The curtains rose to a scene where we met, a scene in which we acted as if we couldn't get hurt.
I've always been the type of girl who spent hours analysing life instead of living it.
I've always been a bookworm; I've always preferred pretending to having to deal with reality. Love is always better in books, after all, and at least the heroines have something of a chance at happiness.
There's always a beautiful stranger to waltz in and steal their hearts, there is always a kiss or the anticipation of something akin to magic. Love is my favourite four letter word.
When it comes to said four letters and beautiful strangers, I had no such luck.
You know, I suppose I was the worst kind of hopeless romantic.
I had an absolute and unwavering faith in love, and its power to make miracles happen... just not for me, and never in any such epic proportion as my books led me to believe. No, I am no Eliza Bennett and I am certainly not a Cathy to any poor soul's Heathcliff.
It's just... well, I rather believed that I was doomed, regardless.
Of course, as all teenage girls inevitably do, I have my stories.
It's strange, don't you think, how memories can make everything seem less awkward, less excruciating.
I almost laugh to think of the boys I ran from, because it's laughable to think that any of them ever seemed that ridiculously important.
There was only ever one who really was, I think, and that's evident by the fact that my heart still aches and my stomach remains empty of butterflies for any other suitor.
I don't claim a collapse, I was never strong enough to let myself fall apart, and now... now, the thing I want the most is the thing I am most scared of.
Ironic, isn't it? Reminds me of something I heard once, by that guy, you know, the one who wrote Pygmalion. George Bernard Shaw? He said that there are two tragedies in life; one is to lose your heart's desire, and the other is to gain it.
Believe me when I say I never wanted to understand what he meant.
Despite everything I have said, I have not always felt so cynical about love.
The aforementioned boy did a lot to persuade me into such a manner of thinking, and I guess you'd only understand that if you knew the story.
There was a girl, and there was a boy, and there was a game. And yes, the girl was me, and yes, I loved him. A lot. Forgive me, because it's not exactly an easy thing to share. But once upon a time, there was a girl. And she met a boy, and the boy's name... was Finn.
Now, Finn, he was not any kind of perfect male specimen, and he wasn't particularly kind.
He wasn't any kind of cliche; he wasn't the boy next door, or the best friend, or the arrogant git to sweep me, the poor geek, off her feet. He was just Finn, with a crooked smile and stupidly blue eyes and a birthmark on his ankle.
He was nicely flawed, wonderfully real and human and close.
He always reminded me of autumn evenings and he always had this musky scent of boy that made me want to kiss him- I suppose, to me, he was perfect, simply because he wasn't.
I felt really comfortable in his presence, you know? We'd been sort of friends for a few years, and we had debated and argued for half of the time spent together. The rest was relatively peaceful, pieced together with fragments of quirky prose and songs we sang to fill the commercial breaks. We always played our game, our game where nothing in real life mattered and everything was just another scene to be scripted.
I could talk to him really easily- he wasn't lacking in intelligence and he had a really wry sense of humour. He used to dazzle me, I guess, or at least that seems the best way for me to describe it. he was just this unique, annoying, brilliant, beautiful boy who could make me hot with anger or warm with mirth. I liked that, I really did.
Finn wrote songs and climbed mountains- he was as unconvential as he should have been popular, and his single status wasn't for lack of offers.
As we started to get closer, I learned new things about him that fascinated me. Like, he had some pretty weird hobbies, and he liked to cook dinner every second Sunday of the month for his grandma, and he hated the taste of cinnamon.
He was like, a complete grammar nazi, worse than even I was, and he could be a total stubborn prat when he didn't want to give in. But despite all of that, he wasn't the boy I loved to hate. He was just Finn. Always, only Finn.
And Finn and I, we had this sort of unconventional friendship to go with his personality.
We hugged a lot and talked about politics and teen soaps and retro pop songs.
He used to quote lines from old movies and I'd say the next one without even missing a beat. Our friendship would ebb and flow, and sometimes he'd be permanently at my side, others, he'd leave me be. He always seemed to know what I was thinking, and I still sometimes wonder if he knew I loved him before I did. I doubt anyone could have known him like I did and not fallen hard,
Finn was not the one to ruin our friendship.
