The Wrong Kind of Love II

You know, I always found it funny that "heat" and "passion" sort of go together. I mean, I guess touching in and of itself generates heat, but if you look at it in more childish terms it doesn't really make sense. When it's hot out, the last thing you want to do is get near someone. You want to spread yourself out in the cool grass and be all by yourself. Friction of the skin is just plain annoying when you're sweaty and ready to move to the Arctic. But when you're cold, nothing feels better than for someone to wrap their arms around you tightly, to touch your face and shield you from the unforgiving air. So really, if you think about it, it's actually the cold that brings people together. 

And I know that to be true, because the first time Holly ever held me in her arms was last December. We had sleepovers almost every weekend from the time we were about eight years old, never spending more than a week or two apart. When we wanted to see friends, they would pick both of us up at her house. If we had a birthday party, my mom would be the one to take us back to mine when it was over. This pattern changed as we got older and our worlds expanded beyond play dates, but we still saw each other outside of school all the time.

Sometimes in the early days we would fall asleep holding hands, whispering our secrets to each other under the cover of night. Once I even remember falling asleep using her lap as a headrest during a late night movie. When we actually slept, we would share a pillow, our heads and bodies just a few inches from each other. It was so much easier when we were innocent, because we didn't know anything else. After middle school we stopped holding hands. When we entered high school Holly would eventually roll off the pillow and just use her arm, leaving me with a big empty space next to my head. If our feet happened to touch she would quickly pull away. I never did understand the reason why she was suddenly drawing a line between us, deciding what kind of contact was okay and what wasn't. But as time went on I discovered there were a lot of things about Holly I didn't actually know. I began to feel more and more like she was slipping away from me. I had never contemplated a life without her in it before, and it scared me.

So last December when we were 16, we planned our yearly winter-break sleepover expecting everything to be the same.This time however, there was a variable, one that changed the whole equation. My little cousin had come over for the weekend, and suddenly decided the basement was far too scary to sleep in.

"Can I please please please sleep in your room? You guys can have the guest room, you'll fit," the desperate seven year old had pleaded. His parents were on a cruise for the next five days, leaving us in charge of him.

"It's cool with me," Holly said with a shrug. She was already in her pajamas, which was a white tank top and these baggy fleece pants. I had always been jealous of Holly's figure, and when she wore get ups like that it made me want to scream. She looked gorgeous in PJ's for crying out loud, that wasn't normal. And there I was in my giant T-shirt and little cloth shorts looking like a greasy five year old. Add in our height difference, and standing next to her was like comparing a young grocery bagger to a supermodel. 

Trying to get my train of thought back onto the railway, I muttered, "Alright then," and looked away, wondering why I was suddenly so aware of Holly's virtues. "Are the sheets already on the guest bed?" He confirmed, and not long after he made his way upstairs while we made our way down. By the time we had gone through the storage mess and into the actual guest room, we were shivering our butts off. The basement was in the ground technically and the ventilation was awful, basically guaranteeing it was going to be chilly.

"It's like 30 degrees down here!" Holly complained, looking around for the thermostat.

"I know, but the heat down here sucks. Guess I should have warned you before you agreed." I laughed at her as she quickly darted over to the bed and snuggled down into the covers.

"Damn, even the sheets are cold," she muttered. "Hurry up and get in here, it'll warm up faster." I rolled my eyes and shut the light off, then gasped at how pitch black it was. There were no windows, and I realized with a frown my cousin must have taken the night light up with him. I slowly moved my way over to the bed and finally managed to climb in without seriously injuring myself. She was right; the sheets were like ice. I pulled the comforter over my shoulders and curled into a ball, shivering. My ears were still freezing, the first time I had regretted cutting my hair as short as I had. 

"Jeez, it's not that bad." Holly's voice pierced the black like an out of place flashlight in a cave. "Oh, you're wearing shorts aren't you?" she added, sounding like she was making fun of me just a bit.

"We don't all have body fat to keep us warm like you," I replied, smiling slightly. 

She snorted, then retaliated indignantly with, "Hey! I'm the normal one here, you're the stick figure!" I giggled, then I heard and kind of inferred the movement of her sitting up. She pulled her pillow over so it was touching the edge of mine and scooted over so we were a few inches closer. When I tried to move closer myself however, I felt her shift away, just a bit. My thoughts instantly drifted back to the days of space sharing and hand holding, and suddenly I felt this pang I couldn't explain. When she turned over so her back was facing me it only got worse. "There, that should help a bit. Just try to relax your muscles and think of warm things. Good night," she whispered quietly. I didn't say anything. "Miranda? You asleep already?" 

"Remember when we were little and we used to hold hands when we laid next to each other?" I asked spontaneously. My lips were practically moving on their own. "Wanna do that?" I felt her tense, making the pain in my chest more and more real. "My hands are freezing," I added, wondering why I even had to validate my request. 

