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17 cherry tree lane

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October 1990

“The pasta was a little overdone tonight, but there’s always next week,” Eddie sighed as he got into the driver’s seat of their blue Ford Fairmont. He’d been the dutiful, chivalrous husband he was every Friday date night, holding the passenger door open for her and waiting until she was settled in her seat before closing it behind her.

Dani just nodded, looking down at the wrapped bouquet of red roses in her lap; The same dozen red roses he’d been getting for her from the flower shop since they were fourteen. The same dozen red roses he would gift to her on the way to the same Italian restaurant they’d been going to just about every Friday for sixteen years (with the exception of when they were in college). And Eddie always ordered the same four cheese ziti and side salad. If it weren’t for Dani constantly switching up her order, wanting to try new things, she was pretty sure the waiter would have their food at their table waiting for them by the time they arrived every Friday night at 7:30.

“You’ve been quiet tonight. Everything okay?” the man with curly, dark brown hair looked over at his wife after starting the engine of the car.

She had been quiet. She knew she had. And she knew that he knew something was wrong, not only from her silence, but he’d caught her biting at her thumb nails over dinner; something she rarely ever did anymore. “I, um…” she started, trailing off just as quickly as she’d attempted to start. She’d been struggling with this since she was a teenager, but since her recent birthday. it seemed to be plaguing her more and more by the day; Keeping her up at night.

“I have s-something to tell you,” she stammered, resisting the urge to bring her thumb nails to her teeth again.

“You can tell me anything, Danielle, you know that.”

Yeah, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be okay with it.

“Well, I’ve...I’ve just been thinking a lot lately. And I, um...I th-think I’m…” she trailed off again, looking into his deep brown eyes that were filled with concern and curiosity behind his round lenses, “I-I think I’m…”

“You think you’re what?”

“I think I’m...gay,” the last word felt so strange on her tongue. Like it was so taboo, but still such a relief to get out.

“You think you’re gay?” Eddie’s face twisted with confusion, eyeing her like she was crazy.

“I...I am. I’m...I-I’m pretty sure,” she stammered, looking out the window at the line of shops on the main street that they were parked on; waiting for the thousand pound weight to lift from her shoulders.

It was quiet after she made her confession, with the exception of a few of her own quiet sniffles. But eventually, Eddie began to chuckle lightheartedly.

“Okay, very funny, Danielle. April fools day isn’t for a few months,” he released a few breathy laughs as Dani turned to face him again. But he took in the way she wasn’t laughing with him. He saw remorse on her face and the tears shining in her blue eyes from the street lights outside. “That...no. No, Danielle, that doesn’t make any sense,” he shook his head, thick brows knit together, “I mean, we’re married. You married me. We’ve been together since high school.”

Dani wanted to tell him that her mother didn’t give her a choice in marrying him. It was either marry Eddie or she’d be left on her own, cut off and alone with a child. No one knew about that ultimatum. She didn’t want anyone to know. Because she knew that they would just end up offering to put their lives on hold to take her in or help her. And she didn’t want that. She hated burdening people. She always felt like a burden.

“I’m sorry,” she whispered tearfully, looking back down at the roses in her lap, stroking the tip of her finger against the soft red petals.

“This doesn’t make any sense.”

“I didn’t...I didn’t know...at first,” she sniffed, wiping under her eye as she tried to explain. But it was hard to explain something when you hardly understood it yourself. “I thought that eventually, I would just feel the way I was supposed to; The way everyone said I should feel.”

“But?”

“But...it just...never happened. And I should have said something sooner.”

“Probably should have never asked me to be your boyfriend in the first place,” he rolled his eyes, gripping a single hand on the steering wheel as he stared ahead at the other parked cars.

“I didn’t know then, Eddie. We were fourteen. I was scared about starting high school. But by the time I realized that it was just...that...just me liking the security of having you around...I felt like it was too late. And I didn’t wanna hurt you. Or your mom, or anyone else. So I just...stuck it out.” Her face was bright pink as she tried to hold it together.

“So you never loved me?”

“Of course I did!” she shook her head and finally turned towards him again, hoping that looking him in the eye would make him believe her. Because it was true, but she had a feeling that he wasn’t going to be easily convinced. “I loved you, Eddie. I still do. So much. Just not...not in that way. I never felt like that for any boy.”

