Jacob’s words stung, and I’m sure being slapped in the face would have stung less than these three words. “I’m leaving you,” his voice shook as he said the words, as if he was also questioning himself. “I’m leaving you, Brooke,” he repeated, urgently, “I’m moving away, and I have to leave you, and I am so-”
“Don’t you dare say it. I don’t want to hear it!” I shrieked, turning my back to him. It was 2:30 am, and we were standing in my room, with only a small lamp for light, the door and large bay window shut. Hot tears burned my tired eyes. All I do is cry, I scolded myself, get yourself together, Brooke! Grow up!
“Brooke, it isn’t my choice anymore, my dad was promoted and has this crazy new project in California-”
“You’re moving across the country and didn’t decide to tell me until a week before? Jacob, are you completely insane?” My voice cracked, and I wasn’t able to swallow or speak over the massive knot in my throat. I hugged myself, staring at the ground. All I wanted was to share what I just saw with him, I wanted to be with him more than ever before. I didn’t want to hold myself anymore, I longed for Jacob’s strong arms around me, allowing me to feel safe under any circumstances, even when my whole world was in shambles.
It felt as if he could read my mind. As I was wishing this, he reached out for my hand, and as his warm hand brushed mine, I jerked away, covering my mouth with it instead. I tried, and failed, to hold in my sobbing. Hysteria took over me as my emotions and thoughts crashed together, colliding, chaotic. Jacob didn’t allow a chance to move away this time, as he pulled me straight into his chest, holding me tight and allowing me to bawl my heart out in his arms. Safe, just as I wanted so badly. I had finally calmed down enough to pull my face away and take a good look at Jacob’s face, memorizing all of him, as if I would never see him again. He had one single, lonely tear escape, and quickly swiped at it with the back of his hand.
“Jake, I know we aren’t together right now but,” I hesitated. “I really want you to stay with me tonight, and I want to see you every day before you go.” I sniffled, searching the ground for something to distract my gaze. Jacob tapped underneath my chin softly, forcing me to look up at him.
“I will stay with you tonight, regardless of our relationship status. B, you’re my best friend,” He sighed. “I’ve loved you for years, and some distance between us isn’t going to change that.” I nodded slowly, never taking my eyes from his. Those brown eyes were definitely going to get him out of serious trouble someday, they had the power to melt me and cause my knees to tremble, even when they were full of fire or ice. “I will stay with you, B, forever, even as a friend. But right now, I kinda want to crawl under the covers and sleep for about five years, if that’s okay with you.” His lazy smile crept onto his face, and my own smile actually mirrored his.
5 years later
As we grew older, Jacob and I realized that we needed to try and see other people, but we always remained friends. I haven’t seen him for almost two years, since he came to visit me in college. That night, we got caught up in the heat of the moment, and went further than either of us originally intended. I had a scare, and when I told him about it, he went insane, and when I found out it was just a scare, he completely shut me out; he was devastated. Ever since, we’ve had a few phone calls, sent a couple of texts, but we haven’t seen each other in two years. In that two year time frame, I found someone else- Austin. When we first met, our personalities completely clashed, and all we did was argue. We didn’t agree on anything, and he had quite a short temper. He grew impatient with me, and decided to make the first move, sending me head over heels for him ever since. The vision is still vivid in my head, and he was just as beautiful as I had remembered. Once we were together, we didn’t argue, we didn’t even bicker or play fight; the relationship was like a dream. I hardly spent any time away from him, and I never wanted to. All I ever wanted to do was curl up in his lap, drink in his smell and lose myself in him.
I had moved in with Austin after a year into the relationship, and we had a small, cute one bedroom apartment downtown, with a perfect view of the city from our balcony. Part of my nightly routine included wandering out to the balcony, usually dressed in pajamas, and watching people wander around the park and the stores across the street. One night, I saw Jacob, walking around the park, all alone.
