I can't analyse yet... first I have to chronicle. I let Amy in.
"SHUT UP," I told her icily. "Get in here. The neighbors are flipping a shit."
She obeyed and sat on the couch. I closed the door and joined her, but I sat in one of the armchairs. Normally we'd sit next to each other. Not today.
"STOP IT!" I half-screamed. "Stop saying that! No! Bad Amy, no treats for you! One more time and I'll swat you with a rolled-up Pinecone!"
At that, she nodded, biting her bottom lip and letting her tears fall. I hate to see her like that. EVERY TIME, I HATE IT. For better or worse, she really is my best friend and I don't want to see her suffer over anything. Thing is, these sobbing fits happen so often that the shock value has worn off a little, but that doesn't mean I'm just "over" her going to pieces. It eviscerates me every damn time.
"Did you?" she asked after thirty seconds of complete silence. Then there were thirty more.
She looked up, eyes wide and empty. "But why? I was the only one who needed a training session. You already know what you're doing. So... so I don't..."
"It was hot," I said in a would-be causal voice. Such a failure. "Listening to somebody get that into it. Couldn't stop myself. That's the whole story, got it? So quit blubbering all over the leather."
"Then we did have phone sex."
"No," I scoffed. "It wasn't, n-not really."
Amy shifted and pulled her feet underneath herself. "We did. Oh God, we did, we had phone sex – Laynie, we're totally gay!"
"Will you cut that out, you spaz? Maybe you went off-meds too early after all!"
"Right," she said, taking a deep breath and pointing her gaze toward the coffee table. "No, that's true, we're not, we... this is just a weird thing that happened. One-time deal. It doesn't have to feed into some huge cosmic truth or anything."
I drew my own knees up to my chin. "Amy... you have to stop pushing. You have to stop going to extremes, and asking for help for things you can do on your own. It's going to kill me – and you, and everyone around you."
"I know," she lamented. "Sorry. I just let myself get carried away."
"And you can't ever call me for moral support when you're banging yourself. OR when you're banging an actual guy. Either one is... a little too friendly for best friends."
"I know, I know. God do I know, I'm just too moronic to put it into practice when I'm in the moment."
"Then get smarter."
"Yeah. I will, I swear."
I grimaced. "Let's go get some Coke. The caffeine will take the edge off."
We both stood and headed for the kitchen. As we entered the narrow doorway, we bumped into each other and automatically turned and apologized. We got stuck in that location.
Our faces were so close that our noses were almost touching. It was as close as I had been to anyone in forever, not including when I helped Amy out that first time. Both of us made slight motions as if we were going to move further into the kitchen but neither followed through.
The thing… it's hard to put into words. Amy's face is so symmetrical that it's unsettling. I never think about it much, but right now I am because right then I was. About how her perfect mouth was perfect on both sides of the prime meridian of her head. Sculpted eyebrows, neither of which jutted further upward than the other one. Clear, piercing eyes, neither of which was less clear than its counterpart. She was like some mythical goddess, or a Hollywood starlet that refurbished her face with hours of plastic surgery because she wanted to be a goddess… except that with Amy, all of it was just how she was born. None of which I ever cared about until that moment when she was too close, and our battered friendship had spiraled out of control, and my Zoloft-addled brain no longer understood by default that the way she looked wasn't supposed to have any effect on me.
Another flutter. Just like on the porch.
Then Amy cleared her throat and went past me. "You, uh... Coke, right? Or root beer?"
"Root beer," I croaked.
"You were going to kiss me," she said, easy, like it was the easiest thing.
"Okay." She set the aluminium cans down on the counter and looked up at me with these glazed-over eyes. "Good. That's good, that's... right, that's fine."
"No," I protested suddenly, a day late and a dollar short. "I wasn't going to kiss you, no way! What? How did you come up with that one?"
"It's fine," she told me soothingly, popping open the can – and cutting herself on the inside of the hole. "OW!"
"Let me see!" I ran around the counter and took her hand in mine, looking at the tiny bead of blood that was welling up. "It's not so bad, I- God, you klutz! How can you cut yourself on a soda can?"
