I woke up and pulled myself to up. I felt a sharp pain in my belly.Then I groaned in pain.
“Take it easy young man. You have to heal.” The doctor said, watching me catch up with the pain.  “You have to rest up this weekend. You will be discharged on Sunday evening.”
A tiny wave of relief flooded my thoughts. I was alive. The pain and the hospital smell and sight confirmed it. My thoughts strayed to my parents. I wished they were here. The girl I love was waiting outside of the operation room. I couldn’t even talk to her. I managed a sigh as I thought of how love just changed my life.
Everyone loves their parents. It’s a universal law. Without our parents, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Seeing eye-to-eye with them isn’t always easy – but we can rest knowing that the love and wisdom they instill within us is something that we can never forget. Their support is unrivaled. On all levels of life – mental, physical, social, financial, or even career development – parents do their best to help us along the way.
From the time that we were teetering around, with short steps and constant tumbles, our parents were already thinking about our future – of ways to prepare us for future challenges. Every mistake, they are there to make sure we get back up again. They taught us right from wrong and continue to instill that lesson into us every chance they get.
At the end of the day, when we are happy, they are happy.
Everyone is not as lucky as I am; I know that. My name is Mathew Anderson, and my parents are kind of amazing. My parents were high school lovers. They finished high school and got hitched, (fulfilling?) the dream of every high school relationship, stayed together through college, then a few years later, they had me. They truly love me – and being an only child has its perks. I know my parents think very fondly of me, because they didn’t even try to have another child after I was born. They wanted to give me everything that life had to offer, or at least that’s what they’ve always told me.
William Cooper is my best friend. My only friend, if I’m being honest. We’ve always been really close, ever since 3rd grade. We were the type of friends who tell each other everything – that comes from spending every hour of every day together for years on end.
In 2000, when we were both 15, everything started to change.
I caught him in the hallway after class, hitting him with a suggestive look.
“Did you see the way that she looked at me?” He was excited, giddy, and I couldn’t help but grin.
“Yeah, I could see the chemistry between you two folding out in front of me. Get it, boy!” We both laughed and let that fade. William gave me a worried look after a long moment.
“I told you that she liked me. Now, we need to work on finding someone for you.” William finally said after he waited too long to speak. I looked at him for a second before letting words find themselves to my lips.
“I’m not really worried about that right now. I haven’t seen anyone that interests me.” I shrugged, not sure what I meant by that, but knowing that it was the truth. I thought that the conversation would end there, but it was brought back up on our walk home together.
William began, badly segueing from our last train of thought, “What kind of girls do you like anyway?” I thought about this for a beat before finding words.
“I honestly don’t know. I haven’t seen a girl and felt something about her like everyone talks about or like they show in movies. If it ever happens to me, I promise that you’ll be the first to know, friend’s honor.” I ended this sentiment with a shrug as if it was a punctuation mark on the idea.
“You better get one quick. I’m looking to do some double dates! Who else am I going to force to get cheesy pizza at the arcade with me and Lisa?”
“By the way, my cousin’s wedding is this weekend. You’re invited as my plus one, so we can put all of this behind us and have a fun time.”
The weekend came quickly. As I sat in the passenger’s side seat of my father’s car, I couldn’t help but feel extraordinarily overdressed. My father was in Henley and khaki shorts, so I felt out of place – sitting next to him in a tailored suit.
“You look good, son.” My father said as if he could sense what was going through my mind. I smiled at him and nodded. I did look good. We pulled up to the address that William had given me, and I couldn’t help but gawk at the size of the place. I pulled myself together, before I got out of the car, but it was huge.
I waved goodbye to my dad as I climbed out of the car, a broad smile on my face. It was obvious that a lot of the guests were still arriving, so I could easily blend in. Standing out was not what I wanted to be known for. It only took me a couple of minutes to locate William, a smile on my face as I walked up to him.
“I was beginning to wonder if they wouldn’t let you in.” William’s tone was light, playful and I smiled broader.
“No, it’s just ridiculous trying to get up here. I’ve got to say, this place is beautiful.”
“I know, my cousin is loaded, but even I was surprised to see how nice of a place he found.” As if on cue, the husband came into sight. “Come on; I’ll introduce you two.” He smiled as he led me off into the crowd, off to show me a good time.
The wedding was brilliant. William’s family was kind, even to an outsider like me. I was happy that I was able to come to this beautiful place. I met a lot more of William’s family than I expected– cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, great aunts, brothers, sisters, you name it; I met them all – but I was happy that I finally got to see the kind of people that William came from.
“Hey, I’ve got to go take care of something with my father real quick. The buffet is over there if you’re hungry.” William said as he pointed across the room from the table where we sat.
“Don’t worry; I got this. If there is one thing I know how to do, it’s eat.” He smiled at my words, and we went our separate ways.
