She was fine till then, she really was. She had forgotten to worry about the numerous petty and not so petty issues that had been bothering her for so long and really indulged in the light, slightly teasing, but free conversation with her friends.
Till they proposed that question.
“What if he did drop in for a visit? What would you do, then?”
The slight buzz of happiness that had occupied her face vanished almost immediately. This required no pondering over, the obvious sign being the freezing up of her thoughts and her entire brain activity. Her movements stilled and the slow descent to hyperventilation began.
What if he did come here? What if? She knew he was stubborn; posing the question as a challenge might – would – get him propelling over the miles and rushing over. Of course, it didn’t matter. It didn’t, because she would not ask the question at all, much less challenging him and his need for utter stubbornness. She didn’t want him.
She didn’t want him.
No. She needed him.
The admittance of this fact shocked her to her core again. Not that she didn’t see this hidden approval within herself; the very process of thinking so was almost laughable. She didn’t want to wish, because the very real possibility of this scenario, the hope within the scenario, the love behind the wishing for this scenario was palpable, was a living, breathing creature and if that bubble burst, she didn’t know if she could survive this ordeal.
She’d refuse it a million times over, but she knew she was fragile, too vulnerable to passing emotions and signs of affection; a slight ray of hope would get her over the mountain once again and the fall would hurt more than ever.
They saw all those emotions on her face, open as a book as it was. Smiles sprung all over, because they knew the exact reaction that’d possess her upon seeing him. It would be shock and horror and faintness and vulnerability and hope springing throughout her entire frame. Once these emotions settled down, however, a beautiful, hesitant flower waited to bloom. It’d leave her beautiful face expressing a thousand emotions, her hands shaking, her thoughts jumbled. But, it’d leave her happy.
And it was what she deserved.
This, this hope for happiness, she refused to acknowledge. Why acknowledge when there was no hope that it’d last? That she would ever be lucky enough to be exposed to such an exquisite form of contentment? She didn’t deserve this, no matter what anyone else thought. She didn’t deserve him; he was a good one and no one would ever willingly take her on as their burden.
She was better as she was now. Maybe she was a little sad. Maybe, sometimes in the cold throes of moonlight, she ached for another soul’s heartbeat and intimate presence. Maybe, an incredibly busy day left her wanting for somebody to press up against and slowly let the tiredness seep away.
But, these were wandering lusts and she had no want for them. She didn’t want them, she needed them. No. There was no difference. She wanted nothing to do with anything.
While everyone peacefully slept, her eyes flickered, her throat clogged and her fingers whimpered with the need to hold somebody.
But she didn’t let anyone know.
It had been a busy day. She felt wiped out, both mentally and physically. As she trudged up the staircase to enter her room, a wave of exhaustion almost pushed her to the ground. She pushed through and welcoming the sight of her bed, she let herself fall.
A blaring noise called out to her annoyingly and she groped for her mobile, irritated and blinded by the sleepiness clouding her vision. A voice called out. “Where are you?” “What?” “Get your butt out here, you promised a night out!”
Her memory chose then to refresh itself, leaving her with an overwhelming urge to cry out in desperation and utter tiredness. She however murmured her assent and got up to style herself into a more presentable version. Numbed by the remnants of her drowsiness, she attempted to grab all that she needed and stepped out into the cool, fresh air. It was cold but not to the extent of wearing extra clothing – even if it got cold, she would just have to suffer through it because she was not stepping back in to her room. She just wanted to get it over with.
As she trudged downstairs and into the open ground, she witnessed the darkened, misshapen figures of her four friends. She paused in her thoughts and movements – she had promised to go out with only three of her friends. Who could the fourth person be? As she resumed her steps, the figures cleared out slowly, turning into the familiar figures of her friends and a mannish, hulking figure she wasn’t quite familiar with. Pushing it down to be a mere acquaintance who may have expressed his interest to accompany them, she glazed over his figure and watched her steps over the misshapen rocks that paved her path to them.
As she looked up yet again on approaching closer, she saw the familiar smiles of her friends. And the stranger, who now upon closer distance looked incredibly familiar. She couldn’t for the life of her place his face next to a name. Wait.
No, no, no. This couldn’t be happening.
How, when, where? Why?
All these and a dozen more confusing sounds and noises and emotions sprung into the now empty abyss of her mind as his familiar face and unfamiliar body stepped up to her, a warm smile gracing his features, warmer than she had known for ever; it had been too long, too long since she had the opportunity to place her eyes upon his blessed figure, a figure from which she just couldn’t move her eyes; oh my, what was she going to say him? He was here, actually really here, with his hulking figure, his big and warm eyes, and his large and soft hands, his beautiful lips stretched into a beautiful smile. What was she going to say?
His smile turned gentle as he approached her, the space reducing between them as her heart started beating faster. Slow down. It was easier to say than do. At this moment, all she could focus on was the act of breathing. Breathe in, breathe out. And his presence, closing in slowly but surely and a specific scent that would now forever be associated with his name.
Gentle and amused, he decided to speak first.”Hi.”
She wanted to speak back, she really did. A hey would have worked, a nod, even a smile would have done just fine. All she could do was however, stare at him with wide eyes, unable to express the true emotions coursing through her being; what was this weird feeling that stopped her from interacting like a human and instead just stood there and took in the essence of another human?
No. Not another human. Him.
As it resonated through her, she felt herself calm down slightly and attempted to unfreeze herself. A fresh blush never leaving her cheeks, she smiled in an attempt to express the strong feelings flooding through her system. She didn’t know what came out and she didn’t want to know, choosing instead to expose him to that torture.
