"Your boyfriend came by earlier. He was looking for you.” Stacy, my best friend told me.
“Really?” I asked, a little surprised at that. “Did you tell him where I was?” I went to get the Spanish textbook that I left in class so I told Stacy to go without me.
“Of course not. I hate every bone in Matteo’s body. I swear if he was on fire and I had a glass of water I would drink it.” She sounded proud of her statement.
“Did you at least ask him why he was looking for me?”
She raised an eyebrow at me, “What do you think?” Stacy was a pastel beauty. Her skin looked so silky and smooth like milk. Her dark hair, green eyes, a straight nose, and slender lips, ignited butterflies in the bellies of men. It seemed everyone else paled in comparison to her.
I scoffed, “Stacy, can’t you two just get along?” I was practically begging, “It’s been a year since the incident and he did apologize on numerous occasions.”
It was April Fool’s Day, and Stacy decided to wear her newly bought black wedges to school. Unfortunately, she walked in on one of Matteo’s traps. It was originally planned for his teammate, Ajay, who had put itching powder in his underwear last year. She wanted to show off her shoes, so she arrived earlier than normal to school that day. Let’s just say, a bucket of paint mixed in smelly fish guts was dumped on her.
“I refuse to accept it.” Her voice rose a little higher and Mr. Watson shushed us. She nodded and whispered, “He cost me three hundred and fifty dollars for my Micheal Kors wedges. They still have the paint stains in them and the raw fish stench. I hate every bo-
“Every bone in his body. ” I sighed, “Okay, okay I get it.” I stifled my laugh, it was funny but I didn’t want to upset her.
The bell rang loudly in the school halls. “I’m going to head to the track to see him. I wanna know why he was waiting for me.”
Stacy had already packed her books, she didn’t write any notes. She didn’t understand anything even when she tried, so why give herself a headache? She came with her books packed neatly in her bag and she kept it that way throughout the class.
She nodded, “I gotta go then. Kurt wants to go out with his friends tonight so he’s in a hurry today. Bye.” Kurt was her brother, who was attending a nearby college. He was our ride but today I’d have to walk home.
“Okay, bye.” I waved and she was off. I packed my books and I headed to the track. My last class was in Physics. I had nothing against the subject but Mr. Watson couldn’t teach.
I’ve tried to understand what he taught in class but his words flew from his mouth like an elephant tripping over its feet. I couldn’t even understand most of what he said on a normal basis.
I sat on the bleachers, close to the track. I was told Matteo was waiting on me after school but when I got there, he already left. Matteo has been a great boyfriend but the past few days, he was different. I asked him many times and tried to understand why our relationship was so awkward and void.
He told me it was nothing and that he’d always love me. Matteo never came by my class to wait for me before. He would always blatantly refuse to come by my class. Which is why my stomach churned, my heart sped up, my palms became sweaty and my throat was dry. Maybe he was breaking up with me. I feared I wasn’t good enough many times and I might have been right.
He reassured me a little, but I still doubted him. However, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. I loved him and that’s what mattered. I had always come to the track to watch him run before I went home. Often, I wondered how did I become so lucky to have him. He walked out from the boys’ changing room and approached me on the bleachers.
“Hey, babe.” He smiled as he came to sit beside me, exhaling heavily. His smile wasn’t a toothy grin, nor did his eyes crinkle at the sides or sparkle with love and joy that I normally received. The air between us was tense. Although, I could never understand why I shook it off.
“Hey,” I replied shoving all the nerves away and trying to ignore them as they clawed at my stomach, “I heard you came by my class today.”
He looked at me as if he was confused, “Who told you that?”
“Stacy.” She must have seen him or else she wouldn’t have said anything. It was the first he came by class so if she didn’t see him, why wouldn’t she lie and tell me about it when she hated him.
“Well, I didn’t.” He answered, and smiled at his friends who called to him. I saw something in his hair and started to pick something like feathers from his hair. He remained silent.
“Okay.” I was going to let it rest. He wouldn’t lie to me. I was about to make conversation but he spotted one of his female teammates.
“Listen, I gotta go train. Later.” I nodded and was about to hug him but he walked away with his friend. I waited until he stretched and warmed up before his real training began. Then I left.
I was feeling rejected by him. I walked home that evening. I was one of the only kids that didn’t live in town. I had to walk for fifteen minutes by a shortcut to get home. Matteo stayed in the school dorms during the week, but he was going home for the weekend. It was a lengthy drive to and from my home so I knew he couldn’t take me home. When I got home, I was tired. As soon as I stepped in, Eden came barreling down the stairs screaming my name.
