I have a best friend. That makes me, Kara Washington, one of the lucky ones. Maybe. His name is Alec. We met last year, during eighth grade. At the time, I was a total nerd girl and he was a geek boy. When you’re in middle school and you’re good at math and science, you’ve got to be a nerd. That was the type of social outcast I was – non-voluntary. Conscripted. Alec, though, he enlisted and started rising through the ranks until he became nerd master general. He wasn’t a nerd because of his grades. He was a nerd because he could quote entire movie scripts and was scary-good at video games. He loved being a weirdo. I hoped no one would notice that I was different too, but of course they did. In the eyes of our classmates, Alec and I were two fellow nerds destined for each other, but we didn’t become friends until he embarrassed himself in front of the entire eighth grade.
It happened at lunch when I sat down at the same table as Alec. I didn’t have a usual lunch spot because I didn’t have a usual crew of people. Actually, I didn’t have friends at all. Alec didn’t either, but he never seemed to notice. The dude was happy all the time and he just sat wherever he wanted in the cafeteria. That day, he decided to sit across from Jenny Simon, the most popular girl in our grade, and her gaggle of friends. I got to lunch late, so I had no choice but to sit down in the empty seat next to him.
“I don’t know about this mac and cheese,” I mumbled to myself. “It’s a trap.”
My joke wasn’t that funny, just a basic Star Wars reference. An internet cliché. Still, Alec laughed so hard that chocolate milk shot out of his nose and onto Jenny Simon’s lunch tray. Jenny squawked like a parrot when that milk splattered onto her chips and Diet Coke.
“You’re disgusting,” she sneered at Alec. “Do not ever sit near me again, you freak.”
Alec almost started crying when Jenny said that. He had a huge crush on her and our whole class knew it. He looked small as he started to whimper. I couldn’t stand the way his lip quivered, so I told him I’d walk with him to get some paper towels. I stood between him and the other girls and made sure no one could see how red his eyes were.
The bell rang for class. I started walking away, but Alec followed me, yapping like a little dog.
“Kara,” he called. “You like Star Wars?”
“Doesn’t everybody?” I said.
“Have you seen the original? From 1977?”
“Huh? You mean episode three?” I kicked myself for answering. I was getting sucked into a conversation. I started walking faster.
“Yeah, but the original. Before Lucas added in all the CGI for the special edition.”
“I’m not sure.”
“Oh, man!” His arms vibrated with excitement. He was half walking beside me, half skipping in front. I couldn’t help but smile at his excitement.
“The old version’s better than the special edition,” he continued. “Come over to my house and we’ll watch it. Cool?”
“Yeah,” I said, before I even thought about it. I swear, that moment was the suavest Alec has ever been, before or since.
In Alec’s basement, we sat one cushion apart on his big, ugly couch. He poured two glasses of Sprite and put a bag of sour gummy worms between us. Then he pressed play. As Imperial cruisers flew by on the screen, he took a huge gulp of pop. He dipped a gummy worm into his drink and slurped the candy down. It was disgusting, but I laughed.
“See, no CGI,” said Alec. He talked through the whole movie. I didn’t mind because he was pretty funny. Weird, but funny. Fun. By the end of the movie, I was smiling so much my cheeks hurt.
We started watching movies together most days after school. Alec introduced me to his favorite superheroes, the best cartoons, and the far reaches of the sci-fi galaxy. He loved everything geeky, and soon I was enjoying it all too.
Alec suggested that we save the change from our lunch money and order pizza on Fridays. Every day, as soon as we got to his house, he would empty the coins and dollar bills from his pockets and put them into a box he built out of Legos. Then he would hand the box to me and watch as I added my money. He always counted that change so freaking carefully, making little piles of quarters and dimes. One week, when we were short on cash, Alec skipped lunch two days in a row so that we could still order the pizza. He made Fridays special. He made us friends.
In eighth grade, it was a little weird for a guy and a girl to be close friends, but not dating. When Alec and I became best friends and I began sitting with him in the cafeteria, I started getting weird looks from Jenny and the other popular girls. I didn’t care, though, because I really liked Alec and after a while no one paid attention to us. Our friendship became a protective shield that helped us both. When we sat together in the cafeteria, he seemed less dorky and I looked less desperate for a friend. Yeah, he cackled at his own jokes and didn’t know when to shut up. He annoyed me sometimes, but he always made me laugh when I was having a bad day. Hanging out with him was easy and as a nerdy teenager with acne, I needed something to be easy.
