The Water Theory
"Love is like water; We can fall in it. We can drown in it. And we can't live without it."
-- Unknown Author
It was his random confession that caught her eyes for the very first time, when they were both eleven.
In a hot, stifling classroom, where students gathered in their own cliques and crews and had discussions among themselves while waiting for the relief period to end.
And then, amidst all the loud chatter and giggles, he smacked his hands on his knee and pushed himself up from his seat, beaming brightly at the attention that was immediately focused on him.
He grinned, thumping his left chest twice with his right fist and leaving his hand there as he professed, his cheery voice filtrating the classroom, "I want to be Superman!"
His group of people burst into loud cackles, and soon enough the rest of the students in class joined in, laughing at how ridiculously childish he sounded, jeering at his dream.
His confident smile faltered, to nobody's notice, and he let his hand slowly slide from his chest back to his side, where it should've been from the start.
She stared from the other end of the classroom, her ears blocking out the giggling that came from her group of friends, all of which probably never really liked this eleven-year old boy.
She stood up and smiled, tucking a loose strand of brown hair behind her ear.
"I'll help you."
Her voice was quiet, yet it caught his attention from across the room, his hazel eyes scanning through her face to see if she was pulling his leg, like it wasn't already.
But she was dead serious.
And he wanted, ever so badly, to say yes, to ask her to help him (for it wasn't an often occurrence that someone actually took his words for real. He was just a kid, for Pete's sake.), but he lost the courage to.
No, despite the brave outlook he took on, his heart thumped on nervously.
So instead, he shook his head and flashed her a dimple-showing smile.
"Naw, it's okay," He managed with a shrug, his eyes on the girl whom he has never spoken to in his life, not until that second. His lips tugged upwards upon seeing her confused expression. "Superman is lame, anyway."
"But apparently good enough for you to want to be him." She retorted calmly, her voice a few notches louder now that the various conversations among classmates returned full-force.
"Why do you care?" He asked, sounding exasperated this time.
She crossed her arms over her chest, covering the printed flower on her t-shirt.
"Why do you care if I care?"
"Because I don't need anyone to care about what I want and not want to do?"
She raised an eyebrow, "Then why do you even bother telling anyone your secret fantasy when you weren't expecting anyone to care?"
"I don't know, because I want to?"
The school bell rang, and the students grabbed their bags from the ground and hassled to get out of the classroom and into the school canteen for food.
The two of them, however, remained glaring at each other on their spots, his hazel eyes against her blue orbs, having an unspoken stare-me-down match.
She was the first to break the eye-contact, bending down to pick up her bright orange bag from the ground before taking out a tupperware.
And before he knew what was going on, she already had a piece of cake held firmly in front of his lips.
(The first thought that ran through his mind was how weird it smelled.)
"Well. My mum and I baked these orange-cheese cake today. Try one!" And she proceeded to pry his mouth open forcefully, and then popped the cake into his mouth.
He swallowed it down without chewing, like how his mother taught him to swallow those bitter pills. Just gulp it all down, his mother said. Don't even think of biting it.
"It tastes okay." He told her. Which wasn't exactly a fib. He couldn't taste anything, which was okay for him.
"I know," She agreed, then slung her bagpack over her shoulder. "So, do you still want to fly, or do you not?"
It was recess, and two chubby-looking boys managed to grab themselves two seats by the large windowpane overlooking the school field.
One of them smiled greedily as he grabbed his turkey sandwich and sat down, his eyes briefly glancing at the field before sitting down.
Then, as though realizing something was different, he snapped his head around and did a double take.
"Who on earth are they?" One of them asked, his voice sounding just as befuddled as he looked. His podgy index finger was pointed at what seemed to be two moving figures. "What the hell are they trying to do?"
The other kid turned and watched what his friend was talking about, albeit grudgingly.
And there they were: A boy who was riding on an old, rusty bicycle with a red plastic bag tied around his neck, his legs stepping on the paddle so quick that the wind blew against him, causing the red plastic bag to fly.
Like Superman's cape.
And as he rode, a pale-looking girl ran behind him, obviously trying to keep up with the speed of his bicycle, to no avail. Her skinny arms were flung horizontally in the air as she ran in zigzag motions.
The boy turned around to share a smile with the girl, and they both grinned, showing the epitome of happiness and carefree.