At parties he kept filling my glass and made me dance until I forgot everything until we became a blur in the middle of a crowded room. The four times we kissed me, he was the instigator, but he was not to know that sometime into the first it ceased being meaningless for me.
He was not the one to make us awkward. He didn't blurt out three words, in fact, the story started with four. "You are the ocean," he whispered, and it was a damn wierd thing to say, but I saw him exactly the same way. I felt I could easily drown in his eyes, loving him as I did.
Another four word phrase followed a couple of days after. "We don't like Mondays," he smirked across a dirty table. We were sitting in a diner, dreaming, pretending, as we often did. I nodded. It was a Thursday and it didn't matter at all, because it had become a 'we', and the song had come on the radio seconds later. As he made his exclamations, I found myself wondering if his lips were as soft as the words that fell from them.
After a pause in our friendship (a natural one that did not worry me, much) we graduated from four words to three. Every now and then we tested the whole 'absence makes the heart grow fonder theory' and spent time with our other friends.
Finally meeting again, he held my hand like an old lover in a familiar facade. My other friends, they didn't know how to play pretend, and I doubt they'd have wanted to if they could. "I've missed us," he said, and I missed the telltale signs of a game in his eyes,
"As have I," I murmured.
I'm not ashamed to admit that the next three word phrase was a line from Gone With The Wind.
In the game, we were constantly throwing each other off guard with grammatically correct nonsense; his untimely quoting disorientated me even more.
"Frankly my dear," he whispered, his best Clark Gable impression in place, as he shuffled behind me in the lunch queue. I was happy, in spite of myself. "I don't give a damn" is five words, and frankly... I don't know how I'd have pretended to recieve them.
I suppose at the end of the day our friendship was built on our games.
We liked to bounce words off each other in the hope of creating something. We liked to throw them at each other to see if they would scratch the surfaces of our carefully constructed walls. And we took comfort in the other's belief in the pretense that people like us could be adored- it was a friendship of necessity that even I didn't wholly understand.
Finn was a great actor, all pretenses and no regrets, I guess, and he was adept at choosing exactly the right words. But skilled though he was, also Finn told me he cared about me, and that was his biggest mistake.
The final three words were my own, a declaration of something I'd always denied. "I love you"- it was an obvious choice, and obviously not a move he expected me to make. For a minute I had chosen to forget that we were pretending. For a moment he had almost believed that I was.
It was a study in perfection, the way his mouth fell into a flawlessly formed circle, the way his eyes widened and his breathing quickened. But we were not a cliche, and he didn't say it back or crush me to him with feverish kisses and a passionate embrace. I saw the hesitation in his face, and I ran. And it was not a metaphorical thing- I quite literally put my legs to the test and got away before he could speak.
I cried for days and he did not even try to rescue me.
I can't pretend that his prolonged silence didn't bother me.
No, I don't believe I will ever love anybody else, or that any love of epic proportions will come my way. I will never be a girl in a book, and Finn is no longer on my list of grievances. The boy really hurt me, and maybe I didn't give him a chance, but you can't trust boys that wear masks all the time, no matter how lovely or eccentric or intriguing they seem.
He gave me my first epiphany, but we are no longer friends. The game is over, the curtains drawn on the play. All the world's a stage, and Finn knew it, I think, better than anybody.
This morning I found a note in my locker. This time is was only two words. "The End" written with a flourish and signed without a name.
His soft voice attracted my attention to him standing behind me. "Forgive me?" he pleaded, and I wished he would leave. "I lied," he muttered, and I was compelled to believe him. "The hesitation was a lie." My eyes implored him to graduate from two word phrases. Sorry is only one word, after all.
He defied my eyes. We were back at four, back where we began. "I love you too".
Then, hearing my silence, "Can we start over?"
I let out the breath I had been holding, and helf out my hand. No, I will never love anybody else. No, Finn is no longer hurting my heart.
Finn no longer exists, and I love the man he became.
"My name is Daniel Finnegan and without words, I am not interesting at all. You know, if it's okay, I would really like to go on a date with you. Frankly, my dear, it's as simple as that." I studied him again, realising that the game was well and truly done.
I kissed him, and the screen faded to black. Close the curtains on the lovers and the scene is over, isn't it?
We stood there, still.
"Let's pretend it didn't happen," I whispered, and I smiled as I hadn't done in weeks.
The play began again.