“So, what’s up with you?” Jahia asked Hanuel. “You’ve been acting weird all day.” Tney were standing outside of the flat she shared with her mother.
“Nothing’s wrong,” he denied.
“Are you sure nothing’s wrong–“
“I wish you would stop asking me that,” he snapped.
“I have to go.”
“I’ll call you.” And he was gone before she could say anything else.
Confused and dejected, she went into the apartment she shared with her mother. Her mother was in New York for two weeks. When she got in she changed into her nightgown and turned on the television but she was distracted. Why had gotten into Hanuel? He had been acting strange all evening. Was it something she had said or done? Why did he snap at her when all she did was ask if anything was wrong? That had never happened before and it hurt her deeply. They had been friends since they were children. Their mothers were friends. They became friends when they met at the playground where they took their children everyday. Hanuel and she played while their mothers talked and they became as thick as thieves.
They went to different schools, she to a public school which was more affordable for her single mother and he to a private school. They went to different universities–she to Southern Connecticut State University and he to Yale. They continued to hang out with each other. They were closer than ever. They weren’t dating other people because they wanted to focus on their education. During the school year, they phoned, emailed and texted each other. During the holidays, they went all over the place together–for day trips, the movies, museums, the beach and to baseball games. Sometimes, they hung out with their other friends but mostly with each other.
Her mother tried to encourage her to date but she wasn’t interested in any of the boys at the university. His parents introduced him to their friends’ daughters but he wasn’t interested in any of them. Then, after he graduated from Yale with honors, his parents threw a party to celebrate and as a gift his father bought him a Corolla because it was economical and easy to maintain. The next day, he took Jahia for a drive.
After she graduated, he took her out for dinner. Afterwards they went for a walk on the beach. He had a job as an Environmental Engineer which he loved. They found a spot on the sand where they sat down and spent hours just talking. They talked to each other about anything–everything. That’s why it shocked her when he wouldn’t talk to her about what was on his mind. It was so unlike him. They were best friends. Best friends didn’t keep secrets from each other–well, not usually.
It was Saturday evening and they had just been to a concert and were now in her flat. Her mother was still in New York. She offered him something to drink but he declined. He stood in front of the window, hands in pockets facing her. She touched his arm and he recoiled. That stung.
“Hanuel, please don’t shut me out. Tell me what’s troubling you.”
“Are you sure you really want to know what’s eating me up inside, Jahia?”
“It’s you. Us.”
“What?” His reply both shocked and alarmed her. “What do you mean?” Did he want to end their friendship? The thought distressed her.
“I don’t want to be friends any more.”
It was as if he had taken a dagger and plunged it into her heart. Tears sprang to her eyes. “Why?” she asked. “What have I done that you don’t want to be my friend anymore?”
“You haven’t done anything, Jahia.”
“Are you dating someone and she doesn’t want you to be friends with me anymore?”
“No, I’m not dating anyone.”
“Then, why don’t you want to be my friend, Hanuel? Please tell me.” Her words ended in a sob.
In a matter of seconds, he was pulling her against him, his eyes burning as they met hers which were wet with tears. “I want to be your boyfriend not just your friend,” he declared thickly. “I’ve wanted that for a long, long time.”
Her heart skipped a beat. “You do?” she exclaimed. “Oh, Hanuel, I didn’t know you felt the same way. I want to be your girlfriend so much.”
“And right now I want to kiss you so badly.” The expression she saw on his face was saying nothing but everything. And then his lips were on hers, making her head spin and her knees buckle. She put her arms around his waist and held on tightly as they kissed.
That evening they went from being childhood friends to being a couple.