Once again, I participated in the Sunday prompt game that Tina of All These Prompts plays on her Tumblr. This week, the prompt was “Would you have kissed me?” A wonderful choice for Valentine’s Day.
(If you want to see my entry from the first time, it’s here.)
“Would you have kissed me?”
Marissa was always joking around, but for once, she sounded serious. I shrugged. “It didn’t go that far.”
The cold breeze stirred the ends of my scarf as I turned and strode down the sidewalk. Marissa, with her shorter legs, hurried to keep up.
“But would you have? If he’d been more aggressive?”
It wouldn’t have been the first time I’d kissed a friend as a shield against unwanted attention. Alan had pretended to be my boyfriend for an entire movie when he’d come back from the bathroom to see the guy in the row behind us flirting with me during the previews. He’d hooked an arm over my shoulders, told the guy to fuck off, and shared my popcorn like it was a real date instead of two single geeks out to see the latest superhero flick together. The kiss he’d given me as we filed out, when the guy was still trying to get my attention, had been short, believeable, and utterly boring.
I hadn’t minded. Alan had never once hit on me in the whole time we’d been friends, so it was easy to trust him, and pretend back.
But that was another event in the long chain that made me wish I weren’t so pretty. I couldn’t tell anyone that. I couldn’t imagine trying to explain, because it sounded whiny and fake. Instead, I did everything I could to minimize it–no makeup, unflattering glasses instead of contacts, clothes that weren’t quite my colors or were just a little too big. But a certain type of guy only saw the long legs and high cheekbones. And the rest were waiting for me to whip my glasses off, take down my hair, and transform into a sexy butterfly, like in a teenage party movie.
“I don’t know,” I finally said. “You’re my best friend, and I can’t decide if that makes it weird, or makes it so it shouldn’t be. But thank you.” I slowed down so she wouldn’t have to jog to keep up with me. I wondered if I should give her a hug. I sort of wanted to, but I couldn’t tell if it was because I was grateful, or because my body was shaking, vibrating like a plucked guitar string.
Maybe I needed something to hold on to.
“For bouncing a guy who can’t take no for an answer? Always, you don’t even have to ask.” Marissa tugged her pompom hat lower over her ears, then slipped her arm through mine. “I hope you’ve got my back on that, too. Not that anybody ever hits on me when you’re here.”
That was exactly the sort of shit I hated most. Not that she said it, because I knew she didn’t mean it to be hurtful. Marissa was so self-deprecating that sometimes I wanted to smack her and tell her how gorgeous and smart and hilarious she was. But she wouldn’t believe it, because the guys only saw me.
I hated it because it was true, and she deserved better.
I looked down at her as we walked. Her cheeks were rosy with the cold, and her wild blonde curls refused to be completely tamed by the hat. When a car passed by, the headlights gave her a glow that traced every wayward spiral.
“You know I would.”
“Even if you had to kiss me?”
Her playful tone was back, and when I didn’t answer right away, she pouted. She had the cutest little bow of a mouth, and even where we stood halfway in between streetlights, I could see her lips were shiny with gloss.
“Yeah, Mare. Even if I had to kiss you.”
She squeezed my arm and trotted down the sidewalk, dragging me with her as my numb feet disobeyed my brain. Or maybe it was my brain that was disobedient, swirling with leftover fury at the guy who’d started all of this, and a strange wistfulness that I hadn’t had to kiss Marissa, because now, that was all I wanted to do.