"Sorry," she whispered fearfully. "I don't know, maybe I was born without the part of my brain that can do simple tasks like ope..."
Her voice died in the middle of that word because I had stuck her finger in my mouth. It was like a muscle-memory thing; I usually do that with my own cuts before I wash them off and grab a Band-Aid, and I was holding her hand in mine already so I just did it. I let it fall away slightly as we blinked at each other, confused, curious about the other person's thoughts. Then I put it back up to my mouth again.
"Ooh..." she trilled. We both shivered. I felt myself do it and saw her echo me. She jerked her hand back, then stuck the injured digit into her own mouth... and we both looked at each other again. An indirect kiss.
"This is so wrong," I blurted out. "This cannot be happening, Amy. I don't want this."
"What's happening?" she said blithely, rummaging around in the cabinets until she found bandages. As she put one on her finger, she babbled. "Nothing's happening, nothing at all. Why should anything be happening? Just because you sucked on my finger when I had a cut, that's nothing, that's simple logic; you were wicking the blood away to discourage infection – no, I meant reduce the chance of infection. It doesn't have a mind of its own that you can discourage. Anyway, thanks a lot. The blood itself probably won't hurt you, I don't have any diseases; I'm not even sick with a cold right now! It has been going around, but I've already had it and got over it like, a month ago, so I doubt any germs are still in my syst-"
She spun around so quickly that she knocked the entire box of Band-Aids all over the floor. "WHAT?"
"Tell me that somehow, this is going to turn out okay. Tell me that... that we can get over it."
"There's nothing to get over," she told me sternly. "Because nothing happened. You helped me out with the new toys, got a little something out of it for yourself. Big whoop! I'm sure it happens all the time. And so what if you sucked on my finger? My hands were clean. Well, I had been driving, but I'm pretty sure my steering wheel doesn't have anyth-"
"Stop doing that," I urged her through gritted teeth. Shaking like a leaf, I took a step toward her and actually heard her squeak like a mouse. "I... I don't know what the hell I'm doing, but I'm scared of how this is going to end up, so you gotta give me something to hold onto!"
"You want something to hold onto?" she said, still in that stern, barely-not-cracking-up tone. "How about the fact that you're my best friend? I care about you more than anybody in the world, Laynie – well, except maybe my parents, but that's only because of the family thing. You... you're my world."
Both of our jaws dropped.
"WAIT!" she pipped. "Not like that! Not like w-we're going out and you're my world that I can wrap myself up and swim inside! No way! It's j-just- no, listen to me, don't go making all those assumptions in your head, I can see you making them right now!"
"You're my world, too."
This time, only her jaw dropped. "L-Laynie? What do you mean?"
"I mean what you meant. Wh... or what you say you meant. That you and I? We're all we have." I clamped my eyes shut. "That doesn't- that does not mean we have to be gay. Just that we're important to each other in a way nobody else will really get. That's what true friendship is, right? It's indefinable."
Relieved, she stepped toward me with her papercut hand clenched over her heart and whispered, "Yes! Yes, that's totally what I meant! We're inseparable! We're bosom buddies! I mean, nobody I know really gets me the way you do, which just means that... that we need each other in our lives. And I for one think that's a pretty rare thing, I mean, you don't walk down the street and run into fifteen people you can share every ugly detail of your life with, do you?"
"I mean, yeah," I laughed. "Just because I wake up every morning and you're the first person I think of... what is that? It's because we're so close that we're practically symbiotic!"
We smiled at each other for a few moments before the smiles slid away, leaving us staring, pondering, dreading... oh, the dreading. DREADING. For almost one full minute we stood like that, out of our depth, floundering and reeling, reflecting back on the history of our relationship.
Then she whispered. "Dammit. We are, aren't we?"
"No." I shook my head violently, turning away from her. "I'm not."
"But we are. A little, in some ways. I think."
I only tensed when Amy's hands slid around my shoulders, when she pressed her face into the back of my neck. Tensing because I liked that, how her eyelashes tickled the tiny hairs on my nape. I held very still for a while, and so did she once she'd settled against me. Then she spoke in a whisper.
