Favorite Crime: Better

*Disclaimer: A toxic portrayal of love

All the things I did, just so I could call you mine.

At the end, it all boiled down to actions he could not take back. The severed friendships, the late night shouting matches with his mother, the mountain of debt accumulating in his bank account. There were other things too, like his ego that he left when he stood outside of her house begging for her to come back, his self-confidence that he lost in the process of changing himself, his heart that he broke by mistrusting her with it. All these things he thought he could recover if he could just win her back.

It was not supposed to end like this, no one expected a guy like him to walk down this path. He had a good thing going for him; a likeable personality and a face that compelled girls to smile at him wherever he walked. He was not necessarily smart but he was charming enough to convince teachers to bump his D’s to C’s. And the one thing he took the greatest pride in was his speed, he never won first place, but he was a familiar face on the sports podium.

He noticed her in the second year of high school when no else did. It felt like catching the first glimpse of sunlight as dawn broke. They ended up sitting together in the first class and she avoided all his attempts at small talk. He refused to change seats though, because she always had perfect scores on her quizzes and all he needed to do was glance from the corner of his eyes to get an above average grade without studying.

But this arrangement did not last long. Three weeks later, she confronted him about his tendency of copying her answers for every task. The guilt swallowed him whole and he gave the most sincere apology that he could muster. She looked surprised for a split second before huffing and walking away in the opposite direction.

For the next week, he brought little gifts to apologize – candies, canned drinks, chocolates. Each like a candle trying to melt an iceberg. And his last offering was pushing his answer sheet to the side of the table which made it easy for her to look at his work. She took one glance and burst out laughing. The ice had melted.

The following week she had a sudden experimental phase where she came to school in different fashion styles. Day one was somewhat of a grunge look with a red flannel and ripped jeans. Day two was a preppy style with a dark skirt and a collared button up. Day three was an e-girl look with noticeable make-up and fishnet stockings. Day four was a soft-girl aesthetic with a lilac crop top and a white skirt. He told her she looked good that day and she stuck to that aesthetic throughout the remainder of their highschool years. 

Their list of mutual friends slowly grew and he found her in his own close-knit friendship circle. She grew out her short hair and blended in with all the other girls in the group. Everyone was always watching whenever they conversed, giggling to themselves. But he was always focused on her, the seamless conversation they had about video games, action movies, this small town and how they couldn’t wait to escape it. And then she confessed her romantic feelings for him, and for the first time in his life he felt like a prize, something worthy. 

It did not take long for him to yearn for her, not in the sweet way that a child yearns for a teddy bear, but in the desperate way that a drowning man yearns for oxygen. That should have scared him and yet it only pushed him to give more of himself to her. He would provide her with anything that she asked for because he could not think of any other way to repay her for how she made him feel.

Her voice of reassurance was the only thing louder than the noise of doubts creeping in his head whenever he failed a test or when he lost a race or when he felt unlikeable. Despite all his failures, she’d look at him with the same nervous admiration every time. 

And he admired her too. He thought she was the prettiest girl he had ever seen even when none of his friends seemed to agree. He loved the way she learned how to follow fashion trends that he liked. He loved the way that she joined the gym just so she could keep up with him on the track. He loved the way that she got good grades and tutored him without making him feel inferior. He loved the way that she was always trying to get better – that is until better took the form of another guy.

By Natasha Maya

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