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If I Told You I Loved You...
Behind our backs, all of our friends said that we would look so cute together. Whenever they hinted at it, Julie would blush and look away, running a hand through her auburn hair like she did whenever she was nervous. She was nervous a lot these days, more timid and quiet than usual. Whenever they hinted at it, I would stuff my hands into my pockets and try not to think about it. The hard thing was that I thought about it all the time, even when Julie wasn’t around.
I was the first person Julie met when she moved here from Seattle back in elementary school. I was there for her when her mother passed away from leukemia during the eighth grade. I made her chocolate-chip and peanut butter cookies when she called me, crying, to tell me that her latest boyfriend had dumped her. When she just wanted to get away from everything, when she was stressed out from class or the drama of her relationships, I would take her to Starbucks and we would talk over our mochas.
I always wanted to hold her hand when her eyes began to tear up from thinking about her mother or her ex-boyfriends. I always wanted to hold her close when all I could give her were cookies. I always wanted to kiss her rather than talk over our mochas.
I always wanted to tell her that I loved her.
It was summer, junior year waiting for us in the fall. I had been practicing my guitar when Julie called and asked, half sobbing, if we “could go somewhere, just anywhere, I don’t care.” I didn’t need to ask why: boyfriend number five, a.k.a. Jason, hadn’t looked to happy during our group lunch today.
I told my parents where I was going and grabbed the keys to my mom’s beat-up red Volvo. I drove the few blocks to her house, picked her up, and began winding the way down to the beach. The digital clock reminded us that it was seven, and the sun that it was almost night. I popped in The Fray’s How to Save a Life album into the CD player. We didn’t say a word, just listened to “She Is”, “Over My Head (Cable Car)”, “How to Save a Life”, and “All At Once”. “All At Once” had just started when I pulled into a parking space at the beach.
“There are certain people you just keep coming back to. // She is right in front of you,” I sang along. Julie smiled tightly. Her hazel eyes were red, her heart-shaped face blotchy. She pulled her knees to her chest, wrapping her arms around them. I turned the music down.
“Hey you okay?” I asked quietly. She laughed, but it choked in her throat and died on her lips. She wiped her hand across her eyes, trying to stop the tears. I wanted to brush her hair out of her face. I wanted to hold her hand and tell her it would be alright. I skipped holding her hand, shoving my own into my pockets, and told her softly, “It’s going to be okay. You know that.”
She sighed. “Daniel, after the fifth time, I don’t think it is going to be okay. I must be doing something wrong…”
My gut twisted.
“It’s not you. Jason was just a jerk,” tumbled out of my mouth. I bit my lip and waited for her reaction. She hesitated for a moment, then argued,
“He was not a jerk, Daniel.”
“He was! He totally was! You were together, what, two weeks?” She nodded. “In those two weeks, did he ever really pay attention to you? Ever ask if something was wrong? I bet he didn’t even go on a date alone with you.”
She opened her mouth, then closed it, and shook her head. She stared down at her knees. “He was always busy,” she said softly. Tears formed in her eyes. Oh no, now I’ve hurt her feelings. Oh man, no.
“Julie, I know you liked him a lot,” I whispered. “But I don’t think he was ever in love with you.”
“What do you know?” she snapped, turning her hard eyes to me. “You’ve never loved someone!”
I stared at the steering wheel. My cheeks were burning, my stomach was doing gymnastics, and my heart was twisting and screaming.
I felt her eyes soften.
“Have you?” she asked softly.
“Try and guess,” I suggested sadly. I turned my eyes to her. She bit her lips, ran a hand through her auburn hair.
“I wish I’d known,” she breathed. She looked out to the horizon, where the sun was plunging into the sea, then back at me. “Because I think I love you too.”