Best Friends

  Their eyes locked for what seemed like forever. She was amazed to see her best friend standing right in front of her in his dashing tailored tuxedo at the altar. Everything about him was so dapper. His usually very tousled sandy colored hair had not one strand out of place and his olive skin radiated under the beams of sunlight that shone through the church windows. It was as if the Heaven’s were shining a spotlight on the only prize one could hope for. In just a few moments he would go from her being John, her best friend, to John, the husband. A chill slowly crept down her spine as “Here Comes the Bride” played on the church’s organ. There she proceeded to gracefully walk down the aisle wearing a long, strapless, white gown that draped so beautifully over her fair porcelain skin. Her wavy blonde hair looked stunning pinned up beneath her veil. She looked up at him standing there and felt as if they were the only two people in the room. The feelings she had for him were stronger than anything she had ever felt. Unknowingly, tears streamed steadily down her face as their gaze broke and John’s attention became focused on his beaming bride floating towards him. Sadie sat quietly in the crowd, tugging at the short white dress that covered her long mocha colored legs as she hid her love for her best friend as he prepared to marry another woman.
        Sadie was great at hiding her feelings since she had done so for so many years. John gave her one last look as if to ask of his very best friend’s blessing. With a slightly tear stained face, Sadie gave a nod accompanied with a sweet smile assuring him that she would be okay. Sadie was anything but okay. It became force of habit to only nod and smile when John wanted Sadie’s opinion of a new woman that had entered his life. The thoughts of how she should have spoken up years ago taunted her. All the times she came close to pouring her soul to John only to hide in fear of rejection. If John had turned away from her at any point in their lifelong friendship it would’ve been an unbearable blow to Sadie. His happiness outweighed hers. John looked so happy standing in front of his bride. Sadie cringed at the thought of how, in that moment, she wanted to take that happiness away from him. She had wondered if they would’ve been happy together. She’ll never know the answer to that. John’s glance lingered. He could see the confusion on Sadie’s face, but couldn’t quite read her thoughts. They had been best friends since they were small children and the one thing he could never do was read what Sadie was thinking when she closed herself off.
        As the ceremony continued John’s future with his bride flashed before Sadie’s eyes. She pictured John’s life with this perfect woman. They’d go on to have two kids; a boy named Max and a daughter named Julia. His life would be full of softball games, recitals, plays, sleepovers and all of the milestones a parent enjoys with their children. He would have this cookie cutter family and Sadie would have no part in it. The thought of John not being in love and growing old with her gave Sadie an unnerving feeling at the pit of her stomach. How was she to continue with their long random talks when all he talked about was how he was desperately in love with someone else? There was only so much heartbreak she was willing to take on. It puzzled everyone that Sadie wasn’t the one that John had asked to marry him. It was pretty evident to all who surrounded them that she was head over heels in love with him, but John was none the wiser. It hurt for her to see John fawn over this woman, but Sadie always put on her brave face around John and … her to keep from feeling like a love-struck fool. In the end she just wanted her best friend to be happy even though in the process she felt like complete shit.
        The wedding ceremony dragged by slowly and became blurred chaos as Sadie watched the only man she ever truly loved be bound for life to another woman. Sitting in a sea of people she fell into a zone like state just staring forward as the priest’s words turned into muddled gibberish. She sat still as her heartbeat quickened. The palms of her hands became drenched with sweat. She tightly clasped her hands together to distract herself from the feeling of her heart breaking little by little. The more her heart broke the harder she squeezed her petite hands.There was a knot that sat in the pit of her stomach that only grew heavier with each minute. Sadie’s emotions were spinning out of control and she could only hope that the turmoil didn’t show on the outside.
        “Sadie, are you okay, sweetie?” Asked, her boyfriend, Zachary. “You look pretty flush.”
        She gave his hand a weak squeeze and fanned herself. “It’s just a little warm in here. You know how churches are. I’m okay,” Sadie whispered as she gave him an even weaker smile.
        Deep down Zachary knew something was a bit off. For a long time he saw the signs clearly laid out in front of him. He chose to overlook the way she lit up when John was around or called, how she always looked at him with such awe, and all of the stories she told gushing about their years together. ‘That’s how close friends are with one another,’ He often thought to himself. He had no idea exactly how deep her feelings were for her best friend. Zachary loved Sadie madly. He couldn’t possibly imagine his life without her. While Sadie dreamed of what life would have been like with John, Zachary’s imagination flooded with children, family vacations and staring into her eyes for the rest of their lives. That’s everything and more that Sadie meant to him. Their relationship had barely passed the one year mark and all Zachary wanted to do was make Sadie his wife. His suspicions of her feelings for John left him with an engagement ring that sat in the back of his sock drawer for the past few months. Sadie intertwined her slim fingers with Zachary’s. The hurt on his face was evident. She felt absolutely awful that she couldn’t love him the way he loved her. Zachary was a very kind and loving man who adored her more than any man ever had. The smiling and hand holding made her feel like a total fraud, but she had to find a way to get over John, even though it wasn’t working out as she had planned.
         The room spun as the couple said their “I Do’s”. Sadie briefly placed her head in her hands to keep from sobbing and to calm her thoughts. “This cannot be happening,” she thought to herself. “Why didn’t I tell him how I felt? This is so stupid.” Before she could gather her thoughts the newlyweds made their way out of the church. John gave her chin a playful pinch as he walked past her. It took everything inside her to keep from falling apart. John knew exactly what to do to make her weak. She felt as though her heart burst from her chest only to beat it’s last beat in the palm of her hand. Zachary shifted uncomfortably in his seat. It was most maddening to see his girlfriend shudder at the touch of someone else. He felt betrayed but composed himself so as to not make a scene in front of her friends. As the church emptied out, cheering the new couple, Sadie stayed in the background with Zachary. Celebrating John’s union was not something that she was in the mood for.

