The Confession

The Confession

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
Synopsis

Winnie is having a bad week: she lost her job, boyfriend, and roommate. While out with her friends at the end of the week, trying to forget her problems, she makes the biggest mistake of all and kisses Isaac.

Her best friend’s very off limits twin brother. To make matters even worse, he immediately rejects her.

Winnie focuses on finding a job and a new roommate, while doing her best to avoid the suddenly unavoidable Isaac. After so many strikeouts, Winnie has to be due for a win, right? Enter Declan, the handsome grad student who wants to take her out on a date.

Could he be the one to help her finally move on? Maybe, just maybe, Winnie is about to have her bad luck turn around after all.


Crickets sing as I dart down the small, dimly lit road allotted for the restaurant’s deliveries. I stand on the sidewalk across the road with my back to the large building, unsure what to do at this point. Closing my eyes, I take another steadying breath.

Breathe.

In through the nose, out through the mouth.

And again.

Deep breaths. You can do this, Winnie. I try to convince myself. Everything is going to be fine –

“Winnie?” a familiar voice calls, pulling me out of my meditation, back to reality. My eyes shoot open. No, please let me be having a full-on delusion right now.  His velvet voice feels far away as I turn to face the building I just escaped. Faint music blares through the closing doors.

My lifelong crush stands just feet away.

Immediately, Issac closes the distance between us, joining me on the sidewalk. I’d left him only moments ago on the dance floor as I bolted across the room and out into the night.

“Oh, hey,” I say, pretending that I wasn’t halfway into an anxiety attack. I didn’t just abandon him on the dance floor seconds ago to come outside and… what? Try to erase the memory of his caress all over my body from my racing mind? Most likely, though, I came out here to cry. It’s been nearly a year since my last attack, but during the attacks, crying was always a welcome guest star. I almost was able to forget what an attack was like. Almost.

I take another soothing deep breath as Isaac reaches for me. He places his hand gently on my arm and begins rubbing up and down as he smiles at me.

“What’s up?” I ask, pretending I’m okay as I ignore my ever-increasing, erratic heartbeat. Am I having a heart attack at twenty-four? Is this what it feels like?

Isaac examines me, his dark chocolate eyes piercing me as if he already knows everything. He opens his mouth to speak but says nothing.

Instead, he pulls me into him, enveloping me in a bone-crushing hug. He always gives the best hugs. His hand leaves a trail of heat as it glides along my back. He pulls away to look at me, breaking our hug. This would be helpful if I wasn’t now on the edge of being turned on while having an anxiety attack. I can’t even enjoy his touch right now; what is the point? Stupid brain. His hands rest on my upper arms. “What’s up with you, Win?” Concern fills his eyes as they capture mine. “That wasn’t the normal bathroom break look. That seemed like your patented ‘I’m going to go have a full, mental breakdown’ look. Don’t lie. You’re so bad at it. What’s wrong?”

I break our eye contact as shame and embarrassment fill me. Not from my anxiety. I stopped apologizing for that part of who I am before I even graduated from high school. Rather, I’m ashamed because of all the things not going my way this week; I can’t admit that my crush on Isaac was the cause of this sudden overwhelming attack of anxiety.

Especially not to my crush.

For goodness’ sake, I’ve never even told his twin sister, Colette, that I have a crush on him. And she’s my best friend.

Not after I made the mistake of simply calling him cute in front of her once while we were all in middle school. At thirteen, we were well in the middle of our awkward phases, but Isaac was still so cute with his green braces and a couple of dark whiskers growing from his chin. Colette went on a rampage at my words, complete with making me swear I’d never, ever try to date Isaac or even call him cute in her presence again. She didn’t want to have to share me with her brother even more than she already did. Our closeness growing up, as innocent and platonic as it stayed, always bothered her to some degree. Colette is a lot of things, and she has a ton of positive traits, but she doesn't enjoy sharing.

Must’ve missed that day in kindergarten.

