Another night at the pizza parlor, another date with a guy who everyone thinks is out of my league, but this time it was different. Right as I am thinking about what makes this night so different, Jake looks over at me and gives a wave and a smile. That's it. That's the difference. He doesn't think he is better than me. He doesn't even think of me as an invisible girl or that girl but as his girl.
It's nice, really. Jake is always smiling at me or holding my hand, making sure people know I'm with him, and that's all I ever wanted, right? Sure, Sadie is a frigid bitch, but I don't think anything will ever change that. Luckily, Lissa has given up on the hate, ever since Jake hooked her up with one of his football buddies. I think he might be gay, but she is happy because all they ever do is go shopping together and he always notices and complements her new outfits. Tamara and Ming love Jake. We went to the mall last week and he didn't even cringe when they started asking his opinions on stuff. So, all in all, life with Jake is pretty great.
The only problem is, as I sit here waiting for Jake to finish his game of pool, I find myself wondering about Matty. What he is doing right now? Is he seeing someone else? Does he ever think about me?
I know I shouldn't care. I should forget him and be happy with the guy who chooses me in front of the whole world, but I can't. I lay in bed at night and a tree scraps my window. In an instant I am at the door but no one is on the other side. Jake doesn't come for me in the night. Jake is a nice boy who schedules dates and makes plans. He wants to take me to a movie this Friday. He says I can pick anything, but what I dream about is not my upcoming date. I dream about a chance encounter in an empty hallway and a sweaty excursion to the broom closet with someone who would only take me to see the new zombie movie. I wake up a little ashamed of myself but mostly turned on.
I tell myself I'm worth more. I tell myself that I should love Jake. That Matty is a douche bag who never cared about anything more than getting his rocks off, but still the dreams come. Tonight Jake kissed me good night on my front porch and it was nice. It was nice and sweet and everything a nice girl should want, but I wanted more. I wanted to be at my bedroom, door knob pressed to my back, something else pressed to my thigh, as his hands soothed places that begged to be touched. Fumbling and awkward and needy but just what I needed. Turns out Jake only needed a kiss that night.
So there I was, once again, lying in my bed, trying to calm down and that damn tree starts in again. scrape, scrape, scrape. Right then, I decided the tree clearly must be destroyed. So there I was in my unsexy pjs and shitty old tennis shoes, stomping out to the garden shed at almost midnight.
I get to the shed and easily find an old rusty hack saw, probably left from the previous owners of the house, as my parents have never done any gardening in their lives, but it will do the job, I figure. So I amble back across the yard and get back to that god forsaken tree, but I realize the branch I need to cut is too high to get at from the ground.
I walk all the way around the tree and can find no branch that will help me get to my destination for destruction. Tossing the saw, I go back into my room and drag out my desk chair. I push the chair flush to the tree, retrieve the saw and begin my ascent. Of course I have to step on the arm rest to get to the lowest branch and end up scrapping my leg on the fucking tree, getting my first foot in place. The other foot is almost dangling and manages to knock the chair over as is gets to its intended destination, but I am almost there. Once I get to the branch that must pay for its endless scraping I shimmy out a little and have a seat. One leg on each side of the branch, feet dangling and begin to saw.
Now, I'm not sure if you are familiar with the time it takes for an old rusty hack saw to make its way through a medium sized tree branch, but let me say, it takes for-fucking-ever. As I'm sitting there, taking out all my pent up anger and frustration on this poor helpless tree, I begin to get a little tired. No matter, because I am almost through the branch and then I can finally get some rest.
Only, when I finally get the branch off, I remember the chair fell over on my way up. And as I am looking down from my perch, I notice the ground seems a lot further away than it did on the way up. My mind is working through curse words like I have just developed Tourette's.
The more I think about it, the more I decide that this is all Matty's fault. He is the one who won't let me sleep at night. He is the one that used to come knocking at my door at all hours. He is the one who drove me to this craziness, at one in the morning, up a tree. Well, maybe not, but still I can hate him for it and no one can stop me. So I do something a little crazy.
Sitting in a tree, at one in the morning, I scream, "I hate you Matty McKibben!"
"I'm sorry?" Questions a quiet voice in the darkness.
I almost fall out of the tree, because the voice scared the shit out of me. As I am fumbling for a branch to hold on to, the voice steps closer and becomes a body. A body I recognize as well as my own, Matty McKibben. I tried to play it cool.
"Hey what's up, McKibben?" I ask.
"Not much, Hamilton, you alright there?" he asks gesturing to the tree.
"Oh, yeah, just doing some late night pruning." I answer, all the while hoping that this is just another sick twisted dream.
"Yeah…" he replies, shifting from one foot to the other. "So, do you need a hand?"
"Uh, no, I don't think so. Did you need something?" I ask.
"I was in the neighborhood, late night …. jogging," he gestures to his track pants and hoodie, I nod with understanding. "and I heard this weird noise so I wanted to make sure the zombies hadn't finally caught up to you."
"Nope, no zombies, just me, a tree and an old hack saw…" I respond limply.
"Kay, well I guess, I'll just head out then." He was almost to the gate when my brain over powered my pride.
