I tried not to notice the tears forming in his eyes or the broken smile on his face. I couldn't help him, couldn't say what he needed to hear. We were best friends: me and Jack, friends since 1st grade. I didn't understand why he was ruining this.
"Where is this coming from?" I couldn't help but ask. Somehow I had missed all the warning signs. Sure, Jack never seemed to date anyone even though girls lined up to be with him. And, yeah, people often told us we should date. We were friends though: nothing more and nothing less.
Jack shrugged slightly, still unable to meet my eyes. "I don't know, Els." Even in the pale moonlight, I could still see his flushed cheeks. He looked good standing there, bathing in the moonlight. We often talked here on my roof at nighttime but I hadn't noticed before how much the night suited him.
"I've felt this way for as long as I can remember." Jack groaned, grabbing at his hair. He continued to look off in the distance, not letting me look him in the eye. "I mean, how could you not have noticed?"
"What does that mean?" I hardly felt it was my fault I didn't see this coming. When people said we should date we both set them straight. We had always been on the same page.
My best friend sighed slightly. "Els, you're the smartest girl in our class. You're also so observant so I really don't understand how you missed this. I give you rides to and from school. I always bring an extra brownie because I know you love chocolate. I-"
"Friends do those things!" I didn't know what I was defending. I knew he wasn't going to take it back no matter how much I wished he would. I couldn't convince him to be okay with friendship.
"I know but we're not friends!" For the first time that night, he turned to look me in my eyes, grabbing my hand. "Els, we cuddle all the time. When you have good news I'm the first one you tell and you're the first one I tell. We have so many inside jokes. We go out to eat. I just-" Jack let out an exasperated sigh. "I just don't understand how everyone in the world can see it except you."
I hated the fact that he was making this my fault. I wasn't the one ruining our friendship for no reason. I wasn't the one who blurted out love confessions the second I stepped foot on this roof. "We have a friendship. I'm just seeing things the way they are."
Jack didn't say anything. He stared up at the moon for a moment like it somehow understood him and then went to get off the roof, beginning to climb down on the tree between our two houses.
I knew the answer even before my friend disappeared into the darkness.
I couldn't remember ever feeling worse than I did right now. My head still hurt from all the tears I had cried last night. I'm in love with you, Els. Why did he have to say that to me? Why wouldn't he leave it alone?
He didn't come to pick me up but that was expected. I just hoped with time we could go back to what we were. I felt sick knowing I had hurt him but I could see no way around it. I only saw Jack as a friend. I loved Jack but I was not in love with him.
I sighed slightly as I stepped out of my mother's car. "Thanks for the ride."
She smiled at me. "I'm sure you and Jack will work this out." I'll admit, my mother did look sure. She was wrong though. I found it hard to believe we could ever come back from this.
Heading into school without Jack felt wrong. I should have been listening to him drone on and on about how much he didn't want to be here. Then he'd tell me some elaborate plan on how we could get new identities and never have to go to school again. I never thought I'd see the day where I missed his early morning rambling. Despite all the noise, the halls felt quiet without Jack beside me.
I walked past Jack's locker and wondered if he had gotten it open without my help. He said there was no reason for him to memorize the combination when I was there to do it for him. The day I was sick he had to get the janitor to open it for him.
I kept walking until I reached my own locker. Inside there were several pictures of me and Jack. Most were just selfies we had taken; he liked to steal my phone and force me to take pictures with him. I couldn't resist having some of them printed.
"You look awful!" Rapunzel was suddenly beside me, a look of concern on her face. "I take it you and Jack got into a fight. He looks even worse than you."
I tried to give my cousin a smile even though I knew it came nowhere close. My face was neutral at best. "He told me he's in love with me."
Runpunzel blinked. "And?"
I tilted my head slightly in confusion. "And what? He said he loves me." I groaned into my locker. "We're just friends and he told me he loves me."
To my surprise, my cousin began to laugh. "What you guys have right now is friendship? If this is how you treat your friends then I can only imagine what will happen when you do date someone."
