i originally had something in here about how i wasn't sure if wingzero had received my stuff but then i checked my e-mail and you had so never mind and thanks :) if anyone else is wondering, wingzero has now been recruited as my editor/proofer/guinea pig. smiles around! especially about the guinea pig part (no offense meant :9)

the word of this chapter: the 's' word. boy is it said a lot. boy is it ever.

get back to me on the rating guys, tho i'm sure by this time the majority of people reading this aren't going to be too offended or conservative; to me it's about on par with the last one. i guess. . . i dunno. but say pg-13 or r or what. i tried to go by what one might see on tv, tho that's not always a very good standard ¬ ¬ . . . tho, wingzero, i do agree with what you said in your e-mail regarding the rating.

this is the final chapter of "a skirt for sunday evening." you have been warned.

so read while i go prep for singing around town all day tomorrow and finishing up my college application.

whee. i run now.

and just for the record moxy fruvous is excellent music.


*A Skirt for Sunday Evening* pt. VII

"I think I could go for one of those homemade margaritas right about now, Buttercup."

I squeeze my eyes shut and try to quell the pounding in my head. Alcohol tends to have that effect on me. "You've already had three. What the hell are you talking about?" The words come out very slowly and pronounced, in a manner I hope eliminates the slurring of speech.

"Yeah, well, you only put 1/3 the normal liquor content in them anyway, so mathematically, I've only had one. Wait. . . yeah, one." Butch swings his head and smiles at me. He's always been able to put away a whole shitload of the stuff before he passes out. Me, I have more than two drinks and can't tell you my head from my ass.

"Come on, Buttercup," Butch pleads, and leans so his arms drape around my shoulders and his cheek falls next to mine. "Come on," he repeats. "Hit me."

"I will, if you don't get offa me within the next two seconds."

"Damn, you're no fun," he whines, but doesn't move, instead opens his eyes and blinks at me, looking into my eyes. He grins. "I think you're drunk."

"It doesn't exactly take a rocket scientist to see THAT," I retort, eyes rolling. And rolling. And rolling.

"No, no, they're all. . . glazed. . . ish." He waves a hand in front of my eyes. "I don't get it. You haven't even finished your first glass."

"Because I don't drink as frickin' often as you do, you nitwit."

"Well then, we gotta build up that tolerance level of yers, don't we?"

And he takes my still more-than-half-full glass and presses its icy cold rim to my lips, and instead of resisting I willingly part my mouth and allow him to tip the liquid down my throat. It stings as it goes down, which I suppose is penance for refusing myself a final confession when it was most appropriate. . .

The glass leaves my lips and I squeeze my eyes shut tightly to try and stop that horrid pounding in my brain. When I open them again Butch is raising it to his own mouth and downs the rest of it in one gulp.

"God DAMN, how do you do that," I mutter incredulously. The pounding hasn't stopped yet.

He stifles a burp. "Practice."

"Wasn't that supposed to be mine?"

"YOU weren't drinking it." He grins mischievously and sticks his tongue out at me.

I can't bear to look at him; I sit back on the couch and close my eyes. The ceiling of our dorm fades from my gaze.

Butch sighs contentedly and I open my eyes again to find himself depositing his head on my lap, and all of me wants to shove him away and all of me wants to keep him here with me forever.

"Hmm. . . kinda reminds you of Freshman Homecoming, eh?" he remarks, and traces circles on my knee.

I blink slowly and open and close my mouth again and again, but words don't find their way through. I try not to think about happy endings and fail miserably. I never have any when it comes to him, so what does it matter anyway?

"Oh, come on, Buttercup," Butch pouts, and reaches up to my face. "Smile."

A strand of my hair falls to meet his hand and he accepts it willingly, toying with it so the tips brush against my eyelid. "You know I love to see you smile."

I take a shuddering breath and pull away from his hand, which trails down the length of my neck and shoulder and arm and plays with the sleeve of my shirt.

I don't mean for the next words to come out of my mouth, but they do regardless, a whisper in the dimly lit room.

"Do you play with Kendall like this?"

He stops moving. Stops breathing, even, maybe. I know I have.

"How do you mean?" he asks carefully, staring at the creases in the cuff of the shirt. Without waiting for an answer, he suddenly smiles. "Are you implying that I'm flirting with you?"


He hoists himself up, his arms encircling my neck as he rests his chin on my shoulder. "I always feel so comfortable with you," he admts quietly, and I hear the smile in his tone, an indication only of his friendship.

Nothing more.

Never anything more.

"I like how you're always here for me," he continues.

I really don't think I can take listening to him right now, but being stupid like that I do it anyway.

"Whatever happens I know you'll always be right there with me when it does," he says, his breath cooling my skin.

'There's a reason for that,' I want to say. I don't say anything.

Silence pervades the air of the room for a minute or so. I spend that time considering whether I should scream or laugh or break down and cry. I'm so close to giving up. . .

. . . that myabe I already have.

Instead I part my lips and offer, "So you wanted another margarita?"


"Dude, this place is in serious need of some myu-ZAK," Butch groans loudly, heading for the stereo. "You got a CD in here?"

"Beats me," I call as I pour two glassfuls of margarita-y goodness.

Music wafts into the semi-kitchen where I'm stationed. Butch appears in the doorway, smiling. "Moxy Fruvous. Hell, yeah," he growls, nodding happily.

"The Drinking Song?" I snort, thoroughly amused. "How fitting."

"Tis good stuff it is, lassie," he says in his hideous butchering of a Scottish accent. I only laugh.

He takes his mug in his hands and looks at me pointedly. "Thank you."

"De nada."

Against the slamming protests of my brain I lift the glass and take a long swig. When I pull it away I'm surprised to discover I've already downed half of it.

Butch gives a low whistle. "Smooth, Buttercup."

"You were the one who was talking about raising my tolerance level," I mumble with some difficulty. Dizziness. Ow. I start giggling uncontrollably and raise a hand to my teeth. "This song makes a lot of sense when you're totally. . . um. . . "

"Smashed?" Butch offers, and moves to my side. "Bombed? Hammered? Buzzed? Blitzed? Or how about just filthy stinkin' DRUNK?"

"'Ever notice how drinking's like war?'" I sing along with the song, still unable to stop laughing. I stumble back a bit, and of course Butch catches me and steadies me AGAIN.

"And to think you've barely had two," Butch comments, and wraps his arms around me from behind, swinging us back and forth in time to the music. My giggling subsides as I feel his cheek pressed to mine.

"I like this song," I say stupidly, for lack of anything else to say, besides THAT--

"Yeah. . . this is my favorite part," he quips, and starts singing along. "'Think of bombs. . . we're poised on the edge of disaster. . . '"

I pick up where he left off. "'Whether it's right or it's wrong. . . '"

"'We opened the window--'"

"'Played some Nintendo.'"

And we both mumble quietly together, smiling, "'Sang a few bars of some pretty old song. . . '"

I drift off as he continues alone. "Irene, good night. . . Irene, good night. . . good night, Irene, good night, Irene. . . '" He chuckles softly and leans in to my hair.

"'I'll see you. . . in my dreams,'" he whispers, and I wish it were really, for once, really, truly directed toward me, and me alone.

'What is it going to take?' I ask myself, even as his arms leave my body. 'What is it going to take for you to finally see. . . see me?'

I scrape my hand across the countertop as he says he has to go drop something or other off for Kendall. I barely pay attention as he continues to speak.

'I'm not 12 anymore. . . I haven't been for a long time.'

I breathe heavily and listen to Butch shuffling around in the dorm. 'We're only friends to you, to you, to you I'm just your friend, your best friend, but what about me because you're not you haven't been for years why can't you see that WHAT'S IT GOING TO TAKE--'

That's what my thoughts are, a jumbled mass of incomprehensible speech, meaningless, completely meaningless, even as he turns to me and says, "Be back in a few, Buttercup," I'm sick of waiting, sick of waiting for him, because that's all I EVER do--


He spins on his foot and looks back at me. "Yes, Buttercup?"

