“So here it is. Kevin and I have been best friends since we were little children, so he confides in me a lot of things that he wouldn’t tell to anybody else. And normally, I wouldn’t break his confidence but I think this is just getting ridiculous and you need to know.” She took a deep breath. “He really, really likes you, Nadiya. More than I’ve ever seen him like a girl before. That first time I met you, in the shoe store, and invited you to the beach? I pretended that I didn’t but I knew exactly who you were, because I had heard all about you from him.”
I couldn’t respond; I was in complete shock. First, to hear Lily talk about him as a buddy and not a boyfriend, and then to hear her say that he was interested in me! Me?! I have got to be dreaming this, I thought. Everything had suddenly turned completely on its head. “But…I don’t get it,” I sputtered, “I thought he was your boyfriend?!”
Lily looked utterly astonished, and then burst out laughing. “What? Kevin? Oh my goodness. No, no, no. He and I are just friends, always have been. I can’t look at him that way, that’s nasty. Our mothers gave up on that idea many, many years ago. He’s like a brother to me.”
“But when I first met you, you told me how you loved him to death!”
“Well, I do…like a brother.”
I thought back to that moment at the beach when I’d told Kevin that I liked Lily, and realized now that the strange look that he had given me was one of confusion and then sudden understanding. So why did he go along with it then? Once he realized that I thought Lily was his girlfriend, why didn’t he correct me? I asked Lily that question now. “But Kevin knew that I thought you were his girlfriend, I’m positive that he did. So why didn’t he tell me the truth?” I felt totally confused.
“Who knows what that fool was thinking?” Lily asked, throwing up her hands, frustrated. “He never me told me that part of the story, trust me. Probably because he knows I would have killed him! He thought that you and some Omar guy were pretty serious for a while, I know that. And then when he found out that you and Omar weren’t anything after all, he was moaning and groaning about the long line of guys who wanted to date you, and saying how he couldn’t compete with that.”
I wanted to laugh at the absurdity of Kevin’s modesty. “This is crazy, Lily. I’ve always liked him a lot, but I didn’t think that I ever had a chance! Especially when I thought you were his girlfriend! Why didn’t he just tell all me this from the beginning?” Things would have been completely different these last few months.
“Kevin’s not a shy guy, you know, but he’s not used to having to make the first move with girls, and he was really intimidated by you. He said you showed no sign of being interested.”
I shook my head in disbelief. How ironic that the one guy who stood the best chance with me was the one who was intimidated! “That’s only because he showed no sign of being interested in me!”
“You see how stupid this is? I told him that I thought you liked him, but he didn’t want to listen to me. You two were doing the exact same foolishness. And now do you see why I was trying to get you to call me? He would have been so mad at me if he’d known I gave you my phone number but I didn’t care. If I wasn’t so busy with all this studying, I would have found a way to get a hold of you.” My eyes widened. And I had been purposely avoiding Lily all this time!
I started to feel giddy as the reality of what Lily was saying sunk in. The guy that I had been crazy about all these months was single, and according to his best friend, he was crazy about me too!
I took a deep breath and stood up. “Since I’m the one who knows everything, I guess it’s on me to do something now, huh?”
Lily grinned happily. “That’s riiiight,” she sang. She clapped her hands in delight. “He is going to owe me big after this night!” she crowed.
“I owe you too, Lily. Seriously. I’m so glad that you told me all this, and I’m sorry I was avoiding you.” I let out an embarrassed laugh. “But I figured that being friends with the girlfriend of the guy I was crazy about was probably not the best idea. And for the record, I did see you in the parking lot today. I just panicked when I realized it was you.”
My informer giggled. “Lawd, yu as foolish as Kevin is. Now go talk to him please. You know what they say, who you spend your New Year’s with is who you’ll spend the rest of the year with!”
The two of us walked back outside. “There he is,” said Lily, pointing over to a group of four guys. I squeezed her hand and then made a beeline to the group, leaving Lily to spy from a distance.
“Hey Kevin, can I talk to you?” I had completely interrupted their conversation, but I didn’t care. I had waited long enough for this; I wasn’t going to wait a second longer.
He looked surprised at my blatant intrusion, but acquiesced. “Ahm, sure, is everything OK?” We stepped away from the group and headed toward a quiet corner of the large yard.
The information that I knew and that he didn’t made me brave. “Why did you tell me that Lily was your girlfriend?” I asked, crossing my arms and trying to look angry.
