*disclaimer: I really, really hate this part of our story. Really truly. I am such a jerk, guys. Such a jerk.*
True to his word, Tanner tried not to make our friendship awkward because I now knew he was romantically interested. I was also determined to not let anything change, so I stubbornly kept throwing the word "friends" in as many conversations as I could. And, like the angel of a human being he is, he accepted it and took it in stride. He wasn't going to push me into anything I wasn't ready for.
As time went on, we really WERE the best of friends...
Well, friends that flirt with each other and hold hands in the car.
I know, I know, I'm a terrible human being for leading him on that way. It wasn't fair to him to play with his feelings like that- I knew it, I really did. But it was just so easy to be with Tanner- I could relax and just be me, and his hands were so warm and comfortable I couldn't help but hold them as we drove around aimlessly for hours, talking late into the night. Every so often he would squeeze my hand slightly, or trace circles on my hand with his thumb, and when he did they gave me butterflies like I had never felt before- which was weird, because I did NOT have a crush on him at all. At least I told myself I didn't.
In all honesty, I had thought about it many times and had come to the conclusion that we would probably be very happy together, indeed. He made me laugh, he was kind, and I knew he would do literally anything for me.
But he wasn't the boy for me. No sir, he surely wasn't. I knew, I knew I was destined to end up with my crush if I just worked at it hard enough. Sometimes we touched shoulders, my crush and I-which meant we were basically dating, in my mind. I couldn't allow myself to be distracted by another boy! So what if Tanner was the funniest person I had ever met? So what if he cared for me in a way nobody else had since I moved to Thatcherland? So what if he gave me crazy butterflies every time he squeezed my hand?
I was bound and determined to snag my crush, if it was the last thing I did. This was *~lOvE.~*
What Tanner and I had was a solid FRIENDSHIP, and nothing more. I would see to it.
...As long as I could just keep holding his hand.
As Thanksgiving came up, I had actually arranged for my crush to come home with me for Thanksgiving (score!), and was deliriously happy about it. As an added bonus, I had decided to ask him to Winter Formal that weekend, so that nobody else could take him.
So not only would I be able to spend Thanksgiving weekend with the boy of my dreams, I would walk away from that weekend with a date! I was sure of it.
Tanner and I had discussed Thanksgiving, and he casually brought up that his parents had offered to let me stay with them for the weekend, if my family wouldn't be able to get me to Mesa. I was touched by the offer- these people who didn't even know me were willing to open up their home for me and welcome me in. Alas, that was not to be, for I was bringing my crush home with me if it was the last thing I did.
Thanksgiving weekend came, and I drank up the time I had with my crush, enjoying every second and waiting oh-so-patiently for my crush to confess his undying love and affection for me and my wondrous family. I knew I could get him if I just kept at it.
Then came the day after Thanksgiving. We were putting up Christmas lights, and I was working up the nerve to ask my prospective man to EAC's Winter Formal when my phone chirped. It was a text from Tanner.
If someone were to hypothetically ask you to Winter Formal, what would you say? I stared at the text for a long time, my stomach sinking. I was JUST about to ask my crush to that dance! I knew it would be fun with Tanner, but I just couldn't shake the sad feeling. I wanted so badly to spend a romantic evening with the apple of my eye, but Tanner had beat me to the punch. After thinking it over a little bit longer, I replied to him. I would hypothetically say yes, of course! And so it was set. I was going to go to Winter Formal with Tanner.