By Vita Forest
Derek and Billie, Billie 4 Derek.
Billie eyes widened as she stared at the words she had written on the page. Her pencil hovered in the air, then she scribbled through the words until she tore the paper.
Sometimes when they talked, she looked at his lips. At his lips forming the sounds that she was hearing. Except sometimes she wasn’t really listening to the sounds. They were secondary because what she was thinking of was – what would it be like to kiss those lips?
Sometimes when they met, she thought how easy it would be to reach out and hold him. To just reach out and wrap him in her arms. They were standing so close! It would hardly be any effort at all. She was standing right in front of him, not across the city, or across the uni, or across the classroom, or across a table. They had covered all that distance that had separated them their whole lives, but this is where she had to stop. Her arms could not breach that gap. Billie had to content herself with hugging her books to her chest. As if they could give her any comfort, as if they could warm her, as if they could make her feel. (Actually they could comfort her and make her feel, and actually they did. Jane Austen did provide comfort. So did Shakespeare.)
Billie watched Derek. Often she would deliberately sneak into the lecture hall late so she could sit behind him, away from him. For the sole purpose of watching him. At times that was better than sitting right beside his physical presence. Which she sometimes found unbearable. The yearning could be too much.
He would usually text her.
He would turn at that and scan the hall. His face would break into a smile when he found her crouched behind her laptop. She would remain deadpan but would raise a hand in greeting. Then he would wink at her. She would wink back. And then he would turn away. Which was lucky, because by then, she was probably blushing. She could only do deadpan for so long. And the blushing was getting worse.
Billie hoped he hadn’t noticed.
So Billie walked up to Derek and always stopped that arm’s length from him. Though her heart pulled her closer towards his heart, but she would resist it. Grip her books and resist it. This terrible, delicious yearning. This torture.
Billie supposed she should do something. Throw caution to the wind. Take his hand. Kiss him. Tell him how she felt. She almost laughed. What a ridiculous idea! No, much better to stay in this state of friendship, good friendship, close friendship. She didn’t want to lose that and if she said anything and he laughed… It would be beyond awkward. Beyond excruciating. It would be devastating.
So she watched him from across the room and waved at him and winked at him and texted him and talked to him and laughed with him and was with him, in a way. She was with him. And that was what really mattered, wasn’t it?