"Could you put that chair back against the tree?" I ask trying to get out of this with at least a little dignity.
"Is that how you got up there? No wonder you look like the tree fought back." He joked looking between the tree and the chair. At this point I remember my appearance and glance down to find a tear in my shirt, my leg smeared in a good amount of blood and I can feel the sweat on my face. Oh, joy.
"So the chair…" I say ignoring ninety percent for the situation.
"Jenna you are going to end up killing yourself trying to get down like that." He replies with not even hint of a joke. I choke on the words however, because everything even a year later it is still too serious.
"What do you suggest?" I finally ask.
"First drop the saw, and then jump down and I'll catch you."
"Yeah, that's just not happening."
"Hamilton, come on I'm not going to let anything happen to you." He tried to convince me by giving his most charming smile.
"Never mind, just move so I don't hit you when I jump." I return, figuring if he could catch me I could make it to the ground on my own.
"Jenna, I heard you, I get it, you hate me and nothing is ever going to help me get back what I had but that's no reason to be stubborn and get hurt." He pleaded. Well, that through me for a loop. I mean, I thought after winter formal he would just start up with some other girl. Sure, he might think of me from time to time, but never in a thousand years did I think he would actually want me back.
"Matty, I don't hate you. I was just pissed at myself for being up here, acting crazy, and wanted to blame someone." At that point, my stubbornness was doing battle with the fact that I was exhausted, freezing my ass off and Matty didn't seem at all inclined to leave.
Well, there was only one thing to do. I dropped the saw and tried to maneuver to the easiest jumping point.
"Ready?" I asked nerves twisting unpleasantly in my stomach.
"Ready!" He replied.
I jumped and he caught me, not that I thought he wouldn't, but still this left us in a bit of an uncomfortable position. He didn't let go and my arms wouldn't listen when I told them to disentangle from his neck. It went down from there, he leaned in and I closed the distance.
In no time at all we were right were my dream had lead us and the knob in my back finally grounded me back in reality.
"Matty, we can't do this. I'm with Jake. Jake is your best friend and a really good guy. He doesn't deserve this."
"Jenna, I'm sorry. I made a mistake. You deserve a guy like Jake, but I can be that guy."
"I…" my mind was running eighty miles a minute. How did I keep coming back to this question? All I wanted was… but the more I thought back, the more I realized that what I wanted was Matty. The rest was just a social convention other people were pushing on me. Maybe the reason it never felt right with Jake, was that it just wasn't right.
"I have to think." I finally told him because that was the truth.
"Ok, well, just think about this. I love you Jenna Hamilton and I think you love me and if you do then Jake deserves to find someone who loves him." That was all he said and then with one more, gentle kiss pressed to forehead he disappeared back out the gate.
I went to the bathroom and cleaned up my leg. I got a clean shirt and tossed the torn one in the trash. Once that was done I went out and put the saw back in the shed and returned the chair to its place and then there was nothing to do but think. So, I lay on my bed thinking of Jake and Matty and Me and what I wanted at the ripe old age of 16. Maybe it was my just my hormones talking but I wanted Matty. I wanted fire and passion and sex in a tiny playhouse because we couldn't wait to get inside.
Well, maybe not the playhouse thing, that was a little uncomfortable but you get the idea. In reality, I think the thing that hit me more than anything was that Matty was right. I could never love Jake the way he needed. The real question was how to break it to him. I choose to go the direct route.
I texted him to come over early the next morning before school. He showed up right on time, cute little puppy dog smile in place. It took all I had to convince him that we were over. That I liked him as a friend but not more and that he should go find someone who was as wild about him as he was about them. When he left, I texted Tamara and Ming with the relationship update. They were bummed but showed sisterly solidarity.
Then I got ready to face the angry mob at school. Turns out that they aren't as mad when you break the beloved star jock's heart as they are when you start dating him. Weird. The whole day was surreal. I passed Jake in the hall and he seemed a little sad but ok.
It wasn't until a week later, that I finally felt ready to text Matty.
Jenna : My tree needs pruning and I heard had a ladder?
Matty: Be over in 20
Not fifteen minutes later, there was a faint knock at my bedroom door. I pulled the door open and we stared at each other. It was that moment when we both wanted to say something great but we didn't want to put too much out there in case the other wasn't ready.
"Where's the ladder?" I finally asked trying to break the tension.
"Oh shit, were you serious?"
"No, I just figured it would break the ice."
"Jenna, what are we doing? What do you want from me?" He asked looking a little lost.
"You. Just you, Matty. Whatever that means." I answered.
"Ok, I think I can do that." He answered thoughtfully.
It took all of five seconds for me to pull him in the door and the clothes to begin to pile on the floor. Maybe it was hormones. Maybe not, but that night I slept better than I had in a long time. In the morning I woke up to a text from Matty.
Matty: Hope you have a great morning, there is a new zombie movie playing Friday?
Jenna: I'm in.
A/N: Of course I don't own, but I think most of us out there have had someone in our lives that was all wrong but we just couldn't help ourselves. So this goes out to all the people out there wrestling between what the heart wants and what the brain knows is right. Good luck and make your choice not bring you regrets.