We got even closer toward the end of the school year when I told my parents that I was gay. Alec was the only person who treated me exactly the same after I came out. My parents were so embarrassing that I almost regretted telling them at all.
Maybe I could have come up with a better strategy, but I really didn’t know how to bring up the subject. So, in the morning before leaving for school, I did an internet search for “gay youth” on my mom’s computer. I clicked on the first link I found and left it open.
That night at dinner, my dad asked in a low, even voice, “Kara, are you understanding yourself as gay?”
When I didn’t answer right away, my mom just had to fill the silence.
“You can tell us, sweetie. We’re going to love you no matter what you are.”
What I am? Smooth, Mom.
I sat slumped in my chair while my parents sat across from me telling them how much they cared about me and wanted me to be happy. My mother smiled wide and my father fixed me with a serious look. It was like they were reading a prepared statement at a press conference. My mom slid two pamphlets for PFLAG and a rainbow sticker across the table to me. I didn’t touch them. I knew I should be happy that my parents were trying to show me that they cared about me, but they were treating me like hazardous waste, like if they didn’t handle me carefully, I might leak out and contaminate everything.
For the rest of dinner, mom talked nonstop, filling up every silence and heaping seconds and thirds of pasta and garlic bread on to my plate. Then she made us watch this movie she found. It was about lesbians who were skinny, rich, and nothing like me or anyone I knew. It was supposed to be a comedy, but none of us laughed. My parents kept staring at me and smiling encouragingly. By the end of the evening I wanted to die.
After that disaster of love and acceptance, I needed to tell someone besides my parents, or I was going to explode.
The next day after school, Alec and I were watching “Return of the Jedi” for the millionth time.
“Alec,” I said, starring at the screen while Jabba the Hutt wriggled his tongue at Princess Leia. I was too nervous to look at him while I said it. “I’m gay.”
Yeah, I’m real cool.
Alec didn’t say anything for a moment. He just leaned forward and grabbed his glass of pop. My throat started to feel tight.
“Okay,” he said. He slurped down a gummy worm.
For a second, I stared at him, watching him drink his Sprite. Then I felt angry and I realized I was clutching the pillow that had been sitting between us.
“That’s it?” I said, louder than I expected.
Alec kept looking at the TV screen. He sipped his pop like he couldn’t possibly be more relaxed.
“Leia’s really hot, right?” Alec said.
“Yeah,” I stammered. “She’s hot.”
“Man, if I were Luke, I’d do her. I wouldn’t care that she’s my sister. I mean, whoa.”
“What?” I yelled. I threw a sour gummy worm at him. “Alec, you’re nasty!”
What I wanted to say was thank you.
See, Alec’s a nice guy, the type that will be there for you when it matters. He could have more friends if he were willing to talk to other people, and maybe rein in his fandom obsessions. Even in eighth grade, I was just a little bit cooler than he was, but it didn’t matter much. In middle school, a nerd is a nerd. Once we became freshmen in high school, there was more room for nuance. Since I could talk about music (Alec only listened to Weird Al) and TV shows without aliens, high schoolers were willing to give me a chance. Alec, on the other hand, never seemed to change much. We were still friends, but people at school started to ask me why. After a while, I didn’t know how to answer them.
Here’s where it all started to go wrong. Alec always told lots of jokes. Some of them were hysterical, but some of them were just bad. A few were gross or messed up and I pretty much always told him when he was crossing a line. But Alec’s jokes started to get less funny after I got my first girlfriend. Her name was Denise. We met in chemistry class when Mr. Delgado made us lab partners. I noticed her sitting in the row ahead of me. She wore her hair short in cute twists and she had a bright smile that was too big for her face. That smile made me blush.
“I’ll light the Bunsen burner,” she said. That was when I knew I liked her. Denise was bold. Unafraid. I was shocked when two weeks later, while we were sorting glassware, she told me she liked me. Dating her was like discovering that I could fly or move things with my mind. Since I was gay, I wasn’t sure it would be possible for me to have a girlfriend in high school, and not a girl as amazing as Denise.
There was only one problem: Alec. He couldn’t figure out how to act around us. One day, when I was sitting down next to him at the table where we always had lunch together, Denise dashed over. She grabbed my hands and said, “Nah, come eat with me and my friends.” She jerked her head towards a nearby table, already crowded.
