They say it can take three seconds to fall in love with someone, but how long does it take to fall out of love?
You had been by Alfred's side for years now, desperately clinging to the idea that one day he'd see you as more than just his best friend. After he had brutally rejected your confession in the seventh grade and then apologized that afternoon when he saw you crying on the bus, you two promised to be best friends
But friendship wasn't enough, not anymore. You couldn't sit here and watch him with every girl under the sun but you, living it up like the world would end tomorrow.
You were the one who helped him with his hangovers, helped him keep up in class so he wouldn't be retained. You cooked for him and shopped with him.
In a classic story, the girl is in love with the guy for years, and the guy ends up falling for her too. They then kiss and become the best couple in the world.
This is not one of those stories.
Senior year. It was your last year of high school, and with Alfred's football scholarship and your photography scholarship on the other side of the country, you guys might never see each other again.
This year was the year. You knew, with all your heart, that Alfred would never feel that way for you. You had all but blurted out your feelings in his face, and you had come close enough for even the biggest idiot to understand what was going on. So, this was the year. This year, you would fall out of love with Alfred F. Jones.
Easier said than done.
As the days turned to weeks and the seasons slowly passed by, senior year passed by like that moment before a storm; it's the moment when the clouds have rumbles coming from them, when the air is tight with tension and humidity. You stayed by his side, desperately trying to push your feelings to the furthest, darkest corner of your heart with no avail.
And when graduation finally came, you held your breath as your name was called, exhaling only after you got off the stage.
This was goodbye. For good.
When the ceremony ended, you waited outside the auditorium, fixing your skirt. Your parents were talking to your teachers from this year, and you were waiting for Alfred.
He would be alone. His parents never came to these things. They were too immature about their sexual frustrations against each other to worry about Alfred, and they were probably the reason Al turned out so
"Hey, bro!" Arms suddenly went around you, and you found a wistful smile escaping into your lips. "Can you believe it? We made it!"
You turned around, eyes meeting his unnaturally large, blue ones.
"Can you believe you made it? Freshmen year, you swore on McDonald's you weren't going to make it."
"What?" he asks, shaking his head. "A hero never backs down from a challenge!"
And senior year, he had really triedeven more than previous years. He had managed to push himself past his comfort zone and opted for AP English IV with you, even if he hated it and struggled with it the entire year. But he passed with a four on the AP exam, proving that he indeed had done a good job.
"So, hero, what are you doing this summer?"
"I am spending it practicing and stuff. Gotta get good for college football and everything."
"Do they even let freshmen play?"
He shrugged as his hand found yours. "Hey, (name)
thanks for sticking by my side. You're truly the best." He paused to let out a smirk. "Almost as good as me, actually."
"You narcissist!" you declared playfully.
But you shouldn't be joking with him. You're trying to cut your ties with him so that you don't spend the rest of your life agonizing over him.
"Thank you," he answered, and he was fully aware of what the word meant. He had heard it coming from your lips plenty of times. "So, what are you doing this summer?"
And your confidence dropped. "I'm
I'm moving. Since my university is so far away, my parents are moving closer to it so that I don't have to worry about dorms or anything like that. Actually, we're all packed. We're leaving tomorrow."
His face dropped, and with it, any happiness he had inside of him. "What?" He stared at you blankly, as if he hadn't heard youbut you were quite sure he had heard you perfectly well. "You're kidding, right
? Because that's not funny
You shook your head, trying to wipe the solemnity off both your faces. "We should celebrate our graduation with ice cream!" You attempted to smile, but it became so, so hardespecially due to the fact that his looked like a little kid who had just lost his absolute favorite toy. "Don't look at me like that."
"So, what about us? Are we just
not friends anymore?"
You wanted it that way. You wanted to remove him from your system. But you couldn't tell me that.
"We can still talk online
and there's video chat. We can still be friends."
"That's not the same," he answered.
" Your eyes darted nervously around to all the people. The crowd had thinned out a bit. "Alfred, please don't make this harder on me. If you don't want to talk like that then fine. Don't."
