The first time I met Steven, we were just kids, and my first impression of him was that he was a dirty, poor kid that I wouldn't associate with if my life depended on it.
Little did I know what the future held.
Dating Michael meant hanging around with his friends, which included Steven, and over the years we fell into a precise routine of insults and burns. Some of the wittiest burns that Eric's basement has ever heard passed between Steven and I during the early years.
It wasn't that I hated him or anything, it was just that we were complete opposites. Two very different ends of the social spectrum, you know? I was rich, he was poor. I was popular, he was a rebel. We didn't have to pretend to like each other, because the truth was we didn't like each other, and that was okay. It's what we did, who we were.
But there was something about him that always made me feel safe. When I needed a shoulder to cry on, I turned to him. I know that always confused the hell out of him, especially since Donna or Eric would have been a much more obvious choice for comfort. The reason I went to Steven was because he didn't put on a front. With him, what you saw was what you got. He didn't pretend to be nice, he didn't pretend anything. I didn't need nice, or sympathy, I needed something real.
Even though he was a jerk to me most of the time, when it counted he was always there for me. He even took me to prom when Michael ditched me for Pam Macy, and he hates dances. Come to think of it, he hates a lot of things. Despite what he might have claimed, though, I knew that he never really hated me.
See, Steven and I actually have a lot in common, although we'd be the last to admit it. We've both had pretty lonely lives, which might surprise some people because everyone always thinks I have the perfect life. A big house, servants, striking good looks, fancy cars and expensive clothes- everything a girl could want, right?
I think I've spent more time with the maid than with either of my parents. Daddy was always too busy to spend any time with me, but he bought me all sorts of expensive things to make up for it, so I plastered on a fake smile and pretended like that could make up for his absence. My mom's never really been around much, always off one exotic vacations with her friends that sometimes lasted for months at a time.
The ironic thing was, sometimes I felt like more of an orphan than Steven was.
Maybe that's why he could never turn me away when I needed him. Around everyone else I had to keep up the tough, ice queen shields, but with Steven it was different, even back when we were barely friends. Somehow he always knew when things were serious, even if I didn't say a word. Like after I caught Michael cheating on me with Laurie, and he went out of his way not to burn me, even though he had plenty of opportunities.
Steven wasn't the first person to ever tell me that I deserved better than Michael, but he was the first person that made me see it, too. I didn't deserve to be cheated on, to be betrayed and used that way. He was surprisingly gentle with me in the car that day, brushing a loose strand of hair behind my ear and telling me that he knew I was going to find someone great one day.
I don't think either of us ever thought that someone would be him.
He denied it over and over, but I always knew Steven had a soft spot for me. Like when he taught me his little Zen thing, so that I could play it cool when Michael was all over Laurie in front of me. It worked, and I was so excited about it, which made Steven laugh, but I think he was pleased, too, you know? When Laurie went too far, and I had no choice but to kick her ass, Steven's only negative remark about that was that he wished he'd had a video-camera to capture the moment on tape.
Then came the stage in our relationship that Steven likes to call "the stalking days". I wasn't really in love with him, I think I was just in love with the idea of him. I was tired of hurting, tired of crying, and I guess I just wanted that fairy-tale romance. I know Steven didn't feel anything for me back then, but when he took the blame for the "film" I bought to try and impress him, I knew that he cared.
I guess that's why I continued to chase after him, because I was so lonely and I just wanted someone to care. Michael was off nailing Laurie, and it wasn't like Daddy was around to keep me company. I don't like being alone, I'm not good at it. In truth, that's what scares me most- the thought that I might always be alone.
The whole point of bringing Chip to the Forman's Veterans Day barbecue was to make Steven jealous, and it worked, though not the way I had expected it to. Chip must have said something to rub Steven the wrong way, because the next thing anyone knew Chip was sprawled out on the driveway holding his bleeding nose.
Steven took me out on a date after that, and we actually had a pretty good time, even if he did tease me for half of the night. I don't know why, but I always feel comfortable around Steven. That's a side of him that not many people get to see, even the rest of the gang, because he's kind of jagged around the edges. If you try to get too close, you get cut. But if you keep pushing even when you're being cut, sometimes you break through and get a glimpse of the real Steven underneath.
When we kissed, though, it was obvious that we weren't meant to be. At least, not yet. The kiss was amazing, there was no denying that, and it made my stomach flutter, but when we pulled back it was like reality set in after a long vacation.
