'Somehow everything I own smells off you. For the tiniest moment it's all not true.'
'It's out secret...promise me?'
Last Summer -
Stretched out on my stomach across Frankie's new purple comforter in skin tight jeans, I read Rolling Stone's Helicopter Pilot interview three times.
"Brandywine" Frankie caps her lipstick and admires her pout shyly before wiping the dark rouge away. "It's probably a bit dark for you," she says, offering me the tube, "but try it is you want."
I don't need to try it. It will be too dark. My skin's so white I make the snow covered pavements outside look colourful, save for nineteen freckles completely immune to the peel-off pore strips and exfoliating citrus scrubs I once regularly barraged them with.
"Frank please." I flip back to the beginning of the interview. We're supposed to be making our packing lists and mapping out all of the exciting things we'll do in California next month, but I've spent the last hour watching Frankie dither, fidget and digress. "I refuse to sit about any longer."
"Who's sitting about?" Frankie asks. "I'm just – oh, shut up, Anna!"
There is an uncomfortable atmosphere hanging in the room. Its name is Matt.
Neither of us wants to mention him, I can see the hurt in Frankie's eyes.
She has beautifully ocean blue eyes, just like her brother. As I look at them, wide with sadness, I see Matt reflected back at me and I am so overwhelmed with the urge to envelope my best friend in an embrace that I have to look away.
Frankie sees and the pain immediately turns to irritation.
"Anna do you want it or not?" She asks.
"Or not. It's too dark for me."
"Suit yourself Casper." She presses her lips together, then let's out an exasperated sigh.
Don't worry. It's our secret.
How many times had I wished Matt would tell Frankie? As many times as I'd wished that Matt Perino –Frankie's bother and my best-friend-that's-a-boy- would finally kiss me? The same secret wish I'd made every year since I accidently fell in love with him.
The wish that, on my 15th birthday, had come true.
I could still taste frosting on my lips from the innocent cake fight that had caused us to be alone in the kitchen, whilst Frankie and her parents – Uncle Red and Aunt Jayne, even though we're not related – sat around the BBQ. I could still smell his apple shampoo – the kind from the green bottle he stole from Frankie's bathroom because he liked how it made his hair look – that caused the back of my neck to go hot and prickly. The moment everything that ever was or wasn't between us had changed with a single raised eyebrow.
"Anna", he'd said, dragging his frosted fingers through my hair. "Don't you know what it means when a boy pulls your hair at your birthday party?" No. I didn't know anything, all I knew right then was that I could see his collarbone and the small piece of blue sea glass he wore on a leather cord around his neck, rising and falling.
I could feel it now, cool against my own chest, its rhythm quickened by thoughts of that day.
"Maybe I'll give it to you, if you're lucky."
"Happy Birthday" He'd whispered, breath landing warm and suddenly close to my lips. With one frosting-covered hand moving from my hair to the back of my neck, the other solid and comforting on the small of my back, pressing us together, my chest against his ribs, my hip bones just below his, the tops of our bare summer legs hot and touching, he kissed me. His mouth tasted of marzipan flowers and clove cigarettes, and in those ten second the whole of my life was wrapped up in that one kiss, that one wish, that one secret that would forever divide my life into two parts.
Before, after. In that single moment, Matt, formerly known as friend, became something else entirely.
There was a knock at Frankie's door that dragged me from my memories.
The door slid ajar painfully slowly, and the scent of apples filled the room.
"Franks how many times did I ask you not to play your music that loud?" He says. "I can hardly hear it, turn it up!" An open mouthed grin broke across his face as he closed the door behind him.
He ruffled Frankie's hair as he walked past her, tousling the straight black strands that had been strategically placed and hitched his worn blue jeans as he flopped down by my side and wrapped a sun kissed arm around my waist pulling me into his soft white t-shirt hidden within the folds of the loose chequered shirt he wore over it.
With my head against his chest I could momentarily hear the soft thud of his heartbeat. I remembered the scary moment last year when he'd been about to take me and Frankie to Custard's for ice cream. Cornell, where he intended to study American Literature, had called about his College arrangements causing him to apologetically cancel. A few hours later he'd been rushed to hospital with a pain in his chest where Uncle Red was told Matt had been born with a hole in the chamber walls of his heart that had, until now, gone unnoticed and for which the only treatment was major surgery. For the months following the operation I'd sat in his room with his reading his favourite books repeatedly whilst he recovered and reassuring Frankie that he would be okay, whilst secretly crying through the nights hoping it was true.
Now the beat was strong and I couldn't help but place my hand against his heart and thank whatever God had given me the miracle that had prevented the boy I loved dying of a broken heart.
Frankie coughed awkwardly.
"So," Matt started unfazed," You were going to plan Zanzibar without me?" Miming a faux tear in Frankie's direction, a mischievous grin played across his face.
"Its girls stuff Matt!" Frankie moaned, she was trying to sound annoyed but a smile played behind her eyes, she couldn't be mad at him.
"Well I assumed you were going to help me pick a nice new dress but I can see when I'm not wanted," He moved as though to get up," It's a shame as well, because I had a surprise for you two I think you'll want to include in your girly plans. But then I guess neither of you wanted to go see the Helicopter Pilot concert that's on in San Francisco whilst we're down there then..."
Any tension that had existed between the three of us disappeared as me and Frankie jumped on Matt demanding he tell us more and a pillow fight quickly broke out, Matt skilfully blocking our best efforts to club him with bedding then playfully landing feathered hits with Frankie's soft purple pillows.
We had momentarily fallen seamlessly three best friends, frosting kisses and late night promises, temporarily traded for Frankie's easy laughter that rolled across the feather covered room.