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Charlene and Brad met back in high school during their freshman year. Charlene didn’t have many friends. She was shy and quiet and kept to herself mostly. Because she was so introverted, she was accepted quickly into the group of outcasts referred to as Stoners. They gave her a place to belong and not be judged. She wasn’t exactly a head turner. It was the 90’s after all and the ideal female image was super skinny, she wasn’t even considered average. Granted, she wasn’t terribly obese, but she was definitely plump and that alone seemed to turn boys off. She had been bullied most of her life, luckily in high school the group of friends she acquired made sure that didn’t happen anymore. Instead, high school posed new issues. She already had low self-esteem, but it was during this period of her life that she developed something called body dysmorphia. It would haunt her for the rest of her life.

Brad was the complete opposite. He was extremely outgoing, played sports and very popular. But unlike his counter parts, Brad had a good heart and good manners. Instead of joining in and making a menace of himself as his peers did, he was the guy who jumped in and put a stop to it. He was confident in himself, but not arrogant. He had been raised with modesty and humility and was shaping up to be a respectable young man. Brad didn’t care who you were, what you looked like or your background, if you were friendly to him, he always extended the same courtesy.

Brad and Charlene had chemistry class together and that’s how their lifelong friendship started. They were assigned a project together. At the time, Charlene knew of Brad, everyone knew of Brad, but she wasn’t exactly happy about being paired with him. One of her friends was in the class and she had hoped to be paired with her friend. But the teacher didn’t agree. At first it was awkward, but it didn’t take long for them to click. Suddenly, they became inseparable. Through highs and lows, relationships and heartbreaks, they were next to each other’s side through it all.

When Brad joined the Marines and was deployed they wrote each other constantly. This was before video calling was a thing. Every time he came back home, she would be there, right next to his parents and girlfriend if he had one. She would always hang back. She never wanted to steal the limelight from them. But he always made a bigger deal out of seeing her than any of his girlfriends. There had been times their closeness got in the way of relationships. Charlene had even told him several times that she would understand if he needed to distance himself from her because it was usually their friendship that ended relationships for him. He hated when she did this. Them not being friends would never be an option. The right person would understand.

Brad hated the men Charlene dated. They were assholes. He always made it a point to insert himself wherever and whenever he could. It would drive them crazy with jealousy. He wanted her to be happy, but he believed she only deserved the best. He is extremely protective of her and everyone that knew them knew that they don’t mess with her. Their friends were always shocked they had never been together, everyone knew that’s what they should be, but Charlene and Brad would always deny it, Charlene would say, “Oh come on, we’re like siblings.”

Over the years, Charlene had gotten pregnant by a man who she thought she would spend the rest of her life with, but when her daughter was around a year old, he took off. Brad was there to help her. As a bachelor, he decided to move in with her to help take care of the baby. He had retired from the Marines after his last deployment and had a ton of money saved. Charlene helped him by being there to help him get through his PTSD. She helped him see that there was never shame in admitting when you needed help. With her gentle pushes, he utilized the resources at the VA and got a great job at the high school as a Gym Teacher and coach of the Girls’ basketball team. He had felt like he was spiraling into a dark abyss and Charlene showed him how to grab the light.

He moved out when he began dating a woman he had met one day at the grocery store. About 6 months in, it started to get serious. Charlene and Brad talked about him moving out, but Brad was scared to leave them alone. She laughed at him and told him it wasn’t like he still wouldn’t be a part of their lives. But Charlene understood that he needed his own life. For the first five years of her daughter’s life, Brad had played the role of father. Her daughter adored him, calling him “Uncy B”. When cell phones became more popular, Brad made sure to get Charlene one. He wanted her to be able to call him whenever she needed him. Even though she protested, she had to admit it made her feel a safer.

It wasn’t long after Brad moved in with his girlfriend, Charlene noticed changes in him. Changes she didn’t like. Brad began acting completely out of character and it scared Charlene. There were times he was just downright mean and quick tempered. When she confronted him, he broke down crying. His girlfriend, who was a model, had a cocaine addiction. It helped keep her skinny so she could stay on top of her modeling career. She got Brad addicted. He was drinking all the time and had lost his job at the high school. She begged him to get help, but he assured her he had it under control.