"You're as bad as him." Why was everyone acting like I was the one missing something? Sure, ideally I'd feel the same way about him but I didn't. "I just want my friend back."
Rapunzel thought for a moment, probably deciding whether or not to keep arguing about my use of the word 'friend'. "I thought maybe this had to do with Belle," she told me. "Rumor has it she has been hitting on him for quite a long time. I thought maybe you two fought over it."
Belle was hitting on Jack? He hadn't mentioned that to me. An uneasy feeling swept across me as I pictured them together. They were partners on a history project. I was in that class too so I, of course, had seen them together. They did smile and laugh a lot.
My fist clenched. How could he claim to be in love with me when he was flirting with another girl? He was ruining our friendship over something that wasn't even true and that was far from okay. "I'm leaving."
I ignored the confused look on my cousin's face as I stormed down the hall. History was my first hour and I was going to pay attention to them. The audacity of that boy to think it was okay to make an insincere love confession.
As expected, Jack was sitting next to Belle in the front row of the classroom. He avoided my eyes deciding instead to look at her. Had he always had that twinkle in his eye when they talked? He didn't look as upset as Rapunzel had claimed. Maybe Belle was his backup plan since I rejected him. That should have made me feel a little better but it didn't; that meant I was replaceable.
Had he whined to her about school? Were they plotting ways to escape? Sitting down a few rows behind them I felt left out. If he really loved me he wouldn't be ignoring and replacing me. That was why I was upset; Jack was being a terrible friend and an even worse person.
Mr. North had come in and started lecturing but I wasn't listening. Jack kept leaning over and whispering things in Belle's ear. He normally did that with me. The boy always had commentary on the lessons and he was the sole reason this class was bearable. At least he used to be.
I wanted to hit that stupid boy! I was planning to give him space to heal but I hardly expected him to move on this fast. His confession last night clearly meant nothing. In fact, I was beginning to think I meant nothing to him.
"Are you okay?" I turned to see Flynn, my cousin's boyfriend, staring at me. I couldn't help but note he looked slightly amused. It was great that he was enjoying my pain.
"I'm fine." I had just gotten to the cafeteria and Jack was sitting there eating lunch with Belle and her friends. He hadn't even tried to talk to me. Instead, he was listening to every word that came out of her stupid mouth.
Not to mention, she looked more than just interested in him. I'm sure she loved the way his hair always looked like he had just run his hand through it. It was messy but in an annoyingly hot way. Belle probably liked that. She also probably realized how great his body was and how effortlessly attractive he looked when he leaned against the wall. He had an infuriating habit of doing that.
Flynn laughed suddenly. "Jealousy is a bad color on you." He didn't give me a chance to respond, heading over to my cousin.
As if I could actually be jealous. What was there to be jealous of? Jack had confessed love to me, not her. Unless he had said the same to her. He wouldn't do that, would he? Belle had only been going to this school for about a month and Jack had immediately become close to her. Had I just not noticed their romance?
My heart was beating painfully in my chest as I watched them. Jack was being cruel. I didn't even want to be in the same room as them. I'd just go to the library instead and leave them to their flirting.
Somehow, being in the library was even worse. I hated having them in my sight but it was more painful when they weren't. I didn't know what they were doing. What if right now they were kissing? Jack was probably forgetting all about my existence as his lips touched hers.
The image was so vivid in my head that it made me want to puke. The thought of them together hurt. It hurt in a way I hadn't expected. Surely I had a right to be angry though. He was acting like his confession meant nothing.
"Stop pacing!" My sister shot me an annoyed look. "I can hear your stomping from the living room downstairs."
I supposed I was being rather loud. This whole situation was just so annoying. A part of me wanted to go over to Jack's house and demand an explanation. To demand a reason for why he had moved on so fast. I had wanted him to stop having feelings for me; I hadn't expected it to happen so fast though.
What if Belle was at his house? His parents weren't home yet and his sister was probably locked in her room. That'd leave them alone to do whatever they wanted. What were the odds that would be history?
