The lulling cadence of rain pouring down on the tin roof was a comforting sound. The rhythm bore its way through my chest and settled in.
My mind stirred as a familiar voice rang through the storm behind me. I peek around the corner and see him. My fingers begin to tingle and warmth spreads down my neck. I quickly lunge behind the building before he can spot me. I try to take a deep breath, but my throat is too raw and my exhale forces a cough from me. I sputter and choke over the stinging, trying to clamp my hand over my lips to contain some of the noise.
It wasn't enough.
"Warren?" A deep voice cuts through the rain. "Warren, is that you?"
I let out another cough and massage my throat lightly as Kona rounds the corner. I look at him for a brief moment. My eyes begin to water and I tear my gaze away to stare at the ground.
"Are you okay, Warren?" Kona steps closer to me as I instinctively melt into the wall behind. My soaked clothes stuck to the metal, but the cold was a comforting reminder that this was reality. I wasn't in some fantasy in my head where I pretend things are different. It'll always be just this. A friend that's concerned about me. Only a friend.
"S-Sorry Kona. I had a rough day. I just wanted to take a second, but then it started raining," my voice mixes with the wind. I'm not even sure he hears me.
"Let me drive you," he suggests. The offer catches me by surprise and I nearly glance at his face. I land on his muted navy sweater instead, studying the image of a very decorated skull.
"You have a class coming up, right? I can't let you skip."
"Oh, c'mon. What are friends for?" The kind words are sharper than the fears keeping me from looking at him. I shake my head slowly, the pain barely subsiding.
"You just were with your girlfriend, right? I'm okay," I blurt out, my words harsher than I meant them.
The patter of rain continues. Thunder sounds in the distance. He doesn't say a thing.
I steel my nerves and look up. His thick eyebrows are knitted together and his normally full lips are thinned. His jaw is clenched, with the muscles in his cheek flexing.
I made up my mind before I even realized what I was doing. My feet kept moving as I blinked through the pouring rain. I squint, trying to make out the shapes in front of me. The college campus had a small park nestled right between the English department and the Science building. Amongst the trees and bushes is where I found myself running away from him on this Saturday evening.
My friends and I had decided to go out the night before. We were a large group and always created chaos wherever we went. We started at a karaoke bar and slowly made our way to some nightclub. As we drank, the tight locks we kept on our secrets withered away until nothing lay between privacy and fantasy. That's when I told him.
I confessed to my longtime friend, Kona. I told him how I've loved him for years. Through his flings, his serious relationships and his heartbreaks. I've been his support through high school, college and personal achievements. I've walked next to him through his first promotion, through being fired, and then through his self-discovery of a new career path. I've been there, always. I fell in love with his determination and flirtations with bad luck. I grounded myself in his maturity and freed myself in the comfort of his immaturity when I needed to let loose. He was my best friend.
When I confessed to him, before he could say a thing, his girlfriend unknowingly interrupted, dragging him to the dance floor. His stricken face stayed with me, though. I'll never forget the way he looked. I left shortly after my drunken confession. I knew our friendship had been dissolved with the splash of liquid courage that night.
A wily branch suddenly whips in the strong wind and snags on my jacket. I try to free myself, but only end up ripping it and entangling myself further.
"Warren?!" Kona shouts from nearby. I whirl, trying to see him, but the rain forces me to blink too fast to notice anything. I wipe at my face and take another look around.
A firm hand grabs my arm. I jump at the contact. Kona's tall frame hovers over me, eyeing my predicament.
"You've always been a klutz," he mumbles as he works me free. As soon as I'm rid of the branch, I step back. I take a few more, before Kona grabs for my wrist, pinning me with a sharp glare.
"Can you stop and talk to me?!" He growls.
"What is there to say?" I shoot back, yanking my arm out of his grip.
"How'd you know I'd be on campus today? Why were you here?" Kona questions.
I fidget with my torn clothes and try to take minimal cover under the tree. Kona joins me, moving uncomfortably close.
"Your girlfriend said something the other night about finishing a project today. I remembered. I wanted to try and talk to you after, but I knew it was dumb. It was so dumb!"
"Can we just talk? Please, Warren?" The notes of frustration are clear in his voice, but there's also a warmth that I dared not find comfort in.
"Fine," I nod and eye the building nearby.
"Here," Kona hands me a lengthy paper towel as we settle in one of the study rooms.
"You're sure that was clean?" I narrow my eyes at the offering.
"I grabbed the first few from the machine for myself. These were never touched by soiled human hands," he mocks as he throws it at me. I flail to catch the floating paper and start to dab around my face and arms. It wouldn't help my soaked clothing, but it was a start.
"Ready to listen?" Kona suddenly grows serious and sits in the chair in front of me. He's so close I can feel the warmth from his knees as they brush my own.
I nod, feeling new tingles and waves of heat down my face and neck.
"Do you remember when we first met?" Kona tilts his head at me, showing his long neck. The dim lighting caressed the curves of his olive skin, reminding me of our first interaction.