“Did you feel it for any girl?” Eddie turned his head, staring her down with a tight jaw as he awaited an answer that Dani was pretty sure he already knew.

She thought back over her life, watching multiple girls and women flash into her mind. There was Shannon Smith, the senior captain of the cheer squad who always helped Dani with her stretches. There was Mrs. Leonard, her eighth grade math teacher whose attention she’d always craved.

There was Rebecca Jessel from one of her child development classes her freshman year of college. She and Dani actually met in high school on the night of the bonfire after junior year ended. And she’d always been nice to her. There were co-workers, classmates, the seamstress who fit her for her wedding dress, even some of the moms of the kids who attended the daycare she worked at.

There were always little crushes. Little sparks in her chest that made her blush and avert her gaze when she came in contact with a beautiful woman. But that’s all they were; Just little crushes. Nothing she thought was worth taking seriously.

And then there was Jamie.

Jamie had only come into her life when she was close to her eleventh birthday, but the bond they’d formed made it hard for Dani to understand how she’d survived an entire decade without her. The friendship she had with Eddie wasn’t nearly the same. Everyone always looked at her and Eddie— since they were toddlers— and talked about how they’d get married someday. A lot of people saw her friendship with Jamie as something that would be short-lived, something that wasn’t meant to last because they were so different.

Her friendship with Eddie was about encouraging each other to slam the door so the string attached would pull out their loose tooth. It was about racing each other from one end of the community pool to the other. It was her teaching him how to tie his shoes and him teaching her how to ride a bike; Trading lunches at school and dancing to The Monkees in Eddie’s living room. They were friends. Best friends. They always had been.

But her friendship with Jamie, from the very start, was about helping each other through hardships, listening to each other when they needed someone to talk to. It was about being each other’s confidant. It was Dani giving up her summer to help Jamie fix her backyard garden, and Jamie giving up the only pair of pants she had to lend to Dani when mother nature came to ruin hers. They were best friends too. Even if it wasn’t their entire lives, it certainly felt that way.

Though, her friendship with Jamie felt different in other ways; Ways that she didn’t take notice to until she had gotten a little older. Until she was sixteen, mentally kicking herself for what she’d done at the Halloween party, she never realized that the way she craved Jamie’s presence was about more than just her missing her best friend when she was away.

After that night, she’d started to let her mind wander a bit more, wondering what it would be like if it were Jamie’s hand she was holding in the school halls instead of Eddie’s; Or if it were Jamie kissing her cheek after dropping her off at the door of her next class.

But the more Dani thought about it, the more she pushed herself into Eddie’s arms, forcing herself to try to find as much happiness and comfort in her reality with him as she did in her daydreams about Jamie. Because even if she were allowed to think those things and do those things with her, Jamie didn’t want her like that. Just like she’d said the night of the party: they were friends. Best friends, but friends nonetheless.

She couldn’t feel that way. But she did. And she knew that there were times when she wasn’t the least bit subtle about it. Whether she was crawling into Jamie’s bed in their dorm and pressing a little closer against her than usual, or watching with unashamed adoration as Jamie rocked and soothed Miles when he was three, suffering through a miserable case of chickenpox.

She didn’t know what being in love was supposed to feel like. Everyone always told her different things, some contradicting the others. But she knew that she felt more with Jamie than she ever tried to with Eddie. Everything came naturally with her.

“Was it Jamie?” Eddie asked, breaking her out of her silent contemplation as if he was reading her mind. Part of Dani wished that he was reading her mind right now. It would save her the trouble of having to make sense of any of the thoughts that were racing through her head.

But she nodded her head after a bit of silence, unsure of what to say. And she hated how ashamed she felt. She shouldn’t have to be ashamed of the most authentic love she’d ever felt.

“I knew it,” he huffed, shaking his head as he gazed out the window, “I fucking knew it. You should have listened to your mom, Danielle. You should have dropped her as a friend when you found out that she was...was...like that!”

“She’s my best friend! I would never do that to h—“

”I was your best friend. Me, Danielle. And then she came along and started…”

“Started what? My grades didn’t drop, I didn’t skip school, I still went to church every Sunday,” she managed to shoot back, though her voice trembled with nerves, “She did nothing but move in next door. And because of the way she acts or dresses, everyone loves to paint her as some kind of monster!”

