Day Three Hundred and Sixty-Four.
After an elapsed time of one month without a word from Pep, I started to think that maybe Joe was right. She was never going to call. It was up to me.
The problem was that I couldn't do it alone. How could I tackle a sensitive issue such as this? I needed help on what to say. Joe was of no assistance; we could never come to an agreement because all of his suggestions made me cringe and then retro-cringe. (According to urban dictionary .com, this is the art of cringing again at a later time from nothing but a mere memory). To sum up, Joe was useless as always.
Helen Keller was even worse when it came to words of wisdom. "I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do." Good lord, Helen. What was I supposed to make of that?
Once I got past the wordiness of it all, it could be summed up very simply: don't be lazy. Why do people waste words when they can just come out and say what they feel? Helen Keller was no Chaucer; that much was certain.
So I picked up Shakespeare because he seemed to have a lot to say, and he said it cleverly. He had to know what he was talking about - someone so glorified by the English-speaking world for hundreds of years can't be wrong. He just can't.
The only other person I normally sought out for advice was Pep. I could ask my father, but we didn't talk about that kind of stuff, and I had already predicted the outcome: ‘Grin and bear it, Nick'. I was pretty sure that fucking expression would be printed on my tombstone. Here lies Nicholas Jonas. Grinned and beared it. Then he died.
My mother, though her intentions were golden, would butt her nose in and take control, and the last thing I wanted was my mother doing all the talking for me at the age of seventeen.
After one month, I was nothing but a ‘Send' button away from asking Miley for advice when I remembered Rainie's words: "It's always Pep, isn't it? When things go wrong, Pep's the one you go to!"
It made me feel a little better to remember it. It was jealousy talking, was it not? Well, if Rainie wanted to be my go-to girl, then her wish was my command.
Things had remained much the same with Rainie, by the way. We were unofficial but semi-exclusive. It wasn't like I was seeing anyone else. I spent a significant amount of time with her, so I assumed she wasn't, either. I came to realize that she was the kind of person I could take with me (almost) anywhere I wanted to go, and she'd go with a smile on her face. But she wasn't one to lounge around, and unfortunately, that was what I liked doing best. Still, I tried to make it work, because every so often she acted like the Rainie I knew in the summer. The one who would have long conversations with me on the phone; the one who excited me so much (in the pants) that I had to take breathers every five minutes to calm myself.
After a quick phone call to alert her I was coming, I was on my way. Rainie would be pleased that I was confiding in her and seeking her help. That was what she wanted, wasn't it? Maybe the ice caps would melt for today and she'd simply be a bitch, no ice included.
I gave her a kiss as she opened the door for me that night.
"How was filming today?" she asked me.
"It's Sunday," I pointed out. "We went to church."
Pretty sure I told her that the night before.
"Oh. Well, how's God doing today?" she corrected herself, snorting at what was supposed to be a joke.
"He's fine," I answered awkwardly. It was on the tip of my tongue to add ‘He told me to give you another kiss', but I kept quiet. For once, I wasn't really in a kissing mood. (Also, didn't need to give God another reason to spite me).
I followed her into the small kitchen, where she sat on a stool and crossed one leg over the other. "We never go to your house, you know that?"
I did know that. There was a very simple reason, and that reason was named Kevin. You could never be sure when he would decide to swoop in and talk your ear off, stealing your girl from right under your nose as your eardrums rang incessantly, somehow rendering you incapable of retaliating.
Nonetheless, I shrugged, pretending to be just as surprised as she was. "I guess it's easier for me to come to you."
"Don't you think it gets boring after a while?" While she waited for my response, she reached over and plugged in the electric kettle, searching through the cupboard for a mug.
I frowned. "It's not boring when I'm with you."
She released a dry laugh, pushing herself off the stool to dig through the large tea selection that was sitting on the corner of the counter. I leaned against the fridge, watching her as she worked.
Glancing at me out of the corner of her eye, Rainie commented, "You never dress up anymore."
I looked down at my jeans and a button-up collared shirt with rolled sleeves. I thought I looked presentable, and that was me being modest.
"I hate dressing up," I told her frankly. "I only do it when I'm working. You know that."
"You dress up when we go out," she commented.
"That's different. That's a date."
She shrugged, clearly unimpressed. "I always try to look nice for you."
Grinding my teeth together, I fought back a snarl. First of all, I knew I looked pretty decent. What kind of guy my age actually bothers to tuck his shirt into his pants? I go above and beyond, even when I'm dressing down. And secondly, I had to point out that...
"I've seen your wardrobe, remember? You barely own three items of casual clothing."
We were a little different in that respect.
She shrugged again. I couldn't suppress my snort this time. "What, you want me to wear a tie every time I come over to hang out?"
Rainie picked out her preferred choice of tea and placed the bag into the empty mug. "Do whatever you want."
