Posted on Thursday, 24 May
Author's Note: We know, we know, we both have too many other stories going on but this story was something that needed to be told and we didn't think we had the right to stop it from being told. This is a story that is based mostly on real-life events from Amy I.'s past. Tanisha was inspired by Amy I.'s tale and tried to capture the feeling and Amy's experiences in words. We hope that you will all enjoy this collaborative effort and be pleased with what we have worked so hard on together.
It was breathtaking, the view in front of me; that cloudless blue sky, those chirping birds, that vast empire of green leaves. It was a new day and I rejoiced in my solitude; I hadn't seen a soul in days. I began walking without knowing where I was headed. I was being beckoned by a relentless, never-ending sound. At first I thought it was the murmur of a nearby brook and I blindly walked in the direction of the sound. But I soon realized that it was not a brook that I heard, but a bell, a dozen bells even. I stopped walking with a small frown gracing my face. The origin of that sound mystified me for I knew that there was no civilization for miles. But my ears were not deceiving me; the bells were real. The ringing did not cease and I felt thoroughly frustrated. Those presumptuous bells were ruining my quest for a quiet day; they were shattering the peace, their shrill persistent rings echoing in my ears. I quickened my pace, my curiosity commanding me to find the bells. Perhaps there was a settlement nearby that I was not aware of. The woods had seemed rather deserted and uninhabitable to me, but I could have been mistaken on that end and surely since I had not explored all of the woods yet, I could not presume to consider myself an expert. Like a determined sleuth, I followed the sound, hardly paying attention to the ground where I walked. Suddenly my foot slipped and I began falling and falling and falling...my eyes opened ever so slightly. The so-called "bell," otherwise known as the telephone was still ringing. I promptly closed my eyes again as I reached for the receiver. There had better be an excellent reason for this most unwelcome intrusion. I rather liked my imaginary woods, thank you very much.
"Hello?" I was still half asleep.
"Lizzy? Did I wake you up?"
I had no idea who it was. "Of course you did...what do you expect, calling people in the middle of the night like this...?" I was mumbling, but had I possessed even an iota of energy, I would probably have injected some anger into my voice. College had instilled in me the love for sleep, a valuable and rather rare commodity; hence every second of sleep was precious. But as it was, I could barely speak, so I satisfied myself with the mild outrage that I hoped my voice conveyed.
"Lizzy, it's 9 o' clock in the morning."
"What?" I sat up in my bed and looked at the bright red numbers of my clock. Even without my contacts, I could tell that it was, indeed, 9 in the morning and I groaned inwardly. I was already twenty minutes late for class and Professor de Bourgh would demolish me mercilessly. Perhaps if I hurried, I would be able to sneak into class within fifteen minutes. I wondered why Char had not woken me up when she knew that I couldn't afford to miss this class again. As those thoughts raced through my muddled brain, I nearly forgot that I was still holding the phone.
"Lizzy? You still there?"
My head was beginning to clear a little, but not enough for me to recognize to whom the voice belonged. "Who is this?"
"It's me, Will."
My heart skipped a beat. "Will?" I couldn't keep the surprise out of my voice.
"Yeah. I'm sorry I woke you up."
"No, it's a good thing that you did, actually." My voice was shaking and I wondered if he noticed. "I'm late for class. I must have slept through my alarm. What...why are you calling me, anyway?" I knew what I hoped the answer would be. I'm moving to Boston, Liz. I can't bear to live without you anymore. A foolish hope and a silly indulgence, but after all, one had to have dreams. I waited to hear his response.
"To wish you a happy birthday." I could almost hear his smile.
My birthday. Of course. I could have slapped myself upside the head. I had almost forgotten. "Thanks, Will. It's so sweet of you to call."
"Well, I figured after asking you for your number a million times and promptly losing it, the least I could do was call you on your birthday."
I laughed. "You know, Will, recently they invented those little address books just for you."
He chuckled. "Really? Maybe I should get one, then?"
"Maybe you should." I was wide-awake. The adrenaline rushed through my body at the sound of his voice, a voice I had not heard in ages. That deep, timbre voice. That playful voice. My heart was racing, my palms were sweaty, and my stomach was lurching and flipping like those gymnasts I always saw on ESPN. I smiled to myself. I responded to him just like I would to a roller coaster.
"Hey, listen, I know you have a class to go to, so I'll make this quick. I'm coming up to Boston in about two weeks. We have a big race on the Charles on Sunday the 24th and I'll be in Boston for that weekend."
"Really?" I managed to mumble, nearly deafened by the beating of my heart.
"So, do you want to meet up on Saturday? We could do something together -- catch a bite to eat, hang out. You know?"
"Yeah..." I jumped at the chance of seeing him again, but was still a little dazed.
"Oh, and what are you doing that Saturday night, do you know?"
I shrugged, then realized he couldn't see me. "Nothing much."
"Well, you can hang out with me then."
"All day?" I asked stupidly.
"Why, is that a problem?"
"Well...no, not really -- it's just that, you know..." That little voice inside my head ordered me to cease speaking immediately, but apparently my mouth had decided not to take orders anymore. "Don't you have to bond with your fellow rowers -- or do whatever it is you do before a big race?" I literally hit my head with my free hand. I was my own worst enemy.
"Yeah, but I'd much rather spend my time with you."
I fell off the bed with a loud thump. "Ouch." I could not have heard him right.
"Liz, you okay?" He sounded concerned.
"I'm fine," I said, not bothering to move. "Except for the bruised ego -- I fell off my bed."
"Good going, grace." He was laughing.
"Will, it's not funny. I'm in pain here." I whined.
"I thought you said you were fine?"
"Well, so I lied."
"In that case, I'm sorry for laughing."
I smiled like a spoilt child who had gotten her way again. "Don't worry about it."
"So...how about it? You want to hang out with an old friend?"
Did I ever? "Sure thing." I tried to sound nonchalant and hoped it worked, hoped he couldn't hear the euphoria in my voice.
