Better off Friends

Page 28


He looked at me with disgust. “Do you realize how messed up this is? You’re mad at Carrie? Do you even care about me? You know what — you don’t need to answer that. It’s clear that your only concern is Levi, not your boyfriend. No, wait, your former boyfriend.”
“Let me make sure I’m getting this straight.” My mind was trying to keep up with everything that had happened in the past few minutes. “You were flirting with another girl. If I hadn’t stepped in, you were probably going to kiss another girl. You were going to cheat on me. Yet you’re mad at me? And you’re breaking up with me?”
“Do you have any idea how much this hurts me?” Ian’s voice cracked, and I could tell it was completely genuine. I felt awful. Maybe I had hurt him. But I certainly knew I didn’t do anything that justified cheating.
“How are you putting this on me?” Confusion swirled around in my head. Ian and I had never fought. Not once. We were talking about going into Milwaukee for our one-year anniversary. And now he was breaking up with me? “Have you been drinking?”
“You know I don’t drink,” he snapped at me. “Maybe I did do this on purpose, for you to see what it’s like to have your boyfriend give another girl all your attention. I really like you, Macallan. But I can’t sit here and play second best to Levi anymore.”
“You wouldn’t think any of this if he was a girl.”
“But he’s not. And that’s the problem. Why don’t you two just go out already?”
This was what it always came down to. The perception that there was no way Levi and I could be legitimately best friends and only friends. Nobody ever got that.
Mostly because those people never had a best friend of the opposite sex.
Or maybe it would be more appropriate to say that none of those people had Levi as a best friend.
“If you’ve had such a problem with it, why are you only saying something now?”
He groaned. “Because I figured that the closer you and I got, the less I’d have to deal with him?”
“Deal with him?”
“You know what I mean.”
“No, I don’t.”
I nearly jumped out of my skin when I heard Levi’s voice say, “I’m so sorry.” I had forgotten that he and Carrie were there. In fact, a whole crowd had started gathering around the door.
Carrie was hunched over in a clear attempt to disappear. “I should go,” she said quietly.
“I’ll drive you home.” Ian walked into the group of observers with Carrie following behind him.
I heard some clapping. “Dudes,” Keith called out, emerging from the crowd. “I know I can always count on you two for entertainment. If only I had some popcorn! That was insane.”
“Really, Keith?” I asked.
Something in my voice stopped him. “Oh, man, I’m sorry, Macallan.”
I stood there waiting for him to make a sarcastic follow-up comment. But he had a look of actual sympathy on his face. Which made me feel even worse. If Keith felt bad for you, you knew your life must be pathetic.
“Let’s get out of here.” I grabbed Levi by the arm and led us out of the house.
“Um, our ride left,” Levi said with quiet resignation.
“We’ll figure something out.” I opened the door and started walking. “I think fresh air might do us some good.”
Levi stayed uncharacteristically silent for several minutes. I left him alone with his thoughts, as I had a ton of mine to sort out. Mostly, what had just happened? Maybe I was missing some signals. I racked my brain for signs that Ian had been unhappy. He’d made lots of jabs at how much time I spent with Levi and usually pretended to gag whenever I would talk about him. But he was a guy. I’d thought he was teasing me.
Regardless of what I’d done, it didn’t give him any excuse to flirt the second my back was turned. But what made me the most upset was that it had been Levi’s girlfriend. I would’ve thought Ian would’ve wanted Levi to have a girlfriend.
“Is any of this making sense to you?” I asked Levi.
He shook his head and kept walking. This was bad.
We found ourselves walking to the same place. We didn’t discuss where we were going, we just led each other to Riverside Park. We silently walked over to the swing set and sat down. Me in the middle swing with Levi seated to my left. This was how we always sat when we’d go to the park after school in seventh grade.
I started rocking my swing back and forth.
“So I’ve been thinking,” Levi announced, remaining motionless on his swing. “I think you’re right. We shouldn’t go on any more double dates.”
I looked over and saw a slight smile on his face. “Are you making a joke?”
“Well, it’s either that or come to face the fact that I’ve been cheated on twice.”
“She didn’t technically cheat.”
He clicked his tongue. “Yeah, only because you stopped it.”
“We don’t know what was going to happen.” I didn’t believe the words as they came out of my mouth. I tried to lighten the mood. “I guess I really need to stop going to parties where your girlfriends are. And where there are doors.”
“Tell me about it.”
He got up and went behind to push me. I closed my eyes and let the swing take me higher and higher.
We stayed like that for nearly an hour. I glanced down at my watch. “We either have to start walking home or call one of our parents.”