The first time I saw him, I thought I was hallucinating, that I was just tired. He didn’t see me, and kept walking, the way normal people do. The next two nights, I saw him again, and soon, I began craving seeing him- even just watching from afar, as he lived his normal, adult life- without me. The thought caused my stomach to sink, and as it did, he looked up from across the street, and saw me. As our eyes locked, I froze. He rubbed his eyes and moved to the edge of the street, attempting to get a better look. A semi passed in front of him, giving me the perfect opportunity to disappear to my dark apartment. I was hoping that he would think what I originally thought- that I was seeing things, I was tired, and my brain made me see him because I missed him; I missed him more than anything, anyone else. Back to the wall, I slid down and hugged my knees to my chest, resting my cheek on my arms, totally zoned out. Austin’s soft touch on my arm startled me, and I hadn’t realized that I actually fell asleep there until he carried me, bridal style, to the bed and tucked me in, allowing me to surrender myself to a sweet, restful sleep.
The next day, I saw Jacob at the coffee shop, and things were unbearably awkward. I sat down by myself in the corner of the restaurant as his eyes followed me to my table. The smallest tables there sat two people, so naturally, there was a space open for him. He stirred his coffee and watched me, and I didn’t stop staring back at him until my mom called me, bringing me out of my intense trance. “H-hello,” I stuttered. Mom didn’t need anything in particular, other than to chat, and that was my saving grace, forcing me to tear my full attention away from Jacob. It was only when he stood right in front of my table that I scrambled to get off of the phone. “Hey Mom, um, I have an appointment I actually am late for so I’ll catch you later,” I blurted. “Yes, I’ll call you. I love you too, goodbye.”
My heart was pounding so hard, I swore the whole coffee shop was able to hear it, and was able to tell that I wasn’t okay, and that I was nervous. “Can I sit here?” He grumbled. I gulped and nodded slowly, turning the ringer off on my phone and putting it completely away in my purse. Jacob settled into the chair, looking as uncomfortable as I felt. He crossed his arms in front of him as I sat further back in my chair, inching closer to the wall. After a few seconds of intense staring and silence, Jacob broke the silence. “I thought I saw you,” he mumbled.
“I saw you, too,” I blurted. “I’ve seen you every night for three days.” As soon as I said the words, he relaxed, uncrossing his arms and resting his hands on the small table. “I just never worked up the courage to call out to you, or to even run across the street and talk to you in person, like an adult.” I sighed. I took a deep breath, and before I could say any more, he launched into conversation.
“Why would you need to work up the courage, B?” He paused, voice strained. “I was the one who pushed you away, I was the one who walked away. I should have worked up the courage two years ago to let you in, instead of locking you out,” he pleaded. My eyes searched his, and before I could think too much about it, I reached and covered his hand with mine, giving a gentle squeeze. I gave him a half smile, which gave him a chance to catch his breath before moving on. “Brooke,” he sighed, “I’ve missed you so much, and I’m so sorry.” He stood up and pulled me out of my chair into a tight hug. Normally, I’m one to squirm and struggle, but it’s been so long, I let him hold me there for as long as he needed. I heard a man clear his throat behind me, and grew anxious when I saw Austin looking down at me, eyebrows furrowed.
“Austin, this is Jacob,” I paused, trying to sound calm and not as frazzled as I felt. “He’s my best friend from high school and some of college.” Jacob stuck his hand out for a handshake, and after I sent Austin a look urging him to return the gesture, he finally complied.
“Jake, this is Austin,” I said slowly, “he’s my b-boyfriend.” I tried to stop myself from stuttering, but with the two of them puffing their chests out at each other, towering over me, I was nervous for both of them. Austin was tall and thin, but strong, where Jacob was average height, and muscular. I was also scared for myself, because I knew soon I would have to choose. I would have to walk away from one, to walk into the arms of another.
“Brooke, lets go.” Austin growled. He looked dangerous, so I didn’t question him while I fumbled around for my purse and keys, leaving a handful of crumpled dollar bills on the table for a tip. As I walked out the door to the building, I turned back and waved at Jacob slowly. He returned the wave, just before slouching back in his chair, looking completely defeated. The ride home was completely silent, and as Austin laced his fingers through mine, a headache developed as I thought about the messy road ahead. Buckle up, B. There’s a bumpy ride in your future.
