You've ChangedI frowned at him and pulled my shoulder from under his palm. He made a strange face at me, confused by my anger. I knew he hadn’t really done anything, but I didn’t care. I had to take it out on someone. And Steve was right there.
“Please leave me alone,” I said as one song ended and blended into another.
He ignored my searing tone and squinted his eyes, concerned. “Della, you’re crying. Are you okay?”
I stepped away from him. “I’m fine!” I yelled over the thumping drums that pounded in my ears. I had to leave. The door was about two dozen steps away. If I ran….
His blue eyes glinted suspiciously and he grabbed me by the wrist. “Come with me,” he said. He gently tugged and I followed him up the cushioned steps to the second story landing and into a large bedroom with a king-sized bed. He closed the door behind us. The music was muffled and I couldn’t hear the words or who was singing. My mind was running at a million miles per hour and I watched as Steve plunked himself down onto the bed. He patted the space next to him.
I sat next to him. He smelled like rain. He wore his light blue sweatshirt that he’d had since seventh grade, its sleeves soft and comforting against my bare arms. His favorite Yankees cap was covering his hair now, and I assumed that he’s had it hidden in his sweatshirt pocket before now. I wondered if it had poked Sarah in the stomach when they kissed. His glasses were crooked across his nose and I desperately wanted to adjust them.
It brought me back to my eighth grade graduation party, when everyone had gone home but Steve and we waited upstairs in my room for his mom to pick him up. We smiled at each other as he texted his mother to see if she had gotten out of traffic yet. It was quiet, but it wasn’t awkward. We were comfortable with the quiet, and I had my head on his shoulder. I wondered if he remembered, too, when we were so close. I wondered if he remembered what we’d had. I wondered if he knew what we’d almost had.
“I know you saw us, Della.”
I didn’t know what to say. Should I play dumb and pretend that I didn’t know what he was talking about? Or should I be straight up with him any tell him the truth?
“Della, I know you saw us. It’s no big deal.”
My head shot up. No big deal? No big deal? Maybe not to him, but this was much more than some kiss to me. It was a symbol of how I’d lost my best friend to a girl who didn’t deserve him. A symbol of the new Steven, the Steven that I barely even knew anymore. What had he become? Sarah was the kind of girl that he would’ve steered clear of in middle school. And now…and now what?
And now he’d chosen her over me.
“It’s a big deal, Steve.”
Steven looked at me, puzzled. “Della, what happened? We used to be such close friends…”
“I know that it’s weird to see me kissing Sarah, but she’s not who everyone thinks she is.”
“She’s actually a really cool girl once you-”
“You don’t have to make excuses, Steve.”
There was a long, swollen pause. It was awkward, and it just reminded me of how different things were now.
“Why are you so upset?”
I looked at him. I looked deep into his eyes and watched as his pupils twitched. “Steve, you’ve…” My voice faded.
I shook my head. “You’re different.”
I glanced away automatically, afraid of what repercussions might follow such a bold statement said with such an insulting sneer. He put his hands just below my cheekbones and lifted my face to his, so we were staring directly into each other’s eyes. I wanted to pull away, but I just couldn’t.
I stopped him. He let my face drop from his fingers. “You changed and you know it, Steven.”
He was quiet. Even he couldn’t deny it. He wasn’t Steve anymore.
“I don’t know who you are anymore,” I said, fighting the tears that burned at the corners of my eyes. “You used to hang out with the kids who stood in the background. You used to be one of us.”
“One of you?”
“Face it, Steve, you’re popular.” I was still fighting the tears. “And me, Marianna, and Tracy? We’re…we’re not.” I wiped the first little tear that popped out of my eye before Steve could see it. “It’s like you’re too good for us.”
Steven jumped up, and I was sure that he was going to leave. I was sure that it was the official end of our friendship. I wouldn’t even get a goodbye.
But he just stood there, watching me. My head was down. I studied his Converse sneakers. “Della, that’s not true. I never thought that I was-”
I was suddenly angry again. He was just lying to himself. “Steven, you know it’s true!” He was hushed. I lifted my head. “Ever since the popular kids inducted you into their group, you’ve completely isolated us. It’s like you’ve forgotten me…I mean. Us. It’s like you-”
Steven stepped forward and took my face in his hands again, pulled me off of the bed and pressed his lips against mine, hard and reckless. I was limp in his arms, feeling the soft cotton of his sweatshirt, warm and yielding against my pale skin as I fell into him. He tasted like toothpaste and peppermints.
I knocked his cap off of his head and tangled my fingers in his hair. His glasses bumped against eyebrows. He wrapped his arms around me and I felt his jeans against my exposed shins. It was like a scene out of some cheesy chick flick. One with a stupid pun as a title. But it felt perfect.
I don’t know how long it took for us to unweave ourselves from each other, but I do know that it hadn’t lasted long enough. We sat back down on the bed. I handed his cap back to him. He readjusted his glasses. We didn’t say anything, but the silence wasn’t uncomfortable anymore.