——-This was it. Their friendship as she knew it had changed forever.

        flashback first meeting
       ——-Over the years Sadie’s friendship with John became a roller coaster. No matter how many good or bad times they were all each other had. There was an instant bond between them when they met 24 years ago. From that first moment the two were attached at the hip and Sadie knew that when she first laid eyes on John that she would have him in her life forever. In Sadie all John saw was his best friend, and nothing more. He knew that she was someone he could always rely on no matter what, but he failed to see why she was so faithful.
From the very first moment, John was Sadie’s knight in shining armor. She was a young girl from the states, Ohio to be exact, in a new land called Leeds. She was nearly six years old and couldn’t quite understand this new place she had to call home where everyone “talked funny” as she would tell her mother everyday after school. Her father, Charles, had moved their family out of the United States for his job. Sadie was an only child, and although she was used to it, being the new kid somewhere foreign made her feel quite lonely. Teasing became a new normal for her as did crying herself to sleep at night. The only friends Sadie was armed with when she crossed the pond was a hamster named Fievel, an army of stuffed penguins, and her diary.
    The day she met John was a day like every other day; try to keep up with what the teachers were saying, sit alone on the playground, pretend you understand what the teachers are saying again, and finish with two older boys teasing you on the walk home. This was her daily routine, but this day was going to change her life in ways she couldn’t have imagined.
     “Who the ‘ell are you?” one of the boys yelled as he threw pebbles at her back.
Even as a little girl Sadie was never one to be intimidated. It was a trait she proudly inherited from her father, nonetheless, this endless torment wasn’t anything she was used to. She only held her books close to her chest and quickly walked along.
"Do you hear me talking to you, bitch?" the other boy shouted.
"MY NAME IS SADIE AND LEAVE ME ALONE!" She finally shouted back trying her best to stand confidently.
The bigger of the two boys pushed her down and laughed as her papers all fell to the ground.
"You watch your mouth, girl," one of them said as the other chuckled.
Before Sadie could say anything in came her knight in shining armor as if he knew there was a damsel in distress.
"Oi, give it a rest and let her be," said a small voice from behind the two thugs.
  Although the boys were reluctant they gave up their tough act and walked away. “Fuck you, John,” one of them mumbled under their breath.
Sadie gave her rescuer a grin as she dusted off her jumper. She studied him with his floppy hair that matched his deep brown eyes. When he smiled back she noticed his faint dimples. For the first time she felt the flutter of butterflies in her stomach. This feeling left her struggling to find words to say.
"Um.. Uh.. Thank you. Those kids were right wankers," she said letting out a forced awkward laugh.
"No problem. My name is John, by the way. You’re the new girl everyone is going on about, right?"
"Sadie," she said as she shook his hand.
"Where are you from, Sadie?" John asked as he picked up all of her books like a young gentleman.
"The states?" Sadie, said unsure as she was trying to catch on to the lingo.
John chuckled. “I know that. Which one?”
The two fast friends laughed as they walked along. John carried her books as he listened to her tell about her travels and the tricks she’s taught her hamster. Sadie was enamored with John. He was kind and funny. She had never met anyone like him. Love was unfamiliar territory for the young girl, but she was certain that she wanted to hold on to John for a long time.