Part of me was always certain she knew about my lifelong crush on Isaac. We’ve all been friends since we were in elementary school. Once my hormones hit in middle school, Isaac was it for me.

I never asked if Colette knew, and she never questioned me.

It was understood back then, just like it’s understood now: Isaac is off limits. 

I am prepared to take my not strictly platonic love for him to my grave.

At times like this, however, with the streetlamp a few feet away casting shadows along his face in the dark, he’s never looked more handsome. His curly black hair messy and glistening with sweat after dancing with me for hours on end. Our habit of being dance partners dates all the way back to middle school. We have always been touchy-feely. Isaac always wraps an arm around my shoulders or grabs my hand to tug me places faster. That was just who we are. It wasn’t strange when Isaac became my designated date for all the dances, even before I realized I wanted more than friendship. He was familiar and safe — I never had to worry about him taking advantage of me.

Not that I would’ve minded if he took advantage.

My heart can’t stop itself from slowly slinking away from my anxiety and toward desirous thoughts of kissing him.

The only thing I am never to do.

Isaac lets go but stays close. Only inches from me, so we can speak in whispers and share secrets no one else will hear. One of his hands reaches up to cup the outline of my face as I let silence fill the small area between us. It takes all I have not to nuzzle into his touch.

Don’t kiss Isaac, I tell myself again. No, no, no. Don’t even think about kissing him. It is a nonstarter. A thought that never needed to insert itself into my brain. These intrusive thoughts are hard to dismiss.

“Win?” Isaac dips his head to mine as he moves his other hand to hold my forearm. Fire spreads up my arm at his touch. “Do you wanna talk about it?”

“No,” I reply shortly, trying to maintain some composure… and sanity. “I’m okay. I just needed some air…”

Isaac doesn’t move. I can tell he doesn’t believe my lies. He isn’t wrong: I am an atrocious liar about most things.

Besides hiding my feelings for him, that is.

“Really, I’m okay. I was feeling overwhelmed, but I have it under control.” I nod in agreement to my own statement, averting my eyes.

Dear God, Isaac, please leave before I lose all control and my mind and kiss you.

“You sure?” he asks. I nod stupidly as I breathe in his scent. I’m unraveling by the second, trying my best to dampen my desire. Our eyes meet. My heart begins a new race, setting a personal record.

We’re mere inches apart.

Isaac smiles down at me as he removes his hand from my cheek, using it to place a stray hair behind my ear before smoothing the back of his fingers over my now hot cheek. I’m surprised by his movement; he’s always touching me, but this… this is different.

A sweet caress.

My feelings from the dance floor flood my brain, drowning me in a pure desire as I try to hold strong… only to surrender and finally give in.

Before I can stop myself, I close the gap between us. Pulling Isaac’s head down just as I tilt mine up. I press my lips against his so softly that it takes a moment for me to register that we’ve made actual contact. My lips move like a gentle feather against his.

I’m kissing Isaac.

I’m kissing Isaac.

Oh my gosh!

I’m kissing Isaac!

Mortification pummels me as the water recedes out of my head, and I realize he isn’t kissing me back.

Oh God, has he even moved at all?

Not an inch. Not one millimeter. He stands there like a statue as I kiss him like the fool that I am. It’s been long enough that if he was going to respond, he would have by now. Right?

Shoot.

As I pull away, we are both momentarily stunned.

“Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry!” I say as my eyes bulge out from my actions. Isaac stands motionless. I can’t get a read on him.

Is he pissed? Confused?  Upset?

“I’m so sorry. That was such a mistake. I didn’t mean to do that, I swear.” I begin to ramble on, no stopping now. “I have no idea what just possessed me to …do that… just now.”

After what feels like forever, Isaac holds up his hand. Immediately, I fall silent under his gaze.

“It’s okay…” he begins.

I breathe a sigh of relief.

“But… I… we… can’t do this…” he continues slowly and steadily. As if he’s afraid I’ll pounce on him again before he even finishes his sentence, he takes a small step away from me.

