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Part one- The Offer
I’d known Jack since I was five because I ran him over with my tricycle. It was a complete accident but for some strange reason, we became friends because of that. Not just because we lived by each other. We went through elementary school together and defended each other from bullies; we stumbled through junior high and struggled with dating other people; and now we were in high school and dealing with something totally unknown to us.
We thought we were completely inseparable, but we were very, very wrong.
It happened when we were seniors. I was heading out to my car after school when Jack ran up behind me and pinched my sides. Being the most ticklish person in the world, I shrieked and dropped my keys onto the pavement.
“Jack!” I exclaimed, trying to hide my laughter.
He grinned at me and tossed his black hair out of his deep blue eyes. “I thought that might get your attention. I have a question.”
“And that’s how you choose to get my attention? Just because you’re taller than me doesn’t mean I can’t beat you up.”
Jack threw his head back with laughter and said, “Too true. But anyway I want to know if you’re doing anything tonight.”
I thought for a second. “Nothing that I know of but I’ll have to check with my mom. Why?”
Jack twisted the silver band around his thumb and said quietly, “I want to know if you’ll see a movie with me tonight.”
“Sure.” I shrugged. “I can bring Arabella and Conner and we’ll catch some dinner afterwards like we did when we were in junior hi-.”
“No.” Jack said firmly.
There was a pause. “What?”
“I want it to be just you and me.”
I stiffened and stared at the pavement. “This is a friend thing, right?”
Jack looked directly at me. “That depends.”
For a few awkward seconds, we just stared at each other. I didn’t know how to respond to this kind of thing, so I just quickly unlocked my car and got in. Jack was still looking at me as I pulled out of senior lot, so I waited until I was out of sight to breathe. I had to go, but that doesn’t mean I wanted to. This would all end in tears, I just knew it.
Part two- The Date
Four hours later, I was at the movie theatre with Jack. We had decided to watch Iron Man 2 because we were both suckers for action flicks. This wasn’t as date-ish as I thought it was going to be, so we kept on a conversation all throughout the movie. Our seats got kicked a few times because we wouldn’t shut up, but then Jack would notice something else in the movie to comment on, so we never really stopped talking. This felt more like a friend get-together, and I was happy with that.
Sure I’d thought about Jack as more than just a friend on occasion, but only when someone brought it up. It would be a fleeting thought, but then it would get replaced by our friendship again. More than a few people suggested we date, but we both laughed it off and kept our brother/sister bond strong each time. We’d dated people before, and it had never gotten in the way either. So what was with him acting strange this morning?
“Dawn.” Jack’s voice broke through to me and my train of thought came to a screeching halt. I looked around at all of the casual New Yorkers leaving the movie theatre and realized that the film was over.
“Sorry,” I muttered as I stood up.
Jack gave me a funny look but shook his head before progressing towards the door. I put my hand on his shoulder to avoid losing him in the crowd, and soon we were outside. The sky was pitch black and it looked like a storm was rolling in. I could already see lightning as we turned down the street and started walking towards the park.
“So…” Jack trailed off.
“That was fun.” I finished. “We should bring Trey next time. He would’ve liked being not bored for once.”
I laughed at that, expecting Jack to laugh with me like he usually did. When he remained silent, I stopped walking. He walked forward a few steps before realizing I wasn’t with him. He stopped and turned toward me, twisting his ring like crazy.
I put my hands on my hips and asked, “Is something wrong? You seem really out of it today.”
He ran a hand through his hair and looked at me dead-on. “We’ve been friends for a while and we’re close, right?”
“Yeah but what does that have to do wi-.”
“And you expect me to be honest with you all the time, right?”
I frowned. “Yes but-,”
“So you can handle the truth then.”
“You’ve always been honest with me!” I cried. But then I asked quietly, “Haven’t you?”
Jack shook his head slowly. “There’s something you need to know before I tell you what’s been on my mind lately. Sit down.”
I stepped over onto the grass and sat down, looking at Jack with a completely lost look on my face. “Okay…what’s going on?”
Jack paced on the park walkway and pinched the bridge of his nose before turning to me and blurting out, “I’ve been accepted to a college in California.”
I stared at him. “That’s over 2,000 miles away. “
“Yes it is. This is why I have to tell you something that I’ve kept from you since we met.”
I fought my tears and managed, “What could be more surprising than what you just told me?”
Jack knelt down in front of me. I looked away, but he turned my chin so I would look at him. Before I knew what was happening, he leaned forward and kissed me firmly on the lips.