His smile brightened. A soft chuckle left him, a slight shake of his head.
So maybe it wasn’t torture after all. Hope poured in again. A slight, insistent berating began in her mind – don’t hope, don’t hope, please don’t hope when you know where this is heading. Then, he looked at her, a pretty twinkle in his eyes, a small tilt to his head and an amused smile gracing his face yet again and suddenly the berating voice became small, negligible and avoidable. One smile of his and she couldn’t even remember what she was worrying about.
If she was even slightly worried about the hold he had on her, not even a tiny amount of concern was felt at that moment. Because this moment was meant to be perfect, a picture worthy still, to be forever withheld in her soul.
His grin brought her back into focus.
“Are we going to stand like this forever? I don’t mind, you know. This is kind of the best angle to be with you, I can stare at you contently all night.” A cheesy wink followed the declaration, the latter of which she wasn’t even sure she heard because all she had been doing was staring at him, mouth now falling open and a fiery red blush racing all over her face upon witnessing the wink.
“I…I”, she cleared her throat embarrassingly to get it clear and proceeded,” I just, I didn’t even…hi.”
She smiled then, more clearly and a little less shy. He grinned back in full force and cheered.
“Yes! I got her to speak!”
Say hello to the blush. Again. “Stop it! I was just surprised.”
“Sure. For ten minutes. Or more. Sure, I believe you.”
“Ten minutes?!”, she reiterated, shocked. He grinned, again. Then, realizing how it sounded, she changed her stance.
“Don’t lie. It wasn’t ten minutes, okay? Besides, it was just shock. Now that I’m over it, I should probably ask you, what are you even doing here? Here to meet one of your many contacts and decided to drop by to visit the poor ole’ me?”
This. This teasing tone and the arguments. This was what she had always with him and the familiarity of the situation warmed her up more than a simple blanket or a cup of coffee could do. She could do this without messing it up too much, right? Although, she did argue with him once about not knowing her favourite tree, so she couldn’t really trust her stupidity to maintain a limit before she stepped into the muddle of her craziness.
He seemed affronted, gleeful and in a mood for a playful argument. Placing a hand upon his heart in a mock-hurt manner, he mimicked a shocked expression.
“How could you say that? Besides, I am here to meet my best-est friends in the whole wide world! Not you. Who wants to meet you?”
Her curiosity deepens which then ascends into complete and utter shock when he gestures to her best friends, who are grinning slyly, their laughs echoing as he points to them, followed by earnest nods.
“Yes, we were very anxious to meet him. Since you talk a lot about him,” he sent a crooked grin in her direction which sent her heart into overdrive yet again,” we felt like we know him so well, you know? He also expressed interest in seeing our place so we were planning on acting like tour guides. We are kind of disappointed that you hadn’t yet introduced him to us well enough, he’s such a stand up guy and such great company to have around.”
She wasn’t stupid. She knew that they had all joined hands in teasing her right out of her senses. Yet, when she saw their open laughs and him grinning, him smiling, him looking at her with a wide blown-out laugh, she didn’t have the heart to stop them. Of course, it may have to do with the fact that her heart was occupied with more engaging hobbies – all of which included staring at him and following his every move, his smile, his hand gesturing, his hair, his body that looked so different, his stubble, all that made him, him.
“You know what would be amazing right now? A nice snack from one of those shops down this street. Let’s go!”
Her friends skipped along, assuming she would bring him along since she knew their destination well enough. He turned to look at her, with a questioning look of concern, as if asking her if she was okay with the decision, and it stupidly made her heart flutter, a strange sensation but so very welcome. Her friends sent in mischievous grins from behind him, assuming the dirtiest obviously, which made the blush creep in again.
She slightly shook her head and returned to an action that she was more familiar with in his presence – a sassy statement.
“Might as well go to eat since you have made the effort to come here. Come on, this place is good.”
He grinned, acknowledging her aloofness, and surely recognizing the forced attempt at nonchalance. He was one of the few who could read her really well and that was not a fact that helped her in this situation at all. She was reminded of the few moments that they had shared before – phone calls, messages, an occasional voice message, something that she treasured. The knowledge that this man beside her had seen her at her worst and through all this time, sent a jolt to her core. Vulnerability scared her, yet enticed her – what they have shared crossed the lines of the usual levels of intimacy she experienced and it scared her, but in a good way.
In all respects, he was home. He was the one she kept returning to despite looking all around for eligible, attractive men. There were many, much more eligible, and much more attractive; she could find flaws in him if she tried. But every flaw brought in yet another star attached to his personality and she had abandoned the activity as it seemed to be doing the exact opposite of the initial goal of revulsion.
He turned his head towards the direction in which her friends had departed and she shyly nodded before extending her hand unconsciously, so as to lead him.
Shock entered his eyes.
Oh. Oh, oh, oh, oh. What had she done? This wasn’t supposed to happen. Why did she never think before proceeding?
Stupid brain. Stupid hand. Stupid hurt.
Don’t. Don’t even try to bring him into this. He was acting normal, it’s you who is so fond of messing this up.
A light touch to her hand caused her eyelids to burst open. When did they even shut?
Fingers interlaced with hers. Stupid heart. Slow down.
He smiled a rather dorky smile, amused and concerned. Hope, hope, hope. Stupid brain.
The hold tightened, as if he knew what she was thinking about.
Stupid brain, stupid heart, stupid happiness.