I hold up my own hand this time to stop him as humiliation highlights my face. “No, it’s fine. I don’t know what came over me, Isaac. Seriously. I think I’m just stressed out from this week, and I completely lost my mind. My first act of true insanity.” I give a weak smile, then stare at the ground. “Coulda been worse?”

Could it though, Winnie?

I take a few steps back to ground myself, bracing for his full rejection.

“Winnie,” Isaac begins again.

“Seriously, Ike, it’s fine. I’m fine. Just go back inside. I need to get some fresh air, okay?” Wandering a few feet away to put more distance between us, I sit down on the curb. “I just wanna take in the stars for a few minutes.”

I look up at the dark sky, focusing on the stars that seem to pulse in the night, finding myself wishing that I’d taken astronomy, so I knew why. Taking another deep breath — in through the nose, out through the mouth — I watch a plane fly across the night sky and try to forget what just took place.

I glance over as Isaac makes his way, yet again, to my side.

Forever a good friend, even when I don’t want or deserve it.

Even after I just endlessly embarrassed myself by kissing him against his will. I would have run as fast as I could in the opposite direction if anyone besides Isaac did that to me. Yet he stayed.

He steps off the curb and seats himself an arm’s length away. Just far enough to not worry that I might be tempted to lunge myself at him one more time.

I glance over at him as he gives me a small nod. I nod back and we both look up at the sky, ignoring all the words that need to be said between us.

At least for right now.

Maybe for forever. I’m rather good at avoidance… usually, anyway.

"I wish things weren't so complicated," Isaac finally whispers after a few minutes of stargazing. His voice is so soft that I can barely make out the words as they drift through the air toward me. "I'm sorry." The finality of this slices at my heart. I open my mouth to protest but immediately close it again. This is what he wants, I tell myself. Even though it leaves my heart shattered.

Instead, I simply nod along, afraid my voice will betray me if I attempt to speak. Yeah, this is what's best, right? We can’t uncomplicate things, after all.

We both know the complication: Colette.

His sister.

My best friend.

My feelings, returned or not by Isaac, didn’t matter… Colette would be a hurdle too high to jump over without causing severe injury to everyone involved. Our potential isn’t worth the collateral damage.

Silence settles between us. I stare at the collection of dust and pebbles along the curb. Leaning backward, I place my hands on the warm concrete of the sidewalk behind me.

We will never be a couple, I remind myself. Learn it, ‘cause you’re going to have to live it from now on. At least the never-ending question was finally answered.

Right? 

I take a quiet, steadying breath.

Do not let yourself have an anxiety attack over this, Winnie, I warn myself. Not after this week and especially not over a guy.

Not even Isaac.

I feel his eyes on me, begging me to look at him, just one more time. Resolved now, I will not give in. My eyes stay firmly planted on the ground in front of me. Is that a weed coming up from the sidewalk? I lean forward to pick it, tear it away from its roots in the ground. "I love you, but..." he starts to tell me. Louder, but with a softness around the edges that makes my heart contract even more. We tell each other how much we love the other regularly… but this is different.

I toss the small weed away.

Swallowing hard, my heart thumps heavily in my chest.

Push down everything.

I straighten my back and rub my hands together to brush off the dirt they’d contracted from the ground. "Don't say that." I’m not even sure I say it aloud until I feel him shift away from me. Ever so briefly. Then, as if immediately changing his mind, his hand tentatively reaches out for my knee before moving to shakily land on my forearm instead. Better choice, I think, less sexual. "I don't think I can do this," I finally reply, like I can make this situation, the situation I created barely minutes ago, simply disappear.

This failure to start a romantic relationship.

Us.

Poof!

Gone.

It’s bad enough that I apparently misread all the signals that I thought he was sending.

I, unsurprisingly, was deluded. Magical thinking took me under its spell. It's fine.

Did I imagine it all? All these years… The glances and smiles. The inside jokes. Our lingering touches. Our close friendship since middle school… I read it as flirting, but I must have misinterpreted everything. I was so very wrong.

