She wasn't interested in him. It was obvious from the way she said his name, and the way she looked at him that she wasn't interested in him except in the manner that she was interested in proving that she was not interested. But still she looked at him, and spoke to him more than was strictly necessary for someone that you are not interested in. And yes, he understood that they were friends, and that friends spoke to each other, after all hadn't they spoken to each other when they were friends? Before they were more? But then through speaking to each other hadn't they become more?
It wasn't that he was afraid exactly. She was his and he was his best friend, and they were both loyal to a fault, and they would never ever betray him. Never ever, and besides, she wasn't interested in him, and he had someone else, and couldn't be interested in her. So he wasn't afraid that she would leave him, of that they would have an illicit affair, the kind that made famous love stories (why are there never love stories about two best friends who fall in love, or at least never famous love stories about best friends who fall in love, that love is no less thrilling, no more mundane). Because they were loyal, and damn it, he trusted them, he did. But maybe, just maybe he was a little jealous.
It wouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that he was jealous. Hasn't he always been secretly a little bit jealous of the boy who was his best friend? Hadn't he always wanted his looks, or his brains, or his bravery, or his fame? Hadn't he always been afraid that the boy who was too good and too kind would take anything he, the too tall, and too temperamental, average little boy would get. It was irrational, she'd told him that over and over and over until her tongue was dry and her face was blue. He knew it, in the deepest parts of his mind that sometimes spoke to him, and was rarely heeded.
Yet in the deepest parts of his hearts, the part that never stopped talking, never stopped being there and insinuating things so that he couldn't help but listen, it whispered of his inadequacy, and the others supremacy. It told him that no woman could ever want him when someone so much better was always right there next to him. It hissed to him of her faithlessness, every time she looked at him, every time she spoke his name it told him why he was unworthy, how she knew he was unworthy, how she was trying to find a peer, and had settled for the goofy sidekick of the one man who was her equal.
For he knew that her insecurities too whispered to her, and she was constantly plagued by feelings of inadequacy, driving her to work harder and harder to silence the little voice murmuring to her. He knew that she felt that she had to prove herself, to work harder, faster, more in order to keep the disapproving glances away. She didn't know that she was more than worthy, that she was the best, the most deserving, brilliant and beautiful, and his little voice didn't his when it told him that someday she would realize this and someday she would leave him, find someone better, find him, it shouted.
He could hardly stand to be in the same room as them, with the voice raging at him, all the time. But if he left they would be alone, and perhaps that time alone would be all the time that they needed to figure out that they were perfect for each other, so he stayed, stonily silent in a way that was completely uncharacteristic. In a way that caused them to send each other private glances that he couldn't quite read but was sure that were about him. In a way that drove him positively insane, he wanted to stand up and rage, tell them to lay off it already, to stop it with the long, telling looks, and the longer, more telling silences. Tell them that he hated their private jokes, hated that she was brilliant and he was good and all he was was the goofy third wheel who couldn't quite get it. But he was terrified that if he did, if he laid down that ultimatum once again, her infallible loyalty, her unimpeachable sense of right would drive her to not choose him. So he stayed silent, resentment building.
She wasn't interested in him. Or so she said. But she looked at him, and spoke to him, and laughed with him, and maybe, though she was never a good liar, she was lying first to herself and then to him. Soon she would realize that she was lying to herself and to him and to the world and she wouldn't be able to stand it. Perhaps she wouldn't ever admit her interest out loud for fear of causing him pain (oh how she hated to cause pain), but she couldn't lie, and once she realized that she was just using him as a substitute for bigger and better things, she would be obligated to leave him. And he didn't think that he could stand that.
It would be better by far if he left first.