(To others, it looked like they were both bordering on the brink of insanity.)
The two boys turned back around, and unwrapped their food wrappers quietly, as though nothing happened.
"I dunno," One of the boys grumbled after a few moments of confused silence, messily munching out of his tuna sandwich. "Some stupid idiots trying to fly, maybe."
They were fourteen when he realized that he was the only one who could protect her.
Well, he wanted to.
And on that particular afternoon, he wanted to dig the eyes out of at least half the male population who couldn't stop staring at her, when she was parading around the hallways like an enraged bride…
Only in a navy blue swimsuit.
"Shouldn't you put on a jacket, or something? This suit is showing all the wrong things…" He pointed out uneasily, his long strides keeping up with her pace. She turned around and glared at him, and he realized that she misunderstood. "In a good way, of course. But I have a slight suspicion that because of you, the guys are turning into lions, ready to pounce."
And I'd pounce right back if you ask me to, he added silently, turning his head around to make sure no guys were staring at her curvaceous body the wrong way.
"Well, if it wasn't for a certain someone who showed me the wrong direction and led me to the school parking lot, I wouldn't have had to walk back in here wearing this, now, would I?" She remarked, her legs never slowing down as they made it to the next block.
He ducked his head in guilt.
So maybe it was his fault that she ended up at the opposite direction from the school's indoor swimming pool…
"Anyway, I'm okay." She continued, her tone softer this time. "Thanks for walking me there. You have guitar lessons in a few, shouldn't you get going?"
"In a few." He muttered, repeating her words. His arms removed itself from his hideous-looking brown leather jacket before pushing the jacket sideways into her arms, leaving him in a black t-shirt with a large 'S' on it. His Superman fever never quite died. "Put this on, I don't want them staring."
She paused to smile, "Thanks, Superman."
He grinned back at her nickname for him, running a hand through his neatly combed black hair, "Your welcome, my right wing."
She rolled her eyes good-humouredly, and proceeded to wrap herself in that jacket.
Just one tiny little problem.
"I think your jacket is a little bit too small for me…" She trailed off, her blue eyes staring at herself in amusement.
Sure enough, the sleeve of the jacket reached a few inches under her elbow, its length reaching just her waist.
"But that's impossible, this jacket fits just right on me!" He protested stupidly, and she raised an eyebrow, her fingers gesturing at their heights. Or rather, the difference in. "Okay, so maybe you're slightly taller than me."
"You mean eight inches?"
He grimaced. His brothers used to tell him that the most embarrassing thing to endure is being shorter than girls.
And he was shorter than quite a few girls in class. Imagine the deflation in his ego each day when he measured his height, only to realize that he grew approximately 0.01 centimetres.
Oh, the agony.
He ignored her teasing comment and looked ahead, relaxing a little when he realized that they were already in the indoor pool stadium.
"Oh, no, the coach is here…" She peeled the jacket off once more and cast him a nervous look. "I can't do this. I can't do this. I can't do-"
Her voice trailed off as she found herself being pulled into a tight embrace, feeling slightly awkward with the sudden realization that she could rest her chin on his head.
Yet it was comforting, like hugging a big teddy bear. She smiled and squeezed him a little harder.
But the moment was gone just as quickly as it came, and soon enough, he untangled himself from her arms and grinned his trademark grin.
"Just shut up and swim, right wing." He said, pulling his jacket from her arms and pushing her towards the line where first-time swimmers were gathered. "I'll be waiting for the good news."
"Let's just hope I won't drown from anxiety. Oh! God, I can't believe I almost forgot!" She opened her sling bag and took out a tiny tupperware. Grinning proudly, she opened the cover and picked one out for him. "Quick, before I go, try this ginger-chocolate cake I baked today!"
Even though he was well aware of her (lack thereof) baking talent, he opened his mouth obligingly, and she popped it in for him, watching anxiously as he munched on it, his face impassive so she couldn't tell what he thought. "So? How is it? Do you like it?"
"It's..." He struggled to get the cake down his throat, forcing himself to not wince. Then, he smiled. "It's good."
Her eyes brightened up in delight.
"I'll make you more when I get home!" She placed the tupperware back into her bag and waved slightly, "I'll be seeing you!"
