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I Thought I Meant More to You Than That

Tablet Original Fiction: Angela loves Paul loves Claire loves Adam loves Angela

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1. We’ve All Seen Angela Cry

Angela cries over bad boys and good jokes. She cried after three of her best friends helped her move across the country, from California to Chicago, hugging them tightly before they took off. Angela cries in bars over the mention of Gabriel García Márquez, her German Shepherd that died from a brain tumor. It was either watch him suffer or let the vet euthanize him. She now has a third tattoo: a portrait of Gabe’s face on her ribs.

Dear Gabriel García Márquez, she wrote on her private blog weeks later. Today I went to the pound to look at dogs. I felt like I just needed to be near one. To scratch a dog’s little ears and maybe find one that I could fall in love with, that could help me try and get over you. But all it did was make me miss you more.

Angela shamelessly reads young adult fiction and cries over every imaginary tale of heartbreak. Angela tears up whenever she is reminded of her abortion, even though she knows it was the only thing to do at the time.

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But Angela can’t shed a single tear for her best friend Claire, no matter how strained their relationship gets. And as for Claire, she rarely cries about anything. Claire doesn’t open up, which she at least is open about, reminding Angela on several occasions, “I don’t like to talk about my feelings.”

 

2. The Starting Line

During a lazy late-morning in July, four restless 20-year-old girls stand in the kitchen, huddling around a toaster. Today’s breakfast has been planned for weeks. One by one, each girl grabs a crunchy piece of wheat bread, uses the same knife to smother on a goopy ball of peanut butter, and finally, daintily, places a crispy magic mushroom on top. One bus ride and many giggles later, they arrive at their college campus, U.C. Santa Cruz, where they will hike the trails of Pogonip and explore the surrounding meadow until dusk.

The friends organically pair off. Two move at a toddler’s pace, gasping over the softness of every blade of grass and every immature strawberry, dotted brilliantly against the green meadow like neon laser beams. The other two friends rush past, their focus on the radiant hill ahead. They smile at each other as they pick up speed, trying desperately to get a sneaker’s lead ahead of the other. They’re neck and neck, Angela and Claire. For now.

 

3. Halloween, Two Years Later

Claire’s zooming downhill. She’s not on foot but on her Bianchi fixed-gear, painted its signature shade of Celeste turquoise. It’s Halloween night and Claire’s spending the holiday party-hopping with friends from her marine biology classes. They’re too drunk off whiskey sours to drive, so they’ve decided to ride bikes all over town. Claire’s flying past everyone, her long red hair elegantly trailing behind her. She’s laughing into the cool night air, gaining speed at an alarming rate. She can’t think quick enough to slow down. Soon, she crashes face first at the bottom of the street, her fair-skinned Irish complexion offset by a bloody, peeling nose and chin. Her two front teeth are horrifically jagged and chipped, and that beautiful Bianchi? Turquoise origami.

Neither one of her two best friends are there to comfort her. Gwen has a valid excuse: She’s studying abroad in London for the fall quarter. That frustrating eight-hour time difference every time they want to Skype. Angela, like Gwen, has been Claire’s roommate since the first day of college. The three of them were assigned to the same dorm room in Porter College, which houses too many white boys with dreads and hairy girls who hula hoop. Angela is also too drunk and having a lousy time tonight, but not in Santa Cruz with Claire.

Angela’s over the hill in San Francisco, wondering how she was suckered into spending Halloween with Paul, who she is still secretly very much in love with. Angela and Paul have been sleeping together since summer, and now here he is, introducing Angela to his latest crush: Carmen, or whatever. Angela takes a nap at Paul’s, sobers up, and drives the hour-and-a-half ride back to Santa Cruz in the middle of the night. There’s no way she’s going to sleep in the same room as Carmen, who she drunkenly called “Indiana Dyke” hours before, unamused by Carmen’s lame Indiana Jones costume. Angela was Paul’s ride back to Santa Cruz, but who cares? Her heart hurts. There’s nothing to do but sleep it off.

 

4. Just Another Saturday

Angela’s hunched over in a stranger’s backyard, puking whatever’s left of her vegetarian burrito into a bush. Another Saturday night, another mediocre party. Her friends are just as drunk as she is, but keeping down their beer better. Paul comes up behind her, holding back her messy brown hair.

“Go take care of Carmen or whatever the fuck her name is,” Angela mumbles in between heaves. “I fucking hate you. Just go away.”

“Is that what you really want?” Paul asks meekly. She nods, now rolled into a ball on the grass. He not only leaves her side, he leaves the party.

Angela stands up, wiping her mouth with the palm of her hand. Her fingers remain pressed to her lips, Krazy-glued in shock, as she faces her friends in disbelief.

“Did he actually leave me here to vomit in a stranger’s bushes?” Josh and Phoebe nod.

She’s furious and suddenly fresh out of fucks to give. She flings her arms out into the air, a backwards hug, and announces, “By the way everyone, Paul and I have been boning for six months!”

Other people at the party, people Angela doesn’t know, yell “You go, girl!”

Josh knows she isn’t trying to brag. He wraps an arm around her and whispers, “Let’s get you home.”

 

5. Does Claire Know?

Angela wakes up the next morning in her bed, having no recollection of how she got there. Shit. Shiiiiiiiiiiit. Does Claire know?

She’s nervous, even though Claire wasn’t at the party. She was at a different one, with her Sea Creature Friends from Marine Bio, as Angela often refers to them.

Claire, barefoot as usual, prances into Angela’s bedroom in a T-shirt and underwear, her red hair swaying behind her. She hands Angela a mason jar full of tap water.

“You were so drunk that Josh and Phoebe had to carry you home,” she smiles, amused. Claire shuts the door to let Angela recuperate, heading back to her own bedroom down the hall. Angela sighs, feeling a little relieved. Claire clearly hadn’t heard about her big announcement at the party.

Paul won’t stop calling, no matter how many times Angela clicks ignore. She gives in.

“Did you tell Josh and Phoebe?” He was pissed.

“Um…I might have gotten a little too drunk last night,” says Angela groggily.

“You’re fucking everything up. Everyone’s going to know,” he says, uncharacteristically stern.

“I don’t care if it gets out. You’re an asshole.” She goes back to bed.

Of course she does care if one particular person were to ever find out, and that’s Claire. This is now the fourth year they’ve lived together. Since freshman year, they’ve made nearly every single meal together, spent weeknights drinking Two Buck Chuck while watching The Office and Parks and Recreation. On these nights, Angela would often pass out during the first episode, but Claire would continue to watch, letting Angela sleep on her shoulder. Angela remembers Claire playing the role of Mama Bear, driving Angela home from a party if she thought she was too drunk and might regret a random hook-up. They both drink too much coffee and find each other hilarious. They can study alongside each other at the library for 12 hours straight. They’ve wreaked havoc all over Europe together. They’ve swapped boy story after boy story, in superfluous detail, except for one that Angela will never open up about.

 

6. Adam

Angela met Adam in December of junior year. It was at the beginning of winter break, when Claire needed to go to campus to turn in one last final paper.

“Come with me! I’m going to drive!” Claire begs Angela, who never needs prodding to hang out with close friends.

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I Thought I Meant More to You Than That

Tablet Original Fiction: Angela loves Paul loves Claire loves Adam loves Angela