He most certainly did not have it under control. But he was still always there for Charlene and her daughter. He never missed one of her daughter’s recitals, games, birthdays or holidays. Every time Charlene saw him, it broke her heart. The deterioration in him was very apparent and it scared the hell out of her. He would call Charlene in the middle of the night, strung out and crying. Every time, she would beg him, crying into the phone for him to get help. She constantly worried about him. Then he would disappear for a while.

Meanwhile, Charlene’s bakery was thriving. Brad had helped her get it going. He didn’t know it, but she had made him a partner. She opened a savings account just for him and would deposit his percentage into the bank. The account just kept growing. So many times, when he was begging her for money, she wanted to give it to him, but would stop herself. She would hear the real Brad in her head tell her no. Until the day he called her from the county jail. He had been arrested for possession of an illegal substance and due to the amount of cocaine he had on him, they also slapped a charge of intent to distribute on him. Charlene was devastated. He OR’d out the next day and she had made arrangements for him to go into treatment. She also retained an attorney. It was his first offense, he was a decorated vet, the attorney seemed to think he had a real chance of getting off lightly.

When she picked him up from the jail, he barely resembled the Brad she knew. His once muscular frame seemed frail. His face taught. It killed her inside to see him like that. She hugged him tightly and began crying. He pulled back and looked at her, he smiled as he wiped away her tears and said, “Hey there. Sorry I’ve been away. I’m going to do everything I can to get back to you and squirt.”

She looked at him, “You promise?”

He kissed her forehead, “I promise.”

They went and grabbed a bite to eat before she took him to the treatment facility. He ordered a burger and fries and she ordered a salad. He looked at her a bit confused, “What the hell is the deal with the salad?”

She rolled her eyes, “I’m trying to eat healthier. We’re not getting any younger and the older you get the harder it is to lose fat. For once in my life I’d like to be a little more comfortable in my own skin.”

He stared at her a moment, then shook his head, “You are beautiful just the way you are.”

She laughed, “OK, says the man who only dates models. It’s mostly to just be healthier. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a perk to it by losing weight and looking better. But I just want to be around as long as I can for my daughter.”

He smiled, “You know I support you in whatever you want to do. I just have seen you kill yourself over diets in the past, I hate it. Promise me you’ll do it right? Even if it means it takes a while. Just be healthy about it. Please?”

She looked at him for a moment, “I promise Brad, I will be healthy about it.”

They finished their food and Charlene drove him to the rehab. They both cried and hugged each other tightly. She grabbed his face and looked him in the eyes and said, “Go in there and find my Brad.”

They embraced again and he whispered in her ear, “Anything for you.”

She stood there as he walked in and they took him back to get him processed. As she walked back to her car, she felt the tears stinging her eyes. She just sat in her car and cried. She would get to see him once a week and she planned on never missing the opportunity.

Over the next few months, Brad worked on getting clean and facing his bad decisions. Unfortunately, he would still have to do prison time. The state offered him a deal and after careful consideration, he took the offer. It about broke Charlene. She broke down before they ever left the courtroom. For the next 5 years, he would be behind bars. They let her see him one more time to say goodbye. He held her as she cried. He was determined to be strong for her.

In a low, calm voice he said, “Just think of it as me being on deployment. Only you can still come visit once a month if you’re able and we can write each other all the time.”

She looked up at him with a tear-stained face, “Promise me that you won’t lose yourself in there. Brad, I know you can take care of yourself, but prison is a different animal. Be careful. I’m begging you.”

He squeezed her, “I will be. I promise you. I will stay clean, keep my head down and do my time. I’m gonna miss the hell out of you and Squirt.”

They hugged again and then the court bailiff came in to get him. She just sat there for a moment to gather herself. She would just treat it like a deployment. Together they would get through this. The toughest part was going to be explaining it to her daughter.

For 5 years, they wrote each other constantly. Sometimes it was just a quick note and other times it would be pages of events, thoughts and feelings. Once a month, Charlene and her daughter would travel the 2 hours to the prison for visitation. Charlene always made sure he had money on his account and would send him care packages when the prison allowed.

