Rebecca, I, and a few of our friends were helping Ananya clean up after the party was over. Billie Eilish played on one of our phones at a low volume. “Hey”, Ananya gestured to me, “Wanna step out for a smoke?” she asked, handing me a pack of cigarettes.
We stepped out to her balcony, both our hips resting against the railing. The metal was still wet from the rain. I could still feel the slight drizzle on my arms, and watch as the drops settled on her frizzy hair. I had goosebumps from the chilly air.
I unboxed the pack and took out a cigarette, handing her another one. “Aren’t you supposed to do that protective senior thing wherein you tell me smoking is bad?”
Ananya was a fresher, and new at the hostel. The seniors tended to be quite welcoming, and my group of friends was especially parentified.
“I’m guessing that would be pretty ineffective while I’ve got two cigs in my mouth” I said.
“Have you and Rebecca known each other since your first year?”
I smiled. “Pretty much. I sat next to her on our first day and I decided we were going to be best friends”
I still remembered the pink camisole and blue jeans she was wearing that day, and how skinny she used to be. God, we used to be so dorky.
“And how long have you been dating?” Ananya asked.
I chuckled. “We’re not dating. That’s hilarious”
“Are you kidding me? She’s obviously in love with you”
“She doesn’t love me. She wants me. There’s a difference” I said.
“And how do you know which is which?”, she asked.
“I guess..when being wanted drains you, being loved restores you”
“And is that so bad? Being wanted?”, she said.
“What’s the worst someone can do? Leave? Are you that afraid of being left?”
I ashed my cigarette.
“No. The worst they can do is make a character out of you, and stay.”
The morning light escaped through the thin fabric our beige dorm room curtains, not beaming enough to discomfort the eyes. Rebecca and I spilled into the room at eight in the morning and onto her single bed, taking our shoes off, stretching, curling, relaxing our muscles after a taxing night.
We lay our heads just below the bed post on her bare sheets, her one good pillow vertical above us. After deep breaths and yawns, we found ourselves facing each other, our noses touching so barely that they almost weren’t.
Her eyes were welled up from puking her guts out in Ananya’s kitchen sink. She passively moved an inch closer, sucked on my bottom lip, and moved back. “You smell like tequila” she scoffed.
I placed my thumb on the bone sticking out at her waist and shifted my palm to the small of her back. I saw the exhaustion in her eyes; I knew what she was thinking- “How many times are we going to kid ourselves?”
And I didn’t want to hurt her again, but the world was sad and I was mean and she was the only thing that made sense.
I climbed on top of her and began kissing her and didn’t stop until my lips were bruised. “I’ve missed you so much”, she’d say every time I ran my hands through her hair.
Early in the afternoon, Rebecca grabbed onto her sheets tighter and snuggled in. She opened her eyes to the light coming through the window, and winced.
“Can you delete the sun, please?” she whined, lazily running her hand over her bed, expecting to meet mine. She quickly realized I’d shifted to my own bed after she fell asleep.
“Did I do something wrong?” she asked, jerking awake.
“No, I just..”
“Regret last night?”, she filled in.
I stayed mum.
“I can’t keep doing this” she said and sighed. “I can’t pretend like I don’t still want to kiss you when we’re sober.”
“I love you” I said to her.
She got off the bed and moved to the study desk, which I was sat at. She undid my ponytail and let my hair fall. Moving my hair to the side, she gently kissed my neck, wrapping her arms around my shoulders.
“I know. Just not enough” she said.