Born Different.

 

When I was born, I was vaguely aware that I was different to the person who sat next to me in the kindergarten.  My hair was darker, straighter, overall, prettier.  My lips were fatter and my eyes were a different shape.  But most significantly, my skin was a different colour.  It was what others liked to call ‘yellow’ and what later, I learned, I could also call ‘olive’.  ‘Olive’ sounded better than ‘yellow’ but it still didn’t change that I was different.  And when you’re different, it gets noticed, especially when you have no idea what the best way is to deflect those staring, wide-eyed eyes.

“Why aren’t you doing anything June?”  I look up.  It was Mrs Blake.  The methods teacher.  She didn’t hate me.  Rather she liked that I did all my work before class came round.  The only bone she picked with me, was that I did nothing in class.  I guess it was unfair, that I flaunted my asianness.

“I’m sorry Mrs Blake,” I said, pushing my textbook open with a lazy hand.  “I guess I should do something.”

She smiled sadly and patted me on the head.  It was weird, and it was perhaps the first time that she did it.  But I knew what she was thinking.  I was such a good student, yet I was also such a bad one in her class.

I looked down at the graphs in front of me.  Technically I’d already done them, neatly printed the little numbers around my neatly ruled graphs.  There was nothing like attention to detail.

“Boooo Junneeee…help me!”  Nicki whined to my left.  She was struggling over the fact that her pencilled graph looked too sweet to the right rather than a bell curve.  She tried hard all the time, and generally had good results.  Just, not as good as mine.

“What is it?”  I asked, my pen already poised and my hand already pulling her book to me.

“I have no idea.”  And just like that, I started scribbling over her piece of paper, my mouth and hands moving before she finished talking.  It was just the way that I was.  I liked being smart.  I liked showing off.  But why not?  I have the ability, right?

At lunch, I yawned.  I never ceased being tired.  Nicki was chatting ecstatically, laughing loudly and squealing – well maybe not squealing exactly – on my left, while I leaned my head on Enna’s shoulder on my right.  She was so bony, it was hardly comfortable, but I was tired.

It was rather peaceful, rather comfortable, up until the moment when the class clown decided to crash my parade.

Nate’s a nice enough guy.  His humour is off the wall.  His style, one of his own, and tasteful.  But for some reason, the guy had it in for only one person.  In this entire school, there was only one person he liked to make a huge baboon out of.  And who was that person?  That person was me.

“Juuunnnnnnnneeeeeee!”  Wheeee ka-blam!  I’m knocked off my seat and slammed to the ground.  “Juuuuuuuuunnnnnnnnnnnnneeeeeeeeeee!”

No other moron would say my name so moronically.  What was he?  A child?  “The fuck!  Get off me!”  I said, but my words were muffled under his overly dressed arm and I had to shove his arm away to breathe.

“What was that bug?”  He said in reply.

“Stop calling me Bug!  God, get off me!”  Not only was I plastered to the ground, but I’d lost my roll too.

He looked at my blushing pissed off face and smiled.  He plucked at my cheeks with his hands as though I was a baby or a little kid he could tease.  It was irritating.  Just because I was a petite Asian, it did not mean I was the same as a kid.  I shoved him off me.  Easy to do, considering the fact that he’d only been sitting on me, not anchoring me.

He tumbled to the ground and I spent several minutes wiping invisible flecks of dirt off my person.  Gross!

“You owe me a bloody lunch, twerp!”  I said not able to look at him.

“Twerp?”  He feigned outrage.  He was anything but small or annoying, but still, he crossed boundaries that I didn’t feel comfortable with being crossed at all.

Annoyed, with a hate more passionate than my love of the canteen cheesy puffs, I stalked out in search of peace and resolution.   To find peace and resolution though, was near impossible.  Granted, I was able to find it by arriving at Studio Arts early.

Ms Smith also loved me a lot.  I may not have many great inspirational art works, nor did I have a particularly interesting art style.  I just enjoyed “creation”.  At that moment though, Ms Smith needed to go out.  She left me knowing full well I wouldn’t do anything that would disappoint her.  To her, I was a responsible student.  I was also hard working and determined.  Both those reasons were enough, still, she locked the art room door behind me, telling me she’d return in time for class.  Technically the door wasn’t locked from the inside, just the outside.  And with that, I closed my eyes, figuratively and started working on my canvas.  Did I mention?  I like manga art.  Or art like it.  It’s just beautiful, and the lines always seem to flow beautifully from my hand.

I painted a warrior, fierce and female, beautiful and strong, yet clearly deadly with that monster blade in her hand.  Well, it was a rough painting, with space to be refined, but still, I wanted to paint it.  I wanted to vent my annoyance.  It happens generally, when I get frustrated.  And this was the only class where I could release it.

“Whoa, that’s really good.”  I jerked, my brush clattered to the ground.  What was he doing here?

