Caleb and I were in academic clubs together in high school. During practices, we would joke and laugh, just like all friends do. He would check my homework in classes that he excelled in that I did not. We would walk down to the nearest restaurant together and go halfsies on pizza. When we were at competitions and a guy or girl started hitting on us, we had a secret code to go to each other’s rescue if we weren’t comfortable, or to back off if the interaction was enjoyable. He would listen to me bitch about a guy that wasn’t treating me well and offered good advice. He would often tell me how I was being irrational and what I could change. He would also complain to me about girls in his life, and I would help him. I thought of Caleb as my brother, my best friend, and my confidant.
During my senior year, Caleb started behaving a little strangely. At competitions, he would barge into conversations I was having with other guys, even though I gave the “good to go” signal. He always had an excuse like, “Oops, I thought that was the ‘save me’ signal” or “I know that guy, trust me, I’m only looking out for you.” I didn’t think much of it because for all I knew, he did mistake the signals or he did know the guy was bad news. He had never lied to me before, why should he now?
One day after practice, Caleb asked if he could talk to me. Nothing strange, we talked all the time. He told me he had feelings for this girl that he had been talking to for a long time and he thought he was in love with her. He said that the only catch was that she had a boyfriend and he was certain she had no feelings for him. He asked what he should do. I told him that if the girl had a boyfriend and that he was sure she did not have feelings for him, he had 2 options. He could either tell her how he felt and risk losing her, or he could keep it to himself. I explained that if he chose the first option, knowing that she had a boyfriend and didn’t care for him the same way, he would be putting her in a very awkward situation and there was a chance that she wouldn’t talk to him anymore, especially if he pushed the issue. On the other hand, if he kept it to himself, he would never know. He said thank you, he had a lot to think about, and left.
Later that night, our mutual friend, Shawn, called me and said, “What did you do?” I told him I had no idea what he was talking about and started to panic. He told me, “Caleb was planning to confess his feelings for you. He had been planning that for months. You were supposed to say, ‘Of course you should tell her how you feel! Love is love!’ and then he was going to tell you and ask you to be his girlfriend. He just got off the phone with me and he is an absolute wreck” I was completely dumbfounded. Caleb had always been my friend. He had never flirted with me or made a move on me. He knew I had a boyfriend from another school that I liked a lot (at the time). I told Shawn all of this and asked him what I should do. He said, “I don’t know, man. I mean, he’s been really nice to you and puts up with your shit. He kinda deserves it.”
He kinda deserves it.
At school the next day, Caleb acted like nothing happened. What a relief! We went back to talking and joking like usual. Until after practice. He asked me again if he could talk to me. The rest of the team had already gotten rides home, but our coach was doing some paperwork in the classroom, so I felt secure. We walked down to the main entrance of the school. Caleb said, “I want you to know I was talking about you yesterday. Don’t talk, just let me finish. I’ve loved you for a really long time. I’ve been your friend, I’ve helped you through a lot of stuff. Will you go to prom with me?”
I stood there for a minute, looking at the ground. Are you serious? How do I tell him I’m already going to prom with my boyfriend? Should I even have to explain that to him? Of course, I’m going to prom with my boyfriend, that’s what you do. “Caleb, you’re a really nice guy and I appreciate you being my friend for so long. I care about you as well…as my friend. I have a boyfriend. You knew that. I’m going to prom with him. I can’t say I love him, but I also don’t love you. At least not that way. I’m really sorry.”
At the last word, sorry, Caleb backed me into the door, putting his hands on the glass on either side of my shoulders. His face was inches from mine. “You’re going to be sorry!” he whispered in my face, his voice full of malice. “I deserve this, Alice. I put up with your shit. I listen to you bitch about boy after boy that doesn’t treat you right. I would treat you right! I’ve been your friend for so long. I deserve this!”
I deserve this.
Thankfully, my coach walked down the stairs at just the right moment. Caleb released me and walked out the door. Our coach asked me if I was okay, I looked like I had seen a ghost.
The next few weeks at school leading up to prom were hell. I avoided Caleb like the plague. The words You’re going to be sorry rang in my head as I worried what he was going to do to make me sorry. I would catch his eyes in the hallway, just standing there staring at me coming out of class, at my locker, getting a drink. I started planning my route around the school to avoid him, but everywhere I went, I felt his eyes like daggers in my back.
The day of prom, we were allowed to get out of school that Friday for a half day to get our hair done. I was hanging out in the gym with everyone else before the bell rang. I was sitting with two of my friends when I felt him. I looked up and there was Caleb, standing in the middle of the gym.
“Alice!” he yelled. “I’ve put up with your crap for way too long. I’m asking you one last time. Will you go to prom with me?” By now, everyone was watching him. You could have heard a pin drop in that gym.
“Caleb, it’s the day of prom. I’m not going with you. I don’t love you. I’m sorry, but you’ve just got to get over it.”
“Whore!” he roared. “This bitch has led me on for years now!” he screamed as he looked around the gym, gaining more attention. “I’ve been her best friend, I’ve listened to her every complaint. I’ve helped her through her problems. And she’s dating someone else! She knew I had feelings for her, yet she continuously flirted with me and made me love her! You’re nothing but a whore, Alice. I deserve you.” And he walked out of the gym, got into his car, and left the school.
I deserve you.
Ten years later, I still think about that day. His words I deserve you still echo in my head from time to time. I think about all of the girls who were put in the same situation as me. All of the girls who “gave the guy a chance” and ended up in an incredibly abusive relationship like I could have. I think of the nice guy facade Caleb put on and how he could have fooled me. Where would I be now?
Guys, I am speaking to you. You do not deserve a girl just because you’re her friend. You do not have the right to her feelings just because you have her back. If you choose to be a good friend, you do not have the right to expect anything else in return besides her friendship. She does not owe you her mind, her body, or her feelings. That is the mentality of a rapist.
For those of you who just read that last paragraph and became angry, you really need to think about your choices. Don’t be a Caleb. You deserve happiness, but not at the expense of another person.
Ladies, if you are ever put in this situation, stay true to yourself. You are not a possession. No one has the right to you, your body, or your emotions. If you are currently experiencing this, seek help. You are not alone.
This story does have a happy ending. My prom date turned out to be a real jerk, just like Caleb said he would. I ditched him, spent the night dancing with my best friends and made many life-long memories. Caleb did not go to prom. The school forbid him from speaking to me for the remainder of my senior year. Caleb and I have not spoken since that day. I moved out of the area, found the love of my life, and I’m marrying him in a few short months. I have met the man that I have chosen.