"And I you!" He nodded his head with a reassuring smile and exited the building, his fingers crossed for her, his throat still suffering from the after-taste of her weird cake.
She got in the team, and eventually, became the first seed.
(After all, her swimming talent was at least a level above her baking skills.)
The bad news?
A few months later, she started dating the first seed from the guy's team.
And he was taller than her.
"I'm not talking to you." She grumbled defiantly, snarling up at him.
A few years back, he was still so much shorter than her. Thank God his seventeenth year did him the world of good, giving him a sudden growth spurt, broader shoulders and a leaner built.
He lost most of the baby fat; gained a hell lot of courage.
Good thing, too. Otherwise he might not be able to force those cakes (that, for some unknown reason, kept coming, each time weirder than before. Maybe he really should tone it down on those praises.) down his stomach.
"But what did I do?" He feigned innocence, staring down at her doe-eyed. Upon receiving her sceptical glance, he hastily hid his bandaged right fist behind his back, hoping that she hadn't noticed.
They were by the pool side, before her training session. Which meant that she was in her body-hugging blue swimsuit again; a feat that seventeen-year olds like him learnt long ago how to appreciate.
She pointed to her far right, showing a swimmer with a nasty swollen left eye.
Oh. Okay, so she noticed.
"Need I say more?" She asked dryly, before shouting at that fretful-looking swimmer. "Baby, I'm gonna do a lap. Time me, okay?"
Her boyfriend smiled and nodded his head, showing her his stopwatch as a sign that he was ready.
"But he called you his bitch!" He defended himself. "Which asshole calls his girlfriend his bloody bitch?"
She turned and looked back at her idiot of a best friend, "It's an endearment, you idiot! We see that in music videos all the time! Trying getting out of that cave every once in a while, could you?"
He snapped his head to his right and glared at her boyfriend, the spawn of all evil. The one who created the gap between the two of them.
The bloody fucktard.
"Fine. Whatever. Sorry for trying to defend you."
He sighed; she groaned.
"Damn it, jerk. Is it so hard for you to accept the fact that he actually loves me and wants to be with me?"
"No, I don't see any problem with that." He replied casually, balling his fists to control himself from giving in to the urge to push some loose strands of her hair back into the swimming cap. "It's a lot harder to accept the fact that you're in love with him."
That you're not in love with me.
She distracted herself from the conversation by climbing up one of the blocks and positioned herself, chest-to-thigh.
"Well, all thanks to you, now our first seed won't be able to participate in the national inter-school swimming competition." She muttered after a while, not looking at him anymore. "I wish you could be more like a best friend instead of a moron sometimes, you know."
And not wanting to hear his reply, she dived into the pool, under the water before her head broke the surface, and she started doing her trademark butterfly strokes.
He stood there, his eyes following the swimming figure that was hers, his heart crushing to little pieces once more.
Damn it, I don't want to be just a best friend, right wing.
Perhaps it was the way his smouldering gaze held hers before she made the jump. Or the way he reached out his right hand, just a little, before hiding it behind his back, worried she might see his injury from the punch. Either way, it made her stop after touching the pool wall and sunk herself under water in regret, hating herself for feeling this way.
She hated how she knew she was in love-- but not with the boy she had been dating for three years.
And one wrong setting of foot could send two hearts breaking.
"You don't think she's in love with me, do you?" He joked, referring to the woman who just left the room to serve other guests. "I mean, sure, she's gorgeous and all, but I think she might be just a little- Ow!"
"She's my mother, you retard." She told him calmly, her arms still held threateningly over his head, her lips twisting into a grudging smile.
It was her father's birthday celebration, just a few days after the horrendous break-up she went through with her long-time boyfriend.
He thought that arsehole broke up with her, and made a vow to turn him into a scumbag.
(What he didn't know was in truth, she broke up with him.
But then again, what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him now, would it?)
He watched as she downed a glass of something that looked a lot like… Well, something that wasn't water.
"What are you drinking?" He asked, feeling slightly anxious for her as she gulped down another glass of it.
She turned and blinked innocently at him, "Nothing?"
He huffed indignantly and grabbed the bottle beside her glass, squinting at the label.
"I don't read French." He grumbled after a while, staring accusingly at her. "What does it say?"
She tilted her head to his side and read the bottle slowly, "It says 'White wine'."
A hiccup. An angry glare. Another innocent smile.
