I can’t believe what I am hearing, the things that Brandon is saying to me. It was as if he’d turned into a completely different person over night. No one had ever replaced me in his thoughts…in his heart, until now.
Until Marlene. Marlene Denison. For years she’d been my friend. And she was just that,…Marlene. But now I can’t even say her name without attaching the formality of her surname. Because somehow, doing this protectively distances me from her. It’s hard knowing that of all the people he had to fall in love with, it had to be a friend of mine. It had to be her.
Grant it, she was no Layla DaVincio. Layla and I are inseparably close to the point where I’ve virtually tagged her as my sister. Nor am I as close to Marlene as I am with Jackie Lambros. The second sister to me, thus completing the trident spear of our sisterhood. But she was still a friend nonetheless, enough that this whole new development has deeply affected me in ways that I find hard to cope with.
What was so special about her, anyway? Even as I say this, the alter ego of my consciousness swims to the ocean surface like a shark ready to feast on a wounded prey leaking blood. But this one phrase of thought boggles my mind. Well, it’s more like a declaration of denial. Something that I refuse to acknowledge. I know exactly what he sees in her, in fact, so many years ago when he’d first staked his love in me, I had briefly wondered why he never picked her. That was before Brandon occupied a space in my heart. After so many years of shoveling his way in there.
Well, let’s go through the checklist. Brains. Check. Top 10 percent at Leland High, early acceptance into Cornell. Beauty. Sigh on this one, but let’s have it. Check. She has a gold mane of blonde girls that dust her shoulders at just the right length. When the sun attacks it at dawn, it shines the color spectrum of yellow, tinting highlights of amber into a sweet tangerine. And she doesn’t even color her hair. I used to think it was the work of Feria 110 Starlet, but alas, she admitted no. She doesn’t dye it, right before she gave an affected sigh, examined a tress of her hair and admitted that maybe she should consider it sometime. Her face, simply pretty. Not a flaw to pick on. No prominent nose. No squinty eyes. Not one fleck of acne blemishing her porcelain skin.
But ironically, it wasn’t this that drew Brandon to her. It was the quality of their conversations, and that is what I envy the most. It was the like mindedness of deep intellect that he apparently couldn’t find in me. This had been a work in progress for several months now, and I would’ve seen it coming had I possessed even an ounce of suspicion. After school, I’d see the two of them talking at the edge of the football field right before Brandon was off for baseball practice. Or after class, he’d be hanging out by her locker, staring intently in her eyes as she gave exaggerated opinions on the war in Iraq, and what it meant in the larger scheme of things.
“Stop, stop…” I hear myself saying. We are sitting on my front porch. I have an exam to study for. Mr. Henkins is going to administer a quiz tomorrow on the principles of digital calculus and its application to physics. I cannot process the dual complexity that this heartbreak and this convoluted concept will bring to me. I won’t be able to study later, let alone sleep a wink after having this conversation with him.
He is looking at me, his face crumpling in abject pity.
“How strongly do you feel about her?” I ask. It is a useless question. And I know with a rising certainty the answer I’m about to be faced with. Nevertheless I forge on. “Can’t you just shake it off?”
He shakes his head. Sighs. “No.”
“Don’t give me that affected sigh.” I say. I’m usually gentler with my words, but he’s not being kind with what he’s about to do to me.
“Do you love her?” I ask, hoping that he will say no. That he isn’t feeling for her half of what he ever felt for me. But instead he looks down, and when he does, I know his lack of eye contact means a bitter shame of admission.
“Yes.” He finally says.
Whip! The arrowhead strikes a target into my chest. It doesn’t actually lodge in my heart, but whips past it so fast it scorches a pathway through my rib cage.
Brandon looks at me now. My heart sinks at the Eagleness of his eyes. Those were the first I fell in love with. A green made sinister with his sharp mindedness. “I know it hurts your pride…”
“Pride?” I exclaim, feeling a surge of strength charging through me. “This is not about pride, Brandon. You hurt my heart more than my pride. Screw the pride. What I felt for you was pure love. So clean, that pride had never had a place in it.”