She was intentionally not looking at me to be cold, and it was driving me crazy (not in the pants, just in general). With a sigh of surrender, I relaxed my shoulders and leaned against the fridge once more. Not even my mother told me what to wear. This argument was ludicrous. Speaking of ludacris, I could use one of my favourite rap songs on the soundtrack of my life to sum up this moment. It played in my head as I stared blankly ahead: Move, bitch, get out the way. Get out the way, bitch, get out the way.
Rainie was starting to get in the way with day-to-day life.
As she poured boiling water into the mug, the front door swung open and Lesbian Friend appeared next to me in the kitchen, bulky black bags thrown over either shoulder. It was presumable that she had recently done some sort of photo shoot.
As was custom, I received no more than a sideways glance as she brushed her hair out of her face and gave Rainie a smile. "Hey," she said breathlessly.
"Cal!" Rainie exclaimed with a grin. (Side-note: I rarely received that enthusiastic of a reception). "You want tea?"
Callan nodded, and Rainie got another mug out of the cupboard. Nobody asked me if I wanted tea. Fuck these people.
I stood there like a third wheel for a few minutes as the two of them went over their days. I played with my car keys and shuffled my feet around like a lost, lonely child. Finally, Lesbian Friend took her mug of tea and retreated to her bedroom, leaving Rainie and I alone at last.
"What's wrong, Jonas?" Rainie asked with a smirk. "You look like your dog just died."
I knew firsthand what people looked like when their dogs died. It wasn't funny.
However, I chose to ignore it, asking, "Think you can help me with something?" I pushed myself away from the fridge with the sole of my foot and stood in the centre of the kitchen, expectantly awaiting her response.
Rainie took a sip of tea, swallowing as she questioned, "What's the deal?"
I sighed, approaching this in the bluntest way possible. "Last month Pep told me she was in love with me."
Rainie froze, the mug held motionlessly to her lips. She remained silent, allowing me to continue.
"That's more or less all there is to my problem, really. I haven't talked to her since then, and I was wondering if you had any insight on how to approach her after something like that."
Putting her mug down on the counter, Rainie shrugged slowly. What a load of help you are, Rainie. No wonder I went to Joe and Pep for advice. At least they had something to say, even if it wasn't what I wanted to hear.
I elaborated, "I feel really bad about it. And I miss having her around."
Shooting me a sharp glare, Rainie countered, "Oh, is that why you've been over so much lately?"
"I'm your replacement Pep?"
Giving her a strange look, I calmly replied, "No."
"I always knew there was something going on between you two, from the very first day I met her," Rainie declared.
I shook my head in confusion. "No, there was nothing going on-"
"I mean, it was obvious that you adored her, and now that I know for sure that she likes you back-"
"Whoa!" I exclaimed, holding my hands out in front of me.
Remembering that I was in the same room, Rainie glanced at me and replied, "What? You didn't think I noticed?"
"How close you stand when you talk to her... how you put your arm around the back of her chair when you sit side-by-side... how you're always aware of where she is in the room; you always know her position relative to you... how she always comes up in conversation, how you spend all of your free time with her, oh, and let's not forget how you kissed her on the beach that day!"
For the love of God. That kiss would hang over my head like a trouble cloud for the rest of time.
"That's because we're close!" I protested. Backtracking, I added, "Well, for everything besides the kiss, that is."
Rainie gave me the ultimate eye-roll. "Can't you just admit how much you love her?"
I opened my mouth to respond, but there were no words. What else could I say? I half-smiled at the ridiculousness as I struggled to muster up an answer. "Rainie..." I trailed off. There. Thought of something. "She's like, four feet tall."
Rainie exhaled as she slowly shut her eyes and shook her head. "That's your excuse? Isn't that what you always use as an excuse? Because she's small? Nick, she's an inch shorter than I am and I'm five-foot-three!"
"I was five-foot-two when I was eight years old!" I argued.
"No you weren't!" Rainie cried. "You're short, too, just so you know! Five-foot-two is only slightly below average for a girl!"
(Side-note: Even if it was just for a moment, I wanted to switch places with Lesbian Friend and hear exactly what she was hearing from her bedroom. The argument probably sounded humorous, though it was hard to see the humour from my perspective).
"Well, she always seemed smaller than that!" I bellowed, slamming my hand down flat on the counter in anger.
... really, Nick? That was my only excuse?
My words echoed around the tiny kitchen before Rainie continued in a relaxed voice, "That's what you keep telling yourself, isn't it? You've never allowed yourself to like her back, and that's your ridiculously pathetic and unbelievable excuse."
I stared at her, my chest rising and falling. She was wrong. I knew she was wrong.
"Look. I came here for your help. That's all," I said slowly.
"Then this is what you'll get, Nick," she replied snarkily. "You wanna know why we're not dating? It's because I'll always be a second in your life, right after Pep. I'll never be able to figure out just what goes on between you two; I'll never understand that sickeningly adorable bond you share."