During that 5 years, the last few visits, Charlene had to do the visitations on her own. Her daughter was growing into quite the pre-teen. She reminded Charlene so much of Brad. She was everything Charlene wasn’t. Gorgeous, kind and humble. She got herself into sports and music and had a very busy schedule. Charlene understood and wanted to support her daughter in her pursuits. Plus, if she were being honest, having a bit of alone time with Brad felt good. They could talk a bit more freely than if she were there.

When Brad was released, Charlene was there again. It was a gorgeous day. You know those days where spring is turning into summer. The sun was shining and the air was warm. Charlene wore a beautiful yellow sundress with a pink cherry blossom on it and some comfortable sandals. It was one of her favorite summer dresses because it was comfortable. Charlene wasn’t much on fashion; she was all about the comfort.

When Brad walked out and saw her standing there he stopped for a moment just taking her in. She had lost weight for sure, noticed, the dress she had on was form fitting and really showed off her progress. He smiled at her hair, she hated it, but he loved it. It was wild, curly and red. Even from a distance her eyes were bright green. Her freckly face brightened when she saw him, and a big smile spread across her lips. They ran to each other and she jumped into his arms. He hadn’t been allowed to hug her in prison, so it had been 5 years since he felt her hug. He didn’t want to let go.

That night, Charlene made his favorite dinner; fettuccine Alfredo with mozzarella stuffed chicken, homemade garlic bread and a large salad. As she cooked, the sounds of giggles and laughter from the Living room filled her heart with joy. The occasional “Uncle B!” or “I’m gonna kick your butt squirt.” She felt complete again.

Later that night, Charlene’s daughter had gone to bed and her and Brad were watching TV. He said, “What if we pack a picnic Friday and go spend the day at the lake like we used to?”

Charlene smiled, “I think that would be wonderful, but I’m gonna have to take a raincheck on that. I have a date Friday night.”

Brad’s eyebrow raised, “A date? With who?”

Charlene rolled her eyes, “With a man I met on one of those dating apps. Squirt set me up a profile awhile back. I’ve had a few dates, but as usual, nothing has panned out.” She shrugged her shoulders.

Brad looked confused, “How is that possible? How has one of them not scooped you up yet.”

Charlene stood to walk into the kitchen and with a down motion with her hand she said, “Once they get a look at the bulging goods, they seem to lose interest really quick. No big deal.”

Brad took a deep breath, steadying his anger, “That’s bullshit. You’re fucking beautiful Charlene. I wish you would see that.”

Charlene chuckled, “Brad, you love me. Love tends to skew our perception of things. It’s ok. Honestly. It used to bother me a lot when I was younger. The constant rejection or whispered conversations behind my back. I have a mirror; I see the reflection. I am who I am.” She paused, “Besides, I don’t think I would want someone to not be in love with my body.”

Brad looked a little confused, “Umm…what? I’m not sure I understand. If someone is in love with you, why wouldn’t they be in love with your body?”

Charlene smiled, “What I mean is, if the physical attraction isn’t there, then I don’t want it. I want a man to not just fall in love with my winning personality, but I want a man who looks at me and sees me as sexy. I want to be desired.” She fought back tears that were threatening to fall, “I’ve never felt that. I’d rather die not being desired than to live with someone who tolerates my appearance.” She shrugged and as she turned to walk into the kitchen, she said, “It is what it is. I’ve accepted it.”

Brad sat there trying to figure it all out. His heart broke for her. He wanted her to see what he saw. In all his life, he had never met anyone like her. She radiated a light that made you want to be around her. And as much as she disliked her body, he personally thought she was drop-dead gorgeous.

She walked out from the kitchen and leaned against the wall. She looked at him and smiled, “It is so good to have you home. I have missed this so much.”

She yawned and stretched her arms into the air. She was wearing an oversized t-shirt and nothing underneath but panties. As the shirt rose and exposed her, Brad could feel himself flush. He felt a little tingle in his pants. He shook his head quickly to pull himself together.

