Tough Love

July 21, 2011
I leaned against Joey's muscular shoulder as we sat in the bed of his F-150, drinking Starbucks. I never got anything but a vanilla chai; he changed every time he went. Tonight's choice was a caramel macchiato, and I wished I'd gotten something that smelled equally delicious. I gazed up at the stars, or what few I could see given the brightness of the parking lot light close by. His hand tightened on my arm and I looked at him. We had been best friends for years, but just started dating about three months ago, which was a new experience for both of us. I studied his profile as he finished another sip, then he turned to me.


"Hmm?" I raised my eyebrows flirtatiously. "Oh, just thinking about how much I love you." I held my breath--neither of us had said that before. I didn't think he'd be mad, but there was always the possibility... I was surprisingly relieved when he answered "I love you too." Then he leaned in closer.

"Does this mean I get to kiss you now?"

Of course it does, silly, I thought. But I wanted to tease him a little first. "Well, I know Leah made her boyfriend wait until they'd been dating a year... what if I did that to you?"

His answer shocked me. "I'd probably break up with you."

I searched his face to see if he was kidding, laughed a little nervously when he didn't crack a smile after a few seconds, and pushed against his chest to sit up straight and look him in the eye when he didn't continue. I never thought for a minute that he was shallow. "Really? You'd end it if I didn't kiss you?"

He seemed to think it over for about half a second, then nodded. "Yeah..."

"You're dating me so you can have someone to kiss whenever you want." It was more of a statement than a question. I felt so used and I hadn't even kissed him yet. Of all the years I'd known Joey, I'd never once believed he could be such a player; he was always kind, compassionate, respectful Joey. My heart was pounding from rage and confusion. I pinched the back of my hand, willing the whole night to be a horrible nightmare. It hurt, but not as bad as the stab to the heart. I clenched my jaw to stop the tears. "Joey, there's a lot of girls out there that are the same way, but I'm not one of them. Thanks for the latte." I hoped he could see the anger in my eyes, because I was determined not to cry. I didn't want his sympathy, and I knew he'd offer it in a heartbeat. I'd just lost my best friend and boyfriend in one night. The one I had always run to when someone made me cry. The one who offered to beat up the people that hurt my feelings and made me feel like crap. The one who felt terrible when he said the wrong thing, and had always apologized immediately. But he gave no sign of feeling sorry tonight. I was so thankful I had decided to drive myself to meet him at the Starbucks; I didn't want to spend another second with him. I got in my car and pulled out of the parking lot, leaving him in the bed of his truck with a disgusting caramel macchiato and no girlfriend.

As soon as I got home, I just collapsed on my bed and cried until my eyes were swollen almost shut and I was too weak to get up and put on real pajamas. I hated breaking up with Joey. Even on the drive home, I started to regret it and wish I had just talked it out with him. But he needed it. I slept in my clothes, but kept jolting awake all night. My cell phones had six, seven, eight missed calls from Joey; my text notification was going off almost constantly. I didn't even bother checking my Facebook. I knew he was trying to apologize, but I also knew he just wanted his girlfriend back; he wasn't sorry. I had seen it in the same eyes I'd looked into for twelve years of my life. I kicked myself for wasting all that time on him, on being friends with him since first grade. After a fitful night, I went through the breakup routine I'd been through with girlfriends every so often. Delete his phone number. Untag all pictures of the two of us on Facebook, and change the relationship status. I also removed the post that I was "now single;" I wasn't ready to answer questions. And I knew Joey would comment anyway, trying to get an explanation. As if it wasn't obvious. Pile all of his stuff on my bed to throw away or burn. Or leave at the end of his driveway, late at night. Throw away the wallet photo, change my phone background, read the journal entry from when he asked me out and cry. Go to the drugstore for chocolate and tissues. And cry some more. Turn off phone because the texts are driving me nuts.

Two days later, I still hadn't talked to him. Apparently he called my sister at one point, but she hung up on him after yelling as loud as she could in his ear. I love eleven-year-olds. Friday night, I was babysitting my siblings so my parents could go on a date. I was up doing homework around nine after Thomas went to bed and Claire was watching TV in her room, when the doorbell rang. I opened it to see a very upset-looking Joey. Tearstains traced down his face, his shaggy hair was a mess, and he was holding my favorite sweatshirt that I'd left in his car three days earlier. I took the sweatshirt and put it on, still waiting for Joey to talk. His voice cracked when he finally spoke.

"Can we talk? Please?"

I sighed and opened the door for him to come in, and led him to the basement so we could talk without waking Thomas up. Still silent, I sat on the sofa and glared at him. He moved to sit next to me, then thought better of it and sat on the coffee table in front of me. He stared at the ground for a long time, then everything tumbled out at once.

"I don't know how to tell you how sorry I am... I should never have said that. I really shouldn't have even felt that way, but I didn't know... sorry, I'm rambling. The first day that I kept calling you, I just wanted my girlfriend back. But by the third day, I realized I should never have taken you for granted. And I thought about how I'd feel if you'd said the same thing, and I realized it was kill my self-esteem and I would have felt terrible, too. But I don't really care about having my girlfriend back anymore; I don't expect you to want me back, anyway. But I came to talk to my best friend and tell her I'm so, so sorry that I hurt her feelings and I'm totally lost now without her and I need her back. And I know my girlfriend would break up with me for an insensitive comment, but my best friend would have shown tough love and made me learn how a girl should be treated. And I know I've learned my lesson, and if you'll just talk to me again I promise I'll love you right." A tear slipped down his cheek as he finished. He quickly swiped it away, but I saw it and knew he was telling the truth.

"Of course I want you back, Joey," I said quietly and held my arms out for a hug. He sat next to me on the sofa, but couldn't bring himself to give me a proper hug--he just buried his face in my shoulder and cried. I'd only seen him cry once, the day his parents told him they were divorcing. I put my arms around him and rubbed his back, silently kicking myself. If I'd know how badly he was hurting, I never would have dragged it on for three days. When he started to calm down, I leaned down and kissed his shoulder. I felt him tense up, then relax, and finally he sat up, wiping his eyes.

"What was that for?"

"Because I love you, silly." I ran my hand through the hair behind his ear. Joey didn't bother asking this time; he pushed me onto my back on the sofa, leaned over me and kissed me firmly on the lips, his wet lips massaging my cherry-chapsticked ones. He smelled like caramel macchiato; I wondered if that was on purpose. We finally sat up after several minutes.

"And that was because I love you more."

Join the Discussion

This article has 6 comments. Post your own now!

PaperIdeas said...
Jul. 27, 2011 at 10:33 am
whoa...that was amazing. it wasn't all cliche and everything...the whole idea of best friend vs. boyfriend....AMAZING 
Alice14 said...
Jul. 24, 2011 at 5:11 pm
Awesome story! Keep on writing! This was touching and beautiful!
theitgurl said...
Jul. 23, 2011 at 9:01 pm
that was beautiful<3 I lost my best friend after dating, and it is the worst feeling in the world. We don't talk, and it just hurts. But I am so glad everything worked out for you and that was well written!
Blue4 said...
Jul. 22, 2011 at 4:02 pm

Yeah, the &quot thing is very weird and distracting :)

Anyways, awesome story, it was very sweet. Can you look at some of my writing, rate, and comment? Thanks.

julietmonroee5683 replied...
Jul. 22, 2011 at 10:03 pm
Of course! Thanks for reading mine (or attempting to, anyway... haha)
julietmonroee5683 said...
Jul. 22, 2011 at 2:00 pm
Okay, apparently my computer is stupid and can't handle quote marks. Sorry for any confusion.
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