(Note that Kirsten was 16 years old when she wrote this story.)
During the summer my group of friends sits out on the playing fields of our school to bask in the sun and chatter away the lunch hour. One day by coincidence I am alone with a friend- our normal companions are at music lessons or sport, but I am secretly glad of this rare chance to enjoy her company alone. We talk of lessons and books. We disagree over whether Romeo and Juliet were really in love. I am intoxicated by the language and the sincerity of their feelings is proved by their actions. However, to her less romantic mind his ardent declarations are too sudden to be truthful, their mutual devotion too far from her own experience. Somehow the talk turns towards her boyfriend. Modestly, she feels she is not deserving of him. She worries that he will desert her for someone prettier or more clever or in some way better.
"Last night when I went to kiss him he pulled away." She anxiously blurts.
"He probably had a reason, like he was just worried about bad breath." Irrationally, I make excuses for him.
"No, it's happened before. He seems ashamed for us to be publicly together. Be honest, do you think he could be cheating on me?"
Though I know this could not happen I struggle to find the words to console her. I don't know if I can stop myself going too far. I fight the jealous urge in my chest to slander him and get her to reject him. I look at her and in my mind I tell her what I feel. Romeo compared Juliet's eyes to stars but your eyes have a far more staggering, heart-aching beauty. The warm green is flecked with incandescent gold like the sunset upon a crystal sea. The pupils so dark and deep no man could ever understand their meaning. Your skin is perfect and soft and seems to beg my fingers to caress it and declare my love through touch. Then there is the mole beside your right ear that catches my eye as I sit beside you and stabs my heart like a stiletto blade. But that is nothing compared to the mole beneath your collar bone that is revealed when you lean over in your school shirt that just reveals the curve of your breast... beneath which lies your heart that beats with joy and kindness and love. A heart that I can never seek to capture. Would I dare risk to reveal what lies in my heart to you, the object of my every desire? Would I be courageous enough to take the plunge into the sea that could drown my soul by rejection or could carry me on a wave safe to the shore of paradise? Could I put my lips to yours that are so perfect? My sense whispers that a hated certainty might be better than this never-ending doubt, yet my heart is too full of fear to confess my secret. I am tormented by endless daydreams about the implausible moment of ecstasy and the heartbreak of being turned away. I almost envy Romeo his still death in the arms of a requited love. But if I were dead I could no longer watch your cheeks blush rose red and the playful smile on your lips. I would no longer hear your kind words of friendship. The hope of your kiss would be extinguished forever. Nor can you ever know how I feel. Although I dream of the possibility that you feel as I do, I know you are not deceitful enough to conceal it. Your treasured kisses with him are guiltless, and so they should remain. If you knew what I felt you could never look at me without pity. Our friendship will not be jaded with guilt.
"Oh, that could never happen. You know how strongly he feels about you. I think he must just be a bit shy. You know how embarrassed boys can get in front of their friends."
"So what do I do?" She enquires, trusting me.
"Just back off a bit. Save the kissing for when you're alone together."
I spend the rest of the day feeling I have failed her. That if I cannot fulfill my duty as a friend to tell her the truth I am nothing. She asks me for advice as if I could solve all her problems. If she is right in doubting him and I let him get away with it, how would I forgive myself?
At the end of the day I saw him greet her at the school gates. She gave him a restrained kiss on the cheek, following my traitorous advice. They grin to each other and walk off arm in arm, like a less tragic Romeo and Juliet.