It was a funny thing, the way love bloomed under the early buds of a cherry blossom, then died away when the blooms started to fall. Spring had been full of pastel things unfolding, be it flowers or feelings of the same rosy ilk. After, summer was hot, withering, and it chased off the tail a love never meant to be. He still couldn’t help but miss her, though, when he watched the cherry trees fill in with green canopy overhead.
A can of sun-warmed lemonade in hand, he sat at the riverbank, under the dappling shade of the very cherry trees he had watched drop their petals as he dropped the scattered pieces of a heart in love. There had been a time when the river was nearly pink, petals floating and spinning lazily on the surface. The whole thing had carried a lovely perfume of rainwater and gentle florals. Now, it was clipped grass and sunshine instead, which seemed fittingly less romantic. Though, somehow, it fit the summertime nostalgia and melancholy perfectly.
As they so often did, his thoughts drifted back to her. It was a rotten habit, he knew, one he always meant to break. If there was something so fundamentally wrong with even the idea of their relationship, wouldn’t it be best to move on rather than dwell? Probably. But the heart wasn’t so easily swayed as the mind, and emotion often seemed unruly at best, ragingly out of control at worst. So, he sat at the riverbank, where things were calm but alive, and thought.
It had been Valentines Day when they first met properly. He’d taken notice of her before, everyone on campus had; with her kind of reputation, it was impossible not to. Still, he hadn’t ever talked to her before that day, and he only got the chance to because of an unfortunate accident. One of his textbooks had ended up going through her dorm window in an incident too strange to feel like much less than fate. He had to sit with her in health services, waiting quietly while a nurse bandaged her arm where the glass shards had cut. In the end, she thanked him, which he couldn’t really understand. But, from the loosened bow around her collar and the bruising on her neck said draping ribbon exposed, he couldn’t help but wonder if his textbook had been a welcome disruption from something.
Before midnight could steal away the holiday for another year, she showed up at his door with a bar of chocolate. It wasn’t hearts or anything fancy or expensive or homemade, but he supposed it was a nice gesture, even if unexpected. They certainly weren’t a couple, so why get him chocolate for Valentines Day?
He didn’t see her for sometime after that, but he couldn’t seem to forget her. Whether it was the unusual way in which they met, or the late night spent splitting a chocolate bar under a crescent moon and soft glowing stars, he couldn’t decide. Both encounters were equally strange, his feelings for her even more so. Was it nothing more than the fact that she was different from her reputation, from what he expected? Or was something unfamiliar starting to bloom, somewhere warm and nurturing in his chest?
It was sometime in late April, the next time they talked. He found her sitting by the riverbank on a drizzly day, white skirt grass-stained and muddy. He didn’t ask, and she didn’t offer. But, regardless, he joined her there, slowly losing heat in the rain. For a while, he considered offering her his jacket, but it was soaked and cold, heavy with rainwater, so he didn’t.
Once the silence had run out, she talked about a lot of things, and he listened when he could, talked when he couldn’t stand to hear some of the things she said any longer. Sometimes it was school and weather and a party with her friends. Other times, it was self-loathing, other girls’ jealousy, broken glass and black eyes. Why she said all of it to him, he still couldn’t understand, but he supposed he had only been a quiet shoulder to lean against. Or, maybe, someone she trusted to keep hold of her secrets when she didn’t want to anymore.
At the end of the day, he told her he loved her, which was mostly true, if not a horrible thing to say to someone who wasn’t expecting it. She was nice, though, handled it with awkward, fumbling compassion, and politely turned him away. It was as much as he had expected, given their lack of any noteworthy history, but it still made him feel a little hollow inside. After some of the discomfort had faded from the atmosphere, she got to her feet, brushed the torn up grass from her skirt, and patted him on the head before she left. For a long time, he stayed and watched the petals get weighed down off their branches with the rain. Sometime, after the sun had gone down, though it was hard to tell in the overcast grey, his roommate came and found him and brought him inside.
A kid riding by, ringing the bell on their bicycle, brought him back to summer. His lemonade was hot, now, but he finished it anyway and watched the river lazily ebb by. How he could be homesick and longing for a love he had never really known was beyond him. Most things were, really, as the world seemed a mystery much too complicated for him to solve. Sometimes, sitting in clipped grass and reminiscing was enough. There was no strive to be had, no desire or passion. It was simpler that way, and it was something he could understand. So he watched the river, and when he tired of that, he watched people meander down the sidewalk on the opposite bank. And if a particular girl—one with a white skirt that used to be stained and a bow at her collar that had once been too loose—happened to walk by, well, he pretended not to notice.