Anna sighed, snapping me from my thoughts. "You're doing it again," she groaned. "What's got you so upset anyway and why aren't you over there letting Jack handle it?" She smiled slightly as if she had just told a joke only she understood. Little sisters could be so annoying.
As if Jack would even care I was upset right now. "He's busy." I realized I didn't actually know for sure whether Belle was there and there was a good chance she wasn't. She could be though. Surely she had asked to hang out. Jack was fun to be around and Belle knew that. It was no wonder she wanted to date Jack; who wouldn't?
"He's never too busy for you." Anna laughed, glancing at his house through my window. "And isn't comforting you his job as a boyfriend."
"He isn't dating me." The line sounded bitter as it left my tongue. He wasn't dating me and I didn't want him to be so why did that hurt so much to say? Why did I want him to give me a hug and tell me I was irreplaceable and he would forever be in love with me. Was I that cruel that I wanted him to chase me forever even though I didn't feel the same? I should be happy he's moved on.
It was then I realized how shocked my sister looked. "Do you mean he's dating someone else?" She seemed to find that to be an impossible explanation. "Is that why you're being all moody? I don't blame you I guess. He always acted like he was in love with you."
Was that why I felt so down? I had already felt miserable knowing I was going to have to go through a day at school without him but it got so much worse when I saw him from Belle. I guess I just expected he'd be as unhappy as I was and it hurt that he knew how to live without me when I felt empty without him.
"I want to be alone."
Anna gave me a concerned look but ultimately decided to leave. She didn't even comment on the fact that I had started pacing again. I supposed I looked sad enough to get away with it. Some part of me wanted to grab a gallon of ice cream and treat this how girls in movies do. I could yell at romcoms and cry until I didn't have tears left.
This wasn't a break up though, even if it felt like it. It was some kind of friend breakup I guess. It hurt all the same.
A sudden ding caused me to look at my phone. I almost couldn't believe the name on the screen: Jack. Immediately I opened it: meet me on the roof. Even though I still felt mad at him, I immediately opened my window. Jack often used the tree to get up but I could climb up from my window.
Jack was already up there, staring off in the distance like he had done the last time. However, now it wasn't the moonlight hitting him. He looked good in the sunlight too. It almost seemed like he was glowing. The sight was so pretty I didn't notice I was staring.
He coughed awkwardly, snapping my attention back to the situation. He had spent all day ignoring me and flirting with Belle.
"Are you done ignoring me?"
He did look a bit sheepish as he rubbed the nape of his neck. "I'm sorry, Els. This isn't easy though." He sighed slightly. "You looked so sad in your room though and I don't care how much it hurts; I'll always be here for you."
I hadn't even considered the fact that my window had been open and that Jack could easily see me pacing in my room. At least he still cared about me enough not to let it go. Maybe he couldn't live without me either.
Jack seemed to sense I wasn't going to say anything. "What's wrong?" He asked like it wasn't obvious.
"Everything." A dramatic yet entirely accurate answer. "You didn't pick me up, didn't walk in with me. I couldn't help you with your locker or listen to you complain in history. You didn't even sit with me at lunch. And now-" I felt tears in my eyes. "Now I see that I can't even go a day without you. I didn't even feel like talking to anyone besides you, though you clearly didn't have the same problem." I mumbled the last line though I was sure he still heard it.
He seemed to be thinking a moment. "Oh, you mean Belle, don't you?" Of course that's who I meant. Was there a chance there were even more girls?
I resisted the urge to roll my eyes, deciding to just nod instead. "Everything you weren't doing with me you did with her." I didn't mean to sound so bitter as I said it. I supposed no one liked being replaced though.
Jack raised a brow, staring at me like it was the first time he'd ever seen me. Was there something on my face? "You're jealous?" He stared some more and I felt my traitorous face warming under his gaze. "What the hell, Els! You're jealous even after everything that happened last night! Jealousy is for people who can't have what they want but I made it abundantly clear last night that you can have me."