I told him I didn't feel anything, but that wasn't entirely true. I did feel something, but I wasn't sure what it was. It wasn't like anything I'd ever felt with Michael, and it was an entirely new feeling that I didn't know how to describe.
This past summer when we hooked up, I finally found a word for that feeling: soaring. It was like the rest of the world fell away and the only thing that existed was Steven's arms, Steven's lips, Steven's breath mingling with mine. It was heaven.
But I told him I felt nothing, and he said the same, so we tossed out the idea of there ever being anything between the two of us. Things went back to normal, to the way they had always been. I ended up with Michael again, and forgot all about the way Steven's kiss had made my stomach flutter.
Until Michael took off to California and left me heartbroken. Now I can honestly say that I'm glad Michael left, because if he hadn't I might not have ended up with Steven, but at the time I was devastated. I really thought that Michael loved me, and then he just ran off and left me. Eric and I got along better than we usually did that summer because he was just as torn up about Donna leaving town, but it was Steven who helped me get over Michael.
It wasn't something either of us planned, it just happened. One minute we were sitting there with the television turned to "The Price is Right" complaining about the utter boredom that had descended upon our summer, and the next we were kissing. It wasn't anything spectacular, just a short, simple little kiss, and then we turned our attention back to the television as if nothing had happened.
That lasted about thirty seconds, and then we were making out on the couch.
One thing led to another and pretty soon that became our daily routine. I'd get up, go over to the basement, Steven would turn on the television, and we'd fall all over one another until we heard Eric's heavy footsteps trudging down the stairs. The feel of Steven's arms around me, the taste of his lips on mine, was irresistible, so I found myself sneaking kisses whenever the room was empty, and he would do the same.
Things began to get serious when Donna and Eric walked in on us kissing. They were shocked, and more than a little freaked out, which was understandable. They told us to call it off, before Michael found out, and we agreed that we would, but as soon as they left the room we resumed our previous position on the couch, Steven's body pressed against mine as our lips devoured one another hungrily.
When Michael found out, he was really upset, and even though he was a jerk for leaving me, I felt bad for him. Seeing me and Steven together was hard for him, probably harder than seeing him with Laurie was for me. He got over it, though, or at least came to terms with the fact that Steven and I were together.
For a while things were going pretty well, and then Daddy got arrested and sent to jail. Mom was still off somewhere seeing the world, and suddenly I found myself forced to be the adult of the house. Being an adult is hard work, you know, and scary, too. I didn't know how I was going to get through it, and Steven didn't have any idea how to comfort me. He comes from a broken home, so in all fairness I guess that's kind of to be expected. Still, I really needed him to be there, to do something, and so he shaved off his beard for me. Later Donna commented on how odd it was that shaving was all it took to cheer me up, but she didn't get it. It wasn't about the beard, not really, it was about Steven giving up something he wanted because he was putting my needs and feelings before his own.
He did it again when he showed up at the dinner party Mrs. Forman threw for Fez and Nina, even though he claimed it was just because he was hungry. We both knew that wasn't the reason that he had come, though. He came because of me, and that meant a lot.
I know I'm not an easy person to love. I can be demanding and selfish, and more than a little shallow at times, but I'm trying to be better about that stuff. Steven makes me want to be better. When he broke up with me because of the "get off my boyfriend" mess, it felt like my whole world was crumbling down around me. That's why I had to tell him, even if he didn't say it back, that I loved him. I knew he wouldn't say it back, because that's just not who he is. He's never said those words to anyone in his entire life, and even if he felt it, he wasn't going to start spouting off love ballads anytime soon.
In his own way, though, he had told me just how much I meant to him, by forgiving me. By letting my mistake be something of the past and moving on with our lives. I wish I could do the same for him now, but this time it's going to take more than an "I love you" and an escort to a dance to make things right between us.
Steven changed me, though, and for the better. He made me appreciate the precious things in life more, and the simpler things, as well. The Led Zeppelin shirt he gave me for my birthday is something I would never wear out in public, but the thought behind it meant more than any piece of expensive jewelry ever could. And the look on his face the first time he saw me sleeping in it was priceless.
After Daddy got arrested, I realized that Mom wasn't coming back. Why would she want to come home to a family going broke, a house with no servants, a husband in jail and a daughter who could only tie her down? No, she was enjoying her freedom jetting around South America entirely too much to even think of coming home to boring, little Point Place, Wisconsin. She had never been there much in the first place, but with Daddy in prison and the staff gone, the house was suddenly terribly empty.