“Ari, you’re home!” She jumped into my arms and squealed. “Took you long enough!”
I laughed, “Hey, little pirate. Sorry, I took so long to get home.” I gave her a tired smile. “What can I do to make it up to you, huh?”
“I’m glad you asked that.” She grinned evilly, showing her missing canine. I put my little sister down. “Well, I know you have exams but could you take me to the park tomorrow?”
“I wish I could but you know I have a late shift at the mall.” Her evil smile fell from her face. I tried to lighten her mood, “But I’m sure Oliver wouldn’t mind taking you to the park for a while.”
“What about me?” asked Oliver. He was standing on the staircase.
“I was wondering if you could take Eden to the park tomorrow.” I voiced what I was thinking but before Oliver could say anything, Eden voiced her concerns.
“I don’t want Oli to take me, I want to do stuff like we used to.” She turned to Oliver for a second. He stood there faking heartbreak and a look of hurt.
“No offense Oli.” She chimed bluntly. He nodded telling her he understood.
It was true, I had exams coming up but it was also true I came home late every day, had lots of homework to do and worked at the ice cream shop in the mall across town. We hardly spent time together, and I suddenly changed my mind.
“Fine, I’ll take you but no longer than half an hour okay?” I told her.
Her face lit up, but not before her smile returned and etched itself onto her thin, pink lips. “Two hours,” she bargained.
“Okay, an hour then.” I couldn’t stay long, I couldn’t be late for work, not again.
“Come on Ari, an hour and thirty minutes. That couldn’t hurt,” Oliver intervened, helping Eden to bargain with me.
I paused for a while looking at both of them, then I gave him a deadly stare, “Whose side are you on anyway?” I asked Oliver.
He shrugged and gave me a sheepish smile. Eden nudged Oliver and that’s when things got real. They both looked at me with fake tears brimming their eyes. I knew they were just faking it to coax me into staying at the park longer than I wanted, but I couldn’t stand seeing Eden with tears in her eyes. She had the same look, the same look when he left.
“Fine.” I gave in and little Eden flew up and squealed loud enough to burst my eardrums. She and Oliver were currently doing a deranged happy dance.
Eden was a nine year old, with french toast colored hair. Her eyes were a blue-grey like mom. She was very fiery and sly. Eden was mature beyond her age and that frightened me.
Oliver was a tall lean guy, with dirty blonde hair. He had a goofy grin, blue eyes, and hard chiseled abs. But I only know that because we’ve been friends ever since we were kids. He was one of those friends who have no problem socializing and being popular when on the other hand you are the complete opposite.
Eden, my little sister has completely been taken with my best friend. He offered to go get Eden from school since I had been so busy. He would stay and keep Eden company until I got home. Sometimes, he would make dinner. He was an awesome friend.
Eden knows how hard I work, considering that ever since Dad left, mom has been working extra shifts at the hospital. The only problem is, when Dad left, mom was too busy to spend time with us and after her, I followed.
“Who wants rice balls and beef?” Oliver called from the kitchen. I had been standing absent-mindedly and staring off into space.
“I do!” Eden cheered. “Ari, do you want any?”
I nodded, “Sure, I’m starving.” The burning sensation in my belly confirmed that. “I’m gonna take a shower, I’ll be down soon.”
“Okay, don’t take forever now!” Oliver yelled as I already started going up the stairs.
“I won’t!” I replied. When I got to my room, I flung my backpack aside and plopped down on my bed, resting my eyes for a bit. I looked at my phone and saw it was 6:02 pm. I texted Matteo because I knew he had probably finished training by now.
Me: Hey. How was training?
I kicked off my shoes and took off my clothes. I went to my drawer and took out clean underwear, shorts, and a tank top. It started to rain heavily outside, so I closed my bedroom windows. I hated the rain. I hated the way it could come pouring without no warning, the way it got colder the longer it rained, how it messed up all my plans for having fun, or how badly it rained when Dad left us.
Just before I was going to leave for the bathroom, my phone pinged. It must’ve been Matteo. I put down my clothes and took up my phone. I opened the text message and replied.
Me: Hey. How was training?
Matteo: Hi, it was good.
Me: Good to hear, so what’s up?
Matteo: I am about to eat dinner but I wanna ask you something. Don’t get mad, alright.
Me: Go ahead, ask. I won’t get mad.
Matteo: Can we be friends??
I froze, unaware of what to say next. He asked me if we could be friends but really, he already decided that we should break up. Maybe he thought he was softening the blow. In reality, he wasn’t.