He was kneeling on the railing to the left of the door.  In this school, the art room was one of three.  This one sat above the other and while there were two ways to enter, one, the door which my teacher left, or two, the inner metal spiral staircase.  But Nate was kneeling on the railing next to the door which Ms Smith left.

I hated that awed look on his face.  It made me shiver.  And out of habit, I stood in front of the canvas.

“What are you doing here?”  I snapped.

“Why?”  He leapt down from the railing and walked over to me.  His eyes were on the canvas and not me at all.  I stopped him.  Hand on chest, pulsing with unfailing annoyance.

“Nate.  What are you doing here?”

“I was looking for you.”

“Why?”

“Because you looked annoyed, plus I bought you lunch!”  He took my hand and dropped a packed sandwiched in it.

I was about to reject when I saw what was in it.  Egg salad.  Okay.  So I guess I couldn’t reject that.  But it was enough to distract me and for him to see the whole painting.

“Why did you try to hide it?”

“I didn’t try on purpose.”

“So it was by accident?”  He poked at my logic, still staring all over my painting.  It was like he couldn’t draw his eyes away.  Mesmerized, I watched him look up close at every corner, his nose almost wiping away my paint.  It was a really close shave as I pulled him gently away.

“If you want to keep being nosy and just plain old Nate, do it as far away from my painting as possible.”

 

We sat there until class began.  He was silent for once, his eyes wide in awe.  I’m not sure why I didn’t object to him being there even though Ms Smith expected me to not let anyone else in.   Yet the sandwich he brought wasn’t half bad.

“What’s so shocking about my painting?”

“Nothing!” He said startled, spinning his big, wide eyes at me.  “It’s just really perfect.”  In one second, I saw the belief in his eyes.  He believed everything he was saying.  He actually liked my painting.  And I could hardly believe it.

I stood and walked over to the rubbish bin.  I’ve known Nate for ten years.  Of course, when we first met, we were the same height, same build, just different ethnicity.  He was popular, and I was, well, not unpopular, but definitely socially awkward.  I remember the feeling of watching my acquaintances taking part with enthusiasm, the extracurricular activities.  It wasn’t that I watched from around the corner, but more like I watched from the side, learning early how to mask my discomfort.  I just watched silently, taking on the image of a shy girl.  It wasn’t hard, even though I wanted to scream out loud.  But I couldn’t take rejection, so I never asked.  Every time though, it was always Nate who noticed.  And he would drag me around, while I batted him away, fending him off whenever I could, mostly embarrassed that he even noticed in the first place.  Then mum came to pick me up.  He never knew why I ignored him.

Nate was that funny guy, after all, who never took ‘no’ for an answer.  I think I used to like him.  Until he made me hate him.  Not everyone in this world wanted to be “one with the others”.  I didn’t want to be one with the others.  I just wanted to be able to go home and relax.

“It’s not that great,” I said instead, turning back to him.  “It’s just a painting.”  And then my class started arriving.   I opened the door.

When I looked back at Nate, he was just staring at me.  I had no response.

“June! There you are!”  Enna engulfed me in her bony embrace.  Yeah she loved me.  Just like Nicki.  Just like my best friends should.  But why did I feel uncomfortable?  I shivered unwittingly.

“Whoa, calm down En!  I just came here to—” I’d forgotten to cover my painting, but when I turned, it seemed that someone – no, not someone I think as find those big eyes in the crowd of my peers – had covered it for me.  “—Finish a painting.”  I finished surprised at myself.

“Is it under there?”  She pointed to where it was and I nodded.  “Well, I can’t wait to see it!”

“Yeah…” It really had meant to be a surprise.  “Wanna see it now?”

She looked surprised.  A moment before, I was sure she had narrowed her eyes, trying to gauge my mood.  She knew what it was like for me to talk to Nate.  “Really??”

“Yeah.”  I pull the cloth back.

 

The end of the day is always the same.  Up until recently, I just went home, in the direction that was opposite to the way that all my friends went.  And it was normally a peaceful ride on the bus.  Every so often Enna would come my way to visit her aunt.  Today was not one of those days.  Today, Nate was on my bus.  Like he was, every day.  But this was the first time I bothered to look up at them.

They were, as you could probably ascribe the term, “the popular group”, only, they were friends with everyone, even me, and they were nice.  They were the kinds of people everyone got along with, and they were also the ones the teachers picked for SRC or representing the school on various singular occasions.  I didn’t mind them so much.  They were a pretty big group.  Nate and Leslie were the centre.  The golden couple who were not actually a couple, were the sole focus of everyone else.  I suppose it was because Nate was funny and Leslie was easy going about everything.

I watched them as they flirted.  I watched as the others joined in gossiping about who knows what about every single person in our year.  And I watched as Nate brushed off Leslie’s advances turning them into something else.  What a riot.  It was none too soon when my stop came and I could shove off.

