“Stella stop thinking about Mason. I told you he was stupid from the start. And you didn’t listen to me, which is why you’re even stuck in this mess in the first place. Really, Stella, you can be so stubborn at times.”
“Yeah,” I murmur into the phone. It seems that Amanda only called me just to prove she’s right and that it’s my fault Mason broke up with me.
Amanda Brown and I have been friends since preschool when our moms became close through the “Mommy and me” club. The one divine difference between Amanda and me is that her father owns il Palazzo, one of the busiest restaurants in New York, and my single mother works her tail off to put food on the table. Besides the fact that both Amanda and me are sixteen and go to the same school, I’d say we’re completely different. For starters, Amanda has gotten every single thing she’s ever wanted.
On my eight birthday, my mother gave me a rhinestone bracelet laced with gold. Amanda boiled with venom and jerked the soft, but fine stringed rocks and beads off my wrist. Amanda’s squeal of a laugh echoed within my ears as I ran off with hot, sloppy tears streaming down my face.
When I returned home that evening, I poured every little detail to my mom, including the way the little beads bounced on the ground, scurrying into the deepest crevices they could find. I told her I never wanted to be Amanda Brown’s friend ever again. My mother only nodded, telling me that that was not possible, considering how much Mrs. Brown has helped her over the last five years. Amanda’s mom helped us find our house, secure Mom’s job as a nanny, and has supported us ever since we moved to our town. I buried my head into my hands and my mother pulled me into her arms, coaxing me with her soft-spoken hand, whispering that it would be okay. Whether it was okay or not, I learned that I would have to tolerate Amanda either way.
“Anyways, to make you feel better about breaking up with Mason, I wanted to invite you to lunch with me and my boyfriend Oliver tomorrow. He is amazing and totally gorgeous,” Amanda adds. My heart lunges at the sound of my best friend’s name. What are the odds that Amanda’s new boyfriend is someone I know?
I’ve been friends with Oliver Gill as long as I have been friends with Amanda. He lives just across the street with his three older sisters and one younger brother. Ollie has green eyes that are speckled with flakes of hazel and can see right through me better than my mother can. As my best friend, I can tell him anything and I thought that he felt that he could do the same. Of course, we have always been supportive of one another, but after telling him about the time Amanda told our entire school that I farted in the middle of biology class, I cannot believe that Ollie would go out of his way and speak to her, nonetheless be fond of her. I think of last Thursday and another lump gets stuck in my throat. I swallow and answer to Amanda.
“What does he look like?”
“He has light brown skin, dark hair, green eyes. He’s really cute.” My suspicions have been confirmed: It is Ollie. Amanda notices my gaping silence.
“Stella, you there? So are you going to lunch or not?”
“Huh, yeah sure.”
“Kay. Meet me at my Dad’s restaurant at 12:30 tomorrow. Bye love.” Before I can say anything, she hangs up.
I am unable to sleep that night, frustrated that I agreed to go to lunch with Ollie and Amanda. Part of me loves the food at il Palazzo, but most of me dreads to go to lunch with them. I hate how that between my best friend and my burden of a friend, I will be the one who does not belong.
I stand in front of il Palazzo, as women with florally dresses and men in polo-shirts enter the bustling restaurant. My messy chocolate curls drape down my shoulders and I am wearing my mother’s v-neck lace dress that she thrifted for twelve bucks. I stare at my pointed-toe heels, as couples, friends, and families chatter behind me on the patio.
After around ten minutes of waiting, a signature yellow cab pulls up to the side of the restaurant. Amanda comes out first, with her red ruffled dress that is almost a bit too short. Her dirty blond curls look stunning against the passionate color of her tight dress. Behind Amanda is Ollie, wearing a soft henley shirt with basic tan shorts. His smooth tan skin is clarified in the soft spring air and a single strand of his cocoa-colored hair sticks up. Stifling a giggle, my heart trips over itself when I realize that Amanda and Ollie’s fingers are laced together as if their hands, souls, and bodies were one complete package.
“Hey, Stella!” Amanda waves at me. I snap out of my daze. Amanda drags Ollie over to me and we are pulled into a tight-knit triangle, with me at the furthest end. Ollie’s familiar eyes wander as Amanda beams at me.
“Hi, Amanda” I muster as enthusiastically as possible. I glance at Ollie quickly but his eyes will not meet mine.
“Anyways, here’s the special someone I wanted you to meet,” Amanda explains, “Oliver meet Stella my best friend, and Stella here’s Oliver, my boyfriend.” I cringe at the word, “boyfriend.”
“Hey, Ollie-ver, my name’s Stella.” I decide not to shake Ollie’s hand and give a light wave instead. Understandably, Amanda makes a face when I say Ollie’s name.
“Hi, Stella,” he replies. His mind seems to be drifting off and I wonder if he’s still thinking about what went on five days ago.
Ollie and I spent the afternoon in my basement arguing about whether Chinese or Mexican food was better when his arm accidentally grazed mine (maybe it wasn’t an accident?). The tension was rising between us and I could both feel the wall between us crumbling. Even when I was with Mason, I longed for him, to feel him, to be with him.
The inches between us shrunk by the second and I tilted my face towards his. I almost exploded when the phone rang. It was from Amanda. I answered and agreed to go to the mall with her the next day, right after I finished her Trigonometry homework. When I got off the phone, Ollie’s facial expression changed and I noticed that he was twelve whole inches away again. How long it would take to refill that space, frustrated me, and I hated how Amanda rebuilt the stubborn wall between Ollie and me.
