My best friend Sam and I had a game we always played
We'd look up facts, create stories, whatever we could do
Then, we'd tell them to each other
If you thought the other person's story was fake, you'd shout "Liar!"
If you were right, you got a point
If you were wrong, they got a point
We invented the game in 3rd grade, and now were still playing our senior year
The game was the reason I knew that banging your head against a wall burns 150 calories an hour,
that heart attacks are more likely to happen on a Monday,
and that Sam had a crush on our friend Rachel
It came out on a Saturday night sleepover
We were playing halfheartedly while I kicked his ass at Mario Kart
"A baby octopus is the size of a grape when it's born." I said
"Truth." He said
"Wrong!" I laughed
"Osaka is the biggest city in Japan." He answered
"Liar!" I shouted while chucking a red shell at him
He growled, and I knew I was right
"You can't snore and dream at the same time" I said
"Liar!" He called back, and I laughed. "Wrong!"
"Seriously? How are you winning at both games?" He yelled
"I dunno, guess I'm just more awesome than you in every way." I answered, crossing the finish line
"I like Rachel" He snapped at me
It felt like a punch in the throat
I just sat there, dazed, unable to process what he'd just said
"Dude, you gonna call it or not?" He asked me
I whispered back "Liar", fervently hoping I was right and this was some kind of stupid joke
He shot me a grin a wink. "Gotcha. Now we're tied."
He didn't know.
He couldn't possibly know what he'd done, because I was too much of a chicken to tell him.
I couldn't tell him that his smile made me weak at the knees
That his laugh was like music to me
That I dreamed about holding him, kissing him, telling him I loved him
That him liking Rachel was like my nightmare.
Rachel is the prettiest one of our friends
I'm gay, and even I can see it
She's smart, and funny, and unlike me, she has boobs
Of course Sam would like her
It made sense
I left his house early that night
Claiming I felt sick
Really, heartbroken would be a better description
But I couldn't tell him that
As soon as I got home, I texted my friend Autumn
She was the only one who I'd come out to, and the only one who I could talk about Sam to
She answered right away
We stayed up half the night talking about Sam, and her girlfriend Paige
She tried to convince me to tell him how I felt, but I couldn't bring myself to do it
At last, I decided I'd just try to support him with Rachel
Autumn wasn't happy about it, but she promised to support me
For the next two weeks, I was miserable
Everywhere I went, I saw Rachel
And every time I was with Sam, my throat closed up
But I just kept quiet
Then, the next weekend, Sam was at my place
We were swimming in my pool, dunking each other and laughing when the other one spluttered
Out of the blue, he said to me
"Dude, I gotta ask you something."
Nervous and panicky, I answered, "what's up?"
"That's my question." He responded. "What's up with you? You're acting so weird lately, ever since I told you about Rachel."
"Weird? What do you mean?" I tried to cover, failing miserably at seeming casual
"Ok. Game. Tell me, and I'll guess." He said
I sighed, nodding.
"You're mad I like Rachel?" He guessed
"It's not a big deal." I said
"You like Rachel?" He asked
I snorted, shaking my head vigorously
"Then what is it?" He almost shouted
I almost made something up, or changed the subject, or anything else
But instead, I did something that shocked me almost as much as it shocked him
I told him the truth
"I like you, Sam."
"Liar." He whispered.
I shook my head.
"God, Bryce, quit playing. Liar. Liar. You're lying."
Tears starting streaming down my cheaks
He just stared at me as I shook my head no again and again
"You're lying." He whispered
"No." I whispered back
He jumped out of the pool, grabbed his towel, and ran away
The next weekend, Autumn came over to cheer me up
But no matter how many cookies she baked me, I couldn't forget that Sam hadn't contacted me in over a week
No phone calls, no texts, not even a nod in the school hallway
Finally, Autumn had enough of my moping
She shoved me into my bedroom and ordered me to change my clothes
I did, mostly because I'm afraid of her when she's bossy
Half an hour later, we were pulling up at a huge house party
"C'mon Bryce. You're gonna drink, dance, have fun, and forget about Sam. That's an order." Autumn yelled in my ear
Not seeing another option, I nodded and followed her into the house
An hour later, I was feeling much better
I'd chugged a couple drinks and was dancing with Autumn when she suddenly whipped around
Her girlfriend Paige had just walked in, dressed to kill and on a mission
Autumn turned back to me, looking so torn that my heart broke for her
"Go! Make out with your girl, I'll be fine." I yelled in her ear
She shot me a grateful smile and ran off
Now alone, I decided I needed to drink more if I wanted to stay in a good mood
So I did.