"Cool -- yeah, I know, Rick. I'll be right there. Give me a sec -- hey, listen, I have to go. So I'll see you in two weeks?"
"Yes, you will." I wouldn't have missed an opportunity to see Will in the world, but he didn't know that and meanwhile, I couldn't afford to appear too eager. No matter how many butterflies were demolishing my insides, I had to play it cool.
"Say hi to Rick for me." Even though I had never been exactly intimate with Rick when we were in high school, I spoke with him often enough when I called Will's room. From what Will told me, Rick was an excellent roommate and I could very well believe it. From the brief conversations that I had with him, I knew that Rick was what I called a 'sunshine boy,' almost like Will himself. I could only imagine the sunshine that would radiate from the pair, probably enough to make even the most groggy, anti-morning person like myself wake up with a smile.
"Sure. I'll email you so we can decide on the details. Happy birthday once again, Liz. Have a great day and do something crazy."
"You know me. I'm crazy." I laughed an ironic laugh. I had never done anything remotely crazy in my entire life.
He laughed too. "Well, have fun, anyways."
"I will, thanks for calling."
"You bet. Bye, Liz."
I hung up the phone and wiped off that stray tear from my eyes. I felt like laughing and crying at the same time. And it was probably possible with the state of mind that I was in. I felt like jumping up and down, yelling and screaming at the top of my lungs, announcing to whomever cared to listen that Will Darcy had just called me. Will Darcy, whom I had not seen in nearly two years, not since our high school graduation day when he had stolen into my room to say goodbye. The memory of that day still brought tears back into my eyes. I had always been the emotional one, the one who was destined to cry at graduations and funerals and weddings, even birthdays. But I had not cried that day, not in public anyway. It had been so surreal. After four years of living on that tiny campus, isolated from everyone but my friends and classmates, I had come to depend on them, on that environment more than I was aware and the fact that it was all slipping away overwhelmed me. I distinctly remember Will sitting two rows behind me during the commencement speech. I had looked back at him often if only to reassure myself that he was still there. He had looked as handsome as ever, that wicked grin never leaving his face. After the ceremony had ended and all the station wagons had begun preparing for departure, I had hidden away in my dorm room, letting my tears finally flow down my cheeks. It had been a trying week with the imminent good-byes and the tension with my parents and just everything. I remember standing in the middle of my empty room, crying interminably when someone knocked on the door and entered without waiting for a response.
"I knew I'd find you here." He smiled as he entered.
"Why do you even bother to knock?" I tried to smile at him.
"For appearances' sake." He shrugged.
"What are you doing here? You know you can't be here."
"What are they going to do to me? Kick me out because I snuck into a girl's room? I graduated already, remember?"
"Brittany might be looking for you," I reminded him of his jealous girlfriend.
"I told her that I was saying goodbye to my crew coach." He walked up to me.
I looked at him. "I...I didn't want to cry in front of everyone."
I sighed. "I just feel so stupid...this is so stupid. Everyone graduates and moves on and I just feel -- " I couldn't continue for I knew at least part of the reason I was crying was because I wouldn't see him often, but I could never tell him that.
He looked at me for a second, then put his arms around me and hugged me tight. "It's okay, La Baja."
I didn't even cringe at the nickname, a nickname that had been given to me by my friends to constantly remind me of my shortness, a nickname that I had come to own and love. It was not a foreign entity anymore. I had embraced it and identified with it and for all intents and purposes, it was a term of endearment and not insult as I had originally assumed. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," he said. "You can cry all you want with me. I don't mind."
"I'll miss you." It was the truth.
"And I'll miss you," he said. "But we can still keep in touch -- email and what not. Besides DC isn't so far away from Boston. We can probably meet up sometimes." He looked at me. "Cheer up, Liz, it'll be alright."
And he had been right. Two years into college, I was fine and everything was all right. Well, except for the fact that I had not seen him since that day, but that, too, would soon be remedied. Good intentions were all commendable but reality had intervened when we realized that the distance between Georgetown and Wellesley was not as trivial as we had imagined. We had kept in touch on and off only through sporadic emails and one or two phone calls here and there, and so this opportunity to see him again thrilled me more than anything else in the world. I giggled like a schoolgirl. Will never ceased to amaze me. That he would wish to have lunch with me was surprising enough, but spend the entire day together? These two years had been very tough on our friendship, distance tended to strain any relationship. I had found myself drifting apart from him; it was inevitable. There were just too many new faces and experiences for that not to happen. And yet it was frustrating. Frustrating to be the one to always call, the one to always email. Why could he never initiate communication? How had it become my job? Three months ago, after I had given him my number for the umpteenth time, I had vowed not to call him again till he called me. Days and weeks passed and I haughtily decided that boys did not know how to use the phone or the computer. Will had emailed me a week or so ago, asking for my number again and I had grudgingly given it to him again, never expecting him to actually call. In fact, the only thing I had expected him to do was lose my number again. Yet here I was, sitting on the floor, holding the phone in my hand, grinning like an idiot. Stupid Will. Trust him to be the one to make me look like an idiot. I looked at the clock, yelped and sprung up to go to class, thinking that this was the best birthday present I could ever have dreamed of or wished for. Will was coming to Boston in two weeks. And I was the happiest girl north of the Mason-Dixon line.*
I entered my room and flopped into the couch with a groan. "Char, I'm crazy."
"Tell me something I don't know." Char didn't look up from her magazine.
"No, I'm serious. I think I'm certifiably crazy. You should try talking to the housing people. Maybe they give special perks for living with a loony."
Char looked up. "What'd you do?"
"Why did I ever sign up for 'Philosophy of Government' when I knew that Professor de Bourgh is a sadistic tyrant. You know that huge, nasty, evil paper I've been working on? Well, I have to email it to her by midnight tonight." I pouted, my face brimming with self-pity. "It's Friday night and I was sitting in the library doing research. I looked outside the window and everyone but me was having fun -- and I, I was sitting in the library. I should never have taken the class. What's wrong with me?"