And now. . .

I stare directly at him, and as always his eyes are lifted inquisitively, shining, his genuine smile, no, MY genuine smile ever present on his expression. "What's up, Buttercup?"

His voice sounds quiet, patient. It makes me blush, and I lower my head, concealing my face in shadows. "I. . . I. . . " I knit my brow and close my eyes. "I don't know. I. . . can't remember." I clench and unclench my teeth several times.


Momentary pause. "Um. . . ok, then, I guess I'll see you in a minute or two, chica," he says, and I hear him start to shuffle away. . .

I shoot through the air like a bullet and halt a few feet from the doorway in front of him. "Wait," I whisper, even before my hair has a chance to settle.

He stops on command. "Yes?" he questions, eyes lifted, curious.

And I lose the words again, and lose myself in his eyes. My stomach tightens, and I turn my head to the ground. "I. . . um, you. . . "

His brow furrows. "You might wanna tell me this when you're NOT drunk, Buttercup. Now quit foolin' around, I'll be right back. . . " he assures me, reaching for my arm.

My head snaps up.



His hand twitches and stops inches from my skin.

My eyes are glistening as I focus unfocus focus unfocus on his face, the outline of his body smudging then clearing again & again in my vision. He's not smiling anymore.

The room is deathly quiet.

Almost as if. . . as if everything's being played out in black & white.


My chest contracts, holds and cramps and doesn't relax, and why don't I just throw up so the stomach acid eating away at my insides doesn't kill me before he answers. . .

His mouth separates slightly in what isn't a frown but can't be called a smile either. . . The brightness in his eyes dulls and darkens, his brow furrows, and he blinks, once, then twice, then again and again, and his eyes dart away to the side, from empty air to empty air, then to the floor, then back to me, then away again, then back, away, back, back, away. . .

His outstretched hand draws back a bit, then moves forward for mine again, and then finally a falls to his side, bumping limply into place.

His breathing isn't erratic, or frantic, but slow, deep, like sighing. And then that's the only sound in the room, his breathing, his deep, heavy breathing, echoing in my head matching the pace of my heartbeat as it POUNDPOUNDPOUNDS my blood. . .

And what? WHAT? Please, Jesus, Oh Christ Christ CHRIST. . . SAY SOMETHING!

To my imminent surprise he looks at me and. . . and. . . he weakly cracks a smile.


He gets it.

This is impossible this is not happening--

"Aw, Buttercup," he grins, sighing, relieved. . . relieved? "That's so SWEET."

And suddenly he strides towards me, takes me by my shoulders and lowers his eyelids and leans down, and on impulse I close my eyes and tilt my face up to his but I can't help thinking there's something amiss--

His lips fall on my cheek.

"I love you too."

Nothing more than a whisper.

Something wrong something wrong something wrong. . .

"I don't think I could ask for a sweeter girl than you to be my best friend."

I'm suddenly enveloped in cold.

. . . no.

Nonononono not again--

"It's good--"


"--to know--"

This isn't what I meant that wasn't what I meant--

"--that I--"

You don't understand--

"--can always--"

Why don't you ever understand--

"--count on you--"


"--to be there for me."


My mouth refuses to move, voice refuses to speak.

He pulls back slightly and mumbles, without looking at me, "You know, for a moment there, I. . . I thought. . . " He lifts his eyes to mine, glazed and unfocused, as if he's staring off into space. ". . . I-I thought you meant. . . "

Swallow. Breathe. Look at me and say it, for once, just once, just. . .

He hesitates, and smiles again. "It. . . it's not important."

Just stop.

"Back in a few," he sharply chirps, and. . . leaves.

Don't do this to me again.

He's already disappeared from the kitchen doorway when my voice finally finds itself.


My voice is so. . . weak.

"You don't understand, Butch."

My body finally gets the message, and I hover, struggling for balance THAT GODDAMN ALCOHOL--

"That's not what I meant," I cry feebly, and dash toward the door just as it slams in my face.

"That's not--!"

My face falls and my feet touch solid ground again as I reach a hand for the doorknob, then hesitate.

". . . not what I meant. . . "

Every joint in my body tingles numbly.

My face suddenly contorts and I crumple against the door why don't you understand why can't you understand and no I will not cry I won't cry can't wont don't don't DON'T--!

My eyes sting with unshed tears and frantic sobs shake my body but no no tears I will not let myself cry don't cry Buttercup don't cry why don't you understand--

"I LOVE YOU," I whisper hoarsely into the wood and slide to my knees on the floor running my hand up and down the coarse surface never understand never do never will what's wrong with me. . . ?

I curl myself up in a ball and blink away the unshed tears.


What's wrong with me.

I shuffle into the bathroom to splash some water on my face and make the sad mistake of looking in the mirror.





What the hell, what the GOD DAMN HELL was I THINKING!!

What the hell am I doing dressed like this, in a skirt, in heels, in anything other than jeans and a sweatshirt and WHY DID I LET THEM TOUCH MY HAIR?!?!

With a cry of rage I snatch at the pins in my head and roughly jerk them out, blindly, grabbing as many of them as I can at one time and throwing them in the sink, most of them sliding down the drain. All those little pricks of pain in my scalp are probably the hair follicles I'm ripping out with a total lack of regard for and one of these God damn pins is stuck is stuck get out get out GET OUT GODDAMMIT YOU STUPID PIECE OF SHIT PIN!!!

Frustrated, completely and totally utterly frustrated I swipe at the air, spin around ungraciously and topple onto the toilet, and I thank God it's closed or I would've fallen in for sure. Another stifled cry and I slam a fist into my knee, again and again and again, biting back my sobs, my tears, my wretched little cries because he won't hear them anyway so what's the use no use no use IT'S NEVER ANY USE AND IT NEVER MAKES A DIFFERENCE.

Suddenly I feel tired, so incredibly tired and worn and dead, and my fist drops, unclenched, into my lap. My lower lip twitches every now and then, every other breath I take catches in my throat and chokes me. Half of my hair hangs in my face, limp and tangled, and I sweep the strands away from my eyes like curtains and bury my head in my hands.

Me all along.

Me all alone.

"You look like you could use some help."

My hands slide from my face and I turn my gaze upward to see Butch.

He smiles softly and enters the bathroom.

I follow him with my eyes, my cold, dead, careless eyes, he can't see the hurt, the pain, the feeble exhaustion of waiting, and waiting, and waiting. . .

I breathe slow and steady as he sits himself on the bathroom counter so his stomach is level to my face. On leg rests on the counterside and the other stretches out a bit across my legs, and I adjust so he can rest it on the edge of the seat.

"Thanks," he says gratefully, his hands already gently plucking out the pins and dropping them into my lap.

I don't respond.

I only lower my eyes and lean my head forward until it bumps his leg, and I rest there as he dutifully separates pins from my hair, one after the other, again and again.

And I wait awhile longer, just awhile longer, just in case, in case he gets it for once, for once, for once--


I cannot say it a third time.

But it doesn't matter, not really. He never gets it anyway.


I curl my legs under me and lean on the arm of the courch, tracing the rim of my empty glass with my hand. I raise it to my mouth and click my teeth against it. The sound echoes in the room.

"I. . . don't shuppoze yee-oo wananuthuh glasssh. . . ?" Butch slurs beside me. I lost count of how many he's had within the past half-hour since he returned from Kendall's.

I shake my head, don't loook at him. "Mm-mm."

"She-oot yershelf." He examines his own glass, seeming to concentrate as hard as he can on it, then suddenly brings it to his lips and downs the rest of it in one clean shot down his throat. He lowers it again and blinks blearily at it, narrowing his eyes, then settles the cup on the coffee table, where it tilts a bit unsteadily at first but eventually clatters into place. With a heavy sigh he leans back against the couch and lolls his head to the side to look at me.