"And what the hell are you doing with this bottle of wine?" He asked incredulously, pushing the bottle away from her grasp in attempt to stop her from drinking, to no avail. Within matter of seconds, she found her hands on a new bottle, uncorked it and began pouring herself a generous glassful of wine once more.
"They say it cures-" She paused to release another hiccup before continuing, "It cures heartaches…"
His mind raced back to a few days back, when she ran into his arms and told him about how her (now ex)boyfriend broke up with her because 'the chemistry wasn't there anymore', and she told him (as he put a feel-good movie on playback in his home theatre) that she was surprisingly okay with the break.
What happened to 'I'm okay, he's a moron anyway'?
"Come 'ere, you." He said, wrapping his arms around her as she got another glass down her throat. "He's a jerk, remember? You don't need him. You'll do fine without him."
She nodded her head absentmindedly, her eyes fluttering shut.
"Everything will be fine." He continued, rubbing his palm down her back, a soothing gesture. She felt his breath tickling the nape of her neck, and the steady breathing of his comforted her. "You're beautiful, and it's far more than skin deep. He's stupid to not have realized that."
"I just," She fumbled for the right words, and he waited patiently. "I just wanted the guy I like to tell me he feels the same, too, you know? Is that so hard to accomplish?"
His heart throbbed; It sucked knowing that all these while she had been thinking about another guy that she was in love with.
Another guy that clearly wasn't him.
Just as he was feeling sorry for himself, she released herself from the embrace to refill her glass.
"You just keep waiting and waiting for him to tell you," She swallowed her drink and began pouring more wine out of the bottle, only to realize that the bottle was already empty. She groaned in frustration. "But he just doesn't, and it's annoying, you know? I want him to tell me that he likes me. That's all I want. Why can't he-"
"Well, I like you." He blurted out, and then mentally smacked himself for the sudden outburst. He bit his lip and stared at her nervously. Too late to turn back now. "Does that count?"
"You… like me?" She halted, then opened her mouth, before snapping it shut again. Then, she asked the typical, "But why?"
Where to begin?
"I don't know." He admitted after a while. "But I know that I want you."
"… You want me."
"I want you," He repeated, hoping that his last shred of dignity wasn't gone already. "Not just because you're beautiful, or that you're a talented person. I want you because you're… You're silly. And you're fucking annoying. And you make me bloody frustrated all the time, when you don't realize that I do things to protect you... But I want you; I want you so bad that my stomach is willing to take in as many cakes as you're eager to bake, as long as it means you'll be mine. Don't you see? I want to make you happy. I want to make your world go round all over again... Oh, damn it, girl, I fucking love you."
He finally stopped and reminded his respiratory system to start functioning again, his palm sweaty as he waited for a response.
He received none.
After a painstakingly long moment of stunned silence, she got up from her seat on the couch and started fumbling her way out the door, pushing past random houseguests while at it.
"Where're you going?" He asked, getting up from his place as well. Did he scare her away?
She looked back and smiled feebly.
"I have the sudden urge to jump."
And she made her way to the private swimming pool her parents constructed for her practice purposes.
"I can bloody well swim without your assistance, thank you very much." She muttered, pouting when she felt his hard, muscled arms holding her back. She squirmed out of his grasp and started removing her ballet flats, stumbling a little to the side while she was at it. "Go away, damn it!"
She was, quite obviously, drunk.
(Read: She was being, quite obviously, stupid.)
"At this state, I don't think you can even swim past the first fifty meters. You'll hit the pool wall." He said wryly, his hands reaching out to stop her when she starting pulling off her pale green summer dress.
If he knew she had the tendency to remove her clothing when she was drunk, he really should let her drink more often, he mused quietly. But not tonight, not when they were beside a pool that was at least five feet deep.
She paused for a moment, then looked behind her shoulder to cast him a forced smile, "That's the whole point, isn't it?"
And she wriggled herself out of her dress, leaving her in nothing but her unattractively beige-coloured undergarments.
"Is this something you do all the time? When a guy tells you he likes you, you strip in front of him and drown yourself in a pool?" He asked, sounding a lot calmer than he really was feeling, his heart pounding ever so loudly against his ribcage as he watched her stumble her way to the starting block.