“Did she ever do anything to you? Ever...touch you or—”

“Oh, my god,” Dani rolled her eyes, bringing a hand up to her face as she couldn’t help but laugh bitterly as he continued.

“—try to kiss you or something that would...I don’t know, confuse you?”

“We kissed at Ingrid Westfield’s Halloween party junior year,” she stated plainly, her frustration giving her the confidence to say “fuck it” and be shamelessly honest.

“She kissed you? And you were drunk that night. Danielle...I can’t believe y—“ he stopped, running a hand through the shaggy hair on his head, “She can’t come over anymore.”

“What?”

“I mean it, Danielle, I’m putting my foot down. She’s been completely inappropriate with you. I didn’t know she tried anything all the way back then, but—“

“Eddie, I kissed her,” she admitted for the first time out loud. She hadn’t spoken of that night in fourteen years, and she was amazed at herself that she was finally telling her husband.

“You...kissed her...” he repeated, trying to wrap his head around the fact.

“I was drunk and I was mad at you for ditching me to do shots with the track team. And Jamie was...she was there. Like she always was, and always has been. And ever since then, I’ve just...come to realize that I felt more for her than I thought I did.”

Eddie was quiet; jaw slacked as he gazed out the windshield as if he were trying to memorize the license plate of the car parked in front of them on the side of the road.

“She doesn’t know...that I remember it. It’s just...something we never talked about,” she continued, “But she has never tried anything with me. She pushed me away that night. She knew I was drunk, she knew I was with you. Anything I’ve been confused about has never been her fault.”

She had to admit to herself that she was a little upset that Jamie never showed any interest in her outside of their friendship. Jamie had always been respectful of her and her relationship with Eddie (aside from the gagging noises she would make if they ever kissed in front of her, which Dani never liked to do). Even to a point that Jamie would encourage her to go out with him on Friday nights when she just wasn’t in the mood for Italian food and red roses.

But she always held onto the hope that it was really just respect rather than Jamie being uninterested. And she held tightly to the memory of the brunette kissing her once more after pulling back that night, clinging to the idea that Jamie really wanted it as badly as she did.

“I can’t believe this,” Eddie brought his hands to his face, muffling a groan into his palms, “Why are you doing this to me? Why are you telling me this? And why now?”

“I don’t…” she cowered a bit under his loud voice now that her anger had melted away. Now all she felt was guilt, once again, “I don’t know. I’ve just been thinking about it since my birthday. I mean, we’re thirty, Eddie. And I’ve wasted so much time living a lie. It’s not fair to me, it’s not fair to you.”

“So being with me has been a waste, then,” he scoffed, shaking his head.

“No, of course not!” her eyes widened as she tried to lean in closer to him, desperate for him to believe her, “You’re my best friend, too. Everything we’ve done together, I enjoyed it because it was you. Whether you were my boyfriend or my husband, Eddie, you’re still one of my best friends.”

He rolled his eyes, refusing to look at her as his throat bobbed, “Just not the best friend you spend your life with.”

Dani was quiet after that. Uncomfortable silence filled the little car as they both thought about their heated conversation. She could tell that Eddie was deep in thought with his head dipped down towards his lap, likely counting the corduroy stripes on his grey pants.

“So, what?” he started after what felt like ages, “Do you want a divorce or something?”

Her heart leapt into her throat at his question, making it difficult for her to breathe. She hadn’t thought that far. Divorce was messy enough, it would only be worse with the kids. Not only was there the inevitable custody battle, but then came the aftermath and the effects that typically stuck with children of divorce through their lives.

It wasn’t even as if their relationship was damaging for the kids to see. They weren’t constantly fighting or anything like in most cases. It was just the matter of Dani not living her truth. And it took everything in her to fight off the voices in her head that kept calling her selfish.

“I don’t know,” she just barely shook her head, bringing her thumb to her lips to chew at the painted nail. And it came as a bit of a surprise that even though Eddie could see her, he wasn’t trying to stop her like he always did.

“You know what, I can’t...I can’t do this right now, Danielle. Take the car home, I’m gonna take a walk...maybe get a hotel room for the night,” he ran a hand through his hair again, looking around the car as if he were missing something.

