By Rhys Leyshon Evans.
The way the girl says ‘love’ makes the boy feel weak.
Her eyes light up like exclamation marks, and she smiles, and sometimes cannot finish her sentence properly.
The boy wished the girl said love all the time.
The only time the girl is not guarded is when she talks about love and what it means to her.
The boy hopes that the girl will love him one day.
Even just for ten minutes; ten minutes was all he needed.
That would make the boy content, even though his parents warn him that contentment breeds complacency.
It is eleven p.m. on a humid August night.
The boy walks the girl home.
Both have strict curfews to adhere to.
Taxi’s looking for their last fare of a reserved midweek night skulk the residential streets.
The boy is in lust with the girl, and agitated about making his curfew, and ends up telling jokes that are not really jokes to begin with.
The girl likes the boy.
She does not actually have a curfew as her parents never really set her strict house-rules.
The girl told the boy she had a curfew because she didn’t want him to feel bad about leaving the house party early, and because she genuinely wanted to spend more time with him.
The boy and the girl walk past Leinster Square and the girl says she wishes they could sit in the public garden for half an hour.
The boy and the girl often meet here after school, and they talk about the future, never the past; the past is something trite, something prosaic.
In Leinster Square, they eat fruit salads prepared at home.
The girl prefers to listen to the boy talk about his future plans rather than air her own aspirations.
The boy hopes to study marine biology in Scotland.
The girl is taking a gap year.
The boy asks what she is going to do.
Work of some description, replies the girl; her parents want her to volunteer for a politician who is a friend of the family.
The politician is unable to tie his own tie adequately and often cries at the end of early morning briefings.
The girl’s feet start to hurt but she does not complain.
The boy writes her funny notes occasionally and leaves them at the reception of her apartment building.
Despite being written with a fountain pen, the notes are scrappy.
They are packed with pop culture or literary references that the boy pretends come from his own imagination.
Regardless of such clear plagiarism, the girl finds herself liking the boy even more.
A grand townhouse plays host to a lively dinner party; cigars are smoked at the open front door and middle-aged men in double-breasted dinner jackets laugh while couples dance in the dining room.
The boy tells the girl that one of the things he most looks forward to in adulthood is being invited to a dinner party, and the girl teases him by saying that the boy needs to re-assess his priorities.
Sometimes, on Sunday afternoons in Leinster Square, or walking home late at night, the girl almost feels comfortable enough with the boy to talk about her deepest insecurities.
Perhaps one night, or afternoon, she will.
She will tell the boy, calmly, that her greatest fear is heartbreak.
But the girl is eighteen and feels guilty for thinking that someone so young could truly understand what she perceives as such an adult emotion.
Or maybe the boy would not understand.
Maybe the boy only spends so much time with her because he wants to have sex with her.
That is what two of the girl’s best friends told her the week they finished their A-Levels.
It nears midnight; out of service buses shuffle back to their respective depots.
A gentle rain begins to fall, dappling clothes with sympathetic droplets.
The boy and the girl are not far from the girl’s apartment.
She does not want to go home.
The night is too warm.
Not enough has been said.
The girl will not sleep tonight.
The boy starts to tell another joke but stops before he reaches the end, embarrassed that he cannot remember the punch-line, and the girl laughs; this makes the boy feel a little better.
After some consideration, the boy tells the girl that an hour with her goes by so quickly it feels like they’ve only spent ten seconds together.
The girl replies that she feels the same.
The boy tried to kiss the girl last week.
He is not sure whether the girl was aware of his failed attempt at a kiss.
The boy ended up giving her a peck on the cheek instead.
Another out of service bus trundles past.
The bus is old.
The out of service sign is only half-visible, mischievously showing its destination earlier in the evening: Aldgate.
The driver holds one arm out through the open window.
The girl asks the boy if he has any plans for the weekend.
As the boy answers, something about jogging in Regents Park, he delicately tries to take the girl’s hand in his, deftly leaning his arm into hers.
But the girl moves her hand away.
The boy is left clutching the humid air.
His heart feels as fragile as winter daybreak.
He struggles to finish his weekend plans and the girl starts talking about something else, perhaps her parent’s Sunday dinners – the boy cannot remember – and the girl says goodbye outside her apartment building without a kiss on the cheek, or a hug, and the boy slowly heads for home, his shirt damp against his shoulder-blades, though he is not sure whether it is from sweat or the rain.
When the boy gets home, he writes a letter to the girl.
He does not edit it once.
The boy puts it in an envelope but will not send it until he is three weeks into his university degree.
The girl wakes up on Saturday morning with a slight hangover and a dub bass-line in her head that she cannot quite place: did she hear it at the party, or was it one of the strange imported records the boy always played for her?
Rain tip-toes along the window sill; an ambitious tightrope walker.
The girl lies in bed.
She watches the rain fall, gloomily.
A French film poster hangs above the bed.
The girl is glad it is raining; it gives her an excuse to stay inside.
She thinks about the boy trying to hold her hand last night.
She will also think about this in two months time when the boy writes her a letter with no pop culture references in it.
In six years, the girl will visit a male friend in Seville.
The girl will be drunk and distressed and the male friend will try and kiss her, repeatedly.
This will not be what the girl wants.
Not at all.
On this particular night, the girl will think about a sweet boy, trying to hold her hand on a deserted West London street.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rhys Leyshon Evans is 24. His work has appeared in Vol.1 Brooklyn, Specter Literary Magazine, The Montreal Review and fwriction: review. More info can be found at http://rhysleyshonevans.tumblr.com/.
First published in 3:AM Magazine: Wednesday, November 7th, 2012.