anita darling © November 2012 – present
Noelle and Rohan run into each other at their five-year school reunion. (It's not very long, and if I say much more, I might spoil the fun.) One-shot.
This idea is entirely my own and not stolen from any source, though inspired by several.
I have written this as an entry for A Drop of Romeo's Round VI: A Battle of the One-Shots (Prompt 2: The Fountain). I hope that you all enjoy it.
Let me set the scene for you: Five-years-out school reunion held in the old school hall where the former students used to attend assemblies and other meetings. Today, it has been dolled up for the occasion. It's a drinks and nibbles affair, and about eighty percent of the class of 2007 are attending.
Noelle arrives alone, feeling a little nervous. She's spent the past two years in New South Wales, and hasn't run into anyone from her high school/college. That isn't to say that she doesn't want to see her old school friends, because she does. Noelle wants to know how they've been doing, if anyone has kids, the typical questions a girl might wonder about her former classmates.
She's greeted at the door by the girl who had been Head Girl in 2007, Jessica, "Noelle! It's so lovely you could come."
Noelle smiles in response. "Thank you."
She's never been one for spoken words, really. Noelle rather lives in her head, often unaware of the goings-on around her body.
She collects a glass of champagne from the table, and mills over by a smattering of helium-filled balloons. None of her friends are here yet, the others she knew by name but not by heart. People like Owen Jefferson and Carol King stand around chatting, as oblivious to Noelle's presence as she is to theirs.
Without warning, her head lifts, and Noelle glances in the direction of the main entrance. Grinning his face off, a laugh caught in the air between his mouth and her ears is Rohan Gunn.
Rohan does not arrive alone, he gave Brandon a lift to the function, and they've been sharing jokes about their final year at the school all morning. Rohan and Brandon were friends in high school and college, but grew closer after they left. Just like everyone else, they have been pondering who will be pregnant, who will have gotten an STD, and who has become a doctor.
After being greeted at the door by Head Boy of 2007, Jason, and sharing a laugh with him about how everyone's lost their gawkiness and acne, Rohan's eyes scan the room, and finally land on Noelle Hamilton, who is staring at him unashamedly. He blinks and tears his eyes away.
Noelle is the one girl that Rohan had assumed would not turn up. Obviously, it was a bad assumption.
Noelle gulps down the rest of her champagne and goes for another. Liquid courage might do her some good right now. She didn't think she'd have to face him, but it looked like the time had finally come.
Rohan makes his way over to her slowly, taking his damn time, chatting to old friends, and eventually he reaches her.
"Hey," is all he offers, and while she had no hopes of what he might say beyond, Oh, Elle, I'm in love with you still, will you marry me? I've missed you so much and— it's still a disappointment. She's been single for too long, Noelle decides.
"Hi," she replies. "How have you been?"
"Good," he tells her, "you?"
"I— Yeah, I've been living in Sydney for a while now. It's … different."
"I'd reckon. What are you doing up there?"
"I got a job as a school counsellor and boarding house keeper."
"Sounds pretty great."
"It is." She realises, belatedly, that she should perhaps ask him what he is doing career-wise, but it's too late when Brandon walks up and claps Rohan's shoulder.
"C'mon," Brandon says. "Come say hello to Roslyn. Hi Noelle."
"Brandon," she replies with a curt nod.
Rohan follows Brandon back to a group of their old school mates, but even as they chat about their careers and families, Rohan keeps glancing back to check on Noelle, who stands alone for a good part of a half hour before some of her former girlfriends turn up. When he can see she's chatting happily, as much as Noelle ever does, he breathes a sigh of relief and gets properly involved in the conversation.
He hates to see her upset, even now. It's a feeling he hadn't seen coming.
The whole ordeal ends with a speech about how far everyone has come, and a slideshow of photographs from their school days. Noelle isn't in very many of the photos, but she doesn't care, as she was far from the prettiest girl in the year group. She still feels she is, really, but she walks with a kind of grace and poise that comes with age. Once they're set free, it's like the school bell has rung for the final time and everyone is rushing to get out of there as fast as possible. It makes a small smile perch upon her lips. Nothing has changed in five years.