Hauling my bag over my shoulder, I pushed my way through the crowd of bored students, and out the door.  It was always a trial, since I was petite.  But I’d gotten used to it. Just like I’d gotten used to being different.

“June! Wait!”  I turned to find Nate hopping off the bus as well.  I stared at him.  Partly surprised.  Partly happy?

“Nate.”

 

Leslie had been my first friend.  Hard to believe when we were walking in different circles, isn’t it?  But it’s true.  She loved pigtails, was pretty cute and had a way with people and opinions in general.  She liked being with me though and we’d spent countless hours just playing with Kelly dolls and gathering our own boxes that we converted into dollhouses.  We made up stories and shared gossip.  But it was all child’s play, and somewhere along the way, I switched schools, met Nate, and then, ended up going to the same highschool as Leslie.  It was like fate, and judging by their similarities, I knew soon enough that I could not hang around them anymore.  I couldn’t share what they could share.  I didn’t have the ability to sit around the table, share a fun luncheon and pretend I was one of them.  And I walked away.  I ignored them all through summer, and when the next year began, I made friends with Nicki and Enna.  Both of whom had been in the class next door the previous year.

“Where’s your house?”  Asked Nate after several minutes walking.

“Is that any of your business?”  I snap.

“Doesn’t matter,” he said over me, as cheerful as the cat that steals the tuna we leave outside.  “I know where you live.”

He began walking ahead of me.  Leading, without a care, just like always.  I really hated his teasing.  I know he didn’t mean anything when he said he knew where I lived.  But I can’t help but remember when we were younger and he came over just because he could and because mum wasn’t around.  She didn’t come home, but I freaked out so much, and when he realised how uncomfortable, for once, he apologised seeing that his joke went too far.

We stopped in front of the block of apartments where I lived.  And we stared.  My balcony was visible from where we were standing.  There was no clear sign of anyone living there, since nothing was visible.  No clothing line, no old bike that I knew was squashed in one corner.  Not even the wooden boxes that were stacked next to the bike.  If it was a weekend, then there would be clothes hanging across the balcony.

“You know, I miss having you around shorty.  I don’t see why you have to hang around at home all the time.  You can still party with us.  Leslie misses you too.”

I scoffed.  “Leslie does not miss me.”  Leslie stuck her nose up and continued doing what she liked, including being nice to me in front of others, then ignoring me when they looked away.

“She does.” He looked at me pointedly.  “If you didn’t ditch us with those weird thoughts of yours, we would have been fine.  We could have stayed together.  It’s just fact.”

“Yeah,” I said sadly.   I catch his eyes, “But I couldn’t stay.  Don’t talk like you know everything Nate.  You know nothing.”

“You know, you could always just say it.” I faltered.  I really hated when Nate was serious.  Serious didn’t suit him especially when he was so direct and so honest.  It was hard to tell that he had something to hide as well.  He had no right to talk.

“Oh shove off Nate, what the bloody hell do you know about me?”

“More than Nicki and Enna do!  Just as I know more than the girls you hung out with before N and E, and the girls before that.  Of anyone, I know you better than them.  So why can’t you be honest with me?”

“Don’t badmouth my friends Nate, and I like Nicki and Enna.  For once they accept me for who I am, acknowledge that I don’t do much, and sympathise.  I don’t want to run and ditch anymore Nate.  Can’t you just let me be friends with Nicki and Enna?”

I could see “no” forming on his lips.

“No! Nate No! I’m not the same.  I’m not the same.  I’m born different!”

We could have stayed there forever, pondering my exclamation.  But we didn’t have forever.  We only had today.  If the sky turned to water, he wouldn’t walk away.  Nate would stay, I knew that.  In his mind, we were friends.  In mine, I’d severed the tie.  It flapped in the wind.

“Good bye Nate.”

I walked away from him.  I walked away, just like before.  These things, ties, they are all the same, they can be tied, they can be broken.  It all depended on the people, if they were willing, a tie can last forever.

Mum wasn’t home yet.  I dumped my bag in my room, pulled out notes, grabbed a cup of water and sat back on the couch.  Just like I did after school every day.  At home I wasn’t really anything particular.  Just June Wong, hard working, high scoring daughter of Fiona Wong, who just couldn’t get into a better school than the one she was currently attending.  But June at school didn’t care about stuff like that.  If she cared, she would have been very disappointed in herself.  She’s a Wong—Fiona Wong’s daughter, and she had expectations.  Like she’d said earlier to her childhood friend, “I’m born different”.

My expectations are different.  My wants.  Everything.  I’m not Nate.  I’m not Leslie.  I can’t pretend like I don’t have those expectations and can do what they can.  That would just be a lie.

 

Quote #89

William Shakespeare

 

 

 

From William Shakespeare…

“A friend is one that knows you as you are, understands where you have been, accepts what you have become, and still, gently allows you to grow.”

Like a Friend. ‘The Diamond of Truth’ Part Seven.