Before he could hide his reaction, Charlene caught it. “Excuse me? You need to get laid my dear friend. The moment you start getting turned on by me, it’s been way too long. You need to find someone to hook up with.”

He chuckled at this and could feel himself blush. “Why does it need to be that? Maybe, just maybe you are just too damn sexy. Ever think of that?”

She burst out laughing, “Please Brad. I am not even close to your type. We both know this. You haven’t had sex in 5 years. A dog’s ass would probably get you hot and bothered.”

He threw a pillow at her. She caught it laughing. “I’m going to bed. Your room is all ready for you.” She walked over to him and leaned down and gave him a quick kiss on the lips. “It really is good to have you home. It feels complete again.”

He smiled and said, “Goodnight.”

She said goodnight back and walked off down the hall to her bedroom.

The next few days seemed to go by quickly. Brad was settling in nicely and was looking for work. He made sure to do his part. Running errands, keeping things clean around the house and driving Squirt to her activities. When Friday rolled around, Brad wasn’t in the best of moods. He knew Charlene had that date and he really was hoping the guy would cancel. But no such luck.

Charlene got home a little later than normal from the bakery that evening and came bursting through the house. “I need to shower before my date! I smell like baked goods!” she screamed on her way to her master bath.

She emerged about an hour later. She walked into the living room in her robe, hair still damp and full makeup on.

Brad stared at her for a moment, “Please tell me you’re not wearing a robe on your date?” he said in a sarcastic tone.

“Oh sure” She said matter-of-fact, “It is the perfect shade of purple after all. Besides, remembering a robe at the end of the night leaves less chances to forget something at his place when we’re done romping around the bed.”

“MOM!!!!” her daughter shouted. “I’m standing like, right here. Can you not?”

Charlene just stuck her tongue out at her. Brad rolled his eyes, “I thought your slut days were behind you.”

The teenager stomped off at that.

Charlene said sarcastically, “Hey, a woman has to do what a woman has to do sometimes.” She opened the fridge and took out a bowl of fruit, “Now excuse me, I must go finish. Do you think My hair would look better up with the robe or down?”

He looked at her a little confused, “Aren’t you meeting him for dinner? What’s with the fruit?”

Charlene looked at him and shrugged her shoulders, “It keeps me from doing fat girl stuff like finishing all of my dinner.”

She turned and began walking off to her room, and heard him shout, “DOWN!”

Charlene left around 6:30pm as she and her date had agreed to meet at the restaurant at 7pm. Squirt left to stay the night with a friend, so Brad had the house to himself. He changed into pajama bottoms and popped in a movie. Every car that passed he would jump a little hoping it would be Charlene. He had come to realize he was madly in love with her and needed to tell her. He was going to finally do it when she got home. He knew that one day someone would see her real beauty and snatch her up, he wanted desperately to be that man.

She finally walked in about 10:30pm. She walked in, trying to be quiet and found Brad sleeping on the couch. She stood there a moment and just stared at him. She had been in love with him since she was 15 years old and that Chemistry teacher made them do that project together. Nothing had changed.

He was 6’5, muscular build, a little tummy, auburn hair and eyes that made her long for the ocean. His smile could melt away a bad day for her instantly. Friends were all they were and all they would ever be. She would never be what he wanted, and she accepted that years ago. She was just extremely grateful to have his friendship. He really did complete her life.

She walked to her room and changed into her favorite nightgown. Plum purple satin, with spaghetti straps, hit her about mid-thigh. Still depressed from the evening’s events, she decided to treat herself to some ice cream and walked into the kitchen to grab it out of the freezer.

She was digging around trying to find the ice cream when she heard, “Nice black panties.” She jumped so bad, she knocked a ton of frozen meat out of the freezer and onto her little toes, started cussing and hoping around.

Brad was laughing so hard but came over and scooped her up and sat her on top of the counter. She cussed him. She closed her eyes for a moment. He got worried and said, “Are you ok? I’m so sorry I didn’t mean to scare you.”

She looked at him and in a quiet voice said, “Shhh, I’m waiting for my soul to re-enter my fucking body!”