“You too, Alec,” said Denise. “We’ll make room.”
Alec looked at the table Denise had indicated. A girl with an afro dressed in a floor-length black dress punched the guy in a Steven Universe t-shirt sitting next to her. They were both doubled over laughing.
Alec glanced at the other table and frowned. I could tell he was nervous to be around so many new people.
“Thanks,” said Alec, shifting in his seat. “But I’ll stay here.”
“What?” I said. “Really?”
“Yeah,” he mumbled. “I want to do my reading for English.” I knew he was lying. Alec checked Wikipedia before writing his English essays.
“Suit yourself,” I said.
Denise knew most of her friends from band, drama, and lit mag. Yeah, my girlfriend played the euphonium, did tech for the school play, and wrote poetry. Her friends were all as talented as she was, and their table was covered with instruments and leather notebooks. They weren’t the type of people Alec and I usually hung out with, but let’s be real – we never hung out with anyone. I liked them right away. They were funny, loud, and full of opinions. I wondered; would I have friends like them if I weren’t so tight with Alec? Denise was making introductions when I heard a tray slam against a table.
“Where’s your little girlfriend, dork?”
I turn toward the sound and saw Brian Matthews, captain of the football team, looming over Alec. He was flanked by two of his teammates, his own personal Crabbe and Goyle.
“Oh, right. She’s not your girlfriend. If you weren’t such a loser, Kara would be dating you, not some girl,” Brian said. “But, wait, you’re gay now too, right?” He laughed.
Alec opened his mouth, looking like he was trying to say something, but coming up short. Before he could respond, Denise was moving fast. She strode over to Alec’s table, as poised as Wonder Woman. I followed behind.
“That’s so immature that it doesn’t even make sense, Brian,” she said. She gave him a withering glare, the kind of side-eye that makes the blood freeze. “Or do I need to explain sexual orientation to you? And the fuck makes a junior like you interested in bothering a freshman? Must be compensating for something.”
Brian’s mouth hung open. No one ever talked to him like that.
“Get out of my way. You’re blocking our seats,” she said. With a flourish, Denise pulled out the chair on Alec’s right hand-side and sat down, crossing her legs, and straightening her back. I followed suit, somewhat more hesitantly, and sat down on the either side of Alec.
We never sat with Denise’s friends again. Denise didn’t want to leave Alec alone. I appreciated it, but the situation felt unfair. Why shouldn’t Denise sit with her friends just because Alec was nervous to meet new people? I hoped she didn’t resent him – or me.
The thing is, when he wasn’t acting uncomfortable with Denise’s friends, Alec was investigating the lesbian lifeforms.
“Have you gotten to third base yet?” he asked at lunch, a week later. “Which one of you pays for the date?”
“Shut up before she hears you,” I snapped.
I looked over my shoulder, checking for Denise. We usually beat her to the cafeteria, but only by a few minutes. I didn’t want her to hear Alec’s crap. His questions are straight out of “What Not to Ask Your Friend after She Comes Out as Gay.” Literally. There’s a guidebook. I found it in the public library. I guess Alec never read it. I knew he was asking these questions only because he wanted to know what it’s like to have a girlfriend, but I didn’t think that Denise would understand.
Alec nodded, giving me a conspiratorial grin. I exhaled. Maybe for once he could be cool.
I should have known better.
It wasn’t Alec’s fault that everything got worse. I should have blamed Brian Mathews. Once the news got around that we were dating, Brian started making comments as Denise and I held hands between first and second period.
“Ooh,” he said. “Lesbians. Sexy.”
Brian grinned like he was waiting for applause. His football peons yuked it up, but everyone else ignored him. He didn’t find his audience until he switched to commenting on our appearances. Denise’s appearance, actually.
“You see that?” he said, pointing at Denise. “I didn’t think that lesbians had big butts, but that Black one’s thick AF.”
Denise stiffened when he said that. She gripped my hand just a little bit tighter and stepped closer. Her jaw was set like she was mad, but her dark brown eyes were scared or maybe sad. I couldn’t tell which.
I opened my mouth to tell Denise that Brian was a disgusting jerk and that I was so sorry, but as I watched her shoulders clench, I realized I didn’t know what to say. I wouldn’t want someone talking about my body like that, but I could tell there was some reason that Denise was extra upset. I wished I knew what it was. I longed to kick Brian and make him hurt for hurting her.