First of all, it’s unbelievable of me that I forgot about this series.  And when I looked back through all my blog material, I was like, omg~!  So I am going to finish it.  It is completely unacceptable that I stopped this abruptly.  SO here are the six other parts:

Like a Diamond.  Part One.

Like a Fire.  Part Two.

Like a Storm.  Part Three.

Like a Breeze.  Part Four.

Like a Light.  Part Five.

Like a Memory.  Part Six.

 

And in continuation here is Part Seven, at long last, hopefully you enjoy!  If there are any inconsistencies (let me know!!!) although I made sure there weren’t.  But I might have missed something.

 

Like a Friend.

What was her father doing?  Her head was aching now.  But Fel had to find him.  They couldn’t stay here anymore.  She turned back pulling the thin shawl around her body, up and around her head.  It had been a long time since she’d felt like this.  When had it been?  Was it before meeting Dallas?  It must have been.  There was not a moment after she’d met Dallas that she remembered anything pleasant between her and Gevrid beside the odd moment or two where he helped her.  But those were rare, not with his position as Captain, he couldn’t do anything more.

She stopped in an alcove for a breather.  Her head ached.  Her hands felt clammy against the cold concrete wall.  And she took that moment to take a seat.  She hugged herself, pulling her knees to herself.  There, she breathed.  In and out, the air seeped into her soul reinvigorating her heart.  And she stood again.

As she strode out of the alcove, she felt a shift, a ripple through the air, and the diamond burned against her chest.  She jerked the shawl away and looked at the glowing diamond.  Feelling eyes on her, she looked to the left and found the younger Felicity staring at her.  On her chest, her own diamond reacted.  And Fel moved to moved, jerked forward by surprise.  But time shifted and Fel was no longer looking at Felicity but at someone else.  Someone across time and space, who could see her, but if he tried to touch her, he would only grab air, doomed to wonder if she was dead or not.

“Felicity,” He said in shock.

“Gevrid,” she replied, the faint touch of water in her eyes.

They stared at each other.  The air shimmered between them, but it didn’t feel muggy and suffocating like most hot air.  Instead it felt cool, gentle, and beautiful.

“I forgot,” she said.

“Forgot what?”  He said confused.  “When did you get back?” Fel walked up to him, reaching out to touch him.  Through time, he felt so alive, so warm.  And he was startled.  As startled as Fel.  But he wouldn’t show it.  He wouldn’t tell Fel that he was as startled as Fel.  Fel just knew.  Because she always knew.

“I forgot us.”  A stray tear, crystal blue, slipped down her cheek.  She wasn’t clutching her head anymore.  There was no more pain, no more ache.  Just clear white snow blanketing her heart and mind.

“Fel?”  He was suddenly awake, and not under a daze.  Had he always been under a daze with her?  He reached up to touch her, but like the effects of time, she was in the past, a ghost of her former self, and therefore, transient to him.  “Fel?  Fel, where are you?  This isn’t your ghost is it?”  He started to panic.

“Gevrid,” she’d said it with an unintentional smile.  She stroked his cheek, relieved.  “Gevrid.  Don’t worry I’ll be back soon.”

“Fel!”  He screamed, but he was already fading.  The diamond on her chest, cooled, and slowly, slowly, the headache returned.

As he faded, Fel wondered why she wanted him to hold her, caress her, touch her hair and her skin the why no one else was allowed to.  Memories came back to her, little things she forgot suddenly seemed as bright as the sun.  She remembered where she lost the hanky Gevrid gave her to wipe her eyes.  Looking forward, she saw herself.  The younger Felicity was staring with the kind of eyes that would forget later on.

The young Felicity looked at Fel with big wide eyes.  She was so full of awe, Fel wondered if Felicity had even noticed the diamond on her chest.  If she had, it was lost under the sea of grief, fear and awe.

“Who are you?” Said Felicity.

“Just a dream,” said Fel.  Fel took a shaky step forward, touched the little girl on the head and walked away.  As she passed the little girl, she whispered, “Grow and love, live as you want, don’t hold back.”  And just as quietly as she came, she left, leaving nothing but a whisper of an impression in the young girl’s mind.  Fel knew, as living proof, that Felicity wouldn’t remember the face of the woman who said those words that had drawn her away to Dallas in the first place.  Felicity would only remember the words.

She couldn’t find her heart as she ran looking for her father.  There was nowhere for that elusive beating centre to hide in her body, but it wasn’t just a “thing”, it was a raging river of abstract notions such as “love” and “hate”.  It was calm for contentment and violent when upset.  It was unrestrained, abundant, almost overflowing on occasions.  Fel was hurt.  It ached where it had been passionate, in the times she’d needed to feel passion the most, it had been unrestrained and rebellious.   Now, now the pain was overreaching, rushing down the river without any bounds, there didn’t seem like a moment it would let up.