“Eddie, no,” she shook her head, reaching out for him, but he pulled out of her grasp each time she got a hold on him, “Please, Eddie, I’m sorry. I don’t—“

“No, fuck you, Danielle,” he squeezed his eyes tightly shut, almost as if it pained him to say what he did. And Dani just loosened her grip on his arm, bringing a hand up to wipe under her eye as he opened the door.

“Eddie…” she started to beg, pleading with him to stay and talk this out with her. The kids were at his parents’ house for the night, they had plenty of time to sit here and talk. She just needed him to understand.

But he had the door open, already stepping out onto the pavement outside the car. And all she could do was beg him to stay. “Eddie, please—“

It happened in a flash; So quickly that she would have missed it if she even blinked once. She could hear the deep honk of a horn and she saw the way Eddie’s grey pants and white shirt became almost illuminated in the headlights. And before she knew it, he was gone. He was gone and she was watching from the passenger seat, screaming in fear.

November 1990

This was new.

Jamie had never slept on her own pull-out sofa bed before. She only had it for when guests came to visit. And the only guests she ever had that slept over were Dani and the kids. And typically if the kids ever came to stay the night, they would share the pull-out while Jamie shared her bed with Dani. But this was something she’d never done before. And she, of course, couldn’t sleep.

For a while now, she’d had a hard time sleeping if she and Dani were together, but separated. Like her first night at Dani’s house the weekend of Eddie’s funeral, she couldn’t sleep. But after Dani came down to join her in the basement, she slept just fine. Honestly, it wasn’t that Jamie couldn’t sleep without her. She just couldn’t sleep knowing Dani was alone. Especially if she could easily join her or vice versa. And imagine how little sleep she’d been getting lately, knowing that Dani was going to bed and waking up alone every morning and night; just an hour drive away.

She’s probably been getting much less, considering her husband’s just died. Don’t be so fucking self-centered.

Rolling onto her back, Jamie pressed the heels of her palms against her eyes, rubbing against them until she was seeing galaxies behind her eyelids. She hated this. It seemed so silly when she really thought about it, but sleeping away from Dani when she didn’t have to felt so wrong.

When did she become so fucking codependent? She wasn’t the clingy one. Dani was the clingy one out of the two of them. And maybe that’s why she’d been tossing and turning on the pull-out mattress for nearly three hours. It never took Dani this long to seek her out.

But Jamie told her not to.

The blonde had put up a bit of a fight when Jamie told her to take the bedroom while she camped out in the living room.

”Jamie, I’m not taking your bed from you,” Dani had argued the sleeping arrangement Jamie had proposed, ”Either I sleep out here or you sleep in your bed with me like you always do.”

Obviously, considering their current arrangement, Jamie hadn’t backed down. She was proud of herself, she had to admit, even though she hated it just as much as Dani did. Thirty years old and she felt like she was finally growing up. Though, over the last few hours, she resisted every overwhelming urge to go check on her best friend; Telling herself that she would be a hypocrite if she went back on her own rules. Because she knew that she would give in and crawl into bed with her the second she saw her. Or god forbid Dani was still awake and asked her to stay, sprinkling a well-placed “please, Jamie?” somewhere in her request.

This fucking sucks.

The familiar click of her bedroom door came from down the hallway, sounding louder than it really was in contrast to the silence that had previously surrounded her. Jamie was teetering between frustration and relief, unsure of which to feel; because Dani had taken too many footsteps down the hall to just be making a midnight bathroom trip.

Jamie remained silent and closed her eyes as she refused to move a muscle, hoping that Dani would believe that she was asleep. But she tensed even more than she already was when the sheets were raised and Dani’s weight sank onto the mattress beside her.

“I know you’re awake, Jamie,” Dani mumbled into the darkness, already curled up and comfortable a solid foot away from her.

“Dani…” she sighed, inching away from her towards the edge of the bed. The frustration was starting to outweigh the relief at this point, “We can’t—“

“I didn’t tell you everything earlier,” she interrupted her quietly, her voice determined but timid, like she was approaching with caution.

“You can tell me in the morning, Dani, come on…”

“Do you know how Eddie died?”

It was such a heavy question and a heavy topic, but Dani asked it as if she were asking something as simple as Jamie’s favorite color. It slipped from her lips so effortlessly, as if she wasn’t aware of what she was even asking.

