After her friends went home, Christine unfolded all the pieces of papers again. She remembered what Teresa said. How one of the girls could be in love with the other. If what she realized was right, Teresa was completely right.
She felt bad about it, but being the one who ripped the pieces of papers, she realized one of them had been ripped off in a somewhat uncommon shape. At the time, she didn’t think much about it, but looking at it again, she was sure of it. That was the one that came back with the “I want a girlfriend” text. The other paper had a scratched word. Whoever wrote in it, wrote “grl” at first, scratched the wrong word and wrote the right one again.
So Christine knew who the two girls were. And thinking back on the second girl’s behavior, not only that afternoon but in the days before too, Teresa could be right. She could be in love with the first girl who wanted a girlfriend.
She sighed. If she was right, she wanted to help them. If she was right, the two of them would make a cute couple together and probably be happy in a relationship. However, approaching any of them with that would reveal that she knew who wrote what, which would be disastrous to their trust on her and maybe their friendship itself. And above all that, she knew nothing about romance.
But if she was right about the pieces of paper, there was someone she could at least consult about the last part. Not Meg. Meg could go out with a lot of boys but never seemed interested in dating any of them. She was always just playing around and had little interest in actual romance. Instead, there was someone else. She took her smartphone and called a number stored in the memory.
“Hello,” a voice said on the other side. “What is it, Chris?”
“Lili,” Christine said. “Can’t I call my friend?”
“I just left your home some hour ago. Also, you could always walk here, you know. I know I’m hard to resist, but…”
“I have a question,” Christine said, interrupting Lillian. “Say, about before, you didn’t want a girlfriend, right?”
“What happened to not trying to guess?”
“I’m not guessing. I know who they’re already, so can’t help with that. I’m just making sure I’m right before saying more. It would be if I’m completely wrong and you were actually one of them.”
“Chris, you…” Lilian made silence and Christine could hear her sigh on the other side. “Ok, fine. No, I’m not. Sadly for you, I have no interest in girls like that.”
“Yeah, like I thought. So, Lili, can you give me some love advice?”
“What? Wait, so it was you…?”
“No, no, you’re wrong. But you see, I really want to help those two. Remember you said it would be romantic if one of them is in love with the other one? Well, if I’m right, I guess that’s exactly what’s happening. I really wanted to give her this chance to confess and be happy. So, you see…”
“So you’re sticking your nose in their lives.”
“I just wanna help my friends, Lili.”
“Sure, fine. Why me, though?”
“Well,” Christine threw her body on the bed and let out a smile. “You’re the only one who has a boyfriend.”
Silence on the other side. When Lilian spoke again, her voice seemed angry.
“You know mine, too…”
“No. I didn’t know it was yours at first. But you see, by elimination, I can guess. I know three of the wishes already, counting mine. The other two would make no sense for you. So yeah, you’re spending New Year's Eve with him, right?”
“Yeah, you’re right. I have a boyfriend.”
“And you wouldn’t tell me.”
“It’s complicated,” Lilian said. After clicking her tongue, she continued. “But that’s not about me, we can talk about it later. What kind of advice you want?”
“How can I make a situation where someone can confess to the girl she loves? Did you confess to your boyfriend or did he? How was it?”
“Each person acts different and grasp opportunities in different ways. Without knowing who they are, I can’t say for sure. But if you want my story, for me, I was at a party and he was there, too. I had a crush on him for some time. I don’t know, he just came to invite me to dance and I just blurted it out. I confessed just there thinking he wouldn’t accept, but he said yes. I guess the atmosphere helped it. It was a pretty night, it was a party. I felt like Cinderella or something.”
“Chris, I’ll get mad.”
“Sorry, sorry. I’m happy for you, really. Although the marriage part worries me.”
Lilian let out a snicker.
“Well, we’ll talk about that another day. But for our friends, whoever they are, I think something like that could help, right? An event or a party. For example, New Year’s Eve.”
“New Year’s Eve, huh?”
“Yeah, I mean, she’ll be with you on that day, right?”
Christine remained silent, absorbing Lilian’s words.
“I’m sorry, ok, but Mari is a very bad liar. When she tried to accuse Meg, it was obvious. The poor thing looked scared, so I didn’t say anything.”
“I see. You’re a better person than I thought you were.”
“Hey! What do you mean by that?” Christine could hear Lilian pouting on the phone. “Whatever. Anyway, I know Mari, but who is the other one?”
“Of course I won’t tell you.”
“Hey, I would keep it a secret like I did with Mari, okay? But fine, I’ll forgive you for today,” Lilian seemed to be thinking in silence on the other side, until after some minutes of silence, she spoke again: “Let me guess, Mari is the one who asked for a girlfriend, not the one who wanted to confess, right?”
“Yeah, that’s right.”
“Yeah, can’t see Mari confessing to anyone. So, do you know if the other one is in love with her?”
