Love Stories

May 17, 2011
It dawns on me that as I write this, I have no idea whether to classify this particular article as nonfiction or fiction. You see, a novel can only be categorized by its main subject, normally simple and straightforward in nature. However, the subject I examine here is love, a quality that is not straightforward and by no stretch of the imagination simple. Perhaps if I approached this idea from a scientific view, presenting facts, theories, and test results from various Universities around the world, I could call this piece a non-fiction. However, if I were to look with a romantic's eye, considering the "intangibles" - the imaginary "butterflies" your stomach encounters on a first date, the incessant need to hear your beloved one's voice, or the simple joy you get from just the briefest of touches - then this work would, by all means, be a fiction. Because doesn't it seem that love truly does drive us insane, pushing us to fulfill our wildest of fantasies? Love knows no bounds; stories abound of couples from the star-crossed Romeo and Juliet to the contradicting classed Lady and the Tramp. Love does not take into its consideration age, race, religion, family history, and sadly, friendship.

This is where my story begins.

Katrina - or Kat, as she prefers - is one of my closest friends. She happens to also be one of the most beautiful people I've ever met, inside and out. I'm telling you, God truly showed his handiwork on this one. Her moon-shaped face is punctuated by a small button nose and deep brown eyes from her Chinese father, while her fully-shaped body comes from her Puerto-Rican/Jamaican mother. Full, perfect lips, light mocha skin without even the hint of a blemish, and long, curly, black hair accentuate this mixed goddess. She has the best of all the cultures she holds in her blood. And that's just the outside.

She is a quiet one, only speaking when she wants to. It's not that she is shy; she just has learned the value of keeping her silence. However, when her lips do part and her vocal cords come to life, they project a voice that any angel would be envious of. She has a heart of gold, always doing what she can to help those in need. Seldom have I not seen her at a food drive or working at the soup kitchen. But in the end, it is her intelligence that shines the brightest to me. Throughout our four years of high school together, she always edged me out for first. Not that she tried to just for my sake - she just was that good. Last year I graduated second-highest in my class; she was valedictorian.

So in a nutshell, that is Kat. Friend, helper, angel, genius...and girlfriend of my best friend Chris.

Actually, to say Chris and I were friends is an understatement. A severely gross understatement. We didn't just go back to the sandbox; our fathers collaborated to build that sandbox when we were just proverbial twinkles in our mothers' eyes. We'd grown up together, facing hardship, joy, pain, and exultation along the way. We promised to have each other's backs, regardless of whatever the situation may be. We are brothers. But even brothers fight.

It was actually during one of our trivial, almost comical, arguments that Kat came into our lives.

"Dude, I'm telling you, Greene's class is this way, building 104", Mike said with a worried look after the second bell had rung on our first day of high school. We both had Mr. Greene's algebra class first period. Problem was we couldn't decide where it was.

"You sure? I'd tend to agree with you, but after you dropped your itinerary in the water, I couldn't tell if that said 104 or 907..."

"Dropped it!? You pushed me into that pond, idiot!"

"No I didn't! Ok, so maybe I did, but you shouldn't be talking 'bout my momma!"

"I can say whatever I want 'bout your mom. She likes me better than you, anyway..."

Rather than rising to that bait, I just remarked, "You know, you should keep that algae in your hair. Brings out the crappy brown in your eyes, I think..."

"You little..." With that, he drop-tackled me right there in the courtyard. Chris was always the stronger of us two, but I knew how to scrap with the likes of him. I was about to hook his leg and flip him when we both heard a sweet voice behind us say, "Um, excuse me? Could you show me where room 104 is?"

We both looked up to see this petite, wide-eyed beauty staring down at us through sharp glasses.

I was the first to recover. "Uh, yeah sure, lemme help you." As I got up, I threw one last elbow at Chris' unprotected side. He hardly seemed to notice, his entire attention captivated by this confused, dark-haired angel. Typical Chris, I thought, and rolled my eyes.

As the three of us walked to room 104 (Chris carrying her bag), we found out her name was Katrina.

"Just call me Kat. I hate being related to a natural disaster."

"Ok then, so what class do you have first?" I asked.

"Mr. Greene's Algebra I. Room 104", she answered.

Chris shot me a glance that said, told you so you lil' jerk.

Shove it; I tried to say with my eyes.

And the rest from there was, as they say, history. Kat soon became the last piece of our trio, battling the troubles of high school for the next four years alongside Chris and me. We each had our share of dating (though it seemed Chris was holding back for a while), and everything was fine up until last year.

