A/N: This was inspired by Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls

Me, Joseph Christopher Danielson, in love?

You must be joking.

No way!

That was what I tried to explain to my beloved brother when he strutted into my room – with a vastly irritating grin on his face – a month or so ago accusing me of being in love.

In love?

What was he? A girl? You know… come to think of it, has he had any girlfriends lately? Jesus Christ, is my brother gay?

Let's not think about it.

Anyway, I'd be fine with it. Him being gay, I mean. I think.

Okay, I'll stick to the policy of not thinking about it. Safer. My brain's too dangerous to think with.

Anyway, right. Where was I?

Oh yeah.

In love?! At the mere age of 17?! You must be joking.

Well, that was what I told myself a month ago.

I couldn't ignore how much she'd taken over me, though. Every time I allowed my thoughts to stray, they'd inevitably stray towards her. How beautiful she looked. How her smile – slow and hesitant to come – assured an instant thrill inside me.

Why was her smile so rare and tentative? Don't think I haven't noticed how pain darkens her light features as she sits in her secluded corner in class. I couldn't miss it with how I kept close, unanimous watch on her in the corner of my vision while nonchalantly twirling a pen. I couldn't miss the way she hesitated in her movement sometimes, as if it pained her to move. I couldn't stop thinking of how vulnerable she looked. I couldn't stop thinking of her. I couldn't miss the twist of her mouth as she tried to keep her emotions hidden when she interacted with her friends. I saw how she bit her lip when they turned away, though. I saw how her grey eyes strayed to the floor as if lost in some painful imagining. How did she manage to hide it from them? How did they manage to not notice? It angered me that her friends couldn't see what was, to me, as bright and clear as the Sahara's sun.

Am I one to talk! I actually noticed but didn't do anything about it This, in my book, classifies as a worse course of action (or non-action, anyway). What could I do, though? She may as well not know I exist, as things stand. To her, I'm just one of the rich kids cruising high school with acquired charm.

I longed to know her story. It killed me that I didn't – couldn't – know more. I wanted to get rid of those lines creasing her face. I wanted to protect her, to envelop her so that nothing could touch her and so that smile of hers can remain permanently on her face. I didn't want her to hide in her secluded corner in class.

There were times when she seemed insistent on hiding from everything, sketching surreptitiously another of her masterpieces. I've seen those, you know. They were perfect, beautiful, glorious. They were as close to a personal expression of her soul as I could find. Just like their makers, beneath the beauty of the art was always a sombre note. I have no idea how she managed to achieve that effect.

As hard as it is to believe, I was nowhere near a poet before she'd taken over me. Really. I was just another guy in the ranks of the endless army of boys that call themselves 'normal'.


That was her name.

I'm afraid to say it too often. Like the flower, I feel like I should handle it delicately and with a certain reverence. I tried saying it and it came out like a deferential prayer.

Christ, I'm pathetic. Look what she's done to me! I'm an absolute sap. But no one knows. Thank goodness. My masculinity would forever be abolished if anyone ever even so much as smelled a hint of this. But no one knows. Least of all her.

If only –

Nah. I shouldn't even think it, really.

I first noticed her when I stayed sitting on the benches after a school game. I relished some time alone to stare at the stars now and then and to feel quiet around me. I'd been enjoying the strange after-game silence alone and looked down from the stars to scan the eerie sight of a vacated place that was previously heaving with crazy activity.

I saw her then.

In the shadows, as usual.

What're you hiding from, Iris?

The mysterious figure that was sharing with me the solitary peace immediately intrigued me. Whoever it was seemed to have the same idea as me. That was cause enough for me to feel a certain connection with whoever it was.

Light glittered on her long locks of ash blonde hair as she moved slightly. I was content to stare at her curiously for a few moments. She was staring up at the stars, just like I did. I wondered what she was doing alone. It wasn't safe and I could have just as easily have been a dangerous man. She hadn't noticed me sitting there, unwittingly in some shadow as well.

Trainers crunching on dried grass suddenly disturbed the silence. Looking towards the source, I saw it was another girl approaching (later, I was to discover she was one of Iris' friends). I looked back towards Iris just in time to see her wipe her eyes hastily.

Was she crying?

Her friend, of course, hadn't noticed. Iris pasted a smile on her face and they sauntered away, chattering normally.