"That's a loaded question, but you said it yourself. You're certifiably crazy."
"I know." I paused. "Oh well. You're the one who has to live with me."
Char mused for a moment. "Strange how that happens."
"How what happens?"
"How loonies like you end up with normal, sane people like myself."
I rolled my eyes. "Whatever." I looked at the phone, which seemed miles away. "I wonder if anyone called." I felt too drained and lethargic to move.
"By 'anyone,' you mean Will, of course." She looked up from her magazine.
I had always known that I was transparent, but now I knew just how much. "No." I hoped I sounded more certain than I felt.
"Your phone was ringing when I was coming in, but it stopped as soon as I opened the door," Char said. "There might be voicemail." Her tone was helpful in a benign sort of way, but I suspected she simply wanted to see me wrestle with the pressing urge to immediately attack the phone. I wondered if I was becoming too paranoid, but the small smile on Char's face reassured me that my paranoia had not exceeded safe limits just yet. The expression on her face betrayed her; she had probably determined that I would check my voicemail within the minute. I would prove her wrong. I would give myself two minutes, at the very least. I did have some dignity.
"Oh." My tone was cool, calm and collected. I hoped so, at least.
"Well, aren't you going to see if he left a message?"
"In a minute," I said, trying to sound indifferent. "It might not have been him, anyway."
"Oh give me a break, Liz," said Char. "You're dying to see whether he called."
Damn Char. She knew me too well. "Whatever."
"You've only been obsessing over Mr. Will "I'm-so-perfect" Darcy for the past two weeks." Char snickered. I hated it when she snickered.
"I haven't been obsessing," I said calmly. "I'm only excited to meet an old friend."
"Right." She did not sound convinced.
"You know how close we were in high school," I said. "I haven't seen him since graduation; of course, I'm excited to see him again." There. It was a reasonable argument. No normal, somewhat trusting person could refute the validity and plausibility of that argument. Of course Char was neither normal nor trusting.
"Liz, you were in love with him in high school, remember?" Char said pointedly.
"Was not." I said with some dignity.
"Yeah right," She tore her eyes away from a delicious picture of Taye Diggs long enough to give me one of her looks.
I hated it even more when she was right. "For your information, Will and I are just friends and will always be just friends." Unfortunately, I let a small wistful note creep into my voice. I realized my mistake as soon as the words escaped my lips. Too late. Nothing short of a time machine could save me. I had never mastered the art of lying, an art that could have served me on several occasions, but had eluded me on more than one such occasion. At one point, I think I decided that it must be a genetic thing. I looked at Char and knew that I really could use a time machine right about then.
"You're not convincing me, so don't even try," Char said.
"Fine," I sighed and got up to check my voicemail. There was one message.
"Hey Liz? I guess you're not there. I have some bad news. We're staying in Rhode Island and my coach wants the whole team to stay together. So I don't think I'll be able to hang out with you tomorrow night. But we're still on for lunch unless you've changed your mind. I have water practice tomorrow morning, but I'll call you before that so we can synchronize our times better. That's all, I guess. I'm really looking forward to seeing you again. Bye."
I replaced the receiver and sat down in the couch again in silence.
"So?" Char said.
"Yeah, it was Will," I said.
"So he's actually coming?"
"Of course he's coming," I looked at her. "Did you think I was imagining it?"
Char shrugged. "Stranger things have happened." She smiled. "So you guys are still meeting?"
"Yeah, at Pizzeria Uno," I replied. "You know...the one in Harvard Square?"
"Oh yeah," Char nodded. "Why did he call?"
"He called to say that he wouldn't be able to hang out tomorrow night. His team's staying in Rhode Island," I explained.
I suppose Char must have heard some disappointment in my voice. "I'm sorry, Liz."
I looked at her. "It's fine. It was his idea, anyway." I was fine, really.
"I know you were looking forward to it, though."
She was right. "Yeah well, it's not his choice. He has his team to think of."
"He always had too many other people to think of," Char muttered.
My ears perked. I looked at her for a moment. "You mean Brittany, don't you?"
Char nodded. "Will is an idiot, Liz."
Dear Char. She never minced words. "Why? What'd he ever do to you?"
"Nothing," said Char. "That's not the point, though. The question is what he did to you."
"He didn't do anything," I said.
"Exactly," said Char. "He let that Brittany person boss him around, let her play the prima donna, the jealous girlfriend from hell. For god's sake, you remember prom? He actually had Charlie sneak in to give you the flowers. He didn't have the gall to give it to you himself. He's a classic wimp, Liz, and don't you go on defending him."
I remembered prom; indeed, how could I ever forget? "He didn't want a confrontation, Char, that's all."
"And that makes it okay?" Char wasn't buying it.
"I don't know," I shrugged. "He didn't owe me anything."
Char shook her head. "Whatever. He never got a clue."
He never did get a clue, but I had not the heart to blame him. I never gave him a hint either. I had been too scared, always had been too afraid of how such an admission might affect our friendship. He never showed the slightest interest in me except as a friend and there had always been one girlfriend or the other. I could never jeopardize our friendship by making him uncomfortable. I valued our friendship too much. My only fear was that somehow I would let my feelings speak for themselves. After all, if Char could see right through me, perhaps Will would become privy to my heart as well. That thought frightened me more than I thought possible. I was not ready to share my feelings just yet. Yet. Sometimes I wondered if I would ever tell him. If I did, it would have to be in the distant future, not now, not like this. Meanwhile, I had to be careful not to let my eyes betray my heart.
"Char, am I very obvious?"
"About Will?" She asked.
"Yeah." I nodded.
Char smiled. "To me you are, Liz, but that's because I know you and because I've witnessed the entire saga."
"Do you think he'll notice?" I asked.