I drank a lot, actually.
So much that the room started spinning, and my head got foggy, and all of a sudden, I was collapsing into somebody's arms.
I woke up the next morning with a killer headache, not knowing where I was
I looked around and recognized the four poster bed, the cluttered desk, and the totally uncool lava lamp instantly
I was in a room that was almost a second home to me
I looked around, but didn't see Sam himself anywhere
So, hoping to salvage what was left of my dignity, I tottered over to his bathroom and climbed in the shower
When I left the bathroom, now clean but still wearing my clothes from last night, Sam was sitting on his bed
I cleared my throat nervously, and he whipped around
"Hey." I whispered
"Hey." He said back
We both stood there awkwardly for a few minutes, not sure how to act
"I brought you some painkillers." He said. "I bet your head's killing you."
"It is." I whispered. "Thanks."
I took the pills from his outstretched hand, trying to touch his skin as little as possible
"Dude, I'm not gonna bite you." He said
I swallowed hard and nodded, looking into his eyes for the first time
I was surprised at what I saw
He didn't seem disgusted, or angry
Just nervous, unsure
A lot like how I was feeling
I gave him a half smile, and he broke into a huge one
"I'm sorry I didn't text you." He said after a while
"It's okay." I answered
"No it's not. You put yourself out there and I didn't even talk to you. That was shitty of me." He said
I thought for a second, then nodded
"Anyway, I've been wanted to talk to you but wasn't sure how to. And after last night-" He started
"What happened last night?" I asked
"You don't remember?" He said
"We were all playing spin the bottle and well... we kissed." He said
My heart stuttered to a stop.
I kissed Sam? And didn't remember it?
My life really was hell.
"And when I was kissing you, I realized something."
I knew what he was going to say. It was awkward, or gross, or that he regretted it-
"I wanted to do it again." He whispered
"Wait, what?" I blurted
"Bryce, I realized I like you too." He said
Tears bubbled up then, and I started sobbing
"Liar!" I shouted
"You're sick, this is a terrible joke, you know that. Who put you up to this? You bastard!" I screamed, hardly able to breathe through my blubbering
"Bryce, I-" He tried to explain, but I wouldn't let him
"How could you? I know you don't feel the same, but to lie about something like this-" My words were hardly words now, they were more like sobs
"Bryce, I'm not lying, I-"
"Stop it, stop it, stop it!" I screamed
I ran to the bathroom and slammed the door behind me
After a minute, I heard Sam's quiet voice outside
"Bryce, please let me explain. Open the door, please."
I shook my head, even though he couldn't see me
The door creaked open, and I realized I'd forgotten to lock it
"I won't let you talk. You'll just make it worse."
"Fine. I won't talk then." He yelled, grabbing my arm
I flinched, closing my eyes
But he didn't hit me, or shove me, or whatever else I thought he was going to do
Instead, he cupped my jaw in his hand, and pulled me close
Before pressing his lips to mine
I gasped against his touch, and he took the opportunity to deepen the kiss, sliding his tongue into my mouth and making me see stars
We clung to each other, pressed together, for what felt like seconds and days all at the same time
When we finally parted, my eyes fluttered open
And what I saw was my best friend, my biggest crush, and my first kiss staring back at me
And huge smile on his face
"I like you, Bryce." He whispered
"Truth?" I whispered back
And when he nodded, the whole world seemed right again
My husband Sam and I had a game we always played
The game was how I learned catfish are the only animals that naturally have an odd number of whiskers,
that sea otters hold hands when they sleep,
and that Sam was proposing-