They were always linked together: Allen and Elise, ever since forever. But what happens when the bonds between friendship and deep love are crossed, and what may become of them now they've finally spoken their feelings for each other?
His shy smile peeked out from underneath long dark lashes and thick, black rimmed glasses. He shrugged and looked away, chocolate brown eyes suddenly embarrassed, brown curls shining in the light, and I stood there, unable to speak. I couldn't believe it. He actually said he loved me.
"So, um," he fumbled, pocketing his hands and hunching his shoulders. He wavered on his feet, probably wondering if he should go, feeling the awkward idiot. I couldn't blame him.
Ever since we met five years ago, when we were both twelve and stuck in the library, fighting over the same book we both wanted-Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire- we've been joined at the hip and hadn't let go ever since. I told him everything, I joked with him, and I called him names. We went to the beach together and climbed castles together. We were the best of friends.
"Look, Elise, I better go," Allen said softly, the faint blush still there on his cheeks, his eyes avoiding mine. "You know Dad and his clocks. Always needing to be repaired and everything." He pointed to the entrance of the crowded school, the boys and girls that were leaving, as the bell rang for the end of the day. He pulled one of his bag straps up further along his shoulder, before he sheepishly waved to me and turned to walk out onto the sunny streets, his body enveloped by the neverending throb of people. I stayed where I was, my hands suddenly fidgeting with the front of my skirt.
"So, he finally broke it to you," my sister, Eileen, smiled to me later that evening as we procrastinated over homework at the kitchen table. She spooned another mouthful of ice-cream into her mouth as she ignored the mountainload of work she had to do for tomorrow. Her hair was tied up in a messy bun and wherever she went, she always carried that cheeky grin on her face. One finger tapped the open book in front of her, something entitled Appreciation of Art , and I looked up from my Music notes to see her scrutinize my face. "And now he’s gone off to the clock shop to clean away his misery," she added.
"How did you-"
"You guys were made for each other," she said dismissively, waving a hand away as if to dispell the question. "It was always just a question of when you’d both realise it. Honestly, sis, I cant believe how thick you are sometimes," she mocked, a light chime to her voice which told me she was messing around. "Allen’s had a crush on you ever since Harry Potter and the freaking library. And secretly, I know you’ve always crushed on him too. He’s geeky, smart and always thoughtful of you. What more could you ever want, Elise?"
I contemplated what she said, before I voiced my argument. She was right. I always had a crush on him, ever since he gave up the fight and lended me the book we fought over, and he made me swear to give it to him within the next week. He was sweet, when he rolled his eyes and huffed over it, a strand of his unruly hair flying into his face as he stood with one arm out toward me, handing over the book like a spoilt child who hadn’t got his way.
"I just don’t want it to ruin our friendship," I replied softly. "What if it doesn’t work?"
"It wontruinwhat you have with Allen," Eileen groaned, flinging her hands up to her face. "God, you guys were inseparable all these years. What makes you think something more than friendship is going to take away all that? Go," she ordered, pointing just beyond the hall, to the front door. "Go to him, or I seriously will consider kicking you to the next country over." I chuckled, my green eyes smiling. "And then get back here, so I can sketch you for my homework due tomorrow."
By the time I reached the clock shop, Allen's dad was sitting hunched over the counter, his eyes narrowed over his glasses as he meticulously used his screwdriver on the back of the ornate, gilded timepiece. He glanced at me, before he smiled his trademark smile, warm and comforting to anyone who knew him.
"Allen's in the back, finishing up for the evening, Elise," he pointed to the back of the shop, beyond the shelves of ticking Grandfather clocks. "You know where to go." I nodded in thanks to him, smiling as I went by.
I found him sitting over a beautiful gold clock, small and detailed in size and shape. It curved below his long fingers as he polished it to a shine, a thoughtful smile on his face as he rechecked the time from his own watch, the one on his wrist. His glasses hung over the bridge of his nose and his shoulderlength curly hair created a curtain between us, as he sat on the high stool.
"Your dad said you were finished for the evening," I said, making him look up.
"Well, this needs to be done for tomorrow, so-" he stopped, shrugging. I could see the hurt in his eyes by the way he avoided looking at me again. "-Look, I'm sorry for earlier," he finished. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable-"
"You didn't make me uncomfortable. I was just surprised-"
"By what I said?" he continued to fiddle with the clock, even after dropping the cloth, turning it over in his hands and keeping his gaze away from mine. "You should know me well enough by now to know that I say weird things at weird times."
"I suppose," I answered, walking toward him. "I just-"
"What?" he looked up to me, and I as clear as day, I saw the pain on his face. He waited a second, before he said, "I love you, Elise. I've loved you since I first met you and wanted that damn Harry Potter book." He gritted his jaw. I watched him, my blond hair falling below my shoulders as I met his eye level. "I cant believe you never noticed it before."
"I think I did notice it before now," I replied. "I guess I just couldn't believe that it was real." At his confused expression, I carried on. "Okay, remember when you finally gave the book to me, and you had this huffy expression on your face, the one that said If you weren't a girl, I swear I'd punch you? Well, that's when it happened for me." I blushed, biting my lips. "I always believed you wouldn't like me as anything more than a friend, because it was too good to be true. You are kind and careful, and you always wait for me, like at the nightclub when my date ditched me for another girl, and when I keep thinking of that day in the library, and your face, I keep wondering if you cared, or felt anything at all-"
I stopped when I saw him sit further back, leaving the clock on the wooden table beside him. "So you mean to tell me that you do love me, you just never wanted to say-"
"-Because I was worried it would destroy this," I gestured between us. "I swear, I've always loved you, Allen-" He put both his hands around my waist, a small smile on his lips. "-I was scared you'd turn around and say that you didn't feel the same way and that we'd both be awkward-"
"You mean to tell me, you love me," he said simply, as he pulled me closer to him, even closer than when we hugged as friends. Our faces were inches apart, just a breath away.
"Yes, I do love you, but-"
"But nothing," he finished. He brought his hands up to cradle my face, his brown eyes searching mine. "You know I'd never let you down, Elise. Never. You are perfect for me. You listen to me when I cant take the pressure from my family and school, you always remember I'm allergic to strawberries and never eat them when I'm around, even though I know you love them, and most importantly, you laugh when I say some stupid joke that no-one ever gets." I bubbled a giggle, looking away from his eyes.
"If push came to shove, I swear, we'll break this. I'm not about to put 'us' on the line, simply because of a crush." He smiled wider as he brought my forehead to tip against his. "Nothing can come between us, not even that bloody Harry Potter thing we both had going on back when we were hot-headed twelve year olds." I laughed against him, bringing my arms around his waist.
"I love you," I said softly, brushing my lips against his.
"And I love you," he replied, as he leaned down and gave me the softest, sweetest, most tenderhearted kiss I'd ever received in my eighteen years, as the ticking of the clocks surrounding us had swallowed their own time.