He began to laugh again and she slugged him in the arm. As he was picking up the items off the floor he said, “What in the world were you looking for?”

“Ice cream. I was going to treat myself” she said as she rubbed her toes.

He finished putting the items back in the freezer and walked over to her and took her foot from her and began rubbing it.

“See what happens when you don’t eat all of your dinner?” He said trying to make a serious face.

Charlene looked down, “Yeah. Wish that had been the problem.”

Brad looked at her confused, “What do you mean? What problem?”

Charlene took a deep breath, “About halfway through dinner, my date informed me that I wasn’t his type. I was confused because the conversation seemed to be flowing rather well, we had a lot in common, so I didn’t understand. He explained that he wasn’t into my body type. He preferred women who were athletic. But that he really enjoyed my company and would love to be friends. He would even consider having sex with me if I needed it.”

Brad got mad. What the hell is wrong with people he thought. “What the hell Charlene? What did you do?”

Charlene shrugged, “I left. I told him that I thought he was an idiot, but I understood he had preferences and that he should change his profile to include that. The next time a woman told him she was thick or plus size to believe her and not waste her time. I’ve been driving around for a few hours just trying to clear my head, and crying.” She chuckled, “I should be used to this kind of shit by now.

Brad grabbed her and kissed her. All those years flooded into that kiss. She was shocked at first, but quickly began kissing him back. Her arms wrapping around his neck, his wrapping around her waist. He picked her up off the counter, her legs wrapping around his waist, and carried her into her bedroom as they continued to kiss. Suddenly, she stopped him and unwrapped her legs and stood up.

“No. No, this isn’t happening. We have been friends far too long and been through so much together, we’re not going to ruin it because you feel sorry for me, or need to get laid, or whatever this is.” Her voice began to shake as she felt the tears coming, “I love you way too much for it to all be ruined over one night.

He looked at her standing there. Her eyes filling with tears and he felt his heart swell in his chest. “How do you know it would be ruined? Maybe it would be better?”

She looked up at him, “Better?” she chuckled, “I know you better than anyone Brad, I am not your type. I know this, I’ve always known it. Look –” She sat on the bed, her knees still feeling weak from the kiss, “Even if this were to go somewhere, eventually you’ll miss what you really want. And we both know, I’m not what you really want. It’s ok.” The tears had begun to fall, even though she tried to fight them back.

He kneeled in front of her, “You have no idea. Do you remember Marci from High school?”

She was taken aback a bit that he was bringing up one of his old girlfriends, “How could I forget her. She hated me.”

“Yeah, I ran into her at the grocery store the other day.” He looked at her, keeping eye contact. “She was all too ready to jump into the bed with me.”

Charlene looked at him, “And I want to know this why exactly?”

“Because I turned her down.” Noticing the surprise on her face, he continued, “Because,” His voice lowered and he leaned in closer to her, “She isn’t who I want.”

He reached out and cupped her face in his hands, he leaned in and began kissing her again. He could feel her body relax. He leaned her backwards, his arm under her body scooting her upwards until they were at the head of the bed. There was a need, a longing of years built up pouring from them both.

He moved from her lips to her neck, teasing her ears. Her body reacting to him, goosebumps spreading across her skin at his breath. Her soft moans directing him to all her spots. He had dreamt about this day for so long. He took his time, he wanted to savor her. Working down to her voluptuous breasts, teasing and licking her nipples then back up to kiss her lips, her hands in his hair as he savored her body.

It had been a long time since Charlene had been with a man. But to be with him, was like a dream. Everything about him was so much better than she had imagined. The way his hands touched her. His lips seemed to know her every curve. She had imagined them together so many times, but it didn’t even come close to the real thing. There was this new familiarity with him. Her skin tingled and flushed under his direction.

As he worked his way down her body, she fully succumbed to him. Needing to touch him, her hands stayed in his hair or on his arms until he dipped his face between her legs, and she could no longer reach him. She felt him running his hand through her bush. “I’m sorry” she whispered, a little embarrassed. It’s been awhile so I haven’t shaved.

