A Tough Choice

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Chapter 4

James and I spent a lot of time together after that, and our relationship started to grow. I filled Aiden in on what was going on between us, and he was really happy for me. He loved hearing about how great our relationship was doing. He was my best friend, and it felt great talking to him about how I finally found someone I was happy with.

But as soon as junior year rolled around, he started calling me less, and soon he stopped talking to me altogether. I had no idea why. I hoped it wasn't because he thought I was forgetting about him now that I was dating James. I mean he was happy for me. Why would he be avoiding me?

"Anna, I'm sure it's not that," James said Friday in drama club. "Maybe he's been really busy. He does play football, right? And it is junior year. It only gets harder from here. He's your best friend. He wouldn't avoid you without having a good reason."

"You're right, babe," I said, laying my head on his shoulder.

Little did I know, I would find out soon what that reason was.

The next day, as I was getting ready for a date with James, I heard a knock on the door. When I heard Mom open it, I went downstairs to see who it was. I heard a familiar voice coming from the kitchen and immediately ran in with outstretched arms.
"Aiden!" I was so happy to see him. He had changed a lot since I last saw him, and I couldn't get over how good-looking he was, with his shaggy brown hair and square jaw.
"Hey, Anna. Long time no see."
"I'll say. Why haven't you called? Or answered the phone?"
"Anna, I-"
"Why have you been avoiding me? I thought we were friends."
"Anna, honey," Mom interrupted. "Aiden's father is dead."
"He got killed in Iraq a few months ago," Aiden said with a sad look on his face.
"He and his mom just moved back."
"Aiden, I...I..." I felt horrible. I ran up to my room as tears formed in my eyes, plopped on my bed, and cried my eyes out. All of a sudden, I heard my phone ring. When I picked it up, it was James.
"Hey, babe," I answered. "I'm not gonna be able to go out tonight. Aiden's here."
"Yeah. I'll explain later."
"No, it's okay. You two catch up. I'll see you tomorrow, okay?"
"Okay. Love you, babe."
As I hung up the phone, I heard a knock on the door. "Anna, it's me," I heard Aiden say. "Can I come in?"
When he walked in, I got up and hugged him tight. "Oh, Aiden, I'm so sorry I snapped. You must think I'm horrible."
"No, I don't, Anna. It's okay. I shouldn't have shut you out like that. I should've told you what happened. But I was just so devastated and distraught I didn't wanna talk to anyone. Not even my mom. It took me a whole week before I opened up to her about how I was really feeling."
"Aiden, I'm so sorry about your dad. I know you two were really close. But I have to say I'm glad you're here. I have my best friend back. And I want you to know I'm here for you."
"Thanks, Anna. I'm glad we're still best friends."
"Friends forever."

The following Monday, I showed Aiden around the school and helped him get to his classes. When it came time for lunch, I was excited for James to meet Aiden.
"Hey, babe," he said as I walked with Aiden to our table. "This must be Aiden. It's good to meet you, man."
"Great to meet you, too. I'm glad Anna found someone to make her happy."
"Hey, James," I said, taking his arm. "Can I talk to you for a minute?"
"Yeah. Sure, babe."
I led him to the side wall. "Listen, the reason Aiden was at my house last night is because he and his mom moved back. His dad just died in Iraq. And I feel that I really need to be there for him. Which means we may not be able to spend a lot of time together. I hope you understand that."
"Anna, he's your best friend. Of course I understand. I know how compassionate and sympathetic you are. It's one of the things I love about you."
"Aww, babe. Thank you."
When we walked back to the table, I was glad that James was so understanding. I knew I needed to be there for Aiden. I knew he would've done the same for me.
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