I feel his eyes on me but don't return his gaze.

Endless moments pass before he sighs again and the pressure of his eyes leaves my body. I set my glass down on the endtable next to the lamp and watch his faint reflection in the clear glass. I watch as he grunts slightly and tries to stand, but ends up falling back on the couch.

"Guess not. Hehe. . . " he mumbles, and begins giggling, abruptly stops.

I remain expressionless and slump down further on my side of the couch, resting my head on its arm atop my folded hands. My now loose hair slides across my eyes, and I watch the room through scant black threads.

"Dishjoo--" Butch starts, then coughs and clears his throat."Did joo haffa good time today?" he asks, doing his best to speak clearly.

I don't say anything, only blink, my eyelids heavy from sleep and alcohol and holding back tears.

Suddenly Butch crawls on top of me and wraps his arms around me, his head resting in the curve of my neck, and my eyes snap wide open.

"Buttercup. . . " he whispers, and I detect the light smell of alcohol on his breath. ". . . what's wrong?"

"Get off me, Butch," I mutter. I'm too depressed to even notice my quickening heartbeat.

"Was zit shomething I did?" he continues, without taking note of my request.

"Butch, get off--"

"Whatever it was, I'm shorry," he whispers on my throat, and tilts my head and raises his so our foreheads bump against each other.

Too close. . .

A hot blush spreads across my face.


Everything pounding.

The pounding in my head is deafening. The pounding in my chest feels like it's going to rip me apart.

Suddenly Butch grins. "You know, if we were Eshkimoes, we'd be kishing right now," he giggles, then pauses. "Of courshe, that would make more shensh if we had nose-shesh to begin with."

I only try to back my head into the courch arm, muscles tense.

Butch blinks a few times, then remarks, smiling brightly, "That lip balm. . . it makesh you shmell like coconut," and he gives a short laugh.

Then the smile abruptly drops.

"I wonder if it makes you taste like coconut too."

Without warning his tongue darts out and separates my lips and my eyes widen and my chest swells as his mouth presses hard against mine oh God he's kissing me he's kissing me. . . !

I push against him weakly with my hands because I don't want this to happen, partly because he's drunk and I"m nowhere near sober either, and partly because I don't want him to hate himself when he wakes up, don't want to hate myself, don't want us to hate each other, don't want him to hate ME. . .

But I feel his lips on mine, taste sweet and tangy alcohol on his tongue and my resistance fades, my hands instead of pushing him away pressing limply on his chest and I move to return his kiss but he suddenly snaps his eyes wide open and jerks away from me, eyes round with fear--fear?--and pants heavily, "Oh, shit, Buttercup, I-I-I didn't mean--"

I don't want to hear it.

I grab him by the collar and yank him back to me, eyes closed and mouth parted anticipating his kiss and eagerly welcoming his lips when they fall upon mine. The rest of his words are muffled in my mouth and he gives a stifled cry of surprise--

I squeeze my eyes shut and clasp my arms around his neck, pressing his head closer against mine and meshing my lips against his, God his lips are so sweet and warm and soft. . .

So what if we hate each other in the morning, so what if we both hate me for doing this and regret it forever how could I regret this I'll never have him anyway so please let me have him tonight God please let me have him JUST THIS ONCE TONIGHT. .

The words repeat themselves over and over again in my mind as I move forward and push us both off the couch, Butch hitting the floor first and me landing on top of him, lips locked tight against each other's all the while.

Butch tries to shake his head away from me but I latch onto him tightly I'm not going to give him up this time this time never again. . .

. . . and suddenly. . .

. . . he stops fighting to get away and slowly starts to kiss me back.

His arms snake around my spine and hug me closer, and I run my hands through his hair again and again the strands slick and smooth against my skin and move my lips on his, my tongue flickering out every now and then to trace the swell of his lips on mine--

Suddenly he sits up and we separate, gasping for air and he whispers fiercely, "Buttercup. . . I-I can't, I have. . . I have to tell you something, I can't--"

I won't hear it.

I said I didn't WANT to hear it.

I clench my teeth and pull him by his collar close to me and growl "SHUT UP" and take his lips in mine again and fall back against the carpet, dragging him down with me.

'Ten years,' I think to myself as he gives up gives in and leans agsint me, 'ten years of loving every little thing he does, says, treasuring every last bit of him that I could get and still wanting more, still wanting this, still wanting HIM--'

And it heightens the swell in my chest as I think to myself, and I kiss him harder, and to my insatiable delight he kisses me back, our lips working over each other's again and again, and damned if he doesn't taste like coconut now too. . .

I stop thinking about what if we regret it, what if Kendall walks in right now, what if something happens and we never speak to each other ever again and only meet his mouth with mine over and over as we scoot back, back until my head bumps against the wall and I sit up, eyes flickering open to make sure this is real, this is really happening, and his hair tickles my eyelids and it is, it IS real, and I close my eyes again and slide my arms from his neck and against his chest and as they slide toward his stomach and start to tug up the hem of his shirt I think '22 is old enough isn't it isn't it isn't it--'

Butch pushes my hands away and pulls back to breathe again, whispering frantically, "No, Buttercup, not that," and I run my hands up to his shoulders and push back his overshirt, ignoring him--

He snatches my hands and presses them against the wall, hissing, "We can't, we can't, I have to tell you--have to tell you--we can't do this, remember--remember 7th grade--"

And I can hear his words before he speaks.

'A test of our friendship.'

'It doesn't change anything.'

'It doesn't MEAN anything.'

No, Butch. You're wrong. It means EVERYTHING.

Everything to me.

". . I have to tell you something. . . I have to let you know. . . "

Before I have to hear those horrid things for real I rip my hands from his grasp, take his face in my hands and whimper, "Just shut up, goddammit, goddammit, just shut up, PLEASE," and press my open mouth to his once more, etching every single crevice of his mouth, of his entire body into my memory with my tongue and lips and hands I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU I LOVE YOU SO MUCH--

His taste fills my mouth and I nip lightly at his lips that taste like him taste like me like me&him and him&me together have you any idea how beautiful you are and how much I love you. . . ?

Of course he doesn't but at least he doesn't pull away anymore, doesn't stop my hands from pushing off the shoulders of his overshirt or tugging up his white t-shirt and pressing my hands against his bare chest underneath it. . .

One last try. He tears himself away.

"Buttercup. . . we. . . CAN'T--"

And he stops and returns to me on his own, kissing me so hard and deep the world around us swims and it feels for sure we're falling back oh God I'm so dizzy Butch I love you--

He slips his arm from the overshirt sleeve and takes my chin in his hand, grasping it and brushing his lips against it before returning to my mouth and tracing the corners of my lips with his tongue. . .

I shift my hands down to his waist and tug his belt loops toward my hips. He separates his lips from mine to breathe and watches my mouth under heavy-lidded eyes and then his hand tickles my stomach and moves up and under my shirt, the buttons slowly popping from their holes and midway up he closes his eyes and I close mine and we feverishly kiss each other again and as his hand undoes the final top button of my shirt and wraps around my bare back my own hands move along the hem of his jeans and start to fiddle with the buckle of his belt, thinking all the while 'How could we hate each other in the morning one night just one one night won't hurt he could love me just this one night couldn't he couldn't you Butch love me just one night as much as Iloveyou--'

As I think to myself I intensify the kiss, our teeth bumping roughly against each other's, and I feel his hand at the hem of my skirt slowly sliding it up my thigh and desire surges through my body and I tug fervently at his belt, and finally FINALLY he pushes my wrists away and fumbles anxiously with his belt buckle and the second he slides it off and tosses it aside I press my hands to his stomach and slide them down under the waist of his jeans, down until--


Butch suddenly screams and as he jerks himself away I snap my hands from him, startled as he turns his back to me and buries his head in his hands and as I sit there absolute horror washes over me Oh my God we were so close so close oh shit What have I done What have I done How could we do that?!