When Chris and Kat came strolling through my front door, holding hands.

"Um, guys..." I began, mouth agape.

"Oh, hey Josh", Kat said, "We wanted to stop by to let you know that Chris and I are dating!"

Remembering myself, I closed my mouth and just looked over at Chris. Surprisingly, he wasn't his usual gloating self. He just had this look on his face of pure peace and satisfaction. I didn't blame him. He didn't just score a ten, he was well into the thirties with the chica on his arm. You see, by our last year of high school, Kat had grown into her aforementioned body. She was more of the woman she would become than the girl she had been.

"Um", I started, "So what happened?" That question was horribly ambiguous, but I couldn't think of what else to say.

Kat answered, "Well, Chris and I were talking at lunch and just out of nowhere, he asked me if I'd like to be his girlfriend."

Chris nodded in agreement with her rendition of the story. I believed it. I knew from the minute he saw her face, he would ask her out one day. I knew it wouldn't be elegant or romantic, but he would get it out somehow. I just wasn't expecting it to happen so suddenly. And I sure as hell didn't expect her to say yes.

"This is okay with you, right?" Chris asked. "I mean, this won't change anything. We'll still all be friends. I just...I guess to say it simply, I wanted your blessing, Josh. It would mean the world to me."

I sat there in my chair for a second, dazed. There were a billion things I wanted to say, and sadly, none of them things he'd want to hear. Because the fact of the matter is, I was madly in love with Kat. I knew from our first encounters together in high school that she was special. I could recognize her for what she was - perfect, or at least, very damn close. However, I was never one to rush things, so I had kept my mouth shut. More importantly, I had never let anyone know how I truly felt. I did my best to act more like a big brother to Kat, a facade that would deter others from thinking I wanted her. For the most part, it worked, but I could very well lose it with my next words.

All this ran through my mind in the span of half a second. Now what would I say? Would I call Chris a jerk? Would I tear him apart verbally, breaking his spirit and maybe repulsing Kat? Would I refuse my so-called "blessing"? Would I stand there and admit my undying love for Kat, right then and there?

No, I wouldn't say any of these things. I would put on the most painful smile I've ever had to wear, get up, and embrace Chris and Kat, saying, "I hope you guys are happy together."

Oh, love hurts. Love hurts...

That was a year ago. A year that has been joy and ecstasy for them, but only bittersweet for me. Where they could walk each other to class, I was usually dragging myself between rooms. Where they could go see a movie together, I began to prefer the company of me, myself, and I at home. I had tried to fit in with them, but the fabled third-wheel effect was all too real for me. So real that I alienated myself from them - and anyone else for a while. I was just the average student, hiding pain and unfulfilled desire beneath a mask of boredom and fake grins. In some ways, I think they knew. Regardless of how they may have felt, they were constantly trying to have me involved in their plans, whether it involved a group of friends or on occasion, a double date.

In fact, that was exactly what happened when prom came around. Of course, Kat and Chris were all too eager for the night to come. Myself, I just planned to hang out at home, maybe order some pizza. But it wasn't to be.

Kat called about a week before prom night.

"Hey Josh, how's it hanging?"

"Hey Kat, yeah I'm alright." Truth was, I had been trying to avoid Kat for awhile, lest my unspoken lust come out, so hearing her voice almost made mine crack.

"That's good. Hey, do you have a date to prom yet?"

I thought for a moment, almost anticipating what was coming next. "No, I don't. I wasn't planning on going."

"Oh, be quiet!" she mockingly reproved, "You're always lounging about in your smelly old house."

"Hey, it's not...well, actually, yeah it is smelly and old, but it's still a house!"

She laughed (and I almost melted). Then she said, "Well, you know my friend Lacey? She's been looking at you for awhile now, but she's kinda scared to ask you to prom...Would you please just go with her? I owe her a favor, and she really likes you, and Chris already rented a limo for all of us...please just do it?"

I relented, "OK fine, I'll go." Truth was, Lacey was a very sweet, cute-looking girl, so I had no problem with her. I just wasn't sure how things would be around Kat...

What is it about love that makes you think you're the better match for your beloved? How could you possibly know or just blindly assume that no matter who her man is, you're better? You see, in reality, love doesn't make us think we're better. It does its best to transform us, make us want to be better, to be the person that can fulfill every want and need, the person that can do everything he can't...

These thoughts ran around in my mind as Chris and I were putting on the finishing touches to our tuxedos. Don't get me wrong, I truly was happy for Chris. He's an honest-hearted guy, and not a bad looker. Not in Kat's league, but not bad.