That same day at lunch, while Denise waited in line for a chicken burger, Alec started cracking jokes again.
“It’s so big,” he said. He waved his hand through the air in an arch. “Like a stripper’s. Your girlfriend’s got a stripper-butt.” He let out a shrill giggle.
“Shut up.” I said it in a voice I didn’t know I had, quiet and angry. I sounded like a meaner version of my mom.
“I’m sorry,” said Alec. He said it right away. No hesitation.
“I accept your apology.” That was all I could say. Not ‘It’s okay,’ or ‘I forgive you.’ Because it wasn’t and I didn’t. My hands clenched and my throat tightened.
“Hey, guys.” Denise sat down. She looked at Alec and then at me. Her brow furrowed. “What’s up?”
“I’m going to the bathroom,” I said, standing up from the table before either of them could say anything, before I said something I would regret.
I slumped in the stall, waiting for my heart to stop racing or the bell to ring. While I stared into space, I thought about how different Alec and I were. Not the small differences, but the big stuff no one likes to think about. I’m a girl and he’s a boy. I’m gay and he’s so incredibly straight. We’re both white and Denise is Black. There were so many things that he never, ever has to think about that I think about every day, not to mention stuff that Denise has to deal with that we could both ignore.
Seriously, did I have to explain that “stripper butt” is a thing you don’t say? How clueless could Alec be?
And how dense was I for not knowing what to say to Denise to help her feel better after what Brian Matthews said?
I didn’t understand what Denise was feeling, but I knew why Alec was coming up this stuff. He’d never had a girlfriend, so he was curious, but he didn’t know how to ask a normal question about what dating is like. He was probably rattled from Brian messing with him, too. I felt guilty about what was happening to Alec, but I knew I was not the only reason those guys bothered him. He was annoying. Guys had been calling him gay before I ever came out. I never understood it. Alec loved girls. He was the most flamingly straight guy ever. Those jerks were homophobic and I probably should have felt solidarity with Alec or something. We had a common enemy, after all. But I didn’t. I just didn’t. Alec was hurting and I cared, but that didn’t change what he said or how I felt about it. In fact, it made it all worse. Alec should have known better. That was the feeling I couldn’t shake. That’s why I was madder at him than at Brian Matthews. Sad, too. He had been the person whose support I could depend on. Now he was acting like one more clueless straight person.
When the bell rang, I took a deep breath, but I didn’t feel any better. I left the bathroom and walked to chemistry class, to my seat next to Denise.
“You didn’t finish your lunch,” she said, sliding a candy bar across the desk.
Wow, I’m lucky. I thought. Then, my stomach clenched. If Alec messes this up for me, I’ll never forgive him.
Even after I started dating Denise, I’d always met Alec right after school. The day he said those nasty things about Denise’ body, though, I didn’t want to face him. So, I dallied. Denise and I strolled through the halls while I whispered in her ear, describing what I thought we should do together when we got back to her house after school. She pushed me away, giggling. Finally, when I couldn’t put it off any longer, we pushed through double doors at the back of the school.
On the edge of the parking lot, Alec lay on the ground, doubled over. Around him, Brian and his henchmen stood in a circle. Brian kicked Alec while the others laughed like hyenas. Alec rocked back and forth, moaning. His body looked so small.
“Hey,” screamed Denise.
My girlfriend ran towards a group of homophobes kicking the shit out of my best friend, while I watched. In the shrinking space between Denise’s running body and the circle of guys, I felt the universe expanding, zooming in all directions. My problems seemed to get bigger and bigger, while I became smaller. I stood, trapped by a force I didn’t understand, listening to the smack of Brian’s tennis shoe hitting Alec’s ribs.
If I hadn’t been trying to avoid him, Alec wouldn’t have been waiting alone.
Denise kept barreling toward those guys, waving her arms. She cussed out Brian and the rest of them, yelling at the top of her lungs. Brian and his football buddies bolted.
I managed to will my feet to move forward, even though I felt like I was trudging through wet cement. I stopped a couple of steps behind Denise and watched as she kneeled down next to Alec. She wrapped her arms around his slight body.
“You okay?” she asked . Alec’s lip was already swelling, and his right eye was rimmed in red.
“What?” Denise said to me, turning her head to look at me. “You’re not going to say anything?”
