Bree and Rowan have been best friends all their lives. As they journey through life together, surviving love, and loss, trials and triumphs, Bree finds herself falling hopelessly in love with her best friend. The problem? Rowan is in love with someone else. Is this the end of their friendship? Or will Bree continue to nurse a broken heart in silence, never speaking of her feelings? Will Rowan ever realize how his best friend truly feels about him?
Bree: You coming home for the holidays, right?
Rowan: You bet. I can’t wait.
Bree: How’s Ivy League college, hot shot?”
Rowan: Better with you.
Bree: I feel bad for you. Community college, living at home is so much fun. Really.
Rowan: Don’t have too much fun without me.
Bree: Never. Don’t forget me.
Bree worked overtime for two weeks straight. She wrote notes to her teachers. She finished her assigned coursework early. She asked for work in advance. She worked like the devil was on her tail. Sleep became optional. She drank a copious amount of coffee. And with her budget, all of it was the instant kind that she swore left her with a gaping ulcer in her stomach lining. It took five hours of chugging along the freeway in her car that was older than dirt but when she finally arrived, it was worth it. His smile when he opened the door wiped all the miserable hours of work and toil. There was no other word for it, she stumbled in his arms. He buried his face against her hair inhaling her scent. She buried her face against his chest. She didn’t know if she wanted to cry or laugh. All she knew was she missed him so much, and she didn’t want to let go of him ever.
When they finally pulled apart, Rowan pulled them inside his apartment, his arm still around her shoulder. “What are you doing here?”
“Being awesome.” She smiled at him through her tears. So she was crying. She didn’t even realize it, but it wasn’t from happiness or relief. It was because her heart was full of pain. For him.
He laughed, as he wiped her tears with his fingers, his own eyes welled up. “You are awesome.” He wrapped his arms around her again, this time his body rocked gently against hers, his movement soothing and familiar. Bree wasn’t sure who was providing comfort—if it was him, or if it was her. But they took and gave to each other, the way they’ve been doing for almost all their lives. They stood in the middle of his living room for a long time, neither one willing to let go. It wasn’t until she felt the wetness on her shoulder did she realize that he too was crying. Quiet, broken tears that told her the tall, handsome nineteen-year-old in her arms may be an adult, a man in some ways, but in so many ways, ways that still mattered, he was still just a boy, a boy whose heart was breaking over his parents’ nasty divorce, over his mother’s heartache, his father’s betrayal. So she held him, for as long as he needed. If it took forever, she wasn’t going to let him go. Unless he pushed her away. He didn’t.
“So now what?” Bree asked in between bites of the two-day old Chinese food take out. It was half warm and half cold after sitting in the microwave for thirty seconds but she was too hungry and too lazy to warm it up again.
“My dad can go screw himself.”
“Ok…” She needed to tread lightly. This constantly angry Rowan was new to her.
“Don’t. Don’t even try to be the pragmatic, practical one here.” Rowan pointed his chopsticks at her, his eyes blazing with anger. He had been angry for weeks. Sometimes he looked scared, sometimes sad, and hurt but mostly angry. But Bree let him be. He needed to process his new reality on his own terms, just like she did with her Dad’s death. In a way she never stopped processing it, grieving through the years. So that part, at least, she understood.
“He’s an asshole.”
“I agree.” Bree continued to dig through her noodles but she was taking it all in, waiting for the right time to say the words, hoping she would find the right ones. Although there were rarely any right ones in these kinds of situations so perhaps she should aim at not saying the wrong thing instead.
“A fucking cliche.”
“His secretary. His young, blonde secretary.” He tossed the chopsticks on the table, shoving his greasy food away in disgust. If it was over the food or his father, Bree couldn’t say but if she had to bet, it was a little bit of both.
“I’m sorry.” She put her food down too, watching him as he stood up, opening then closing the fridge, looking for what, she didn’t know. But he kept moving as if he couldn’t stand to be still. This was going to be a long day, so Bree sat placid, listening, watching. When he finally sat back down, neither of them said anything for a long time. Rowan stared at the wall, his eyes unseeing while Bree saw everything about him. She saw his struggle to understand, his distress over his mom’s heart break, his denial, his conflict at seeing his dad in a new light. It was all new and raw for him. It would take time, but she was going to be there every step of the way.
“I’m never going to get married. Marriage sucks. I’m never going to do that. What’s the point of it all?”
“For love? Because when two people fall in love, they want to get married.”
“He says he loves her—the bimbo. So that’s what love does? Hurt your family? Make you leave them?” He leaned over on his chair, defeated. He put his face in his hands, his elbows resting on his thighs.
“That’s not love. It’s selfishness. You’re not selfish.”
But he wasn’t listening to Bree. He shook his head, trying to drown out her words, wanting to just disappear in the hole of pain and hurt. Bree, tenacious, obstinate, patient Bree kneeled before him and took his hands from his face. Instead, she placed her hands on the side of his head, forcing him to look at her.
