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Thunder rolled faintly overhead. She barely heard it over the hum of her car. The radio was silent, leaving her with her thoughts. As she moved slowly down the suburban road, she pulled out her cell phone and stared at the screen for a moment, willing the “Incoming Call” screen to appear, but only a blank screen stared back at her. She put it back in the cup holder. An intersection came before her. Turning on the blinker, she pulled a right. Several more blocks passed before she came to the house she was looking for, and she came to a stop, turning off her engine and lights.

She looked to her left at the house. At his house. His car sat in the driveway, and she could see shadows moving inside. After a few moments, the shadows opened the front doors, and two people emerged. She recognized him. But the woman exiting the passenger side was a stranger. He was dressed in his nice jeans and shoes, with a long-sleeved white shirt. She was surprised at the woman’s clothing, a low-cut dress that barely went past her hips and matching heels. Anger flared briefly in her. What was he doing with a woman like that? That wasn’t in his nature, he never seemed the type. He had always been more interested in the nice girls, spending months fostering friendships before making any romantic advances; never something this fast. He opened his trunk. One hand emerged with a bottle of wine. The other pulled out a small red box, which he handed to the woman. Closing the trunk, they wrapped arms around each others’ waists and walked, staggering slightly and laughing, towards his front door.

He fumbled his keys for a second. The key finally found the lock. Laughing some more, he opened the door for her. The door closed behind them, and the porch light turned off, followed by interior lights coming on. She thought back to when they had first met.

High school. Sitting next to each other in quiet classes, and sharing a table with others in the noisy lunchroom. It was obvious from the beginning that he was interested in her, but his awkwardness and bumbling lack of confidence left him unable to properly articulate his feelings or spark any desire in her. She kept him as a friend. He at least respected her more than others. As they matured further, she discovered the pleasures of other boys less awkward in speech. Despite the sensations they could bring, their mannerisms were crude and unrefined, and none held her attention for long.

She grabbed her cell phone again. The numbers lit up on her screen as she dialed. A moment of silence, then the ring tone. Looking into his house, she could see him and the tramp in his kitchen, and he pulled out his cell phone before pushing a button; the ringtone was replaced by the voicemail message.

Graduation. He left high school a year ahead of her. Most of his classmates were going to college, but he had chosen the military. He would spend most of the next four years overseas, thousands of miles away, but never lose touch with her. Her own graduation came. He was there for it. Resplendent in his uniform, as proud of her as her own parents. With newfound confidence, he renewed his pursuit, but still she spurned him. He would be too far away. It would be awkward. She was leaving for college, and hungered for all the experiences it entailed. Downtrodden, he returned to foreign lands, but remained a diligent friend, helping her through all her crises and never judging her.

She looked in the window again. The two of them were heading for the living room. She knew all too well where things would lead, she had been there often enough herself. Far too many times to count at this point in her life, but never once with him. She still couldn’t believe this was happening; she knew all the secrets of his life that no one else knew, she knew this experience was a first for him.

Graduation again. Four more years. He was done with the military, and she was done with college. It was his turn for higher learning while she started her career, but now they were at least in the same state again. Once more, he found difficulty in finding a woman worth dating, his experiences and values making him seem strange and alien to the girls in his classes. She consoled him. Assured him he would find someone. Could that someone be her, he asked. Still her answer was in the negative, still she felt his moral stances towards pleasures of the flesh would enslave her to a life of boredom and monotony.

She took a deep breath. Opened the door. She stepped out, and slowly walked towards the door of his house. Her heart pounded as she walked, nervousness almost forcing her to turn around, drive home, and just pretend this wasn’t about to happen.

Another eight years later. He had graduated from college. The both of them were passing thirty, and she despaired at her beauty starting to fail. The men at work no longer took as active an interest in her, and she rarely left the club in the arms of a man late at night any more. They usually picked the younger ones. The ones with the firmer breasts. The ones with the tinier waists, and the doe-like eyes of feigned innocence. She could still find company if she really tried, but it was only getting progressively harder, and the ones that would deign to take her home paled compared to the ones she met as a younger woman.

