I've been in love since I was ten years old. At first I didn't know what the feeling was, it took me a year to understand and once I did I cherished it. I cradled that love in my heart everyday even though I knew it would lead nowhere. Though I knew that somewhere inside me I held a small amount of hope that he would return my feelings some day...
I watched over him as a best friend supporting him in everything he decided he wanted to do, stopping him when it came to something stupid. All while keeping my emotions buried as deep as I could so he wouldn't be scared off. We were friends, friends didn't fall in love with each other, they were friends for a reason. As the years went on he became interested in girls and dating. It was a normal thing for a teenaged boy to think about, but finding out he wanted it too made my insides twist and knot painfully like someone had scrambled my guts with a fork. I supported him anyway, with a smile on my face that made me taste bile in the back of my throat.
It wasn't until we were seventeen did he finally get a girlfriend, and at first I really hated her. They were always together and it was like I was completely forgotten. I didn't understand how he liked her, they always fought and no matter what I said to him they continued to go out. And like a best friend I grinned and bared it. I couldn't break them up, when they weren't fighting they looked really happy together and it was at those times that I would leave. My throat would close up and my eyes would prickle with tears that I had to hide from him, he could never know.
After we graduated high school they continued to date and attended the same college, but not me, I kept to the plan to attend a college upstate. He and I had had it planned out since we were in middle school to attend the same college and get business majors so we could start our own advertising company, but things changed when his girlfriend came into the picture. I knew I couldn't keep him to myself, that's just too selfish, but I thought that our dream would have survived her arrival... I was wrong... I cried the night he told me he had changed his mind. He was still going to be a business major, but he wanted to stay closer to home to support his girlfriend's dream of being an artist. "She can even help with the graphics. She amazing at this kind of thing, we should definitely add her to our business!" He sounded so excited that I couldn't tell him that it was just suppose to be us starting the company. His smile lit up his whole face, it had been so long since he showed me that kind of expression around me that I was powerless. I nodded and agreed to have her join, but that night my pillow became soaked with my tears and the next day I avoided human contact afraid someone would see my red and puffy eyes.
With each passing year in college I heard less and less from him, until graduation while we were all celebrating at a party meant for the both of us. It had been so much fun until he called all the guests to silence. Everyone was surprised, especially I- the best friend- when he got down on one knee and purposed to his girlfriend. The day was suppose to be about the two of us, but it turned into the two of them. I was happy for them, he had his happiness, but that part of me that was still hoping he would love me crumbled away. I wanted to be his happiness. I wanted to always be with him, but that was quickly slipping away. His fiancée was sweet and always kind to me it was hard to hate her anymore, but I was still jealous. I continued to keep my smile on my face to support him like I was meant to, I clapped for them and made the toast in their honor all while suppressing the tears that wished to run down my face.
As they planned the wedding I was actively apart of it being the Best Man and all. I helped choose the tuxes, the cake, and what the inscription in the wedding band should be. Each day the wedding drew closer my chest seemed to become tighter and tighter. When the day had finally arrived I felt like I was gasping for breath, but I hid it after all it wasn't my day. It was their day to be in the spotlight, and they surely were. They made such a beautiful couple, and I couldn't help but cry as the service went on, not just because it was beautiful but also my heart felt like it was stabbing my chest with each beat. The reception seemed to be fun, I didn't dance, I didn't drink, I didn't get up from my seat except to deliver my speech as Best Man, and that was the only time I talked. He was too busy with everyone else and her, she was wrapped around him like a vine with fiery hair. I only managed to stay until eleven at night before I had to leave, my breathing had become more difficult and I felt like throwing up even though I had not eaten anything.
A month past after that and they finally returned from their honeymoon, the first call I received from him was one of him accepting a job offer at an advertising company that had just become big, his wife was even asked to join. I congratulated him on it as I stared at the stack of empty lots we were suppose to look at so we could take the first step at our dream... Which in reality had slowly turned into only my dream. I was his friend, his best friend, his Best Man I was meant to support him in everything he wanted and he wanted to work with his new wife. Even though my heart had already crumbled away a while ago I had the sickening feeling fill inside it's place like I was being devoured from the inside. I wanted to still be there for him, I still loved him in a way I shouldn't have anymore. He was married, we were just friends... We were both men, I shouldn't have loved him as much as I did, but I couldn't stop.
I had purposely put myself in that place, the friendzone, just to protect myself from being hated by him. I didn't want him to ever look at me like I was a stranger, like he didn't need me. But... But that is what happened. I had been set aside, he found his happiness and I wasn't apart of it. I couldn't make him happy, and the mere thought of that was like being hit by a wrecking ball. That was what my life was based on and now the floor below my feet had completely fallen away leaving me suspended like one of those cartoon characters. If I looked down I would fall, I didn't want to fall, I wanted to continue to pretend that I was useful to him, but then that day came... I looked down without even thinking, or maybe I did it on purpose. I was tired, my body felt heavy yet light at the same time, I felt like giving up, and I looked down.