Her father was talking to her mother.  Fel doubted her mother knew it was him from the future.  But her father had aged harshly and his lines were deeper.  He slouched now, when he walked, but he was still proud.  And Fel thought, that must what her mother was seeing.  Because her mother didn’t even shrink away.  And her father was being so gentle to her.  He must have reverted to his younger self.

“Father.” He turned slightly at the faint sound of her voice.  This man she was seeing, was the man who should be running the kingdom.  Not the king at the moment, not the one who’d pushed her to the edge, and taught her the meaning of passion.

But her father still had a long way to go, for he was not the friend she had before, for Gevrid was a friend she had lost, and for the fact that she cared.  Her father was more like what a king should be.

Forgiveness

 

Is what I ask,

With my head bowed low,

I feel the weight of what I am asking,

Laid before your feet,

Waiting for only my release.

 

Under the Mistletoe.

[Merry Christmas everyone!! ]

The snow is falling.  Lights twinkle and laughter escapes from the brightly lit houses.  Friends and family gather together.  Presents are exchanged and wineglasses clink.  Everywhere, somewhere, there is a boy and a girl, a husband and wife, a friend and a friend, sitting, standing, next to each other.  And they kiss under the mistletoe.

Same.

 

We loved the same clothes, accessories, tv shows, friends, everything.  We were best friends, had the same tastes and thought the same.  Everyone was everyone else.  We had our own little private circle.

And then, I see her walking down the street surrounded by a bunch of pretty girls.  She doesn’t even look at me.

 

There Is A Place.

 

There is a place I want to see before I die.  My friends heard this and said, ‘We’ll take you there!’  But it’s been a long time since they said that.  I wonder where they are…they haven’t come for a long time.

And I miss them.

My heart is slowing, and it’s hard for me to sleep these days, but still I hope to see that place.  I want to touch the sand again.  I want to feel the sadness and happiness I felt at that one time.  Will I ever see it?

I wonder if they’ll come today?

I’m fading.  It’s so hard to move my limbs.  I can’t even open my eyes to see the sunlight.  I can’t see the way it glints off the window like fairy dust sprinkled at my seventh birthday.

We were all meant to be together, finish high school together, go to uni together, live our dreams together.  I want to say sorry, sorry for not fulfilling my promise, sorry for leaving.  I want to tell them that.  When I see them…but they haven’t come for a long time… Maybe I shouldn’t.

But I want to see them one more time.  I don’t want to go.

‘Sh, she’s sleeping!’  I hear this whisper, but I’m so tired.  Arms wrap around me, lift me, and carry me.  I want to say, let me go.  I want to say, let me die.  But they just hold me, strong and tight.  They don’t want to let me go.

There are more whispers.  Of arguments, just like the old times.  Somehow I imagine that they are the voices of my friends.  Maybe I’m still in the hospital, yet this swaying makes me think otherwise.  I feel safe.  If I die here, resting by this warm body, I think I shall be happy.

I smile, and a hand touches my cheek.  I feel something wet, and I try to brush it away, but I’m too weak.  I’m carried again, my arms around the neck of my carrier and my head resting on the shoulder.  I know this body.  I know this person.

Then the movement stops.  And there are more warm bodies pressed around me as they lower me.  They hands are gentle against my frailness.  I’ll never let go of this body.  I’ll never let go of these hands.

And then those strong arms wrap around me, one hand takes my hand and I feel the ground.  It’s soft…like sand.

‘Open your eyes,’ he whispers in my ear, ‘Open them once more, for us.’

And I open them, somehow I’m crying.  Through my tears, I see that one place.  I am here with my friends around me, each hand resting on my shoulder or my arm, always connected, always together.  I am with the ones I love and I am both happy and sad.  And they are like me, we are one, friends forever, a bond that will never be separated even by death.  Seeing their tears, I say, ‘Thank you…’

Saying Goodbye. No. 2.

“This is it.”

“Yeah.”

“Give me a hug.”  I hug her, and then I cry.  “Why are you crying?”

“You’re going,” I said.  “Back to China!”

I didn’t know her long.  But she’d become a friend for life.

“Stupid!”

“I’m not stupid!”

Laughing she goes,  “See ya later”

Right, not goodbye, “yeah, see ya later.”

Surprise!

I held my breath, I was nervous.  Should I have let them know before? I was early, but only because I knew they came early.

Was I too early?  Where was everyone?  But then people came, trickling slowly into the school.  And then I heard a squeal, familiar and comforting.  And I wasn’t nervous anymore.

Loyal Dog.

I want that animal to go away.  I want her to stop following me.  Whenever I stop, it jumps on me.  I reject it; it paws at my leg.  It’s all fur and big eyes, little more than a puppy. Such wanting need it asks of me.  “Go away.”  But it stays.  Stupid loyal dog.

Friendship.

The bond that holds them together is unbreakable.   Through thick and thin, through heart breaking battles, they remain strong.  They may part, but always they come back.  They take a different turn in the fork, but always they will cross again.  Friendship never ends as long as it’s maintained always, it will always be there.

