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So we all know the phrase “falling in love,” but no, I did not simply fall. After much denial, I was smacked with my emotions in realizing how I felt.

I moved to Virginia when I was in 8th grade and was introduced to a girl who later became one of my best friends by a counselor We spent the day together, and she showed me around, but in the last period of the day, we sat next to each other, and I noticed she was drawing a character that I didn’t recognize. I assumed it was an original character. Now, I am an artist and love character drawings and story writing very much. Being the nerd I am, I asked her what she was drawing. She told me about her original character and how she needed a name for them and more of the story. I busted out with ideas for the character and backstory. She ended up loving the ideas and suggestions, and we talked much more.

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Not long after, we started writing together, meeting up every day in the library, and when we had last period every day, we’d sit on the floor next to each other and talk or listen to music. Sometimes, we’d even do drawings together and combine our art styles. One of my favorite times was when we’d sit next to each other on the floor, sharing earbuds while we would lean our heads on each other while staying quiet, enjoying the music and being close to each other. This girl was so different from me, but in a good way. She was quirky, kind, eccentric, tenacious, creative, and a total nerd! I absolutely loved it.

Near the end of the school year there was a big art project we ended up doing together, and she came over one night so we could go and paint in the basement. She saw how I acted around my parents, forcing myself to smile and act happy. She knew that wasn’t the real me, because I told her everything about my mental state, and she confided in me as well. When we got down to the basement, she immediately started acting goofy with me, cracking jokes and pulling up videos to make me smile. I’ll admit, it really worked, and I felt genuinely okay for the first time in a long time. We painted, sketched, listened to music and watched stupid YouTube videos for an entire night. I think it was around five in the morning when I was laying on the couch, the lights were off, and she was laying on the other couch. We were watching an animation, and I looked over at her. I had been denying it up until then, but after a few months, I had truly fallen in love with this girl.

I’ll admit, it really worked, and I felt genuinely okay for the first time in a long time.

For me, realizing that I truly wasn’t straight was a frightening yet absolutely liberating moment. I felt collectively more free than before, knowing that I was finally figuring myself out.

Later, high school rolled around, and we were still as close as ever, and I was head-over-heels by then and had fully accepted that I was in love. She started dating another girl, and I was heartbroken, but still loved her dearly. I supported her, and there was homecoming, fun lunches together, and many memories I could share.

By the middle of the year, I was told we were going to be moving out-of-state, and my heart was crushed. I told my friends the next day, and they all flipped out, telling me to move in with them. In a way, I wish I did. The school year carried on, finals ended, and I went over to my best friend’s house to see her one last time. We sat on the couch in the small apartment behind her house and watched Star Wars, ate snacks and talked about characters and story ideas.

Eventually, we were cuddling on the couch, and I was so content. When it came time to go, I cried, and she cried after I left. But, on the porch before I left, I blurted out, “I love you!” She teared up a little and said “I love you, too,” and hugged me, but by the way she said it, I knew she didn’t mean it the same way I did. I would never change that moment though, and I wish I could go back to it.

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That night we began the long drive to the state I live in now, and months passed. The trees changed color, the sun rose and fell countless times, and the world continued on. I was visiting my family in Ohio when I had finally gotten the courage to tell her that I loved her. However, I did wait until she was single and out of her relationship. I texted her how I felt due to not being able to tell her in person, because I couldn’t be there.

I waited and waited for a reply, partially feeling stupid for telling this amazing girl how I felt out of the blue and not waiting for a “perfect” moment. When I got the reply back, I remember I was so startled I threw my phone. After I picked it up and looked at it, I knew we’d be friends forever, just not lovers. She told me she wasn’t interested in a relationship, but mentioned all the good things she loved about being my friend.

We talked completely normally after that, even discussing my feelings for her like it was a normal topic. To this day, she’s still one of my best friends, and I wouldn’t change that for anything. We’ve been through so much together, and I know I would be a completely different person without her in my life. My word of advice is that if you love someone, tell them, because if they stay, you know that they truly value your friendship.