Brad was nonplussed. She had to be kidding. If anybody had asked him, he would have said they were in limbo. How could it be she had not been thinking in line with him and he had been completely unaware?
He stared at her like she was a nightmare he was trying to will away as he struggled to arrange his thoughts. He needed to find the right words to say.
At this point however, he was tongue-tied and could only continue to gape at her, utterly dumbfounded. Not in a million years could he have envisioned this happening to him.
He and Sydney had been friends for about three years and as far as he was concerned, their friendship had progressed for close to a year.
He could not remember being happy like he had been the past year. He thought Sydney was finally his. His lifelong dream had come to pass and he was sure they were both on the same page.
Now, it looked like the past year had been nothing but a vague dream and he was just woken to a harsh reality.
He could still recall the first day he had seen her. He had been on his annual leave from work and bored out of his wits. He was relaxing with a book on the balcony of his house on one of such days when she breezed past obviously hurrying to work.
He remembered wondering how she managed to look delectable in that unflattering uniform they made them wear in the supermarket she worked for as a cashier.
He thought now as he did then that someone needed to sue the management for that terribly repellent uniform they made their workers wear that made them look more penguin than human.
Luckily for his Sydney, she would still look stunning in a sack.
In his opinion, she was one of the angels God sent down to take care of the rest of us.
He would be eternally grateful to the luck or fate or whatever they were called these days that shone on him, which made it possible for him to befriend her.
Of course he had had to do his part by frequenting the supermarket till he started making absolutely ridiculous purchases.
After two years of practically wearing his heart on his sleeves and another year of been seen, or so he thought; he was certain he misheard her when she said she now had a boyfriend.
She had sounded like she was confiding in him as a friend and that was when it hit him that their supposed relationship was all in his head.
He didn’t think he would ever forget the horrifying look in her eyes when he mentioned that he thought they were dating. All that didn’t matter anyway; he had to try to convince her.
His all-time high adrenaline gave him the strength he needed to pin her with his gaze. Usually, he couldn’t look her straight in the eyes but he could hardly be pleading his case with his eyes on the table.
There was no way she was getting away from him. However, he also felt it was better to let her go in order to have her. He was sure the other man could not love her like he did and she would discover soon enough and come back to him.
“Who is the guy? Was it the heavily tattooed guy I saw at the supermarket the other day?”, he finally asked.
She gave him a little smile in reply.
He recollected being suspicious of the man but did not bring it up so he didn’t sound silly.
As far as he was concerned, he was a better catch; he was a good boy. “Why would you choose the guy over me?”, he said quietly.
Sydney felt like she would crumble under his stare, she was sorry she hurt him but she really did not notice he felt that way. Okay, that was a lie; he had told her he loved her a few times.
But in her defense, she thought it was casual. Alright, maybe that wasn’t exactly true either and she plainly took advantage of him.
To be fair though, she never actually told him they were dating and she did not exactly lead him on. At any rate, she was sure she loved him; she was just not in love with him, whatever that meant.
It sounded lame even to her own ears but she desperately needed an excuse. She did not want to believe she was capable of taking advantage of his feelings for her.
She had just been enjoying a mutually loving friendship. The gifts and attention he showered on her did not really mean anything; it was not like she did not return them. She did give him something for his birthday. She hadn’t actually been leeching; she was definitely a good person.
But then, what was her problem? Why couldn’t she bring herself to be attracted to Brad? He was a good boy. And now that she thought about it, her friends always teased her about dating him even though she repeatedly denied it.
If their relationship had been such that everyone assumed they were dating, then there must have been something there. Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to be with Brad?
He was safe and he thought the sun rose and set at her command. And that, she decided, was the real problem. She did not want safe. Safe was lacklustre.
She wanted fascinating. And there was something about Brigg that screamed fascinating. He was fun, spontaneous, unpredictable and confident, with an amazing dress sense.
She could not remember Brad ever talking back to her, he practically agreed with everything she said. He had exactly one pattern of dressing and she was sure she could recount his schedule without missing a point.
She even knew exactly what he would say whenever he called; he was that predictable. She did not want to sound shallow but life with Brad would be extremely boring.
A monotonous life like his would be nothing but that. And who said Brigg wouldn’t change because of her? He wasn’t even that bad; it wouldn’t take much to convert him.
When her family and friends got to know him, they would love him. He had been so honest about his flaws, which was rare these days. He was just a social drinker; it was not like he was a drunkard or anything like that. Also what harm was there to smoke once in while? He had already told her he only did it during winter or when he was stressed. And who didn’t know that life could be stressful? Everyone is allowed to plunge when life gets messy.
Brigg was the one for her, he challenged and made life more interesting. She was sad that she would have to hurt Brad in the process but she had to be true to herself.
She turned to Brad and said, “I am really sorry. There’s really no point going over why I’m attracted to him. He loves me and makes me happy. I think that’s the most important thing, don’t you?”
Brad continued to study her in silence like she was some puzzle he was trying to solve. Then he sighed and answered, “I really want you to be happy. I just wished you had found your happiness with me. But although right now, my heart feels like it has been ripped into two, I can’t say I love you if your happiness is not a priority. I rather be your friend than not be in your life, so whatever makes you happy.”
Sydney felt the tears building behind her eyes. She couldn’t fathom why she wasn’t in love with somebody like him. He was every woman’s dream, the reason he wasn’t hers was beyond her. She only knew she was drawn to the stormy sea and though she might drown, the pull was too strong to resist.
She wished Brad was a good boy with a bad boy streak. It wouldn’t hurt him to pay attention to what he wore. Besides, she wondered if he didn’t find life terribly dull doing exactly the same thing always.
She wouldn’t deny wanting a man that worshipped her but a man that could not stand up to her was simply unappealing. Where in the world did one find men like that, who had the perfect combination?
Good men with confidence; interesting good men; good men packaged attractively. She desperately needed the memo on where to get such men. If not, it was just unfortunate that once again, the bad boy got the girl.