Annie and I have been friends for years. Well, I say “friends,” but sometimes I feel like we’re more like close acquaintances than anything else. I don’t mean to say that she wasn’t a blast to hang out with or that I didn’t enjoy her company. It’s just that sometimes I invite her out to do something, and she says no, without giving a very good reason.
We’ve gone on tons of adventures together: hiking picnics, swimming and water skiing, and once, we even went hang gliding. She always struck me as an outdoors sort of girl, but after seeing various pictures on social media, I realized that maybe she was only an outdoors person with me.
At first it sort of made me feel good. Like, I was her “athletic” friend that she went rock climbing and bungee jumping with. It’s not that I’m the kind of girl who doesn’t enjoy an afternoon at the aquarium, but Annie never wanted to go to the aquarium with me. There were plenty of pictures with her “BFF Steve” posing in front of hammerhead sharks, but the ones that featured my face were always taken at the top of a mountain or in front of a waterfall. After a while, I started to wonder why "BFF Steve" never went hiking with Annie; he looked like a fit guy in all the pictures of them together at the museum.
So one rainy Saturday, I called Annie up and invited her to an art gallery. “Sorry, I already have plans with Steve,” she said. “Want to do something next weekend? The weather’s supposed to be really nice.” The next weekend when we met to play Frisbee in the park, I surprised her with advance tickets to the opening night of a play she’d been dying to see. “Oh, it’s going to rain that night… I was planning to stay in,” she told me.
“I have an umbrella,” I said, smiling. “We can take a cab. I won’t let you melt.”
She frowned. “I think Steve and I have plans for a movie marathon.”
“Oh,” I said, trying not to sound as confused and disappointed as I felt. “I guess I’ve got some other friends I can ask.”
My sister Nicole tried to help me out with my Annie problem when she joined me at the play. “Maybe she’s just the kind of person who likes to make plans herself,” she said.
“I’ve invited her to go hiking lots of times. The only time she said no was once when the forecast said it might storm.”
“Well, that’s a legitimate reason not to go hiking.”
“Yeah, but why not come out to the play she really wanted to see?” I asked.
“She already had plans.”
“But that’s not the first excuse she gave me. She said it was going to rain.”
Nicole considered this. “Maybe… she gets depressed when it rains. Some people do. Maybe ‘BFF Steve’ doesn’t really exist and she’s just using plans with him as an excuse to avoid you when the weather’s bad.”
“But I’ve seen pictures of him,” I told her.
“Have you ever met him?” she asked.
“Not… really,” I admitted.
“Photoshop,” she pointed out.
“Look,” I told her during intermission. “Let’s stop by her place after this. Then we can see who’s right.”
“Won’t that be awkward?” she asked.
I shrugged, more curious than eager to be socially delicate at this point.
Annie was surprised when she opened her door. And it turned out that Nicole was right: it was awkward. Both Annie and I were embarrassed. I felt stupid because I had been determined to catch her in a lie, but it turned out that Steve was a really nice guy. He and Nicole filled in the uncomfortable silence with small talk, and eventually Annie invited us to stay for the rest of the movie they were watching. Steve volunteered to go grab some pizza, and after a look from Nicole, I decided to join him.
"So," he said, as we stood in front of the elevators on our way back to Annie's with our arms full of food. "You're Annie's fair weather friend."
"I'm... what?" I stuttered.
"You're the one she hangs out with when it's nice out," he clarified.
"Uh, yeah," I said, "I guess we do get together and do stuff outside a lot."
We rode quietly up to Annie's floor.
"What did you mean by 'fair weather friend?'" I asked as the elevator doors opened.
"That's what she called you when I asked her a couple of years back why she and I never went skydiving or spent a day at Disneyland." My confused look invited him to continue. He smiled. "I'm the one she enjoys hockey games with and the person who stays in to watch movie marathons with her. She saves me for rainy days. You're the one she runs marathons with and does Tai Chi with in the park. The one she shares sunshiny days with."
After a moment of stunned silence, I said, "That's... weird, right?"
Steve smiled again. "That's how I felt at first. I think she was surprised by my reaction, and maybe that's why she didn't tell you. I was convinced for the longest time that you didn't exist and she was just using my friendship as a way to feel better about herself when the weather was bad."
I still couldn't quite believe what he was saying. "It doesn't bother you that she'll only spend time with you when it's crappy out?" I asked.
He shrugged. "It's just Annie," he explained, pausing outside her door. "And I don't know about you, but I'd rather spend time with her when I can than not at all."
I followed him mutely inside, considering what he had said. As I watched Nicole chatting with Annie, I found myself agreeing with Steve. Annie was awesome, and I wasn't going to let a little personality quirk keep us from being friends. I'd just have to be content as her fair weather friend.
"Hey," I said when the movie's credits rolled. "Does anyone know what the weather's supposed to be like tomorrow?"