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“ Bye.”

“ Bye.”


“ Yeah…bye…”

“ Are you guys going to stop hugging some time this century? We’re going to miss the train!”

I scowled and wrapped my arms tighter around the six foot, two inches tall frame of my best friend and ex-boyfriend. Why were you hugging your ex-boyfriend? you may ask. The answer is not so simple.

Mainly it’s because I lost my virginity to him and we tried dating for a month (it failed pretty quickly), and we were always close enough where people thought we were siblings. Except how I look nothing like him, because he’s twenty times as attractive as I am. How we ever hooked up in the first place is still a mystery.

I think that we hooked up through a mixture of pent-up sexual frustration and alcohol, and the fact that - thanks to my lovely sister, Marlene - we wound up locked in the empty boy’s dorm with a discarded bottle of lubricant on the floor. Even though that was a disaster from the very start I knew I would always love Hugo, probably in a much less platonic way than he loved me. Oh, well, life is hard when you’re madly in love with your best friend of nearly eight years.

So, where was I? Ah, yes. Even though Hugo and myself dating was a crash-landing on planet earth by malicious aliens bent on sucking our brains out with straws, we remained best friends. Leaving was going to be one of the hardest things I ever had to do. Though it pales in comparison to several things I had to do in the next three years, but that is another story completely. A different part of this one actually.

We were eighteen and freshly out of Hogwarts, and I was moving with Marlene to Chicago, where we could find work and hopefully suitable lodgings. Hugo was staying in London with his older sister, Rose, and soon to try out for the Wigtown Wanderers of Scotland with his older cousin, James. ( Who I’ve also had a very awkward sexual encounter with. Again, a story for later.)

“ What if we don’t see each other for like…a year?” I said into Hugo’s chest, which was about level with my head.

Hugo gave me a squeeze. “ We will, I promise. I’ll make James take some time off Quidditch so we can come and visit.”

“ Soon?” I whimpered, sounding very pathetic. Why try to hide it? He could see right through my pretenses.

“ Real soon. Now you really need to loosen your grip or I’m going to be paralyzed from the waist down.”

I chuckled wetly and then felt a horrible flash of jealousy. “ Clare wouldn’t like that, now would she?”

Hugo made a face at my pitiful envy. Then again he’s so clueless that he probably just thinks that I’m making a really weak sex joke. “ I’m going to miss you, Madeline.”

“ Ditto, Hugh. You have to write me and phone me every week, at least once a week. Or else I’m going to…I don’t even know what I’ll do. Jump off a bridge, maybe.”

“ Well, I don’t want that on my conscience. I’ll call twice a day, as to preserve your fragile state of mental health. Agreed?”

“ Yes, please. Kiss.”

Hugo held me at his very lanky arms length and gave me a peck on the lips. I wondered fruitlessly whether his heart was threatening to beat right out of his chest and plop on the floor of the rather scummy train station. As he ruffled my hair I knew the answer to that question, and he might as well have been grinding his foot into said heart lying on the ground.

“ Get a move on, ladies, we have a train to hop on.” called Marlene, moving impatiently towards the train.

The last whistle sounded, and the conductor and Marlene beckoned at me. I sighed and grabbed my suitcase, trudging onto the train after my sister. Hugo waved his wide hand at me, and I shoved my way around the agitated conductor to wave back, the train beginning to chug forward. I really needed to find somewhere to sit, so I could quietly burst into tears and not attract too much attention.

I saw that Marlene had disappeared, which wasn’t surprising. For some unexplainable reason Marlene liked to make my life living hell, and/or pretend that I didn’t exist. She’s still that way, but I’m trying to focus on the past right now. I didn’t expect her to sit with me, and I began to sweat as I realized that there were no two empty seats. I would have to sit next to someone.