The room was too white with only one stripe of blue running around the walls. The beeping was steady in my left ear giving my a headache that I couldn't feel thanks to the drugs the doctor had pumped into me upon treatment. My family had already come and gone, only leaving when I told them I was perfectly fine, that was a horrible lie to tell them I only realized when he arrived. Golden eyes wide, hair a mess, face pale. For a moment the beeping on the monitor picked up, but it evened out when he was followed in by his wife. Red hair perfectly twisted on the back of her head, green eyes full of concern I didn't want from her.
They both approached my bed, he about to say something but I didn't let him speak. I didn't want to hear his voice, though I loved it so much. "Did you know stress can kill a person?" I questioned them, but didn't let them answer. The aching hollowness in me made me feel bitter, I had never been like that towards him. It only made me feel worse. "I didn't even notice I was stressed until I fell. I fell so hard that the whole world went black like watery ink. Do you think Heaven and Hell exist? I wonder if hell is hot or cold, I've heard both. I hope it's cold, at least the cold makes you numb so you can't feel the pain. Yeah, cold would be-"
"Alec what are you saying?" He yelled cutting off my words. I looked up at him, his eyes glistened though his mouth was twisted in fear and anger. Was that because of me? Was he finally looking right at me? Ten years had past and he never looked directly at me while only seeing me, it was always her. She was always on his mind. "You're not dying. Why didn't you tell me you were sick? Why haven't you called?" He demanded gripping the guard rail on the hospital bed. His knuckles turned white from the effort. Was he really concerned for me? That was a first... ever.
"I have called. I call every Saturday and Wednesday, but I only ever get your voicemail." I paused to take several deep breaths. Talking was making me winded, I worked for a computer company and talking wasn't a necessity for the job, so I wasn't use to it. He just stood there speechless, probably questioning himself. His wife pressed her hand to his back comfortingly. I wish I could have been the one to do that, but he didn't want that of me. "Hey Jace," I said looking away from him to the IV in my hand. "Are you happy?"
"What kind of question is that to ask at a time like this?" He fought shaking the guard rail. His wife said his name calmly but that didn't seem to relax him any as he continued to yell as he answered me. "Of course not, my best friend is in the hospital and talking crazy."
"And if I weren't?" I asked gripping the pale blue sheets that matched the blue stripe that circled the room.
"What if I weren't here? What if I were your best friend but I wasn't here?" I asked. As I continued to stare at my hand I realized how slim it had gotten, the skin outlined the bones of my arm, bulging at the joints. It was disgusting to look at, how were they looking at my face right now. I peeked over at them to see, and I wasn't all that surprised that she was avoiding me and only looking at him.
"What are you saying now? You are my best friend!" He said in a thick voice.
I tried to laugh at that but it came out in a thick cough that left my hand smeared with red. I clenched it closed so they couldn't see. I had fallen so far, plummeted to Earth.
"You're my best friend, you know. Always have been, but I never saw me as your best friend. You were always great with other people, and then you met Clary." Now she looked at me. Her expression was like she had seen a ghost, all the color had left her freckled face making her red hair even more pronounced. "She made you so happy. I had never seen you so happy, even while fighting. I was such a third wheel."
"You make me happy too Alec. Why are you saying these things?" He sounded so desperate. This was a side of him I had never seen, she most definitely has. She's his wife.
"No I didn't. Be honest Jace, I could never make you happy like Clary can, like she's always been able to do. I've tried... God have I tried." I laid my arm across my eyes so he couldn't see the tears that had weld up. I had spent too many years hiding them from him to let him see now. My throat had become thick the taste of iron and salt still covered my mouth. "I've tried for so long to make you happy like her, but it never works. Trying to keep our promise about our company, it was your idea and you were so excited about it when we entered high school. Remember? I smiled all the time just for you, but you didn't notice. Did you know that I'm still a virgin, that I've never been on a date? I doubt you did, you probably assumed with going to college and all that stuff happened, but no! I was working on that dream, on your dream." I panted for breath but continued anyway. "Can you even name the time I left your wedding? No you can't! Or how about the date you ended your dream of making your own company? August ninth, the day you called and said you were accepting the same job offer as your wife!"
He just stared at me, I could feel his gaze on me as I cried behind the cover of my arm. My chest still felt hollow with a layer of bitter anger covering every surface, it hurt. The morphine was wearing off and everything hurt, there was a button I could press to get more but for some reason I felt like I deserved the pain, the aching stinging clawing pain inside me. The burning that shot down my throat into the pit of my stomach where a colony of ulcers had taken root. When was the last time I ate something that actually stayed down? Have I really been living on water and bread for months? How did I not notice?
Him. I have always been so focused on him that I could never see myself. I just wanted to love him and be loved that I couldn't even take care of myself. Now I was in the hospital yelling at him like its all his fault when in fact it was my own.
"Jace," I breathed out. With the heavy sigh came droplets of blood that spotted my tongue. I swallowed them back down to hide them from him. He didn't need to know. I should have been smiling like usual, reassuring him I was fine like I did with my family but I couldn't. I had so much to say, and... and... There just wasn't enough time. "Am I... Was I really your best friend?" I asked.
"Of course! Who else could have put up with me for so long and not get tired of me. I got lucky to have you as a friend Alec. You've been the best friend, it's me whose failed. I got distracted by love that I forgot I had a friend like you."