Char sighed. "He's a boy, Liz. They're not perceptive enough to notice anything as subtle as this. You'd be lucky if he noticed if you had it written for him in the sky by one of those cute little planes."
I smiled. "That's good."
Char looked at me. "You don't want him to know?"
"No," I shook my head.
"Does that mean I can't beat him over the head?"
I laughed. "Yeah, I guess so."
Char pouted. "Well say hi to him for me. That's if he still remembers me."
"I'm sure he does," I said.
"Yeah well, it might be hard since I wasn't one of his admirers."
"Char..." I wasn't sure where she was going with that and I didn't want to find out.
"What? I'm just saying the truth. He always had that pack of admirers."
"So you're saying I was a part of the pack?" I raised my eyebrows.
"You were the very head of it, sweetie." Char grinned. "The Will Darcy fan club."
"Yeah okay." There was no use arguing with her.
"And I guess I can't blame you for still liking him."
I began to protest that I was not a member of said 'pack,' but decided against it. "Really? And why is that?"
"It's not like you have many other distractions to take your mind off him."
I sighed. "Remind me again why we decided to come to an all-girls school, Char?"
"I don't know," Char shrugged. "But I suspect they drugged and hypnotized us."
I held the cell phone in my hand, debating whether or not to check my voicemail. He might have called. I sighed, hardly aware of how the plan had become this convoluted. Will had called me in the morning, waking me up once again. I think he was beginning to get scared of my morning persona. Separate me from my sleep and it was not a pretty sight. Anyway, he had informed me that he was just going to morning practice (why anyone would sacrifice hours of sleep for rowing in the cold water was beyond me and I often wondered if all those crew people had been drugged and hypnotized as well). He would have to weigh in after practice. He wanted to let me know of his plans so I could make mine. He added that he would call me after he was done weighing so I would know when to meet him. After he had hung up and I had managed to become fully awake and coherent, I realized that it would take at least 45 minutes for me to get to Boston and if I waited for Will's call, he would have to wait for me for an hour or so. That, of course, made no sense. So I decided to take the next bus to the city. Accordingly, I dragged myself out of bed (only for Will would I give up precious Saturday morning sleep like that) and did the same to Char. Someone had to wait for Will's call since I had foolishly not given him my cell phone number, but the boy had too much trouble with just one number and I didn't want to tax his brain with another. Char was the obvious choice for the task. She griped and complained as usual, but ultimately all was well. I took the next bus to Boston, barely able to contain my excitement. The time had almost come. I would see Will again.
I had been waiting in front of the Pizzeria Uno for a good hour, but there was still no sign of Will. I sighed and looked at my cell phone again. Maybe he had called. I gave into the urge and accessed my voice mail once again. Char had left the room shortly after I had and so she had changed the outgoing message to: Hi, you've reached Lizzy's phone, but she's not here to take your call. Please leave a message and she'll get back to you as soon as possible. Oh, and if you're Will, she's already in Boston to meet you and you're very late. I chuckled. Even after having heard that message a million times (what can I say, I was bored and there was nothing better to do) I could not prevent myself from giggling. Char was such a darling. I smiled at the thought and almost didn't realize that there was a new message. It had to be Will. Muttering under my breath that he better have a good excuse, I listened to the message. It was Will alright and he was very sorry that he was late, but he had been delayed in his weighing session. He would explain everything when he saw me. I turned the phone off. Well, that was kind of a good excuse, but I still was not exactly pleased. It could not be helped, however, so I tucked the phone away in my purse and let my mind wander on other things.
I looked down at myself and was pleased with what I saw. I was not a vain person normally, but I had dressed with more than usual care that day and I was pleased with the results. It was not everyday that I met one of my old friends, I reasoned, especially those whom I was in love with. Of course there was an unwanted aspect to my dressiness. I was standing in Harvard Square, in front of Pizzeria Uno, over-dressed and feeling like a lost puppy. I got strange looks from the people who walked by, especially that man reading the paper across the street. I almost wanted to cross the street and ask him if I offended him somehow. But I didn't, of course. I was not that stupid, even if I looked it. Instead of doing anything, I indulged myself with self-pity, which strangely lifted my spirits. I had frightening flashbacks to kindergarten when I had managed to get lost in Macy's while my mom had been trying on clothes. Of course I was not in Macy's, but the same lost feeling overwhelmed me. I knew that if I conveyed such feelings to Char, she would scoff, but I would challenge her to stand in front of Pizzeria Uno in a nice skirt and then I would ask her whether or not she felt somewhat foolish. Another hour passed and I began to wonder if I should simply abandon the plan and go home. Time was slipping by and I was not looking any less stupid. I had checked my voicemail a few (hundred) more times, but no new message from Will. I was tempted to just walk back to the bus stop. Even as I debated that idea, I heard my name being called.
I would have known that voice even if I'd been mute and deaf. I turned around. "Will?"
It was him and he was coming out of the restaurant and god help me, he was smiling. I ran towards him, imagining dramatic background music from Chariots of Fire and two people running through a meadow towards each other. Fine, there was no music and Will was just a hop, skip and a half away, but that did not stop my mind from imagining. When I finally reached Will, a little out of breath, he gave me the biggest bear hug, nearly lifting me off the ground. I had to stand on tiptoes to actually hug him. Strange. I didn't remember that happening before, but I was too distracted by other things to ponder that much longer.
"Where've you been?!" Will said as he finally put me down. "Your voicemail said you were in Boston."
"I was!" I said. "I was standing right here."
"Really?" He sounded incredulous. "I've been waiting inside for the past 15 minutes at least, wondering if I was supposed to meet you at another Pizzeria Uno."
"How did you manage to do that?" I was mystified. "I was here the whole time. How did we manage to miss each other?"
He shrugged. "I came in a taxi. Couldn't find this place, you know."
I chuckled. "It's not that hard to find, Will, for most competent persons, at least."
"Hey, I resent that implication!" Will exclaimed, properly outraged, I assumed.