Steven likes to act all tough and all, but on the inside he's got a really caring heart. When he found out I was all alone in that sprawling house I was once naive enough to call a home, he insisted that I spend the nights with him. Hard as it is to believe, his tiny little room in the Forman's basement, with his cot and scratchy pillow, had more warmth than the huge bedroom I had at home. I felt safe there with Steven, and laying there in his arms at night, I felt loved.
After everyone found out that I'd been staying in the basement, Donna offered to let me stay with her. The first time she asked she did it out of pity, and so naturally I turned her down. I don't like pity from anyone, not even Donna. She asked again later on, claiming that she wanted me to stay with her so she'd be more popular, and this time I accepted.
I'm not stupid, I know that was just a way to give me an out, a way to let me take the offer without admitting I needed help, and that meant a lot to me. Donna is my best friend, despite our differences. I mean, she dresses like a lumberjack and has no sense of fashion, so it'd be a miracle for us not to have differences, but, you know, I think it's our differences that give us such a strong bond. She's always been there for me when I was in trouble, which is why I paid for her engagement ring from Eric. I did it for Eric, too, because he's been a good friend when I needed one, but mostly I did it for Donna, because she deserves that ring, and she deserves to be happy.
At least one of us should be.
I never understood why Steven was so jealous of Michael. I mean, did he really expect the years of history between us to just disappear? When Michael gave me that gorgeous sweater for my birthday, Steven wanted me to give it back. He actually wanted me to refuse a present! Me! He was right, though, Michael had only given it to me because he was trying to win me back, so I got rid of it. The nerve of Michael, I mean, doesn't he know it's not cool to chase after your best friend's girlfriend?!
It was Michael chasing after me that really made Steven uneasy, and so when he asked me not to be alone with Michael anymore, I agreed, even though I thought he was being a little ridiculous. So when Michael showed up in the Pinciotti's living room, I tried to send him away, but he was really freaked out, you know? This wasn't some crazy plan of his to win me back, it was a plea for a friend. He just needed someone to talk to, someone to reassure him that everything was okay.
Leave it to Steven to take that out of context. He always thinks everything means something it doesn't. If it's not me hugging Michael as a friend, then it's the government watching us or romance being nothing but a marketing scheme.
He was hurt, I get that. He thought that Michael and I were getting back together, and that he would be left out in the cold. What I don't get is why he couldn't just talk to me. Why he couldn't have come to me first, instead of going to some nurse whose name he probably doesn't even remember.
When Michael took off for California, I didn't think anything could hurt more than the knowledge that he didn't love me enough to marry me.
I was wrong.
The turmoil in Steven's eyes told me that something was really, really wrong even before he said anything. His eyes are so expressive, you can always tell what he's thinking and feeling when you look into them, which is why I think he wears those sunglasses in the first place.
He wasn't wearing them then, though, and I could see raw pain swirling in his eyes, and I knew that I wasn't going to like what he had to say.
He says he's sorry, that he wasn't thinking clearly, that he was angry and scared that he was loosing me. He says it will never happen again, and I believe him. I know all of that is true.
But it doesn't make a difference.
Steven knew how badly it hurt me when Michael cheated on me. He was the one that had to hold me while I cried, who had to pick up the pieces of the mess Michael made of my heart. He told me I deserved better, that Michael wasn't worthy of me or my love. He was supposed to be the one guy that would never break my heart like that, the one guy that I could trust not to betray me.
That's why it hurts so bad, because he was supposed to be better than Michael, but in the end he wasn't.
I know he's sorry, I know he's hurting. He loves me as much as I love him. I waited so long to hear him say those words, all these months that we were together I longed to have him tell me how he felt, but I didn't want it to be like this.
Steven loves me, really loves me, more than Michael ever did, and that makes it worse in a way, because I really love him, too, more than I ever did Michael.
And he hurt me worse than Michael ever could.
Donna's been trying to give me space, spending a lot of time over at Eric's so that I can be alone with my grief, which is really cool of her and all, but it's not helping much. I feel like I'm dying inside, and while Donna is next door with her fiancé, I'm lying here staring at the ceiling, tears running down my face, wrapped up in that stupid Led Zeppelin shirt, and I can't breathe.
I know it's crazy, but what Steven and I had was special. Sometimes it was good, sometimes it was bad, but it was real. The kind of love that shakes you down to your very core. The kind of love that means we could have had a real future together.
How do I know?
It never hurt this bad with Michaeal. All the pain I endured from all the breakups, all the cheating, doesn't even come close to what I'm feeling now.
What Steven and I had was real.
So how did something so right, turn out so wrong?