Confession and Inquiry
Hurried footsteps could be heard just outside of the thick wooden door. Despite the hour and the fact that exam season had passed already, someone was clearly approaching the study room. Indeed, a few seconds later the doorknob slowly moved downwards and the door was pushed just a tiny bit open. A pair of green eyes peeked through the narrow gap, scanning the room. As soon as the outsider noticed the presence of another person a hint of fearful hesitation quickly sparked through their eyes. As she had expected, he was there tonight as well.
Heart thundering into her ears, her first reaction was to shut the door close and run away. Yet she repressed the urge to flee and merely stood there for a second longer. Turning on her heels at the sight of her potential crush was not what she had come for that night. Instead, summoning up her courage she stepped inside.
As if nothing out of the ordinary had just happened, the girl staggered to the nearest available chair, which happened to be right next to his, and sat down in front of a brightly lit screen. Breath caught in between her throat and her lips, she tapped on the keyboard, almost managing to discipline her trembling digits. Not daring to look in his direction due to the recent surge in her self-consciousness, she had no clue if he had taken notice of her at all. With her heart still drumming into her ears, she took some time to calm down while pretending to be intensely involved in whatever the screen projected onto her eyes. After a few minutes of incessant tapping, she finally risked a glance to her left side and her heart jolted again. The only other occupant into the room was staring at her, half a smile plastered on his lips.
Her hands froze, she tried to return her eyes to the screen flashing news at her but found that her brain was unable to process any sentences. A sigh of frustration left her lips as she turned to her left once again, giving up at last.
'So, how are you?' That was the one and only most natural conversation starter which she could come up with in such a situation in order to break the nerve-wracking silence.
'Pretty well. You?'
The young girl almost chocked on her breath before replying, 'Ugh...could be better. My life is a mess.' She averted her eyes, unable to hold the other's gaze for too long.
'Are you worried about exam results or...?'
'There is also that. But, mostly just life in general. I keep having crushes on people who are already in a relationship...' She inadvertently complained, then realised what she had said and shut up mid-sentence. It was true that all of the people she had felt a spark of attraction for in the past few months were already taken, but this was not what she wanted to discuss with him about. In fact, this had been the main topic of her conversation with everyone she had met as well, despite her attempts to not bring it up.
'Oh...yeah, that's not great.'
'I mean, every single one of them!' She remarked as if she could not believe it and suddenly turned to look at him. 'And the last one, I-I thought they liked me!'
'Maybe they do.'
'They don't,' she said shacking her head in defeat. 'They hate me. And I realised I just want to be friends with them anyway...you know them, by the way.'
'Yeah. R.A., second year.'
'Oh. You like R.A.?' He sounded surprised.
'Yeah, well no, maybe...I don't know! Probably not, though. They are in a relationship.'
'They are?' He sounded even more surprised after hearing that.
'Yes? How can you not know? You even know...actually never mind, it's unimportant.' She cut her speech, unsure of how much information she should disclose; she had only known details thanks to Facebook anyway. She sighed again, then added, 'It all started back in February, the first one was fine. I mean, I thought she was straight even, I was too shy to speak so wrote her a letter instead. I was actually happy she wrote back to me...then the second one, I was a bit upset. The third one...I was heart-broken.'
'It must be hard, having so many crushes.'
'Yeah...do you not get any?'
'I do not.'
'Oh, ok.' Renata, that was the name of the girl, felt a hint of sadness invading her chest at such words but she could not identify the cause. Falling into silence, she reflected for a bit. She also used to say she did not get "crushes", unless in a few selected cases. Yet, after a while she had had to update her definition of "crush" to make things easier to explain when talking about people she might or might not have an interest into. Nevertheless, whether these were real crushes or fleeting interests she still felt miserable about it. 'It's so difficult, everything is fine at the beginning, I can chat with people, be friendly and all...up until the point I start having a crush on them. Then, I cannot talk to them anymore.'