“Probably,” Christine remained silent for some seconds before adding: “Most likely. I’ll need to confirm before, though.”
“Yeah, good luck with that. You’ll need to push the other girl to confess because I can’t see Mari doing it. Invite them to see the new year in downtown and I’ll send you the address of a very beautiful and romantic place, as long as you don’t ask me how I found it. But of course, everyone else refused to spend New Year’s Eve with you, so you’ll need to convince them to go, whoever they are. Teresa and Harriet didn’t give any reason to refuse your invitation, so if it’s one of them, maybe they’re just shy? Can’t see Teresa and Harriet acting shy, but I can’t tell what those girls are thinking, so who knows. Also, if she’s Meg, then it’s even easier, since her date would either be a lie or something she’s forcing herself to do,” Lilian paused, then added: “And you know, I just realized you could actually be the one and you’re asking for advice on how to confess.”
“Well, aren't you a master detective? I won’t say anything. If it goes right, you’ll probably know who she is soon. But your advice is great, it does help a lot. Send me that place you talked about later.”
“Sure. I wish you luck. I admit it would be interesting if two of my friends dated each other.”
“And about your boyfriend, I’ll trust you right now, but take care, ok?”
“Hey, the marriage thing was just to make everyone know I had one. I’m not serious about it.”
“That’s what I thought.”
“I do intend to deepen our relationship the next year, though. That’s not a lie. Anyway, goodbye, Chris.”
“Goodbye,” Christine turned the phone off and looked at the screen.
She just had the last thing to take care of. Inviting the other girl would probably be hard. Luckily, she had two days for that.
Christine looked at her smartphone. The girl she was waiting for was late. It was a cold afternoon to be outside, but they planned to meet in the park. It was December 30, so that was her last chance. At least, for those last days, she had planned all her moves carefully. So she was confident.
At least if the girl she was meeting was the right one.
“Hey,” Harriet just said, approaching her. She was wearing a jacket like Christine and tried to look indifferent.
“You’re late, you know,” Christine said, but let out a smile.
“Yeah, sure,” Harriet looked away, avoiding to face Christine. “You said you had something important to talk.”
“Yeah, but here is a little cold. How about we get some hot chocolate? It’s on me.”
Christine guided Harriet to a Cafe close to the park and the girls made their orders. It was so cold that white smoke would come out of their mouths while breathing. At least it wasn’t snowing.
“I don’t know why we came here,” Harriet said, playing with her shiny hair. She always looked bored, but rarely took her phone out as the other girls did. Christine wondered she wasn’t very sociable for that.
“Because you love me,” Christine said with a smile, making Harriet click her tongue.
The waiter came with their hot chocolate. When Christine tried to drink it, she felt her tongue burning and let it rest in the table. Harriet seemed not to have the same problem, drinking normally. She was looking at Christine over her mug.
“So, did you really call me just to drink chocolate together?”
“I think that’s a good enough reason, but no. I’m here to invite you over to New Year’s Eve tomorrow night.”
“I already refused you once, right?”
“Yeah. I thought you had other plans, and yet mom talked to your mother the other day. You’re spending it alone at home too, right?”
Slowly, Harriet took the mug to her lips and let it rest down again. She wasn’t facing Christine. Rather, she was facing something behind her, to not meet her eyes directly.
“So what?” She asked.
“That’s lonely and sad,” Christine tried to get her mug again. But it was too hot and she gave up. “You can spend it with us. Mari already confirmed she’s coming. It’ll be fun.”
“No, thanks,” Harriet’s answer was dry.
“Why? Do you have other plans?” Christine paused and let a smirk born on her face. “Or what? Maybe you’re the one who got a boyfriend?”
“Of course not!” Harriet said, almost too energetic. Christine had to force herself not to laugh.
“Eh? Why is that? You’re so pretty, so that’s expected, right? Well, you must have high standards, though.”
“Was that all?”
“Is it because Mari will be there?”
With those words, Harriet froze. Christine examined her friend as her face turned into a complex expression. Worry, maybe. Or fear.
“Why would I care if she’s there?”
“Do you hate her?” With the question, Harriet became silent. Her mug was already empty and Christine wondered if she was drinking fast because she was nervous. “I mean, I don’t think I ever saw you two talking to each other.”
“I-I don’t hate her,” Harriet turned her face away and played with her hair. “I just, huh…” Her fingers were timidly making curls in the point of her hair.
“So that’s a good opportunity to get closer to her, right?” Christine thought she saw a sparkle in Harriet’s eyes with those words. “You know, it’s not just about you. Mari is very shy and she’s very lonely because of that. I always wanted an opportunity to talk to her during middle school, but she always seemed to avoid me. When I finally did it in high school, I knew I was right. That girl only wants a friend. And yet, she’s still very shy and it’s hard for her having conversations even inside our group. I wanted you to get closer with her, too.”
