Relationships have always been terrifying for me, and honestly I could never tell you why. Maybe it was from watching my parent’s relationship which only existed because of me. Maybe it was because of those middle school relationships where they threw around the “I love you”’s only to be met with dramatic heartbreak. For me, every time I turned around, there was a friend coming to me in tears over some guy who had broken her heart.
That all changed though, I was a teenager who had hormones and eventually, there was a guy where I forgot about those fears. I had somehow tricked myself into believing he could never hurt me, that he didn’t have it in his power to do so. Because in my head, I wasn’t like all of those other girls. I didn’t throw around the “I love you.” I didn’t rush into relationships, I didn’t do this or that. I think I just wanted to trick myself into believing that. I couldn’t possibly be weak enough to get hurt, and I thought I would notice the signs fast enough to stop the pain.
Looking back, I probably did notice the signs but I didn’t listen to them. Because when you see a girl’s name pop up on their phone, you don’t expect anything. You tell yourself to calm down, that they’re likely just a friend and that there is no way they are cheating on you. I also saw the girl and the hug that they exchanged, I wanted to believe it was friendly. I wanted to ignore the look she gave me when the hug was over. I wanted to ignore the way he rubbed her back, the way he seemed to have inhaled her scent and I pretended to believe that the only reason why he smelled of her perfume was probably because of that hug.
We will chalk that naivety up to being a teenage girl, as anyone would have realized. But I continued to ignore it, to deny it. They were just friends and maybe, at the very least she had a crush on him but that was probably the extent of it. I kept noticing her name pop up on his phone, I kept hearing these whispers of something more. But they’re rumors and one shouldn’t believe in rumors.
But that all come to a head on Prom night, the night that every girl dreams of. The perfect dress, the perfect shoes, the perfect date. All of those glamorous things that you hear about in movies. He had picked me up in his dad’s red Camaro, and it had clearly been washed and his dad had cleaned out the car ahead of time. It was a nice gesture and he was incredibly giddy about his dad agreeing to let him drive it. Honestly, I personally thought it was rather cliche that he wasn’t driving his beat up old truck that had paint peeling but he was happy.
On the drive, it was complete silence beyond the music playing softly in the background. I found myself keeping my eyes trained on him, watching as he drove. I had been planning for this note for ages and it wasn’t just the dress that I had been planning but I was planning to let prom night be insanely special. We had talked about it before but I wasn’t ready and I desperately wanted to be. I kept telling myself that everything would be okay. He loved me and I loved him so why not? There was nothing stopping us but I wanted to keep it a surprise for later.
When we get there, we looked like a celebrity couple walking down the red carpet. Likely because the theme was supposed to be a “red carpet” night which is why I was wearing a golden dress, full of sparkles and his tie was a much calmer golden color. We matched and we were clearly a couple. As the first slow song played, he pulled me to the middle of the dance floor. The cheap disco ball that the school had rented was causing my dress to reflect which had caused a couple heads to turn as he pulled me through the crowd. For a minute, it seemed like all was well. I briefly noticed her, standing to the side of the gymnasium staring at the two of us. I didn’t even think twice about it, assuming she was just admiring my dress. I didn’t even notice that she was only staring at him.
While we were dancing, I could feel him drifting away. Not literally, of course. It was like he moved from being present, paying attention to me and holding me close. He was rubbing my back, whispering the lyrics of the song to me and then he just stopped. He moved just slightly away from me, even though he was still holding me in his arms and the whispering stopped. I felt the change but I had no idea why, we were spinning in circles and I noticed that she was still staring. When I caught sight of her again, I noticed her stand up and storm away and when he pulled away from me only moments later, I shouldn’t have been surprised.
I stood there awkwardly for a few moments, staring around me at all of the couples together. One of the couples caught my attention, a girl in a midnight blue ball gown, one of which that had sparkles all over her upper body and she was wrapped up in the arms of her boyfriend. I had no idea who they were but they just looked so peaceful and happy, she was smiling brightly at him as their eyes met each other. He was completely obsessed with her and with one look at them, you could tell they were happy together.
That they had no concerns about anything and he was completely invested, I yearned for that relationship. A relationship that felt present and beautiful and as I stood there, I realized that he probably didn’t leave me to go to the bathroom. I realized that her leaving right before he ditched me was likely no coincidence and as I weaved through the dance crowd, slowly walking away from the reflective disco ball as I fell out of the spotlight. I became wandering the halls, walking around aimlessly. I wanted to find them, I wanted to see the truth. I wanted my suspicions to finally come true.
As I came across a broom closet, one that I had been inside myself with him once or twice before while we were in between classes and I heard a bang coming from inside and I knew. I knew that whatever I was about to come across would effectively end my relationship with the boy inside. I was the girl who had been duped, foolish enough to think that I was special enough to not get hurt by a boy and I finally opened the door, bracing myself.
