Third blames her parents for making her a hopeless romantic. Not because of their own marriage which was on the brink of failure every month. But since the moment Third could sit up on her own, her parents placed her in front of a television and went off to do their business. Third was a quiet and compliant child so she would stay put. She would stare into the screen full of shapes and colors, entranced.
Her parents would recount stories of her as a baby happily watching Snow White for the hundredth time in a row rather than play with any of her toys. The moment she could talk, she would demand certain movies. If she wasn’t watching movies, she was making her own stories with her toys to entertain herself. Third grew up falling in love with the concept of love. Then, her parents finally got divorced when she entered high school. It didn’t really affect her as she watched their marriage crumble in real time. It was only a matter of time before the other shoe dropped. It didn’t crush Third’s faith in love. Growing up watching movies mainly revolving around love taught her that it was complicated. Love could make you feel as light as a feather. But like how a pound of feathers could weigh as much as a pound of bricks; love could weigh heavily in your heart. The trope of unrequited love existed for a reason.
But Third still watched as many trashy rom-coms and found herself yearning for love like the movies. She went through the entirety of high school forming her passion for film into a possible career path. She wanted to tell her own stories and live vicariously through them. Her first few amateur films revolved around the quiet moments of affection. The one she sent in her portfolio for college was based on her first heartbreak. Third realized by the end of her senior year that she was batting for an entirely different team from the rest of her friends. She kept it to herself for the most part. There was no point ruining her life when she was on the verge of graduation. It worked until Chick.
Chick was the tall and handsome girls’ basketball captain. She was also Vice-President of the Film Club that Third had built up from the ground. Chick was a playful and flirty girl that loved to get under Third’s skin by teasing her about her love for cheesy romances. She would drag Third to all of her games in exchange for watching a movie of Third’s choice. Despite all her complaining about romance movies, Chick was always the first to start sniffling when the movie turned for the worst. They had spent a lot of time together, shoulder to shoulder and their hair tickling each other’s face. They held hands walking to and from school. It was not odd for girls their age to show affection to each other so openly. So, Third didn’t question the butterflies she got every time Chick smiled at her and took her hand into hers.
Then, the day before graduation it hit Third that she was in love with Chick. In love with her obnoxiously loud laugh and ugly sobs. Her platinum hair with dark roots peaking out that the girl never bothered to cover up. Her smile that had abnormally sharp canines that she always joked were her vampire fangs. And her soft hands and soft eyes. How could you not fall in love with her? She was straight out of one of Third’s movies.
But her life was not a movie. Chick had a boyfriend. She would not have the same realization as Third. She would go the rest of her life oblivious to Third’s infatuation. There would be no grand gestures or confessions of love. Only Third weakly smiling as Chick received her diploma and letting herself melt into her arms for one last time. They parted ways after graduation and Third felt that she had learnt a valuable lesson. One she hoped to never repeat.
Third was an idiot, of course. She was incapable of self-preservation. She had no sense of reason when it came to the matters of the heart. She was either all in or she wasn’t interested. So of course, she fell head over heels for the first girl that shared her love for movies. It didn’t hurt that she was gorgeous either. Khai was simultaneously exactly like Chick but nothing like her. They were both the popular type that lavished in being the center of attention. They both liked to bother and cling onto Third. They even ugly cried at the same parts of movies.
But Khai was worse for Third’s heart. She burrowed her way into it and wouldn’t leave. It didn’t help that they spent most of their time together. They watched movies together and took lessons after school that ranged from traditional dance to landscape painting. Eventually when Third and Khai joined up with Two and Bone to form the Savage Gang, they all played ping pong once in a while. The other two always joked they were joined by the hip. Not Third and Khai but ThirdandKhai . It reminded Third of a Greek tale about humans consisting of two people before being split apart and forever searching for their other half.
Third learned quickly though that they were not in fact not only ThirdandKhai . They were Third, Khai and whatever boy of the week she decided to keep around. The first time that Khai left Third hanging at their dance lesson, Third sat in the parking lot of the building and cried. It would not be the last time that she would cry. Each of Khai’s string of partners would lodge a tiny splinter into Third’s heart. So, Third ignored it. She would fool with any girl curious enough to fall into Third’s bed behind Khai’s back. It didn’t matter that she pretended every girl was Khai in her mind.