"I was just in a fight. I had been walking through the park," I began.
Kona cut in immediately. "And you looked awful. Blood, cuts and scrapes everywhere. You looked like a rooster beat you up!" I roll my eyes at the old joke. It'd been some time since we reminisced about that day.
"I was feeling a little sick, so I walked over to the picnic table. I conked out. Then you showed up."
Kona nodded and continued unfolding our friendship's origin story. "I had been passing by, just had my heart shattered into a million pieces. I was thinking of quitting school and moving back home. That's when I saw some beat up dude passed out. I rushed over and shook you. When you finally opened your eyes, you stared straight at me, asked if I was an angel and passed out again," Kona finished with a chuckle.
I felt my smile widen as the memory plays in my head. I had woken up to the most beautiful man I'd ever seen. I thought I was dying and my half-asleep mind created the image of a figure with wings. His tanned skin glowed in the evening sun and his seafoam eyes appeared supernatural in the moment.
"You stayed by me until I woke up," I whisper. My chest thumped against the desire building. My nerves were alight with affection and the torturous understanding that he can never be mine.
"I want you to see something," Kona pulls his phone from his pocket and clicks around to a few things. He turns the screen to me. It was a picture of me, from that day. My arms were splayed across the table, blood oozing from various wounds all over and my eyes were squinted shut, as if I was in an active nightmare.
"Why do you have that?"
"I took this after you slammed your head back down for the second nap. I took this right after, and then I waited for you to wake up," Kona trailed off as he stared at his phone. A small smile appears at the corner of his mouth. A subtle one, full of so many emotions I couldn't place.
"Warren. The next few times I saw you, I waited. Then, you told me about some girl in our class that liked me. You told me to go after her. You didn't even try to give me a chance!"
I felt like a weight slammed into my body and everything suddenly filled with lead.
"What are you talking about?! You're not like me!" I shout at him, confusion and hope mixing.
"You didn't give me a chance! You didn't even try to talk to me! You shoved girl after girl after me! I didn't want any of them!" He shook his head and shot a glare at me.
"Why didn't you say something, then?!" I yell, standing up and sneering down at him.
"I kissed you! I thought you'd remember!" Kona matches my volume, standing so quickly, his chair falls back. He has just under half a foot on me and the proximity forces me to crane my neck to make eye contact.
I stare at him, trying to process his words. I open my mouth to respond but nothing comes out. My tongue stiffens.
"That night. You had reached out to hold my hand, when I tried to pull away, you let me. The look on your face, though, was so lonely. It killed me to see you in that broken state. I asked you what I could do and you said to kiss you. I did. You opened your eyes for a moment, but you fell back asleep. The past few years, I've been trying to figure out if you remembered. If you knew all along. You never showed. You kept pushing me to date and then looking at me with those same lonely eyes," he takes a step closer and places his palm in my hair, smoothing it down as he strokes my face. "Your eyes have never changed. Always lonely. Always so sad."
I try to look away, but he grabs my chin and redirects me. I push his hand away, but his other comes up and grabs my waist.
"So, you went on those dates only for me? Just because I told you to?" I ask, letting my tone fill with disgust. I wanted to settle on something, anything other than hope.
"I did them for me. To forget you for a while. I dated because I've been lonely, too. For a little while, it helped," Konas voice was thick with emotion.
"Forget me? You're with someone now, though. Nothing can happen. You're with her!" I let my fears ride my anger, holding on for dear life.
"I broke it off with her. I told her right before I saw you stalking me from behind that building."
"I wasn't stalking you!" I say trying to focus on anything, but what he just said.
"Warren. It's you. It's always been you," Kona grabs my hand and squeezes. He brings his other hand to cup my face and lifts my chin to meet his gaze. His eyes were unyielding.
"Kona," I start.
"No. You don't get to argue with me on this one. These are my feelings and I'm not ashamed. I'm not waiting any longer. I'm done watching you from a distance, wondering if I'll ever feel your lips again."
Before I could say another word, Kona leans down and kisses me. Every movement heated my shivering body. His hand squeezes my waist and his other one roughly pulls me closer, forcing my lip to slam into his teeth. He didn't care. He kept kissing me.
Finally, I push on his chest, trying to alert him that I needed to catch my breath. His flushed cheeks twitch as he takes sharp inhales. We exhale at the same time, both with small pants.
"Warren, I only want you."
"I've wanted you for so long, Kona. I feel like I never woke up from that bench. This can't be reality."
"I promise you that it is. I did lose something in that moment, though. I lost the straight path the moment you looked at me."
"Yeah, and I learned how to be more myself than I ever thought was possible. I found myself in that forest, all because of you."
"Well, you know what?" I question with a shy grin. He looks at me, waiting.
"I love you," I whisper to him. Thunder sounds in the distance as the rain continues to crash down, a cadence of echoes. Each note highlighting another promise made between fresh lovers.
You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.