I wish I realized this before I'd gone insane, stood on my tippy toes, and pressed my soft, pink-tinted lips onto his firm ones.

Ugh, talk about embarrassing. Embarrassment should be able to kill, I think, especially this kind.

Spontaneous combustion from embarrassment overload. That should be a real thing.

He didn’t kiss me back at all.

I mean, sure, the sheer shock of your twin sister's best friend kissing you outside the bar less than two hours before closing might make a guy hesitate. We both had  a few drinks each and got caught up dancing together. I could get on board for that explanation, especially when his sister and all of our other friends are on the dance floor just beyond the doors a few feet away.

Right? Anyone could open the door and see us.

It is so totally normal that he'd hesitate.

At first, anyway.

But to not respond at all?

Ouch.

It hadn’t been a forceful kiss, either. It was soft: a gentle sunshower outside during the middle of summer. More of a peck than a real kiss. Barely a caress of my lips against his.

In my defense, I remind myself, he came out to find me within minutes of my abandoning the dance floor. Not the other way around. I never asked him to meet me outside. I needed a moment to get my bearings after our last dance together. I could still feel his hands all over me, exploring my body. It all felt so sensual in that moment. As if his touch was leading us both into an inevitable kiss.

My best friends from elementary school didn't even bat an eye as I flitted into the crowd for breathing room.

Yet, Isaac followed me all the way outside. Doesn’t that mean something?

"I know it's been a rough week, Win," Isaac said at the beginning of the night, a black curl threatening to fall into his eyes as he leaned forward to meet mine, the tug of a sympathetic, roguish grin forming on his lips. Rough week was putting it nicely. Personally, I wouldn't call being dumped by your boyfriend, fired from the job you hated, and having your roommate (and friend) tell you she's moving out by the end of the summer just a rough week — but here we are.

A rough week.

Add "kissing your best friend's twin brother who you briefly assumed reciprocated your feelings, but who, in fact, does not" to the mix and now every area of your life can be awkward like mine!

Zero out of ten stars.

Do not recommend it, though.

Seriously.

Save your heart from the ache: don't do it!

I stand up now, brushing dirt off my skirt. Wishing that I could also brush off the flirting, the giggles, the intense eye contact. The dancing closely with his hands exploring my body. Brush off all my embarrassment. I’ll settle for no longer being able to feel his hands light a fire along every inch of my body as they rove. The memory lingers as a ghost in my mind.

I swear I saw his eyes flicker down to my lips more than once. I swear his thoughts were about kissing me, too. I wasn’t the only one cautious about our motions with his sister a few feet away.

Even I wasn’t gutsy or stupid enough to kiss him with Colette right there.

I wish I could just turn off my feelings and all the shame. Wipe my memory to move on without having any inkling of this occurrence.

"Look," I tell Isaac stoically, "let's pretend this never happened, okay? I'm a little drunk. It's been a long week..." He stands up as well, dusting off his pants as he allows silence to filter in between us.

I am not drunk, and we both know it, but Isaac isn’t going to call me out tonight. The smallest of allowances from him for me to save face.

A burst of sound and coolness emerges as the side door to the bar opens. Bad nineties pop engulfs us and Isaac freezes. We turn our heads, the tension already building between us intensifying as I hear her voice.

"Oh, my gos-sshhh, there you are!" Colette shrieks above the competing noises. A new wave of guilt crashes over me as my best friend runs to me, grabs my hand, and drunkenly tugs me toward her, to no avail. "Winnie! Come on! What are you doing out here? You promised me dancing tonight! You need to be on the dance floor to dance!"

"Sorry," I reply, letting her pull me only a tiny step. My eyes glance at Isaac. It isn’t an apology for abandoning her on the dance floor like she assumes, but I’m not going to be the one to correct that assumption. "I just needed some fresh air."