"What implication?" I said sweetly as we walked into the restaurant. We were shown to a table and as we seated I looked at him. It was hard to believe that he was there. I was surprised at myself for being so calm. I had been scared that I would jump him the moment I saw him, but I was pleased with my present self-restraint. Actually I didn't have the right to take any credit for that evidence of civilized behavior. I was acting more out of fear and habit than common sense. Fear because I didn't want to lose Will by scaring him away with my antics. And habit because for as long as I could remember, Will and I had been friends, so that was the only way I knew how to interact with him. As friends. Just friends. I could laugh with him and tease him with little effort and even less seriousness. With Will, it was easy for me to be playful. It was the serious part that I was not very good at.
"It's so great seeing you again, Liz," he said as we sat down.
"Yeah, me too," I said. "Seeing you, that is. I see myself everyday."
He smiled. "I'm sorry I was late."
"Yeah, you should be, mister," I said. "I've been waiting for a long time."
"It's not my fault," he said. "You know how we weighed in after practice? One of my boat mates hadn't done his part in losing weight so we all had to run to lose more weight. It was pretty annoying. After some serious running, we finally made it. I was a little ticked off. I thought Fatthew would do his part this time."
Um... "Fatthew?" I had to ask.
"Oh, Matt...Matthew," Will explained. "The other guys and I call him Fatthew because he always has a hard time losing weight."
I giggled in spite of myself. "Will, that's terrible!"
Will shrugged. "He doesn't mind."
"That's what you think anyway," I smiled.
"So that's why I'm late. Forgive me?" Will smiled his winning smile.
Did I really have a choice? "Yeah, I guess." He could ask me for my liver; with a smile like that, I would give it to him in a heartbeat.
"Good," he grinned. He looked at the menu. "So what's good here?"
I made my suggestions of some appetizers and pizza as our waiter approached the table. "Hi, I'm John and I'll be your waiter today. Are you guys ready to order?" As he spoke, John flashed a brilliant smile at Will.
Will looked at me for confirmation, then looked at John. "Yeah we're ready." Will ordered for us and John smiled at him again before leaving us.
"Did you see that?" I asked.
"See what?" Will pretended to be ignorant, although he was so unobservant that I wouldn't be surprised if he'd really not noticed anything.
"That waiter -- John -- was smiling and making eyes at you!"
"Was not," Will said.
"Yeah he was." I laughed. "Very sketchy, if you ask me."
I giggled. After a brief pause, I asked him the dreaded question. "So, Will, do you have any love interests at the moment?"
Will shook his head. "Nah, not really." He paused, then politely asked, "And you?"
I wondered why Will bothered to ask. The answer always had been and would be a resounding no. I probably had the most boring love life in the world, except perhaps nuns, although sometimes I was fairly certain that even nuns led more exciting lives than me. But Will's answer relieved me somewhat. He did not have a girlfriend at the moment. That made no difference, actually and I had no reason to feel happy. He would have a girlfriend soon, undoubtedly. And even if he didn't, it was not like I had a chance with him. Despite those very good reasons for not being cheered by Will's response, I was strangely happy. It defied logic, but when it came to Will, I had never been one for logic. Otherwise I would have given up my fanciful dreams a long time ago instead of waiting around for him for years. But I liked being illogical. At least it made me happy sometimes.
"No," I said. I steered the conversation back at him. "So no more girls with tube tops around?" I could not resist.
"Hey, I'm still freaked out about that! Are you sure you're not a psychic or something?"
I smiled. "Yeah, pretty sure." Will had been so flustered about that. He was still convinced that I was some sort of omniscient being, I could see. It was strange how things worked out. I had never planned on spying on Will, but fate had some other ideas apparently. My good friend Amanda, who was a year my junior, happened to attend Georgetown as well. And since she knew all about my "Will-fixation," as she called it, she promised to tell me any interesting tidbits she came across. Which was how I came to know that one Saturday night, Will had been spotted walking across campus with a girl wearing a black tube top. Pretty scandalous or so Amanda thought at least. The next time I had talked to Will, I had revealed my knowledge of that particular escapade and his surprise and paranoia had known no limits. It was funny to see him flustered and defensive.
"I told you this before, but Suzanne is just a friend. I was walking her back to her dorm. Nothing happened." Will was really cute when he was defensive.
"Uh-huh, sure," I smiled, asking myself when Will was not cute.
"Maybe I should start avoiding Amanda, otherwise she'll tell you of any compromising situations I might find myself in."
"So you have many compromising situations to hide, Mr. Darcy?"
Will smiled. "If I told you, they wouldn't be hidden anymore, would they?"
"I'll find out anyway," I told him.
"Didn't anyone ever tell you that spying is not good?"
"No." I shook my head. "But what makes you think I'd listen to them if they did?"
"Good point," he said.
At that moment, John came with our food and I knew that my suspicions had been correct when he gave Will more napkins than he gave me. Besides the engaging smile that he seemed to have reserved for Will, John also had the strange habit of forgetting anything I asked him. In the end, Will had to ask for some ketchup for me because John chose to ignore my requests. After that, of course, the ketchup appeared instantaneously. That was all the evidence I needed. I burst out laughing, giving Will my best 'I-told-you-so' look. Will was convinced as well because he, too, chuckled slightly. John continued to pay extra attention to Will throughout the meal and it took all of my self-restraint to prevent myself from laughing each time that John came to our table. We talked a lot about our mutual friends from high school and other interesting details from our lives. There was not a hint of awkwardness and I began to relax, satisfied with the notion that I could remain friends with the only guy I could ever love. It was quite a feat as far as I was concerned and I was very proud of myself for Will appeared uncommonly kiss-able. But I didn't dwell on that for any amount of time, otherwise I would have been in some danger.
"Look at all these leftovers," I said as the meal came to and end. "I thought you said you were starved, Will?"
"I thought I was," said Will. "But you know it's hard for the stomach to ingest so much stuff after it's been denied food for so long."