Third and Khai fell into the new routine with ease. They would hang out together when they were free and go out with the Savage gang once in a while. Khai would date her guy of the week and Third would buy another tub of ice cream and watch Toy Story 3 so she could have a valid reason to cry besides Khai. It was a blessing that they didn’t dorm together their first year. Third could fall apart in relative peace in her single dorm.
There were fleeting moments that made Third think that Khai returned her feelings. Or at the very least knew about them. Sometimes she’d steal Third from her dorm room and whisk her away to a fancy dinner. Khai would buy them a nice bottle of champagne and they would drink and laugh together. They’d play footsie under the table and Khai would lay compliment after compliment over her. Third felt like she was on air every time. Then Khai would pull the same trick once they neared dessert.
She’d get on one knee in front of Third and pull out a velvet box out of any pocket found on her outfit and asked her to marry her. The first time that it happened, Third thought her heart was going to beat out of her chest. She thought she was dreaming. Of course, Third took advantage of the situation to act on her feelings. She’d tear up and throw herself into Khai’s arm, saying yes, a million times. Her favorite part was Khai concentrating all her efforts to slip the ring onto Third’s finger before looking up to give her tailor marked impish smile. (Third asked her once how she knew her ring size and guffawed when Khai told her that one night Third spent a night at Khai’s place, she sneakily wrapped a string around her finger.) The ring never changed but Third loved it; it was a simple thin silver band with tiny dots of amethyst embedded in it because of course Khai would never forget Third’s favorite color.
The ruse’s main purpose was to land them a free dessert. But for Third, the true indulgence was the act itself. She could pretend for a moment that they were ThirdandKhai and they were merely cementing it. At some point, Khai stopped caring about free dessert and Third stole the ring one night when she stayed over. She put it on a chain that she tucked under her shirts when she went out. Khai must’ve noticed the ring’s disappearance and Third’s sudden addition of a chain to her outfits. She didn’t say anything though, merely staring at the chain resting against Third’s collar bone then moving on. Khai’s favorite method of communication was one-sided conversations with herself. She saw it every time in Khai’s eyes as Third stepped past the line of their relationship.
Khai loved to live and forget. It was one of the reasons she was so good at short-term relationships. She lived out the spark of living in the moment before moving onto the next exciting thing. Third didn’t see her settling down any time soon so she kept her head down. It was hard at times. Times where Khai took her hand and dragged her to the canteen where she would ask Third what she wanted to eat. When they sat shoulder to shoulder as they ate. Khai would lay her head on Third’s shoulder once she finished, complaining about going to class afterwards. When they studied together at each other’s places and laid side by side in bed with no space between them, Third could feel the warmth radiating off Khai’s body.
The worst moments came when they went out to drink. Khai had no impulse control in any area of her life and drinking was no exception. Third would sip on her usual rum and coke while keeping a hawk eye on Khai. She’d let her finish a round of shots insufferable men bought her and then force her to drink water. She made sure to shove any man that got too handsy with her on the dance floor and hold her hair back if she threw up in the club restroom. They’d stumble to the closest place to stay and collapse into bed. Third would strip into her underwear and avoid focusing on how there was one less barrier between Third and Khai’s bodies. She’d stare into Khai’s flushed face for a few minutes before turning on her side to sleep. Khai, a notoriously clingy person, would shift to spoon her a few seconds later. Third would hear her mumble nonsense into her ear. Mainly insisting Third to stay with her. As if she’d go anywhere else.
Third was the early bird of their relationship. She’d wake up in Khai’s arms and let herself soak up her warmth for a moment. Then, she would peel Khai off with care so she wouldn’t wake up. She’d pad into the kitchen and sit down at the table to collect herself. Setting her head on the table cooled her down and brought her back to reality. Once she was level headed, she’d steal a pair of Khai’s shorts and shirt that were huge on her because Khai was a freaky giant. She’d toe on her shoes before heading down to search for breakfast.
She’d come back up with food and to a grumpy Khai. Third’s heart would twinge at the sight of Khai bare faced and her hair a bird’s nest. She’d corral her into sitting at the table and set the food down. She’d set a cup of water and painkillers in front of her. Khai, being the big baby she was, always refused to take the medicine until Third wheedled her. Wheedling that included threatening to eat all the food she bought. Khai was nothing if not easily persuaded.
Those quiet moments when they ate breakfast, occasionally brushing hands and listening to Khai rambling about a new foreign movie she watched settled Third’s heart. This is enough , she told herself. Then senior year hit.