Halfway to the food table, I sighed at the line. Sure, it made sense, but I didn’t want to have to wait in a ridiculously long wedding line. Would I? Yes. Would I be happy about it? Of course not.
Bodies pressed close together; in a line was the perfect time for something bad to happen. I was leaving a little bit of space between myself and the person in front of me; happy to have the few feet that I had been granted. It was then that everything happened all at once. The slipping of a body, the plastering of food to person and I had to stop myself from falling into the person that did this to me.
I was about to go off when my words died on my lips. She was stunning.
“Oh my god.” She had frozen in place, her eyes bulging out of their sockets as she did a once over of the damage that she had done. I didn’t even care that I could feel the hot gravy seeping in through my tailored suit. Her eyes were the only thing in this universe that mattered. They were so deep, dark, and stunningly beautiful. My mouth went dry, and I was amazed when I could speak.
“It’s okay.” I managed a sheepish look coming over my own face. “It was an honest mistake. Can you point me in the direction of the bathroom so I can get myself cleaned up?”
“Of course, I’ll come help you!” She said, her tone still worried
“Hey, you said you were hungry, do you want to go find something to eat?” I didn’t want to make the situation worse than it already was and small talk was the perfect way to fix that.
“It’s okay,” She said as she tried to wipe away some of the excess food that was smeared on my shirt. “I’ll eat later.”
She shrugged before bringing her eyes up to meet mine. She smiled sheepishly. “I guess I should probably introduce myself, huh?” Awkwardly and impossibly cutely, she stuck out her hand. “Rose Green.”
“Mathew Anderson.” I returned, shaking her hand. “My friends call me Matt, so you’re good to call me that.”
“So, we’re friends then?”
“I don’t let just anyone spill food on my suit, you know.” There was a beat of silence shared between us, something that I didn’t know how to label. As quickly as it came, it was over, and she was finishing the job of cleaning me up (with some help from me, of course).
“Want to go grab something to eat now? My shirt smells delicious, but I’m sure the taste won’t hold up.” She laughed at my lame joke, and I smiled at her laughter. There was warmth blooming in my chest that I had never experienced before.
“I don’t know anyone else here besides my parents, so sure, I’ll eat with you.” She shrugged thin shoulders, her smile matching mine. “If you don’t mind, that is.”
“No, please, by all means. I don’t know anyone either – my best friend invited me, it’s his cousin’s wedding, blah blah blah. He’s currently with the groom – his cousin – right now, so he’s a little preoccupied. As long as everyone’s having fun, it’s just water under the bridge.” Moving away from the bathroom now, the two of us were meandering down the hallway and towards the sounds of people.
“It’s a nice wedding.” She commented, looking at the grandness of the surroundings. “It’s a little boring if you don’t know anyone here. I honestly didn’t even want to come, but my mom and dad didn’t want to leave me home alone. They both wanted to come, and being the only child, I drew the short stick.” Rose shrugged again. “I love them, so I came.”
“It was nice of you to do that for them. I’m an only child too, and it was hard to convince my parents that I should be able to come to a thing like this. But hey, obviously, I got through to them. I know that they want to protect me from the world because they love me, but sometimes it’s a little overwhelming. Still, I take any chance I can to make sure that they’re happy.”
“Both only children, aye? Looks like we have something in common,” Rose commented. The two of us returned to the main room, a smile on my face even though I would have to explain to my father what happened to my suit.
Back in the buffet line, I realized exactly how hungry I was, shoveling food onto a porcelain plate in what I can only describe as a refined manner. I was about to feel self-conscious about my portion size, when I saw over my shoulder that Rose was also heaping rather sizable portions onto her plate. It made me feel almost Normal. No one had ever made me feel normal except William.
After we had our food in hand, I led her back to William and I’s table. During dinner, there were several speeches – some from the best man, a few from the bridesmaids, and one from the father of the bride. William was passed the microphone and proved to be the awkward embarrassing mess that we all know. After the food was gone, Rose and I were chattering absently when the music started. Her eyes lit up.
“May I have this dance?” She asked, already climbing to her feet. My body went directly into deer caught in headlights mode and I stammered out a reply.
“I can’t, I’ve never danced before in my life.” truth and a lie. There was no way that I could call what I do dancing. It’s more like controlled flailing on a floor designated for more refined flailing.
“It’s okay; no one will even care!” Rose said, her hand outstretched, “They’re all going to be with their partners anyway, and who cares if they look, your only connection here is William anyway.” I couldn’t argue with her logic, so I took her hand.
“Alright, but don’t say that I didn’t warn you.”
I followed her to the dance floor and let her take the lead. It was an upbeat song, so I tried to follow along. The key word is tried, seeing as I don’t have a dancer’s bone in my body. Her smile and laugh were enough to keep me going though. She was right. It didn’t matter who was watching us, because in this moment, it was only the two of us.