That was like a punch to your chest. It took you a few seconds to react. "Fine" was all you said. You straightened out your skirt, peering down at your shiny, black heels. "Be immature about this. I
I am getting too old to play this game with you anymore." Your eyes then suddenly lifted towards his. He had his poker face on, and you used it to fuel your rage, your jealousy, your melancholy. "I guess we're no longer friends, Alfred F. Jones."
"I guess you're right," he answered back, not missing a single beat.
His promptness hurt you. "Good." You clenched your hands, deciding to add in the last blow. Five minutes ago, you two were smiling and laughing
But you were sick of being his kickstand. You were sick of being chained to the sidelines. You were sick and hurt over every girl he kissed, every girl he slept with, every time he spoke of you as if you really were one of the guys. You were sick of feeling inferior, never good enoughall because of him. And all he ever did for you was pile on his problems. "I'm sick of being your babysitter anyway."
But he also made your laugh and smile. He could lift your day as quickly as he brought it crashing down.
His eyes widened, and his voice suddenly rose. "Then don't be! I don't need you! I've never needed you!"
"I know," you answered softly before you turned around. "Goodbye, Alfred. Have a nice life."
Before he could say anything else, you left him standing there, mouth wide open. You headed for your parents' car, texting them that you'd be there and to hurry about.
The next day, you were off for your new town.
Alfred didn't even bother to say goodbye.
Six Years Later
Everyone clapped for you as your painting was unveiled. Your cheeks were tinged with pink, the exact color of the summery sunset in your landscape.
Almost Gone, it was calledyour painting. It depicted the horizon and everything else caught in it from your porch on the hill your house rested on. Small smudges of colors indicated peoplechildren playing, people walking their dogs, couples, etc. But what was considered the most breathtaking was the colors of the sunset.
As you were majoring in art, you met a girl whose father owned this museum in town. You had met him several times, and he thought fondly of you, especially approving of your paintings. He was the one who had asked for some of your paintings to be put into his museum, and you had happily obliged. Tonight was your sixth unveiling in two years, and the amount of people interested only got larger.
You had even been talked about in statewide newspapers and magazine and had made it into a few national art magazines. You weren't popular enough to be "famous", but most of everyone in this town knew you, especially anyone even mildly interested in the arts.
"It's so beautiful," your friend sighed dreamily next to you. Circe, her name was. "You know what I'd love to see from you? A portrait! I've seen your sketches, and they're beautiful! Why don't you put those into paint? You should paint that guy you always draw! You've gotten so good at him!"
You cringed at those words. She had meant that to be sweet, but she didn't realize all the bitter sentiments hidden behind those sketches. She knew he had broken your heart...but she didn't realize just how much it had affected you.
There were days when you managed not to think of him, when schoolwork and painting cleared your thoughts of him for a few moments. But most of the time, it was the same thing with you: regret.
You hated the way you had acted that last day. You hated how he had acted. You hated how things had ended. And you hated yourself for hating all these things.
He should have been well aware that you'd have to go. There was no way you could stay here and travel a hundred or more miles every day to get to your university. Besides, his university was located two hundred miles away in the opposite direction, so wouldn't he have to do the same?
You sighed as you took a seat, looking down at your glass of champagne. "There's a reason you've never seen me directly paint people. I'm awful at it."
"I don't believe that," she argued.
"Oh, you don't?" You raised a brow. "Trust me: I've tried desperately to paint him, but it always ends up bad."
"By whose definition? Mine or yours?"
"How about we try the world."
"(Name)! Yoo hoo, honey!" The sweet coo of another of your friends, Miriam, came from behind. Circe was ready with a bright smile, but it quickly disappeared, and she grabbed your arm. "Circe? (Name)?"
"The guy you always draw is here," Circe hissed at you. "The guy who broke your heart? Geez. What coincidental luck!"
"Alfred?" you whispered, the color draining from your face.
"Quick! Make your escape!" And she pulled you to your feet, pushing you in the opposite direction. "Excuse her! She needs to go do something!" Your feet moved quickly as you merged into the crowd ahead of you, weaving through it to the nearest exit. "Miri! Who is your dashing friend?"
Alfred F. Jones.
You managed to make it to the door, rushing into the bathroom down the hall. You burst in through the door into the empty restroom, and you were suddenly on the ground, keeping the door closed with your entire body.