Instead of going straight to her car, she walks down to the park across the road. There's a fountain in the middle of the park, and on the opposite side, a block of public housing.
It's early evening by now, and the kids who live in the housing are playing around, on, and in the fountain, looking like they're having the time of their lives. In their last week of school, she came down here with Rohan after a late night spent in the art studio, perfecting her pencil drawing. They'd been flirting and skirting around the idea of dating for weeks at that point, following a long-lasting, but somewhat hidden best friendship.
And when they sat down on the edge of the fountain, he asked her—
Rohan recognises the back of her head, even now, five years on. Noelle doesn't look all that different. She's still got the same blonde bird's nest instead of a real head of hair, and a slender figure, her head perched upon a long neck.
He sits down beside her without saying anything, resting his hands on his knees. For a long time, they sit in silence and half-watch the children playing in the fountain. It's not so long ago that he can't remember what he asked her, not to mention her reaction.
"'Will you be my girlfriend?'" he says aloud, quoting himself, five years earlier. A lot can happen in five years, he thinks, but so little seems different.
"It's what I said to you, here, five years ago. Do you remember what you said?"
"Of course I do," Noelle replies. "I turned you down."
"And then walked away," he adds. "I was heartbroken."
"So was I," she whispers, but he doesn't hear.
"You said 'I don't want to ruin our friendship'."
"I loved you," Rohan tells her. "I was willing to die for you."
"You were a teenager, everything was so much more dramatic back then."
"Are you downplaying my feelings?"
"N-no! I—" he hears her take a deep breath, and knows she is readying herself to say something she wouldn't normally. "I still wish I'd said something else, something different."
Noelle regretted everything about that day. She ruined it all with a few short words. Of course, she'd had boyfriends since then, and once before then, too. But Rohan was something else. It sounded dumb in her own ears, let alone anyone else's, but he understood her better than anyone she'd ever known. It was why they'd gotten along so well, been best friends to the point of nearly teetering over into relationship territory. Then they'd lost contact, stopped trying.
"What do you wish you said?" he asks her, slowly, as if he's unsure of his own words, of whether he wants to know the answer.
"I wish I'd said yes," Noelle tells him.
He finally turns to look her in the eyes. "Really?"
"Will you go on a date with me? We can hit up Nandos, and get some chips and peri peri sauce, an arty movie at the cinema, then the ice cream deli."
"Don't be silly," Noelle replies, even though it sounds like a better date that any she'd been on so far.
"Do you have a boyfriend?" he asks.
"Well, no, but—"
"It's a free dinner, movie, and dessert. How can you turn that down? It would be, like, wasting food."
A sucker for wasted food, Noelle agrees, and Rohan places his hand gently on her knee. She leans into him, unable to think of a single thing to say. She missed him dearly, and she will again when she returns to Sydney, but there's not much to be done about that unless he wants to move with her.
All of a sudden she's drenched: a water balloon. It's those wretched kids! she thinks.
"Oof!" Rohan says, as another water balloon hits him in the crotch. "C'mon, Elle, let's get out of here before we get any wetter."
She smiles a little at his sexual innuendo. Rohan hasn't changed a bit. He lends her his jacket when they go into Nandos, and she may sniff it while he goes to the loo. Jesus, Rohan smells good, she thinks. Did he always smell so nice?
I'm not saying that Rohan and Noelle live happily ever after. I mean, what kind of ending is that? No one wants to live forever anyway. They do live happily, though, and they might even be getting married. Who am I kidding? Of course they're getting married! Why else would I be standing here before you today? I'm Kylie Preston, registered wedding celebrant. Please be standing for the entrance of your lovely bride, daughter, sister, and friend, Noelle Hamilton!
A/N: In case you didn't pick it up, my Romeo and Juliet reference was subtler this year, and in Rohan's words "I was willing to die for you." With that said, thank you for reading. And review if you have the time and can be bothered to :).