        ——-The walk back to the hotel brought on an awkward silence between Sadie and Zachary. Neither of them could look at each other at all. Sadie couldn’t bring herself to grab his hand to put his mind at ease. All she wanted was to assure him that she was in love with him, but there would be no truth to it and he would know it. From the way that Zachary looked at her earlier that day she could tell that his mind was going a mile a minute trying to figure out what she was really thinking. Nothing she could say would sound genuine enough to overshadow the reality that she wasn’t in love with him.
        As they reached their room Sadie made an attempt at small talk. “I’m so tired. I thought that ceremony was never going to end.”
Sadie watched Zachary’s honey colored eyes turned red. His anger, although subtle, filled the entire room. Whatever was about to come her way was deserved on every level. Sadie closed her eyes and hoped that when she opened them she would be somewhere else, someplace where she could erase the hurt she caused Zachary and where her love of John would dissipate.
        Zachary clenched is teeth and paced the room, making Sadie anxious. What was he thinking? She had never seen him look so frustrated as he did in that moment. Sadie had never seen Zachary without toothy smile on his face. He paced for a long time with his face getting redder by the moment as Sadie watched him in silence, scared that any word she uttered would bring a wrath of hurt and frustration.
       “Zach, what’s—“, Sadie started to say.
       “You made a fool of me,” He said through gritted teeth, staggering his words.
       “What are you talk—,”
       “Don’t. Just don’t. You know exactly what I’m talking about. You drug me to the other side of the planet to watch you throw yourself at another man. A man who just got married, by the way.” He paused. “I knew there was something going on. I knew it and I ignored it like an idiot.” Zachary continued pacing.   
      Sadie slowly approached him. “Zach, nothing is going on. I know what it looks like, but we’ve always been so close. We’ve been through a lot of shit together. I’ve known him since we were five. I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to make you feel like I didn’t care about you. I do.” She reached out to grab his arm and he quickly pulled away.
        “If you knew how some of the things you do looked and if you gave a damn about me you would’ve stopped. Do you know you don’t look at me the way you do John? You always give me this blank stare and fake smile. Why are you even with me?” Zachary’s eyes welled with tears. As much as he wanted an answer it scared him of what it would be. He brushed his large hands through his jet black hair as he leaned against the furthest wall in the tiny room.
        “I do love you, Zach. I just…,” Sadie didn’t know how to finish that sentence. There were no words that she could say that could put his mind at ease and also be truth. She didn’t love him and quite possibly she never had.
       “You just what?” Zachary raised his voice. “How dare you say that you love me when you’re clearly head over heels for someone else. I mean, you cried your eyes out through the entire wedding. I tried to ignore that too, but that hurt look on your face when Maggie told you she was pregnant was the last straw for me.” Zachary let out a sigh of defeat. “I feel like such an idiot.”
  Sadie watched as Zachary’s face went from pure anger to complete helplessness. His heart was broken and it was her fault. There was nothing she could possibly do to mend it. No apologies could take away the heartache the thrust upon him. It was lost on her how she could make someone feel the way John made her feel. She didn’t want anyone to  know what that emptiness she often felt, let alone cause it. Sadie remained in her thoughts, lost on what comforting words to put forth.
"You’re not even listening to me!" Zachary snapped at her.
"I am. I am," Sadie replied in a feeble voice. "I don’t know what ot say to you. I do love you, Zach. You just don’t know my whole past. You don’t understand. I…. I don’t blame you for not understanding, but please know that I do care for you." Sadie moved toward him, reaching for his hand that he quickly withdrew. "Zach, you are the kindest man I know. You’re brilliant. I don’t tell you that enough."
The words hit Zachary like tiny needles. He scoffed. “I’ve been here these last few days and watched you do nothing but giggle, fuss with your hair, and bat your eyelashes at this guy, but I’m brilliant.” He paused and gave her an ice cold stare. “Yeah, everything you’re saying is bullshit.”
"But Zach—"
"Why can’t you just love me? That’s all I ever wanted from you. It is not a lot to ask. I show you that I love you everyday and you give me nothing." He looked away to hide his tears.
His words packed monstrous punch that left Sadie winded. Why couldn’t she just love him. He was the only man that gave her a level of compassion that she thought she’d ever get from her father. The amount of love he showered upon her would make any woman want to shake sense into her for throwing away such a good man. Tears flowed freely from her dark eyes.
   “I’m so sorry.” Sadie took not to keep her distance, although it tore her apart not to grab him and hold him. “I know ‘sorry’ doesn’t means nothing right now, but….,” she sighed knowing she was going to regret the words about to pour from her mouth. Zachary listened with his head hung and his jaw clenched. “You have to understand that this was a man that I thought was my soulmate. You’re asking me to dial back 24 years worth of feelings in an instant. I’m not saying all of this to hurt you. That is the last thing I want to do. This is me being honest with you. You deserve that. I’m pissed he’s never loved me the way I loved him and that’s very difficult for me to get over. I wish I could snap my fingers and be done with it, but it doesn’t work that way. I’m not lying when I tell you that you are the greatest guy. I feel like a piece of shit for  what I put you through. You deserve so much better than me. I can admit that. I’m sorry.” Sadie slumped to the bed drained of everything she had.
Zachary crossed his arms across his broad chest. Her words swirled around his mind as he attempted to absorb them. Even through all the honesty it cut deep. There was no more fight in him. It was going nowhere fast. Both of them spent and drained of tears.
    “You’re right. I don’t deserve this. I love you. I treat you like a queen. I treat your daughter like she’s my own. I give you everything.”

