Growing Pains

I don’t know what made today different than the thousands that came before it.

We’re in his family room, same as always, watching Youtube videos on their projector, sound blasting from the speakers. The window’s open and the aroma of fresh cut grass wafts in from outside. My sister’s sitting on the tan carpet in front of us painting her nails an eye-popping lime green on the low coffee table. Mike’s brother Sam is in the squishy arm chair, playing his Switch, car crashes erupting every so often.

I can’t hear them, but our Moms are probably in the kitchen, hatching their lastest MLM scheme—planning beauty parties they swear are the wave of the future, so different than the Mary K of the past. This is their third such endeavor.

All I know is that when Mike reaches forward for more Doritos, I notice the muscle on his forearm. It’s defined, running along the back of his hand. For some reason it startles me. It’s like a man hand, not the skinny bird arms I’m used to. I continue to sit on my side of the couch, but examine him from the side of my eye.

Was he taller? His legs sprawled in front of his side of the couch.

Was his hair always so swoopy? The blinding brownish mop hung almost over his eyes. How did he see?

For some reason, he looks less like my best friend and like one of the boys inside my magazines.

Out of nowhere, my heart kicks into overdrive and I feel hot. I’m like Grandma’s pet mule, Silas, ready to run at first chance possible. Slowly but surely, heat creeps up my face and I need to get out of here.

I unfold my legs, managing to kick Kristen in the shoulder in the process.

She yelps, almost turning the polish over. “Hey! You almost messed me up!” She inspects her nails and then glares at me. “What’s your problem?”

“I don’t have a problem, I have to go to the bathroom.” I bite back, aware of when Mike’s eyes flick over and counting watching the screen. He’s used to our fighting. We’re almost like siblings, at least that what everyone says. I cringe and want to run even more.

“Then go,” she grumbles, tossing her black hair over her shoulder, brown eyes back on her nails.

I make it to the bathroom without incident and shit the door. I close the lid and sit, hugging my knees.

I don’t believe this.

Do I like him?

Like, like him, like him?

It’s not possible. Our parents are best friends. We’re like brother and sister. He even cut my pony tail once. I’ve known him since before we had permanent teeth.

Despite all that, my hearts still rocketing in my chest and my stomach shakes. I want to throw up.

There’s no way I can like my best friend.

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