I shook my head, unable to believe what I was hearing. "That's not true."
"Alright then." With a shrug of her shoulders, she took a large gulp of tea and poured what remained in the mug down the sink, setting it forcefully onto the counter. "If that's what you think, then this is my advice: leave Pep alone. You're better off apart. She'll get over you and move on, and you'll have me."
No, the ice caps were definitely more frozen-over than ever. The environment had to give her credit: Rainie was single-handedly reversing the effects of global warming. Undeniably, she was still an ice bitch. An ice bitch from hell, oxymoron or not.
I laughed. I was dishing out a lot of dry, sarcastic laughs lately. "She's my best friend."
Rainie didn't find it funny. She placed a firm hand on her hip. "Choose, Jonas. If you really don't love her, it's easy. Me or the redhead?"
I stood staring at her as dead silence washed over the apartment.
I gave Rainie an ultimatum once. In my defence, I thought it was fair. I asked her to sacrifice someone for me, but it was because I thought it was in her best interest. She never loved Jesse; he didn't do anything for her except cause grief. I never would have made her choose if I thought she truly cared about him.
This - well, this was an unfair ultimatum.
And I couldn't lie to myself anymore: Rainie really was a bitch. I'd always thought so, but this time, the word actually meant something to me. B for Bitch. I for ‘I Can't Believe I Loved That Bitch'. T for Total Bitch. C for Conniving Bitch. And H - well, I had to give it to her, she was a Hot Bitch. Seriously - what a BITCH.
After I couldn't prolong the silence any longer, I shrugged my shoulders and said quietly, "Pep."
It wasn't really a hard decision, anyways.
The funny thing is that I fell in love with Rainie ‘at first sight'. I never believed in any of that bullshit until it happened to me. Some people might call it strange, and three hundred and sixty-five days prior, I would have called myself one of those people. What's even funnier, though, is that I fell out of love with her just as fast. Like the snap of a finger or travelling by Floo powder. All it took was one unfair ultimatum, and she fell out of the cloud she sat on in my mind. She wasn't an angel anymore. The harps stopped playing. The choir stopped singing. Everybody who had been perpetually dancing around with joy in my mind for a year stopped in their tracks to glare at Rainie with a ‘what the fuck?' kind of look.
Rainie didn't appear angry. There was no yelling. No arguing. After she licked her lips, all she said was, "You're welcome."
And then, I was shuffling my feet down the carpeted hallway of the building when I realized that maybe it was better off this way. I didn't know what it was about Rainie that made me fall in love with her, but did Harry ever have a reason for falling in love with Cho Chang? It just happened. When she was gone, he found someone else and kept on rolling with the punches. And you know, even if I'd had this dream for a year of Rainie and I together forever, giving it up wasn't as hard as I'd expected. She made it easy for me.
"You're welcome," she'd told me. Maybe she was aware of what she was doing the whole time. Maybe she knew that she was being a total ice bitch, and she did it on purpose because it would make me see that I had feelings for Pep. Maybe God was poning me again, and he made me fall in love with her just so I'd feel like the biggest idiot on the planet when I finally realized it was Pep all along.
Though I'd been walking with my head down, watching my feet as I walked, I stopped dead in my tracks and my head snapped up alertly.
I had to work this out in my mind. There was a logical explanation; there had to be. Okay. If I took my platonic feelings for Pep and put Rainie's face in front of me, shouting at me that I was in love with her, I would respond with, "But she's the size of an oompa loompa." If I took that excuse away, what was left?
Nothing. Again, my mind was blanking. The only things I could think of weren't excuses at all. She's always there. She's easy to talk to. She's never boring. She smiles all the time. My dog is obsessed with her. She's caring and friendly and selfless. She's the first person I want to see when I get home. The only person I bother to keep in touch with when I'm away. No matter who came and went in my life, she was always first. Her ex-boyfriends irritate me. She makes me happy. It hurt to see her cry, and it hurt not to talk to her. And no matter how hard I tried, there was no way I could see myself in five, ten, fifteen years without her. To top it all off, she really was a cute little proton. Well, a slightly-below-average-sized proton. The best kind of proton.
... holy SHIT. Without even knowing it (and I mean, without even an inkling of consciousness), I had kind of fallen for my best friend. And then everything that people had been telling me for months came flying into my face like a forcible gust of wind.
"I didn't know Nick had a girlfriend," Rainie had said the first time she met Pep.
"Are you sure you two aren't dating?" she asked upon meeting her again.
"You should pursue it, Nick. She's cute," Miley had told me.
"You're blind if you can't see what everybody else sees," Joe stated.
If there was some sort of code against this, I had definitely broken it. And I hate breaking rules, which was only further proof that it was true.
One question, then, remained: How the hell did everyone know this but me?!