People gave me dirty looks as I sidled down the rows of stained, blue seats and tried to find somewhere to park my carcass. One next to an old lady mumbling to herself, or a business man talking viciously into his mobile phone. Not appealing. Finally I found a decent looking fellow who seemed quiet enough, gazing out the window.

“ Erm, do you mind if I sit here? Everywhere else is full or sort of…” I glanced at the old woman, who was now rocking back and forth. “ Loony.”

The guy looked at me and flashed a brilliant, perfectly straight, smile. “ No, that’s great. I was a little worried that I was going to need to resort to talking to myself if I wanted company. Boris Connor.”

“ Madeline Haynes. I’m glad not to be alone, too. Well, I’m here with my sister, but she likes to torment me, so sitting with her doesn’t exactly work.”

Boris gave me that gleaming smile again and I felt my heart give a very faint, feeble stutter. I almost snorted, because being attracted to anyone but Hugh sounded positively insane. Oh, then I had to think about him again. I couldn’t help a little sniffle, and I tried to hide it with my sleeve.

“ Was that your boyfriend out there? The guy you hugged?” asked Boris, and I really had to bite my tongue to keep from weeping contemptibly.

“ Uh, not exactly. My best friend.”

Boris raised two perfectly arched, onyx eyebrows. “ I saw you kiss him.” Then he smirked and winked. “ So, is he a friend with benefits?”

“ I guess that you could call him that. We’ve slept together a few times, but it’s definitely not serious. He’s got a girlfriend who he…loves.” I had to force out the last word, and I think Boris could see it.

“ That’s sort of tragic. Is it like a love story filled with twisted fates and shit? You have to tell me the whole thing, Maddie.” cried Boris, leaning closer to me.

I couldn’t help but laugh a little. This guy knows me not even a minute and is demanding to know about my love life. I’m getting a feeling his sexuality is less than straight, but I could be wrong. Even if he wants to know about me I don’t think I’m quite forward enough to ask his preference.

“ Well, it all started in our sixth year at Hog…Hogdenn’s,” I complimented myself for this wonderful save. “ the boarding school we went to. We’ve been best friends since our first year there, when we were eleven. Practically inseparable, everybody thought we were related. Things started to get weird when we hit puberty. I mean, duh, but as I said. Things really started to heat up when we were sixteen. We ended up drinking quite a bit and a dorm party, and my darling sister - the one who likes to torment me - locked us in his dorm with a bottle of…” I blushed. “ uh…lube…and it sort of went from there. You see, we started dating and then it all got really, really complicated…”

I ended up talking to Boris about mine and Hugo’s story for quite some time, and he listened with rapt attention for the whole spiel. He made noises of humor and scorn in all the right places, and touched my arm in a very consoling way when I started to tear up near the end.

“ So now he’s going to play for this big…football team, and I bet that I’m never going to see him again. He’ll get married to Clare the Cow, forget me, and I’ll die old and lonely and fat.”

Boris makes a drawn out ‘aww’ noise. “ Sweetie, how could he leave you? You’re one of the most honest people I’ve met for a while, and you’re pretty funny, too.”

“ Really?” I asked, my mood brightening just a little.

“ Sure, hon. My advice is to cheer up and just move on. If it’s meant to be, you’ll know, and so will he. Don’t even worry about it.”

I smiled. “ Thanks, Boris. You’re a real pick-me-up.”

“ Thanks, love. I do understand your situation. My boyfriend and I toyed with each other for years before we realized we’re madly in love.”

Before I could stop it a little ‘Oh!’ popped out of my mouth. I felt my eyes pop wide open as Boris laughed and grinned comfortably.

“ Does it bother you that I’m gay?”

I shook my head violently, giving myself whiplash. “ No, not at all! I mean, I suspected that you were….er…”

“ A raving arse-bandit?”

Unable to stop myself I burst into raucous laughter, startling everyone around us. Boris joined me after a few seconds of shocked silence, and we busted up right in the middle of that very crowded train. And do you know what? I wasn’t even that embarrassed.

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