Thursday, 22 September 2016

Short Story: Chris

This story was inspired in no small part by the fact the final chapter of one of my favourite fics was posted this morning (you can read hit me double hard here). And I'm not gonna lie, this one kicked my ass. Both in terms of the length (my longest story yet on this challenge) but also in what I was trying to achieve.

Have you ever attempted to write slow burn romance in a short story? Well I have. As of today.

Hope it comes across well and that you enjoy it.


The first time I saw her I thought she was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen.
Not in that typical movie star type way where everyone looks like they were made from variation on the same mold. Chris didn’t look like a movie star, but she was no less breathtaking. Tall, muscled, broad. Short dark hair and eyes dark enough to be black. Her skin was almost as dark as her eyes and her cheekbones could probably cut glass.
To say that I was overwhelmed was an understatement. Being anywhere within a five foot radius of Chris had a detrimental effect on my my cognitive abilities.
It was a miracle I didn’t end up drooling on my shoes the first time we were introduced.

Despite my complete inability to words around her, Chris and I somehow ended up friends. When I wasn’t focused on just how stunning she was and let myself relax, she was actually pretty good company. The easy back and forth was comforting, light teasing barely masking affection. Chris was funny, and interested in similar things to me and protective of her friends in a way I probably shouldn’t have found hot. What she saw in me I didn’t know, but I was glad she did.
I tried to put aside my crush, to tell myself a friendship with Chris was a beautiful thing in and of itself and I shouldn’t put it at risk because I wanted things I couldn’t have.
As you might expect, my heart didn’t listen.

I first realised I’d fallen in love with her when she punched a man for me.
We were in our usual corner in the pub, talking about nonsense over coffee, like we’d done a hundred times. I’d gotten up to order us refills and was waiting at the bar when a gentlemen became… aggressively amorous with me.
Chris was on her feet in a flash.
“Didn’t you hear? My friend said no.”
The drunk leered and accused us of being dykes (how could he know I desperately wanted us to be together even if it was hopeless?) and Chris punched him.
As he lay on the floor clutching his nose she said: “It would be an honour to be Tash’s girlfriend but just because I’m not doesn’t mean she’s interested in you.”
My heart almost stopped when she said that.
We had to find a new pub to drink in after work, but it was a hundred percent worth it. Later, when we found out she’d broken the creep’s nose, I decided I never wanted to marry anyone but her.

I’d just about gotten used to the idea of being in love with my best friend when Chris dropped a bombshell on me. A new project at work meant she’d be working abroad for six months.
I almost passed out I hyperventilated so hard.
Six months without drinks after work? Without seeing her beautiful face, feeling the solid warmth of her sat next to me, enjoying her quiet humour? I didn’t know how I would cope. I felt sick.
“Hey,” she said, looking me in the eye. “Just because I’m not gonna be here doesn’t mean we won’t talk. The time difference is only a couple of hours. I’ll still annoy you with my text messages at all hours of the day.”
I nodded, desperately trying to get the white noise in my brain under control. Chris was right, of course she was, but the next six months looked bleak anyway. I was happy for her; that she’d been put in charge of this project was a great sign for her career, but I couldn’t deny I would miss her.

Texts and emails and the odd Skype call were all I had of Chris for the next six months. It was wonderful to hear from her every single time, but it wasn’t the same. I wanted her here with me, but I wasn’t selfish enough to tell her that. This was a good move for her, and I was determined to be a good friend.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder. It just made mine ache.
The six months crept by all too slowly.

The day she told me her employers were extending her contract I swear I almost stopped breathing. I wanted to scream and stamp my feet at how unfair it was. How was I supposed to make it another three months without her at my side? Another three months without coffee, without the presence of someone willing to punch a man to defend my honour.
I swallowed my heartbreak, told her I would miss her but that I was happy for her, and resigned myself to another few Chrisless months.
She looked almost as miserable about the idea as I felt.

I met Chris at the airport the day she got back. She was stood in the arrivals lounge surrounded by suitcases, a bag on her back that she dropped the moment our eyes met.
How I resisted running to her and flinging my arms around her I would never know. Chris didn’t seem to be able to resist as easily and the embrace we shared was desperate. I wrapped my arms around her and held her close, inhaling the smell of her. I knew it was just her shampoo and deodorant but to me she smelled like home.
“I missed you so much,” she said quietly when we pulled apart, her eyes roving my face as though memorising it.
“I missed you too,” I said. “Every day.”
“Never again,” she murmured, almost too low for me to hear. “I’m never leaving you ever again.”
I tried not to think about what she meant by that.
To distract my brain from thinking anything foolish, I picked up a couple of suitcases and led her out of the airport. There was so much for us to catch up on.