“He was, uh...he was hit by a delivery truck...from what Carson told me at the funeral,” Jamie muttered, still staring up at the ceiling as Dani’s eyes bore into the side of her face. Dani hadn’t told her herself about what happened, and Jamie never wanted to pressure her into talking about it.

“Did he tell you it was my fault?”

Dani was starting to scare her, if Jamie were being completely honest. Stalking out into the living room in the middle of the night, crawling into her bed to ask ominous, deadpanned questions about her late husband? All that was missing was some eerie music to fill out the silence.

“He didn’t…”

“Yeah...Cause he doesn’t know...Nobody knows,” Dani’s low voice faded into a shaky whisper, “It’s all my fault and nobody knows.”

Rolling over, Jamie turned to face her, taking in the way that even in the darkness, her skin was so pale, yet so blotchy red at the same time, like she’d been up crying for hours. “I don’t believe that,” she spoke quietly, “I wasn’t there, but I know it wasn’t your fault. Unless you pushed him in front of the truck yourself.” She added on the last bit with the slightest smirk, hoping that it would get her to crack a smile.

“I may as well have,” Dani sniffled, reaching up to wipe her eye with the sleeve of her nightgown before toying with the end of the braid she’d woven into her hair for the night, “He was mad at me.”

It took everything Jamie had in her to remain where she was and not cross the invisible red line she had mentally placed between them. But she wasn’t perfect. And something as small as brushing stray strands of blonde from Dani’s face couldn’t do much harm, right?

“For what?”

Dani sniffed as her breath hitched in her throat, closing her eyes as Jamie tucked her hair behind her ear. The simplest little touch of warm fingers against the shell of her ear sent a static through her, making her feel like her whole body was alive and buzzing. And since she was a teenager, she found that she was rather addicted to that feeling. And she never got it from anyone else.

“I-I...I, um…” she tried to start, flicking her tongue over her lips, “W-we got into a fight.” Her voice quaked more and more as she spoke.

She reached for Jamie’s arm before it could be pulled too far away, unconsciously running her fingers along the moles and birthmarks that she nearly had memorized on her skin. She’d spent so much of her past admiring them that she’d even come up with names for them, blessing each one with the name of a literary character, a constellation, a flower, or even just a name that she thought was pretty.

Tracing her fingertip between Aquarius and Ophelia, she felt the heat bleed into her face as she felt goosebumps rise on Jamie’s skin, swallowing thickly before she continued. “We got into a fight...and h-he...he got out of the car without looking,” her voice trembled as she stared at the ripped collar of Jamie’s old t-shirt from college, “He left and...he died.”

Jamie could feel her body going stiff as the realization crept in that she’d done the same; she’d walked out on Dani after an argument. And because of her own petty foolishness, Dani had no idea whether she even made it home okay. She only got confirmation that she was still alive from Jamie’s assistant informing her over the phone that she was in the office every day over the last week.

But Jamie didn’t know. If she had known how Eddie died sooner, she would have never left. She would have tried to handle the situation much more rationally than she did. But she didn’t know.

“What…” the brunette chewed her bottom lip, looking down at Dani’s finger still tracing across her arm, “What was the fight about?”

That question seemed to be what tipped Dani over the edge, sending tears sliding slowly down her face to the pillow under her head. Whatever it was, it must have been serious. But Jamie wasn’t in a rush to find out. She was curious, as anyone would be. But even if it concerned Dani, this one wasn’t her business.

“You don’t have to—“

“No,” Dani shook her head, wiping at her eyes once again before any more tears could stain the pillowcase, “I...I wanna tell you, but...Jamie I’m scared.”

“Scared of what?”

She shook her head again, sniffling as she tried to think of how to explain. She hadn’t even made sense of it in her own head yet, it wasn’t easy to get out into words. “Of...what could happen. Of what won’t happen...All of it.”

“Dani, you know whatever it is, I’ll help you. I don’t feel like I have to. I’ve told you a million times...I was a fucking idiot this past week, but...you’re my best friend, nothing’s gonna change that.”

Dani’s eyes squeezed tightly shut as she held in the heavy sobs that were building up in her chest. “This could...” she whispered tearfully, starting to fail at holding herself together.