"You think I'm overdressed?" he fretted. "I don't want to stand out."

"Dude, everyone's wearing a tux. If anything, you're kinda underdressed. I told you to slick back the hair."

"Oh shoot, I knew I was forgetting something! You still got that All-Stick gel in your room?" Without waiting for an answer, he dashed up the stairs.

Narcissistic fool, I thought to myself.

The limo pulled up as soon as he came downstairs, hair in order. The girls decided they would get the limo and pick us up at 6. I didn't feel that was gentlemanlike, but the girls insisted, so I let it go. I didn't want to be there in the first place, anyway.

"Here they come," I half-muttered to myself.

The door opened smoothly and out stepped a tall Latina. Lacey was 5'10, but with 3-inch stilettos could almost look me straight in the eye. She had long, firm legs, shown-off by a slit in her dress that went up to her mid-thigh. Her long, jet-black hair was kept straight and caressed her shoulders and back. Piercing green eyes matched peacock earrings and a small emerald necklace around her thin neck. Her dress was milk-white, sensuously showing-off every curve and hairpin turn on her toned and tanned body. I believe earlier I described Lacey as "cute". The woman I saw before me was purely exquisite.

"Good evening, my lady," I said as I took her hand and gently kissed it. I am a gentleman, after all.

She laughed and played along with the charade. "And good evening to you, handsome stranger." Whereas I kissed her hand, she leaned close and kissed my cheek.

For a moment, I was swept up in her beauty, forgetting the heartache that had plagued me for so many months. But when I looked over her right shoulder, all those rain clouds came back in an instant.

For there stood Kat, a goddess among mortals. Her dress of gold just shimmered with every step she took, every movement another sun exploding. Her light-mocha skin was accented perfectly by the dress, and her black, laced up stilettos completed the ensemble. Her face was as clear as any summer day, her eyes glistening a light hazel instead of her usual deep brown iris. Small gold earrings hung from her delightfully shaped ears and a modest pendant adorned her swan-like neck.

I, for my part, almost completely forgot the exotic Amazon on my arm, had it not been for Chris elbowing my in the ribs whispering, "Dude, is this heaven?"

I broke out of my trance and clumsily tried to "get the show on the road", as they say. "Um, we should probably get going. Don't wanna be late, he-he..."

Lacey and Kat looked at me peculiarly, but Chris, oblivious to the sudden tenseness that threatened to choke me, agreed and herded everyone into the vehicle.

At the dance, things got even worse. I was, for the most part, able to satisfy Lacey by dancing with her most of the night. But somehow, she could see through my bull.

"You're in love with her," she stated during last call.

I snapped out of a split-second daydream and asked, "What are you talking about?"

"You're in love with Kat." After seeing my worried look, she laughed and answered the unspoken question, "No, she doesn't know, at least I don't think she does."

After a half-hearted sigh of relief, I began, "How did you...?"

She interrupted, "I've seen it before. Any man can try to hide love, but a good woman will always find it. I saw it last year when we all were in Mrs. Ealy's history class. I saw it when Kat stepped out of the limo. And I can see it now, because all night you've been glancing over at her. Don't get me wrong, you've been a real gentleman, getting me drinks, dancing with me, etc., and I truly appreciate that. You're a sweet guy, Josh. But you need to do something about this, otherwise everyone's gonna get seriously hurt."

And with that, the last dance was over. Lacey gave me a quick peck on the lips, and said she'd meet me at the car.

I wondered for weeks on end about what Lacey said. I knew what it was like to be hurt already, but what was I supposed to do?

The school year passed, and with it came the rest of our lives. Chris got a job selling TV’s at Sears while Kat moved in with him and was going to the local University. I was working as well, and it seemed that our small trio was breaking up slowly. I still kept in touch with them, I just didn't interact with them on a daily basis like I used to. Kat suggested a movie for one Friday night, and I decided it was a decent idea.

It was a little past 5 when my doorbell rang. It was Kat.

"Oh, hey! Um, come in. Excuse...everything. I wasn't exactly expecting you."

She giggled and came in, her perfume just lightly drifting past my nose.

"Where's C?” I asked.

"Oh, he's on the way. He ran into a problem at work and said he'd just meet me here. So how have you been?"

"I'm good, just chillin'..." I didn't really know what to say. I hadn't seen Kat (or Chris, for that matter) in a couple of weeks.

She looked down at my table. On it were used paper plates, a remote, some paper clips, magazines, and a couple books. One in particular caught her attention and caused her to gasp in surprise.

