Her classmates were even less attuned to her story. The very few with whom she felt safe sharing would often respond with a momentary blank stare before admitting, “I’m not sure I get it.” Disappointed, Vanessa would love them just as much, but she mentally adjusted the safety she felt with them. She wondered if she was really the only one who got it.
Jenny, however, responded to her story with an easily detectable false comprehension. Vanessa had expected nothing different from her best friend. She’d always believed that best friends came in categories and Jenny was a situational best friend. She had been there from the beginning in every situation imaginable, and that meant a lot. But, Vanessa never felt a soul level connection with her, never felt completely safe sharing everything. Sure, she would confess her crushes and vent her frustrations with her family, and Jenny was always marvelous at fielding those types of interactions. To her, that’s exactly what a best friend did, and she only felt her disconnect with her best friend in the occasional awkward silences of mutual estrangement.
Jenny was as surprised as everyone else when after all the unrequited love declared for Vanessa by the hapless lot of Maple Ridge adolescent boys, it was Adam who managed to get to her. He did it without fanfare, and seemingly without effort. Jenny did not realize that the secret to his success was his questions. From the first time he called her on a Wednesday night and asked if she had ever noticed the calm sound of rain just before sunrise, a unique bond had formed between them. Neither one thought of it as attraction at first. Even Adam’s sleepless night waiting to call was less a romantic agitation than it was a compelling, inexorable wave of curiosity. In Vanessa, he’d found someone worth discovering.
She felt the same about him. Watching him sculpt a place for himself among the crowds when he first arrived in Maple Ridge, she was sure that most of what he was offering to people were masks. Disarming smiles marked an easygoing affability that quickly opened up doors for him in many different circles. She saw in him the ability to become a multitude of Adams, none of which had real substance. She wanted to crack the façade, and she knew she had to draw him in. So, she ignored him.
They watched each other for weeks, fascinated by the ease of their respective presence among their adolescent peers. They saw an echo of themselves in the other, a complimentary insight. And as they watched, they weighed the possibility of a kindred spirit suddenly appearing. They watched and weighed until Vanessa steered her and Jenny’s after school walk home through the hallway where she’d seen him at his locker earlier in the day. She had no intentions other than observing him in yet one more environment.
But Adam had finished weighing, and when he saw them approaching, he was laden with intentions and expectations. Jenny was surprised and slightly appalled to see him turn his attention toward them, and could not hide the agitation on her face. On the periphery he saw her immediately tense, but he was looking for Vanessa’s reaction. He smiled inwardly at a false neutrality he knew very intimately.
“Are you two coming to the track meet this Friday? We need some fans!” He sensed Jenny relax slightly as he broached the trivial and continued. “What else is going on? A baseball game? How boring is that?”
It was an easy out. All they had to do was make a false promise to be there and walk away, and that’s what Jenny expected her best friend to do. Instead she replied, “Well, we’re not really the sports types," to which Adam smiled inwardly.
Jenny quickly scuttled their conversation in the hallway, claiming some prior engagement. Adam’s curiosity was further piqued by the complete absence of annoyance on Vanessa’s face at this interference. Jenny was Vanessa's best friend, but Adam was pretty sure he had a much better idea of what was going on in Vanessa’s head than she had.