February 2012

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"So, what did you think of the movie?" the nervous, slightly sweaty-looking guy next to me asked. "Sorry it wasn't a soppier one, but I thought it too much of a cliché to see a romance film for Valentine's Day."

"Mmm," I mumbled back, barely paying any attention to his words.

"Plus, it probably would've been super busy anyway. Better we pretty much had the whole place to ourselves. We could stretch out a bit, and it didn't matter if we made any noise. Not you could hear anything much over the incessant growing and gunshots, but still..."

In one way, it was good there wasn't anyone else in the room as the film played out. The last thing I needed was to find myself surrounded by happy couples showing off their love just because it was February 14th, but in another way, it sucked. Being alone with Benji only highlighted there wasn't a scrap of chemistry between us, and no amount of zombies ripping people to shreds would change that. It only took me about three minutes to realise it was never meant to be.

It was a big shame. Benji was a really nice guy. He had a cute, preppy look with blond, shaggy hair and twinkling green eyes. A sweet, pleasant personality too. He was the sort of person you just couldn't help liking. For someone, he'd be perfect, but unfortunately, that person wasn't me. I still had to keep my distance from the person I believed was for me. Even though he was no longer with Kat, despite the fact their relationship was never a strong one anyway according to rumours, I still needed to protect myself.

Scott once told me he wasn't ready for a relationship, but when he was he didn't choose me. However weak I felt around him, I couldn't forget that. Otherwise I'd crumble in a heap at his feet, humiliating myself all over again.

"Did you want to go for a drink now?"

I watched Benji stuff his hands awkwardly into his pockets. I wasn't sure whether he liked me and thought this'd gone well, or if he just wanted to be polite. Either way, I didn't think it wise to extend this date further. I couldn't lead him on. I couldn't be the person to cause him pain the way Scott did me.

"I don't think so. I better get back really. I've a lot of coursework to do." The all too familiar lie came spilling past my lips. "But it's been fun."

"We could just go to the student bar. There's a bit of an anti-Valentine's Day party going on there. Could be fun to go for one?"

I already knew about the party, Natalie took her boyfriend, Gaz, as some sort of protest. I did actually want to see her. There'd be so many people there it could hardly be misconstrued as anything more, could it? It was a safe way the date could come to an end without any strangeness. We wouldn't even need to share an uncomfortable goodbye. Maybe it was Benji's way of suggesting he knew it wasn't going anywhere so we could just go our separate ways and still be friends.

"Okay sure, why not?"

The journey to the university wasn't actually a bad one, considering how strained the night had been. All the odd zinging tension that sat uncomfortably between us in the cinema was long gone. We were back to being friends, the way we were beforehand. It was actually the friendship which made me believe this could work. I thought the way I liked him could've been something much deeper than it was, potentially, one day. When would I learn friendship and romance could never mix? That life lesson would have to come about soon enough.

As soon as we walked through the doors into the bar, I realised I'd been in the wrong place all along. The silly party in the place I avoided as much as I could, didn't seem appealing when I first heard about it, but now I saw practically everyone from the second year dotted about, and I understood this was the place to be. There were only a few first years in sight, and the third years were too busy completing their dissertation—the biggest piece of work they'd do at university—for any sort of partying. It seemed this night was all for us.

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