I didn't know why he sounded so angry at me but I didn't like it. "I wasn't jealous." That was a lie; I hated being replaced. He was implying there was more to it though. "And I don't want you."
Jack sprung to his feet in frustration and, for a brief moment, I felt worried he would fall. "You are the single most stubborn person I know!" He ran his fingers through his hair, the bottom of his shirt lifting to expose his toned chest.
It clicked. I didn't know why that was what did it. Maybe because friends wouldn't hope their friends' entire shirt would come off or maybe that was just the final straw. Even I couldn't deny it anymore. I was in love with him.
The realization shouldn't have been as terrifying as it was. I felt like I couldn't breathe, couldn't even move. I suddenly realized all the courage Jack had possessed last night to tell me what he did. I forced myself to look up at Jack who was still angrily ranting.
"What is it going to take for you to even humor the idea?! I thought if I told you how I felt you'd understand!" He groaned. "But no, you will never admit that maybe, just maybe, you-"
"I love you," I interrupted. "I'm in love with you, always have been."
He stared at me, his head tilting in the most adorable way. All his frustration had melted away and he just looked helplessly confused. "Wait, what? You just said you didn't want me."
I shrugged slightly, standing up. "I was wrong." I forced my eyes onto his. For just a fraction of a second, his eyes focused on my lips before returning to my eyes.
I wanted to kiss him, to close the distance between us. I couldn't though, not yet. "Do you have something with Belle?" None of this changed the fact he had spent all day with her. It was stupid of me to think he didn't care about me, but what if he liked her too?
Jack groaned again, seeming at war with himself. "Am I not being clear?!" He laughed slightly, the sound bitter. "I am in love with you, Els. In love. That means I have no romantic feelings for anyone else, including Belle."
I supposed love didn't leave much room for liking someone else. I couldn't imagine being into anyone but Jack. "I love you too." I felt myself smiling as I leaned forwards.
As expected, Jack's frustration seemed to die and he closed his eyes. Slowly our lips met. The kiss was gentle, perhaps a bit hesitant, but it was real. There was no denying the love in it.
Jack placed his hands on my waist, pulling me closer while I began running a hand through his hair. Slowly our kiss began to deepen as we attempted to make up for all the time we had spent not doing this. I supposed it was good today had been so awful. Otherwise, I might not have been able to see what was right in front of me.
I moaned, my thoughts coming to a halt as Jack's tongue slipped into my mouth. Yes, I was quite glad to be wrong. This was definitely something I could get used to.
Rapunzel stood next to her boyfriend, staring up at her cousin on the roof. "And you thought that wouldn't work." She laughed slightly, watching as Jack grabbed Elsa closer.
Flynn smiled at his girlfriend. "I never should have doubted you. It was just so easy! It only took me like five minutes to convince Jack it was time to confess to Elsa."
The boy hadn't put up much of a fight at all. It was like Jack had just been dying for someone to tell him to do it. While Flynn hadn't realized that was all it would take, his girlfriend had. Half the school had Rapunzel to thank for their relationships. Honestly, it was adorable how involved she got, yet only Flynn knew about it.
The girl finally looked away from the roof, turning to Flynn. "It was even easier to convince Elsa that Belle was into Jack. I just barely hinted at it and she took off running." Rapunzel shook her head in amusement. "It would have been harder if Elsa kept up with school gossip. Everyone knows that Belle is into Adam Beast."
Flynn raised a brow. "Your next project?" He was sure his girlfriend would want to help the pair become official.
The blonde smirked in return. "Next? Do you even know me?" She laughed lightly. "I asked Belle to invite Jack to sit with her at lunch since he was feeling down today. Not only did that make Elsa jealous but-"
"-Adam too," Flynn finished, amusement evident in his tone. His girlfriend was something else. He supposed he had been focused on talking to Elsa and making her realize her jealousy so he hadn't paid any attention to Adam. "Two birds with one stone."
Rapunzel nodded, grabbing her boyfriend's hand to leave. "I predict tomorrow there will be two new couples at school."
Flynn didn't doubt his girlfriend's words.