"It's okay, I think. For us to like each other. We're friends."
"Not that kind of friends. Not ones with benefits."
"You were so sweet when you did that for me," she told me hesitantly. I wanted to turn around and scream at her for bringing it up again, but she sounded so ashamed that I figured it would be redundant. "I... I know, it's crazy to say, but I felt love in that. Coming from you. I knew you cared about me."
"I always will. But you're asking me to... to change that into a type of love that I can't give you."
"How much of a change is it, really?" She gave a nervous laugh. "I m-mean, we already love each other. I... I m-mean, that's a lot to take in right now, I-"
I jerked away from her and reached back with my hand. She flinched; I saw her flinch. We both knew I was going to slap her. I wanted to shut her up, to make her stop pushing. Pushing, pushing, ALWAYS... but instead, my hand brushed that strand of hair that always comes untucked from behind her ear.
Then I sank to the kitchen floor, trembling. "No, no, this is bad," I whispered.
"It's not!" Amy told me, just as freaked as I was. She knelt next to me, looking left and right for help and finding none, then curled her arms around me. "It's just-" I shoved her arms away, but she put them around me again and I couldn't figure out how to make myself do it a second time. "It's just love."
"What the fuck are you supposed to be, Richard Simmons?" I bit out angrily. "That's all this is – love, huh? You and I are supposed to have each other's back, be amigas, be there for each other! I'm supposed to be there for you when you whine about boys, not be the one you whine about!"
"Laynie, stop that right now!" she blubbered. "I n-never wanted to be a l-lesbian or anything, and it's still a thing I can't quite get, b-but... but I can deal if that's how this goes! I can!"
"Like I give a shit about dating girls! I just don't want the girl I date to be you!"
That honestly surprised her, and it was the kind of curious surprise like when you're already being held up at gunpoint by a psychopath and you suddenly notice he has Hello Kitty tattooed on his bicep. "What? I mean... why not me? Does my breath smell?"
"YOU DON'T LISTEN!" I snapped. "Mostly that! God, didn't you hear me? You're my BUDDY, not my BEDDY-BUDDY! Just because I like cock doesn't mean that's at the top of the list of things I'll regret losing if we can't pull ourselves out of this! There's more important stuff, you idiot!"
For a while we just laid there on the cold tile, crying off and on, and I thought really hard about how helpless I felt. Like being sucked down a whirlpool. I kept trying to tell myself I wasn't gay, or that I didn't like Amy like that, and somehow it was getting worse instead of better. Wasn't I master of my own destiny? Nope. Destiny had me by the gonads.
Finally, in a meek, defeated voice, Amy whispered to me, "I love you."
"That's priority one, okay? Stop hating me for it. Just... I love you, and I want you to remember it. Please, please, please..."
Tears streaming down my stupid face, I whispered, "Sorry. I know that. You know I love you, too. But what the hell is it all supposed to mean?"
"I don't know, either. You're asking me? I can't even figure out which end of the dildo to use."
We laughed a little, then we got quiet again. Then we went back to the living room and curled up with each other on the couch. Since for whatever reason Amy was feeling braver than I was, she spooned me, and I let myself die in the warmth of her arms. I wanted to stab myself in the face over how insane this was all making me, but it was beautiful anyway.
"Listen," I said quietly. "I... can you promise to listen and not talk for a while so I can get this out?"
"Okay. So... so here it is. I don't want to date you or anything. I don't want us to become some huge gaudy lesbian thing. I don't even want to have these feelings and dirty thoughts about you, but I can't seem to make them go away so, uh, I guess we have to deal with them."
"Mm." That was all she said. I know she wanted to babble again but out of respect she somehow buttoned it.
"We need to get this stuff straight, don't we? That..." I clutched at her hands for support and she let me. "I don't look at you and think you're sexy. I never once have thought about kissing you, or having kinky sex with all kinds of steel gadgets, or anything. We're friends."
"But..." she prompted gently.
