Everything for Her
I love my sisters. I would do anything for them. I would defend them, help them, give up everything for them. If worse comes to worse, perhaps I would even kill for them.
But what happened was worse than just killing anyone who dared to hurt them. In my effort to keep my sister on top of my concerns, I killed someone who did not deserve to be hurt. I killed myself with every breath in every passing day. And most of all, I killed something so beautiful that the crime could have been a boon. What he and I had, it had no place on earth.
We've known each other since we were children. He was our good friend, and he was all the light and happiness of my childhood memories in one. Adolescence came all too soon, and with it, the startling discovery.
I had fallen in love.
It filled my every waking moment. That fleeting smile at the memory of that admiration, I can remember only too well. He was my sun in the morning, and my moon in the night. It sounds silly, I know. But what can you do? We were teenagers. We ruled the world.
He would sometimes visit our house, pretending to see her and me. We would all three laugh and chat, exchanging funny little anecdotes. One time he came to take flowers when my sister had taken ill. We sat with her until the medicine lulled her to sleep. And then he caught my eye. Warm hand closed over mine.
"Would you like to go get a sundae?"
I thought he'd never ask. I hurriedly asked permission from Grams and we biked to the ice cream shop. That was the start of a marvelous understanding.
Together forever. How cheesy! But that was how we saw it. We shared little secrets, and even steal little kisses when no one was looking. I wished we could flaunt it to the entire world. We are young; we are in love. I knew he wanted everyone to know too. But we couldn't tell. Grams was too strict. If she knew, he would never be allowed to come to the house again.
And so we spent four beautiful months knowing that we were meant for each other. He gave me this pretty necklace. It was his grandmother's. It was a twisted silver chain with the most beautiful pendant I have ever seen.
The three of us, my sister, he and I, were in this pizza place downtown. He has always been a gentleman. He opened the door for us and I slipped into the booth as my sister sat on the other one. He took the place in front of me. When we had ordered, she rose to go to the restroom. "Come on. Let's powder our noses."
I didn't want to leave. I had a hint that he was going to tell me something when we were alone. And so I refused. When she insisted, he told her, "You know she doesn't much care about how she looks. You go pretty up and show her." She turned a big smile on him and went ahead. And then he looked at me. I was not surprised when he took my hand over the table. I was shocked when he drew out the necklace from his breast pocket. "This is for you."
I couldn't speak. Of course I recognized the necklace. I've been to his house more times than I could count. His mother had showed this to me once. She told me that this was the family heirloom. His grandma gave it to his father to present to his wife. And she gave it to him to give to the girl he would want. It was unspoken. If other families passed on rings to the newest wives, this family passed on this necklace.
He rose from his seat and put it on me. How did one receive something like this? I knew what we had was more than teenage infatuation. I was aware that we are past that. But this! I took the pendant on my palm and glanced down at it. It was a silver cross, with five diamond studs--one at each end and another at the center. "I-- I don't know what-- I don't think--"
"You know," he told me, "I can't think of anyone else who would give it as much justice as you do. I love you, P--"
"Hey!" My sister arrived and we ate together with an easy banter that fortunately masked the tension in me. More than once our gazes would meet, but we never directed our comments at each other. What we had to say, we had to reserve for a private moment.
He took us home and I stepped out of the car easily. My sister thanked him for the lunch and she smiled at him with dancing eyes. She ran inside and we were left standing at the driveway. "Wanna take a walk?"
I nodded. A few blocks away from our house, he took my hand again. The silence was cut when he said, "What do you think of a picket fenced house, a dog and lots and lots of kids?"
"We're only in high school," I whispered.
"But would you like that?"
"I guess." I peered at him to see that he was looking intently at me. "I'm sure. I'd love that."
He stopped walking and turned me to face him. "We're perfect together. You know me and I know you. We don't have to hide anything. I love you with all my heart. And I know you love me too."