He looked mortified. “I…” He sighed, seeming to quickly realize there was no way to lie his way out of this. “For what it’s worth, I never said she was my girlfriend. Never. But once I realized that you thought so, you’re right, I did let you believe it. But if it means anything, if you had asked me point blank, I never would have lied to you, Nadiya. I’m sorry for deceiving you.” I waited silently and he sighed again. He still hadn’t answered the question and he knew it. This is kind of fun, I thought mischievously. I had to bite my cheek in order not to smile.
“Alright, here’s the reason. This is kind of embarrassing but…I was really jealous when I heard about you and Omar. I felt stupid too, because I was sure that you knew I liked you. And then that day at the beach, when you said she was a nice girl, honestly, Nadiya, it was so condescending!” I blushed; that hadn’t at all been my intention, but looking back, and knowing what I knew now, I understood where he was coming from. “So for the sake of my ego, I went along with it. Remember how shocked I was when you said that you and him were nuttin’ serious? And I told you about the gossip that I’d heard? That’s because I’d been asking about you. As discreetly as possible, of course.” Hindsight was twenty-twenty; things seemed so clear to me now. He continued, “Then when I saw that screwface guy at that one session, I realized it didn’t matter if you weren’t with Omar. A girl like you is going to have a million guys on the go. I kept asking people about you and what I heard just confirmed that. I didn’t think that I stood a chance regardless. I thought you just thought of me as a guy you’d known back when you were little. Bwoy, you don’t know how relieved I was that night that your mother didn’t make me answer that question about if Lily was my girlfriend. I don’t know what I would have said there in front of both of our parents!” So there I had been, so embarrassed that Mummy had asked, but he had probably been ten times more mortified at the possibility of getting caught in his deception.
I took a deep breath. He had divulged enough; now it was time for me to tell him everything. “OK, well, you’re not the only one who was deceitful. I have to admit, I made you think that things were more serious with Omar than they were for pretty much the same reason. When I thought that you were with Lily, I felt silly and wanted to save face. I’ve liked you from the first time I met you at your house,” I continued shyly. “But I didn’t think that I had a chance with you.”
He looked astonished. “What? Do you own a mirror? Do you know how you look? Nadiya, I can still remember exactly how you looked when I opened my door that first night. You were wearing this long dress, you had your hair down… I almost fell over when I saw you. And then when you walked in tonight…! I almost dropped dead on the spot because you looked so good.”
I blushed, but was delighted to hear the compliments coming out of his mouth. He continued, “The only person who I told was Lily, so she obviously has a big mouth. I didn’t even tell Kamal because I thought he would chat to Jeremy, and then Jeremy would tell you. This is almost funny when you think about it. So tell me something, where did you get the idea that Lily was my girlfriend anyway?”
“Well, the first time that I saw the two of you together was at that party, remember? You and I were dancing, and then you left me, kind of all of a sudden. Next thing I knew, you were dancing with her. It seemed like you had left me because something better had come along. And then I saw you two together in the shoe store after that.”
He laughed at how things had spiralled out of control. “I remember. I left you at that party because I hate the idea of being that annoying guy who won’t go away, and I realized I had been with dancing with you for a while. Lily always complains about those kinds of guys. And now you know that you saw us together only because we are very good friends. Then here I was, trying to be the bigger person about Omar, inviting him to the beach when he was the last person I wanted to see…”
“And then you doing that convinced me that you had no interest…”
We stared at each other with goofy smiles on our faces. It felt like an eternity, but a comfortable eternity. Loud voices, laughter and the sudden absence of music interrupted tus. Whoever had taken off the music now turned to the radio so that we could join in the countdown. “Less than a minute until midnight!” shouted one of the guys in our direction.
Kevin took both of my hands in his. “Have you ever heard that whoever you spend New Year’s with is who you will spend your year with?”
I stifled a giggle. I would have to let Adrianne know that it really was common knowledge. “Yeah, I have, actually.”
“Good. I hope that’s true for us.”
“Me too, Kevin,” I sighed happily. “I really do.”
“Ten! Nine!…” I looked at the other guests who had all gathered together and saw Lily staring at us with a satisfied smile. She gave me a quick wink and then turned away.
“Eight! Seven!…” Adrianne and her friend had their arms linked, and the smile on my cousin’s face somehow reminded me of the picture of the dancers she had received one week before. I knew that Adrianne was thinking about what the upcoming year would hold for her.
“Six! Five!…” Jeremy had his arm slung around two girls’ shoulders, neither of whom were his date, one on each side of him, just the way he liked it.
“Four! Three!…” Now I looked up at the stars. I felt sheer joy run through me. What a wonderful way to start the year.
“Two! One!” I started it with a kiss.