"Winnie! This air is hot, not fresh!" she chuckles, making no progress in her quest to move me. Looking around, Colette notices Isaac standing a few feet away. I hold my breath, hoping she doesn’t become suspicious of us. Is she drunk enough to overlook the vibe between us? An eyebrow arches questioningly at me, but she says nothing. I don't think that she is. "You, too, bro," she tells him. "Back onto the dance floor we all go!"

Well, that's my only good luck this week: the lack of an immediate analysis and suspicion from my best friend about why I was alone with her brother outside. I tuck another stray brunette hair behind my ear as I give a prayer of thanks to whatever God is involved in this small victory.

Colette would have completely flipped out if she saw us kissing, regardless of how awkward and clearly one-sided our kiss must have looked.

Suddenly, I’m feeling bold and chance a look at Isaac one last time. If I was completely sober, I might think that I see regret on his face for a second.

Regret?

Wait, what?

It should be a relief that we didn't get caught out here kissing ten minutes ago.

Oh well, I think, as Colette drags me back inside and onto the sweaty dance floor. Marisol meets us in the middle with glasses full of the sweet nectar of the Gods. I gulp down an extra-large sip of my new fruity drink since I’m attempting to forget the last half hour of my life. Colette is instantly reoccupied with a cute blonde girl we met tonight; she looks around our age. They begin dancing as a new pop song plays; I let out a loud "Woo!" while lifting my hands into the air. I sway my hips to the beat, only spilling a small amount of my drink on the floor.

Glancing across the dance floor, I see the outside door open. I lock eyes with a pair of brown eyes I’ll never be able to forget. Even from this far away, I can see a hint of regret still present on his face. Though, I don't know why it’s there to begin with.

Isaac chose to reject me; why would he be regretful?

Instead of focusing on it, or him, I look away as quickly as possible. The shame of our encounter just beyond those doors flows through me, causing my cheeks to heat up with a light blush. I’ll blame my alcohol consumption and dancing for the blush if pressed to answer why. Alcohol doesn’t cause me to flush. Never has before, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t tonight… Right?

There is a first for everything.

I doubt we’ll continue to be dance partners again this evening, I think with a sad sigh, already missing the heat of Isaac’s touch. Turning back to Marisol, I grab her free hand with mine and twirl her. She laughs as she moves her own hips in time to the music.

I lose track of the time when I notice a tall man with sandy blond hair in a shirt advertising his enrollment at the local college eyeing me from the edge of the dance floor like I’m his favorite dessert. He’s on the college basketball or baseball team, if his lean yet muscular physique and height are anything to go by.

I smile at him, biting my lip gently, slyly. Batting my eyes while I maintain his eye contact to express my interest in his distraction tonight. I might not be fresh out of college anymore, but I still know how to not only get, but hold, a collegian’s attention. Especially when I could really use an hour of meaningless flirting… and I need a new dance partner after Marisol abandons me. Anything to forget the disaster of a kiss tonight. No one is better at flirting across a crowded room than me. It is a skill I perfected during my own years at college.

With a grin, the man approaches me, leaning into my ear to ask for a dance. I nod in agreement before he places his large hands on my waist, closing the space between us. “Hi,” he greets me after being given access to my body. “What’s your name?”

I slide my hands along his chiseled chest and wrap them around his neck as I begin to grind on him. With a big grin, I say, “I’m Winnie. What’s your name?”

Out of the corner of my eye, I catch Isaac watching us intently. Moving so he’s no longer in my sight, I refocus on the man holding me. Giving him my full attention.

Oh well.

Isaac’s loss.

About the Author

Anne Dougherty

Anne Dougherty resides in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA with her husband, Jonathan, their dog, Ruby Tuesday, and her cat, Theodore. She's worked in the veterinary field for over a decade. When not working, she can be found biking, reading, or writing. Her creative nonfiction work has been published in Oddballs Magazine, Bright Flash Literary Review, and The Palisades Review. Her fiction has been published in In-Parentheses.

Read more work by Anne Dougherty.