He was here
You kept your eyes closed, rubbing your temples as the thoughts settled in, making your stomach flip-flop the sanity out of you.
But the next thing you knew, someone was trying to push the door open, and you quickly scrambled onto your feet, cleaning off your floral skirt as the door was thrown open.
"Yo, dude, whatwhat
what are you doing in here?"
Your ears perked up at the voice, so familiar yet so
distant. You raised your eyes hesitantly, and for the first time in six years, you found yourself staring into the beautiful baby blues of Alfred F. Jones.
Dear God, they were beautiful
"B-bathroom," you squeaked out, your mind jumbling thoughts around. Your hands were confused as they tried to fix your skirt and collar and shirt and hair at the same time.
A smirk suddenly appeared on his face, bringing nostalgic memories to you. "I see that." His eyes flickered to the sign on the door. "But it's Men's."
You completely froze, barely even breathing for such a while that Alfred found himself wondering if he had broken you. However, as soon as he touched your wrist, everything came flooding back into you. It became clearthanks to the urinals you had managed to not see while you were flustered earlierthat he was right. And he was holding onto your wrist, his touch so gentle and warm.
"It was hot in there, as you can probably tell by my flushed cheeks," you answered as casually as possible. "I needed some fresh air and some water for my face, and I kind of just blindly walked in here." He opened his mouth to say something else, but you beat him to it. "It's overwhelming, really. All these people, all this attention. I never thought my art would amount to much
but now it pays the bills." You let out a laugh.
"I don't know why you thought that. You've always known that I thought your artwork was the most amazing ever."
Your cheeks suddenly became flushed. "But we were in high school, and I had the confidence level of one."
You ran out of words, anything friendly left to say. How could you find the courage to tell him it was because of him?
"I don't know," you murmured. That was the best you could do, and he seemed to buy it.
That was when you both realized he was still holding onto your wrist. You were about to pull back when he grabbed your hand tightly, grinning. "It's been six years. How should we celebrate our reunion and your success?"
He was so quick to forget the past, but you had only spent half of your waking moments wallowing in them. You could recall everything, and no matter how you tried, you couldn't get rid of the thoughts.
Hell, he was probably the first guy to hold your hand in
Yep. He had that big of an influence on you.
"No alcohol," you answered softly.
"Then let's get some ice cream!"
It was as if he was eleven rather than twenty-four.
But all you could do was nod your head and allow him to drag you away.
"You're okay with staying here the night, right?"
You glanced up from your phone; you cradled it carefully in your hands as you stood in front of the red door to his apartment home. His coat was draped around your shoulders; in his rush to leave, you had managed to forget your jacket, and the late October temperature was unforgiving.
His car has run out of gas nearly a mile away, and there weren't any gas stations nearby; well, they were, but the distance to his house was shorter than the distance to the gas station, and seeing you shiver in the passenger seat had him caring for you a smidge more than his precious car.
It was rather
"Do you want something to change into? It'd be kind of hard to sleep in a skirt and uncomfortable blouse, y'think, dude?" You nodded at his words as he opened the door, motioning for you to enter first. "I got you covered, broski."
His place was
well, it was really nice. All the furniture looked new and expensive, and it was extremely tidy.
"The maid does the laundry on Saturday mornings, so I should have clean clothing for you."
That explained it
He closed the door and headed into his laundry room, and he quickly came back with a loose, gray sweatshirt. His cheeks were tinged with pink.
this should be long enough. My pants wouldn't fit you
that's f-fine!" you found yourself stuttering as you grabbed the shirt. "Where's the bathroom?"
He showed you the way, and you rushed in, locking the door. For the first minute, you found yourself simply staring at the garment through the reflection. Your fingers caressed the cotton fabric gently, as if you'd tear it.
You finally put the shirt on the counter and undid your hair from its hairstyle, combing through it with your fingers. You turned on the faucet to take off all of your make-upwhich there wasn't much of, but you still weren't going to risk itand then you finally moved to take off your clothing.
