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My legs were slowly beginning to cramp. I breathlessly spat out, “If I run. Any. further. I think. I’ll die.” Tess didn’t answer. I continue, “It’s okay though. I think I’ll. Make. it. What about you, babe?” Her face was blank. I bumped her shoulder, “Hello..? You there?” I say. I speed up slightly to get in front of her, then I backpedaled in order to see her face, and Tess stopped running. She blurted out, “What are we doing?” I stopped slightly in front of her, running in place, “Uhm, we’re finishing our run. Come on, don’t get all crabby on me now. We have like half a mile left. I can practically see the parking lot from here.” She stayed still, “Seriously Drew, what are we really doing?” I shrugged, “I… don’t get the question. Stop being a smart-aleck and keep running. You’ll thank me for it when were eating garbage omelets later at Joe’s.”
I ran in a circle around her and then made my way behind her. I playfully pushed her forward, “Come on lazy!” Tess hit my arm violently. I stopped running and just looked at her. “What’s your issue today? Are you like PMS-ing or something?” She shook her head, “No. Answer my question.”
“Tess, I told you, I don’t understand the question. What do you mean what am I doing?” She shook her head again disapprovingly and shifted her weight back and forth, “No. What are we doing? What are we doing running together?” I looked off into the distance, puzzled, “Uhm, it’s Sunday. We always run on Sundays, and Wednesdays, and Fridays. But, what does that matter?”
Tess put her hand on her hip and looked deeply at me in the eyes. I examined her tan arms and the contrast they posed against her light blue sports bra and bright pink shorts. Her light brown hair glimmered under the hot L.A. sunlight, framing her gorgeous face. She continued, “We run together, all the time. We eat garbage omelets. We stay up talking on the phone until 3 A.M. most nights. We call each other babe, and link arms in public. How are we not a couple?” I dropped my head, “Oh God. Are we really doing this again? Really? Tess, we’re best friends! We’ve been best friends our whole lives! We can’t date.”
“Why not? I don’t get it Drew!” I knew I was going to have to deal with this again. I just knew it. I just didn’t know when. “Because…we just can’t.” She took her hands off her hips and shrugged, “So, your telling me you’ve never…” I shook my head. She continued, “You’ve never felt it? You’ve never felt…it?” Of course I felt it. I felt it everyday. I felt it every time she called me in the wee hours of the morning, because she just woke up from a bad dream and couldn’t sleep. I felt it every time I smelled her Chanel No.5 perfume when I hugged her. I felt it every day we spent together. But there was too much of a risk. If we were together, and I lost her, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself. She was my other half. She didn’t know what she was saying, and what she was asking. So as painful as it was, I shook my head. “No. I’ve never…” She looked at me and turned her head, “Your lying.” My plan was foiled. But I couldn’t admit it. Not for my sake, and not for hers. I shook my head again.
I watched Tess turn around. It was the ugliest thing I’d ever seen. She’d never turned her back to me before. So I did the only thing I knew how, I turned my back to her too. I could feel the distance between us growing every second I couldn’t see her. Looking straight forward, at what seemed to be an endless road, was the most excruciating thing I’d ever done. I slightly turned my head over my shoulder, to see if she looked back at me. I couldn’t see her. She was gone.
I can’t quite remember how long I stood there, by myself, in the middle of the road. I just remember looking up at the sky. It was so clear and blue, it was almost blinding. I’m not sure when, but eventually I started walking, and I just walked. All the way to my car, and then I just walked through my life, without Tess in it. I’m not sure how I did it, I just knew that things would never be the same. I figured that without her, I could barley function, much less walk on my own. I knew I would have to learn to run again, but I tried putting it off as long as possible. For months I went over every second of the fight, but nothing fascinated more than the question of weather or not Tess had turned around to look back at me. I hoped not. I figured when I looked, and she didn’t look back, that meant she wanted to walk on her own. She got her wish.
Two years later I found myself sipping a hot cup of coffee. I stared out the window and watched, memorized my the wet pavement outside. The raindrops fell steadily, softly dripping onto the plexi glass window. The waitress walked up to my booth and gave an all too bright smile, “Hey Drew! What can I get you this morning?” I smiled, “Egg whites with spinach and a side of wheat toast, no butter.” She took my menu from my table, “Great. That’ll be up soon.” I looked back out the window, watching the rain again. A soft voice interrupted my thought, “No more garbage omelets?” At first, I didn’t even flinch. It was familiar voice that I knew all too well, and quite frankly, I was afraid of what would happen if I turned and looked. Out of sheer curiosity, I rotated my shoulders. “Hi Tess.” She looked different. Not bad, just different. Her hair had lost it’s rich and deep color. Her skin seemed a flatter shade then before, it no longer had the light it exuded before. “You look good. I’ve missed you.” I smiled, “I missed you too.” I meant it. I stood up, “Come here,” I said, enveloping her in my arms. I no longer smelled her Chanel, but it didn’t matter. I had missed her so much. All the sudden, all the emotion I hid on that hot day in July came flooding back into my body. I quickly blurted out, “I’m so sorry. You were right, I was lying. I love you, and I’ve always loved you. I was afraid of losing you. Please forgive me.” I could feel her shaking her head in my chest, “Drew, I forgive you. I really do but,” The bell connected to door in the diner rang. A tall, muscular guy with blonde hair walked in. I let go of Tess, and waited to see if they knew each other. I had a feeling they did. He came up behind her and kissed her neck, “Hey babe. Who’s this?” He said, straightening his posture, threatened. She looked up, guilty, at me, “This is Drew.”
His eyes got huge and he stuck out his hand to shake it, “You’re Drew? Dude, I’ve heard so much about you. It’s really nice to me you.” I nodded, shocked. A deathly silence occupied the space between us. The nameless suitor cleared his throat, and Tess broke her gaze from my face, “Oh Drew, this my uhm… This is Reid. My fiancé.” I became weak in the knees. All this time I missed her, and she just found someone else. I shook my head again, disappointed. “Nice to meet you.” Reid looked at Tess, “Babe, we gotta go. The movie is at 11.” She nodded silently and turned her back.
Reid walked out the door purposefully, and Tess just stood in the middle of the diner, confused. “It’s okay. You two seem good together. I mean, I can’t believe you didn’t… You know what, it doesn’t matter congrats. You’ve known me 25 years, and him, what two? Thanks, for that. Feels great.” She began to speak, trying to find the words to defend herself. But she knew that there as no excuse for this. She walked out the door, silently.
I sat at that diner table for who knows how long. It felt like an eternity. It almost felt like the day we got into our fight, unbearably real, and unfortunately harsh. I sipped my coffee and looked back out the window. I furrowed my eye brows. I squinted, trying to focus my eyes on something in the distance. Approaching quicker and quicker was bright green dot. Only one person would wear a lime green raincoat in L.A. It was Tess.
It felt like I was in the middle of a movie scene, where everything turned to slow motion, and every color seemed to become brighter. She ran across the street, ignoring the oncoming traffic. Cars honked and people flipped her off but, she didn’t care. I smiled and pressed my hand up against the window. She ran right up to it, and pressed her hand exactly where mine was. Tess was back. She was mine again. She was ready to finish our run together.