Rose tried – and failed – to teach me a few of her moves, but that was fine with me. As long as I had her focus, I felt like I could dance all night. I’d never enjoyed dancing before.
The music ended sooner than I thought it would, and I realized exactly how winded was. I didn’t know dancing was such a workout! The two of us meandered to the back of the room, wandering until we found a few free chairs. Taking a seat, we surveyed the room together.
We talked about everything from how we felt about school, to jokes that were rib-cracking, to how sometimes our parents’ love felt a lot like drowning. I had never connected with someone like this before. She told me about a park near her home that her friends always go to. It was named Paradise, and I thought that it was ironic because anywhere with her was paradise enough for me. The only part that bothered me about it was that there was nowhere around here with a park named Paradise.
The angel in front of me revealed that she was not from around here. Not even from the same state.
The end of our conversation came too soon, even if we’d been talking for what felt like hours. Her parents called to her and she was gone.
“It was nice to meet you, Matt!” She uttered before she disappeared into a wave of bodies, each breach another promise that I was probably never going to see her again. This is where William found me about fifteen minutes later.
“Where did your little friend go?” William asked, his tone too teasing for the way that my heart felt.
“She’s gone over there to be with her parents.” I motioned to a crowded area. It looked as if they were all moving as one giant amoeba of human shapes.
“She seemed like a good fit; I’m not going to lie. I think that was the happiest I’ve ever seen you when talking to a girl – usually, it’s like you don’t even care.” William said.
“That’s because usually I don’t care. She was different somehow. I’ve never seen a girl like her in my life. We have so much in common, but enough differences to keep it interesting, you know?” I sounded dumb, but I didn’t know how else to talk about my feelings. “It sucks because she lives like an entire state away. Talk about long distance charges.”
“Ouch, bad luck, dude. We’ll find you someone else, don’t worry.” William said this, but I didn’t know if I believed it. The rest of the wedding was relatively painless, passing quickly. The guests began to thin out as we made our way out the door. Rose caught my hand, stopping me in my tracks.
“I had a nice time with you tonight,” Rose said, the smile on her face making me feel the way that William always said girl’s smiling at him made him feel. Warm. I nodded in reply before finding the words.
“I had a good time with you too, Rose.” The smile I had was a little goofier than the one that she had, but what could I say? I was smitten. She let go of my hand and I had to stop myself from reaching out to her. I didn’t want the warmth to be gone, the blooming in my chest already feeling too much like home. I could still feel the way that her hand had rested in mine and as she walked away and got into her parents’ car, I couldn’t help the way that my chest ached for her to turn around, for me to see her smile, even if it was for one last time.
“What is up with you?” William asked as he sat down next to me two weeks later on a Tuesday. My head was face down on the table, and it took everything in me to pull it up so that I could properly look at him. I wondered, bleakly, if I looked as bad as I felt.
“I’m good” I trailed off debating telling him what was plaguing my mind before letting it spill-free. It would be lighter if there was someone else helping me carry the load. “I just keep thinking about her. She was a perfect Rose. I know that sounds lame as hell, but I feel like I had a good opportunity and everything and I let it go to waste or whatever.” I sighed, heavily, shaking my head at the thoughts that had been plaguing me for weeks. Had I really just let her slip through my fingers?
“Dude you’re talking like you’re in love with this girl.” I recoiled from his statement, showing him that his thoughts obviously weren’t the case.
“No, we got along really well. I liked her. Spending time with her at your cousin’s wedding made it actually enjoyable. No offense, but you did kind of leave me for your family, no big deal, but I was lonely – I liked talking to her or whatever.” I wasn’t sure how to finish that thought, all of them too muddled to get a real handle on. William had really thrown me off with his comment about me being in love with her – there was no way that could be true.
When I got to my house after school, I knew for a fact that he was right. I couldn’t deny it any longer. Sure, there might not be anything that could actually happen, but at least I could be real with myself. Like most situations, this one was best faced head-on.
I don’t know a lot about love. I know that when I think about Rose, a grove of butterflies erupts in my stomach. I wish that the time we spent together was better longer. Love or not, I needed to distance myself.
I needed to get my mind off of Rose and get my head back on straight.
A month passed like it was in black and white. It was the same routine over and over again, just a different variation of a life that I had to lead without her. She pulled on my heart strings, and from how many miles away she was – the pull was taunt.
Soccer almost worked. I love the idea of soccer, and as it turned out, my coach thought that I had a lot of potential to do great at the sport as long as I applied myself. Being a running back and a corner was the happiest I had been since I had gotten back from that wedding, but even that wasn’t enough to quell the way that my heart ached. I had to see her.