A/N: Hey all! If you like this, please go check out my full length story, Spades. I'd love some more feedback. Also reviews are like water, so let em flow.
When she was younger, all she wanted to do was speak Italian. She envied the way the tongue would curl, the way the voice would vibrate and the way they could enunciate every syllable as though they were tasting it, as though they were shining a light on how important it was, how everything they said was something you needed to listen to.
When he went to high school he had taken French. When he went to France, he immersed himself in a wave of culture and scents and landmarks of iron and glass. He felt the vowels bind themselves together with their je m'appelles and j'adores. They melted like supple chocolate when held in a mouth.
When they met, they spoke in hard English. Letters without any romance or melodies, ones that sounded like New York City sidewalks, concrete and gridlocked and focused. But somehow the words they strung together would sound sweet to their ears, gentle and calming. Nothing that belonged in rigid Times New Roman. Sentiments that deserved cursive smooth ink by a hand that communicates through post.
And things happened between them. Laughs, fights, pining—on his end. She was unavailable. But he still said those sweet things, he still made English sound round, and she still wanted him around. Maybe because she was selfish, maybe because he was there, maybe because her boyfriend was a thousand miles away. But he was there to drench her in prose.
And he never gave up. No matter how many times she let him down—gently, not so gently, over text, in person, with her eyes, with her touch, with a shake of her head and a lid fluttering down to avoid contact and collision between greens and browns.
They had their good days and their bad days.
So when they sat together and did their homework, their respective language homework, it was after a particularly trying weekend and a mending week. The height of chaos of feelings, which he was trying so slowly to extract from her with sans serif fonts and carefully chosen vocabulary. Words were her weakness and he drank her responses up, hesitant when selecting the ones to respond with. She was good with sentences, he wasn't really. But he would try for her because it was important that she know exactly what he meant, exactly how he felt.
But maybe he would have better luck if he spoke to her in French.
They sat at opposite ends of a library table, suffocated by the smell of old books and the quiet settling of dust around them. No one ever came up here. But they concentrated and let their pencils flutter across a page.
He looked at his phone and his mouth curled upwards in a private smile that he reserved when he imagined a scenario right before he made it happen. This was a smile she must have been familiar with by now. He quickly typed a message and sent it where the confirmation that she received it was signified by a loud vibration from a blackberry that disturbed the silence.
qu'est-ce que tu travailles?
She looked up at him, opened her laptop and typed the message in presumably to Google Translate or something similar.
What are you working on?
She smirked as her eyes flickered across the table where he diligently kept his head down, staring at a page that no longer made sense.
I miei compiti italiano. Sei colto oggi.
He mirrored the process she went through.
My Italian homework. You're cultured today.
His smile grew wider. She was playing along. He liked it when she played along.
Non, je m'ennuie. Il ya une différence.
No I'm bored. There's a difference.
Come hai potuto essere annoiato? Tu sei con me.
How could you be bored? You're with me.
C'est vrai, vous n'êtes jamais ennuyeux. Sauf quand tu fais les devoirs italien.
That's true. You're never boring. Except when you're doing Italian.
Non sono mai noiosa.
I'm never boring.
Je ne sais pas si je suis d'accord
I don't know if I agree.
At this she wrinkled her nose. He bit his lip to suppress a laugh. She looked over at him through lowered lashes and a raised brow.
Sei così scortese. si può lasciare.
You're so rude. You can leave.
Her head bowed down back into her Italian book. If he had to guess, she was now ignoring him. He rolled his eyes. His fingers were hesitant.
Tu sais que je ne veux pas être ailleurs.
You know I don't want to be anywhere else.
There were always moments wherein she would bite her lip before speaking as if whatever it was that immediately came to her mouth had to be filtered. It was normally a moment in which a blush would paint her cheeks that she would pointedly ignore and he would never forget.
"Sei ridicolo," she muttered. He didn't have to translate that. He smirked, but typed his response.
Je suis ridicule? Vous êtes ridicule.
I'm ridiculous? You're ridiculous.
She sighed before picking up her phone.
Bene. Siamo entrambi ridicoli
Fine. We're both ridiculous.
Au moins, nous sommes ridicules ensemble. Il est difficile de ne pas être ridicule avec vous.
At least we're ridiculous together. It's difficult not to be ridiculous with you.
He could see her struggle with this. He felt like he might have gone too far.
Siamo. Funziona, credo.
We are. It works, I think.
Nous collaborons. Nous sommes bien ensemble.
We work. We're good together.
A look crossed her face. He knew that look. It was the look he saw when she briefly thought about the possibility of him being with her, the possibility of them being together, before it was chased off her face by the presence of a boy a thousand miles away.
"Si amo," she answered quietly, speaking to the dust on the table before she gathered her books and left.
It was interesting, he thought, as he sat there and watched her take one more small piece of his heart in between the binding of notebook paper and graphite doodles. How her lips could have easily breathed out, "We are." Siamo. How her whisper could have curled around his ears in a sweet affirmation. How she could have just agreed, right there.
It didn't sound different. Not even a little. But the way his stomach lurched reminded him that there was always something between them. There would always be a gap, a space.
And the way his heart pounded against his ribs so much that it hurt let him know that instead what she said was simply, "I love him."