"Um… alright then," I heard her mutter, then slowly she turned back over. I pulled one hand out from underneath the covers and laid it flat in that small space between us. A moment later I felt the warmth of her skin as our fingers interlocked. My fear began to ebb away by just a tiny bit. The strength in her hand, the smoothness of her fingers was enough to give me something to hold on to. 

"Thanks," I whispered to the dark silhouette beside me. She mumbled something like, "Yeah," and didn't say another word. After a minute or two her grip got slacker and slacker, until it felt more like her hand was resting on mine then she was holding it. I knew she was still awake because she never fell asleep before me. So, that only meant she was pulling away from me. Did she not want to hold my hand? Did she just do it so she wouldn't hurt my feelings? She almost always did everything I asked of her, like a loyal golden retriever. Was this just an obligation thing to her? 

Suddenly, I wanted more. I didn't just want her hand around mine, I wanted her arms too. I wanted to be right next to her, to practically feel her heart beat as the heat from her body chased the goose bumps away. I wanted her to hug me tight and promise me I wasn't going to wake up one morning without a best friend. I felt alone and I needed that conformation that came with cuddling. I knew it was weird, I knew it didn't make sense and I knew that it went beyond the typical role of a friend. But I just… I needed her.

And so, I started shivering.

It was completely fake, brought on by contracting my muscles together to produce a shaking, but it worked. I pulled my free arm in as close to me as I could, and I even managed to make my teeth clink together a few times. I wasn't trying to actively lie, but I didn't know what else to do or any other way to ask.

"Geez, I'm going to have to buy you a sweatshirt. Want me to go upstairs and grab mine?" she offered, but I shook my head. Our eyes had adjusted enough by this point that I could see the shape of her and whatnot, so I assumed she could see me as well. Her leg shifted under the covers and I felt her foot vaguely touch mine. "Jesus, your toes are like ice cubes," she muttered, and for a moment there was silence. I didn't want to have to say it out loud, I didn't want to have to ask. I squeezed my eyes shut and practically tried to mentally implant the idea in her head. This was the closest we had been in months physically, and the night made it seem like it was all okay. 

Finally, she emitted a faint sigh. "Here, scoot over for a sec," she said quietly. Her tone was strange, and for a moment I wondered if she was going to get up to get that sweatshirt. She let go of my hand and I complied with what she asked, feeling my heart slowly sink into my stomach. "Come here now," I heard her say after few seconds, and I saw the outlines of her arms, stretched open to let me snuggle down inside them. Grateful for the cover of dark I smiled, then quickly settled myself beside her, instantly warmer before she had even completely wrapped her arms around me. When she did though, it wasn't just the goose bumps that went away. It was that pain too. I felt important again, like she cared. I felt safe and protected and wonderful. She was mine again.

And as I storm away from her now, that's exactly what I'm thinking about. Not that she spent the last twenty minutes chatting up the hottest guy in town after I told her I liked him, not my disappointment that he so obviously didn't like me, but her arms. I'm thinking of how much I wish she would just hug me again, to stop paying attention to that stupid guy and always smile just for me. She's my best friend, and it hurts just thinking of how badly I want her to stay with just me forever. I know it's selfish, and I know it doesn't make sense. But I can't help it. 

I glance back around and see that she's not following me. She's sitting on a bench on the other end of the hallway, head back and staring at the ceiling. Why doesn't she ever come after me?! Whenever I yell at her, whenever I ignore her, whenever I stomp off, she always waits for me. But never once has she gone after me or stopped me from running away from her. She just sits there and waits for me, for as long as it takes for me to come back. Just once, I wish she would keep me from running away.

My eyes fill up with tears, and finally after a few moments of sniffling I turn back around and return to her. She stands up as I approach, her arms open for me. I come over to her and bury my face into her shirt, crying as I wrap my arms around her. I feel her pet my hair and rub my back, and I feel protected against everything again. But it's not the same as last December, because now I want more. It doesn't stop the ache in my chest. If anything, it only gets worse. I don't understand why, and I know friends aren't supposed to feel like this. But I just can't help it with Holly.

"Shhh, don't worry. That guy is a total jerk, and you deserve so much better. You're going to find someone wonderful who will love you and take care of you, and he'll be a million times cuter than that stupid Jimmy too." She whispers reassurances in my ear, but she just doesn't understand. Those aren't the words I want to hear. I want her to touch my face and promise that even if no guy ever comes along, she'll always be with me. But I guess that'll never happen, and I guess I should give up. But I'm stupid and I'm stubborn and I'll keep waiting for those words anyway. I'll wait for her to finally get off that bench and go after me, no matter how long it takes.

The End

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