I didn’t see Jake again for another week, and this time, he called me, asking me to come over and say hello to his parents, who I hadn’t seen in years. I had to be careful about the lie I crafted for Austin, saying I was going out with a friend who came back to town to visit, and was only here for the day. I felt terrible as he kissed me goodbye, and I felt incredibly guilty. Lying shouldn’t be this easy, I scolded myself, just be honest with him and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble. As Austin left for work, I quickly slipped into a breezy, light pink summer dress and my favorite gold sandals, only stopping to look in the mirror when it was time to tame my insane bed head and apply some light makeup before bounding down the stairs and out of the building.
The Anderson parents were only there for about twenty minutes out of the day, enough to greet me, very briefly catch up and see how I’ve been, and say goodbye before locking the door behind them. As they left, Jake and I sat in two chairs across from each other. I crossed my legs, resting my hands on the chair. After about five minutes of complete silence, I pushed myself out of the chair, as Jacob finally spoke.
“Where are you going?”
“I figured I would head home,” I replied, with my back turned to him. I fidgeted, taking my time putting on my soft white sweater. I had my purse and thought I was ready to go, but as I grabbed the doorknob, I felt Jacob tower over me from behind.
“You’re not going anywhere,” he mumbled deeply. My breath caught in my throat, and as I heard my keys jingle behind me, I realized I was getting too excited too quickly. He’s right, B. You’re not going anywhere, not without your keys, you idiot! He placed them in my hand, his touch lingering on my skin. I nodded and gave him a quick hug, and when I backed up to walk out the door again, he repeated, “I mean it, B. You’re not going anywhere.”
He took my purse and set it on the floor next to the door, and pulled me into a kiss more passionate than any other I’ve had before. He was hungry, more so than the first time we took things too far. I felt wrong, because of Austin, but because of Jacob, I felt so right. Jacob, and everything about him, was home to me. His touch, his smell, his strength, all of it. His touch seared my skin, his breath tingling against my neck as he backed me into the wall. His strong arms grabbed my waist and hoisted me up, carrying me upstairs into his room, where he made love to me for the first time in what felt like forever.
After that, Jacob checked in with me each night, when I went out on the balcony per my routine. Without seeing Jacob, being with him completely, nothing felt normal and my days without him dragged on forever. I loved Austin, but he wasn’t, and could never be, what Jacob was to me. Time rolled forward, and the glimpse of the future I had when I was seventeen, began to come true. I was pregnant, and I really was unsure of by who- and, as terrible as it sounded, I hoped the baby was Jacob’s.
The day finally came, to find out who the father of the child is. Jesus, Brooke, this is like a bad episode of Maury! Ever since I slept with Jacob, I was ashamed of myself. All I had to do was be honest with Austin, but I kept what happened a secret until it was too late. Jacob, unlike the last time, was thrilled I was pregnant, even though there was a possibility the baby wasn’t his. “I’m not going to leave you or push you away like I did last time,” Jacob reassured me, “it doesn’t matter, because this baby is going to either have the best father or the best Uncle Jacob in the world.”
Jacob and I looked over the results together, and I was devastated. The baby was Austin’s, and ever since finding out that Jacob and I slept together, he has hardly been home, and when he does stumble through the door, he is completely, sloppy drunk, and belligerent. I can’t say I blame him, after what I’ve done, but I definitely do not want to raise my child- our child, in a situation where this escalates and gets worse. Jacob knew how he acted, mostly because I called him to meet me at the park, where I cried about everything as he held me on the park bench. It was then that we decided to lie.
We told Austin that the baby was Jacob’s, and the day after he found out, he packed everything and vanished, leaving only a note held down by the engagement ring I gave back to him, after turning down his marriage proposal. I love you.. The note read, maybe we will find each other again in the future. I wish you the best. Love, Austin. I was sad when I came home to an apartment empty of him, of any memories we had together, but, as terrible as it felt, I was relieved. I was finally allowed to be with Jacob again, and he would raise my baby as his own.
Everything was going well, and at times, I had to pinch myself, and check that I wasn’t dreaming. I was five months into the pregnancy when Jacob proposed. Of course, I said yes. After Austin, and after finding Jacob again, I wasn’t able to imagine a life without Jacob and I together. He truly has always been, and always will be, my best friend, and my first and last love. We’ve had our tough times, we bicker, but at the end of every day, he always is sure that I feel loved and safe.
I will always be safe, so long as Jacob is in my life.