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“Why do you even put up with her?” the blonde cheerleader (who had been “inconspicuously” trying to point out that she really wanted to hook up the entire night) fumed. There was no question who the “her” was she was talking about was. Zoey, my lifetime best friend and crush. Amanda (the cheerleader) reapplied lipstick sloppily, letting on that she had been to another party befor this one. She pouted a little, making her lips look even bigger, a trick that Zoey told me meant that a girl wanted to kiss you. Sorry Amanda. I looked down at the coke in my hands and took a sip. Amanda rolled her eyes. “ Like, seriously Ty! Zoey is a freak!” Amanda pronounced the last work like Fuh-Rea-Kuuuuuuh, cementing the disgust I felt for her. Honestly, just looking at her made me a little bit nauseous. She was beautiful to society’s standards, all eyelashes and lips, blushing like she didn't want the attention you bestowed upon her. But when I looked at her, all I could think about were the hours in front of the mirror, in the salon, and at the mall that made her look like that. I missed Zoey. I fire out a quick text to her, letting her know that I was all right. Zoey hates parties, especially with this crowd.
Hey Zo. Missing u in the land of plastic cheerleaders and dumb jocks. xxTy
I put away my phone, and set it on vibrate. Less then 15 seconds later I get a response. Pretending to be interested in what Amanda’s prattling on about, I slyly read the text.
Ty- wish u were here 2. U can always come watch Roman Holiday with me. xx Z
Amanda looks up from her compact for a moment, and scowls. “Let me guess,” she says in her nasally voice, “The queen, Zoey.” I look at her, at the other cheerleaders and footballers all getting wasted. “You know what Amanda?” I say, my voice dripping with (false) sincerity, “I am so sorry. But I have to go.” She starts protesting, but when I lean down and kiss her on the cheek, all words stop. For a moment, she is blissfully quiet, and I think “This girl is sort of pretty when she isn’t being so high and mighty, so stereotypically POPULAR.” But then she smiles, and says,” Want to stay now?” and all of the magic is lost. I shake my head, and grab my hoodie, fist bumping some of my teammates on the way out of the house. “Nice touchdown Tyler!” someone shouts. I smile and nod, but try to escape as fast as I can. When I finally reach my car, an old pickup truck, I text Zoey back.
Be there in 10. xxTy
I turn off my radio, and insert my favorite CD, The Airborne Toxic Event’s album All At Once. I think about Zoey, her face when she listens to this album. How her hands will start playing piano when she gets bored, or anxious. Her long, brown hair blowing over her face. Kissing her, kissing Zoey. My phone rings, interrupting me mid(imaginary)kiss. I glance at the screen, and see that it’s Zoey. I pick up (only for Zo) and I’m greeted by her voice. She sounds stiff, robotic, “Ty, can you get me some sour jellybeans?” She’s holding back tears, I can tell. “What’s wrong, Zoey?” I ask her. “Marcus broke up with me.” What?!? Marcus, Zoey’s long-term boyfriend broke up with her? “Oh my god.” I said, feeling bad, not just that my best friend’s heart was broken, but that moments befor I had been celebrating it. “I know,” she says, “Why didn’t I just break up with him? But I couldn’t!” She says, getting a little bit hysterical. “Eff Roman Holiday. Can we watch (500) Days of Summer?” I agree and press end call.
After my detour to CVS, I arrive at her house. Instead of knocking on the door, I put the bag of jelly-bellies in my pocket, and climb up the tree that leads into her room. Anticipating my arrival, Zoey has left the window open. She’s crying on the bed, Death Cab blaring from her speakers. “She sees that I arrived, and sits up. “Hey Ty,” she says, wiping her eyes. She doesn’t look like herself. But, thinking about it, she hasn’t looked like herself for months. She climbs off her bed, and switches off her music. She opens her laptop, and starts the movie. Joseph Gordon-Levitt starts talking, and I get the jellybeans out of my sweatshirt pocket, and she starts to eat them. Zoey being Zoey, she does it in the most difficult way, eating first the red ones, then the orange, and so on as she works her way through the rainbow.
I’ve already seen this movie befor, and this Zoey being much more interesting then the other Zooey on screen, I watch her instead of the movie. Half way through the movie, she rests her head on my shoulder, as she takes a break from jellybeans, and eats a little bit of popcorn. The jellybean bag is still 90% full. And then, suddenly, everything stops. The temper trap song plays, and I really feel her weight on my, in my arms. She looks at me through her wet eyelashes, and purses her lips the tiniest bit. And I lean in.
We’re kissing slowly, but eventually getting faster. I kiss her, and I forget that she’s my best friend. She’s just Zoey, and it feels so natural, it’s scary. She tastes like watermelon jellybeans and popcorn, but also of tears, venerability. Oh my god. I’m kissing Zoey! I’M KISSING ZOEY. And then, it stops. She starts to cry, big, wet, salty tears. “Ty,” is all she says, “Oh, Ty.” I want to kiss her again, but I know that she would hate me. I wrap my arm back around her instead. She leans her head on my shoulder and I can feel every time she takes a breath. She’s trembling, suppressing sobs. I try and comfort her, but I can’t. I grab hold of her hand, and my fingers of my other hand slip to her wrist. Oh god, Zo, all I want is for you to be okay again. Because you haven’t been okay for a long time. I feel raised skin, and look at her wrist. I gasp; her beautiful snow-white skin is cut by angry red slash marks. “Zoey?” I ask her, my voice growing high with fear, “Zoey? Did you do this?” She stops trying to hold in her tears, and nods, shaking with so much emotion. “Uhhhhh Okay! “ I say panicking a little. “Okay, Zo, I’m going to call your mom. Sound good?” She shakes her head no. I know that her mom isn’t here any way. Her mom’s banging some old married guy, trying to forget about her one and only “troubled child.”
“Then I have to call 9-1-1.” I say. She nods, shaking and crying. I pick up the phone, and take a deep breath. The perky operator says, “Hello, how can I help you?” like she’s a f**king McDonalds’s drive thru worker. “My friend’s…depressed,” I start out, “She’s been cutting herself… and … yeah. I’m really scared for her safety.” McDonalds pauses, only for a moment, making me re-evaluate my previous judgments. “Wow. Okay, Are you with her?” She asks and I quickly tell her that I am. “You need to drive her to the nearest hospital, right now. “ She says, “Can you drive?” I tell her that I can, and she hangs up, after some last instructions.
“Come on, Zo!” I say, trying to be cheery. “Tyler,” she says, and then pauses, taking a deep breath, “ I-I-I love you.” My eyes start to mist up, and I guide her to the car, locking the door behind us. I let her choose the CD we play, and Narrow Stairs (by Death Cab) blares from my speaker. Oh Zoey, some things never change. The nearest hospital is about 20 minutes away, and while I’m driving, she falls asleep .I look at her face, and realize that I will never stop loving her. “I love you too Zoey. I will love you forever,” I whisper. She surprises me by mumbling back, “I know.” We pull up in front of the hospital, and I take a minute befor turning the car off. I kissed Zoey. She was mine, if for only a short time. But now, I have to return her to the world. I open my door, and run to her side, as a chuffer might, and open hers. “My lady,” I say, offering her my arm for balance. She flashes me a true Zoey smile, and I know that I will be here for her. I can help her. She kisses me, “Come on Charming.” I wrap my arm around her waist, “After you.” She opens the heavy glass door, and I know that something has changed, shifted. Our friendship will never be the same, but that’s just fine. All that matters is that I love Zoey, and she loves me, and we will be together.