“How come you never mention me to any of your friends?” Ollie asked out of the blue.
Taken aback, I replied, “What do you mean?” I was genuinely confused.
“Mason, Amanda, Sarah, Olivia, Alex. I just don’t get it.”
“Because they’re all Amanda’s friends,” I explain as if it were as obvious as it is.
“Yeah, so what, you always paint Amanda as this three-headed monster when you hang out with her almost every day.”
“Honestly I don’t even think it’s Amanda’s fault. You’re using her just as much as you use me.”
“Wait, Ollie!” Without hesitation, he grabs his phone and swiftly removes himself from my basemen. I sit there, wishing he gave me a chance to understand; to be understood.
We grab a seat on the patio of il Palazzo, with Ollie and Amanda on one side, and me on the other. I feel empty, yet so full that I don’t feel hungry for anything. Around us, people pick at their Caprese salads, filet mignons, escargot, and other decorated platters. Amanda interrupts the clinking of forks and light conversation throughout the patio.
“So Oliver, do you want to tell Stella how we met?” Amanda clings to Ollie’s toned arm, which triggers an unconscious, vile reflex within me.
“Uh...sure. Amanda and I met here actually.”
“What?” I snap back. Amanda shoots me a look and jumps in to assist Ollie in their breath-taking love story.
“So basically, Ollie applied to il Palazzo as a busboy and we started flirting and instantly clicked. We’ve been dating ever since.”
“Oh, and when did this all start?”
“Thursday, I think, was Ollie’s first day.”
Before I can even say anything, our waitress comes up to our table and asks for our orders. Amanda jumps in and orders the most expensive dish on the menu. During her jumble of Italian words, I drill my eyes into Ollie’s nervous gaze, letting him know that the anger between us is not one-sided.
When the waitress is finished, resounding silence surrounds us once again. We must all be trying to make sense of this situation; Amanda, most likely frustrated that every corner of the conversation ends in awkward silence, Ollie, annoyed about how a date with his girlfriend ended up involving his simplistic best friend, and me, thinking about how my relationships with Amanda and Oliver have completely changed.
When the silence becomes toxic, Amanda and Ollie glance at each other, and I feel about a million lightyears away. The soft dimples that form around their cheeks set off a black, sticky substance in the back of my throat. I speak up before I can talk myself out of it. Maybe it’s because I hate silence when there is so much to say. Or maybe, it’s because I have nothing to lose and I want Amanda and Ollie to understand that I should be the angry one, and them the awkward.
“Amanda,” I begin. I want to shove my voice back into the pothole on the busy street, but I smooth out my dress and sit up.
“I know who Ollie is.” Amanda perks up and seems confused, yet also surprised that I am the one who has sliced the thick air.
“What?” Amanda starts slowly.
“He’s my best friend and I love him.” As this slips from my mouth, I don’t even know if it’s true anymore. Ollie, does look at me this time, with an unreadable expression. I continue. I almost stop there, but I want to continue. I want to tell Amanda everything. Before she gets frustrated and thinks anything is going on between Ollie and me.
“And..and I love you too Amanda. I know your generosity when you invite me to restaurants and the mall. I really do. It’s just I think I need to set boundaries for myself. I know I’ve never said no to you, so it’s not exactly your fault, but I am saying no now. No to your disrespect towards me and my Mom. No to doing your homework whenever you don’t feel like doing it. And no to your pretending that my feelings don’t exist.” Amanda stares at me with wide eyes and I am unsure if she’s about to yell, cry, or both.
“I...I gotta go.” Amanda picks up her purse and steps out of the patio, into the streets of the city. Ollie and I sit there awkwardly, longing for something to fill the suffocating space.
“Stella.” I stare at him, wondering what he could say.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” I know he’s talking about Amanda and my feelings for him, but no part of me feels sorry that he doesn’t know. I remember the way he walked out on Thursday without giving me time to explain myself. How little respect he had for me; how he thought he had figured me out without me explaining for myself.
“You never let me.” And I walk out. The wall between Ollie and me never collapsed; it was always there. Every time I almost climbed over it, Ollie added another brick. I decide to leave this wall alone, embracing the fact that its there.
Subject: I’m sorry.
I’m going, to be honest, I never use my e-mail, so writing letters is kinda new to me. Just know you’re pretty important if you’re receiving this. On Wednesday, when I took a cab back home, I kept on thinking, who does this girl think she is? I wanted Mom to take your mom’s job away and show you that you’re nothing without me. But I realized that’s what I’ve been doing to you for years. Probably why you even chose to put up with me in the first place. What made me upset was that at times, I really do consider you as a friend; someone I can seek advice from and hang out with. I was afraid to lose you. So my hunch of a control freak came out and tried to make you believe that you need me. When in reality, it’s the other way around. Please believe me when I saw I am beyond sorry. Will you give me another chance?
Subject: I forgive you.
I’ve built up quite a few walls recently, but I’m ready to tear this one down.
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I like that even though the boy came between them, he wasn't the main focus; they're just young, and they need friends. I'm glad that Stella and Amanda reconciled.
Thank you! This was my time writing a short story on Reedsy and I am glad you took something away from it! I completely agree, Amanda and Stella needed each other more than they thought they would.