I sit down on the riverbank, just barely dipping my toes in the water. I smile when one of the fish comes up and nibbles at my baby toe. It’s not an unpleasant feeling, really.
“Do you remember that time we were sitting here,” Liam starts, dropping down next to me, “and that eel appeared and you freaked out so much that you fell in the water?”
I kick Liam’s foot. “It came out of nowhere! And why are you wearing pyjama pants?”
“Because you called me here out of nowhere!” he mimics.
“I’m gunna shove you in the river,” I threaten.
“Yeah, right,” he says, handing me the rainbow Billabong. Once it’s firmly in my fingers, I use my other hand to push him into the water.
“Idiot,” I mutter.
Then he pulls me into the water, too, and like a typical girl, I scream my bloody head off. And Liam, being a typical boy, just laughs, and dunks me.
When I come up for air, he says, “Happy birthday, Billie.”
I smile at him. “Happy birthday to you too, Liam.”
“Like I could forget your birthday – I mean, you have to get me a present.”
I roll my eyes and shove him under the water. “You’re the worst best friend ever! And now my ice cream’s ruined.”
He stands up.
“When did you get so damn tall?” I snap, arms crossed.
“I’m standing on a rock,” he tells me. “You’re lucky I didn’t hit my head on it when you pushed me in the water.” Still, he hops down off of the rock, so we’re more equal in height. He’s still got a good ten centimetres on me, though.
“Can we please get out of the water now?”
“Afraid an eel will get you?”
“I’m afraid you’ll dunk me again,” I complain.
I am, by the way, fully aware that sometimes I can be whiny and annoying, but usually it’s with at least a partly good reason. I heft myself up onto the bank – I don’t need Liam’s help, I’m not some sissy – and sigh. I squeeze as much water out of my hair as I can.
“You owe me,” I say, once he’s on the bank too.
He leans down to his backpack, forgotten on the river’s edge, and gets a neatly wrapped rectangle out, passing it to me.
“You didn’t have to.”
“Don’t be an idiot. I am not the absolute worst best friend in the world.”
“Diane’s work?” I ask, pretty sure that Liam’s sister wrapped this for him.
“Well, duh. I can’t wrap for shit,” Liam says.
I look up at him and smile.
“Will you just open it already?” he asks impatiently. Is he blushing?
I tear open the blue and purple wrapping paper and see a framed picture of me. “Did you take this?” I ask, inspecting the black and white photo. I’m wearing an Alice in Wonderland costume, when we were in Denmark just last month. It was a dare, and possibly the best day of my life.
“I was wondering where you’d gone,” I reply. Before I can stop myself, I spit out the rest of the story. “You know,” I begin, tracing the black wood of the frame with a fingertip, “when I was looking for you then, I felt so desperate, and so lost. At first I figured it was just like the whole culture shock thing, but the Danish are so nice, they’d get me back to the hotel no worries. I hated the idea that I’d lost you. And I kept seeing this couple out of the corner of my eyes, kissing by the flower stall, and the boy looked a bit like you. I was so jealous.”
Liam is just staring at me.
Shit. Shit. Shit. I said too much. Backtrack, backtrack.
“It’s a great, um, photo, though. Thanks, Lee.”
“So what’d you get me, Bill?”
“I haven’t yet – you know you’re hard to buy for. I was waiting for something to jump out at me and screech ‘LIAM YEOMAN’ and it just hasn’t happened yet.”
“Can I choose something?”
“Sure,” I say. Then I tack on, “But I am not buying you that Star Wars Lego kit that is like six hundred bucks.”
And I see it coming. My gift for Liam, I mean. It’s obvious in the way that he steps toward me, tucks a lock of my hair behind his ear. Maybe I was stupid to think that Liam Yeoman would never fall in love with me. Maybe they’re right about best friends. He keeps his hands to himself as he leans in, closing his eyes, to press his mouth against my own.
I can’t tell you that it was one of those movie perfect moments – it wasn’t like we were a perfect fit together, because I don’t think that happens. But I can tell you that it set off mental fireworks behind my closed eyelids, and it was awkward and glorious, and mismatched and wonderful.
I wasn’t afraid that our friendship would fall to pieces if we broke up, because we were better than that. And hell if I wasn’t going to give my all at a relationship with my best mate.
YOU ARE READING
Happy Birthday, IdiotRomance
Billie and Liam have been best friends as long as they can remember, always mucking around – especially on their shared birthday. Do they get their happily ever after?