"The things you do for crew." I couldn't mask the marvel in my voice.
"It's very rewarding, though." That seemed debatable to me, but I kept my opinion to myself. The check came and I began to take my wallet out, but Will shook his head, grabbing the check before I could even look at it. "No, Liz, this is my treat. Kind of a belated birthday present, okay?"
I protested, but he would have none of it. I repressed a small smile and wondered whether I was glowing with happiness yet. I wouldn't be surprised if my face was radiating with pure joy. Lunch had been a resounding success. I had enjoyed Will's company more than I could remember. I had been somewhat apprehensive about the meeting, unsure of how the distance might have affected the strength of the bond shared by Will and myself, but to all appearances, the bond was strong as ever. It was difficult to explain this bond to anyone else. Will and I were so different. He was naturally gregarious and I was painfully shy. He more or less had a girlfriend through most of high school and my love life was mostly nonexistent. We seemed so different, which was why our friendship puzzled, downright baffled everyone. I suppose it was obvious to everyone that I was in love with Will, everyone except Will, that is. If a natural airhead like Will's ex-girlfriend Brittany could notice my affections, then it must have been rather obvious. I wondered why Will had not noticed as yet. Char would remind me that he was a guy and even though that explanation generally satisfied most queries, I could not content myself with it anymore. Will might have been a guy, but he was not stupid. He would have noticed my feelings by now had he been at all interested, so the only conclusion could be that he was indifferent. I tried not to think about it too much. No point in ruining the weekend.
As we waited for the leftovers to be packed, Will called his friend, whom he was going to meet a little later in the afternoon. I didn't mean to eavesdrop on the conversation, but Will had a naturally booming voice and he was standing a few feet away from me. It was not my fault that I heard everything. Anyway, after hearing Will confirm his plans to meet with his old friend Eric, I realized that I still had a good hour and a half with Will. That realization made me grin from ear to ear. Will ended his conversation with Eric just as the grin claimed my face and he demanded on knowing what amused me so much. I made some flippant remarks, Will laughed obligingly and was not any wiser to my feelings. Humor is the best defense, I have learnt that through experience. I could not imagine how I would have survived uncountable situations had I not had such defense mechanisms. Whenever I felt vulnerable or uncomfortable, whenever I was afraid that all Will had to do was look into my eyes to learn the truth, I would extricate myself from the situation by a clever wisecrack. Sarcastic, dry humor. That was my indomitable defense and I thanked god that Will was 'guy' enough not to notice any occasional slips. After a wait of a few more minutes, we got our leftovers. It had already been decided that I'd take it home. It made little sense for Will to take it since he did not normally eat such fattening foods as mozzarella bread sticks and pepperoni pizza and besides, he was far away from home. And so I picked up the packed leftovers, but as I did so, Will whisked the package from my hands.
"Hey, let me get that."
It was a simple gesture, but I beamed inside and out.
"Well, we have some time to kill. Just wanna walk around?" Will suggested.
Sounded like a plan to me. As long as I was with Will, I didn't care where we went or what we did. It was all the same to me. Literally. We could have taken a tour of the Harvard campus or streaked in the streets. I would have followed him anywhere and done anything with the same glowing feeling pervading my entire being. "Sure, sounds good."
Will smiled and nodded and so we walked around Harvard Square randomly. It was a refreshing change, actually, to walk without any destination in mind. No pressure, no hurry, no need to be somewhere. It was different. Life was always so full of deadlines and destinations and goals. I always had to be somewhere, doing something. There was never a second to stop, to relax, to breathe and I was running out of breath. It was nice. A pleasant change. We just walked and talked. Walked without knowing where we were going or caring about it too much. And we talked. About Will's progression through the horrors of pre-med. I offered him excellent advice since Jane had gone through the entire process just recently. Will asked after Jane affectionately. They had always gotten along. In fact Jane was the only one in my family that he did get along with. After walking for quite a bit, we found a seat and sat down. It was getting to be a little chilly, so I shivered unconsciously. Will must have noticed because he put his arms around my shoulder and held me closer, smiling as he did so. I closed my eyes and thanked the gods that had decreed that it would always be chilly in Boston. I snuggled closer and Will observed that I seemed rather cold. I shrugged. Was it really cold? I hadn't noticed. Will raised his eyebrows. How could I not have noticed? I didn't say anything; only smiled. I was too busy thanking fate to notice the weather.
"But you're cold," he said, not removing his arms. "Is there a coffee place nearby?"
I tried to remember, but it took a great deal of straining for me to recall anything. Will's arms around my shoulders were interfering with all coherent thought. "Actually, yeah, there's a Starbucks around the block."
"Good." Will got up. "But then again, where is there not a Starbucks?"
I stood up, my shoulders still warm from Will's touch. "C'mon then, let's get coffee." I led the way and almost got lost a few times, but just as Will was beginning to question my navigating skills, we arrived at Starbucks. It was packed, more than usual and Will and I got in line. "See, I told you I could find it."
Will stuck his tongue out. "Only after running about for an hour!" The line was long and moved very slowly. "So...what're you getting?"
"Nothing." I hated coffee.
"Nothing?" He almost yelled.
"Yeah," I nodded.
"You have to get something. You can't leave Starbucks empty-handed."
"Is that a law?" I raised my eyebrows.
"Yeah, pretty much." Will smiled.
"Sorry, but I don't like coffee."
"Then get tea or hot chocolate...just get something." He pouted slightly.
The debate was over. Anything for those chocolate brown eyes. "Fine, I'll get hot chocolate."
"Good." He smiled.
I was standing close to him and I noticed that I had to tilt my head back often to be able to see him properly. That had never happened before. In addition, I remembered that earlier I had been forced to stand on tiptoes to hug him. I knew I was short, but not that short. Something had changed. "Hey, Will, have you grown since I saw you last?"
Will grinned a goofy, pleased grin. "Yeah! I hit the 6-foot mark. How'd you know?"