"But after I helped you break your seal, everything began to change a little bit at a time. I started thinking about you differently – just a little differently, not a complete flip away from the norm. What's wrong with my cerebral cortex? Why did listening to you... I mean, I should have had control, I should have been able to keep my hands to myself, so why? Tell me what's wrong with me..."
I could hear the distraught tears in her voice when she said to me, "I don't know."
"Is it all me, though? Am I dragging you down here?" It took a lot of determination for me to get the next part out, but I did it. "I... deep down, I did know that your wanting to buy your own toy and all that, and get your virginity over with, it was pretty normal. So what if the real reason I started flipping out was because-"
"Don't," she pleaded. "It's not just you; I was being weird about it, too, okay? I c-can't let you own all that when part of it was me." A second of building up her own resolve. "Because having you there the first time? It got me off more. Just because... I dunno, I guess knowing you knew what it was like, and... and you opened me up so easy, and it felt so, so right. I tried to keep rationalizing that it was your skill, but it probably really was you, and that I'm so close to you. It made it sweeter, it made it real."
"You can't be saying this stuff to me," I half-laughed. "You're trying to... I'm not ready to hear this."
"I'm not ready to say it!" she blubbered into my shoulder, squeezing me to her more tightly. It felt too good. It was sinfully good. "But... I don't wanna hurt you by keeping all this in and letting you think it's all you; that's even worse. I'd hate myself forever if I actually let that happen."
"You love me." It was a statement full of awe. "Wow."
"I do, Laynie. Just... well, if you laugh I'll clobber you, but I'm not ready for, um, for kisses or anything yet."
"We don't have to do that at all," I said seriously. "I mean, who says that has to be how we are? Lovey-dovey. We can just be really close friends who get each other off once in a while if we want. I don't remember signing any contract forcing us to be a 'couple', do you?"
She hesitated a moment, then whispered, "On the one hand, no. But... this..."
Then I felt her warm, tear-moistened cheek on mine, and I came pretty damn close to a nervous breakdown. It was everything I didn't want to happen suddenly erupting like St. Elmo's fire (the natural phenomenon, not the Brat Pack movie). Her face on mine, it was so tender and beautiful, and I wanted to bite it. I wanted to claw at her to make it stop, even while I wanted her to keep going... maybe even do more.
How fucked up am I, seriously? How damaged can you get in seventeen short years on the planet Earth that you even consider ruining the only half-decent part of an ultra-shitty life because... because what, you're horny? WHYYY? Somebody needs to tell me this stuff! I can't figure it out all by myself, and this journal isn't helping, and I don't know what to DO.
Anyway... we stayed like that for a really long time. I'm not sure how long. Then all of a sudden Amy giggled. When I turned around to ask her why, she just whispered, "What happened to those sodas we were supposed to have?"
It made us both laugh like we were being tickled by a million chicken feathers. Magically, it took all that gravity and fear and smooshed them under the couch cushions where they wouldn't bother us for a while. That was a break we needed.
Pretty soon after that Amy went home. I'm not saying everything was like, "all good", but it gave us momentary peace which we SO needed. I'm grateful for that, at least, but it's still crazy. I'm still crazy, going crazy, slowly going crazy, one two three four five six switch. Prime example right there; somehow I actually thought that was a sane thing to write.
Outside interference is necessary. But I don't trust anybody in this town any further than I can throw them, and I have the muscle tone of a Twizzler. I don't know, I don't know, I don't freaking KNOW what to DO.
AUTHORESS'S NOTE: Oh my goodness! I... what happened? Somehow this chapter didn't post yesterday. I only noticed because I signed up for my own Author Alerts (specifically for such an eventuality) and was wondering, "Why didn't I ever receive that New Chapter email?" Honestly, I edited it and posted it, and... I'm so confused!
Told you it would be brutal. It wasn't sinister and wrong or anything, just... difficult, that's all. Life is difficult. This is how things unfold when you really care about someone but you're scared of what's happening. I'm anxious to hear thoughts about this chapter since it's one of the pivotal ones.
On the lighter side of things, a silly puckish website tells me my elvish name would be Nessa Pallanén. Isn't that fun?
NEXT: Loose lips sink 'ships... but not always.