She sat there in the booth, face turned to the window to watch the cars go by. The early morning sunlight
caught her at a pleasant angle, bringing out the curve of her cheeks with a yellow-orange
glow. Her hair seemed heavenly
, thin strands shining brightly
as they hung down from her face. Her hands were placed on the table before her, clasped so tightly that it seemed they might merge into one appendage
at a second's notice. Even at a distance, it was possible to see the tension in her shoulders
He noted where she sat with a feeling of familiarity. It was always her booth. If she was at Stevie's Diner, then that seat was where you'd find her. It would seem almost strange to see another person sitting in that spot. He smiled slightly. It was funny how you could attach implications of possession to things that you didn't own. He briefly wondered how many other people in this town considered that booth "theirs."
Waving to one of the waiters behind the counter, he made his way over to where she sat. Gaze fixed on the window, she had failed to notice his entrance. She started when he slid into the booth across from her, and then gave a tentative smile. Her hands unclasped for a moment, and her palms saw the light of day for mere seconds before immediately clasping together once more.
"Hey," he said easily. "What's up?"
"Hey," she responded. She paused, and looked down at her hands.
"Why is this awkward?" he wondered, staring at her. She still did not look up. He attempted to focus his mental powers on her, willing her to raise her head. Unsurprisingly, this had no effect.
Finally, he shrugged. "Take your time. I'll wait."
She acknowledged this with a mere twitch of her head, still avoiding eye contact. Leaning back in his seat, he looked about the diner to see who else was there. Nobody he knew: just a bunch of mothers with their bratty kids and senior citizens who enjoyed the moments of nostalgia an old diner such as this one could bring up in their withered old hearts. His gaze found a mildly attractive woman, sitting at a table by herself, nose buried in a book. The thought that glasses could be attractive on a person struck him. The color of the woman's hair reminded him of whom he was currently sitting with, and his eyes flicked back to the girl sitting across from him. She still had not moved.
"I'll wait," he thought again.
And he did.
And he did.
And he did.
Finally, she opened her mouth, and it was as though a dam was breaking before his eyes. The words poured out: not in a constant stream, but in short, powerful bursts. Her words were punctuated by pauses, moments of hesitation where she seemed to be second guessing herself, or fearing she had said the wrong thing. It quickly became obvious that she had been holding this in for quite some time, and she spoke now with a sense of urgency and a sense of relief..
"David, do you remember the Fourth of July two years ago year?" she asked. Her eyes had still not risen from their focus on the tabletop. "Do you remember leaving Rick's stupid party early, and wandering around by the lake until the fireworks went off? Do you remember the birds we found?"
Without even making an effort, he remembered. The party had been terrible: the music horrid, the guests inebriated. The host was nowhere to be found, but people at the party had suggested that he might have been upstairs getting hot and heavy with some little girl who couldn't have been more than 16. The cool and quiet outdoors, down by the lake, had been a welcome relief from the heat and noise of the party. It was a clear night, and all the birds had settled into their roosts to rest for the night. All except two of them, which settled down by the water, huddled together in the dark. David had made a comment on the colors of the birds: one white, one brown. There was a strikingly similarity between the colors of the birds and the colors of their clothing. Her white shirt and his brown jacket seemed perfectly matched.
"Yes, I remember," he said, not painting any further details than that.
"Do you remember what you asked me?" she went on.
"Of course I do," he said immediately. He even remembered what he'd said preceding it: all the stupid metaphors and half-assed explanations for what led him to up to it. All of his fumbled words and clumsy sentences, leading up to his final question. He remembered the sweat that dripped down his sides, underneath his stifling hot jacket in the otherwise cool night. He remembered how dry his mouth had become, after he had had so much to drink earlier. He remembered asking it.
"Do you want to be more than just friends?"
She took in a breath, and raised her eyes a short distance from the table, now resting them on his shirt. "I didn't want to answer that question, David. I thought for a long time, trying to come up with some way to get around it: some way I could avoid the subject. I wanted to avoid it like we had been for the past few months."
"Months?" thought David. "Try years."