I was so shocked, I didn’t react for a few seconds. In the meantime, Jack slipped his hands around my neck and kissed me even harder. When our lips parted slightly, I pushed him back and gasped for air. Jack looked hurt, but then he said seven words that stopped me from running away.
“I want to give us a shot.”
I stared at him and whispered, “What are you saying?”
Jack gave a nervous laugh and looked at the night sky, now covered with black storm clouds. “I’ve loved you since I was seven. Did you really not notice?”
I thought back to all the times we were together. Now that I think of it, the way he always looked at me was somewhat more than a friend look…but I never returned that look, much less noticed it.
“I…I didn’t notice.”
“Dawn, I want to give us a chance while I’m still here. Once school gets out and summer starts, my time is seriously limited. With my job and college prep, I won’t have much free time. I love you so much, which is why I want to be with you while I’m still here.”
I struggled to find the right words, and settled on saying, “And you just expect me to fall into your arms and let you sweep me off my feet? Is that what you had in mind? This won’t work, Jack!”
Jack reached forward and gripped my hands. “I think it will work! Please, just give it a chance.”
I stood up. “I’m sorry if this hurts you, but I’ve never thought of you in that way. I like things the way they are, and I’m not going to let that change.”
Jack stared at me with hurt-filled eyes. “Dawn, please don’t do this.”
“I don’t love you Jack.” Then I turned and walked off, leaving him in the park. Right as I reached the curb, I turned around to see Jack’s dark outline against the trees. He stepped under a lit lamppost, and I saw him look intently at me. His expression was hard and I knew he was letting me go reluctantly. I hailed a cab, keeping my eyes on him, and when I heard it pull up. I gave a small wave to him, and climbed inside.
“Where to, miss?” The cab driver asked me.
I was still looking at Jack as I said, “West Tenth and Hudson Street please. Greenwich Village.”
Jack was still standing there when I left.
Part Three- Crazy?
It’d been at least a week since I’d talked to Jack. I didn’t feel like moving from my bed. I was hooked on the new season of Glee and kept watching reruns to pass time. My phone went off every other minute for those first few days after Jack’s stunning declaration; I had at least fifty new text messages, thirty or so voicemails, and even more missed calls. I finally got fed up with it and took the battery out of my phone. My mom was freaking out and demanded to know what had happened, but I didn’t feel like telling her. At least my school sent my homework to me.
Today was the first day I had gotten out of bed and gotten ready for life. My auburn hair was wavy as usual, my glasses were on, and I looked halfway decent. What a miracle. I stumbled down the stairs and into the kitchen so I could make myself some lunch, but as I was about to open the fridge, I heard two deep voices from outside.
“Is that everything?” Said one.
“I think so.” The second voice was Jack.
I crept over to one of our front windows to see what was going on outside, and I saw Jack and another older man with a crew cut loading boxes into a trailer. Some were marked “bedroom stuff” and others “books”. I realized what was going on and I gasped. I ran out the front door, forgetting my shoes, and sprinted across our front yard. I skidded to a stop in front of Jack, who glanced at me and whispered angrily, “What are you doing here?”
“What the hell is going on?!” I cried.
Jack stared at the ground and said, “Since I have no reason to stay, I decided to move in with my uncle in California. Just to familiarize myself with the area before college starts.”
“You can’t move!” I stammered. “You can’t leave me! Not like this!”
“On the contrary, I can. You’ll have Conner and Arabella and Trey to keep you company until you go to college.”
“You’re going to throw away our friendship over one night??”
Jack looked me in the eye and said, “I want more than a friendship, you know that.”
“So you’re going to destroy years of friendship just because of one stupid decision? Is that it?? You didn’t even give me a chance to consider your offer!”
“You’ve had a week to contact me!”
“And during that week of isolation, I was thinking about that night!”
Jack stiffened and let his gaze soften. “What specific part were you thinking about?”
“My decision to reject you.” I said, now clear on what I needed to say to him.
Jack stepped toward me until we were only a few inches apart. “What was your final thought about that night?”
“I…I was wrong.”
A small smile played across Jack’s lips as he cupped my face in his hands. “Anything else you want to say to me?”
“I decided…I can’t live without you.” I managed.
Our noses brushed as we got closer and closer.
“Three words.” Jack whispered.
I felt tears of pure joy fill my eyes and spill down my cheeks as I whispered back, “I love you.”