Being anything other than friends was an idea that had never occurred to her. Which is why she didn’t really see anything wrong in walking down the stretch of wooded road with him that evening, holding his hand, talking, laughing, and leaning into him now and then.
They had done this countless times before. Theirs was the kind of open friendship that no one believed could exist anymore. Not between a man and a woman. Not unless either of them was gay.
They shared everything. He met all her boyfriends and she interviewed all his girlfriends, to be sure they had good intentions.
This thought floated briefly through her head as he led them to a tree with a low branch, sat on it, turned her around and sat her down in his lap. She was in the middle of gisting him about her annoying colleague at work, exaggerating everything just a little bit because she loved to make him laugh.
His voice, soft, low, serious, and scared, in her ear put a stop to her excited chattering.
‘’I love you.’’
They said that to each other all the time. But her bated breath, pounding heart, open mouth and wide eyes told her that this time, something was different.
Turning her head to seek out his eyes, any oddly-phrased question she might have squeaked was stolen from her lips…
He kissed her.
Slowly, tentatively, she kissed him back.
The both knew.
They were not friends anymore.