Nonono everything is ruined oh shit oh shit oh SHIT Buttercup you IDIOT YOU IDIOT oh SHIT!!!

"Oh, shit," Butch whispers, and he runs his hands through his hair and clasps the sides of his head, shaking it back and forth-- "Oh shit shit shit shit SHIT!! Goddammit, I'm such an idiot, oh SHIT!"

He breathes frantically and suddenly whirls around and starts, "Butter--" but then his eyes widen and jaw drops and he blushes something fierce and I follow his gaze, glance down, scream, "SHIT!!!" and try to button my shirt closed but the God damn things won't button GODDAMMIT and after useless fumbling with them I cry out in frustration and hastily fold the shirt over my chest and turn toward the wall, curling my legs under me and tugging down at my skirt with one hand and holding the shirt closed with the other biting back hot tears oh GODDAMMIT!!!

With another stifled cry I drive my temple against the wall and shake my head and mutter quietly, "Buttercup, you idiot. . . YOU IDIOT!!!"

"I know!"

My head snaps to Butch and he stares at me, a pained expression on his face as he shakes his head and whispers, "God I'm such an idiot oh shit Buttercup I shouldn't have done that I shouldn't have touched you kissed you--oh, SHIT Buttercup I'm so sorry--"

My eyes widen.


He's SORRY?!?!

He repeats it over and over again and rage starts building in my chest Why are you sorry Butch you idiot stop taking responsibility for everything Goddammit you stupid piece of oh Goddammit just SHUT UP--

"SHUT UP!!!" I screech, and the tears that have been building up for ten years spill over and flow freely down my face and sobs start to wrack my body uncontrollably and shit how come you can do this to me Butch make me lose control you stupid God damn idiot why didn't you ever see how could you never know I LOVE YOU how could you not understand?!

Butch starts gasping for breath and I hear him whisper, "You're crying. . . I made you CRY." And he suddenly moves toward me and encases me in his arms, presses his lips to my tear-stained cheek and chokes on his words. . . "This is all my fault, oh Jesus Christ Buttercup I'm so sorry--"

"DON'T TOUCH ME!!!" I shriek, and jerk myself away as I stand and whirl toward him, teeth grit and angry tears streaming everywhere.

Butch abruptly stands with me, and as he looks at me his mouth separates slightly and his lower jaw trembles his brow furrows and he's scared of what of losing me of losing my friendship this is about fucking FRIENDSHIP?!?



"You never get it!!!" I spit at him and as he reaches for me I shake my head and tear myself away and shoot out the window, glass shattering around me, and hear him yell, "BUTTERCUP!!" and God damn I hope he doesn't follow me he never gets it you never get it you NEVER understand. . .

I alight on op of one of the campus buildings and drop to my knees, lean forward so my hair curtains around my face and the tears that i can't control spatter onto the concrete, little spider drops trailing about my knees, and I can't even remember the last time I really cried though I've been coming close ever since I fell in love with--

"Just give up," I find myself whispering, voice hoarse and pained form screaming. "Give up. He'll never know, never care, he already never understands--"

A sob chokes my throat.

I will never be the Other Girl.

I swallow thickly but another sob shakes me, and no matter how many times I rub at my eyes with the sleeve of my shirt. . . no, Butch's shirt. . . the tears always come.

I lie on my side, my hair forming a thin black pillow for my cheek, and as I let the tears fall I listen to the absolute silence of the late night-early morning and marvel at how no matter where I go it's always me all alone.


I can't be sure of what time it is when I make my way back to the dorm. The tiny glass shards that should've been in the window are gone, and as I step inside and look around I realize the entire place is completely spotless. Apparently I've been gone long enough for Butch to clean the whole dorm. I run my hand along the window frame. He must've taken care of the glass too. My eyes fall upon his sleeping form on the floor in the middle of the room, and I approach him and pry the empty bottle of tequila from his hand. Little cards surround him and I pick one up and examine it.

A photo.

Of us.

All photos of us.

Scattered around him, a pool of photographs, all of us.

Only us.

Only friends.

One of my sweatshirts is curled in his arm under his head, serving as a pillow. I drop the photo and toss the bottle in the garbage. He's gonna have one hell of a hangover.

I shower. Brush my teeth and change. Roll onto the top of the bunk bed, and eventually the alcohol I had earlier lulls me to sleep; the last image I see is Butch clutching my sweatshirt a bit tighter, the last thing I hear is his voice murmuring, "Buttercup. . . "

I don't bother saying good night.


Even while intoxicated I dream a familiar dream tonight.

Two dark-haired green-eyed 12 year olds sitting back to back in the gazebo of the town park. The now and forever bestest friends you'll ever find, with none of the things like romantic tension nor sentiments clouding their judgement.

But a lifetime of friendship can change in one moment of one afternoon.

One of them leans forward, turns a bit. She smiles, and laughs, and opens her mouth to speak, and without warning he turns, takes her face in his hands, and presses his mouth to hers.

And she loses her voice to his.

Every single color in the park fades to a murky, unrecognizable grey, but the two remain as dark-haired & green-eyed as ever.

When he finally, finally pulls away, she blinks and stares up at him, and he's not 12 anymore, but 22, and he smile and kneels in front of her still tiny 12 year old body and tickles her lips as his brush lightly against them one last time.

His whisper is a cool breath on her chin.

"I love you."

A mind-blowing shatter reverberates in her head.

even after he disappears she remains on her knees, mouth parted and eyes wide, staring into space and uncomprehending, and the same time the day after he arrives again, a smile lighting his beautiful 22 year old face.

And it's the same as the day before.

The kiss, the tickle, the "I love you. . . "

He leaves and it happens the next day, and the next, and the next, over and over again, and still she remains a tiny little 12 year old nothing desperately searching for the voice she lost to his kiss the one moment of that one afternoon.

But he brings it back one day.

One day, as he kisses her, he breathes into her the voice she lost the first time, and she finds it, and as he pulls away, tickles her lips, and prepares to say those beautiful three words once more she becomes 22, leans her forehead against his and whispers "I love you" in a voice that still belongs to her 12 year old body, beating him to it.

And just as she says it, just as she breathes his name, just as she revels in the incredible, sheer, unadulterated bliss that takes place in that breathless moment just before their lips find each other's again, she blinks--

--and I'm 12, and sitting back to back with the best friend I ever had, with none of the things like kisses or tickles or "I love you's" getting in the way. . .

. . . to my disappointment.

Just a dream.

Always just a dream.

I lean forward, turn a bit. Open my mouth, sans smile, ready to say it to him, just in case it changes something, changes his mind, changes us--

Without warning he turns, smiles, and says, "I hope this never changes."

And leaves.

The world dissolves around me.

'I hope this never changes.'

"But it's too late," I whisper.

"It already has."


Why do I bother?

Why do I do it?

What does it matter anyway in the long run?

The most it could ever lead to is a few dates, a few drinks, and one night where we lose it because we can't think of anything else we haven't done together already, and the morning after a breakup, and a lifetime's woth of regrets for wasting ten years so hopelessly enamored with someone I should've had the common sense not to fall for in the first place.

And Butch is too special for those few dates, those few drinks, that one night. That could be any random guy on the street.

I can't let that happen.

But I can't let his every move, every word dictate my life for me.

I don't want us to become what we could've become tonight.

And I'm sick.

I'm sick of it.

I'm sick of you.

I' so incredibly sick of it all.

All those sleepless wasted nights of praying and wishing for more, for you. . .

I gave you ten years to see, ten years to know, to realize, and you never once did.

And I'm so tired of it.


For a summer, for a year, for the rest of my life.

And see if I can bother to care.

I won't tie you down anymore, I'll let you go, so go. . .

. . . and maybe I'll forget I ever loved you once before.


Sparks dance before my eyes as I painstakingly lift them open, rainbow-itic colors pulsing throbbing pounding in my head oh Christ I'm never drinking again.

