* The following is copyrighted material and subject to change (unedited)
Nick Abate was the boy I knew my entire life. The boy that I wasn’t afraid to cry in front of. The boy that I wasn’t embarrassed to snort in front of when I laughed too hard. The boy that I would have burping contests with, and the boy that I considered my very best friend.
I can’t remember any time in my life that I hadn’t known him. Nick and I did everything together. Everyone in the neighborhood called us the dynamic duo. Our relationship was so easy. We were so close that sometimes it felt more like we were brother and sister than friends.
It was the end of eighth grade when things began to change a bit for us. Our hormones were beginning to take over, and I couldn’t help but notice the muscles forming in Nick’s arms, the change in his voice or that fact that he had sprouted up about four inches in a matter of weeks. I hated that I sometimes got butterflies in my stomach when I looked at him and scolded myself for feeling that way. I really became angry when I found myself staring at his butt in his tight little baseball pants when I would watch him play baseball or when I would hug him a little longer than I should have after we would crush the opposing team at wiffle ball. He was my friend and I shouldn’t have been feeling that way for a friend. All of the other eight grade girls were starting to notice him too and as much as I told myself I didn’t care, I knew that deep inside I really did. It was our end of year eighth grade dance and I was battling with that green eyed monster as I watched Heather Braverman the girl that had it all; perfect hair, big blue eyes, big boobs and every boy in the eighth grade drooling over her, dancing with Nick. I felt like Raggedy Ann next to Barbie whenever I was in her presence. I watched them swaying back and forth and I couldn’t help but realize that Nick’s hands were moving awfully close to the danger zone - Heathers butt. Heather filled out her fuchsia dress perfectly in the chest area. I looked down at my own chest in in my baby pink dress – nada.
I jumped when I felt a tap on my shoulder. “Hey Hope you wanna dance?” Steven Wyler asked. Steven was my crush all year long, and at any other time I would have been jumping up and down if he had asked me to dance. But seeing Nick and Heather together made me want Nick as a partner instead. I contemplated my answer and then I saw it - Nick’s hands in enemy territory.
“Sure,” I responded. Steven took my hand in his and we walked out on to the dance floor. My legs were shaking as we began to move back and forth. I had day dreamed about Steven for the past year. What his perfect pouty lips would feel like on mine. What he smelled like, and what it would feel like to be embraced in arms. Now, being so close to him I realized his lips weren’t so plump, he didn’t smell like anything special and his arms, well they were just like anyone else’s. He pulled me closer and I closed my eyes to block out Nick and Heather and at the same time imagined that I was the one in Nick’s arms. I knew it was wrong to be thinking such thoughts about Nick, but I couldn’t help myself. I opened my eyes when Steven loosened up his grip. I smiled when I saw Nick tapping him on the shoulder. Steven graciously backed away and allowed him to cut in on our dance.
Nick wrapped his arms around my waist, while I circled mine around his neck. “Well, well, well Abate you unglued your hands from Barbie’s butt.” I looked over at Heather standing over the punch bowl with her friends, Gina and Terri, A.K.A Malibu and Skipper.
“Haha, you are so funny Hope!”
I stood on my tippy toes and whispered in his ear. “If you get to first base, I’m dying to know if she’s using tissues or paper towels.”
Nick looked at me strangely. “What?”
“To stuff her bra.”
He shook his head and laughed. “You are crazy Hope!”
“I know, but that’s why you love me.”
My head rested on his chest as he pulled me closer. The music changed to Mariah Carey’s “I’ll be there” and the butterflies of all butterflies began to flap around in my stomach. This is Nick, your very best friend. Make those darn butterflies fly away! Nicks hands began to wander until they finally found their way onto my danger zone. I heard him snickering and I looked up at him and smiled. “Watch the hands Abate!” He flashed me his double dimpled grin, moving them up to the small of my back. “Much better,” I smiled. His lips were coming dangerously close to mine. I had never really kissed a boy. Well actually I had kissed Nick before but not in a “real kiss” way, but something in Nick’s eyes was telling me that I was about to experience my first “real kiss” with him as well. His lips grazed mine gently, making the hairs on my arm stand at attention from goose bumps. His tongue gently pried my mouth open. I allowed it inside with ease and followed suit, sticking mine in his. He hugged me tightly as our tongues danced together to the beat of the music. He tasted sweet, like bubble gum. A gentle touch on the lips was the perfect ending as the music stopped. We stared at each other for a little longer and we both began to giggle. I was smiling on the inside when I looked over Nick’s shoulder and saw Heather Braverman who had been eyeing us up the whole time, rolling her eyes and walking out the door. Take that Barbie! He likes Raggedy Ann!
“Can you share some of that gum with me?” I asked, breaking up the awkwardness. He took his gum from his mouth and ripped off a piece. He popped it in my mouth and I smiled. “Hey, thanks pal!” I said.
Yup, Nick and I were the very best of friends, until the worst possible thing in a fourteen year old girl’s life happens…..her very best friend moves away.
I know what you're thinking. You'd hoped that Nick and I would fall in love and live out our happily ever after. But that's not how it happened. This is the story about my family. My beautiful son, my once perfect husband and finding the courage to live and feel whole again. If it weren't for my very best friend Nick, I wouldn't have been able to truly recognize the strength I had inside of me. His friendship was one of the happiest memories of my past and unbeknownst to me a very important part of my future…...
I sat at the ocean’s edge as Charlie jumped the waves. This was our happy place. The place where we had spent most of our summer days. At eight years old Charlie was quite the swimmer. Still, I made sure to always keep a close eye on him. The ocean was a dangerous playground and as much as Charlie loved it, I knew that it could turn on him in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, on that warm August day it did and there was nothing I could do to save my little boy. He became one with the ocean and my entire world ceased to exist…..