'You...can't talk to people you have a crush on?' For some obscure reason his eyes widened.
Renata bit on her lower lip, slightly retreating on her chair. 'Yeah...' That's exactly what happened with you last week, but now it's fine, she added in her mind. She was still trying to untangle the intricate mess that her feelings, or emotions as she identified them, for the person in front of her were. She didn't want to say anything unnecessary, but she had never been good at saying things directly either. 'So, you would not want...a relationship?'
'I used to have a "girlfriend" back in the days,' he said, shocking Renata who had always pictured him as a lonely type of person. The girl felt something akin to jealousy spike up, though she totally ignored it and listened to him continue instead. 'I thought this was just a casual thing, then one day she was telling me how she was in love with me, how she wanted to be with me forever.' He frowned a bit at the recollection.
'So what did you do?'
'I cut the relationship off as gently as I could,' he replied while miming the action of letting an object fall onto the ground.
'Ah. Well I am not much for relationships either, my ideal dream would be to just find some attractive people who like me back, possibly more than one. Luck really seems to be avoiding me like the plague these days, though,' she added with a somewhat self-directed sarcasm. 'For example...'
Unwilling to adventure on shaky planks standing on unstable waters, she turned the conversation back on her favourite topic: herself. As she talked, she did not look at the other, eyes flying around the room instead, occasionally glancing at his hand which rested on the desk not too far from her. The urge to touch it poked at the back of her mind. After a few hazarded looks she impulsively reached out and made contact with his wrist.
Immediately, as if her fingers had touched fire, she realised what she had done and retreated her hand. In the split second it took to perform this action she thought she saw his eyes widen again; he might even have held his breath for a short instant. She felt as if she had crossed a line, allowing herself to touch another person whom she was unfamiliar with. However, she quickly repressed her worries: his skin was soft and she wanted to touch it, so what? If he was uncomfortable with that, he would just move his hand away. As she made up her mind, her thumb lightly brushed on his wrist again near his wristwatch, then travelled along the back of his hand and then paused drawing circles on the palm. In slow motion she kept caressing his skin, her speech perhaps becoming more random as she half-focused on the electric shocks travelling through her body.
His wristwatch was cute, yet it was in the way and she slightly narrowed her eyes in annoyance at it. However, she did not attempt to take it off, merely edging it with her fingers. Despite the fact that she was the one doing most of the talking, part of her brain was elsewhere. How do I communicate to him that I like him? Do I even like him?
While these and other questions along the same line were clogging her mind, she kept rambling on about random things until unexpectedly he interrupted her with a smile, a finger pointed at himself and the least predictable question, 'Do you like me?'
Renata stopped in her tracks, whatever she was going to say next never came and she incredulously stared back at the one sitting in front of her. Her hand moved away at once, as if fearing her incriminating actions could possibly create a misunderstanding. She would have never expected him to ask such a direct question, much less she knew what to reply. In the blink of an eye she decided she would not answer. On one hand, she could not deny that she had somewhat felt interest or even low-key attraction towards him in the past few weeks. Yet, on the other hand, she had no clue if what she felt was worth enough for consideration nor if it would not cease to exist once she frankly admitted that she had felt something. Thus, she kept her lips sealed on the matter, at least figuratively given that she was staring back with her mouth half open, clearly affected by his question. Do I like him?! She asked herself, thoughts in disarray. Yet, she could find no clear answer. There definitely was something there, still...
'I think you are cute,' he added much to Renata's astonishment. And what was all of the previous talk about how he did not get crushes and so on?
'Thank you,' she replied, uneasiness spreading through her veins as she perceived that that was not the correct type of answer to give.
'Do you not find me cute?'
Something crashed inside her mind. 'I-I...' I don't know what to answer! She stuttered; nothing sensible could come out of her mouth at this point. Hence, she fell silent again.
After a slightly longer, awkward pause he spoke again, 'Oh God, have I derailed the conversation?'