You started with the skirt, unzipping it from the side and sliding it off your hips. It hit the ground, and you stepped away, leaning down to pick it up and place it on the counter. Next, you went for your blouse, unbuttoning it. That also went on the counter. You took off your tank top and pulled on the gray shirt. It really was long on you, coming down to mid-thigh. It could be considered a dress, really.
You collected your clothing and headed out for the living room
but it was empty. The notification light on your phone was going off though, so you put down your clothing on the sofa and picked up the phone from its spot next to your wallet on the coffee table. You had two messages; one was from Circea continuation from your earlier conversation as you rode Alfred's car, explaining your situation to herand the other one was from an unknown number.
You clicked on it.
Hey, babe~ I went to get the car, so don't worry! I'll be back soon!! Hero!!
You found yourself wondering how he got your numboh. There was a text from you to his phone
He must have texted his phone to get your number
You sat down on the couch, wondering what you'd do until he arrived. However, you didn't wonder for long. In the dim lighted living room, you found yourself curling up on the sofa and closing your eyes, quickly falling asleep
And when you woke up, you weren't in the couch. Actually, you were in someone's absolutely comfy king-sized bed, wrapped in warm covers and facing a closed door. The room was filled with superheroes and football stars, and
there was one of your paintings in here, one sold off in auction about four months prior. It was a starry setting, your view of this town from the balcony of your house. You remembered this exact date seeing as how the painting had sold at quite a high price, and the majority of that money had gone to charity (the small amount you kept went to your monthly rent payment).
A smile found its place on your face, and you got out of the bed.
Alfred must have carried you here.
You headed for the door, finding your way back to the living room. The kitchen smelled strongly of McDonald's, and it was no surprise: there were two McDonald's bags on the counter, and Alfred was sitting in one of the chairs, drinking coffee and eating. He caught the sound of your bare feet against the tiled floor, and he looked up, a smile spreading across his face.
"Are you going to eat?" he asked.
"No," you answered uneasily. "I don't
I'm not a big fan of McDonald's anymore." You used to love it
but then your bitter separation from Alfred caused you to quickly have a love/hate relationship with everything he had ever loved. The only thing you couldn't give up was ice cream. "I'm
I'm going to change." You located your clothing, folded neatly next to your phone and wallet, and you took it into the restroom for a quick change.
When you opened the door, Alfred was standing right there, the corners of his mouth curled down. "Do you really hate me that much?" he asked you. "Let me guess, you also hate football and superheroes and comic books and video games and the number fifty and the number one?"
You lowered your eyes. You were so pathetic that it was true.
"I see," he whispered as he stepped forward, walking until he had you against the counter of the sink. He closed the door, and the both of you stood there, in the darkness, so close that you could feel the heat radiating off his body. "Why do you hate me so much, (name)?" His hand found your cheek, and you could feel the warmth rising in your face. Your heart began to tick away rapidly inside your chest, and it was pounding so loud that you were positive Alfred could hear it. "I'm sorry for the way things ended on graduation day. You don't know how much I wish I hadn't been so mean to you. I knew you were leaving, but I didn't want it to be true."
"Because I was always your kickstand," you muttered. "I was there for you as often as I could, Al."
"I was there for you too
"You don't understand!" you blurted angrily, and you could feel hot tears spilling down your face. Alfred tensed when they hit his hand, but he only pulled you closer. "I was in love with you the entire time. I was sick of only being your friend." Your hands reached forward, grasping his shirt. "I know it was awful and selfish of me, but it hurt so much to see you with other girls and
I was supposed to get over you by moving away. I was supposed to forget you!" You pulled him closer to you, his arms wrapping around your shoulders as you buried your face into his shirt. "I'm still in love with you."
There was a silence that followed after, as you held your breath to his response. You held onto him until your fingers were sore from clenching the cloth so tightly, and then you let go, trying to pull away.
He didn't let you. "Arthur was in love with you in seventh grade," he whispered, but you failed to understand what that was supposed to mean. "I rejected you because he liked you first, even if I didn't want to." You began to breathe again, the oxygen coming in choppily. "By the time he had moved on from you, I thought it was too late
for us." He grabbed your face, finding it in the dark with his lips. They landed on your left eyelid messily, but he quickly found your mouth. "I hope it's not too late for us, (name). I'm still in love with you too."
And then your lips met his again.