“Marlene and I broke up,” Alissa remarked from the doorway of my room. I looked up from the book I was reading and frowned. Her voice was calm and clear, but she’d evidently been crying.
“Oh, Lis,” I said, moving to get up off the bed. “What happened?”
She made a frantic fluttering movement with her hand and I paused at the edge of the bed.
“Lis?” I asked again. I couldn’t remember if I’d ever seen her this upset over a breakup before. Over the past few years, there’d been at least four, maybe five girls in and out of Alissa’s life.
She took a deep breath.
“She said she couldn’t keep competing with you for my attention, and that whenever you were around she felt like she wasn’t even in the room,” she admitted in a long rush. Her voiced cracked at that, but she took a deep breath and shook her head as if to clear it.
“Well that’s silliness,” I responded immediately, “I’m not competing for your attention. I’m engaged, for Christ’s sake, and to a man at that.”
I’d meant it as a joke, but Alissa looked stricken, and she shook her head again.
“You don’t understand,” she said in a low voice.
“What don’t I understand?” I asked cautiously, frozen in trepidation. She closed her eyes.
“She’s right, Sarah,” Alissa admitted, “she’s right, and I can’t keep doing this. I think I love you. I don’t know, really. I’ve tried and tried not to have feelings for you, but I can’t help it. I just-“
She stopped abruptly and started to cry, framed in the doorway that she’d popped her head in and out of a hundred times before for a hundred different reasons before. I put my hand on the firm, reassuring wall of my bedroom and stared at her as the room went briefly out of focus.
“What do you mean, she’s right?” I demanded, harsher than I intended. “Alissa, I don’t understand.”
“What isn’t clear to you?” she burst out, surprisingly angry. “I just told you I loved you! We’ve been living together for 3 years like a fucking married couple! Is it so unbelievable that I might at least have a crush on you?”
“We’ve been best friends since high school, Alissa, I thought we might be past the crush zone by now. How fucking long has it been?” I asked, succumbing to that particular brutality that comes with an unexpected confrontation. Alissa looked away for a long moment.
“I see,” I said, when she didn’t respond. “All this time and you couldn’t be bothered to say anything?”
She looked down at her bare feet.
“I was afraid this would happen,” she said softly.
“And what did you think would happen?”
“I don’t know. I don’t know, Sarah,” Alissa said, “but I can’t do this anymore.”