Damon was a firm believer in letting people work through their issues on their own. He’d offer support if asked but he hated when other people tried to “deus ex machina” his problems for him and so he generally avoided doing that for other people. But Damon couldn’t help but wonder if that was the right approach when it came to Terry’s current depression. Damon erroneously attributed his best friend’s behaviour to the latter’s breakup, and, after weeks had passed with no change, decided to organise a guys’ night out in the hopes of cheering Terrence up.
If you asked him later, Damon couldn’t tell you exactly where it went wrong. Terrence would have told you that there wasn’t a moment when it was right. Mike and Ryan remained oblivious to any awkwardness until the very end of the night. That’s when Terrence chucked Damon into the bar and stormed out.
“Dude, what was that about?” Ryan asked as he pulled Damon out of the space between two barstools where he’d become wedged.
“I’m not sure. I was trying to get him out of his funk. This girl kept hitting on him and he wouldn’t give her the time of day. So, I was just trying to persuade him to give her a chance and he got real angry.”
Damon had a rip in his favourite pair of jeans and was bleeding profusely through a gash in his skin just below it. He hadn’t realised that he had fallen on his beer mug. He was still in shock from seeing Terry’s face contorted into an almost animalistic mask of rage. He’d never seen his best friend so angry and they’d never once gotten into a physical argument. Damon was tempted to follow Terry and try to get to the bottom of this but his friends insisted on carrying him to the emergency room to check for stray bits of glass and to see if he needed stitches.
Damon didn’t get home for another five hours. The ER had been full thanks to drunken brawls at three other bars and a car accident on the highway. Terrence was nowhere in sight. Damon sighed out of exhaustion and frustration. He needed answers and he wasn’t sure how to get them. Terry was the brother he’d never had and he wasn’t ashamed to admit that it hurt him to think they were drifting apart in a significant and permanent way.
Terrence sat on the bench on the path through the campus woods, replaying the events of the night. Part of him was ashamed and contrite; wanting to track down Damon and finally tell him what was going on. But the other half of him knew that it was useless to do that. There was no fixing the relationship at this point. He would never be comfortable with the idea of Damon and Alanna dating; and Damon cared too much about her to give her up now. But it dawned on Terrence that the same could be said of him. He was tired of fighting his feelings for her and had wondered lately if she would still choose Damon if she knew that there were other options available. He’d definitely felt a spark between them on more than one occasion. Betraying his best friend had to be better than betraying his heart, right? I really need to work on making my inner monologue sound less like a line out of The Notebook.
Terry looked up as footsteps could be heard coming down the path. He was shocked to see Alanna heading towards him wearing a pretty red sweater, skinny jeans and combat boots. Her dreadlocks were pulled into a messy chignon at the back of her head, though a few had escaped and she was in the midst of trying to pin them back when she noticed him on the bench.
“Terry? Hey. What are you doing out here so late?”
“Ammm…. It’s kind of a long story. But I’m happy to see you. There’s something I want to discuss with you.”
Terrence gestured to the empty spot next to him and Alanna slid in, giving up on trying to wrestle the stubborn tendrils into her loose bun. She settled for sweeping them behind her ears as she turned to face Terry in the moonlight. She seemed nervous, though even she probably couldn’t say why. But she waited patiently as he took a deep breath and steeled himself for his confession.
“Lana, I think you know that my feelings for you have never been altogether platonic.”
Terrence ploughed ahead with his admission, when Alanna didn’t say anything.
“I tried to give you room at first because you didn’t seem ready for a relationship. And then, Damon admitted that he was interested in you and so I backed off even further. I’ve always been a good friend to Damon and there’s never been a girl whom I thought was worth risking our friendship. Never, until you.”
He watched as Alanna swallowed hard and looked away. He couldn’t know that part of her was thrilled to hear Terrence tell her this because the truth was that he was never just a friend to her. But those feelings wrestled with her love for Maria and the truth was that she cared more about Damon than she did Terry.
Terry gently turned her face back towards him. He didn’t feel Alanna react as she felt heat flare on her cheek where his hand rested. If only he knew how much guiltier it made her feel. Guilty because she couldn’t understand how she could feel so much for two people at the same time. Guilty because she knew what she would have to say to push Terrence away for good. Guilty because it would be a lie. And, most of all, guilty because she really didn’t want to tell that lie and what did that mean about her feelings for Damon?
“Lana, is there any chance that you feel the same way for me?” Terry asked.
Terry saw Alanna close her eyes as the words she dreaded saying came out of her mouth, almost unbidden.
“No, Terry. There isn’t.”
Terry let go of her face instantly and the tears began flowing down her cheeks. They both knew this was where things changed in a major way. She’d lost Terrence for good. For a minute, he just stared at her, hoping she would change her mind and say differently. He wondered if she could feel it. Then he leaned forward and kissed her briefly, but passionately. He felt her kiss him back. Eventually, he pulled away and he could feel her struggling with the desire to pull him back into her. When she didn’t, Terry got up and set off towards his dorm. He’d tried and failed. Now, it was time to face Damon and have the one important friendship he still had left shatter into nothingness.
Alanna replayed the kiss in her head. She still felt warm all over. It wasn’t a white hot heat like she felt whenever she kissed Damon. This was a slow-burning, comfortable fire like the one you curled up in front of with a mug of hot chocolate. It was the fire that you didn’t realise was important until it was out and the whole house was cold and drafty. Alanna had felt empty and cold as Terrence pulled away, got up and set off down the path. She sat on the empty bench for a long while after wondering when her life had become this soap opera and how she’d ever be able to muddle her way through the mess it had become.