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Uneven

“…I don’t know how to explain it. It just felt right. You know what I mean, right?”

“Mm-hmm.”

He cocked his head. “You have no idea what I just said, do you?” A smile crept onto his face.

“No! I mean, yeah, of course! I heard you, I was just thinking about the whole thing, you know?”

Whew. That was close.

Every waking moment of every day felt like walking on a tightrope. How long before he notices? The answer was always different, but recently, she had nearly gotten her cover blown a couple of times. If she wasn’t so attuned, she would miss her window out of a sticky situation, every time.

Head in her lap, he rubbed his eyes and yawned. “It’s getting kind of late. Drop you back now?” Before she could answer, he laughed. “I’m kidding. You’re staying! No reason for us to be out there this late. Right?”

She rolled her eyes knowing she wanted to wink. “Right. Of course.” He laughed.

Twelve years of friendship. That was something, right? They had seen each other through some difficult, some ugly, some amazing, and some life-changing things, leaving them with a bond that outlived past loves, old friends, and false family. Unfortunately, it also left them with two different expectations of that bond – but only she knew that.

While he was clear and sincere in calling her his friend, she wasn’t – or rather, she wasn’t fully. He was a dear friend to her, but God, was that all? She hadn’t uttered a word, but she knew that was untrue.

She knew that when he slept over, she wasn’t looking at his face to make sure it was still there. She knew that when they got matching tattoos, it meant more than whatever quirky meaning he had come up with. She knew that she didn’t turn down other men because they “just weren’t compatible.” She knew that she left her heart at the door when it was time for pillow talk. She knew that when she said “I love you too,” only she felt a pang in her stomach.

As he got up and dug in his drawer for a spare shirt for her, she looked out the window and took stock of her life. She was at peace with it now: she had fallen for him and spent the better part of the last decade trying to get back up before he noticed — and before things went awry.

She was getting worse at it, though, and she cared less and less.

Because, what would it cost her, really? Was their friendship of over a decade so weak that opening up her heart would crush it to smithereens? His jokes about getting married if they were single by the age of thirty, the many Thanksgivings when she passed him off as her boyfriend, the people who mistook them for a couple on a daily basis… Could it all really be empty?

She put her hair up as he came out of his bathroom and plopped onto his bed. They had shared this bed so many times that it felt like home, now. For some reason, tonight of all nights, she felt the warmth in the pit of her stomach twice as strongly as she usually did. Chill. It’s just a sleepover.

That put things in perspective. Have we been sleeping over for the last ten years?

A nervous laugh.

“What?” He looked up from behind his phone screen.

“Nothing,” she said, sliding under the comforter, on the other side of the bed.

He dropped his phone into the sheets and stared out of her.

“What!?” she asked. Had she been found out? How?

He said nothing for a minute, then… “Why are you looking at me like I’m the grossest thing in this room? I brushed my teeth!”

She laughed and scooted closer. All this thinking had her reconsidering even her physical relationship to him. Why are we chilling in his bed when we could be chilling in each other’s gu

“I’m glad you’re here, you know. I don’t know why I let that thing bog me down for so long, but I feel like my mind is all cleared out now. Don’t know how I’d do it without you.” He was staring at her in earnest. She looked straight into his face, right into his eyes, looking for it. Looking for the validation, for the confirmation, for the fire — raging, blazing fire…

Warmth. That’s all there was. Warmth.

She turned her gaze to the foot of the bed, and smiled.

Maybe it’s best to just bury it, she told herself, forgetting that seeds sprout in rich soil.

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