"Oh my goodness, I never saw this!" She sat down and opened up a photo album of prom night. "Look at all these..." She turned and hit my leg, pretending to be upset. "How come you never showed me this?"

"Oh, well, uh..." Honestly, I couldn't think of why I never did.

But thankfully, she was wrapped up in the past. "Oh, look at Megan and Tony. And here's Raina! Oh she looked so cute in that strapless dress..."

After a brief trip down memory lane, we came to the last picture.

"And here'," she stated. I could see the memories mixing with tears in her eyes.

I wrapped my arm around her and let her reminisce. Truth was I had come to that picture a thousand times before. It was taken before we went to the party. Kat and Lacey were holding hands in front while Chris and I stood behind them, my hand on his shoulder.

For some strange reason, out of nowhere I said, barely a whisper, "I love you, Kat."

I immediately regretted my outburst. I closed my eyes, wishing that somehow I didn't just say that. I expected Kat to get up and leave, I expected her to slap me across the face. Heck, I expected her to call Chris so he could beat some sense into me. But none of that happened.

"I love you, too, Josh."

I opened my eyes and saw hers staring into me, into my soul.

I decided to venture a little further, "I loved you from the first day I saw you. You were radiant, beautiful. I just couldn't...I just didn't want...." I struggled to find my tongue.

"I know," she intervened. "I know, and I think its so sweet how you've acted. I’ve always had a little crush on you, to be completely honest. You were always there, trying to protect me, help me, and when Chris came into the picture, you sacrificed what you wanted most. But what do you want now, Josh?"

That question had an answer I wouldn't vocalize. I would be using my mouth to answer, though.

But as I leaned in, my lips just centimeters from hers, Lacey's words came rushing into my mind.

"You need to do something about this, otherwise everyone's gonna get seriously hurt."

When I first heard her say that, I thought she was telling me to go for it. Now, I realize, that wasn't her opinion at all. She didn't say that I was the only one that was going to get hurt; everyone would. What would happen if I gave in, gave in to this most intimate of moments? I could never live with the guilt. And what about Kat? She would be torn, unable to give her heart a fair chance at a real love. And Chris...I would never be able to face him again.

It was then that I felt a new love. An old love, in fact, that had been put on the shelf and needed a little dusting off. It was my love for Chris. It’s the kind of love that inspires a man to give his life so his brother may live. It’s the type of camaraderie that motivates a soldier to never leave his men behind. The Greeks called it agape - brotherly love. In this moment, I realized I loved Chris more than I loved Kat.

I pulled away, and looked her in the eye. Finally, I said, "Kat, you don't know how much I've wanted this, but...I can't. You and Chris will always be my friends, and I will never let anything get between that. I'm sorry."

Kat looked down for a moment, and then said, "No, I should be the one who's sorry. You're an amazing guy, Josh, and I'm sorry that..."

Just then, the doorbell rang. Chris came in a second later, and couldn't tell anything was wrong.

"Hey, what's up guys? Sorry I'm late, but we gotta get going! Movie starts at 6:30!"

Kat got up and grabbed her purse, walking towards the door. I stayed in my seat.

"Hey bro, everything good?" Chris inquired.

"Um, yeah, everything's fine. I just don't feel so good right now, man. I think it was some bad pizza." I rubbed my stomach and put on a face that said I needed some alka-seltzer, and fast. "You guys are gonna have to go without me."

"Are you sure?" asked Kat. I silently thanked her for playing along.

"Yeah, there's no way I'm gonna go without making a mess in your car."

"Well okay then, sorry bro," said Chris, "I'll bring you back some popcorn. You coming, babe?"

As they walked away hand in hand, Kat turned around and looked at me with deep brown eyes that spoke volumes of understanding, a hint of shame, and gratitude. I smiled at the happy couple and closed the door.

Love is many things. In the case of my dear friends Chris and Kat, it is a story of fiction, a never-ending fantasy filled with happiness, joy, and bliss. But to others, such as myself, it is a reality as harsh as the desert, a tortured existence filled with pain, heartache, betrayal, and loneliness. The last one gets to me particularly, as I sit on this park bench in the middle of the night.

I hear a shadow creep up behind me, quick and lithe. I blink once, and there in front of me stands a tall, beautiful woman. Her toned Latina skin glows in the moonlight, while her skin-tight jeans and form-fitting windbreaker highlight every curve her body can show off.

"Hi, my name is Lacey," she says with a smile and then sits down. After a moment's hesitation, she cuddles up next to me.

Funny thing about love. Its story can be a fiction or non-fiction. But you can make it whatever you want to be.

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