02 03 The Rhineheart Roost: Part 3: Just Friends 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Part 3: Just Friends

The morning after our first date, there was a service project hosted by the Institute. We were to go and glean chilies from a farm, and later donate the baskets gleaned to a charity (or something. The details are foggy).

Tanner had told me the night before that if I decided to go to the service project I should text him so he could come too, so I shot him a text saying I was gonna head over to pick chilies. I was looking forward to spending a morning getting to know the other members of the Institute, hang out with my new friend Tanner, and, most importantly, keep tabs on my crush. It would be a good day, I could tell.

I got to the Institute parking lot and immediately found Tanner. We chatted and waited to hear about what we were supposed to do from there. Soon, we loaded up into various vehicles and headed out to pick chilies. I didn't get to be with my crush, but I DID get to be with Tanner, which was very fun. That boy was hilarious, and I could tell we would have a fun time that day- as long as I could balance my time between joking with him and flirting with my crush, that is. A girl's got priorities, after all.

The chili pick went about as I planned- splitting time between Tanner and my crush, and getting sunburnt, which was an addition I didn't necessarily plan for. Either way, I finished the day exhausted and happy. Exhausted because picking chilies isn't exactly easy breezy, but happy because I'd spent the day with two wonderful gentlemen. Gosh, that Tanner kid was funny. I just knew he would be the kind of friend I could go to with just about anything. So I did.

Ever since the chili pick, we had been texting back and forth, and since we were such good friends (I even dubbed us "twins" because we were so alike), I decided to ask him for some advice, involving my crush. I just HAD to know whether or not he liked me; or at the very least, if he was displaying possible signs that he might like me. I had done all I could do to figure it out, and I needed a boy's opinion. So, obviously, I asked Tanner. We were friends! I could totally do that. He gave me the best advice he could, and we continued from there.

We texted back and forth almost constantly, and the more I got to know him, the more I liked him. But not- I assured myself- in a romantic way. We were JUST FRIENDS, and it was going to stay that way, dangit. I was not interested in him, and he was not interested in me. We were f r i e n d s, and that was wonderful.
Granted, every so often I would think about it and I figured that if we did end up together, we would be ridiculously happy together. I could actually be fully myself around him. I didn't feel self conscious, and I felt like I could hang out with him dressed nicely, or in sweats with no makeup on, and it would be totally okay. Every so often, he would even tell me I was beautiful- which was huge. Nobody had told me that in a long, long time, and it was wonderful to hear that, especially from a friend I trusted as much as Tanner.

The delusion of being "just friends" didn't last all that long, however. My roommates started making comments about how much Tanner liked me, how much we hung out, and how late I stayed out with him all the time. Despite my protests to the contrary, I began to wonder if Tanner really DID like me as much as everyone else thought he did.

One night, Tanner took me out for a drive (something we did quite frequently), and the subject of who-likes-who came up. I complained of how frustrating it was to like someone so much, and trying to show them how much I liked them, and have them be completely oblivious to it all. Tanner agreed, and we continued talking.

 Looking back on this it's actually almost painful how blatantly obvious it was that we were talking about our own relationship, and how completely oblivious I was to it all.

Apparently Tanner thought the same thing, because he started laughing and wouldn't stop. I tried to figure out what I'd said that was so funny when it suddenly clicked: I was being the stupid girl who couldn't figure out that I was the object of someone's affections.

"I'm being the stupid girl, aren't I? I'm the one who's being completely oblivious, huh?"
".......I wouldn't say stupid.... Just unobservant."

Oh wow.
Oh my goodness.
Oh gosh. He liked me this WHOLE TIME and I had been completely blind to it. I had friendzoned him, and I'd friendzoned him HARD. I wanted to crawl into a hole and die of embarrassment right then, knowing I'd been such a numbskull.
But I had to know why. Why would he like someone as neurotic as me? So I did what anyone would do and asked him why he would like me.
Apparently that's a nerve-wracking question to be asked, because he got all flustered and set off the car alarm. In the middle of my apartment complex. At midnight.
After laughing it off and speeding out of the complex, he explained why he liked me.

He was completely honest, and tender, and sweet in his explanation. He also said he didn't want this to change the dynamic of our friendship, and he was completely content with just being my friend, which is what I needed to hear at that point in time, because this was still news to me, and I needed time to process it and decide how I felt.

Confusing times, indeed.


(click here for part 4 of the story)

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