Harriet didn’t say anything. Christine smiles after realizing the girl’s lips shaking slightly.
“That reminds me,” Christine said, pretending she wasn’t planning to speak that already. “The first day you talked to me, Mari was there, right? I was so surprised back then since you were always so harsh and hard to approach. Everyone thought you were so full of yourself because you were so pretty. But then I thought, maybe you’re just shy.”
“I’m not-I’m not shy,” Harriet wasn’t looking Christine in the eyes.
“Really? Why did you approach me that day? I kind of started to invite you to be with us after that, but I never found out why.”
“I wasn’t particularly interested in your group. I was just…”
“I wasn’t lonely!”
Christine chuckled with Harriet’s reaction. She took her mug, now the hot chocolate was in an easy to drink temperature.
“So, I’ll ask again,” Christine said after taking a sip of it. “Don’t you wanna get closer to Mari?”
“I,” Harriet looked at her empty mug. “I don’t mind…”
“So, will you come?”
A silence. Christine thought she could see a rubor in her friend’s skin. Harriet threw her eyes to the side while tackling the table with her fingers.
“Fine…” she said, almost inaudible to Christine. “I’ll go.”
“Really?” Christine clapped her hands with a smile. “That’s great. I’ll tell Mari later, it’ll be fun. Who knows, it could become the best day of your life or something,” Christine emptied her mug and rose from the table. “Wait for a little. I’ll just pay for it.”
After getting home, Harriet gave a vague greeting to her parents and ran to her bedroom. She threw herself in the bed and buried her face on her pillow. Swinging her feet up and down, she was trying to calm down her heart. Her hidden face had a big smile on it.
Truth was that Harriet wanted to accept Christine’s invitation soon after Mari did. Spending a night like that together with the girl she loved would be like a dream. Yet, the first time, she could only refuse it. That day, after going home, she cried alone in her bed, thinking about the lost opportunity. And she had almost lost the same opportunity again. If Christine wasn’t so eager in making her accept it, she would probably regret that day again.
Christine was right, Harriet was shy. And yet, since she was a child, she was always surrounded by people because of her beauty. She hated it, but her mother always had a smile on her face when Harriet was complimented, so she just endured it.
When she grew up and reached puberty, suddenly it wasn’t girls who would mostly surround her, but boys. She hated it. She wanted to be accompanied by girls and didn’t care for boys, so she just started to give them a harsh treatment. That made people see her as unfriendly and she became alone. It wasn’t ideal, but it was better.
Oh, what should I wear?
She jumped from the bed and opened her closet. She had a lot of black clothes and not very girly ones. She had pants or a few skirts to choose. Leggings could make her endure the cold. But what would Mari like more?
“Wow, you look so cool in that, Harriet,” she imagined Mari saying, with intensity in her eyes. “I wish you were my boyfriend, hehe.”
“I can’t be your boyfriend,” she would say, and pull Mari close to her. “But I could be your girlfriend.”
She imagined Mari’s eyes running through her skirt and looking at her legs.
“Your legs are so pretty. They must feel good.”
She would get closer and rustle her knees on Mari’s.
“Wanna touch them?”
Harriet threw herself on the bed and let out a faint screech.
What am I even thinking?
She was in love with Mari. Probably since the first day of high school.
She couldn’t explain the reason why. A certain day she just saw Mari reading alone on a bench and it happened. She thought love at first sight was stupid, but for some reason, she couldn’t forget Mari’s face. She was always looking for her at intervals.
She was shy, though. And Mari was also shy. How could two introverted girls even get together? How could she even know if Mari was interested in girls? She could just look at her from afar without the courage to get closer.
That was when she saw Christine becoming friends with Mari. Christine was well-known for being very friendly and easy to talk, so it was a better choice get closer to her. Harriet’s plan was to get closer to Christine and start talking casually with Mari, but even that failed. She did exchange some words with Mari occasionally, but it was just very formal small talk. And yet, seeing Mari closer than ever didn’t help in making her crush disappear. It just became stronger.
So Harriet fantasized about situations with the other girl a lot. She had more conversations with Mari inside her head than personally. After so many fantasies she had by herself, she couldn’t even face the girl she loved anymore without blushing.
And she was about to spend the next night close to her.
She was feeling excited suddenly. Although, part of her was afraid she would just act like always, avoiding any direct contact, or not even talking to her. She always wondered if drinking would make it easier, but of course, Christine would never allow it. Maybe champagne, but that would hardly make a difference.
She was almost sure it would be the same as always. Christine would be the interlocutor between her and the girl she loved. She was still excited, but also a little depressed.
It was my new year resolution, though! I have to do it!
She had to confess. That was her best chance. Even if Mari refused her, at least she would’ve tried.
Harriet stood up and walked to the closet to choose her clothing for New Year’s Eve again. It was the least she needed to do for now.