62: Melissa Grace

62: Melissa Grace

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

Melissa Grace

Enemies are so stimulating.

~Katharine Hepburn

I hated Melissa Grace. I couldn’t stand her. I knew I didn’t really have much ground for not liking Melissa. I hadn’t interacted with her much. She was a photographer, but without the artsy air that I thought was supposed to follow artists around. She wore blue jeans and T-shirts like every day was Friday and had brown eyes that I envied, but I wouldn’t admit that to myself. She seemed to get along really well with men, which could only mean she was a flirt and a tease. How distasteful.

And, strangely, it seemed like she wasn’t too fond of me, either. All the more reason for me not to like her.

Weeks and months passed, and we continued to perform the delicate, yet subtle, dance of avoiding each other. It was our mutually unspoken dark secret that no one else knew about. She didn’t talk to me, I didn’t talk to her, and we lived perfectly happy lives hating each other. I was fine with that. What a beautiful relationship.

One cool and clear night in October, my friend Kenna invited me over for a movie night. When I got to her place, she stepped out and told me that the movie night was at Melissa’s place because she had a nicer television.

Excuse me?

Thirty minutes later, the popcorn had been popped, and I was just a few feet away from Melissa, as her guest. If I had had a steak knife, I would have been able to cut the tension in the air. It was a little awkward, passing popcorn while avoiding eye contact and trying to not let our fingers accidentally brush.

Surprisingly, it was one of my favorite movies. I was glad someone picked out a good film, saving me from focusing too much on the antagonistic atmosphere.

“This is one of my favorite movies,” Melissa mentioned casually to her friend.

Pardon me, Melissa, I thought, but you aren’t allowed to like this movie. Bad people can’t love good movies. It’s a rule.

Our small audience laughed, cried, and sighed at all the right times throughout the film. When the credits rolled, we all started talking. I realized this was the most time I had actually spent with Melissa, and horns had not yet sprouted from her head. In fact, she seemed pretty down-to-earth and friendly.

Kenna teased Melissa, prompting a quick and comical reply that sent the rest of the room into a fit of giggles.

Oh God. I laughed at one of her jokes. What was I becoming?

I think my laugh caught her off guard, because Melissa turned and looked at me with a surprised expression on her face. I could almost see her questioning whether I was laughing with her or at her. Staring into her beautiful brown eyes, I wondered what thoughts were running behind them. I knew so little of her, and I had never really considered her thoughts or feelings before. She had good taste in movies, and had a great sense of humor. What other traits had I overlooked?

The hours passed faster than I would have liked, and I learned about Melissa’s quirky family in Kentucky, her love of Japanese cuisine, and her older sister who worked as a fitness instructor. Laughing at the ridiculous fears and antics of our childhood and sharing fears of the future, we gave of ourselves until the wee hours of the morning.

And we didn’t stop. The next day, I wondered if the previous night had been a fluke. Perhaps we were unknowingly still at odds with each other. I was so very wrong, because we started talking at lunch as though we were back on her couch.

We talked. For days and weeks about everything and anything from moral messages in Van Gogh paintings to why we think reality television is a waste of time. Then we cried over our failings, prayed over our fears, and laughed at the silliness of everyday life. We snickered at the foolishness of thinking that we disliked each other.

It was as though that one giggle at a joke on that movie night banished my presuppositions and dislike for the woman I now dearly love. She is the opposite of me in all the right ways. It makes me wonder how many other potential friends I may have overlooked.

~Nan Rockey

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