It doesn't exactly help that the sun is garishly beaming its ultraviolet rays of death right on to my face, and I squint and groan and prop myself up on shaky limbs.

Big mistake.

My head swims and my stomach heaves and I groan again and drop myself back onto the pillowcase, swallowing thickly and breathing slow until the urge to spew my guts out all over the dorm subsides.

. . . It obviously takes a long time.

Slowly but surely it fades, and the minute it does I rest the back of my hand on my forehead, eyes twitching every now and then.

God, I hate you, Sun.

I'm just about to try getting up again, a little slower this time, when suddenly the bathroom door clicks and Butch steps out.

My tongue lodges itself in my throat as the smell of his shampoo diffuses into the air.

The urge to throw up surfaces again, though for all too different reasons.


I remain motionless.

He clears his throat. "Are you awake?"

I lower my eyelids just enough so I can watch him from the corner of my eye undetected. But I continue to lie still. How is it that he drinks five times the amount of alcohol I drank and still looks great in the morning while I feel like shit?

Wearing his regular old jeans and t-shirt, he hovers and slowly approaches the bunk bed. . . and though my voice is silent, my heart tremors & screams.

When he enters the shaft of light from the window the dust particles in the air catch in the sun shimmer around him as if he were some ethereal being and God you look so beautiful--

My heart wails and desperately hammers against my ribcage, pleading for his touch his voice him him him because I LOVE HIM. . .


You have to let go, forget, he'll leave, he'll leave, and what will you have after that?

My head and my heart tear each other to pieces as he reaches me and drapes his arms in the crooks of his elbows. He leans on the mattress, the springs creaking next to my head as he presses down. The shadow of the window blinds rests on the side of his face, alternating slats of light & dark on his cheek.

My heart drowns in its adrenaline.

But still I refuse to move.

His scent comletely saturates my senses. I think I'm going to pass out.

I said no more, no more, I can't love you anymore. . .

"Buttercup," he whispers, voice rich and deep and husky-coarse, and I set my jaw no more no more--

He breathes a faint, tiny little sigh, lets his eyes drift off to the side, and idly scrapes the mattress with one hand. His hair glistens with beads of water, not fully dry yet. A few hang precariously off the tips of his bangs, faintly soaking the sheets with dewdrop sized lakes when they can no longer hold on. I watch one particular bead clinging to a strand of hair just above his right eye, and even though I feel it coming, when it breaks off, plummets downward, and crashes onto my wrist, my arm involuntarily twitches.

At that Butch's eyes flicker back to me, his gaze brushing over the drop of water on my skin. He lifts a corner of the bed sheet and touches it to the waterdrop, soaking the tiny white right-angled edge of the cloth. He drops it then, and pulls back a bit, hesitates, then leans forward, resting his head on his folded arms.

He is driving me absolutely CRAZY.

'What do you want?' I want to whisper, want to ask, but I give up don't want you don't need you CHRIST my head won't stop POUNDING--

He exhales slowly, and a fresh, cool puff of what smells like Mentadent settles on my heated face. He unwraps his arms and reaches a hand towards my cheek and I almost shiver with anticipation of one touch, one graze, one brush of his skin on mine--

I grit my teeth and roll over, turning to face the wall and bumping his hand away with my shoulder.

I hear him inhale sharply and try to think nothing of it.

It never meant anything before. Why should it mean anything now?

I open my eyes a bit more and can faintly trace the outlines of our shadows on the wall. He straightens, and pauses a long while, and I can feel his pretty bright green eyes boring into the nape of my neck. I clench the pillowcase and rub the fabric in my hand.

Suddenly he leans and presses his lips to my shoulder, and my entire body goes rigid.

My stomach almost unbearably turns and a lump worms its way into my throat.


"When Butch asks you," he whispers, his lips barely grazing my skin, "one last time if you want him to stay--"

He breaks off, pauses. He takes a deep breath before continuing.

"Tell him. . . tell ME yes."

An unbelievably cold wave of numbness floods my body.

"Please, Buttercup?"

Why. . . why should I say yes?

For you?

I bite my lip--hard--as I watch his shadow fade away and hear him shuffle towards the door.

Why you. . . why now?

Of all the times. . .

I don't get it. . .

What difference does it make now?

I squinch my eyes shut and ignore the rusty taste of blood in my mouth I don't care don't care DON'T CARE.

Why now?

Because you'll miss me? Because you're sorry?! Because you feel some weird twisted sense of regret for kissing me a second time and not having that wretched 'friends made me do it' excuse to use again?!


I'm sick of waiting for you, of all that stupid pointless wishing, shit, I'm just tired of being your God damn FRIEND.

I don't care if you leave, go, just go, and give me a chance to FORGET ABOUT YOU ALREADY--

The second the front door to the dorm clicks shut my stomach lurches and I whip out of bed to heave my insides into the toilet.


After brushing my teeth I splash pools of cold water onto my face again and again, trying to cool down. My head still pounds, my stomach's still turning, and my knees now are wobbling like crazy; it's all I can do just to keep on my feet.

I rest my hands on the sink's edges and groan, my head turned towards the basin. "Jesus," I whisper. "I am NEVER drinking again."

"Heh. I tell myself that every time."

I straighten and direct my gaze to the mirror.

Behind my pale, sickly looking reflection is Butch, an apologetic smile on his face.

Casually leaning on the door frame.


Per usual.

I whip around to face him a bit too fast. My knees buckle and I have to grab onto the sink for support to keep from fainting. Butch instantly steps forward, arms ready to catch me--

"NO!" I order, louder than I mean to.

My voice catches Butch by surprise, too, and he jumps a bit, but he obediently complies and stands still, watching me. I take a few deep, ragged breaths, then lift my head again.

"What do you want?" I ask coldly.

His mouth drops and his brow furrows, ovbiously taken aback. He swallows thickly. "G-Good morning."

"What's so good about it?" I immediately shoot back.

He draws in a sharp breath and shakily exhales and don't care Buttercup don't care--

I grit my teeth and move to shove past him--

He slams his fist against the door frame, stopping me. "Wait. . . Buttercup," he says a bit urgently, and I lift my head to face him again, my expression cold and dead.

'You've never had anything to say to me before.'

'Why should I start listening now?'

"Listen, Buttercup," he starts off, and hesitates. We remain motionless for a long time. Finally he takes a deep breath and says, "I want to apologize for. . . for what happened last night." He lowers his head, unwilling--or is it unable?--to face me. "I'm sorry."

My body tenses. However, my smart mouth has seemed to have grown a mind of its own. "Sorry that two complete strangers touched me, or sorry that we touched each other?"


That's what his head does.

Snaps up to mine.

His eyes are wide and his fist clenches the frame of the door tightly. His head drops from mine and he looks hastily around the room, looking so incredibly ashamed I almost wish I hadn't said that. . .


"Shit," he hisses under his breath.

"If you're done wasting my time," I say quietly, "I'd like to go change."

"No, Buttercup!" he half-shouts, head whipping back to me. "I'm sorry. . . for doing. . . what I did. . . last night."

His eyes avoid looking at me, something I find absolutely infuriating.

"I was. . . drunk, I guess. . . and I lost it. . . but you were drunk too, and I shouldn't have. . . shouldn't have tried to take advantage of that. . . of you." He presses his lips together and finally looks at me again. Almos instantly his expression becomes one of concern. "Why is your lip bleeding?"

I touch a hand to my lower lip and examine it, a faint smear of red on my skin. I run my tongue over my lips and wipe my hand on my jeans. "I guess I bit my lip a little too hard this morning." My eyes half-closed, I look up at him. "Not that it ought to matter to you much anyway."

"Don't say that," he says sharply, leaning in towards me. His face immediately softens. "I. . . Buttercup. . . I'm sorry for Sunday night. You know you're the most important person to me ever and I--"

I DON'T want to talk about this--

"Enough," I whisper, and start to duck under his arm--


His hands fly to my shoulders and yank me back in front of him, his breathing uneasy and striated. "We need--*I* need to talk to you--no, Buttercup," he pleads as I start to lower my head, "look at me, please, come on, Buttercup, Buttercup, look at me, GODDAMMIT BUTTERCUP LOOK AT ME!!!"

