It feels like the longest time before Lexi responds, but in reality I don’t think its much more than thirty minutes. I keep refreshing my inbox, my pulse pounding and wondering what Lexi will think. Will she ignore me? Will she even respond?
Finally my email dings, and I swear it’s the most beautiful sound in the world. I rush to click on it, and I take a deep breath. My stomach is tight as I start reading the email.
As soon as I send it, my fists clench. I half-expect her to say no, to say that this friendship is over and then never respond to me again
But she doesn’t. My email dings a minute later, and I click on it, swallowing hard.
Lexi’s response is three words: We’ll see.
I don’t talk to Lexi after that . Instead, I put away my phone, I do some serious boredom channel surfing, and flail some more.
I sit on the edge of my bed for a while, just staring out the window at the leaves swirling through the air, thinking about Lexi. I hope this means we can go back to being normal . I hope we can just stay best friends, and I’ll have at least one constant left in my life.
But how do I tell? Am I just supposed to wait?
I can’t wait for Lexi, I can’t just wait and see. I get up and walk to my window, pressing a sweaty hand to the cool glass. For an instant, a pang of regret comes over me. I wish I could be there with her, laughing and debating about random things and having ice cream eating contests like we used to.
But instead? I’m stuck here. I try not to think about it.
It’s hard not to think of mom and dad while I stand there. We were such a tight-knit family back then, and now we’re nothing. It still doesn’t feel real, honestly, like this is all some elaborate dream and we’ll go back to being normal soon enough. But in my heart, I know that will never happen. It’s as if the tighter we were, the harder we were ripped apart.
I don’t want that to happen to Lexi and me.
My fists clench, and I take in a long, deep breath. I care about Lexi so I refuse to sit around and hope an email has fixed all of our problems
I don’t know what I’m doing.
One second I’m standing in my bedroom, staring at my hands and telling myself that I need to fight for Lexi before it’s too late, and the next I find myself outside, my jacket on, running down the street like an idiot.
The air is thick and misty as I run, I gulp in some fresh air, clearing my head. I try not to think about what a horrible idea this is or even what I’m going to say to her.
My legs carry me all the way there, and I slow my pace as I reach her house. This late at night it’s dark outside, really dark, but my gaze shifts to Lexi bedroom window. The darkness keeps me hidden most of the way, and slowly, the nerves sink back in.
I knock on her window, first quietly and then harder. Faster. Almost with desperation. Eventually she opens her window, a paint brush is in her hand and I can see the canvas she has been working on in the corner of her bedroom.
I don’t realize how cold it is until now, and a shiver races down my spine.
Lexi’s eyes shift from my face, to the dark sky, and then back to my face – and my breath completely catches. In only twenty-four hours, I managed to forget how beautiful she was. I shift uncomfortably on my feet as soon as the thought crosses my mind.
I can’t be thinking that.
But yet, I am.
The whole neighborhood is deathly silent, like we’re the only two people left in the world.
“Hi,” I breathe.
She stares at me, those blue eyes shimmering in the moonlight.
“Hi,” is all she says back, the paint brush still clenched in her hand. I watch as beads of red drops slip from the end of the brush and seep onto the floor below, making an almost inaudible pat, pat, pat.
“I’m sorry,” I whisper.
For a second, nothing happens. Lexi just looks at me , letting her paintbrush slip from her fingers until it clatters onto the below, the brush sending drops of red paint everywhere.
Then, as if on cue, she laughs— a total, pissed-off kind of laugh.
“Wow, that was incredibly creative and impressive, Dalton,” she says absently. “I’m glad you know how to make a girl feel so special.”
A twinge of hurt shoots through me, but I shake it off, because I deserved that
“You know I mean it.”
“You do,” I say.
She glances to the floor below her for a moment. “Look, do you have anything else to say to me? Apology accepted. Whatever. Now get the hell out of here so I can work on my painting, okay?”
I grit my teeth. Not the kind of reaction I was going for.
She rolls her eyes, looking annoyed. “Please what?”
“Please… I don’t know. Please just don’t leave, okay? I don’t want you to… leave.” I kick myself in the ankle. I sound like such an idiot.