A group of our mutual friends threw a welcome back party for Chris. I assumed she’d want to spend her time catching up with everyone but the whole night she never strayed from my side. It was nice actually, having the comforting warmth of her at my elbow again.
It only got awkward when one of her friends (who I hadn’t seen since well before she went away) commented that it must have been hard on us doing things long distance.
There was a beat before I quietly explained that we weren’t together and the bloke in question sputtered his apologies before finding somewhere else to be. I couldn’t meet Chris’s eyes. I hoped she couldn’t hear the desperate hammering of my heart against my ribcage.
We were spared any further awkwardness by the arrival of the friend that had introduced us in the first place.

We settled back into our routine of meeting up for coffee after work. Chris’s company were pleased with her and kept offering her more responsibility. They wanted her to go abroad again to work on more projects but she’d turned them down.
“Why?” I asked. It wasn’t that I wanted her to go away again, quite the opposite, but I didn’t understand why she would turn something down when it would be so beneficial to her career.
“I wasn’t happy when I was away,” she said, not meeting my eye. “You weren’t there.”
I held my breath.
“The other night at the party, when Rob asked us about being long distance…” she said, fingers playing with the handle of her mug.
“Yes?” I said, hoping against hope that the conversation was going in the direction I thought it was, that after all this time…
“Never mind,” she said quietly.
We finished our drinks and went our separate ways.

An awkwardness that had never been there before crept into our friendship. We still met up at the pub regularly but the conversation had become stilted, long drawn out pauses where there had been none before.
Honestly, things had been easier when we were in different countries.
I thought back to the night of the party, to the conversation we’d almost had afterwards, and my heart sank.
She’d figured me out, she must have, my feelings written all over my face. I could have kicked myself. Of course I would go and ruin one of the most fulfilling friendships I’d ever had because I couldn’t get my foolish heart to behave.
My fears were confirmed when Chris cancelled our regular meet up the next day; she’d never cancelled on me before. I went home and wallowed in a tub of ice cream, wondering what the hell I was going to do.

A week went by without any word from Chris. I was almost frantic with worry. This was unprecedented in our friendship. Even when we were thousands of miles apart we never went more than a couple of days without at least a text.
The doorbell rang. When I answered it was Chris, wild-eyed and frantic.
“What’s wrong?” I asked, suddenly no longer concerned for myself. “What’s happened?”
“Nothing’s wrong,” she said, pacing backwards and forwards in my living room. “No, wait. Everything’s wrong.”
I braced myself for the anger, for the understanding. The gentle let-down, the quiet death of my heart.
“Tash…” Chris breathed. She was so close. When had she gotten so close?
I swallowed. “Chris,” I said. My heart felt like a jackhammer.
No matter what happened, this was her dance; she had to take the lead.
“The other night, when I was talking about the party…” she said. I hardly dared breathe for fear she’d interrupt herself again. She licked her lips. “What I was trying to say– I wanted… You know everyone thinks we’ve been dating since the beginning?” she finally managed.
I shook my head. “No,” I managed to choke out. “I didn’t.”
“Well they do. I don’t know, maybe it’s my fault. Maybe I was too obvious about my feelings.”
My brain skittered to a halt. “About your what?”
Chris looked at me with such sadness and heartache in her eyes. I knew the look well; I saw it in my own eyes every time I looked in the mirror.
“It was just a silly crush at first. I mean, you’re stunning, how could I not be attracted to you? But then as we spent time together I realised… You’re kind and you listen and you put up with my ridiculous jokes and… I couldn’t help falling for you in the end. I love you Tash.”
Her face was a mask of anguish. She really didn’t know if her feelings were returned or not. Apparently I’d been better at hiding my own emotions than I’d thought
My heart couldn’t decide whether it wanted to plummet to somewhere between my knees or soar above my head. A bubble of hysterical laughter threatened to burst from my throat but I pushed it down. Laughing right now would not give the right impression.
“Hey,” I sad gently, reaching out to take her hands in mine. They were shaking. “How long have you known?”
“Since that bloke tried to grope you in the pub. I’d never punched anybody before but the thought of him touching you when you didn’t want it… I was just so angry.”
I couldn’t help myself then, I laughed.
Chris looked hurt. “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing,” I said, and I felt a grin take over my face. “It’s just… I realised I’d fallen in love with you at that moment too.”
Her eyebrows shot upwards. “Really?”
I nodded. “I thought I’d given myself away when he made that comment about us being dykes.”
“I thought I’d given myself away with what I said afterwards,” Chris said, her mouth creeping up into a smile again. “Does this mean I get to kiss you now?” she said.
So she did.

After that things went back to normal, only better. We still hung out talking about nothing in particular, only now there were kisses to go along with our coffee. There were proper dates too, and all the other things you do when you’re in love with someone.
I was giddy with happiness.
Most of our friends were surprised to find out that we really hadn’t been dating the whole time. Apparently our feelings were obvious to everyone except each other.
Mt friendship with Chris was a beautiful thing. Being in love with her was even better.
Even if she did still have a detrimental effect on my cognitive abilities on occasion.

If you enjoyed this story feel free to purchase one of my books either here, or here. Or you can buy me a coffee here.

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