He sweeps his head down and presses his forehead to mine, bringing it up with his hands still on my shoulder. "Look--at--me," he hisses, his forehead still pressed to mine. "i have something I need to tell you. . . "

My eyes flicker to his hands on my shoulders, his head touching mine. "Well," I whisper, interrupting, "this is familiar, isn't it?"

His eyes widen again, and he pulls away, dropping his hands to his sides. I stand still, lifting a hand to rub at my shoulder.

"I'm. . . sorry," he says quietly. "But. . . Buttercup. . . last night. . . I never got the
chnace to tell you. . . I tried to say to you. . . "

If he keeps looking at my face for inspiration there's no way in hell he could possibly be getting anything out of my dead expression.

He clenches and unclenches his hands, and says, "Buttercup, for. . .the longest time now, I. . . I was. . . I've been. . . I--"

Knock knock! "Butch? Buttercup? Anybody home?"


Butch blinks in surprise, the unspoken words hanging off the tip of his tongue.

I force a thin smile and nod to him once, curtly. "And that would be your girlfriend."

His expression falls and he stares at me, a tinge of sadness in his eyes.

But I'm probably just imagining things.

This sort of thing takes time, anyway. . . doesn't it?

I give up on you.

I zip past him to answer the door, and he doesn't bother trying to stop me as I brush past him. On my way to the door I notice the pile of photos has been gathered into its box again.

"Morning Kendall," I chirp as I open the door and stand aside to let her in.

She smiles. "Morning--" Her eyes flicker to the suitcase by the door, and she blinks, as if she's surprised to see it there. ". . . Buttercup." She clears her throat. "Um, Butch, you're. . . ready?"

He's still standing in the bathroom doorway, head lowered. At the sound of her voice he turns, though, and steps into the main room. "Yeah. . . I guess I am." He doesn't bother with a smile, only lifts his head and stares at me again, as if waiting for me to say something like "No" or "Stay."

Hmp. Yeah, right.

Kendall looks between me and Butch, eyebrows knitted in what I take to be a look of concern. "W-well, then, if you're ready--"

"I guess I'll see you guys after summer's over, then," I say with a smile. Their heads turn to me. "Have fun."

Butch opens his mouth. "But--"

"Wait," Kendall interrupts. "Weren't you coming with us to the airport? I-I mean, I'd really been looking forward to spending at least a little more time with you before I left. I mean, before WE left. . . "

A million excuses come to mind. I have work to do. I have people to call. I have to shower. I have to go buy a cat. I have to make dinner. I have to write my Christmas cards. I have to go to the bathroom. I have to get over your boyfriend who I've dreamt about, fantasized about, and been in love with for the past 10+ years.


Those'll work REAL well.

"Just. . . gve me a minute to get ready."


A minute later I step out of the bathroom. "Well, looks like we oughtta get going," I remark to Kendall & Butch--

--but only Butch is in the room.

He clears his throat. "Kendall's outside already with the luggage.

I shrug. "Whatever." I fly over to the door and start to tug on my sneakers.

He draws in a deep breath. "Buttercup--"

"Let's get going."

He hesitates as my hand reaches for the door. "Butter--"

"Do you have something to say to me?" I ask, not looking at him as I swing the door wide open. My voice laces itself with ice. "Because I have nothing to say to you."

I can hear his breath catch in his throat.

Neither of us moves for the longest time. One of us should say something.

I don't love you anymore.

I could tell him that.

But would it be the truth, or would it be a lie?

What would it mean to him anyway?

He sighs. "Forget it," he whispers hoarsely, averting his gaze. "Let's just go."


It's uncanny how quiet the entire thing is. Nobody says a word in the car. Nobody says a word when we arrive at the airport. Nobody says a word as the luggage is check in, nor when we go through security checks.

The disrupter of peace I am, I quip, "Gate 15," and bound off in said direction, Butch & Kendall lagging behind me. I figure the quicker I get this over with the less likely I'll be to burst into tears when I get home.

"Did you & Buttercup. . . have a fight?" I hear Kendall whisper, and my brisk pace slows ever so slightly.

Butch waits before he can come up with a response. "You could say that," he says quietly.


The quicker the better, the quicker the better, the quicker the better. . .

I whirl around, a totally fake, meaningless smile plastered onto my face and spread my arms wide. "Gate 15. Here we are."

Kendall manages a kind smile, but Butch only stares at me, the same way he's been staring at me all morning, and my throat hurts all of a sudden and my legs feel weak but dammit Buttercup smile anyway and say "Good-bye. . . "

"Looks like they're boarding business class right now. You're just in time," I remark, still cheerfully masking the effort I'm making to get this done & over with. . .

The quicker you leave the quicker it'll be to get over you.

At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Go already, go, go, GO--

"I guess that's it for this term," Kendall says softly, and opens her arms. "I'll see you when classes start up again, then, Buttercup."

I don't think that far ahead, I consider saying, but only smile and hug her. "Sure thing."

"Now boarding business class. . . " the PA system blares, and Kendall lets go. She gazes at me a long time before smiling again and turning to Butch expectantly.

Smile. Doesn't matter if it hurts your mouth, makes you feel stupid, or tears at your chest just do it do it DO IT get it over with and leave leave LEAVE--

He parts his mouth halfway to speak to me but no sound comes out, only empty air and silence.

I can feel my lip twitching from smiling so God damn long say it Butch SAY IT so I can go home and be alone. . .

Suddenly he shakes his head and turns to Kendall, saying, "Could I talk to Buttercup just five minutes?"

I can feel the grin dropping from my face.

Kendall smiles and nods and brushes her hand against his before turning and walking oh shit I can't stay here I can't I can't I need to go I need to leave right now or else--

My vision goes cloudy and I whip around and walk briskly to the exit go go GO hurry before you break shatter spill crash--

"Buttercup. . . Buttercup wait!"

Oh GOD hurry up Buttercup!!!

I don't know what the hell is wrong with my walking but I hear his footsteps and he reaches me and it's like I haven't budged five inches and I feel his hand reaching for mine and the split second before he touches me I snap my hand against his and whirl to face him, the light catching in the crystal dewdrops shimmering from my eyes.


In public, too.

But worst of all in front of him, HIM, because I know he'll see me like this and get hurt and tell me things like I care about you so much but don't say that because it makes it harder HARDER to let go to say goodbye--

"Oh, Christ, Buttercup," he cringes, taking a step back. "You--"

"Hurry up and get this over with," I snarl, so incredibly thankful the airport's emptier than usual this particular Monday morning so the rest of the world won't have to see Buttercup break down and cry. . . "I was hoping to at least get out of here and away from you before I fell apart, you know." I have to grit my teeth when I talk because just looking at him with that God damn horribly apologetic pained look on his face makes me want to scream and hit him and get it all out of my system you never fight me anymore why don't you go ahead and fight me instead of just standing there and staring you bloody IDIOT?!?!

"I can't leave you like this," he whispers, shaking his head and never taking his eyes off me. "I can't. . . LEAVE like this."

And I already know what's going to happen.

He'll ask me, one last time, if I want him to stay. I'll tell him no when I mean yes, but I can't say yes because I don't tie him down I don't rule his life. We'll go back and forth for awhile, and finally he'll hug me and say I'm always first in his life, that my feelings come before everybody else's.

And then he'll leave on a plane bound for Long Island with Kendall.

And then it's just me.

Me all alone.

"It doesn't MATTER," I hiss at him, teeth still clenched. "You go and leave me here for a week or a month or a year and really it doesn't matter--"

"Don't SAY THAT!!!!" he snaps, stamping his foot on the ground like he's 3 instead of 22 and my next words are swallowed lost in my throat God can't I just go home and sleep?