"But I realized I couldn't do that. I had to answer you, and I did." She finally lifted her gaze the rest of the way, making eye contact with him. "And I'm sorry it wasn't the answer you wanted it to be. But David, why do you think I did that?"
He felt as though the spotlight in the circus ring had suddenly switched to him. The teacher at the front of the classroom had called on him, and he wasn't prepared. He opened his mouth slightly then closed it. If she could take a long time to answer questions, then so could he. He would wait until he felt he had an acceptable answer before giving her anything.
He stared into her unbearably beautiful eyes as he decided how to phrase his response. He found it mildly unfair that he had been born with muddy brown eyes, while everyone around him got cool colors, like blue or green. At times like this, it bothered him. Staring into such intimidatingly gorgeous blue eyes as hers made him feel downright unattractive by comparison.
"Well," he began, and then immediately cursed himself for taking so long and then starting with a word as indecisive as that. "I thought over things for a long time after that, and eventually decided it was because you were afraid of ruining our friendship. I knew you liked me as a person, so I doubted it could be just because you didn't like me. I supposed that you just didn't want to overcomplicate things between us."
Now that he said it out loud, it almost sounded stupid.
After listening to his own lame explanation, he was hardly surprised when she shook her head. "No. It wasn't that."
There was a pause.
He leaned forward. "Then what? Please don't leave me hanging like that."
Her eyes dropped again, and with them, so did something inside of David. He resisted the urge to shift around in his seat, and waited for her to speak, eyes fixed on her intently. Thankfully, she did not take as long as she had before.
"It was kind of related to something that I had been thinking about for a long time prior to this. Back in High School, I was never quite sure how I should be interacting with other kids. I'd be doing things one way, and then I'd have an idea of something different. Immediately, my gut reaction was to tell myself: 'No, that's wrong.'" She paused. "It took me a long time to finally come to terms with it. I hadn't quite managed to at the time when you asked me out."
"Hadn't quite come to terms with what?" he pushed, getting more than a little anxious.
"David," she said. "I like girls."
There was a pause long enough to recite the Declaration of Independence in.
Her eyes flicked up to see his reaction. There wasn't a whole lot to see, however. David sat there, staring at her blankly. He stared at the girl he'd known since he was eight years old. He stared at one of the most familiar people he knew. He stared at the girl he'd told all his secrets to. He stared at her as she sat in the same booth she always sat in, wearing the same clothes she always wore, with her hair in the same way it always was. Here was the epitome of familiarity to him, and for the first time, something felt out of place.
He felt as though some strange, foreign force had come and snatched her away from him. The Zoroastrians of Egypt had come and declared that she had chosen to defect from America in order to join their ranks in a faraway land. The mannequins from the mall had come to the hospital and explained that there was a mix-up when she was a baby, and she actually belonged to them. She had always been there by his side, and now she was in a different place. She did not fit into the neat little vision he had formed of her in his head over so many years.
Opening his mouth to say something that he would later regret, David saw her face. Her lips were pursed, and there were wrinkles at the corners of her eyes. She swallowed convulsively, and her breath came in short, quiet gasps. This, David realized, was the face of fear. This was the face of someone expecting to be rejected. Someone expecting to be shoved away by the only person she really trusted anymore.
He swallowed the comment that had already formed in his throat, coalesced in his mouth, and made its way to the tip of his tongue. He forced it down, and forced himself to look at things from the other side of the table. This was hard for him to deal with: that was understandable. A lifelong friend had just announced something to him that would mean a huge difference in the rest of both of their lives. But it was even harder for her. He only had to go through this particular ordeal once, and she had to go through it with every single person she knew.
After a moment, he managed a smile. Lacey hesitated a moment longer, and then broke into an enormous grin of relief. David's smile was larger than the happiness he actually felt, but he knew it was what his best friend needed. He knew she needed his support, so that was what he gave her. She was, after all, still the same girl that he had known for so many years. She was just...different now. She had chosen a life path different than others. She had gone to play for the other side.
It was funny how you could attach implications of possession to things that you didn't own.