Party! Water. Fruit Juice.

It was hot.  Den lay back on the banana chair, the sun beating down on her exposed skin.  When she opened her eyes, the air shimmered around her.  She could hear her friend laughing in the pool, splashing water over Den’s bikini covered body.  She breathed and felt pale as she lay there.  The heat wasn’t going to let up anytime soon, and yet she didn’t feel the kind of suffocating feeling she normally felt when she was in the heat.

“Den!”  Emily squealed from the water.  “Get in here you sexy beast!”

Den groaned but ignored her.  Emily liked the water.  Den didn’t.  She could stand the heat, but she couldn’t stand the water.  Water was the one thing she was so damn afraid of and Emily still couldn’t understand that.  Okay, that was probably an exaggeration.  Emily understood, and believed Den, when she says, she has tried to stop Emily from trying as hard as she does to help Den get over her fear.  But Den’s fear came from her childhood.  It came from the time when the little kid who had it in for Den squashed Den in the water in a game of water polo.

Den at ten was a decent player.  Den at ten was not afraid of the water.  Den at ten was well, shy.  Den at sixteen though had not played water polo since.  Den at sixteen was very aware of her unreasonable fear of water.  Den at sixteen was not shy.

“Den!”  Squealed Emily again louder this time.  Den would have sworn the whole was alert to her voice.

“Yeah Den, get in the water!”  Roared the guys with Emily.

“Like hell,” she said in reply sitting up shoving her sunnies up her nose.  “You know I’m scared shitless Em, so don’t make me.”

Emily rolled her eyes.  Her ash brown hair was dyed black with water.  Like Den she sported a bikini, but unlike Den, Em wore bikini bottoms over short board shorts.  And oh right, Em was curvy.  Den was not.

After lying in the sun for at least half-an-hour, Den knew she was browner than brown.  She didn’t care.  She looked at the two guys in the pool.  Yeah, one was Jakson, Emily’s latest obsession and the other was Robbie.  Apparently Den’s obsession.

Emily sighed and looked at Den.  It was her pool, her house, her banana chair after all.  Den was just her security.  Em’s parents didn’t know Jakson and Robbie were coming over.   They only knew that Den was.

“Ugh, whatever Emily.  You have juice in the fridge right?”  Emily didn’t even have to say yes because Den knew there was.  There always was.  Den and Emily were not just friends because they covered each other’s asses, but because they knew each other inside out.

And Emily knew why Den was so afraid of the water.

Den got up off the chair and stretched showing off her flat stomach.  There was no point not wasting this perfect opportunity.  But, then again, as Den pretended not to be interested in Robbie or Jakson or Emily floating there in the water, she turned to head inside the house.

Emily had the kind of sweet house that shouted, ‘I’m rich!’  Which Emily was even though Den was not; it was probably another reason why their friendship was so perfect.  Emily had learnt a long time ago just how smart Den was.  They became friends in year seven when Emily was getting total shit from her parents about her lack of attention to her schoolwork.  And well, Den was getting absolute praise.

Den of course felt sorry for little old Emily suffering under the pressure of too-much-work-syndrome and offered to help out.  Emily though languid and fluid, such a hippie, and definitely not planning to change anytime soon agreed.  She soon learnt though that Den was not an easy tutor.

Over the years they worked out a suitable schedule of tutoring and partying.  Emily handled the parties and Den made sure they passed with outstanding grades.  Well Den was outstanding, Emily was decent, decent being the state of her results were high enough to approve of Den being her friend, and yet lower than Den and not quite genius-level.  So think C to B to A (a grade Emily received on occasion).

Emily proved to be a quick learner, but only when she applied herself, which made Den’s job quite easy, except when Emily was distracted.  Such as when Jakson came up to their study table, and then slowly the others filtered in and well, the study table was no longer a study table, but a social table.  That’s when Den would organise an after class tute and they  would study at Emily’s house.  The best part for Den, who needed the good grades, was that helping Emily meant she was also helping herself.

Unfortunately though this was the first year Emily had one class different to Den, which meant Emily had to study on her own.  The fortunate part of the unfortunate-fortunate equation was that Emily was excellent at her design subject.

“Oh Den, you’re such a downer…” Den heard Emily call after her as she laughed.

“That’s why we’re friends babe!”  Den called back.

Inside her skin felt overheated in the cool air-conditioning.  She was willing to swear that her skin was retracting into itself.  She swore internally and told herself that she shouldn’t have stayed in the sun for so long.

Her feet padded against the cool tiled hallway.  Den always envied Emily for having as much money as she did.  But always afterwards, she was kind of grateful that she was poor.  It meant she could appreciate things more.  She sighed touching the fridge panel.  It opened with perfectly oiled ease.  She sighed again and pulled out the juice.