He glares at me, taking deep breaths and his mouth slightly parted, shaking his head. "You have no idea. . . NO idea. . . you just don't GET IT."

Rage surges throught my body just as his face softens and he quietly says, "I'm not gonna leave you to cry by yourself if I'm not here--"

"But I don't WANT you here." I sound like such a whiny little bitch. "I just want you to leave, to go, just--"

"Is that what you want?" he asks softly.

For a split-second I hesitate to answer, and that's all he needs.

His hands swing up to my face and grasp my chin, and he whispers, "Say the word and I'll stay, I'll never leave your side--"

He catches himself and pauses.

My heart has stopped.

What. . . do you mean?

He gulps and repeats, "Say the word and I'll stay here with you and then we can go home and if you want we'll just sit around and I can hold you while you cry. You know? And when you're done when you feel better when I can make you smile finally we can do all the other stupid things we like to do like make fun of people at the mall or prank calls to my brothers and your sisters while they're working or rent a really awful movie and just have a bad movie night or something, okay? Okay? I could stay and we could do that, I can stay with you as long as you want, just say the word, one word, one word. . . "

He shakes his head and presses his forehead to mine I don't get it what are you saying stay stay STAY?

"You're too--TOO important to me, Buttercup," he whispers fiercely, "and I'm not going to leave with both of us upset and mad and ready to cry or something. . . you're just too important for that, and I just. . . I'll die before that happens, I'm not going to let that happen if I leave. . . "

I'm breaking.

Oh, God, if he stayed, stayed, stayed. . .

. . . but. . .

"What about Kendall?" I murmur, and I feel his muscles tense.

"What about Kendall?" he whispers.

"What about her? Kendall. . . isn't she. . . isn't she important?"

An eternity passes before Butch's arms slide down around my shoulders and hug me to him, my cheek pressed to his.

"Kendall. . . is important," he says carefully, and his grip on me tightens.

"But not as important as you."


I'm going to be swallowed up by the earth any minute now, it feels.

I've stopped crying but dammit it could start up again just like that--

"Tell me," Butch mumbles, and his hold on me tightens even more, "what do you WANT?"


I want to be the Other Girl.

I could change fate.

I could tell him yes, stay, and he wouldn't leave, would he?

No, he wouldn't.

He doesn't break promises. He's not like that.

I want to be the Other Girl.

But. . .

. . . what am I setting myself up for if I say "stay?"

Another ten years of friendship?

Only. . . friendship?

Another miserable decade of my life spent wanting what he could never possibly give me?

I stopped looking for hints already. I've always taken things for more than what they mean.

And what he's saying right now, what he means. . .

. . . probably means less than what I'd like it to.


My voice is barely below a whisper.

I can't tell whether Butch is surprised or not. ". . . 'Leave?' Is that. . . what you WANT?"

I nod my head once, swallow. Flames are dancing behind my eyes right now. "Yes. I want you--" I clear my throat. "Oh, God, just. . . yeah, I want you to go. You. . . have to." You can't, you can't, CANNOT stay. . .

"No I don't," he whispers, but I just shake my head you have to you have to.

He doesn't let go for a long time. "Will you be okay, Buttercup?"

No. Of course not.


I can't say it. I only bite my lip and nod, blinking furiously to keep from shattering.

". . . Really?" He pulls away just enough to keep his arms around my waist and looks at me, concern all but evident. "Will you really?"

And I can't even bring myself to nod this time.

He lifts one hand to my cheek and caresses it, smoothing away strands of my hair. "You know, Buttercup. . . I'm sorry."

I only blink.

"I'm. . . really sorry. I've just. . . just been screwing things up forever, you know? Ever since. . . " He trails off, and his eyelids grow heavy, half-closing. Those eyes, those gorgeous bright green eyes I love. . . LOVED so much wander from my face to the floor.

". . . since 7th grade. . . "

7th grade.

"I-I kept trying. . . trying to tell you last night. . . "

Last. . . night.

He shakes his head, slowly, slowly, and finally looks at me again.

"Buttercup," he whispers softly, "I. . . "

What are you trying to say? Why is everything so quiet? Why is your hand on my cheek, your eyes half-shut, your face nearing mine. . .

Face. . . nearing mine?

And whether I act on instinct or impulse or fear I don't know but the millimeter before his lips touch me I turn. . .

. . . and he presses a kiss to my cheek instead of my mouth.

The silence is unnaturally loud.

He slides away, pulls away, his arms falling to his sides and he steps back, once, twice.

"Of course."

He shakes his head and stares behind me. "You. . . you wouldn't. . . "

Sigh. "Of course," he whispers again, eyes returning to me. "Of. . . course."

"Good-bye, Butch," I say, my voice uncharacteristically soft and quiet.

The words touch him; he inhales and shuts his eyes.

What does it matter?

His eyes flutter open and settle on my face. "Bye. . . Buttercup."

"Last call for Flight 261, boarding for Long Island. . . "

He takes a step backwards.


Then finally he peels his eyes away and proceeds to his gate. . .

If I thought my heart had been broken all those times before. . .

. . . this is, what?

Is it exploding?

Pulsing, throbbing, caving in on itself and leaving bloody red smears all over the insides of my chest cavity? It just feels like this huge, black, empty hole inside. . .

There he is, walking away. . . Buttercup why are you letting this happen?

Run after him, go, like those awful cheesy old movies, just pick up your feet and fly--

I take one step.

Then I turn on it and head for the exit.

I haven't gone two steps before--


I turn slowly.

There he is, standing at the terminal, smiling like he usually does, eyes bright and face lit.

'I wonder. . . '

"You've got really pretty legs."

'. . .if he would think I have pretty legs, the way I think he has pretty eyes.'

I remain there, gazing at his face all a-grin, never moving.

Never smiling, either.

And then. . .

. . . finally. . .

. . . I turn and leave.

"Good-bye, Butch," I mutter to myself as I walk out into the sun, tilting my head down so the rest of the world won't see the twinkling diamonds streaming down my face.


So I walk back to his Mustang, pull his keys from my pocket. I've got his car for the time he's gone, and while I'm still getting the hang of driving stick shift, I'm not completely incapable of getting myself around.

His car always looks polished, clean, perfect. Perfect like him. I take a deep breath and unlock the car, brushing my hand across the plush tan 70's type upholstery before I sit down and God the entire car is filled with him, his rubber bands around the drive stick, his junk mail in the pockets of the car, his loose change jangling in the cupholder--

I jump out twice as fast as I got in. I can't do this, not right now, I can't. I shut the door and lock the car, tuck his keys in my jeans pocket again and walk briskly somewhere anywhere until I get back to the airport entrance and flag down a cab.

Ever notice how cab drivers always have nothing but consonants in their last name? It's uncanny. I don't bother trying to pronounce 'em anymore, but a quick glance at their card always reinforces the stereotype.

"Where to, Miss?" he asks in an unplaceable accent, and I mutter something about how nothing ever works the way I want to how I always go and screw things up and instead of accepting other people's apologies and instead of talking I just get pissed off and run away and cry because I can't punch him I can't fight him because I love him and why didn't he ever understand that and what am I missing and why the hell won't my damn seat belt buckle oh there it goes I'm such a bloody idiot.

"Oh, that's offa 180, isn't it?" he affirms, and before I can reply, which I don't really want to do anyway, he pulls out and we're off somewhere anywhere and I curl my legs up under me and rest my head against the sun-warmed window.


And I end up back at the mall.

I wasn't paying attention when he pulled up, just handed him the money, undid my seat belt and got out. And when I looked up and realized where he'd taken me it was too late he'd driven off already and I could've flown home could've run after him and told him no I didn't want to come back but here I am instead dodging crowds of people walking against traffic with my hands stuffed in my pockets no where to go no one to see what am I doing back anyway?