I couldn’t look at Alec, so I stared at my shoes. I also couldn’t explain to Denise why I was upset. I didn’t want her to know what Alec said. That made me even angrier at Alec – and at myself. I willed myself to move closer to them, but I was stuck.
“Kara,” said Denise. “Let’s walk him home.”
I still didn’t say anything. I wanted to melt into the sidewalk. I wanted to be one of Alec’s superheroes and have the power to disappear.
Alec stared at me standing there, frozen. I opened my mouth. I wanted to apologize for not being there, for being so angry earlier, for being too scared to do anything during the fight, for still being angry now. Before I could decide what to say, Alec spoke.
“I’m fine,” he said to Denise. He turned away and started walking. I noticed he was limping and holding his side.
“Alec,” shouted Denise, you need to go the nurse.”
Alec shook his head.
She turned to me. “Tell him to go to the nurse!”
I knew she was right, but I couldn’t get myself to say anything.
Denise glared at me. “What’s up with you guys?”
I shrugged. “Let’s go hang out at your house.”
“What?” she shouted, grimacing. “No!”
Denise stopped in the middle of the sidewalk and stared at me. She sucked her teeth. “Whatever’s wrong between you and Alec, you need to fix it.”
“Nothing’s wrong,” I said.
“That’s crap,” said Denise. “Your best friend got jumped and you act like you’re mad at him.”
She dropped my hand. “Kara, they did that to him because they hate us. And if you’re not going to step up and defend your best friend, then what are you going to do when guys like that try to push around me?”
“I…It’s just that…” My mouth wouldn’t move. I still didn’t want to tell her what Alec had said to make me so angry with him – and I didn’t know how to admit to her that I was beginning to realize I made a huge mistake.
Denise put her hands on her hips. “If you can’t explain yourself, then I can’t do this right now.”
She turned and walked away.
That’s how you lose everything – your best friend and your girlfriend. I was certain they both hated me, and I wasn’t sure that I liked myself any more.
Alec and I didn’t talk all day Saturday. Neither did Denise and me. Not one phone call. Not one text message. The lump in the back of my throat was becoming a black hole.
Sitting at my desk in my bedroom, I tried to do my chemistry homework, but I kept picturing Alec. His hand holding his side where Brian had kicked him. The way his shoulders drooped forward as he stumbled home alone, all slow and sad. His doofy grin while he said that crap about Denise’s butt. Denise throwing her body over his.
Then I imagined Denise never speaking to me again. The two of us stuck as lab partners, writing data in our notebooks silently. Her glaring at me. Worse, her smiling at another girl.
By seven in the evening, I couldn’t take it anymore. I grabbed my phone. My hands trembled as I typed:
“Denise, can we talk?”
I flung myself on the bed and waited for my phone to buzz. Ten minutes passed. A half an hour. I flipped onto my stomach and covered my head with my Han and Chewie pillow. I wished I could cry. When Denise finally answered, I sobbed.
“Did something change?” her message read. “Unless it did, there’s nothing to talk about.”
Without thinking, I started typing again.
“Alec. Pretty sure Denise is breaking up with me. Pretty sure you’re mad at me too, but OMG I’m losing it. Help.”
“Come over,” read Alec’s message.
I tapped on Alec’s back door. When he opened the door, I shuffled inside and just looked at him. Suddenly, I couldn’t find the words I had planned on saying.
“Sausage and mushroom?” he asked.
That was when I wondered, for the very first time, if Alec was smarter than me. Maybe kinder, too. Mushrooms are my favorite, but Alec thinks they’re slimy.
“I’ll buy.” he said.
He never paid for the pizza all by himself. I nodded, but his generosity made me feel worse.
“Let’s watch Return of the Jedi,” I offered. That was Alec’s favorite movie and my least favorite. Watching it now was the least I could do.
When the pizza arrived, we sat next to each other on the couch and ate slowly, avoiding eye contact. Alec pushed play. I tried to lay back and let the sound of the movie wash over me, but I couldn’t get comfortable.
Once Luke arrived at Yoda’s house and learned that the Jedi master was sick, I was ready to say what I came to say.
“Alec,” I said. “I’m really sorry they hurt you.”
“I’m okay,” he said, still watching the movie.
“I’m sorry I got so mad before that.”
“It’s okay,” he said.
I wasn’t sure if I believed him.
“You’re not mad at me?”
