The moon stood low in the sky, an orange tint covering its surface. As I looked at it, images of random horror movies played in my head and I shivered.
“Are you cold?” a voice asked from the darkness.
“Yeah,” I said, and I wasn’t lying. The temperature had dropped in the last couple of days as the season headed into winter. I turned to Noah and smiled although it was hardly noticeable in the faint moonlight. We were sitting on the front porch of his house, swinging on the wooden bench that hung from overhead.
“What are you thinking about?” I asked, although I was pretty sure I already knew the answer.
It was a second before he spoke. “Jess.”
For a guy as macho as Noah seemed to be, I never thought the tears would come so easily.
“Noah…” I started, not sure what to say. Instead, I searched for his hand and just held it. He squeezed it lightly and then looked at me.
“I just got off the phone with her,” he said. “She never wants to see me again.”
“I’m sorry. I really am.” I could see the pain on his face and I didn’t want to push him, but I wanted him to know that I was his friend. “If you want to talk about it, I’m always here.”
“Thanks. But there’s not a lot to say. She just doesn’t want me anymore.”
“Noah, don’t be so hard on yourself. Two years is a long time. People change. Especially since it’s our senior year of high school. She has a lot to think about. She’s probably just confused. Give her time.”
“What if she doesn’t ever come back?”
“You’ll be fine. Soon you’ll be up and running again. It may take a while for you to get over her. You don’t just stop loving someone, but one day you’ll wake up and her face won’t be the first thing that you see. And you’ll be a better person for getting on with your life. She’ll always be a part you, your first love always is, but you will move on.”
As I sat there and comforted him, I felt like a fraud. I’d realized only days ago that I was in love with him, yet he was forbidden territory because of Jess. Now, there was no Jess, and although it tore me up to see him sad, a little voice in the back of my head was jumping for joy. Right now, though, what Noah really needed was a friend and that’s all I would ever be. He was never going to find out my true feelings.
My own thoughts had run away and it took me a minute to realize he was staring at me.
“What?” I asked. “Is my hair sticking up or something?” I smiled at him and before I knew it he was kissing me and Lord help me, I was kissing him. But then I remembered that less than two weeks ago he’d told me that I was like ‘one of the guys’ and my head snapped back.
“Don’t,” I said to him.
“Cassie…” I’d never heard him say my name that way.
“I don’t want to be your rebound.”
“You’re not,” he denied softly.
“I would be. You know it and I know it. And that’s not fair to me.”
He didn’t speak. Just stared at the ground. So I stood and said goodbye. He looked up as if he were about to say something, then stopped. “Goodbye,” he whispered instead.
At that, I turned and walked to my car almost falling into the seat as my knees buckled. Now my emotions were in crisis mode. I didn’t know what to do. So I simply drove home, changed into a t-shirt and pajama bottoms and laid down. I stayed awake for some time. When sleep finally hit, it was deep and full of dreams of Noah.
* * *
Two days had passed by and still, I hadn’t heard from Noah, which was unusual. So I called him and when he didn’t answer, I left a quick message but he never called back. I decided to stop by his house the next day to see how he was doing. My heart dropped as I turned the corner and saw Jess’s car sitting in his driveway. Without stopping, I passed his house went straight home and cried.
* * *
The summer was almost over before I saw Noah again. I was outside, washing my car when he pulled up behind me. I almost dropped the hose when I saw him step out. He’d gotten his hair cut and looked even cuter than I remembered.
“Hi, Cassie,” he said as he walked up.
“Hi, yourself,” I replied, coolly.
“It’s been a while since I’ve seen you,” he said, fiddling with the keys in his hand.
“That’s not my fault,” I said, already getting defensive.
“I know,” he looked at a loss for words. “Look, I’m sorry I didn’t call, but I didn’t think you’d want to talk to me.”
I threw down the rag in my hand and balked at him. “So you waited this long to come and talk to me?” I was so mad at him for not having tried harder. “If you’d thought of me as a friend, you would have been here sooner.”
“But that was the problem.”
I was confused.
“I don’t think of you as a friend,” he explained.
I could feel my face heat up in anger. “Thank you, Noah, for driving all the way here to tell me that.” I turned and started to walk inside the house.
“I think of you as more than that,” he continued, stopping me in my tracks, my back still facing him. “I realized it the night you were at my house. I’ve wanted to be with you ever since then but I thought you’d be to mad to talk to me.”
I turned my head to the side, but didn’t turn around. “I drove by your house. A couple of days after I saw you last,” I said, coldly. “But Jess was there so I didn’t stay.”
“She’d come over to get some stuff she’d left.”
“Cassie,” he said, coming closer. “I know I messed up, but I want a chance to make it up.”
I finally turned around, but didn’t know what to say. “I don’t know.”
“You know, you were right.”
I looked at him questioningly.
“About me waking one day and not seeing Jess’s face anymore. Now all I see is you,” he smiled.
I almost fell over. “Okay,” I said, pretending like it was no big deal. “But, Noah,” I started as he pulled me to him. “Just don’t wait so long next time to tell me I’m not your friend.”