She wasn't fazed by his question; silent as she climbed up the block and stood there, wobbling a little every now and then. She placed her foot in front so that the toes were slightly over the edge, her other foot behind her. She crouched down, her knee touching her chest.
Then, she angled her head slightly to the right where her best friend was standing, and grinned.
"Maaybe." She drawled cheekily, her fingers stretching far out to test the water. Satisfied with the temperature, she turned back and smirked at him. "Catch me, Superman."
And she fell sideways into the pool, her laughter echoing around the place before hitting the water in a loud splash.
Her head never resurfaced; neither did the rest of her body.
He groaned and unbuttoned his black dress shirt hastily, throwing it over his shoulders as quickly as he could.
And then, muttering profanities under his breath, he dived after her.
"Are you okay?" He roared the moment he grabbed her up for air, worried sick, only to find her giggling while spurting out the chlorine-based water. He shook her, a futile attempt to stop her laughter. "Damn it, don't you dare do shit like this to me anymore, you hear that?"
He started wondering if she was suffering from a major concussion due to that fall.
She giggled again.
A concussion. Definitely a concussion.
He kicked against the water hard enough for both of them to remain upright, his hazel eyes turning brown in anxiety, his mind struggling to remember the emergency number to call the ambulance.
It couldn't possibly be 911, could it?
"Fuck, woman." He ran a hand through the black hair that was plastered on his head, his other hand gripping her shoulders, as though worried she might drown the moment he let go. "Fuck. What the hell is so funny? Say something!"
"You," She paused to collect her thoughts, looking utterly serious for a moment, before bursting into laughter again, her hands beating the water as she sniggered. "You're- God- Stupid!"
He didn't understand what she was babbling about, but he caught on with the final bit.
"I'm not stupid."
Instinctively, her hands reached out to grip his waist under water, pulling him closer to her, so close she could feel their hearts beating erratically, playing the same, quick rhythm.
She wanted him. Just as much as he wanted her.
No. Not just as much. More.
"You believed me when I said I drank a whole bottle of wine, when all I had was sparkling juice…" She let that sentence hang in the air for a moment, her fingers lazily trailing from his exposed collarbone… down his chest… down the firm wall that was his stomach… She braved herself and pressed a light, feathery kiss on his collar bone, smiling as she felt his breath turned shallow. "You thought I would drown in this pool, when I've been swimming in it my whole life…"
He stiffened, "You tricked me?"
She looked up and smiled uncertainly, "I wanted to see your reaction?"
His eyes widened in realization – She made a fool out of him.
"Fuck this, I'm leaving."
He removed his hand from her shoulder and turned away, trying to swim back to the solid ground. But her hands reached out to grab his, spreading warmth throughout his body.
"I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry!" She pleaded, her hands pulling him back. "I'm not letting you go, not when I've finally succumbed to the fact that I've fallen for you. I've fallen far too hard, far too deep, and I don't know how to get up, if not with you. So please, please don't go."
She willed him to turn around, but he didn't. His body remain still, his muscles tensed, and she found herself regretting her childish actions, her eyes slowly welling up with tears…
Until she saw his body shaking with laughter.
"God, and you believed me." He swam back around and snaked his arm around her waist before pulling her to him, their foreheads touching. He leaned forward a little, just enough for his lips to touch her earlobe. She shivered involuntarily. "Look who's talking now, huh?"
And in an instance, he captured her lips with his own, smiling when he felt her giving in to the kiss, slowly relaxing in his arms. Her arms started wandering on its own, too, travelling its way from his hair to his neck, and eventually up and down his exposed back. It felt right; like they were home at last.
"Oh, and just for the record," He murmured onto her lips, determined not to let go. His lips tugged upwards, "Now you're my bitch."
She raised an eyebrow.
"Which asshole would call his girlfriend his bloody bitch?" She asked, using his words on him.
He chuckled and pressed a kiss on the tip of her nose.
"The one that flies."
a/n: I'll be leaving for a competition that will last for about a week, and after that I'll be rushing off to my university (two hours away from home. /) for orientation and God knows what more.
In other words, I won't be able to update at all until I settle down completely, so I thought I should post something up before I leave for the competition (HAHAHA. I hope I don't die. Wish me luck!).
I hope it was okay.
p/s: Random fact: I can't swim. At all. Hahahhaha. Go figure!