by Corban Tharp
Two friends in college hang out, one of whom holds secluded feelings towards the other.
"Sometimes I feel as though I'm best friends with a six year old," I mutter.
"Don't knock it 'til you've tried it." Rylie replies, leaning forward and waving her Happy Meal in front of me.
"Um, I did try it," I counter, "and I knocked it off when I was eleven."
She smirks, "You're just jealous that you're not as cool as this six year old."
I pause, trying to formulate some sort of witty comeback, but before I can respond, she gives me a satisfied grin.
"That's what I thought," she basks in her obvious triumph.
And simply because I'm not content with her having the last word, I say, "Whatever," and look away to take a drink so I can hide my smile.
After finishing her fifth nugget, Rylie pulls out the toy that came with the meal and rips off its plastic covering. It's a small plastic disk launcher that comes with only two disks. Usually the toys are from a theme, like an upcoming family movie or something, but there aren't any characters or logos of any sort that I can identify on this toy, so I don't know what it's supposed to be from.
As Rylie fiddles with the two-step instruction sheet, I gesture towards the child weapon, "I'm starting to wish I bought a Happy Meal too so that way I could start a war with you."
Across from me, she responds while trying to fit one of the disks into the slot of the launcher, "Well if we did, we would need to take away my disk launcher because it would be an unfair disadvantage for you."
I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to find this offensive, "Oh yeah? Why is that?"
There's a click that tells the owner that the ammo has been loaded in successfully. She smiles, "Because if you let me use it, I get to do things like this."
As that last word passes her lips, Rylie swiftly pulls up the plastic launcher as if she was in a western showdown, aims it at me, and pulls the trigger within in the span of a second. My eyes barely have enough time to widen in shock and betrayal before the disk hits one of them. I let out short involuntary cry of pain and automatically clutch my left eye. My heart races as I feel a painful throbbing. I suck in a sharp breath through my teeth. My imagination races as I picture my eye turning black and becoming grotesquely swollen. That might be a cheap piece of plastic, but goddamn, it gets the job done. I hear something drop onto the table and the next thing I know, Rylie leans forward to wrap her slender arms around me.
"I'M SORRY! I'm sorry! I swear, I didn't mean--"
Her words fade away as I become distracted, not by the conversations of the people sitting nearby, or by the "Top 50" radio hits playing over the sound system, or by the drink that spilt when Rylie leaned toward me, or even by the fact that my pupil was just accidentally assaulted; there's something more important that catches my undivided attention.
Her soft orange sleeves rub against the back of my neck, hugging me tightly in case her repeating words are not enough of an apology. Part of her brunette hair cascades along the side of my face. Her soft cheek presses against mine. It's a different kind of soft. Warm. Alive. A fact I never appreciated until now.
Memories rush at me suddenly, an army of faces and places singing a fight song to rally my heart to persist in the war of dominance over hers. Memories of the fun moments I've had by simply being in her presence. The aspects about her I love. The traits I adore. Her personality. Her looks. The way she looks at me. These memories, like bullet points on an ever growing detailed list. These feelings, like dark ink dropped into water, forming no shape or direction, but advancing nonetheless until everything is engulfed, filling up the heart until it soon overflows and breaks through the barriers built around it for protection, a heaviness manifesting all the while that feasts on desire, a certain kind of desire mingled with impossible, wishful thinking. This feeling, the one I've kept in check for years on end, is tearing inside between the aggravating desire and the knowledge that it will never see the light, every bit of it rushes to me now in a way it hasn't before. It is right then that I decide I want to live forever in this moment. Frozen in her embrace.
These spontaneous thoughts and emotions flit by in a matter of seconds, only to be distracted as the rest of the world fades back to me. I try not to focus on those distractions, but I can't help it; more than half of everybody in the restaurant is looking at the both of us. Rylie must have been louder than I thought when she was apologizing, but she seems to either not notice or not care about the scene we both have made. Most of the onlookers start turning back on their food and company, while others are still staring at us with a smile as if they were gazing upon a puppy. I recognize that look, and I began feeling more than a little self conscience.
I look at the battlefield. Rylie's weapon lies abandoned on the table along with the still-unattended-to drink as well as the food that is now scattered about. And Rylie--oblivious to them--is still wrapped around me. After taking in everything I turn my mouth towards her ear, being careful not to bump my battle wound into her head, and mutter, "This is why I would win the disk war."