Okay, what had just happened?
Payton’s head was still on my chest, the smell of her apple shampoo vivid in the night air. I stared down at her and replayed those few words that she said a second ago. In my head, those words hung in the air like exploding fireworks, a sign worthy of lavish celebration. But then I reined myself back. Perhaps they were only friendly words. I know for certain that girls confess their love to their friends quite frequently, and considering I am Pay’s best friend... But what if it wasn’t? What if she meant something else? Something that I hoped with all of my heart that she meant?
“What do you mean?” I blurted out, realising a second too late that she was waiting for me to say another four completely different words.
She withdrew from our hug and stepped back a little, facing me with eyes shaded with disappointment.
“Gosh, you really don’t have an ounce of romance in you,” she said, trying to laugh and lighten the situation, “I meant I love you, silly. L-O-V-E.”
“Oh,” I said, breathless from the crazed drumming of my heart. Hearing those words from her lips for a second time had sent my hopes to the sky.
“You know, I was expecting something a little more conventional from you,” Pay continued as if she hadn’t noticed the blush creeping up my face, “Something like ‘I love you too’ perhaps?”
“Do I really have to say it?” I told her, recovering slightly, “You know I do, Pay.”
“Oh, do I really?” she teased, the twinkle coming back to her eyes after she realised that this was not the epic fail she thought it was, “I don’t know about that Maxwell Everett. I think you need to spell it out nice and clear for me.”
“Damn you Payton,” I told her, smiling slightly at the ingenious plan just formed in my head, “I think I may need to whisper it in your ear though, you know how I am with announcing my affection to the world. Come here.”
She stepped over slowly, swishing the long silvery train of her dress. I could see in the naughty glint of her eyes that she half-guessed my plan. Tilting her head towards me, she winked as I bent my head a little to come level to her face.
“Just pretend that you totally have no idea what’s going on,” I told her as I leaned closer to her face.
“I am clueless,” she confirmed in that mocking voice of hers, her dancing eyes saying otherwise.
I cupped my hands around her flawless face, letting my fingers slide back into her hair. The bun she had spent hours on perfecting had fallen out of its pins, cascading in waves down her shoulders. I pulled back a curl from her temple, and whispered into her ear. It felt like it did when we shared secrets in second grade, me whispering furiously to her in the middle of class.
“Remember ‘Show and Tell’ in first grade?” I asked.
She widened her eyes in surprise for a moment before nodding. Good, she did not expect this turn of events.
“Remember how Ms MacLeod always said that showing was more important than telling?”
“Yeah, but why are you asking me these random questions?”
“Well, you’ll see,” I pulled my mouth away from her ear and straightened up. Folding my hands in front of me like I did all those years ago in first grade, I cleared my voice.
“Good evening, boys and girls. Well, just Payton. Today I have something to show you.”
Before she could utter a word, I gently push my lips onto hers. She melted, her arms coming up to wrap around my waist as I held her. I could taste the fruit punch on her mouth. An annoyingly familiar wolf whistle broke us apart.
“Get a room, you two,” said the loud voice of Elliot Graham, his face already arranged into that wink that I hated, “Love’s in the air tonight isn’t it?”
“That was Showing, now you have to do the Telling part,” whispered Payton teasingly as she shoved me forward to face Elliot.
“Uh, yeah,” I replied awkwardly, cursing my stupidity in bringing up ‘Show and Tell’. This was not telling, more like frigging announcing it to the world!
“I thought you guys were just friends,” said Elliot, his grinning face making it harder than ever for me to do what Pay wanted.
“We were. I mean, we still are,” I said, “It’s just I love Payton too much to just be friends, so I gave her a “girl-“ to go in front of the “-friend”.”
“Ah, you are so lame Max,” said Payton, winking as she slid her arm through mine.
Phew, I did it.