He was breaking up with me, the thing I feared most. I was right, he never really loved me, he just lied because he wanted to keep me around longer. My heart stopped and I read the text over and over. Two minutes passed and then four. All I could think was, “No no no no no-no-no. This can’t be happening. This must be a prank.” However, the next text he sent, proved me wrong.
Matteo: Can we?
I wasn’t gonna fight it. I was crumbling on the inside but it was okay. If he was doing this over the phone, whatever we had was nothing.
Me: Ummm yeah. Sure.
Matteo: It’s just this relationship is boring and I don’t want to cheat so I think this is the best thing to do for both our sakes.
I nodded, he was tired of me. I was a boring, dull person. That was what he was saying.
Me: Gosh, I’m soo stupid. I knew you didn’t love me anymore.
I expected him to at least say I wasn’t but he didn’t, instead, he said:
Matteo: I don’t know how to reply to that.
I threw my phone on the bed and went to the bathroom. I took off my bra and my underwear and climbed into the shower. I soaped my body and turned on the cold water. As fast as I turned the knob, cold water came spewing from the shower’s faucet.
I just stood there and replayed all the texts he just sent, our first kiss, the first time he held my hand and the first I heard him say I love you. Then I blamed myself, “If only I was prettier. If only I was smarter. If only I was better. If only I wasn’t me, then maybe...”
It wasn’t long after, that I stepped out from the shower, dried myself, and put on my clothes. Then I went to my room got my phone and like the undead, I came downstairs, emotionless and silent, but on the inside, I was bleeding, screaming, hurting but I never spoke a word. I would never dare.
“Just in time,” Oliver smiled, happy that I didn’t take as long in the shower as he expected. “Come sit.”
I sat around the table, the food was on my plate but I just stared at it. Eden and Oliver had started eating. But I? I just sat there with my hands in my lap.
“Eden, please don’t play with your food this time.” Oliver grimaced as he watched Eden slice the rice balls and pressed it out with the fork, then she mixed it with beef, leaving the green peas to sit at the corner of her plate.
“I don’t play with my food, I just mix it up a little.” Eden defended. “Besides, a wise man once said, ‘If you don’t mix it up a little, you’ve never lived.’”
Oliver laughed, “That’s stupid. Who said that?”
Eden didn’t seem to care that Oliver was making fun of Matteo, “Matteo said so.”
Matteo. Matteo. Matteo. Matteo. He said that. Then again, he said a lot of things. Anything that he has ever said was a lie. We went through enough to still be together but apparently, I wasn’t as special as I thought. When he said, ‘I love you’, that, that was a lie too.
“Well if Matteo said that, he isn’t as wise as you thin-
“He is a liar.” I interrupted. “So his words don’t hold much promise.”
There was silence, Eden looked at me and I saw how gradually her expression morphed. It was as if something clicked. She realized I wasn’t being myself. The rain was still pouring and that was the only sound among us. It was probable, that it rained even heavier now.
“Umm, Anna did something happen between you two?” Oliver asked.
I heaved a hefty sigh and got up from the table, “Excuse me.”
I went outside and sat on the porch. I watched the rainfall and fall and fall. The wind howled angrily and it shoved the trees forcefully but no matter how far the tree danced unwillingly, side to side, it remained rooted in the ground.
So I just watched, my mind almost a blank. It was the same turmoil, I felt inside. I was angry at myself for being so naive and I forced myself to push aside and bury my feelings for him. But no matter how much I tried burying it, it still resurfaced. It was like trying to sink a plastic bottle.
“Hey,” I didn’t need to look to see who it was, “You okay?”
I didn’t answer, I remained mute. He came to sit beside me and I didn’t even spare him a glance. “Okay, you don’t have to say anything. Just know I’m here.”
I had my phone in my lap, secretly praying that Matteo would call and apologize for the sick and twisted joke he pulled on me. My phone rang, and I looked at the caller ID, it was Stacy. Hesitantly, I answered. I was afraid that by just hearing her voice my heart would crack and the tears would come flowing out. I put the phone to my ear.
“I’m glad you came over tonight.” I heard Stacy’s voice.
“Stacy, what are you talking about?” I asked.
“Well, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to bang you when you invited me.” That voice, “Besides, look at you, how could I say no?”
It couldn’t be. It was Matteo’s voice. All those late-night talks we had on the phone reassured me it was him.