Realization has dawned on her. She was getting older. Brief flings with strange men was entertaining, but was ultimately becoming boring. No matter how good they were, no relationship ever lasted long; there was always a conflict of personality. She knew she was getting older. She had begun to hunger for something deeper. At last, she learned what she needed was actual love, not just physical satisfaction.

She reached the door. Her hand hovered over the doorbell. She swallowed nervously, still uncertain of whether she should proceed. She glanced around at the house; one-story, though she knew he could easily afford something twice its size.

A month ago. She called him up. She was barely getting by at her job, while he was excelling at his. He had stopped trying to woo her years ago, and they had merely continued on as friends at this point. She expressed her interest now. Silence greeted her. When she checked to make sure he was still there, laughter exploded from the phone. At first she thought it was the maniacal happy laughter of one who has finally realized a lifetime goal, but it soon dawned on her the laughter was filled with anger and pain.

She pushed the doorbell. The ring sounded inside. Almost a minute passed with no answer, so she pressed again. A few moments later, she heard footsteps approaching before the door opened, and she came face to face with him, his expression changing from curiosity to anger as he saw her.

The laughter had subsided. She put the phone back to her ear. She asked why he was laughing so hard, what was so funny. Another moment of silence passed before he said he wasn’t interested and hung up, leaving her too shocked to call back.

“What are you doing here?” he asked. He closed the door behind him as he stepped outside. She looked up into his golden brown eyes, trying to keep her emotions under control. There were so many things she wanted to ask, to demand of him, she wasn’t sure where to begin. He hadn’t answered his phone since that call. Her e-mails had gone ignored. Finally, she had decided to drive to his house, at a time she knew he would be home, only to find him just returning with that other woman.

“I want to know what’s going on,” she finally said. “Why have you been ignoring me? Why are you in there with some whore from a club?” He snorted a stifled laugh at the last question.

“Why not?” he replied. “What do you care?”

“I care because I’m your friend. I finally realize I’ve been wasting my time with other men, when the one I should have been with was with me all along, and you just laugh in my face and ignore me?”

“Yeah, that sounds about right,” he replied coolly. Anger washed over her at her indifference.

“But…why?!” she said louder than she meant to. Thunder boomed above.

“Why? Because for the last twelve years, I’ve shown an interest in you. I’ve been your friend, I’ve stayed by your side through thick and thin. I’ve let you call me at 3 AM when some man throws you out of his apartment, I’ve cooked you dinner when you’re stuck over a toilet vomiting because of a pregnancy scare. I’ve put up with your anger and your drunken abuse, because that’s what friends do.

“I’ve bent over backwards to be nice to you, asking just for your affection in return, to return a FRACTION of the love I’ve shown you for years, and what do I get? No, you’re too nice. No, you’re too far away. No, you’re too much like a brother. No, I think you’d be boring. And now! Now, when you finally realize you can’t be a horny slut any more, when your looks are starting to fade and the men at the club are taking the new underage girls home, now you realize you want to settle down and have a family.

“Well, guess what. I’ve gotten tired of waiting. I didn’t care that you put out for any guy who so much as bought you lunch, I was happy to save myself for you. I didn’t care that we were thousands of miles away, and that we would never get to hug or kiss while I was gone, I was happy just to hear your voice. But that was never enough for you, so you always pushed me away.

You’ve had your fun, now enjoy getting old. See what it’s like to go to bed alone every night, desperate for someone to talk to and hold. It’s my turn to enjoy myself. Get out of my life.”

She couldn’t speak. She had no idea what to say. He opened the door and went back inside, locking it behind him. Muffled by the door, she could hear him speaking, and, through the fogged glass by his door, she saw two indistinct shapes head down the hallway to his bedroom.

She turned around. It was raining. She hadn’t even noticed it start to come down while he spoke. As she walked back to her car, her head drooped, and the rain mingled with the tears on her cheeks.

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