We all want our last first kiss with that special someone — whether we want to admit it or not. I’d been pushed around by too many lovers. I’d all but given up on love. I’ll live alone for the rest of my life. Being hurt is too complicated, especially when your feelings are compressed like a genie in a bottle, that’s the story of my life. Promises. Promises. Broken promises meant the most to me because I’d been expecting them by the door of what’s left of the ghost from my past.
Dad died late last year, leaving me with a mountain of debt. Dad wasn’t the kind of guy who had an inheritance to leave me. God bless the son-of-a-bitch, but I’d be paying his medical bills until I’m dead. Mom. Well, I’ve never met her. She ran off with some man after I was born. She said something about how she wanted more out of life, and she wasn’t old enough to be a mother. So, Dad and I had to fin for ourselves. Dad did the best he could. I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I’ve just never had a break. Hannah, my best friend, has a good family with genuine happiness, making me sad. How could someone else’s happiness make me so sad? It’s always one thing or another. It’s either bills or past due bills in the mailbox. Is it wrong to admit that one day I’d hoped to get into her bed? What? It’s not like I’m the first guy to lust after Hannah Jane. Her sandy blonde hair falls right below her waist, and her sun-kissed skin with a hint of a tan is more than enough to make the most celibate man turn into a total whore. True romance is nothing more than the best thing — the best part of humanity: love.
Ever since high school, I’d batted the idea of asking Hannah to be more than friends. I knew all her secrets. I knew when she was going to ask a guy out or dump him. I knew the first time she lost her virginity. I recall her description of her first kiss. I can close my eyes and wish those were my lips touching hers, but we’re still friends when I open my eyes—nothing more. I’ve got to change it. I got to get the girl. I got to stop being a punk. But maybe she told me all her secrets because she thinks I’m…I’m gay! I never thought about it like that before. If Hannah thinks I’m gay, I could only imagine what she says behind my back, and she tells me everything.
“Come in, Hannah,” I said of her door knock. Hannah comes over enough to let herself in, but she insists on knocking with that stupid rhyme knock.
“Where are you?” she asked, walking through the door.
“I just took a shower.” I didn’t know how I stayed so calm around a woman I’m madly in love with. Thunder crashed my eyes and heat melted my brain at first sight of her ocean blue eyes.
“She broke up with you, didn’t she?”
“How’d you know?”
“Because you take like 100 showers when a girl breaks your heart.” I felt my stomach drop. She knows me better than I thought. So, she knows I’m not gay. I let out a sigh I didn’t know existed. I dried off and shoved my feet in a pair of jeans and tied the laces on my sneakers.
I descended the stairs. “Did Dan break up with you?”
“What’s on TV?” Hannah asks, flipping through channels. Hannah didn’t have to say it. Her avoidance of the question spoke for her. She’d come over after some dude broke her heart. I guess we’re in the same boat. Seems like we always were in the same boat.
“You’ll find someone else,” I said.
“It’s just not fair.” Hannah played with her hands as she squeezed back tears. I was a shoulder to cry on, but I loved her more than anything—more than anyone. Hannah was there when Dad died, and she helped me sort out his belongings. She helped me box memories and pictures to a storage garage. She laid on my chest as we ate ice cream, watching cheesy romance movies. I made sure to have a tub of vanilla ice cream in the freezer. “Mom tells me the same thing: You’ll find someone someday. I don’t believe it. Every time I get my feelings hurt.” I’ve never hurt your feelings, I thought.
“Listen, what about us?” I asked before I made my mind up to do so.
“What about us, Jim?” Hannah raised a sly brow.
“I mean…If you want someone, I’m here for you,” I said, hoping she’d get the hint that I wanted more than a friendship. It seemed to fly in one ear and out the other.
“You’ve always been such a good friend,” she said, kissing my cheek. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“No,” I said. “Hannah, you don’t understand,” I said before she touched the door handle. “I’m in love with you.”
“I appreciate your love,” she said. As friends, we told each other we loved each other often. It was a completely different context, though.
“I want to marry you,” I said. I didn’t even care that it came out jumbled. I’d been in speech class as a kid because I’d get nervous with words when my heart raced. I guess it helped.
Hannah’s eyes crinkle. “Wait. You’re serious?”
“As a heart attack. I loved you the first day that I met you.”
“We’ve been neighbors since elementary school. So, why now?” Hannah has a good point. I’d plenty of chances to kiss her.
“Because I’m a coward.”
“No, it’s because you didn’t want to ruin our friendship,” she said. “I know you.”
“Will you please make me happy?” I asked on bended knee.
Hannah covered her mouth with one hand and her heart with the other hand. Tears streamed down either cheek. I could feel the joy through her tears. She didn’t answer for two minutes. I know this because I looked at the wall clock behind her, hoping I hadn’t made a fool out of myself.
“Of course, Jim!” I placed a ring on her finger. I’d gotten a pretty good deal on it because my sister works at a local jewelry store. It was still more expensive than anything I’d ever bought before, though. I hope it’s worth every penny.
The final draft will be included in a book of short stories: Picking Bruises.
(© 2020 by Andrew Cyr)