I was completely fascinated by her then.

After that, I couldn't stop myself from slowly watching and gathering information about her. Soaking up all information that came my way. Observing her in our classes, at lunch, wherever I saw her. I never went out of my way to find her or know more about her, though. It would've been too weird. It would've been acknowledging to myself that I was very, very interested (almost to the point of stalker-y obsession? Ha! Couldn't resist that crack there).

Slowly, I learnt more about her. Her kindness, her loyalty, her teasing humour, her strength, her modest intellect and, the most painful of all, the dark cloud that seemed to hover all around her.

Always, the question of what made her cry haunted me.


So, yes, I did fall in love with her.

As cheesy, as crazy, as stupid, as utterly ridiculous as it sounds.

I fell in love with a girl that doesn't even know I exist? Excellent job, Joseph! Way to go!

For the record, I dislike all of my names. First, middle and last. They are all disgusting and a pain to my poor ears and eyes. So feel free to use any in any variant of nicknames you like to call me, except for 'Joe' which I really, really cannot stand. You're going to call me 'Joe' now, aren't you? Thought so.

I deserve the name with doing something as stupid as that, though.

How do I know I'm in love with her? Well, it doesn't take too much guessing. Anything to do with her and I'm completely bowled over. I know as much of her as any person can by just taking the care to notice and remember. Think of every single romantic cliché about a guy in love and it's there. Yup. She's the last and first thought of my day. She's in my dreams. I even talk to her in my head sometimes. Seeing her is enough to add an extra bounce to my step and make me loose concentration immediately. Seeing her happy makes me want to grab the nearest person and dance with them.

It's beyond pathetic. Would that mean I've trespassed into the realms of insanity? Oh well, they say love is crazy (Or, at least, I comfort myself with this thought).

I think my brother and I can both safely blame our romantic notions on Rosa, the administrator of our household. We've watched with her every soap, viewed with her every chick flick and been taught ever lesson on gentlemanly courtship by her. She also regaled us with tales of the good old days of her own exploits as we got older. She was the parent that we didn't have in our clichéd pair of extremely successful but very busy biological parents (that is, biological parents unless we've been adopted. I wouldn't be surprised!).

That brings me to how my brother found out. Well, he just found out I was in love. Just not with whom. I'm surprised it took him that long, really. We knew each other so well that we were practically twins. It seemed he had a moment of revelation as Rosa narrated yet another of her fables and put together all the sudden sighs, sulks, spacing out episodes, lack of girlfriends and recent avoidance of and hostility towards all that is romantic (it reminded me of what I was not and probably could not have with Iris).

Of course, the fact that I was actually in love with the girl took quite a while to hit me. In fact, it hit me just now, really.

Ever since my brother accused me of being in love, the debate was in the constant forefront of my thinking. I reassured myself that I was not in love, that it was a simple infatuation with a mystery. Evidence, however, to the other effect thrust itself into my face and I couldn't ignore it too well. Still, I tried very, very hard to ignore it until one incident.

It was a busy morning when I saw her this time. I had seen her, and naturally gravitated towards her despite myself. When the bell rang, I was therefore in an excellent position to catch her as she fell right into my arms from being pushed in the sudden rush for students to get to class. She had been lost in her own thoughts, so she didn't have enough time to react quickly enough to save herself and go with the flow of students. Believe me; I was both ecstatic and terrified. I couldn't have planned it better if I deliberately constructed it so that she would be pushed right into my arms.

Let me have a little aside here. If you don't seem to get that impression, then let me inform you that I am a shy person. I feel more comfortable without a lot of people, although I don't let it show. The unsocial feelings are still there, though.

So, when she landed right where I wanted her to be, I had no memorable line to make her remember me and want to know who I am. I just smiled at her a bit. That was it. She blushed, stuttered a 'thanks' and rushed off as quickly as possible. I had plenty of time to beat myself up over the lacklustre performance of myself later.

Then, I just blissfully leaned on the wall and thought of how nice she'd smelled and how great she felt so close to me. I wondered if she liked what she saw. I was told that my eyes were an odd mix of blue with hints of green. Maybe that'd appeal to her?

In any case, I was horribly late for class by the time I'd pulled myself out of my contented daze.

I just couldn't argue with myself anymore. I – Joseph Christopher Danielson – was in love.