He looked up at her and smiled, “Don’t apologize. Truth is, I love women with hair. It’s not common but it is so fucking sexy.” He nuzzled her bush.

She could feel his breath on her pussy and it made her let out a breathy moan. He took his time, kissing her inner thighs from the knee to groin. Her skin flushing with electricity under his touch. With his thumbs, he spread her lips exposing her bulging clit. He massaged the inside of her lips, lightly blowing on her clit. She was already wet, and he was going crazy wanting to taste her. He quickly flicked her clit with his tongue. She moaned and he looked up at her, her arms outstretched above her head, her hips moving slightly at the feel of his mouth.

God she was beautiful to watch. This time he slowly, firmly ran his tongue over her clit, making her really feel it, lightly sucking it at the end. She let out a loud moan. He watched her as he worked her: head back, eyes closed, nipples erect, begging for his mouth. Her skin seemed to shimmer in the moonlight flooding into the room from the window. No more teasing.

Suddenly, she could feel his entire mouth cover her and his tongue lash her clit. Her back arched slightly as she gripped the sheets. Her hips took on a life of their own, moving in rhythm with his tongue. He lit a fire inside her that seemed to coat her skin from the inside out. She felt him slip two fingers inside her, stretching her and she moaned out. She didn’t think she would last long.

He couldn’t take his eyes off her as he worked her. He slid a hand up the side of her body to play with her nipple and he felt her hips grind faster. He sped up, attacking her clit and feeling her juices run out of her and down his fingers. Her moans getting louder, he knew she was getting close. Licking, flicking and sucking, her taste was one he craved. He saw her back begin to arch and he wrapped his arms around her legs, holding onto her. He craved her release. He felt her thighs squeeze his head and he went faster. Her hips began quickly fucking his face, her juices pouring from her now as he continued his assault.

She began pushing his head away, she couldn’t take anymore. Her sensitivity was off the charts. He held on a little longer until he finally ended with one long lick. He began working his way up her trembling body.

She felt as if she couldn’t move. Then she felt his lips and suddenly, her hunger rose again. Her arms around his neck as he kissed her deeply. She could taste herself on him. His body pressed firmly against hers.

Without warning, she rolled him over onto his back and she was suddenly on top. He looked at her surprised. She smiled, “My turn.” She followed the same path down his body he had followed down hers. Starting at the neck, over his collar bone, down to his chest where she teased, licked and sucked his nipples. He would emit soft moans from time to time and she savored them.

Dragging her tongue over his midsection, gently nibbling. She could feel his body quiver slightly. When she reached his cock, she was surprised and puzzled because he was completely soft. Her mind immediately went to that dark place. She suddenly thought, it’s because he is secretly grossed out by me. But she stopped herself. No, she would not ruin this. Maybe he just needed a little more stimulation than most men.

She looked at him, he seemed to be enjoying it. She took her time. Licking and sucking his balls first. Her tongue grazing his taint. Her hand softly playing with his soft shaft. Rubbing her fingers over his head and she worked his balls. When that wasn’t working, she moved to his cock.

Again, glancing up at him, again, he looked like he was enjoying it, so she proceeded with what she was doing. She tried everything. Licking, sucking, swirling her tongue over his head and nothing. She continuously massaged his balls as she tried working his cock. She was sucking his soft cock when he reached for her head and began fucking her mouth. His soft cock sliding in and out of her mouth until finally, she stopped him. Her jaw was killing her, and her mouth was completely dry. She sat up and looked at him.

“I-I don’t know what the hell is wrong with me. This has never happened. I’m so sorry Charlene” he said.

She forced a smile, “It’s really ok Brad. It’s no big deal.”

He could see the hurt in her eyes and was scared she would think it was her. He grabbed her and pulled her down to him, “It’s not you. Maybe I got too excited.” He grabbed her face in his hands, “It’s not you, I swear. Please believe me.”

Charlene smiled. She desperately wanted to believe him. She smiled at him, “No worries. It really is ok.”

