Part two of Sailing -- The Happy Fits
Look at this I pointed.
Theo’s gaze fell to where my hand was and laughed, a melodious sound in my ears.
Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe
I pulled it out, laughing too.
“That’s the one,” he said.
I looked at him as if to say Do I have to?
“It sounds absolutely ridiculous and random. You must tell me what you think of it.”
I sighed, knowing there was no way I could talk him out of this. Wandering to the back of the library, I plopped down in one of the cozy, overstuffed armchairs, cracking open the book. I peered at the front cover, noticing there was only one name printed there from months ago.
That’s not encouraging.
I flipped it closed and got out my journal instead. I scribbled a few notes in there, once again ignoring Theo peering over my shoulder. He pulled a pen from his pocket and etched a note in the corner with a lopsided scrawl.
I showed him my notes on a new story idea I had come up with. He traced a thumb over it, amazed, smudging the name Alex.
“You’re incredible. You know that right?”
I shook my head. I’m just me after all.
“No, I’m serious. You can come up with amazing stories about angels and dragons and shadow creatures and act like it’s no big deal. You’re way cooler than I could ever be.”
I frowned, scribbling down a response and thrusting it in his face.
Don’t talk about yourself like that. You’re amazing in other ways.
“Really? Like what? I can make a mean cup of green tea,” he joked.
I rolled my eyes and stared him down. He stared back, knowing exactly what I was doing. There we sat, unmoving, both being too stubborn to break away first. We slowly scooted our chairs closer together until we were nose to nose, with furrowed brows and hardset mouths. After a couple of minutes, he blinked, a fluttering of eyelashes, leading to me smirking in triumph. He cracked, then, his mouth worming itself into a smile.
“Are you really this stubborn?”
I simply stared back.
“Alright, I submit,” he dropped his head to my shoulder. “You win.”
I ruffled his hair, my head thrown back in a laugh. I heard his laugh too, muffled as he shook his head. He stayed, hunched over, with his head on my shoulder until I began to wonder if there was something wrong. I wasn’t expecting it when his hand slid into mine and he laced our fingers together.
“You have such small hands.”
It was all I could do to keep from shaking as I felt my face heat up.
Can he hear my heart? My heart that thundered in my ears.
I hoped not.
His other hand traced my wrist, fiddling with the rubber bands I always wore. He pinched one and slid it off my wrist and onto his, letting go of my hand.
“Haha I got it,” he proclaimed.
I leaned over as far as I could, reaching for it, but he held it just out of my reach. He stuck his tongue out like a child used to getting their way. I leaned forward even more, my knees digging into the arm of the chair.
“Pfft, you’re a little short for that, dork.”
I realized how desperate I looked, and leaned back into my chair, sending him the most potent death glare I could muster.
“You look so cute when you’re angry,” he teased.
I huffed, crossing my arms and twisting my face into a scowl. He snickered and swung his chair around to face mine. I continued to scowl at my feet.
“Hey,” he said in that soft way of his.
His hand brushed my knee, tapping a rhythm against it, in a code unknown to me. He hummed along, stopping when he was unsure of the lyrics. I felt myself loosen unknowingly, my fake anger slipping away before I could catch it and put it back in its place. My head lifted slowly to watch his smile playing across his lips and a song playing in his head. His eyes met mine as he bopped along to a soundless beat. His smile grew into a crescent moon illuminating his face. He held it, sending a shiver down my spine. He continued his tapping with mumbled words I tried to pick out from the frantic fluttering of my heart.
“I never cared for fancy art or poetry on old guitars but they always sing along,” he sang in a whisper.
His fingers stilled and he sighed, dropping his gaze. I shifted forward, pulling my journal back into my lap.
What’s wrong? I wrote and held it out for him to take.
He took a long moment to answer, “It’s nothing.”
I knew there was something wrong as he avoided looking straight at me. He had the same look on his face as when he took me his best friend was moving away or the girl he loved wouldn’t break up with her boyfriend for him. It was a look that screamed it’s wrongness in the way it shielded itself. His stormy eyes shone like the sky before a thunderstorm. I scooted forward and settled a shaking hand on his cheek, making him look at me. He flinched and clenched his jaw as if in pain. He still didn’t want to look at me. I retracted my hand, trying not to seem as hurt as I felt.
Did I do something?
I checked the time on my phone, knowing it was probably time for me to go before I made him any more uncomfortable. I stood up, sliding my journal into my bag. He got up and walked ahead of me to the front. We did the usual exchanging of book and card in awkward silence. I took my time taking the book back and nestling it in my backpack, stalling for time, halfheartedly hoping he would tell me what was preying on his mind.
I turned to leave when he croaked out a “Wait.”
He cleared his throat, “Do you have a phone?”
I stared at him, confused, and saw his ears turn a bright shade of pink.
“Uh, what I mean, um,” he stuttered out, “I meant, can I have your number?”
I chuckled softly at his blush slowly creeping across his face. I grabbed a pen and post-it stack off the counter and wrote my number down with a little :) that I knew would make him laugh. He did, an uneven, nervous laugh, like that of a Laughing Kookaburra.
I nodded, shooting finger guns at him and, spinning around, strode out. When I got home hours later, a single message lit up my screen.
I can’t think of anything clever to say
Another followed it.
It’s Theo I don’t know if that was clear
I laughed and quickly typed out a response.
