Chapter 1 : It Was Only a Kiss
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I could have knocked off the evening
But I was lonelily looking for someone to hold
In a way
I lost all I believed in
And I’ve never found myself so alone
And you let me down.”
- Damien Rice, ‘Lonelily’.
It was only a kiss.
That was it. Just a kiss. Afterwards we went our separate ways, the way we always had. It was horribly unromantic, in every possible sense. It was disappointing, and rough, and not the result of love or affection, but pure unchecked lust. He needed someone, and I was there, like he knew I would be.
I loved him. What can I say? I always had.
I’d always hoped for some romantic scene, you know? It would have been raining, or snowing, or it could have been bright beautiful sunshine, and we both would have looked flawless. We’d have argued, loudly, and I’d have walked quickly away from him, but he’d have followed me. We’d have stood, maybe two feet apart, maybe ten inches, but whatever the distance, he’d have declared his love for me in some poetic way, and then that distance would have just melted away as he kissed me exactly the way I’d always hoped he would.
In actual fact I’d been the one doing the chasing. The weather was as far from romantic as it could possibly have been. We both looked terrible. It was drizzling that mild, melancholy rain that seems to dominate over fifty percent of British weather, the kind of rain that sneaks up on you and drenches you before you’ve realised, the kind of rain that promises not to be too problematic, but then leaves you soaking wet, shivering, stood under the boughs of a dripping tree, cursing under your breath with a broken umbrella.
He was having one of his quiet days; the ones where he’d barely say a single word to anyone for hours and hours. I always loved him most the first time I heard his voice after one of those days. It was like coming up for air, listening to him speak.
I remember. He hadn’t spoken at all that day; he’d been stony and impassive from the first time I saw him that morning. I remember trying to make small talk as we passed each other in a corridor, the way I usually did. This time he didn’t respond, just looked through me. I remember seeing him at lunch, the concerned glances of his three best friends, the melancholy air that hung around him, and I remember being worried too. I remember seeing him leave lunch alone, walking quickly with his shoulders slumped, and I remember leaving my seat without ever really deciding to, following him before I’d even realised I wanted to, before I realised that I had to. I realise now that my heart had no other choice to make.
At that time, following him had been the only road open to me.
I walked quickly from the hall out into the drizzly rain outside and squinted, searching for him, and when I found him and ran to him no words were spoken. He simply looked at me, and I felt small under his gaze.
Then he shot a pale hand out and grabbed me by the wrist, pulling my body to his. My wrist hurt for days after. His lips were chapped and his mouth tasted like pumpkin juice and sandwiches and I was stunned into stillness.
It was just a kiss. It wasn’t a declaration of love, or heart-wrenching moment of abandon, it wasn’t a realisation of hidden feelings and it certainly wasn’t a proposal. We were just two people, stood in the rain like idiots, who needed to feel the heat of another. He was just an idiot who needed to be touched, and I was the idiot who fell for him instead. It wasn’t a cliché, or perhaps it was, but either way it wasn’t perfect, or romantic. It wasn’t the kiss I’d dreamed of.
But then I guess that’s what life does; it beats the fairytale out of you.
Afterwards I walked away, back to the castle and back to reality. I no longer looked for him in hallways or held my breath when he walked by. I stopped speaking to him entirely, not that I supposed he noticed. And slowly he began to slip under my radar; I was no longer aware of his quiet days, I couldn’t tell what each one of his expressions meant, I didn’t long for the feel of his hand in mine, or the sound of his voice in my ear. I suppose, gradually, I lost him.
It was a long time ago now, my memories of him are faded and worn, I can no longer picture his face the way I could. It’s been many summers since I mistook the easy, loping grace of a stranger in the city for my first love.
But I won’t forget that rainy afternoon, even though the exact shade of his eyes escapes me, and the sound of his voice is gone from my mind.
It was only a kiss, but I guess, in a strange way, it was everything.
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