“Dani…”

The red-faced blonde took a deep breath, trying to calm herself down, though it wasn’t easy. And Jamie was inching closer and closer to that invisible red line, finding it harder to resist comforting her best friend with each passing second of watching her suffer in silence.

“I-I told him that…” Dani managed through choppy breaths, struggling to even out her breathing, “I told him that I-I’m…”

Thoughts swirled around in Jamie’s head as Dani worked on getting the words out, but the longer it took, the longer the brunette had to assume the worst. Was she sick? The terminal kind? Was she having an affair? Was she pregnant again? Was she in trouble with the law? Was she—

“I-I’m g-gay,” she let out with a shaky, uneven breath, keeping her eyes tightly screwed shut as she dug blunt fingernails into Jamie’s arm, hoping that she was holding on tightly enough to prevent her from pulling away and putting that god awful distance between them again.

Oh.

Jamie’s world seemed to stop and turn on its axis, making her wonder if this was all some strange, but very detailed dream. There was no way she heard her correctly. Not Dani. Dani the senior prom queen with Eddie as her king. Dani, who went on weekly Friday night dates with her boyfriend-turned-husband. Dani who was living the perfect suburban life with two kids, a dog, and the love of her life.

“A-and I...Jamie, I didn’t…” Dani’s eyes opened, revealing the same blue eyes Jamie had been staring into for nearly twenty years, “I didn’t do what I did...last week…just because I was drunk and lonely.” The words stung the brunette a little, remembering how she’d used them so harshly against her, “I mean...I was lonely. And the...the alcohol helped me be a little braver, but...I wasn’t looking to just...use you. It wasn’t like that.”

Quivering pale fingers searched through the dark for something to hold onto, whether it was the sleeve of Jamie’s shirt, the heels of her palms or her bony wrists, nothing seemed sturdy enough. And Dani wasn’t used to Jamie not feeling solid and sturdy.

“Dani…” Jamie breathed, if you could call it that. It felt like all the breath had been sucked right out of her, leaving her feeling like a deflated balloon.

“And I just...maybe I just wanted to...relive that night when we were sixteen...try it again...start over, I don’t know,” the blonde continued, gripping onto her desperately, like she would disappear if she didn’t hold on as tight as she could, “And it was selfish of me...to do what I did. Both times, actually. It wasn’t fair to you, it wasn’t fair to Eddie…I just...I wanted to feel what I felt that night again.”

Jamie was quiet as she took in everything Dani was spilling to her as best she could, gathering it up with a ladle and a small plastic beach pail, struggling to catch it all. “What, um…” her throat was dry as she cleared it quietly. Her heart was pounding in her chest, feeling like she wasn’t even in control of her words anymore, her mind was so clouded, “What did you…feel?”

She dared to meet Dani’s eyes for the first time, holding her gaze as the tearful blues stared back at her, determined and confident, despite the rest of her.

“Everything.”

It came out in such a delicate whisper, laced with regret, hope, sadness, relief...all of it. Everything. Just like she said.

“Yeah…” Jamie nodded, swallowing the lump in her throat, “Me too.”

“Do you still...y’know...think about it?”

Jamie felt like she would choke on her own tongue at any minute. She’d never talked about that night with anyone, aside from the morning after when Dani brought her a tea and they danced around the topic of the kiss like a couple of idiots. But Jamie thought Dani forgot, and Dani thought that Jamie just wanted to forget. And it remained their secret for fourteen years; Something they hid even from each other.

But they were talking about it now, painting it back into reality after years of it feeling like a fantasy; Nothing but a dream with the aftermath of a nightmare. “More often than I probably should,” Jamie huffed, hating that she felt like she had to force her words out. They were real and true, but this conversation was like a minefield. And Jamie could just feel them tip-toeing towards disaster.

Her own resolve, the boundaries that she’d built up over the years, as well as the ones she’d tried to set in place over the course of the night, Jamie could feel them all coming crumbling down slowly; falling brick by brick as Dani forced her way into her fortress with something as simple as a hand placed gently on her cheek.

“Jamie…” Dani whispered into the darkness between them, stroking her thumb across the flushed apple of her cheek, “Can we just—“

“Dani—“ Jamie started to pull away from her with a shaky intake of breath.

