“What are you doing?” He smiled a smile that lit up his whole face, anyone from the outside looking in would have thought it were one of pure joy, but she had known him a lifetime. She had spent a lifetime getting to know his every movement and what every wave of his arm meant. She knew his smiles and she understood them even better.
This was a smile of confusion, with a little bit of anger. Yet he smiled at her, spoke lightly, remained casual. Because even though she was upsetting him, he would never do anything to make a scene or embarrass her.
He cared too much for her to ever do that.
Returning a grin that mirrored his, she lifted her shoulders. “What do you mean?” She looked back over her shoulder at the girl she had just introduced to him.
She was laughing at the bar, joking with a bartender.
She was beautiful. She had the kind of hair that always looked good, the type of skin that didn’t need any makeup. She was the kind of gal that rolled out of bed ready for the world, no preparation required. She had the kind of humour all guys loved but rarely got from a woman, she was athletic, fun and spontaneous.
She was an absolute catch.
Yet there he was, not falling for her.
When she turned to look at him, their eyes locked. She swallowed hard to ease the tightness in her throat the intensity of his gaze caused.
She shook her head at him as he held her gaze, her eyes fogging over.
“I just-” she swallowed.
He didn’t say anything, didn’t try to soothe her or pass over the subject to let her catch her breath once more. He knew what she was going to say, and he wanted to hear it. It would be worthwhile, they both knew, or else she would be able to breathe.
“I just need you to like her.” She stammered.
He tilted his head, raising a brow as he took a swig of his beer. “Oh?”
“I need you to be part of a couple, I was you to fall in love and be so happy.” She forced a smile, allowing her eyes to get glassy but promising herself she wouldn’t let a single tear escape. “I’ve loved you forever.” She whispered. She swallowed hard as she looked at him, a sob threatening to choke her.
Their lives were one.
They had meant as children, so weak and innocent, and had grown together. They had been like two saplings, too weak to stand along that had leaned together to survive, and as they grew and life happened around them, they entwined together, becoming stronger and growing to the sky.
They existed because of each other, without each other, neither would have gotten this far.
She needed him in her life, couldn’t imagine a life with him not in it.
Shaking her head to clear it, she cleared her throat and forced a smile. “In a week I’ll be someone’s wife… I just don’t think we can exist like this anymore.”
“Like what?” He moved closer to her, lifting his hand to press his thumb to her cheek. “With me, your best friend, madly in love with you?”
Sighing, she turned her face away from him. Unable to look at him, unable to fight through all the feelings that flooded through her.
“Look at me.” His voice was light, playful even. “Look at me.”
She had loved him once. Back when she was barely a teen and they had went off to school together, she hadn’t known any other love but him. They had been so intimate, had known every flaw, every perfection in each other, yet, he had never seemed to love her. She had loved him until she had no love left to give and he had seemed to oblivious to it all.
Her heart had broken, as someone new to love who had given too much. How could she not? Being joined with him through time, through failures and celebrations, through tears and laughter, there was bound to be love there.
Unrequited, she had moved on. Happy to just grow with him.
Then, as though he felt the loss of a love he had never noticed, everything changed.
Change too late, she thought.
Biting her lip, she looked at him. “Don’t you want to be happy?” She wanted him to be happy, he was her best and closest friend.
“You have to stop doing this, you have to stop with all these fix up and set ups… and mess ups.” he laughed. “It’s just not going to work. I am happy.”
She raised a brow.
“It needs to be this way.” he sighed. “There was a time in our lives when you offered me your heart, your whole heart and I just walked away.” He ran his fingers through his hair. “Like a damn fool.”
She watched him take another swig of his beer, unable to find words to fill the silence that grew between them for a couple moments.
“You know, I believe in soul mates. It’s kind of stupid, and if anyone ever asks me if I do… aside from you, I will laugh it off as nonsense, but I do. I also believe that you were mine, and I was so stupid to see the best thing I will ever see in my life standing right there in front of me and I let you slip away. Because of that, they sent you someone else, and I get that, I really and truly do. How could there no be someone else who could fall in love with you?”
He covered her hand with his own.
“But you’re just about it for me. Fools, we don’t get second chances.”
She just stood there, eyes wide. A thousands thoughts danced around in her head but none could get to her mouth, none were right to say just then.
“I will love you for the rest of my life.”
The words hit her like a punch in the chest.
“I will love you in a week when you become someone’s wife, a few years later when you become someone’s mother, and hell, I will love you thirty years from now when you become someone’s grandma. And if God forbid death takes you first, I will love you when you are a wonderful memory. There is nothing that can be done about it, because this is how it needs to be. I was a fool, and I will always love you… that’s my punishment.”
He pushed his arms through his jacket sleeves and gulped what was left of his beer.
Flashing her a smile, he pulled her into him and pressed a kiss to her forehead. “But don’t you worry, I’m perfectly happy loving you and being your best friend.”
He ran his thumb along her bottom lip, slowly for a moment before pushing the corner of her mouth up.
“Go on now, smile and have a good time with your friend. After all, you’ll be someone’s wife in a week.” He sighed, pushing his hands into his coat pocket. “Someone’s wife,” he murmured to himself as he walked through the crowded bar and out the door.