I told him of the tilting heads and the tiptoes. Perhaps I should have told him that I had voodoo powers. He would have believed me, too.
"It's not that I'm that tall," he said. "You're just too short, La Baja."
"Hey!" I slapped his arm. "I'll have you know, I've grown almost a quarter of an inch these past few years."
Will laughed. "Wow, really? Shaq better watch out, you're catching up to him fast." **
"Ha ha, you're so witty, Will."
"I know." Finally, after waiting in line for an eternity (not that I minded; forced me to stand very close to Will) it was our turn to order. As we got to the counter and I began to open my mouth, Will said, "One hot chocolate and one white chocolate mocha, please." Before I could react, he took out his wallet and paid for both drinks.
"Will, you really don't have to --- " I was touched beyond words.
"I don't have to do anything," he said. "But I want to do this. It's your day."
There was nothing left to say. I acquiesced in silence. We found a table, but it was a little dirty. Will asked, nay ordered me to stay there while he got napkins and cleaned it off. Then when our drinks were ready, he insisted on going and getting them. I did not have to lift a finger. It was so great being pampered like that. I sat in the big comfy couch, drank my hot chocolate, looked across the table at Will's smiling face and knew that I could have died happy at that moment without any regrets. Well, except for my regret of never having been Miss Universe, but one could not have all of one's wishes granted. We talked, we laughed, we sipped our warm drinks. It was heaven, it was bliss, it was my ultimate indulgence.
But like all good things, this afternoon also had to come to an end.
It was time for me to take the bus back to college and for Will to meet Eric. Will walked to the bus stop with me. We were a little early. The bus would not appear for a few minutes, at least. Will sat down on the bench next to me. "So, you want to come see me row tomorrow?" he asked.
"Hmmm....." I pretended to ponder it. "Yeah, of course!"
I wondered why he was so surprised. "Of course. It's not every day that you come up here to row. I want to see it." More importantly, see you.
He was more excited than a child on Christmas Eve. "I am the stroke, you know."
"Will, I have no idea what that means."
"Well..." And he began to explain all the rowing positions to me. I listened, but barely. I was more occupied with watching his eyes dance with excitement. Oh, how they danced...how they tangoed, how they.... ahem.... I forced myself to listen and appear interested. This was Will's passion. It couldn't be that boring. He concluded with an excited, "I'll win for you, Liz."
I felt like screaming. Could he be any more wonderful. It was sickening, really. He was doing it on purpose. He liked seeing me asphyxiated. "Yeah right." There you go. Calm as a cucumber, Liz. Remember to breathe at regular intervals; your lungs will thank you later.
"I'll try," he said, miffed.
"You do that, Will." I laughed and even as I did, the bus arrived at the stop. I got up; he handed me the leftovers he'd been carrying. "So..."
"I had a great time." Will said warmly.
"Me too." The greatest understatement in the history of time.
"Well..." Will hesitated. "In case I don't see you tomorrow, I'll give you a hug now." He hugged me. "Bye, Liz. See you tomorrow."
I hid some annoying tears. I hated tears. Tears were for wimps. "Bye, Will." I got on the bus and the tears began to flow. I was officially a wimp.
"Explain to me again why I'm spending a beautiful Sunday morning driving you to see Will row?" Char muttered.
"Because you're a wonderful, generous, totally awesome friend?" Flattery always worked; flattery got me everywhere. It was the greatest secret to my success, well besides my astounding good looks, of course.
"Right." Char had never been one to be flattered.
"Char, I really appreciate you giving up your Sunday morning," I said. "I wouldn't have asked you had it not been so urgent."
"Yeah, well, can't miss Will's big race now, can we?" Char said dryly.
"Char, please," I looked at her. "He really wants us to be there."
"You," She corrected me. "He wants you to be there and I'm sure he'll be glad to see you, assuming of course that he remembers that you're there."
I was a little stung by her words. "Why do you think so little of him?"
"Because he never gave me any reason to think better of him." She took her eyes off the road for a brief moment to look at me. "He's an extraordinarily selfish boy, Liz, you can't deny it. It's all about him, it's always been about him and his feelings and his need to avoid confrontation. He takes you for granted and yet you're always such a friend to him. He keeps hurting you, ignoring you for months on end. Then one call and one insincere apology and you forgive him in an instant. I just don't think he's worth it. No guy is worth any of it."
"He tries, Char," I said. "He really does. But you know guys, they're not very good at keeping touch. And he doesn't hurt me, not intentionally. It's not his fault, you know, that I fell in love with him."
"Whatever." I heard Char sigh. "You'll always defend him."
"Yeah," I agreed. "I will."
"So, meanwhile," Char's tone became lighter. "You should be glad I'm around; otherwise with your navigating skills, you'd be in New Jersey by now."
I only laughed in response and then Char turned the radio on, effectively ending any further discussion. She was right. In her own, blunt, no-nonsense way, she was right about everything. I still didn't think that Will was to blame for anything, but I knew that it wasn't worth it. All my frustrations, all the heartache, it just didn't seem worth it sometimes. Usually those were the times when I lay alone in my bed at night and tried to remember why I was torturing myself. A friend had once told me that I was masochistic. She was right, of course. I liked torture, torture was good. It was hard to remember, at times, why I tortured myself, but the afternoon spent in Will's company had reminded me of everything. His laugh, his smile, our friendship. I wouldn't sacrifice our friendship for anything in the world. It didn't matter whether I loved him or not. I would always be his friend first. Perhaps that was all I'd ever be to him. A friend. Perhaps that was all that was destined. I would be happy with that. Though my heart would ache for something more, I would rather have Will's friendship than nothing at all. After fifteen more minutes, we arrived at the river and Char pulled the car into a parking space. We got out of the car and walked over to see the rowers.