They laid there, spooning. He was holding her tight. She was fighting back tears. This was the very reason she never stepped over that line with him she thought. The rejection was the worst pain she had ever felt. She laid there until she felt his body go limp and his breathing become deep. She slid out from under his arms, threw his shirt on and went into the bathroom.

As soon as she shut the door behind her, the tears began falling. How could she be so stupid to think a man like Brad could really ever want her. What the hell was she thinking? She walked to the corner of the room and grabbed a towel. She buried her face as the sobbing began.

She sank to the floor asking herself why. Why couldn’t she have had good genetics and been thinner? Or prettier? Her eyes were too big. Her nose was crooked. Her hair was messy. Her sobs were teetering on screams. She could never be good enough for a man like Brad to love her. Truth was, she would never be good enough for any man to waste his love on her.

Brad woke almost the instant she got out of bed. He laid there, listening to her muffled sobs. He knew exactly what she was thinking, but he didn’t know how to make her believe she was wrong. He desperately wanted to go to her, to hold her and somehow make her believe him. But he wasn’t sure that’s what he should do. He knew her too well and she would push him away. It was killing him to hear her hurting and know he was the cause.

He fought back his own tears. It was always as if he could feel her pain and it shattered him every time. He would swear they were twin flames. He just laid there, waiting for her as the tears flowed over his face.

After a few hours, he noticed it had been quiet in there for a while, but she still hadn’t come out. He began to get concerned and decided he had to risk going in there. He opened the door and looked around. She had a pretty spacious bathroom and she hadn’t turned on the light, so he only had what little bit of light was coming in through the window. In the far corner, he made out her figure in the corner, slumped over clutching a towel.

He walked over and realized she had cried herself to sleep. He moved the towel, then picked her up. He stood there for a moment and looked at her beautiful face. He knew he had to fix this somehow. He just had to let her know how much he loved her.

He laid her in the bed and covered her. She rolled onto her side and snuggled into the covers. She really was the most beautiful person he had ever known or seen. His heart hurt because he felt like he failed her. He was going to find out what happened, why he couldn’t seem to get it hard. For a moment, he almost left and went to his own bed, but he didn’t want her waking up alone. Truth be told, he really didn’t want to sleep alone himself. He needed to feel her against him. He would hold her as long as she would let him.

Charlene awoke first the next morning. As she began to stir, she had a headache from crying last night. Her eyes felt puffy. As she came to, she opened her eyes to find herself face to face with Brad. He must’ve carried her to the bed. The last thing she remembered was crying in the bathroom. She felt his arm around her and her leg was draped over his waist.

She laid there and stared at him. She had loved him since she was 15 years old and she never thought any of this would ever happen. After last night, she wasn’t sure if she was happy it had or regretted it. In any event, it is what it is, and she wasn’t about to allow it to ruin her or them.

She gently and quietly untangled herself from him and slid out of bed. She carefully walked into the bathroom, being quiet about shutting the door behind her. She looked into the mirror to see very puffy eyes. She turned on the water and got a washcloth, wiping away all the sleepiness from her eyes. She put her eye mask on that helps with puffiness then slinked out of the bathroom to go make coffee.

As she made coffee, she couldn’t help but think about the night before. Her biggest fear was this would ruin their friendship and that terrified her. They had been apart of each other’s lives so long and had been through literally everything together, she couldn’t picture her life without him. The mere though of it made her eyes water. They needed to talk. It’s ok if there is nothing romantic between them, but she had to make sure their friendship was ok.

She was making her a cup of coffee when he walked into the kitchen, so she grabbed another cup. He walked right up to her, took the coffee pot out of her hand and sat it to the side. He wrapped his big arms around her and hugged her tightly, kissed her on the lips and quietly said, “Good morning beautiful.”

She blushed slightly, “Good morning. Coffee in the living room?”

“Mmmm, most definitely. Please.” He said.

She finished pouring their coffee and picked them up to take them into the living room when he took them and said, “I got em.”

They walked into the living room and Brad put their mugs on the coffee table.

Charlene looked up at him, “Brad-” She began.

He put a hand up, “Charlene, we need to talk about last night. I feel it’s important.”

Charlene smiled. He was always reading her mind and vice versa. “I was just about to say the exact same thing.”

