend? We had been too scared and new to high school to go to anything last year. I should’ve made my move then, before Lorena had taken over.
To understand my situation, you have to know about Lorena. She had been born in Castille, but she moved to Madrid when she was five or six years old. She moved from Spain to the states last year and now she was planning to stay here until whenever she felt like leaving, which didn’t look like it would be soon. She was of average height, maybe five four, with pale skin, big brown eyes, and straight, shining black hair. She was slender and spoke with a distinct Spanish accent that all the guys thought was sexy. She did fairly well with her academics and played guitar.
Of all the guys in the school, why had she gone for Tristan, the guy I liked and my best friend? Why? It was bad enough that all the guys in our grade, the grade below us, and the upperclassmen liked her. Why him?
Stewing about Lorena usually occupies my time for a while, and I usually don’t let go of it until I get to school and see Tristan. But if he’s alone, sooner or later, Lorena will show up and latch onto his arm like a vice and it’ll put me in a bad mood again. I went to school and saw him for a total of maybe five seconds. Lorena always looks at me like I’m the dirt on her stylish Steve Madden flats. My best girlfriend Cassie told me it was because she was threatened by me, but I didn’t believe her. How could anyone be threatened by me? I was five seven, with the lean build of an athlete, with green eyes and sandy blonde hair. Not overly gorgeous in any way. Or at least, that’s what I think.
Tristan, on the other hand, is an image of perfection. He has dark, wavy hair with warm, brown eyes and a smile that could break every girl’s heart from Los Angeles to Manhattan. He was almost six foot and pretty lanky. We had practically everything in common. I couldn’t understand why nothing had happened yet. Oh, wait. Something did happen. Lorena happened. Right.
After school, I called him.
“How’d shopping with Lorena go?” I asked him casually, smacking my gum, being nonchalant even though I was really interested.
“It was… okay,” he answered.
“I hear, like, zero enthusiasm.” I rolled over on my back. “What happened?”
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah. It was a long day, that’s all.”
I could detect something in his voice. Having been friends with him for all these years, I knew when something was wrong with him, and something was definitely up.
“Tristan, are you okay?” I asked softly.
“I’m fine. Uh, I gotta go. I’m having dinner with Lorena and her parents in an hour. Bye.”
After he hung up, I felt the way I usually felt when we hung up: sick of Lorena and the way she took over his life, sick of waiting this whole time for him to get how much I liked him, depressed because Lorena had him and I didn’t.
Was there anything I could do about it? Maybe not.
But then again, maybe there was.
“Hey, everybody! I’m Shannon Owens, your ASB president! We have a bunch of people here who are excited to be performing for you guys tonight! We promised that it wouldn’t be all DJ-run music so enjoy this live performance!”
I was in the bathroom. I could hear Shannon from my stall. I had locked myself in the minute I had arrived at the dance and the fact that I would have to come out soon was making me shake.
I don’t know why I had done it. Shannon had said that anyone who volunteered to sing for Homecoming would get a free ticket to the dance. At the moment, I had been thinking something along the lines of, I might as well go anyway even though I don’t have a date and the guy I want to go with is going with Miss Spanish Princess. I had signed up and the guy behind the table had handed me my free ticket. Perfect.
I was shaking more and more as the performer before me came to the end of his song. I unlocked the door and stepped out of the stall. I looked at myself in the mirror. I looked scared. I tried to arrange a smile on my face and walked out of the bathroom, hoping that I would gain some confidence before I started singing.
I was not a bad singer. No, that wasn’t why I was afraid. I was afraid because I was going to make a public declaration of my feelings for Tristan in front of everyone, including Lorena, who would probably tell me to stay away from him as soon as I stepped off the stage.
“Alright, that was great! Now, please give a huge round of applause for Chelsey Evans, who will be singing “You Belong With Me” by Taylor Swift!” Shannon smiled at me as she handed me the microphone and walked off the stage.
“I want to dedicate this song to my best friend.”
When the music started, I felt my shoulders ease into a more relaxed position. Every single note and rhythm in this song was familiar to me. It should be. I had sung this song for weeks and listened to the whole album over and over. It was the song that I felt would say what I really wanted to say.
“You’re on the phone with your girlfriend. She’s upset. She’s going off about something that you said. She doesn’t get your humor like I do.” I kept singing, my voice strong and clear. My eyes were darting all over the crowd in front of me. Most of them were swaying to the music and singing along. Hell, every girl in the school knew the lyrics to this song. I found Tristan and Lorena in the crowd. She was tugging aggressively on his sleeve. He tried to push her away. She was really yanking on his sleeve now, looking mad as hell. I kept singing.
I looked at them again. They were matching. Lorena was wearing a long, scarlet halter dress and he was wearing a black vest, white shirt, red tie, and black pants. She had chosen the colors of her country. Of course. She had now grabbed his tie and had yanked it hard enough, forcing him to look at her.
“If you could see that I’m the one that understands you. Been here all along, so why can’t you see? You belong with me. You belong with me.” When my eyes found Tristan again, I saw a wavy cascade of hair whip around as Lorena stormed off. That was all I needed to get through the rest of the song.
“Have you ever thought just maybe, you belong with me? You belong with me.” I smiled down at the microphone as the music faded. Everyone clapped. Loudly. For me. I gave the microphone back to Shannon and walked off the stage. I headed for the door.
I felt a hand on my shoulder and turned around. It was him. I hadn’t been quick enough. I had wanted to put off this confrontation until a safer time. Like when we were back at home and there wasn’t a crapload of people just a few feet away.
“Hey, Tristan,” I said, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear.
“Chels… I just want you to know that it’s always been you. I waited for you all this time and I thought… I thought that you didn’t feel that way.” He looked down at his shoes. “I thought maybe I would go out with Lorena for a while, until you felt ready. I didn’t expect us to last this long, but after tonight, I’m done with her. It’s over.” He looked up. “I didn’t think you felt that way.”
“I’ve felt that way,” I told him. “Since third grade. Since we met. Always. I was waiting for you to get over her.”
“It doesn’t matter anymore,” he said, smiling. “She’s history. You’ve always been my present. You’re my best friend, Chels. I wouldn’t have gotten through anything if you hadn’t been there.”
He held out his hand. I took it, following him back to the dance floor. I placed my hands on his shoulder as the DJ played a slow song, “I Will Follow You Into the Dark” by Death Cab for Cutie. We slow danced for every song, even the ones that were too fast and everyone was grinding on each other.
I looked up at him.
He bent down and whispered in my ear.
“You belong with me.”