Disclaimer: I don't own Giant Days!

McGraw watched as Esther and Ed sat together during the hall ball. White dress and black tux respectively. With her pale head on his shoulder, Ed's lean body was completely still, relaxed even. Both radiated contentedness, but also a lot of regret. McGraw could appreciate the expanse of unspoken and unclear feelings, the feeling of urgency, and stillness overwhelming and soothing their proximity.

Esther and Ed, the eternal enigma. They found each other, but they needed to find each other again, thought McGraw wryly. He once (several times really) longed for Ed to outgrow his crush on Esther, but there was beauty in striving, hope was a good thing, maybe the best of things.

The spell broke, the stream of time broke through the dam with the buzz of her phone. Daisy, probably, McGraw thought, (it couldn't be Susan, because he always knew where Susan was in the room and she was currently drinking and grousing). He saw Esther scan the text, her head lift immediately, Ed's almost imperceptible disappointment, and then the minute softening of his features as Esther apologized in the language of doe eyes. More like, big googly eyes lined quite heavily, McGraw thought.

She almost passed without noticing him. "You're cruel" he said. Really, he only half meant it.

Because McGraw, besides her two greatest friends, who'd go to war in her name and go to war in her name even if she was to blame, was one of the few people who did estimate her correctly. The girl who wore flowers when his father died, who said the best things in life were rare, who played the fool to make others smile, Esther who was earnest and adored, knew only how to be lonely.

To anyone else, Esther was callous. He almost regretted the words when he heard her reply.

"I know", her voice steady, eyes clear.

Almost. Because wasn't it a fact that Esther was playing a dangerous game? Today was a day of half-truths, half-stories, and half-admonishments. Esther herself saw to it when she convinced herself the laugh in his best friend's eyes was open season, and not her own doing and McGraw was growing tired of her greyscale behaviour.

Ed once told him that he fell in love with Esther first for her beauty and second and, truth be told, a great while later for the beauty of her actions. Ed said after knowing her for a couple of weeks he realized she was dangerous and could do serious damage to his sense of what was possible and so the second reason he loved her became the only reason he loved her. It was a lightning thing, he concluded as if McGraw would understand immediately after. But it was the look in his best friend's eyes as he tried to untangle and explain the spiderweb of emotions she called in him that won him over. Hell, it made him feel a little less uncertain in his unconquerable quest to be allowed near Susan again, Susan who was still drinking and grousing, but with Daisy besides her half mother henning and half participating.

So yeah, maybe he did mean it in a three quarters/seventy five percent kind of way. Esther was callous, even if her eternity of kindness for all things living, second only to Daisy's and admittedly trumping Susan's by miles, beggared disbelief.

Today, she tucked in Ed's love to hold Ed's friendship in her palm, and as Ed's best friend, McGraw would tell her she was being unfair. Esther couldn't see Ed's emotions discretely not when Ed felt only one way.

McGraw, he gave her morals enough credit, knew she knew that she couldn't keep convincing herself she was being a good friend.

As McGraw watched her make her way towards Susan and Daisy, he could only wonder why she looked for not just fun, but reassurance in those thin interactions with those boys whom she could run intellectual circles around. She deserved far more than maybe what she gave herself credit for.

Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. - Stephen King