I started these little short-form scenes after having trouble getting moving with my story 'Raider'. Which I still haven't completed, though I've moved on with dozens more stories and even completed a couple.
This one is just more of the trials & tribble-ations of a shy bookworm actually having to interact with real people.
“So, are you going to ask her out or not?”
I hunch my shoulders and scuff my boot soles against the ground, an expression of what has been recently described to me as “stubborn misery” overtaking my features. I assume it’s that expression, anyway. My facial muscles tighten and I feel the same way as I did the last time I was asked this question.
“No.” The determination and irritation that I’m feeling come out loud and clear in that one word.
“God-dammit Andy, why the hell not?”
I sigh, steeling myself to go over the same old argument. “She doesn’t even know I exist,” I tell my friend/tormentor, just as I’ve told them before, five times already this month.
It’s the fifth.
“Andrew, you’re her study partner!” Toni responds with the now traditional counter challenge.
I decide to take a different vector, hoping to put an end to this for once and for all. Snagging my fellow cadet by the arm, I arrest our progress across the quad and direct us over to a bench were we can have it out quietly. I may not get any lunch today, but I can go hungry for a few hours to gain some respite from this issue.
Seemingly knowing what I have in mind, and for once quite content to let me say my piece, Toni waits expectantly on my rationalisation on why I’m not going to ask out the girl I’m hopelessly infatuated with.
“Look, that’s exactly why I can’t ask her out! She’s my friend. We hang out, study together, have lots of classes together, and see each other several times a day. We have a great time together"
“Except for the fact that you’re desperately in love with her and it’s making you miserable" Toni interjects.
“I’m not miserable!” I tell her strenuously possibly too much so. I continue, “If you actually want me to put it in my own words, then I’m ‘wistful and sad’. But I spend loads of time with her already and it’s not like I’ve anyone to be jealous of! She has no boyfriend"
She cuts me off again, interjecting, “Which is why it’s better to ask her now, before someone else does! What happens when she finally does start seeing someone? Do you think she’ll be spending as much time with you then as she does now?” she demands, driving her point home. “I’ve seen her too, Andy. No one’s as close to her here as you are"
“Toni, we’re friends,” I say again, belabouring the point and cutting her off this time. “Good friends. If I ask her out and she says no, then what? You let that genie out of the bottle and your great friendship is never quite the same again. The friendship is tarnished with hidden thoughts of ‘maybe he was just being friendly to get me into bed with him’.”
“But that’s true, isn’t it?” she asks, all innocence.
I glare balefully at her. “Yes, damn you, it is. But you know I can’t just up and ask a girl out! You’ve known me for almost a year, but I’ve been in classes with you from Day One. It took me six months just to be able to speak to you without turning into a gibbering idiot!” I almost shout, more angry and myself for being that way that at her for pointing it out.
She looks hurt nonetheless. “And now you can curse me out like I’m a useless servant. My, what progress you’ve made,” she observes caustically.
My anger deflates rapidly. Toni Antonia Shilletto is my best friend at Starfleet Academy, even closer to me than Scott ‘Scotty-boy’ Gardiner, a fellow countryman from my own town back home. Hurting or alienating her is the last second last thing I want to do right now.
I fetch a heartfelt sigh and tell her, “I’m sorry for cursing you, Toni. You know I’m not trying to hurt you.”
Her eyes soften again. “Yes, I know that. I could see it in you from first I laid eyes on you.”
I look up, startled. The way she said that could she be interested in me? The thought defies comprehension. I’m a plain, ordinary-looking Scotsman with nothing special to offer in looks or anything, really and Toni is a voluptuous, dark-haired, creamy-skinned Italian girl with liquid brown, almond-shaped eyes and a fun-loving, full-of-life personality. Fully half of those so inclined in our class of a thousand have asked her out at some point or other, and the other half no doubt still have plans to do so. What could she possibly see in me? I’m not in love with her or anything, but I am a guy and the thought of spending a night in with Toni has me all in a tizzy.
That mind-boggling, ego-inflating thought is immediately blown out of space as she continues.