——-Flashback John’s mom dies
   The night was unusually quiet and still. Sadie rolled over staring at the bright red numbers on her clock until they became a blur as she fell into a deep sleep. Outside the world remained still. The faint noise of crickets could be heard in the distance. Sadie awoke to a light tapping. He eyes flung open. She stared ahead, until her eyes came into focus. ‘Only 20 minutes. My mind is obviously playing tricks on me.’ The conversation between the crickets began to lull her to sleep again.
Knock. Knock. Knock.
Sadie turned to see a large figure outside her bedroom window. It could only be one person.
"What are you doing here this late, John?" She asked, opening the window quietly. "It’s almost 2. If my parents catch you here-" She noticed John seemed to be out of sorts. "What’s wrong?" She whispered.
"Me mum’s dead," John said, almost inaudibly.
Without saying a word, Sadie pulled her best friend into her bedroom and held onto him tight. The two stayed in each others arms as John wept softly. Julia was John’s world and like a second mother to Sadie. As close as Sadie was to Julia she still couldn’t fathom what John was feeling. For the past year they both watch Julia battle with cancer. Although the ending was inevitable, it’s still not something one is truly prepared for. Now John was all alone. His father had left when he was a baby and he was an only child.
      “I’m so sorry, John,” said Sadie.
The sounds of night stayed still even with the chaos that was pulling apart John’s world. Sadie wiped the tears from John’s full cheeks. If there were any way to take his pain away Sadie would’ve willingly done it.
  “She knows you loved her, John. We all did.” She pulled him for a hug before walking him to her bed. “Get some rest, okay?”
John painfully eased under the blankets. Sadie couldn’t read if she should stay close with her friend or give him his space. If it was the other way around, Sadie had hoped that John would be there to comfort her no matter what. She took a leap of faith and crawled in beside him. John settled his head upon Sadie’s and laced his fingers with hers. The two friends laid beside each other quietly trying to process the events of the near future. This could possibly alter the course of their whole friendship. John was only 15 and Sadie had know clue if there were any relatives nearby. She couldn’t bear it if her best friend had to move away.
John sighed heavily. “I have to move in with my aunt,” he said. “It’s so stupid. I won’t even be there for more than two years. I can’t understand why I can’t stay in me mum’s house.”
"I’d say you could stay here until we’re out of school, but my parents will have none of that," Sadie joked.
John laughed softly. “I know, but thanks for thinking of me.  I know you’re joking, but if you could you would.”
Sadie closed her eyes. “In a heartbeat.” She snuggled closer to him, with their hands still intertwined. “I love you,” she trailed off.
She furrowed her brow, confused as to why she didn’t hear a response. It’s something they usually said in jest to each other. Perhaps it shocked him to hear her say it in this context. Well, they are only words after all and they are being spoken amongst close friends. The length of time she waited to hear those words back scared her. Suddenly there was a rumble of a low snore as his head still rested on hers. That was the first time she said she loved him and meant it. In that moment Sadie felt most selfish that all she wanted from him was to hear those words back. This wasn’t the time to put those types of expectations on him. Being there for him is all she needed to do right now. Sadie held her friend near as she closed her eyes for the night.

By: Asia Aneka Anderson

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