It’s freshman year of college when you meet her. Freshman year of college, a time of upheaval for all parties involved, definitely not helped by the fact that you just had your growth spurt last year and are now tall and lanky and awkward. As if that weren’t enough to make your life miserable, you’ve retained most of the traits that got you through most of high school at five foot four: rapier wit, an inability to give up once you’ve latched onto something, and a keen eye for when to duck. In college, if it weren’t for that girl, you’d be dead before Christmas break.
But you find her and all is right with the world. Belle – and you’re pretty sure that’s short for something but you don’t dare ask – is petite, blonde, and utterly terrifying. She wears four-inch heels for all occasions, even an ill-advised mini-golf outing, and even then you have a solid six inches on her. As if that even matters. What she lacks in size, she makes up for in personality, and everyone is either in love with her or convinced she’s going to give birth to the Antichrist. You, naturally, are in the former camp.
You become friends with her, this big-eyed girl and her ambitions, and soon enough you start following her around like a puppy because you’ve nothing better to do. You’re both journalism majors with three of five classes in common, and she helps you with your French homework because she took it in high school and lectures you about choosing an easier science class when she ended up in blasted Physics because of a cute boy. You start to suspect that’s how she makes all her decisions, but you don’t dare say that aloud. You worship her. You love her.
She comes home with you for winter break because she’s got no family to speak of – a leech of a mother, you’ve discovered, but nothing proper. All you’ve got is your dad, but when you explain you’re bringing someone home to take up residence in the guest room for a couple of weeks, no questions are asked.
On New Year’s Eve, you steal a bottle of wine from your dad’s supply and the two of you are lightweights so it doesn’t take long before everything’s out in the open, before you try to kiss her and aim badly and end up sucking on her ear and she’s laughing hysterically and you can’t stop. “Wanted your lips,” you manage to explain, trying to keep a straight face.
“We could grow old together,” she sighs, resting her head against your shoulder.
It’s in that moment that you know it’ll never happen. Girls like her, boys like you… it was a cute delusion while it lasted, but all good things must end.
Over the next three years, you try to love her from a distance. You watch, trying not to scream, as she dates a series of utterly awful creatures. For a while she seems to have a thing for bartenders, but then she switches it up with a young businessman who doesn’t reveal he’s married until after they’ve slept together three times. This is her undoing. Belle is the queen of gray morality, but there are some lines even she won’t cross and that’s not one she care to think about.
The night of Dick the dick, as you lovingly call the person in question, she turns up at your door at two in the morning with ruined makeup and you don’t ask questions until she’s done with thoroughly soaking your t-shirt. You just stay there, holding her shaking body against yours on the battered couch, and let her break down. Feelings be damned, she’s your best friend and you aim to do right by her however you can.
“What happened?” you ask when she seems to have calmed down.
“I ruined it,” she whispers. “I ruined everything.”
“I could’ve told you about Dick – I’ve met his wife, lovely woman – but…”
“Then why didn’t you?” Belle gasps, and you’re amazed that she can break this terribly.
“Because my motives aren’t pure,” you somehow manage to say. “If it were just him being an awful person, it’d be one thing, but… dammit, Belle Lennox, I am madly in love with you.”
It’s two in the morning on a Saturday in early March and it is your turn to be vulnerable. You take a few deep breaths, then try to defend yourself. “I’m sorry, this isn’t how I meant to say it, but…”
“It’s okay,” she murmurs, face pressed against the smooth skin of your neck. For a heartbeat, you imagine her lips on every part of you and turn scarlet. “I like you being in love with me.”
It’s not reciprocation. It’s not much of anything, really. But it’s her, the girl who’s destined to ruin you, so you’ll take it. “Thank you, because I don’t think this’ll stop anytime soon.”
She falls asleep like that, nestled against you, and you join her a few minutes later because there’s nothing else to do. And in the morning, when she wakes you with the gentle press of her lips on hers, you start to wonder if you’ll always be damned to be her friend…
Alyssa Murphy is a shopgirl, writer, and general creative type. Her work has previously been published in The Storyteller and The Tower Journal. She is currently based in southeast Indiana.
Street Art is titled 'Ghost Girl' and its by Matt Siren.
Photograph by Adam Lawrence.
Overcoats is a NYC-based electro-folk duo and they released "Nighttime Hunger" as a single in February of 2016.