Chapter 5 : precious
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After that, I understood why Clara still kept Jamie around. It wasn’t because she trusted him–she trusted him as much as I trusted her–but because he did her. He thought the sun shone out of her ears. She was his everything, and seeing his concern for her, or rather, seeing how far he would go for her, that was something. That was adorable. I understood adorable. There’s something to be said for having someone to simper at, who doesn’t realise that you’re not smiling at all.
Not that I would have expected this behaviour from him, of all people. He made a very big show of being the picture of the perfect bloke, with the hot girlfriend, the Quidditch captaincy, the connections to wizarding royalty through Albus, et cetera. He looked like it, had the arrogant/attractive attitude to go with it, but he still felt a genuine concern for his damaged girl. I admired that.
The problem was that everyone else did, too.
“Dear God,” Olivia said on the Monday after the library day, when he walked into Transfiguration. She and I shared a table because we had to. I saw Clara at the threshold bidding him farewell, but Olivia was looking squarely at him. “Why is it legal for boys to look like that?”
I thought that was rich, coming from her, widely considered the prettiest girl in our year. “Are you complaining?”
“No,” she said. “But you have to admit, he has better hair than most girls do.”
“Very true.” I glanced slyly at her. “Why are we appreciating Jamie’s hair this afternoon?”
“Why do you ask?”
“He’s taken, Olivia.”
She scowled gently. “I know, I know. And I can’t even hate her for being the lucky one, they’re so good together.”
It wasn’t a struggle to not snort at that. Mostly because I knew she didn’t want me carrying tales about her jealousy of her best friend’s boyfriend. I had, obviously, explored this path before, and it had led exactly nowhere. With a girl like Olivia and a boy like Jamie, it was expected to happen. In fact it had. Everyone had a little bit of that envy. It had its perks in the short term, but was useless in the long run, so I’d ignored it.
“Oh, well,” I sighed. “At least we can look at him, right?”
She glanced at me, mindful of what she let slip. Then, apparently deeming me harmless for the moment, she repeated, “At least we can look at him.”
She did. Look at him, I mean; he sat a row ahead of us and to the left. It was the perfect vantage point for Olivia to watch him. And she did for all of Transfiguration, having perfected after many years the art of writing down what the professor said without having the faintest idea what he meant. Her mind wandered for all of class.
She wasn’t the only one who wasn’t paying attention to the lesson.
I’m not talking about myself, you understand.
Behind me, I felt the weight of Dominic’s eyes boring into my neck.
I didn’t want to pursue Dominic anymore. I had exhausted that lead a long time ago. In December. We hadn’t touched since then and I didn’t want to. He certainly didn’t want to.
But after class, as I was going to the library again (I always went to the library), he cleared his throat behind me. I sped up, pretending not to have heard. Then he said my name. I ignored him as if I hadn’t heard. Not once did he make to touch my shoulder or my arm. He wouldn’t touch me.
He’d never said “please” to me before. He’d never had the courtesy. That was what made me stop.
But of course, when I went to look at him, he didn’t look very courteous or pleasant. He looked as he had since November: moody, showing the shadow of some dark secret and enticing you to dig deeper. See what was beneath the angst-ridden young man. The problem, of course, was that there was nothing. He was all shadow, no light, no substance. He liked that sort of existence, liked the aura that it created. Or at least, he purported to like it.
“How are you?”
“Can’t complain.” But he could. “I wanted to talk to you, though, if you wouldn’t mind.”
He glanced around the corridor to see if anyone was around to bear witness to this. He wouldn’t want anyone around. I didn’t care. But that was the difference between Dominic and I, the one that I’d happily and quite skillfully cultivated for months. He didn’t understand anything, least of all me. Least of all Clara. But he’d like to.
“Yeah, why not now? Are you busy now?” He decided that I wasn’t. “See, the thing is, I miss you.”
Of course he did.
“And everything that happened, we could move past that. You know we could. Sometimes I think you have, but won’t admit it to yourself.” He came closer to me; I felt the corners of some stack of parchment rub against the sleeve of my robe. This was the closest we’d been in months. “You’re stubborn, Rose, but you’re not stupid.” His voice was dangerously low, his eyes dark. “Purely out of curiosity–do you miss me, Rose?”
I’ve said before that he looked intense. Which was still true. But I stared up at him and watched him wait for me to respond. His breathing was easy but a little on the quick side. He was trying not to move. Not to blink. There was tension in his face as he struggled to keep it still.
“Dominic.” I exhaled his name. He closed his eyes for a second as if to appreciate that I had at all. “Dominic, you’re…” I laughed, once, watching his struggle for stillness. “My God, will you relax?”
He blinked, but didn’t move. I could have, as he hadn’t backed me up against a wall, yet, but I didn’t. It was as if we were locked in time and space, the two of us. As if nothing existed for us but each other. As if nothing mattered to us but each other.
I wouldn’t move. He wouldn’t move. Something had to give.
“You don’t miss me,” I said.
“I asked if you missed me.” The statement was almost a growl.
“And the answer is what it always is. For you, anyway. It’s all you hear, isn’t it, Dominic, and it’s all you ever will.” I watched his tense confidence quake. I even felt his knees quake, felt the displacement of air as they shook. That was how he affected me; that was how aware I was of him. “You heard it from your precious little Clara four months ago. You’ve been hearing it in your head ever since. You don’t miss me. You miss the idea of me. You want someone there to stroke your hand and your ego. You want someone to egg on. You want someone to follow you. Worship you. Deify you. But,” and here I stopped, because the look in his eyes was too much to bear. “But,” I repeated, exhaling again, with the most dazzling smile I could muster, “you never thought to want someone to love you. So can you guess what my answer is, Dominic? Can you?” His face was frozen. I lifted my free right hand to it, stroked his cheek, felt the bones underneath. His skin was thin. “Guess, Dominic.”
He didn’t even move to bat my hand away. He closed his eyes at its pressure, even leaned into it. For a minute, I thought he really might have missed me, in his own so-called poetic way. But that wasn’t enough. I’d had enough of what he considered his dark charm. There was no such thing as dark charm. There was charm and those who intimidated others into believing they had it. There were those who told the truth and those who told lies.
“I’m guessing no,” he said, the words coming out clipped, shortened, perhaps even upset or frustrated.
I withdrew my hand, and found a small perverse pleasure in seeing his eyes open wide, as if to catch the feeling of its touch again. I wondered, not for the last time, what on earth had happened to him that made him feel like he had to live like this. He could have moved on from Clara as easily as he’d moved on from me. He could have been so much more. Or at least, he could have been something else, something better than this, begging at the feet of the girl whose sympathies he’d manipulated, whose… well, I can’t say he broke my heart, because I never really felt for him, but something equivalent to the gravity of that saying without the literal meaning. Maybe he had broken my spine. That sounds right.
“God, you’re a clever one, aren’t you, Dom?”
You’ll be pleased to know that I left him as open-mouthed and confused as he’d left me.
And to think that I’d once that an eye for an eye was barbaric.
If nothing else, it got results.