I prefer the memory to the photograph…(Part Three)

“This is bullshit man! You knew I was into her!” Dave yelled at me. And for the first time since we’d met in grade school I thought he may actually take a swing at me.

Things began to unravel between Dave and I when Jennifer’s best friend Shannon let me in on a secret…Jennifer didn’t have a boyfriend waiting for her back home in Virginia. Ahem..let me rephrase…JENNIFER HOLCOMB DIDN’T HAVE A FRIGGING BOYFRIEND!!!!!”. Possibly the best news announcement since perhaps, i don’t know, the end of apartheid, landing on the moon and the conclusion of any major war you can think of all rolled into one AP news ticker. I tried not to let it show but Shannon read me faster than any National Enquirer headline. “Oh…my…God..you DO like her?!?.” And there it was. The potential best friend approval or disapproval. A dilemma that has prevented many budding relationships from ever getting off the ground for males and females since cave drawings were modern graffiti.

Shannon’s next statements would permanently seal my fate with Jennifer and prove once and for all if I ever had a chance with her. If things went badly then she and her friends might laugh the whole thing off and begin whispering every time I entered the room. I couldn’t stand the thought of spending the rest of our summer vacation awkwardly trying to avoid each other or trying to work past the sting of rejection. It all hinged on this moment with Shannon. Who immediately balled her right hand into a fist and planted it in my arm as hard as she could. (Which for the record was pretty hard but I didn’t dare let on.) “What the hell was that for?” I really wasn’t sure. “Jennifer has been asking me for three days now ‘What have I got to do to get him to like me?'” I think my heart my have momentarily lept into my throat and everything Shannon did and said kind of went into one of those slow motion movie sequences. I took a breath and cleared my throat then laughed a little pretending that she didn’t just possibly bruise my arm. “What about her boyfriend back home in Virginia?” I asked. The guy I had never met but was sure I would bludgeon him to death (…figuratively of course…) if I could have Jennifer to myself for just 24 hours even.

“Boys are so stupid!” was all Shannon said and turned to walk back toward their beach blankets with more wine coolers and water for she and Jennifer but I blocked her path with my body like an NBA defensive player vying for rookie of the year until I got more details. “Shannon…what are you doing? What are you going to tell her?” I was simultaneously worried and elated. “What do you think genius? I’m going to tell her that you’re an idiot and that she can do better” she said through a partially crooked smile. That prompted me to put my arms on to her tan lined sun baked shoulders. “Shannon there’s a real problem here…I think Dave likes her too.” The fact was I knew Dave liked her. She was the only girl he’d met that really didn’t fall for his charm or GQ modelesque looks and it was killing him at first but, then again, once anyone got to really know Jennifer would understand how easy it was easy for anyone to fall. Shannon replied “She told me he tried to kiss her not long after we all started hanging out together but Jen just walked away. She’s told everybody she has a boyfriend back home since we got to Myrtle Beach but the reality is the guy she was dating cheated on her so she came here to avoid him and now she is scared to death of getting hurt again”. I can only imagine what the look on my face  must’ve been as Shannon continued. “So genius if she asks me anything I’m not going to lie to her. She’s already been lied to enough.”

I walked back to the beach with Shannon and Jennifer was flashing a heartbreaking smiling at both of us as we got closer. I reached my hand out for hers “Jennifer…let’s take a walk.” She took my hand and brushed off some of the luckiest grains of sand that ever got to attach themselves to a human body. I finally confessed to Jennifer how I felt and asked her out on our first official date. That night was one of the best. We ate and danced at the 21 and over club thanks to a fake id and a bouncer that didn’t really seem to care. We walked on the beach until  Jennifer got chilled that night and we both exchanged the sweetest, longest kisses I’d ever tasted. God I loved her scent.

Unbeknownst to me Dave, witnessed all of this and waited for me to come back to the condo. He’d been drinking and went ballistic when we returned together. I had no idea it would be the last words between us.

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