There was no real answer except the truth. "I love you too." I felt the pendant resting heavily on my breast. Of course I can't show it to Grams. I can't float in the air and show it to everyone. Except of course… Yes, she would be happy for me. I'll tell her all about us.
He smiled and bent to press his lips tenderly against mine.
He was my first. My first love, my first boyfriend, my first kiss… and one night a few weeks later, my first in everything. No experience could be more moving than to feel him move over you, fill you with him. I was young. He was young.
We were in love. Nothing could go wrong.
I went home that night and knew that I had forever changed with what had happened between the two of us. I saw things clearer, in a better light. And I noticed that I had been neglecting my sister. She looked pale and wan, and when I asked her why…
"I love him so much! But I think he's in love with someone else! Help me. I've been in love with him for so long. I don't know what I'd do without him."
"Who?" I wanted to know.
And then I knew what I had to do.
"What are you talking about? You can't do this to us! You and I, we're--"
"We're not going to happen."
"We already have!"
"I'm so sorry." I took off their family heirloom and pressed it against his palm, but he won't take it. "Please. You need to give this to the woman you'll marry."
"No," he insisted. "Mom never said it's for the girl I marry. She said it's for the girl I want to marry. It's always been meant for the woman I fall in love with. And that's you."
"No. I can't hurt her like this."
"So you hurt me."
I couldn't say much of anything else. I didn't want to do this. But I had to. I rose on the tips of my toes and pulled his head down for a friendly kiss farewell. But then we couldn't deny what we felt. He turned his head and the moment his lips touched mine, I was lost. "I'll always love you," I whispered against his lips.
"Don't do this to us," he pleaded.
I pushed against him and walked away.
He returned to our lives years later. We were reunited as good friends, almost like siblings. He pursued my sister, like I asked him to. And he left me alone with my own tumultuous life.
I met him alone in the corridor, and I asked him if all is forgotten. "I've fallen in love with her," he assured me. "But what's to be forgotten? Beauty lasts forever," he said. He knew that I too had fallen in love. I'm even happy he didn't question much about this newfound love of mine.
Yet having seen his eyes, I knew this was not the same young boy who planned to raise a family with me. I killed something in him that day. Innocence, a purity of belief in love. I received a note from him weeks after he reappeared in our lives. "The man I used to be will always love you. This, with her and me, is apart from what we had. I'll never let it be touched." What kind of promise was that? What did he want to say?
I was almost driven mad when my love almost died before my eyes. And I had to say goodbye to him. It seemed that we can never be together. Even he and my sister did not seem to work out. Did I give my first real love to someone who could not make it work?
The phone had rung that fateful day. It was he. "Be careful," he said. I told him not to come. It's too dangerous for him. But he had always been stubborn. I don't know who was foremost in his mind that time. But he burst in and fell victim to this curse that me and my sisters were living in.
I ran to his side. That moment, I knew he was going to die. "I love you." Did he think I was my sister?
"I'll tell her," I whispered, tears blurring my vision. But I wanted to remember his face. I wanted to see this through.
"No. You," he rasped. "Never… stopped."
I caught my breath. His eyes glazed over, and all I could think of was pressing my lips against his one more time. I bent to kiss those unresponsive lips. My other sister knelt beside me, staring numbly. Would she know? "Don't," she cautioned me.
She understood. And she warned me because our sister was already up and looking stunned at the dead body of the man before us.
I stood up and allowed her access to him.
"You suffered in silence all these years for her sake. Don't destroy all that by one emotional outburst," the youngest advised wisely.
At his funeral, I walked up to his coffin and took off the silver necklace I had forever worn beneath my blouse. I pressed the cross against his palm, knowing that he can not force it back onto my hand this time. "Carry our secret to your grave, Andy," I whispered, and then turned my back on him.
I allowed Prue to accept the condolences of his friends. I let her receive their sympathies for losing the loved one while I stood with Phoebe at the back. The man she loved was being buried today.