Crazy for feeling so lonely
Crazy for feeling so blue
My eyes fell on Will's boat and my heart skipped a beat when I saw him. It was so utterly and completely crazy. I had no reason to feel that familiar twinge. That twinge of longing, of wanting, of waiting, of hoping, of wishing, of dreaming. I was out of my mind. I glanced at Char and from the look in her eyes, I knew she'd agree. But that didn't mean that the twinge would disappear. I couldn't help it. I should have been happy to see him again. And I was. I was happy. Very happy. I was just also a little depressed. He was there, right in front of me. For one ephemeral moment. And then he'd row away from my life again. That thought was enough to depress me.
You'd love me as long as you wanted
And then someday
You'd leave me for somebody new
The true irony was, of course, that I had nothing to complain about, nothing to accuse him of. He hadn't broken my heart. He'd never played with my love. He had always been the perfect gentleman and the exemplary friend. A friend who did not love me. Not in that way, at least. So I couldn't say that he had betrayed me when he had dated Brittany. I couldn't say that he would betray me when he dated someone else. I would feel better, almost, if he had broken my heart, if he had left me for someone else. Then at least I would have had the right to hate him, the right to admonish him in frigid silence. But it was not the case. He had made no promises. It had all been in my head, always in my head. I had no right to him, to his heart. And that's what hurt the most.
Why do I let myself worry
What in the world did I do
The race ended. Will's boat had won, of course. He was an excellent rower. I ordered myself to stop worrying and wondering. This was not the time nor the place. I had to smile for Will, put on my happy face. No matter how much it hurt inside, I had to smile for him. And he would be none the wiser. Likewise, Char and I walked to the docks where the boats had to be taken after the race. Will emerged from the water shortly thereafter. Char and I stood back as his grandparents greeted and congratulated him. We didn't want to interfere with the family thing. Will had spotted us, though, and as soon as he could tear himself away from his grandparents, he walked over to us, with a beaming smile on his face. Damn his smile. It always erased every thought in my head.
"Liz!" He said. "You came!"
"Of course, silly," I smiled. "Congratulations."
He looked at Char. "Good to see you again, Lucas."
Shock registered on Char's face. She had certainly not expected him to recognize her. "You too, Darcy," she managed to say. "You weren't too shabby today." Coming from Char, that amounted to a resounding applause.
"Thanks, I try," Will grinned. "And I promised Liz I'd win for her."
Char rolled her eyes. "Of course."
"And you did," I mumbled.
Will just smiled.
For thinking that my love could hold you
I'm crazy for tryin'
Crazy for cryin'
And I'm crazy
For lovin' you
"Liz?" Someone behind me said.
I turned around. "Rick!"
"Hey there," Rick hugged me enthusiastically. "Will didn't tell me you'd be here."
"That's because Will didn't think I'd be here."
"Will's an idiot," Rick grinned.
"That's what I'm always saying," Char said. "But she doesn't believe me."
Rick laughed. "Good to see you haven't become any friendlier, Char."
"Hey, I'm friendly," Char protested.
"Right." Rick didn't sound convinced.
"I am!" said Char. "I just don't like nice boys."
"That'd be us," Will said, smiling.
"So, when are you rowing?" I asked Rick.
"Later," he said. "My boats up in about two hours." He heard his name being called. "Well, gotta run. Nice seeing you guys again."
As Rick left, Matt "Fatthew" approached us and said, "Hey, Darcy. You've got one too many visitors. C'mon man, help us with the boat."
"Alright, okay, I'm coming."
For thinking that my love could hold you
I'm crazy for tryin'
Crazy for cryin'
And I'm crazy
For lovin' you ***
"So..." Will looked at me.
Many Georgetown rowers and fans were arriving at the docks at this point. I knew it was time for me to go. "I'm gonna get going."
"So soon?" Will said. "I'll help put the boat away and be back in a sec."
"Yeah, but there're tons of people waiting to talk to you," I said. "I can't hog you all day, you know. Besides, Char needs to get back."
"Okay," he said. "So this is it."
"Yeah." I nodded, hoping those tears wouldn't spring up again.
Will hugged me tight. "Bye Liz. It was great seeing you again."
I muttered some incoherent gibberish in response. He smiled and then he was gone.
Char and I walked to the car. "You okay?" Char's voice was filled with concern.
"Yeah." I smiled at her, well, I tried to, anyway.
"You know, I don't really have to get back so soon," she said. "You could stay if you wanted to."
"No," I said. "I want to leave."
"Okay," she said. We arrived at the car and I stopped, glancing back at the docks. "Are you sure you're okay?" Char asked again.
"No." I spoke the truth. "But if we were to wait for me to be sure, we'd be here for the next decade and you know I can't miss de Bourgh's class again."
Char smiled. "Then let's get out of here."
I hesitated and didn't enter the car instantly. In the distance, I saw the crowd of people gathered near the docks. Will was also there, somewhere in that crowd. I could not complain. The weekend had been pure heaven and now it was time for reality. He would return to Georgetown and goodness knew when I'd see him again. It was crazy to even dwell on it, but dwell on it, I would. Of course. It was time for reality once again and yet the dreams wouldn't end. I got into the car and as it sped away (Char was a maniac on the road) I looked out the window. It was a glorious afternoon and I thanked god for little things. I thanked him for the sun, I thanked him for the fresh breeze, I thanked him for a friend like Char. I smiled. Char would undoubtedly point out that the mere fact that I was thanking god for the sun was evidence that I should be in a loony bin. She was right. I was crazy. I did many crazy things. I stood out in the rain and ate my pizza with ketchup. I sang in the shower and I talked to the walls. Above all, I fell in love with my best friend. Nothing could be crazier than that. Nothing. And yet... As much pain as Will caused me, I knew that I wouldn't have it any other way, I knew that I wanted to be in love with him desperately, I knew that I liked being crazy. I watched a hummingbird fly in the horizon and my smile widened.
I thanked God for making me so crazy.
** Shaq = Shaq O'Neal, a really tall basketball player
*** Crazy by Patsy Cline