Me: It was pretty obvious. I don’t often have random people trying to text me something clever but failing impressively
A response followed so quickly, I had to bite my lip to keep from grinning.
Tall One : Excuse you, that was a tactical failure
Me: That note, in and of itself, was a tactical failure
Tall One: Hey you might think I’m a fool but it worked did it not?
My roommate walked in on me grinning from ear to ear in the kitchen and walked out, thinking I had finally cracked and murdered someone.
I stayed up half the night talking to Theo, my new book stayed forgotten in my bag. I stared out the window at the flowering White Dogwood outside my window, mentally reminding myself to take a picture of it later, when more than the amber glow of a dying streetlight lit it. It was only when my eyelids drooped from exhaustion that I wished him a good night, and nestled under the blankets, my racing heart keeping me awake for much longer.
* * *
I openly gaped at Theo. I almost ran back out to my car, the only thing keeping me cemented to the spot was the fact that he already spotted me. He smiled sheepishly, running a hand through his hair.
A few days ago, it was long and curly and beautiful.
Now, it was short, just a mess of curls on top of his head.
And it was oh, so cute.
He smirked mischievously in a way that told me he knew something I didn’t, and my brain melted.
When did he get this attractive?
He’s always been like that, dingus.
You knew from the very first day.
"Ey, what are you doing lurking like that?" Theo called.
I marched stiffly up to the desk.
“Soooo,” he said, drawing it out, “what do you think?”
What did I think? Of the haircut or of him? Why did it take me this long to notice this buzzing feeling in my chest?
I settled with a thumbs up and a smile I hoped didn’t look forced. He must have believed it because he put on a face of mock shyness.
“Thanks, you’re ever so kind. Hey, c’mere. I gotta show you something.”
He got up onto the desk and swung over, landing next to me. Grabbing my hand, he pulled me along, making me jog to keep up with his long strides. He led me to a row of books in the back and sat down, patting the spot beside him. I obliged, leaning against the wall behind me for support. The inches that separated us tingled in my mind.
Calm down, won’t you?
I nodded absentmindedly.
“Good. Now,” he cracked his knuckles, “I bet you’re wondering what we’re doing back here.”
The thought had crossed my mind.
“I figured you might start to run out of books to read, so I thought it was high time to introduce you to one of my favourite series.”
He pulled out a lone book on the lowermost shelf. Illuminae.
Oh no, he’s a conspiracy theorist.
“It’s not about illuminati.”
Oh, thank god. Tinfoil hats never suited me.
“It’s about this mining colony-”
His face lit up as he talked. He must really like this series. He laughed, his radiant smile leaving a bubbly feeling in my stomach.
“-and that’s why I really want you to have it. So this copy is yours.”
Wait, mine? I pointed to myself.
“I bought it specifically for you. No take backs,” he grinned.
I got out a piece of paper.
Why take me back here? I wrote.
“Oh,” he blushed, “There was something else.”
I looked at him expectantly.
“Um, uhh, damn this is hard,” he mumbled.
He doesn’t want to be my friend anymore.
Hold it there, partner.
He gave me the book as a sort of consolation.
Why would he do that?
I don’t talk and sometimes I get sad for no reason and he has to cheer me up and I’m not as good of a friend as him and he only stuck around this long because he pitied me. How could I have been so stupid?
“I like you,” he said, jolting me out of my spiral.
I looked up at him, his sea storm eyes above a soft smile and a mess of hair I wanted to run my hands through. A nerd that cries during Studio Ghibli movies and fawns over cats.
“I like you so much-”
All these months of going to the library were never for a book. They were for the boy who watched stupid animes and could quote any scene from doctors nine through eleven.
“-that I think I may love you.”
This wonderful human being that was there for you when everyone else left you for dead. Who made you smile without trying and was never truly mean.
The words tumbled out of my mouth without prompting, my voice, creaky with disuse, coming out no louder than a whisper, “I like you too.”
He seemed taken aback at first, then a cheshire cat grin broke his face.
“You…” he trailed off, for once at a loss for words.
I took his hand, nodding in encouragement. He looked down at our joined hands and leaned forward to touch his forehead to mine.
“You’re pretty cool, y’know,” he said, his breath tickling my face.
I smirked and stared him down, neither of us willing to break away, leaving the moment to stretch on to eternity.
It’s early summer now. All the petals are falling from the trees, like the leaves did in the fall. The flowers scatter in the wind like snowflakes before settling to the ground to be trampled under foot. I watch from my window as the sky turns to grey, nothing illuminating the tree now, for the streetlight had long since died. I imagined it, however, as the wind picked up and the petals flew like a storm, a blizzard, to a lost love, and he would know how much he was missed. He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me, or maybe not.
Our story will die out with us because young and in love never guaranteed us any time. I fill journals with his words and cry sometimes at a certain song. We may talk every other Sunday, quick words between engagements, but he has his life, and I, mine. Our story wasn’t long, nor was it very exciting, but it was real.
Real as starry skies and late nights.
Comfort food to a sick mind.
Warm hoodies in a cold room and smiling eyes.
It was fingers through tousled hair.
Rain against the window while slipping into sleep.
It was a lost melody
I plug in my headphones and imagine the petals, like snow, so full of hope, catching on a breeze and soaring to a new beginning.
Six-foot-two, I fell in love with you