'De-derailed...?' She was confused. Although she understood the meaning of the word, her overwhelmed brain was struggling to correctly place it into the current context.
'Derailed, yes.' Turning towards the computer which was on his side, he typed in something and then showed Google's definition of derailed to her. 'Here.'
'Yes, I know what derailed means...like trains!' She said in a fervid tone.
Renata did not know what was going on anymore, she stared back at him for a few more seconds, maybe he was still expecting her to answer.
'Can I just put the conversation back onto its original track and finish off from where I was?' She asked, convinced that there was no way the conversation was ever going to go back to the way it was before his sudden interruption.
'Yes, you can do that.'
She sighed in relief and resumed her speech. Yet, her thoughts were now in jumbles, her brain trembling under the emotional overload. Due to all of this, she had somewhat lost interest in continuing chatting about her eventful love life, so she summed things up with a few words uttered in a monotone voice. Looking back at him she felt something stir deep down her chest. Unsure of what the nature of that feeling was, she did not make a move.
'Do you want a hug?'
'Uh, a hug? Why...no? I don't need a hug, I am perfectly fine,' she replied caught off-guard by the unexpected suggestion. She had never considered herself a "hugs-person", having avoided any display of affectionate behaviour for all of her life until...well until about one year ago.
Shortly after the words had left her mouth she felt as if they had perhaps sounded insensitive. Maybe he wanted a hug, I mean, he just said I am cute and I replied with silence... 'Do you need a hug?' She asked.
'Yeah. I could do with a hug.'
With some struggles, she leaned forward and hugged him – the position was really not the best, both of them being seated on their respective chairs, but it was as good as it could have been without getting up. Renata's heart sped up at the contact and her hand reached to touch the edge of his raven hair. Entirely unanticipated he said, 'I am going to miss you so much.'
Where the hell did that come from?! She was...surprised, astonished, stunned, utterly shocked even. Obviously, she did not take that statement seriously. 'Oh, come on!' She said in an ironic tone, or at least she tried to. 'Miss me! We have never even spoked, we don't even know each other...how are you going to miss me, if we have literally talked more this past week than in last three years?'
'Certain things you only realise too late.'
'True,' she agreed. That was a generally true statement, she thought as her mind wandered to a manga she had read and then came back to the current situation. Certain things you do not wish to realise, if it is too late.
Slowly she backed away from him, returning to her seat. Of course, she could not believe that someone like him would ever miss her. She gave no more weight to his words than what she would have given to ardent sentences uttered on the spur of the moment. Write them onto the winds, the words of a passionate lover, she rephrased poetry into her head. Nevertheless, she just couldn't ignore the fire which had been kindled by his actions. It burned slowly as she looked at him, as she did not want to let go of the contact and played with her fingers on his.
It was true, this was not what she had expected. Things had turned out to be very different from any scenario she could have imagined only a few months back. With a single question, her world had suddenly been turned upside down. Yet, she was even less prepared for the next question which followed shortly after they had embraced.
'Can I tag along when you go clubbing next time?'
Baffled by his request, she quietly repeated his words as if asking for confirmation that she had heard correctly. 'What for?' she added. 'You don't drink, dislike crowded places, can't stand loud noises...' Everything added up to make his sudden wish sound less and less sensical.
Crossing his arms, he made up, at least to her ears, some excuses and just concluded with "because I want to" as for the main reason.
'Uh, sure. It's fine I guess...' She looked at him still puzzled, failing to see his point.
'Alright,' he said while abruptly getting up. 'I'll see you next week then.'
'Ne-next week?' Her heart jumped into her throat: that was so far away!
'Yeah.' He smiled, weakly. 'I am going to sleep now.'
'Me too,' she replied quickly getting up and following him outside.
Her blood was still rushing at full speed when she turned in the opposite direction to head back home. Do I really like him? She enquired her heart once more and again she was not sure of the answer.