I chortled breathlessly. "Makes two of us." The tears flowed endlessly. I was so tired, crying had become an effort but I couldn't stop it. I cried because of my love for him, because of the pain that shot through me with the slightest movement, because it was the only thing I could still do.
"But I thought..." She spoke up surprised.
"Hey Jace it's probably too late to tell you this, and most definitely inappropriate to say in front of your wife, but what else have I got to lose."
"Stop talking like that Alec. You're not going to die!" He fought punching the guard of the bed shaking it and causing me more pain, but I didn't complain. What good would it do?
"I've been in love with you since we were kids."
The room was silent except for the beeping on the heart monitor that had slowly stared to beep faster and faster since their arrival. It was probably cause to call the doctor and have them sent away but I didn't want that. Not yet. The silence stretched on and on like I had just announced my death sentence, though that was plainly clear with the flow of conversation.
"You don't have to worry. I know it's wrong. I never tried to do anything." I said to fill the awkward silence. "I just ever wanted you to be happy, which just so happened to be with Clary and not me. Honest. I just want you to be happy, so stop looking at me like that. I'm not a monster Jace, I'm still Alec. I've always been Alec, I've tried not to feel like this. I've hidden it for so long, but I'm tired Jace. I'm tired of pretending and trying to do what is impossible. I'm so tired that I just want to sink into the darkness and not emerge. Have you ever been that tired?" My voice was fading and I didn't have the energy left to keep my arm over my eyes anymore so it slid away from my face and onto my chest.
He was looking right at me. Golden eyes wide and seemed to be trembling. I didn't know eyes could do that. His lips were parted as he took shallow breaths. She was gone. When had she left? I didn't hear her, but then again I could barely hear Jace over the pounding in my ears.
"N-no, I haven't." Was all he was able to say.
"I hope you're never this tired." I said trying to smile, but there was no energy left in my body for that. There was barely any left to talk. "Hey Jace," my voice was a mere whisper now. My vision was fading, he was becoming distant and dark in my eyes.
"Yeah Alec." He replied. Was his voice shaking? It was hard to tell over the pounding and beeping.
"I'm not sorry that I love you."
"D-Don't be." I think is what he had said.
"Jace," His face was consumed by the darkness but for some reason I could still see light. It was the strangest thing. "I'm really glad we were best friends... Is Hell hot or cold? It's... really... br-bright."
I never got to hear his reply. The beeping became too high pitched and drowned out his words. As the darkness came I fell further, like in the cartoons when they fall from so high up that it seems to go on and on forever. But eventually it stopped, I can't say when though time became morphed and immeasurable during that fall.
At the end of the fall I found myself in a bright world with endless color and a sky and everything. It was not the hell I had been expecting but I guess writers get things wrong too. I wandered around the place passing other people who seemed just as fascinated about the surroundings as me, but we didn't speak to one another. After what seemed like days of walking without getting tired I came to a garden of flowers I had never seen before, in the center was a white metal table and chairs. In one of the chairs sat a tan man with long legs and spiky hair. He was pouring a cup of tea from a fancy looking green china tea pot.
I stared at him as he stirred in cream and two sugars. It took me a moment to realize I wasn't even hungry even after all the time I spent here, not to mention I hadn't had anything really before I got here. I should have been starving but I was perfectly find. What a strange hell this was.
The man in the chair seemed to noticed my staring, his face was quite handsome and young, he couldn't be much younger than I was. He gestured for me to join him and I did out of curiosity. Did he know what this place was? Could he answer what happened to me after the fall?
I took the empty chair across from him and was prepared to start questioning him but he smirked. My words fell from my lips as I stared on in utter bewilderment. What the hell was that look for?
"So what's your story?" He asked as he poured me a cup of tea. He had an accent, faint and rare. I couldn't place it.
"My story?" I repeated.
"Why are you here? I know why I'm here, but what about you?" He asked leaning back in his chair. His eyes were green, really green. They almost looked like cat eyes, but that was ridiculous.
"Why are you here?" I asked running my finger along the rim if my cup.
"My parents drowned me out of hatred and because they couldn't afford to feed me. I've taken times have changed since then." His answer putting my next question on hold. Did he really say his parents killed him? Does that mean this is actually hell? But he didn't deserve to be here then, from what he said his parents did.
"So," he said crossing his legs. "What's your story? We've got all the time in the world, and if you want anything just wish for it." His smile was kind and gentle. It was relaxing talking to him, it was surprising.
"For Hell this sounds more like Heaven." I muttered.
The man across from me laughed so hard that his face turned red. "Hell? How could you think this was Hell?"
"I should be in hell for what I've done." I answered staring down at my still steaming tea. It should have gone cold by now but little tuffs of steam were still rising from it.
The man raised a brow at me.
My response, "It's a long story."
"We've got plenty of time for it. It's the least Heaven can offer." The man smiled.
It took me several moments to figure out where to begin but I managed it. The beginning was when it all started. When I started to notice the changes in myself, the happiness that coursed through me every day just because of him. Because of Jace.
"I've been in love since I was ten years old..."