She knew this house as well as she knew Emily.  Outside she knew Emily was still flirting her ass off with Robbie and Jakson.  It was the kind of person Emily was.  Emily would make Jakson jealous by flirting like the fire in hell with Robbie, and poor Robbie, unless he figured it out early would be entranced.

These guys, well, they’re kind of special to Emily and Den.  Three weeks ago Emily for once was having a hard time dealing with her parents’ very loud and very public divorce.  Den was there by her side, but she felt useless, since, well, Den was hopeless at such thing as comforting.

As for why this has anything to do with Jakson, or even Robbie, it’s because when Emily finally cracked under the pressure of her parents hate for each other, she had told Den to get dressed.  They were going to a party.

It wasn’t their usual kind of upper-class party, but a more normal person party.  It was rowdy, beer aplenty, and practically an orgy.  The only person either of them knew was Robbie.  And they only knew Robbie because he made it a fact that even though he was slumming his way through highschool, he was practically Den’s only rival.  Not that Den minded.  She liked the fact that she had a rival.

Like Den, Robbie was Asian.  Unlike Den though, he was only half.  So he was kind of perfect in every way.  Half the time, Den was jealous of his well, clear skin, and nicely done, slacker hair, and the perfect, shining white teeth.

Jakson was kind of the same, only non-Asian, tanned Caucasian with shorter, kind of curly dark brown hair and the sexiest, bluest eyes Den had ever seen.

In the event of the party, Emily was drunk before she took more than ten steps into the door and Den was desperately telling Emily this was a super bad idea.  Den often frequented such parties, they were her crowd after all, and normally she didn’t tow Emily along because she knew Emily would be waylaid by some jerk or other from school.  Unfortunately though, several of her sport buddies swamped her and Den lost sight of her drunk friend.

Annoyed she had pushed her way through the crowd of convulsing bodies.  She even parted a pair of suckling pigs, probably too drunk to kiss properly.  It wasn’t a big house so Den shouldn’t have had such a hard time finding Emily, but that night it was as though she had completely disappeared.  Den began freaking out, but not before she ran into Robbie, looking as good as ever in jeans and a white shirt.  He was a bit taller than her, tall enough that if she ever decided to don those killer-worthy heels she had in her wardrobe at home, he would still be taller than her.

He’d looked so concerned, she was touched.  But she wouldn’t have him thinking she was a dope for losing Emily, and he didn’t.  It was perhaps the one moment Den had actually she was actually in love him.  Always he had been her crush, but always she was afraid to push the boundaries of their friendship, especially when it was so fragile.

All friendships were.  Den only had a few friends she called her own.  The rest she kind of borrowed from Emily, or were mere acquaintances she rarely bothered to catch up with.  So she cherished the few she had.

But Robbie hadn’t called her a dope.  Instead he offered to help, only concern in his eyes not ‘you lost a friend, and she was drunk?  Are you crazy?!’ kind of look, to which she was thankful.

He looked with her.  And she didn’t mind that she spent the night looking for Emily.  Most of the times when she graced these parties with her presence it was because she wanted to see Robbie.  She rarely drank and she rarely randomly made out with the first person she met.  So looking with Robbie for Emily was perhaps the best night of her life.

They eventually found Emily though.  She was vomiting in the bathroom with Jakson at her side looking just as concerned as Robbie.  It was kind of sweet.

Emily though, woke up with a massive hang over.  Den had stayed over to make sure her parents didn’t know about her binge, and that they didn’t accidentally walk in on her looking like she did.

Den remembered the way her face when all pink when she walked into the school on Monday and Jakson asked her if she was okay.  Den had never actually ever seen Emily look so embarrassed.  In fact Emily rarely felt embarrassed.

And she asked her.

Emily admitted to her in the confines of an empty bathroom that she wished that she hadn’t gotten so drunk.  She was embarrassed because for most of their schooling years she’d ignored Jakson, and on that Saturday, she was pretty sure she had spilled the details of her parents’ divorce and her own misery to him.  She’d only done so because, as she deemed to justify her actions, because after she lost Den, she got waylaid but one of the stoners and she couldn’t get away.

It was then Den realised her best friend had a crush on Jakson.  The problem with Jakson was this.  He wasn’t a golden boy.  He wasn’t what her parents would agree on.  And yet he walked the same circles as Robbie and the nerds as well as the slackers.  He was also a worker than the ‘can’t shut up’ guy he presents.

Emily kept to the golden boys.  She always had.  But she’d dumped her last boyfriend months ago.  Den didn’t date because of well, you know.  But Den was always supportive of Emily.

Since that fateful night, Emily had tried to get her game back.  Only problem was that Jakson didn’t take the bait.  Jakson did not like to be messed with.  And up until today, he hadn’t wanted to be messed with the golden crew, one of which Den was hesitantly stepping in and out of.  If Den and Emily were to ever have a fight, then Den would be officially kicked out.