“And why not?” Her arms are folded across her chest, but her eyes look sharp, calculating, like there is a wrong answer to this question and she’s seeing if I pick it. I close my eyes.
“You really want to know?”
“Because I don’t want you to go,” I say so quietly I’m not even sure if she can hear. “I need you.” The words seem to echo around the silent neighborhood, dancing every which way as if to taunt me with their desperation.
But it’s true. It’s so freaking true. I need her, and it’s that simple. I need her there for me, I need her presence, her smile; she always knows what to say, and I need that too.
As soon as the words leave my mouth, Lexi’s lips purse into a thin line, and I can’t detect any emotion from her. God, she has a great poker face. But me? Not so much.
She climbs through the window and I see her lips, open and soft. And that hyperawareness scares the hell out of me. I’ve never noticed these things before.
Finally, Lexi opens her mouth to speak. “Interesting,” is all she says.
My heart sinks. “Interesting?”
“Interesting,” she confirms, forcing a slight nod.
“What?” I mutter, because by the blankness of her face, the subtle, sharp edge to her words, I can tell she’s angry. She has reason to be angry, dammit. I was an idiot. An asshole. Look where that got me.
“What do you mean, ‘what?’”
“Are we seriously going to do this?”
I laugh, annoyed, and throw my head back. “I deserved that.”
I kick the ground. “Dammit, Lexi! Why are we treating each other like enemies? We aren’t! We’re best friends, but we just… I just…” I close my eyes, gathering the energy to continue. “I don’t want us to turn out like this,” I finally say.
Before I even realize what’s happening, my fingers reach out and brush her arm. I feel the searing warmth of her skin, then a tingle down my spine, and something else too. I take an awkward step back, and she just sighs.
“Could you be any more obvious about it?” she says.
I open and close my mouth before saying, “Probably.”
“You’re an idiot,” she says.
I force a laugh. “I know.”
“I’m glad. I thought I was going to have to explain to you why, and you know how thick-headed you are.” Then, she smiles to herself, a distant kind of smile that I can’t possibly place. She shakes her head, and the look disappears in a flash.
“But, at least, you’re a cute idiot.”
I let a little grin slip onto my lips. “I am?”
“Unfortunately, yes, you are. It’s just about the only thing you have going for you at this point.”
“I have missed you too,” she suddenly says, her eyes so big and genuine. “But I also miss us. Us… before.”
“I know.” I find myself nodding. “Me too.” Then, “Think we can go back to being friends?”
She hesitates . A look crosses her eyes— a glimmer of something that looks like… regret?— but it’s gone the second it comes.
“Yeah,” she finally breathes, turning her head back to the window. “I… I can do that, I think.”
“Good,” I say. “That sounds… nice. Being best friends again is nice. But promise me you won’t try anything?”
“Like what?” A devilish look flashes across her face.
“You know the answer to that,” I say, my lips curling. It feels good to be smiling with her again, like a weight I didn’t even know I was holding has been lifted off my chest.
“I don’t,” she says, feigning innocence, but I can see the faint trace of a grin on her lips. “Enlighten me, Dalton.”
I awkwardly shake my head and she gives a triumphant smile.
“So,” I say, holding out my hand. “Friends?”
For an instant , she just stares at my outstretched hand , and I feel more coolness rush all around me. I can even taste the dew in the air, feel the softness to the night sky.
“Okay. Friends,” Lexi says after a while, and she shakes my hands.
She starts to turn away after that, whether to go to sleep or return to working on the painting I do not know. I start to turn back, too, shoving my freezing hands into my pockets, but before I can move Lexi spins back around.
Without a moment’s hesitation she leans into me, her lips hovering a millimeter from my ear, whispering, “We can be friends for now. But Dalton, if you think this means I won’t fight for you with every last breath I have, you’re in for a hell of a surprise.”
Then she lets her hand slip from my arm, spins back around, and dissapears inside.
I stand there for the longest time, just staring at the spot where she was standing. Her touch sends a tingling sensation up my arm, her words making my heart pound harder and harder. I feel it all, but I don’t know what to do as I turn to go home.
Then, through the darkness, I smile.