“Of course, you couldn’t resist.” She hummed softly, “After all, unlike Ari, I will tend to your every need.” I heard the smacking of lips together and my best friend, Stacy, was moaning. “I’ll make you feel good in ways Arianna can’t.”
I imagined Matteo touching Stacy, in ways he never touched me, kissing her, telling her things he once told me. I even imagined Stacy, making Matteo feel good in ways I never made him feel. It was true, Matteo and I had never had sex, we’ve never spoken much of it but we both agreed we weren’t ready.
“Matteo, I want you. I want you now.” She was pleading, begging him to give her the pleasure she desired. I paled when I heard what was about to happen.
Oliver must’ve seen the fright and pain in my eyes because he asked, “Ari, what’s going on? Are you okay?” His voice laced with worry.
I put the phone on speaker and as I did you could hear Stacy’s high pitched moans and Matteo’s groans. “Yes, fuck yes!” yelped Stacy.
“Say my name, Stacy, say it,” Matteo grunted out.
“Matteo,” She feebly moaned out.
“Louder!” He commanded, “Matt-
I dropped the phone and it shattered. I couldn’t hold on to it any longer. I felt weak and helpless. I never thought this would be the reason why Matteo broke up with me. I never thought it would involve my best friend.
“Anna, I’m so sorry-
I got up and I ran. I ran into the heavy rain and strong winds. I was running to Stacy’s house. I wanted to confirm whatever I just heard. “Arianna! Where are you going?!” He yelled after me.
I didn’t look back, I just ran. I ran as fast as I could, through the heavy rain. Stacy’s house wasn’t too far from mine. It was just a ten-minute walk. The rain was ruthless, the heavy raindrops hit my skin like bullets piercing my flesh but that didn’t stop me. I was determined, determined to see the truth for myself. My hair was dripping with ice-cold raindrops.
I approach her house and I opened the door. Stacy’s mom and dad were on a business trip so I let myself in. I advanced up the stairs, taking my time. My heavy clothes were soaking wet from the heavy downpour. My tank top sagged on my body but it didn’t bother me. As I near the top, I hear something slamming against the wall. It was probably the bed. I then proceeded down the hallway and stopped in front of Stacy’s room.
The door was ajar and I was pushed it open. I stood at the door. Her naked legs were wrapped around Matteo’s naked torso. He threw her on the bed and on top of Matteo was indeed Stacy. She was riding Matteo like a horse and my breath caught in my throat. I felt the tears brimming my eyes.
“Some friend you are Stacy. I hope it was worth it Matteo.” They froze as they heard my voice.
Matteo was surprised, “Arianna, what are you doing here?” Stacy looked horrified.
“Stacy must’ve butt-dialed me. I came here to witness this for myself.” I smiled weakly, “Goodbye.” I slammed the door behind me.
“Arianna, wait.” I walked away and ignored Matteo. I walked in on him and my best friend and he still dared to come after me. Disgraceful.
He came fumbling downstairs, trying to get his pants on. I ignored him. I exited the house and kept walking. I wasn’t running, just walking. I was walking home and I let the cool rain wash over me, a feeling of renewal and cleanliness was ignited throughout me. The numbing effect of the icy rain was finally setting in and for the first time since dad left, I cried. I finally let go and cried. I was as fragile as glass and I broke.
The harder I cried, it seemed the harder the rain poured. It was as if the sky was crying as much I did. For the first time, I acknowledged the rain. It comforted me because it rained as if the sky felt my pain.
I was about five minutes from home and running in the rain with an umbrella was Oliver. I didn’t want Oliver to see me crying. I didn’t want to show how vulnerable I was. The rain mixed with my tears. He stood by me and held the umbrella over my head.
He didn’t say anything about what he heard on the phone, nor did he ask why I ran into rain, or where I went. I appreciated that.
“Thanks,” I spoke lowly.
“For what?” Oliver questioned as he covered me in a warm sweater. Then he slung his arm around my shoulders.
“Thank you for coming to get me,” I told him sincerely.
He nodded, “I was always coming to get you, Anna.” I smiled and the two of us walked home together.
I was no longer worried if Oliver could see my tears or if he knew. Because when Oliver approached me, he had no idea that I was crying. Standing in the rain and crying my heart out, it hid my pain, it hid my shame.
The rain didn’t wear the mask of something bad anymore. The rain was my friend. It gave me comfort when I needed it. It might have just been in all in my head but the rain was my shield. It was obvious that I was hurting, but to Oliver, I never cried. Even though I was breaking down, the rain, it veiled everything. It made me appear stronger than I was. The rain was my disguise. This is the reason I love rain.