Not that she cared.  She only cared about Emily.

And because she cared about Emily, she had sucked up her courage and recruited Robbie’s help.  Even if said person was now swimming in a pool with Emily, flirting with Emily, all to make Jakson jealous.  Maybe Den should have just kissed Jakson so that Robbie knew just what she was willing to do.  But no, Emily wouldn’t like that.  At least, Den comforted herself with this minor thought, it’s only flirting.

Den had thought that Robbie would sit with her and talk with her today rather than go along with Emily’s plan.  But she wasn’t surprised, they weren’t at school and they were by a pool she refused to get in.

“Hey.”  Den spun around, nearly knocking the glass she’d just put on the table to the ground.

“Robbie.”  She cleared her throat.  Her voice had jumped an octave unexpectedly.  “What are you doing here?”

He shrugged first, then said, as though he’d changed his mind at the last minute, “Juice?”

Den had the urge to laugh.  “Sure.”

She poured him a glass and gave it to him.  “It’s fruit.”

“Duh.”

She put the bottle back and back against the bench.   Robbie just stood where he was, his towel tossed over his shoulders and sipped meekly at his juice.

Den had the silence.  Actually when she realised the silence she looked towards the door.

“What happened with—?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe they’re talking.”

More silence.  In class, they were never this silent, so why was it awkward now?

Feeling suddenly self-conscious, Den wrapped an arm around her stomach.  They sipped their juice meekly while Den looked elsewhere.  The clink of a glass on the bench broke the silence.

“So did you do your assignments?”

“Why are you so afraid of the water?”

More silence.  Den gestured for him to continue.  Although why he would ask now, when he could have asked before was beyond her.

He cleared his throat.  “So, why are you so afraid of the water?”

No condescension, just curiosity.  She sighed and sucked in her breath looking at him.

She told him.

Outside the squeals began again.  When she told him why he just nodded his head and seeing the fear in her eyes (which was so chicken, honestly, pathetic), he walked over and gave her a surprise hug.

For Den being trapped under the water had terrified her.  She remembered the suffocating feeling of the weight above her straining her lungs to work harder.  She remembered the horrid feeling of not being able to breathe, knowing full well if she did, she would breathe only water.  And that was a gift only a mermaid or fish possessed.

For weeks though, Robbie and Den had worked together to bring Jakson and Emily together.  But never in those weeks since had den ever felt that Robbie could ever like her back like she felt now.

“Den?”

“Yeah?”  She said from her place next his heart.  She was having a really girly moment now.  She couldn’t believe she was hugging Robbie in a heart-to-heart kind of way, and not a ‘we’re friends, quick hug’ kind of way.

She looked up and saw the huge red blush across his cheeks.  He didn’t look incredibly perfect at the point.  In fact he looked liked the kind of guy she would date.

“What are you doing this weekend?”

Den couldn’t believe what she was hearing.

“Nothing.”

“W-Well, um, do you want to go out with me?”

He could not look her in the eye.  And she could not hide the pleasure/ embarrassment either.  “Robbie.”  She touched his chin.

“Yeah?”

“Look at me.”

He did, but she could feel he was trying to avoid looking right at her.  She understood his hesitation.  What if she said no?

“Are you asking me to go out with you as a girl you want to date or as a friend?”

He looked blatantly shocked for a moment as though he couldn’t comprehend how Den could misunderstand his intentions.

“Den!”  His eyes were wide and he looked freaked.

“What?”  She asked as though her question was undignified.

“How could you think—?  Den!”  He did something completely unexpected then.  He kissed her.  Catching her offguard.  At first she was shocked, her mind still putting together logic and action before she let herself be swallowed by the pleasantness of the kiss.

“Oh. My.  God.  Finally!”  Emily’s squeal pushed Robbie and Den apart.  Though it didn’t stop the blushes creeping up their cheeks.

Emily and Jakson were standing in the kitchen both dripping wet.

“So, about Saturday?”  Robbie said not looking at the interrupters, and only looking at Den.

“Yes.  My answer is yes.”  And for once Den was blushing like no tomorrow.

“Yay!  Now for the pool!”  Emily said grabbing Jakson by the arm and heading back out.

“No way!”  Den yelled back.  “There is no way in hell I’m getting in that pool!”

Outside she took her seat as before, only this time Robbie sat next to her.  She smiled and let his hand take hers.

“I felt bad about not sitting here before.”

“It was for Emily,” Den said in return.  They watched and laughed together as Emily continuously flirted with Jakson who was at last getting into a reasonably comfortable zone with her.

At the way they wrestled in the water, Den wondered exactly what had gone on when she’d been drinking fruit juice.

Friends.

It was so awkward, she didn’t know how to apologise.  She hated being angry at her best friend just because she told her crush that Elaine was crushing on him.  Okay, so he came and asked Elaine out later, maybe being friends with her was the worst thing she could do.  What are friends for?