“That’s why I chose you to hang out with instead of all those posturing buffoons who were constantly out to impress me. All they were after was a roll in the hay.” She rolls her large brown eyes in contemptuous amusement. “I knew you wouldn’t do that.”
My previously swelling ego shrivels up faster than if it’d taken a dip in the North Sea, and I find myself horrified at her words. “You think of me as some sort of eunuch?” I cry, drawing back in hurt anger.
“Don’t be a stupid fool,” she retorts irritably. It is all the more reassuring for its angry tone, not wanting anything to do with my ridiculous assumption. “I mean that I knew you would never take advantage of me in that way. Use and abuse a friendship as a jumping point so to speak to get close to me for the express purpose of bedding me.”
Even though I’m flattered by her trust in me, I’m angry at that I seem so unmanly to her, so I push out, “But I do want to sleep with you, Toni.”
“Oh, I know that,” she tells me matter-of-factly, again completely bringing my beleaguered brain to a juddering halt. “I could see that too. I mean, look at me. I’m hot,” she gestures at herself, continuing without false modesty. “I also know that you’d never actually want to date me because I’m too damn bossy. The difference with you, Andrew, is that you value your friendships even over your own desires.”
I stare at her with an empty brain, my ghast truly flabbered, unable to think of anything to say to these stunning to me, anyway revelations.
Getting no immediate response presumably beyond my patented “bunny-in-the-headlights” look Toni expounds on her point. “Now, this makes you a great friend and a good guy, but you also take it to the opposite extreme and basically subjugate your own feelings and wants for the good of whatever ‘group’ you’ve attached yourself to. As a Starfleet officer, this trait could serve you well, if practiced in moderation. As an individual, however, it makes you a wimp; you're unwilling to speak out about being unhappy for fear of rocking the boat.
“Andy, sometimes you have to get wet.”
I look at her, my mind slowly reassembling itself. What she’s saying sounds like good advice, so I store it for later. Finally able to form sentences again, I summarise her theory. “So you think I’m a wimp for not asking her out?”
“Yes,” she replies simply. “This isn’t some life-or-death decision for the fate of the Federation. You’re afraid to take the chance. To answer your previous question: if she says no, then you find a way to deal with it. You have a genuine friendship there. Let it move on naturally to the next stage. If she says no, don’t start hiding from her. I can assure you, Andy, that very avoidance will be the thing that convinces her of that which you fear most: her believing your friendship was a lie.
“Face it like a man, head on and damn the torpedoes and all that,” she finishes with a grin.
I turn away from her, facing straight ahead and settling back onto the bench. The view is lovely on this unfortunately muggy autumn day in San Francisco, ancient trees giving a riot of colour with their leaves displaying the last splashes of summer green mixing with the more prevalent autumn gold. The typical autumn rain is happily absent this day, and the sky is mostly clear of clouds. This age-old display of natural beauty frames the familiar buildings of the Academy campus, now almost a hundred years old, and gives me a grounding in the here and now as I organise my thoughts. I stare into space and ponder the words of my friend, who lapses into silence, no doubt having made her point and giving me time to think it though.
She is right. I hate conflict or feeling awkward, so the idea of tackling the problem head-on and dealing with the consequences of a rejection is what is stopping me from asking this girl out.
I really need to get over that if I want to be an effective Starfleet officer.
It is just that simple, too. I can take this step and grow as a person, regardless of the outcome, or I can shrug my shoulders, dismiss it and stay the same old me and probably end up as a science officer on a police cutter, if I even manage to graduate at all.
My ruminating is cut short, as suddenly there she is! I bolt to my feet but then become rooted to the spot, my mind windmilling again. She hasn’t seen me yet! Sit down, think some more about this. Don’t rush in and screw things up!
I flush red and swallow painfully, my throat suddenly dry. I’ve never asked a girl out in my life! What am I doing?
Taking no more time to think, I square my shoulders manfully, I hope, but out of the corner of my eye I do catch Toni hiding a smirk behind her hand and set off towards the path again.
“I’ll see you in class,” I croak over my shoulder to Toni, and stride toward my destiny.