“You were flirting with her, Ryan!”
“Amie. We’re just friends.”
But he can’t even hide that hint of a thrill at the suggestion that they had been flirting. Even now, sitting on my front porch in the searing afternoon sun, hours after the flirting, hours of me not speaking to him, with school over and his girlfriend confronting him face to face, he still hides an ember of a smile beneath his serious expression.
“Do you know what it felt like walking into class and seeing her all over my boyfriend?”
He laughs the laugh that always sounds the same as it escapes through the teeth of any accused boyfriend. The laugh that suggests you’re jumping to conclusions. The laugh that almost convinces you that you have nothing to worry about. Almost.
“What are you talking about? She wasn’t all over me.”
“She was touching you! Her hands were on your arms, on your chest, she was straightening your shirt and the two of you were laughing!”
I want to be sick at the visual that can still be recalled so easily to my mind. I’m quite certain that the sight of it will haunt me for a long, long time. He could erase it. He could, right now. He could throw his arms around me; hug me. He could pull back and take my face in his hands, look into my eyes and say, “Amie, don’t you know that I love you and will forever? That no other girl holds any interest for me at all?”
He doesn’t. He places the conciliatory hand on my knee. “Amie. Listen to you. We’re seventeen years old and I was laughing with my friend. You’re acting like I had an extramarital affair.”
All of the sudden our daydreams together snap into view. The image of future Ryan and future Amie, with all of the details that he and I have cast out to them, starts to ripple like a mirage. I reach out to hold onto it, but Ryan’s voice brings me back to present.
“Anyway, it’s not about that,” he says, of his thoughtless little flirting fest. “This is about what’s going on with us.”
“Oh. Is that what it’s about?” My voice is hollow.
“Yeah. We’re never very happy anymore. Have you noticed that? Our time has become about everything that we can’t do and that we can’t have. We love each other, but we’re seventeen years old. What do we do with that?”
Future Amie reaches out to hug her six beautiful children, the ones with a perfect mix of Ryan’s features and her own, but they vanish from her embrace and her arms close around thin air.
Ryan continues. “We’ve done this, Amie. We’ve put all of this weight on ourselves. We can’t get enough of each other, but we can’t have any more and it’s just so frustrating!” The last word comes out as a growl and he takes his hand from my leg to grab a handful of his hair in a clenched fist.
We sit for long seconds, not looking at each other.
Finally, my pride makes me say the only words that are left to say. “Maybe we should break up.”
I can see relief in Ryan’s stature. He wants to be generous. He wants it to be my suggestion. He wants to let me believe it was my idea.
“Maybe you’re right,” he says.
Future Amie whirls around to see her quaint little house with the pretty white fence and the gourmet meal that she’s cooked for future Ryan, vanishing.
I realize tears are rolling down my cheeks.
“This really isn’t going to be so bad,” Ryan assures me. “Things won’t be much different! We’ll still be close. We’ll make sure of it!”
“Preference is tomorrow,” I hear myself say, “The date? The dance? Everything is planned…”
“And we’ll still go together, of course! It will be a lot of fun,” Ryan says.
I stare out at the hot asphalt of the road we once sat in the middle of together, I recall vowing that night that I was building a wall around my heart. I begin to wish that wall would have held strong.
“I think I better go now,” I say.
He seems torn between being through with this and attempting to make me feel better before we part ways. “Okay, but I’ll see you tomorrow for our date, right? Amie, we’ll have a great time.”
“Yeah, okay,” I say as I stand on wobbly legs and make my way to my front door. We say goodbye and I walk inside, but my mind lingers on future Amie, all alone now, surrounded by nothing but a blank white canvas. She’s on her knees.