They sat on the couch, facing each other with mugs in hand. Charlene was taking a sip of her coffee when she looked up to see Brad staring at her with a big goofy grin on his face.

“What?” Charlene said confused.

Brad giggled a little, “The eye mask you have on, it looks funny.”

Charlene lifted a hand to her face and felt the mask. Yup, she still had it on. She rolled her eyes and laughed. She took it off and laid it on the table.

Charlene started, “Look, Brad, I just want you to know-“

“No. Charlene, I need you to listen to me first. Please?” he said.

“Ok.” Charlene agreed

“I’ve been in love with you since I was 15 years old.” Brad started.

Charlene looked at him wide-eyed as he continued. “Charlene,” He said, “I knew who you were before we were ever in Chemistry class together. I had seen you around school. You made me nervous and calm all at the same time. I had never felt that way before. When we were assigned that project together, I was completely overjoyed. I never expected you to be so awesome, too. I only fell harder for you. Everything I had been taught in my life up to that point, told me I wasn’t supposed to feel those things for you. As a jock, I was supposed to only have eyes for the cheerleaders and popular type girls, but I just could never get you out of my head. To me, you were gorgeous, funny, intelligent, and you have a heart bigger than anyone I’ve ever met. I couldn’t help but fall in love with you. I even made a move once, but it fell short.” He laughed.

Charlene looked completely confused. She had never known him to make any advances toward her until last night. “What are you talking about? What move?”

“Remember when we went to Donnie’s party? You spent the majority of the evening sitting on the couch by yourself. That is until his brother came over and started chatting you up. My jealousy went through the roof. You were smiling at him and all the flirty shit. I came over and sat next to you and put my arm around you. Remember that?” He said with a big smile.

“Wait a second. I liked him!” Charlene said shocked

“I know. But I also knew what kind of guy he was. I wasn’t about to allow you to become one of his conquests. So, I made up some excuse to get out of there. In my stupid teenage mind, I thought you would’ve…I don’t know, it was the first time I had put my arm around you. So, I guess I was hoping you would’ve gotten all googly eyed. But you didn’t. And I was young and stupid, so I didn’t try anything else. But we had so much fun that night after we left. We were up until 3am just listening to music and talking. It was really one of the best nights of my life. I wanted to kiss you so bad.” He smiled and looked at her.

Charlene just sat there in shock. She didn’t know what to think. Her head was spinning and suddenly, everything she had thought looked different. But how, how could she have missed this.

“I later threatened him and told him if he pursued you, I’d beat him to a pulp” he continued. I told myself that it would be best if we just stayed friends. You needed and deserved someone way better than me. I was wrestling with trying to live up to expectations. I felt like people expected certain things from each of us and you were way out of my league. So, I just decided if friendship was all I could have with you, then at least I could have something with you.” He sipped his coffee.

Charlene looked at him completely dumbfounded. How could this be, she wondered. How did she never pick up on all of this? He must’ve sensed her confusion, “What’s going on inside that head of yours?” He asked.

“I’m just-” she started. She closed her eyes for a moment to gather her thoughts. “How could this be that we’ve been in love with each other for 30 years and never know.”

Now it was his turn to be confused, “What are you talking about? Are you saying you were in love with me too?”

She looked at him, he didn’t know. “How could you not know I have been in love with you all of these years? How is that possible? Brad,” she looked down, took a deep breath, looked back up at him and quietly continued, “I assumed you would never love anyone like me. Like you said, you were a jock and there was a particular type of girl I imagined you wanting to be with. I did not fit into that idea at all. I thought you were just being nice to me. You got stuck with the fat girl on a project. To be honest, I was surprised when you continued to associate with me after the project was completed.” She put her face in her hand, then looked back up and continued, “I never made a move or even dropped a hint because I never thought you could fall for me. Then our friendship became so important to me, I didn’t want to risk not only rejection, but losing the other half of me. I couldn’t do that.” She took a deep breath, “That’s why I think maybe last night may have been a mistake. It’s like your body was telling you that I’m not the one. I know you may think I am, but…” She stopped.

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