A familiar smell suddenly overwhelms me, and I lift up my head and find myself in front of the Bath & Body Works Store. And I would walk away turn away but all of a sudden an employee standing around inside the store spots me and approaches me, and I don't have the common sense to turn and flee.

"Hey! I remember you! You were here just yesterday with your boyfriend, right?"

I blink. ". . . what. . . ?"

"I found what you were looking for last night after you left. Hold tight and let me get it for you, okay?"

Before I can respond she disappears into the depths of the store, and it isn't till roughly another five seconds I remember who she is: that clerk from yesterday. . . Michelle, was it? What the hell is she--

"Here you are. Honeydew Pearberry Star Fruit Kiwi Passion Delight Splash. Can you believe it? It's our last bottle. You got lucky."

I stare, disbelieving, at the pinkish-orange tinted bottle she places in my hands. 'Honeydew Pearberry Star Fruit Kiwi Passion Delight Splash,' reads the label above a picture of what looks like a bowl of random fruit. Is that what a 'Star Fruit' looks like?

"Just come with me and I'll ring you up," Michelle chirps, and walks back to the register. I dumbly follow her into the store, still staring at the bottle in my grasp.

The. . . possibility that this exists. . . COULD'VE existed. . .

. . . it's just too weird.

But weirder still. . .

We reach the register. I lift my head, meet her smile. And the next words out of my mouth:

"How much?"


It doesn't smell that bad. It's not too strong, or overpowering; it's really light and barely detectable and sweeter than I thought it would be. It's really not that bad. I could keep this, get used to this, I guess, I never could've imagined it would--

I halt mid-stride. . .

. . . and scowl.

I'm a freaking lunatic.

This is ridiculous, me making some big deal over a scented bottle of pink water.

I toss it in the garbage.

I don't know why I do that; I could just turn around, get my money back, but it seems that throwing it away holds a deeper significance than just returning it.

Maybe I don't want anyone else to have it.

I wipe my hands against the front of my t-shirt and catch my reflection in the nearby store window. I look. . . I can't place the expression. I'm scowling, yeah, but there's something else there I can't quite place something deadened and sad and before I can think of it more I notice right between my eyes in the store window is a pendant of jade and I realize I'm standing in front of an asian jewelry shop.

My necklace suddenly throbs against my skin. I lift a hand and stroke the feather light chain, mindlessly trudging into the store and standing at the glass counter. I gaze at the tiny gold charms beneath the surface, some in the shape of elephants, more jade, intricate goldworks of asian characters sparkling in the light. With a slight tug the necklace falls up and over my shirt, and as I lift my other hand and undo the clasp it drops onto the counter so smooth and quick it seems to disintegrate in the air.

A young lady appears at the counter, her small, brown almond eyes suspicious yet inquisitive all the same at the prospect of a customer.

"Yes?" she queries, with just a trace of an asian accent, "can I help you?"

I really don't know what I'm doing there. I don't know what to say. But my voice acts on its own once again.

"A. . . friend of mine. . . purchased a necklace for me yesterday. I was wondering. . . wondering what it meant. I mean," and I glance at the trinkets beneath the clear, heavy glass, "most of these have some sort of meaning to them, don't they?"

She doesn't seem to actually pick the chain up; her hand appears to summon it, and the golden thread weaves itself in over between her long, manicured nails, the pendant coincidentally resting just so in her palm. Her other hand drums the glass, her nails clicking loudly against it. The almond eyes become slits as she shrewdly examines the article of jewelry.

And suddenly she smiles.

"Oh, yes," she says, nodding, and leans so her elbows rest on the counter, uncharacteristic of the sharp, prim posture she held when she first arrived. Her accent seems to thicken, too. "This piece." The almonds fly to me. "What you want to know?"

I pause. I stare at the back of her hand, concealing the jade ring and its gold character.

What do I want to know?

"Everything," I whisper.

She shifts a bit, turning her hand so she can show me the pendant. "Well, first, this character--" and she indicates the word within the ring "--is Chinese word *ai*. Means love."

It feels like a bullet has just blown through my chest. Love? I mouth the word and slowly shake my head. Not the love he means, it can't be--

"The gold means it pure--it's true." The almonds glance at me to make sure I'm paying attention.

I feel pale, weightless.

"The jade here--green jade--is very dark, very deep green color. The darker the color, the stronger it is, the more power it have. This jade very dark, so means the feeling, maybe, is very strong, very powerful."

I wince at the word "feeling." I don't get this--

"Now this is funny," she continues, and traces the jade ring with a finger, "in addition to the feeling, the purity, the strength, the ring is circle-shape, no corners. Means no end, it keeps on going. Go for long time. So. . . mean love doesn't end. Not so funny, really, I mean funny interesting. . . "

. . . what is this. I stare at the pendant, etch its gold and green and shape with my eyes this can't possibly mean where has my heart gone and why has it stopped beating--

"As for the chain. . . " She hesitates, and gazes off into the distance, seeming to recall a past event. She looks at the chain again, her eyebrows knitting in thought. "This. . . is interesting too. Your friend. . . he take a long time thinking about what chain he wanted. I show him this chain and another, much heavier chain. I say heavy is better, because won't break as easy. This one--it very light, very fragile, easy to break. But he think about it, and then he say he want this one."

She rubs the chain between her thumb and forefinger. Her accent starts to disappear. "I think. . . maybe because this chain is very fragile, maybe he say--or mean to say, I don't know if he knew what he want to say--say that the feeling is very delicate, perhaps."

I don't understand, why--

The manicured fingers lift the chain around my neck and redo the clasp. "Guys are funny," she remarks, and strokes the chain. "Maybe he's trying to say something like the chain is his heart, and it's very fragile, easy to be broken, but he give it to you anyway because. . . he trusts you, maybe?" All of a sudden she giggles and takes her hand away. "Oh, that sounds like a bad movie line or something. I don't think men are so complicated anyway." The almonds flicker to me. "He say anything to you?"

***'I have something to tell you. . . '***

My eyes drift around, not knowing where to look, not knowing what to say or how to say it. "I. . . I don't know." I shake my head. "I don't. . . don't know."

He did say something to me. . .

. . . didn't he?

The lady shrugs. "Well, anyway--you want a jade bracelet to go with the necklace?"

But I don't hear her. Butch's unspoken words echo in my head, but how am I so sure those were the words he meant to say, the words he wanted to say?

The possibility. . . that it existed. . . that he. . . he. . .

My vision goes cloudy for the umpteenth time that day. My joints go numb, my heartbeat echoes in my empty body.

And something about it all makes me wanna run outside and rummage through the garbage for that God damn bottle.

*sunday evening now over*

yes, folks, sunday evening is indeed over. anyone catch the heavy, blatant symbolism at the end? wow it was kinda bad. oh well, it works.

kudos to the person who originally said back when butch first gave buttercup the necklace that maybe the word inside meant 'love' or something. i wanted to say something like 'you got it!' at the time but that would've ruined the impact here at the end for the rest of the audience.

thanks again for all the reviews and comments and e-mails. made me happy to read ^^ and while they didn't always motivate me to write they ALWAYS cheered me up. . . even if they weren't always that flattering ^^; i still can't believe i broke 100 when i did. . . back 2 chaps ago, was it? i think it was with my epic chapter. . . yeah it was. wow i love you guys. really. thanks. i'm glad so many people read this and liked it; i guess i have reason to be proud of it for something.

. . . that was a bad sentence. scratch that. but 100 reviews is a lot, really it is. it still amazes me O_O

there is an epilogue coming up. this WAS the original ending (sorta; i've reworked this ending about 5 different times already, and that was WAY back when i hadn't even completed the first chapter yet. just fyi, i knew where i was going the whole time, as opposed to some writers who just start and see where they end up. maybe i'll try that one of these days.

but i have to write an epilogue. it seems it's going to be split into 2 parts (of course, 'skirt' was originally supposed to be only TWO also. . . ahem), at least i hope. so see you there.


upcoming epilogue title: "best kept secret"