“Why would I be mad at you? I mean, Brian can go to hell, but I’m not mad at you.” Alec swirled his pop. While he took a long drink, I wiped at my eyes.
“Alec,” I said, deciding to ask something that had been on my mind for a while. “Do you think we’ll be friends after high school is over?”
“What? That’s three years from now.”
“I know, but what do you think will happen?”
Alec put down his slice of pizza. “We’re probably not going to go to the same college,” he said.
“Things will be different,” he said. “but I think we’ll still be friends.”
I wanted to believe Alec, but I didn’t. When I was a kid, I thought that being real friends meant being friends forever, but sitting on that couch I understood for the first time friendships change. When they do, sometimes they don’t change back. Sorry doesn’t make it better. Not completely. There are no do-overs. Alec and I wouldn’t have to wait for college for things to change. They were already different, and they were about to change more. I was about to do the first courageous thing I had done in a long time.
“Alec, there’s something else.”
Alec turned away from the TV. He cocked his head, waiting.
“I have to tell you why I got so mad.” I broke his gaze and looked down at the half-eaten pizza slice in my hand. “That thing you said, about Denise having a stripper-butt? It wasn’t cool. Brain said basically the same thing and it really upset her. I’m not sure if I can completely explain it, but I’m pretty sure it was racist.”
“God, Kara,” he said. I watched his face turn more serious than I had ever seen it. He got very quiet for a moment. “She didn’t hear me, did she?”
“No,” I said. “But I have to tell her. She has to know why I was mad at you and I have to show her that I have the guts to stand up for her.”
“And also,” I said, “We have to sit with her friends sometimes. It’s not fair to her not to. I think they’re nice, Alec, but if they’re not, we’ll deal with it.”
Alec bit his lip like he always did when he was nervous, but he nodded. “Yeah. Makes sense.”
“Okay.” I smiled, but my stomach flopped. No way things were going to be this easy. Alec wasn’t good with new people and honestly, we would probably never even be invited to sit with Denise’s friends again, unless she forgave me. And why would she? I had given her every reason to break up with me.
“You’re not mad at me, are you?” I said. It was the question I wanted to ask Denise, but she wasn’t here.
“Don’t worry, Kara,” Alec said, turning back toward the TV. “Our friendship is mysterious, like the force.”
Alec switched to an Obi-Wan Kenobi voice. “It surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.”
He broke into high pitched giggles. He was so himself, so dorky and ridiculous, that I started laughing too. I think we needed a break, like we’d grown as much as we could right then and needed to slow down. All through Yoda’s death scene, we rocked back and forth, cackling. We stopped when my phone buzzed.
“Maybe it’s Denise,” Alec said. He grabbed my phone. “Nope, it’s your mom. Listen, though, things with you and Denise are going to be okay. I have ideas for getting her back.”
Alec described his plans, his arms flailing around. I laughed, but I wasn’t listening. I knew Alec couldn’t help me make things right with my girlfriend, if she still was my girlfriend. But that would have to wait. I was busy feeling grateful for the weirdo sitting next to me. I’m not sure why all it took to make things better was a pizza, an old movie, and a couple of apologies. Well, that and the courage to be honest. I just know that friendship is a miracle and Alec and I are friends. There was something about his goofy, immature, teenage boy self that I forgave a long time ago. I keep forgiving it every day. I finally realized that he’s doing the same for me.
I didn’t know if Denise could forgive me, like Alec and I forgave each other. I wasn’t even sure that she should. But I knew that if she did, it would be because I was brave enough to tell her the truth. That was the Jedi mind power I needed. I picked up my phone, scrolled down to her last message and read it again: “Did something change?”
“Yeah,” I typed. “Something changed. Something big.”
I pressed send.
I realized that Alec was watching me, not the movie.
“You texted her?”
“Yeah,” I said. “But I don’t think she’ll reply.”
“What?” asked Alec. “Is it her?”
“Yeah,” I said. A smile spread over my face. “She says we can talk on Monday.”
“What did I tell you, padawan?” Alec punched me in the shoulder.
“Whatever,” I said, pushing him back. “Like you’re some Jedi master of love.”
Alec grinned. “I find your lack of faith disturbing.”
I groaned and rolled my eyes.
Alec turned up the sound on the movie and I leaned back into the couch, feeling relaxed and safe for the first time in a long while. Things were different. We were different. Neither one of us could take anything back, and I was finally starting to understand that’s what friendship really is.