In front of me, I was faced with the flesh of the boy that I knew. His lower body was completely bare, wrapped around his ankles as the girls dress was hiked up with him right in between her legs. There was no question what they were doing and my gasp from actually seeing them in this position seemed to startle them as she opened her eyes, the moans that were coming out of her mouth stopping as she realized who she was looking at and pushed him away from her and he looked at me in surprise.
“Clare, this is not what it looks like!” He swore to me as I let out a humorless laugh.
“Not what it looks like? You are aware that you’re half naked, right?”
He quickly pulled his pants up, covering himself up as he looked between the two girls. She looked almost conflicted, staring between the two and I saw the heartbreak in her eyes. She seemed so disappointed to hear his words, like they were nothing. “But… Sweetie, don’t you understand? Now we don’t have to hide our love from her.” I realized in that moment that it wasn’t her fault at all, not in this situation. He had been playing her, telling her that he loved her and that everything would be perfect in the end. That it was just a matter of telling me what was happening.
I always thought that when a girl happily allowed a guy to cheat on his girlfriend, I assumed that she was heartless or maybe even hated the girlfriend, in question. But now I understand that is not always the case. Sometimes, the girl is so desperately in love with the guy that she decides to have him in any way that she could, even if it meant that she was the side chick.
He yanked his arm away from her, as he took a step towards me. “You have to believe me. I am so sorry, I just needed a release and Stephanie was willing to give it to me. She claimed she loved me and it was so easy, you never even noticed so I just continued on with it.” My eyes were wide in shock at this point, partially from shock that he was actually trying to defend himself.
“You think it’s okay because I never noticed? You think that excuses you from cheating on me?” I began, tears spilling from my eyes as the anger overpowered me. “You cheated on me! All of the times you told me that you loved me, all of the times that you told me that you saw a future in us, all of those times that we were kissing and all the touches we have had. You were cheating on me the entire time.” I shook my head in disbelief, “And you really expect me to forgive you?”
“I was never lying when I told you that I loved you, Clare. I do, more than you could possibly imagine,” He promised me as the girl scoffed in response, storming away from the closet in a huff.
“You love me? Tell me, do you hurt all of the people that you love?”
“Clare, I’m sorry. But I do love you. With every kiss and every touch, I loved you.”
“It doesn’t matter if you love me, it matters what you do to prove it. By cheating on me, you discredited everything about this relationship. Every kiss, every touch, every ‘I love you’ was a lie. You cheated on me, stop apologizing. Just stop!” I screamed in response, “I can’t believe that I was so stupid to love you.”
“You were not stupid to love me. I love you too.”
“You were cheating on me the entire time.”
No longer having any interest in this conversation, I turned away and started heading towards the exit. I no longer had any interest in being at Prom, a time that was supposed to be extravagant and beautiful and of course, I had found my boyfriend with another girl. This was some sort of ridiculous beginning to a high school movie and I was absolutely disgusted, how could I find myself in this situation? After being so careful? My heart was broken, and I was no longer in any mood to be at such an event. I thought the drama was over as I knew he wouldn’t be following me, he wouldn’t fight for our relationship which was a good thing as I had no plans to allow him to do so.
But while he seemed to be content in our conversation, I suppose Stephanie was not. Because as I was exiting the building, she grabbed my arm and pulled me back. “What do you want?” I asked in annoyance.
We made eye contact and I almost froze, her eyes were filled with tears and the only thing registering in my mind was that she was clearly so upset. “I really did love him,” she whispered in a broken voice. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. I loved him, and I believed he loved me. I thought that at some point, he would break up with you and come to me. I thought we would be able to be together,” She continued softly.
“I know,” I whispered softly, finding myself unable to be angry with her. She was in love with him, and obviously she could have stopped herself from letting him cheat on me but she loved him just as much as I thought I had. She wasn’t going to sacrifice her chance to be with him. It was his job to be a decent human being, his job to make the conscious decision to not cheat on me but he never did any of those things. “He’s the cheater, he’s the one that should have controlled himself more.”
“You don’t hate me?” She questioned, surprise etching throughout her voice.
“I kind of wish I did, honestly.” I began. “But no, I don’t.”
She threw her arms around me into a hug, holding me tightly as she choked back a sob. While I felt like my heart had broken as well, I found myself wanting to comfort her. To convince her that everything was going to be okay. Maybe it was because I wanted those same promises, but I knew that she needed it in this moment. She was the secret, the one that was told time and time again that once we had broken up, she would finally get to have him. I was fed the lies, I never knew the truth. She knew but she was fed different lies, lies that they would come out of this together.
“I really wanted to hate you,” She whispered in my ear as we continued to hug.
“I would have hated myself too.”
As she finally let go of me, she smiled gratefully. “Do you think we could be friends?”
I laughed in response, “How about we take baby steps?” which she nodded in understanding. My heart had been broken on Prom night, I had caught my boyfriend making love to another girl and then we broke up before I ended up comforting the girl. That night, we actually did become friends and we would later become best friends even to this day. It’s crazy to me that love can be so heartbreaking and that situations can happen and people still find themselves wanting to comfort each other. We joke about the fact that we could have been lifelong enemies instead of becoming friends, but we are both grateful that never happened.