“You’re kind, loyal. You’re the least selfish person I know. I know,” she emphasized, trying to remind him of some good deeds he had done in the past which are now too hazy to remember.
He shook his head again, disagreeing with her. Because if he was as good as she said, then why wasn’t he, his brother, and his mother enough to keep his father from straying and destroying their family? “Look at me. Rowan, look at me.” When he finally did, what he saw terrified him. Her eyes were filled with love, admiration, respect, and all things good and fine, things he didn’t deserve, things he wasn’t. He was about to say something stupid, something cutting to make her stop acting like he was worthy of her love and friendship, when she leaned into him. She pressed her lips on his forehead, then his cheek, then on the other side. She peppered his face with rapid kisses, telling him with conviction how wonderful, good, and amazing he was. Bree, whose version of physical affection was to tap him with her toes, was kissing him with no reservations.
Rowan wasn’t sure who moved. Maybe he did. Maybe she did. Maybe they both did but soon, her lips opened to him, meeting his tongue with hers. It seemed so natural. He had expected it to be awkward, for he had thought about kissing her, his best friend, many times. But there was no awkwardness in her kisses, nor in her embrace. Instead, she was giving, open, and warm, just like she was every day in everything she did for her loved ones. The kiss kept going and going, until she was sitting on his lap, and part of her body pressed firmly against his. They probably would have kept going if his cell phone didn’t ring. But it did, and when Bree pulled from him, he braced for her regret, maybe some admonition, but none of that came. Instead, she stood up, smoothing her shirt and her hair. She leaned over him as he answered his mother’s call, and gave him an almost maternal kiss on the forehead.
Rowan didn’t know what to expect after he ended his call with his mom. So he approached Bree with the wariness one did with a wounded pet. Bree was a control freak. Events in her life had made her a planner, someone who needed to know what the next minute would bring, who had no patience for spontaneity. So Rowan took his cues from her. When he walked in on her in the living, flipping through the TV channels, he waited for her to look at him. When she patted the space in the couch beside her, he sat down, putting his feet up on the coffee table, like she did. When she handed him the remote control, he took it, and flipped through the channels until he saw an old episode of Friends, a show they both loved. When she said she was tired and wanted to go to bed because she was still catching up on sleep, he showed her the guest room. When the next few days she acted like nothing unusual happened, Rowan didn’t say anything. He didn’t push. He didn’t ask. When she still gave him comfort, generous in her wisdom, and soothing in her silence, always taking his side, validating his pain, Rowan stayed present and grateful. When she left, and she whispered she loved him, he whispered the words back to her, firm in his belief that they would forever be friends.
Rowan: Thank you for the visit.
Rowan: We’re ok?
Bree: Always. There’s no divorce in this friendship.
Bree: Who was the girl on your Facebook?
Rowan: What girl?
Bree: Someone tagged you in a picture. The young Tyra Banks. On your lap.
Bree: You guys look cute together.
Bree: So am I going to meet her?
Rowan: Maybe. She might come by for the summer.
Bree: You never said anything about her.
Rowan: Just a couple of dates. Nothing serious.
Bree: Serious enough to meet your family.
Rowan: I said maybe.
Rowan: Hey! What’s with the radio silence?
Rowan: Hello, air. This is or was Bree Pascal’s best friend. Can you tell her to text me back?
Rowan: Answer me or I’ll post those pictures.
Bree: What pictures???
Rowan: Ah, you’re alive!
Bree: What pictures???
Rowan: You crying during a baby commercial.
Bree: You’re an ass.
Rowan: But you love me.
Bree: Shut up.
Rowan: I’m coming home in a couple of weeks. Need to know when you can hang out.
Bree: Can’t. Been busy. Still busy.
Rowan: You’ve been ignoring me.
Bree: My world doesn’t revolve around you.
Rowan: Talk to me when you’re not hormonal.
Bree: I hate you.
Rowan: Good. You’re not my favorite person right now, either.
Rowan: WTH! I’ve been home for weeks, I haven’t seen you.
Bree: What do you want?
Rowan: I don’t know. See you. What is wrong with you?
Bree: Nothing. When’s the princess coming?
Rowan: Stop calling her that. Next week. Are you going to be nice?
Bree: I’m always nice.
Rowan: Thanks for meeting Sam and me for coffee. She adores you.
Bree: She’s nice. I’m glad you’re happy.
Rowan: Thanks. I am.
Rowan: I miss you. Let’s hang out before I leave.
Bree: I can’t.
Rowan: You promised me.
Bree: Promised you what?
Rowan: No divorce.
Bree: There’s no divorce.
Rowan: Then why does it feel like there is?
Rowan: Still besties?
Rowan: When will I see you again?
Rowan: My place.