Disclaimer: No owny.
A/N: Ah, my sick habit of taking perfectly good adult characters and stuffing them cruelly and without real reason into high-school environments rears its ugly head again. I really don't know why I torture these poor (fictional) people so. But, hey, it was Monday, this fic popped up in my head. I was brushing my teeth at the time, and let me tell you, floss is not the best weapon to use against plot—or pointless mild fluff—bunnies. Anyway, voila: a nice little one-shot.
"Joanne, would you ever go out with me?"
Startled, I looked up from my locker. Maureen Johnson, my somewhat-insane—and very straight—friend was peering almost pleadingly at me through wild green eyes. I forced my tone into casual mode.
"Where would we be going?"
She pouted. "Go out, Joanne. Like date me."
My heart clenched. Now is not the time for this, I berated it. Doing my very best to ignore the painful sensation, I shook my head. Toying with the idea of telling the truth. Shooting it down.
"Maureen, sweetie. I'm not sure how hard you hit your head this weekend, but allow me to bring you up to speed on your life. You have a boyfriend. His name is Mark. Short, cute, terribly-spastic dancer? And from the way you talk about him, I'm expecting my wedding invitation in the mail any day now."
I hadn't thought it possible for that pout to deepen further, but lo and behold, her lip continued to jut outward. Something flashed in those eyes, something I couldn't seem to recognize.
"I'm serious, Joanne," she nearly whined.
Of course you are. I heaved a mental sigh. This was just like Maureen. The girl had swept into my life like a hurricane. She'd spoken to me a bit during my junior year, just enough to cement the enormous crush I had on her in a semi-permanent fashion. Then summer had come along, and I hadn't seen her for three months. My bitter little heart had grown doubtful of our "friendship"—if there was even enough of a relationship to call it that—and, though I thought of her daily, I was positive she wouldn't remember my name come September.
Ironically enough, on the very first day of school, one of the first things I saw was a whirlwind of dark hair and broad, infectious smiles. She'd thrown her arms around my neck, already talking a mile a minute, and I knew my fears were meaningless.
And so began my senior year. Otherwise referred to fondly as The Bittersweet Daily Hell of Loving Your Best Friend (Who Has a Boyfriend).
I've printed up the bumper stickers, in case there's anyone else with my predicament.
Anyway, yes, this was exactly like Maureen. Just as soon as I found myself feeling comfortable—finally—in my place in this admittedly-painful platonic friendship, she had to go and throw a crowbar into the mix.
I hate Mondays.
She was still gazing at me, I realized, with that frightening mixture of curiosity and—my stomach jolted—hope? No, no, that wasn't hope. Maureen Johnson didn't hope. She either wanted—and thusly got—something, or she didn't. There was no middleman emotion.
I bit my lip.
Bad idea, Joanne, I warned myself. Bad, bad, BAD—you aren't listening, are you?
"All right, then. Yes."
Shit. I knew it.
She blinked, surprised, and then proceeded to stare at me for a very long minute. I shifted uncomfortably and used the moment as an excuse to close my locker.
Close it on your hand, I told myself, half-serious. You deserve it.
I resisted the harmful urge and waited, not quite breathing. Finally, she said, "Really?"
I rolled my eyes, forcing levity. "No, Maureen. I'm lying to you. I thought it'd be a new and interesting way to start the week."
Oh, nice save. Joke. Tease. She's only looking at you with a vague sense of horror…Aloud, I added, "Why would you ask me something like that anyway? It isn't like the answer matters."
Sure, I was into girls. She knew that, and had nearly since I'd first admitted it to myself. But she wasn't, and that, I reminded myself for the twelfth time that morning, was the important part.
She shook her head, as if banishing thoughts from her rebellious little mind. "Right. Of course it doesn't. It was just a question."
My stomach rolled unpleasantly. "Right," was all I could think to say.
Her expression cleared. A smile slid over her previously-pensive features like, I noted, a particularly well-fitting mask. She looped an arm through mine.
"Have I mentioned this week how much I love you?" she asked conversationally and, though the words mingled with her touch sent the butterflies that lived in my heart into a frenzy, I smiled at the familiarity of it all. This was the Maureen I knew and—God help me—loved. Quirky, spontaneous, and just a little bit off her rocker. The exact opposite of anything I ever could hope to be.
She didn't bring up her question—or my unfortunate, yet heart-felt response, for that matter—again. For my part, I went into the tried-and-true technique of pretending she'd never asked it to begin with. Mondays were torturous enough without new complications.
Yet, somehow, as I stumbled through my chemistry exam that afternoon, I couldn't seem to shake that look. The one that had flashed in her eyes as she waited on apparent needles for my response. What the hell had it been?
You know what it was, a tiny voice spoke up slyly. I kicked it, praying it would shut up. When it did, however, I felt the words echo.
You know what it was.
Maureen Johnson may not have known what hope was, but, to Joanne Jefferson, that particular emotion was a live-in best friend.