“It doesn’t have to...lead to anything. It doesn’t have to mean anything if you don’t want it to, I just—“

“No, it would mean everything, Dani, that’s the problem,” Jamie shook her head as tears of frustration began to form in her own eyes, clinging to her lashes when she refused to let them fall.

Dani was quiet, stretching her thumb up to where tears were collecting under Jamie’s eye, “It would mean everything to me, too,” she whispered, voice trembling with trepidation.

“Really?” Jamie hated how unsure she sounded. She wasn’t used to being the one who needed reassuring. And as she blinked her glassy green eyes back up to Dani’s, she was beginning to see her in a new light. A light that she always dreamed of, teasing herself with visions of the impossible.

She was still the same Dani. But she was Dani the prom queen who saved a dance for her at their senior prom, stealing her away from Carson who Jamie had brought as a “date” just so she’d be allowed in. She was Dani who went on dates with Eddie every Friday night, but often greatly preferred Saturdays at the roller disco with Jamie when they were teenagers. She was Dani, who now lived alone with a dog that Jamie had gotten for her, and two kids that the brunette may as well have been a third parent to.

”We’ll always be best friends, right?”

”Long as I can help it.”

”Promise?”

”Promise.”

The words echoed in her head, making her feel like she was thirteen all over again, curled up in Dani’s bed after sneaking through her window. Everything was so simple back then, even if it didn’t seem like it. A promise to stay friends forever could be easily made. And after everything they’d endured together, a kiss shouldn’t have seemed like something that would make or break the foundation of their friendship.

But Jamie hadn’t promised that they would be friends forever. She couldn’t promise that, it was impossible. But she promised to try. She vowed that no matter what happened, she would do whatever she could to preserve their relationship. And until now, she thought that pushing Dani away and keeping her distance was the best way to do that. Because she knew the way she felt had the potential to ruin everything.

But now, she’d learned, Dani felt the same. All this time. And her feelings weren’t quiet as unrequited as Jamie always thought they were. So she nodded, taking that leap into the territory she both feared and longed for.

Her heart was pounding in her chest, and she was certain that Dani could hear it. Even if she couldn’t, Dani could certainly feel it thumping through the thin material of her t-shirt when she pressed her palm carefully under her collarbone. And Jamie’s dry throat felt like the goddamn Sahara when Dani’s free hand took one of hers, placing it over where her own heart was beating rapidly in her chest.

After five or six (she lost count, honestly) firm beats under her palm, Jamie flexed her fingers, gripping the fabric of Dani’s nightgown in her fist, desperate for something to hold onto. Because the way Dani was moving closer to her, eventually getting close enough to tickle Jamie’s face with her eyelashes, the brunette felt like she would float away or wake up at any second.

She felt like a kid again with the butterflies in her stomach. The same butterflies that her mother once told her she would feel for someone special one day; Even if she was dismissive when five year old Jamie asked if Louise felt them for Dennis. She knew that Dani was that special person for her. She’d known it since she was fourteen. But she never imagined that she would ever be Dani’s, even if she daydreamed about it endlessly.

Jamie’s breath hitched in her throat, getting caught there as Dani’s lips met hers, warm and soft, just like they were in the memory she held tight to. They pressed closer as Dani’s lips caught around Jamie’s top one. And that was it. No going back from it. It was soft, slow, and gentle as they held onto one another like the other would break if they held on too tight. It was dizzying and it was breathtaking; Everything Jamie thought it would be, and more. But it seemed that it was over much faster than it started.

Green eyes opened hesitantly as Jamie held her breath, praying to anything and anybody that Dani wouldn’t disappear. She didn’t think that she could watch her shake her head and change her mind, claiming it was a mistake. If she could, she wouldn’t live to tell the tale.

Blue eyes just blinked back at her, tired and puffy but no less perfect to Jamie. Not a word was passed between them, but a warm palm cupped her cheek, brushing a thumb along the freckles that littered her fair skin. It was careful and it was comforting. Each swipe of Dani’s thumb against her cheek somehow made Jamie feel like, just maybe, everything was going to be okay. And soon, Dani’s lips found hers again, chasing away any of Jamie’s worries with another breathtaking kiss that neither of them wanted to pull back from.

And just like that, Jamie’s world was turning again, flipped back around and held at a slightly different angle; an angle where she could finally see everything clearly.