Friendship Teens & Young Adult Romance

Nate and I have been friends for the last eleven years. I met him on the first day of primary school. I was a messy kid so no one really wanted to hang out with me. No one except Nate. I still don’t know what intrigued him to talk to me when no one else would. What can a five year old child find intriguing in his classmate? Maybe it was my messiness. Mum would sleek down my dirty blonde hair in a braid in an attempt to tame it. But it was as wild as a jungle, unruly and untameable. Sometimes in PE I would have my shoes the wrong way around, or wear my top inside out and everyone would laugh at me. I’d spill and stumble and stain and never have anyone to offer a hand. Anyone except Nate.

When my parents were months from being separated, at the start of secondary school, I would sneak out to meet him at the park. Our spot was a circular swing, big enough for four kids to sit on at a time. There would be just the two of us, though. We’d lie on it facing the sky, swinging and talking about our perfect lives. Perfect home, perfect family.

After my parents’ separation we hung out even more. I would spend the day at his house, playing videogames or doing homework. Mum didn’t mind. She never minded anything. She separated with my dad so she could marry her job instead. When the bullying got too much for me at school I shared it with Nate instead of her. He stood up for me and taught me how to stand up for myself.

I met Kiera that year, five years ago, in English class. She was my desk-mate and we clicked off the second we introduced ourselves. And then I met her friends. Jamie and Lauren. They never accepted me as a part of their group, but I stayed anyway. For the first time I felt like I belonged somewhere when I walked in through the school gates. Nate was always around but I had to wean off him somehow. Especially after the girls started pointing out how I was keeping him from making friends or even girlfriends. That thought bugged me for a long time. Until today, actually.

Now as I make my way to Nate’s house I can’t help but remember the words they stuffed in my mind.

“He really wants to go out with Kiera, you know,” Lauren said, “he’s just scared to do it because he knows you’re friends with her. He doesn’t want to hurt you.”

Why would I be hurt? What does it matter to me if he dates Kiera? Of course it wouldn’t.

I knock on his door and wait. A few seconds later I hear his muffled voice on the other side. He says, “just a second, someone’s at the door.”

I tense for a second, doubting myself for the first time. Should I be here?

The door clicks open before I can turn around. He has a phone pressed to his ear, hair dishevelled and curling down to his eyes.

“I’ll call you later,” he mumbles and pockets his phone.

“Hi,” I smile, or try to.

He smiles back, warm and reassuring. Instantly, the tension in my body eases. He invites me in and asks if I want anything. There is a knot in my stomach, so I decline.

“Everything okay?” he asks.

His deep brown eyes look into mine, full of concern. His skin is bronzy and glowing under the column of sunlight we are sitting in. I wanted to have this conversation with him since Friday, when Lauren confronted me. I told myself I would over the weekend, but the angst stopped me. It’s lodged in my throat now as I try to push the words out.

He touches my arm, “Charlie, are you okay?”

Charlie. The only other person to call me that was dad. And I’ve already lost him.

“Yes, sorry,” I say, choking the words out.

He retrieves his hand. A small, black spot unfurls in my chest. It reminds me of what I have to talk about.

“There’s something I’ve been wanting to ask you,” I start.

He waits patiently. Like he always did with me.

“Do you…”

I twist and untwist a lock of my hair around a finger. Why is it so hard to get the words out?

“Do you like Kiera?”

This catches him off-guard. He leans back for a second then runs a hand through his hair.

“Why does it matter?”

“Well, I just want to know if you like her.”

He looks at me. Eyes unreadable. Lips set in a straight line. It is the first time I see him look at me like that. Serious. Contemplative. The silence hangs heavy in the air.

Finally he breaths out a mirthless laugh, “I don’t know.”

“Why not? It’s a simple question,” the spot grows into a hole. I try not to pay mind to it.

He looks at me. Eyes still unreadable.

“Why are you asking me this?”

When I had told Nate I made new friends he had been so happy for me. He picked me up into a hug and spun me around for a second. I had butterflies dancing in my stomach for days. I thought it was from the joy of having friends.

“Sure, I like her,” he says when I don’t reply.

The hole starts consuming, sucking rationality out of my thoughts.

“Well, does she know about your obsession with exotic south American birds?” I challenge.

He breaths a laugh, “what?”

“Does she know you have three encyclopaedias on them and you would recite to me everything you learned from it during lunchtime in primary school?”

“No, Charlotte, how would she know?” He sounds exasperated, “and what do you mean? Why would I tell her that?”

I take a second to sort my thoughts. I want to say, exactly! She doesn’t know. I know you better. I know every little detail about your life. I know everything. So how did I miss this?

“You’re right,” I say, dejected.

He shuffles closer, “Charlie, look here,” he cups my face in his hands, “yes I like her because she’s been such a good friend to you. She helped you where I couldn’t,” he is so close I can feel his breath fan my skin, “I just want you to be happy.”

I pull away and stand. He looks confused for a second, standing after me. We were the same height until last year. Now he is five inches taller.

“Do you want to date her?” I ask, looking straight into his eyes.

He takes a second to think. “So that’s what this is about?”

Suddenly, I get my answer. I force a laugh, and then some more. Control slips my body and mind as I fall into hysteria. From pain or shock or joy I can’t tell. Nate calls my name. On the third call my senses click back into place. I wipe a tear, suppressing a laugh bubbling up my throat.

“Sorry,” I choke out, “you should have seen your face,” my cheeks hurt from grinning so hard. It is more bearable than the pain of heartbreak.

Nate looks at me like I’m a stranger in his house. I sober up for him and, without a moment’s thought, swing my arms around his neck. I hug him as closely as I physically can, knowing it could be my last chance.

“Don’t worry about me,” I say into his ear, “I want you to be happy, too.”

His arms tighten around me for a moment, then become lax and I step out of his embrace. What started as a small spot has now engulfed me in total darkness.

“Wait, you’re going?”

I turn to face him, “yes, sorry. I have to.”

For a fleeting moment, there is desperation in his eyes. Maybe there is more he has to say. I anticipate it, a light of hope rekindling.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” he asks it more than saying it.

I smile, and nod, not trusting my voice anymore, then walk out as the sunlight wanes.

January 14, 2021 18:43

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Jay DMer
17:35 Jan 20, 2021

1. Some letters that, should've been, capitalized, weren't. 2. You called the girl Charlotte and Charlie, so that confused me. "No, Charlotte, how would she know?” then “Charlie, look here,” ... 3. This was quite short. I wanted to keep reading to understand/find out what was going to happen next. 4. Encyclopaedias --> Encyclopedias Overall, I really liked the concept of your story and the young love aspect of it was sweet. Nice job! :)


Michelle Joseph
19:03 Jan 20, 2021

Thank you for your feedback! I really appreciate it :) and thanks for taking the time to read it 🙏


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Shea West
15:08 Jan 19, 2021

What a sweet blip of young relationships. You really captured the essence of the "I like you" dynamics. It's so awkward and intense at the same time when you're that age. I was left wanting more of the story.


Michelle Joseph
00:29 Jan 20, 2021

Aww, thank you!


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