Cue a week or two of the silent treatment. Cue a chance encounter. Cue Ryan pouring on his charm. Cue us. Cue the other girls. Cue fury and hopelessness. Repeat over months and months and that brings us to now. We’re nearing the end of our senior year of high school, and we’ve just had the “chance encounter” part of the equation.
“Hey Amie, I drove to school today. Come and ride home with me.”
He probably tells himself not to do this. Wait a minute, no he doesn’t. He really should tell himself not to do this, not to keep making me believe there can be something between us only to shatter it upon the lips of a hundred wanton teenage girls.
I know I tell myself not to do this.
“Okay, sure, I’d like a ride home. Thanks.”
I know my friends would want to smack me around. They keep trying to tell me how he’s poisonous for me. I know my Mom would tell me that she can’t watch me come home crying another time. I read somewhere that the most powerful magnet in the world could slow a locomotive travelling on the moon. So what happens when the magnets are attached to the front of two passing locomotives?
“I got to see my cute little nephew over the weekend,” Ryan says.
“Which one?” I ask. “Munch or Loops?” I’m showing off my knowledge of the crazy nicknames he gives them. I’ve never seen someone better with kids than Ryan is.
“Loops,” Ryan tells me. “I taught him to say, ‘I love BYU’, only he says it ‘Beee-eye-oooo’.”
I laugh a little as we pass under the shade of a couple of trees, walking alone together toward his car.
“I love his soft, chubby, little cheeks. I’m gonna be one of those crazy uncles that pinches everybody’s cheeks well into their adult years.”
“I’m sure they’ll appreciate that,” I say, throwing him a half smile and a glance from the corner of my eye. Already this topic and this short walk are feeling too intimate to be safe.
“I’ve been doing this thing with my nephews and nieces called ‘cheeks’. I say ‘Let’s do cheeks,’ and they come up and put their face next to mine,” he takes me by the arm to stop my footsteps and brings his face close. “Like this,” he says, “And then we put our cheeks together… like this.” I won’t think about how his traitorous lips are within inches of mine. After all, he does this cheek to cheek thing with his little nephews and nieces. It’s purely innocent. Purely adorable. Purely irresistible… but not just to me.
“That’s a really cute line Ryan. Did you maybe use it on that girl from Price last weekend?” I say, pulling away and resuming progression toward the car at a resolute pace.
“What do you mean?” he asks.
“I’m saying that story is a sure winner with the ladies. How many of us have you used it on?”
“Oh. I see what you’re implying. I don’t really need to re-use material, Amie. I do just fine with the ‘ladies’ with my natural wit and charisma.”
“Oh yeah, your charisma never fails. I accuse you of re-using material on me, and the first thing you think to do is assure me that you have plenty of material to go around and that despite the growing numbers of girls at your disposal, I shouldn’t worry myself because making them swoon is not a problem for you. I feel so much better now that we got that straight.”
I finish my tirade by letting myself into his car, and fairly slamming the door shut behind me. We both fume as we drive toward home, both of us thinking of a thousand cruel ways to fill the silence.
“I’ve been operating under a new theory,” he says at last. “It’s better to kiss a lot of girls one time, than to kiss one girl a lot of times.”
“Did it ever occur to you that you have the option to not kiss anybody at all?”
“Why am I not surprised?” I mutter. “So I’m just one of the ‘lot of girls’. Just another one of Ryan’s conquests.”
I don’t pose the idea like it’s a question, but it is one. Just give me this, Ryan. Just tell me I’m not like all of the rest. Tell me I mean more to you than that. Tell me that you know you should stay away from me rather than break my heart over and over, but you can’t resist me the same way that I can’t resist you.
The space is thick with everything he doesn’t say.
There are probably better ways of getting answers than making a mockery of his cute little “cheeks” ritual, and accusing him of using it to take advantage of me, but I don’t know what they are just like he doesn’t know how I want him to respond.
Now it feels like the car is careening toward home. We’re only blocks away, and just breathing in this air makes me feel ill, like there is an epidemic I’m being exposed to. I want to purge it, but I only spit out more accusations.
“Why can’t you just leave me alone?” I don’t know what I’m saying. That’s the last thing I want him to do.
“Why did you give me any hope for our future? Why did you make me believe that there was any chance for us at all?” That hope was a gift, and now I’m throwing it back at him. “I’m not someone you can just keep around for convenience! I’m not just going to keep bending to your will whenever you pay me a little attention because you’re bored or there’s nobody better around! You use me! You’ve cheapened it to that.”
He pulls into his driveway, too furious, I think, to bother taking me two houses down to my own door. He turns to me, his blue eyes like ice.
“Fine, Amie. Fine. If that’s what you want to hear, so be it. You are just like every other girl. You’re just one of the many.”
My heart shatters, and for a split second, it shows in my expression. His face registers surprise, as if a part of him really thought that would be a good thing for me to hear, instead of it being my very worst fear spoken aloud.
I do something I never thought I would do. I swing my open palm toward him to slap him. Though he’s completely shocked, his automatic reaction is to throw an arm up in defense. He ducks his head a little and blocks the slap with his forearm. He couldn’t even give me that.
I throw open my car door and run for my house, holding the gasping tears in until I’m closed up in my room. I dig through the closet and pull out the box. I’ve covered it in shiny silver paper. I’ve tucked every memory inside it. Every note. Every little trinket. Napkins from restaurants, fortunes from fortune cookies, pictures, caricatures we’ve had drawn of the two of us, fancy doodles of the name Amie Gee Leonhardt. I look, desperately, around my room for anything else that might remind me of him. I throw a few more things in the box and close the lid with haste. I wipe the tears from my cheeks with the back of one hand and march out into the back yard, grabbing a shovel from the garage on my way through. I choose a patch of dirt as far away from my bedroom as I can get and I start digging.
I toss a bit of dirt away for every time I’ve looked out my bedroom window to see if his stupid light is still on and to wonder where he is. I dig deeper and toss aside another shovel-full for all of the girls I’ve had to watch him go out with. I place the box deep in the earth and I toss another shovel-full on top of it for all of the times I was sure it was over and that we’d never talk again. I think of my brother, Justin, (one of the few who still believes in Ryan and me). I think of all of the times I’ve confided in him after a fight with Ryan and how he always says, “No. I don’t buy it. This isn’t the end. It’s not over between you two.”
My energy is almost spent as I tamp down the loose dirt with my foot and I say, “This time it is over. This really is the end.”
The next afternoon, like death warmed over, I tromp down the stairs to the kitchen for breakfast just in time to see my little brother, Jordan, walk in the back door carrying a dirt-covered, silver box. I freeze, mouth agape, a look of horror to top any zombie movie on my face.
“What is he doing with that?” I shriek.
“He’s six years old, with dreams of buried treasure and there was a freshly dug hole in the backyard,” my Mom says. “What did you expect?”
“You should have just burned it,” says my brother, Jeremy.
But my brother, Justin, looks up from his cereal with a knowing smile that indicates the possible metaphor in the return of the box and he says, “She can’t burn it, because this isn’t the end. It’s not over yet.”
Author's question: How am I doing at keeping both characters likable? I mean, obviously you hate Ryan for what he's doing to me (and deservedly so :) haha), but I think a big part of the success in the "will they/won't they" stories is for authors to make sure that, as they're keeping the couple apart, they don't end up making the readers hate one or both of them. It's a tougher call on this one because it's a true story.