They never spoke of love, it seemed like too fragile a topic of discussion, as though that single syllable — if properly encased in the space between two particular pronouns — would shatter whatever fantasy they’d constructed out of sugar glass in sunshine’s silence.
They lived in a series of moments as inseparable as they themselves became. His bedroom window was visible from the window over her desk in her own apartment, just across a field and a basketball court. They laughed at the idea of learning morse code and communicating window-to-window via flash light beam, but chats over instant messenger proved a little more efficient (although flash lights certainly had more romance). If they were both leaving school at the same time in the afternoon, he’d drive her home. After the first right turn his hand would reach for hers and they held hands as they discussed their classes that day. Sometimes she’d sneak a glance down, and she knew he did as well, but it was never mentioned. It just felt right at the time.
She usually studied with him in the evening, curling up under his arm while he quizzed her with contracts hypotheticals, or resting her legs on his lap as she read cases. He’d drop a hand down and massage her feet as he read, but it was never mentioned. It just felt right at the time.
And so it stayed until the day he let her borrow his notebook. She was two years below him in law school, and was now taking the same class, with the same professor, that he had excelled in two years before. She was eager to supplement her own study with his outlines and notes from the class, in hopes of securing the coveted A*.
As she flipped through the notebook, she found a bit of distraction doodled in the margins during an evidently boring lecture. He’d written “bucket list” at the top of the column, and the list that followed flowed down every line of the marginal column. She read through the fairly mundane items — “travel to Prague” and “skydive” — then as the list got more personal, she felt excited and guilty at the same time, as though she’d stumbled upon someone’s secret diary. She stopped at “fall in love”, closed the notebook, and returned to her case book to complete tomorrow’s reading.
The next afternoon, in the car, he asked if she was finding his notes helpful in the class. She assured him they were, and thought about the bucket list, but she didn’t want to mention it. She simply thanked him and squeezed his hand.
She waited until that evening, when they were walking back from the bars. He lit her cigarette and held her hand as she accidentally-on-purpose stumbled into his shoulder and rested her head there. He bent her arm back so he could still hold her hand with his arm wrapped around her, and she curled into him and smiled. “Hey — can I tell you something?” she drawled quietly.
“Of course, anything,” he said closely to the top of her head, his lips accidentally-on-purpose brushing her forehead lightly.
She felt a sudden warmth on her face that she knew had nothing to do with alcohol consumption and she bit her lip. “Ireadyourbucketlist,” she said.
“You — wait, what?”
She took a deep breath. “Nothing — nevermind.”
“You said you read my — Oh! From my notebook?” He stopped walking and pulled her around to face him as he leaned against a limestone ledge. “And? Thoughts?” She looked down to her shoes but his hand under her chin gently pushed her head back up until their eyes met.
She bit her lip again. “I think … well … you said you wanted to fall in love,” she said.
He smiled, his fingertips brushing her cheek lightly before dropping down to grip her hip. “I did.”
“Well, I think if you want to fall in love, you should fall in love with a girl who isn’t afraid to play in shadows. A girl who will turn the most boring chore into a game. A girl who collects laughs and keeps them in the sleeves of her sweaters, and hands out smiles like candy. A girl who is just as smart as you are. A girl who can beat you at poker. A girl who’s in law school like you, but is also creative and thoughtful like you. A girl who’s ticklish. A girl who’s observant. A girl who likes pubs and loud times as much as she likes cuddling and quiet times. In short, I think you should fall in love with me.”
He laughed and she pulled away. She’d gone too far, she’d said too much. She took a step away, down the sidewalk, blinking damp eyes and cursing herself for not knowing enough to leave a beautiful thing alone.
He pulled her arm then, and pulled her back. She let him. “Where are you going?” he asked.
“I just … I’m sorry … sometimes I talk too mu —” he kissed her then, his hand on the back of her head, his lips sudden and urgent. The kiss was quick, but unmistakable.
He pulled back and brought both hands up to either side of her face as if to capture the smile that quickly spread. “Yes,” he said. “You talk too much. I had to find some way to shut you up.” They laughed. “You said you think I should fall in love with you. I think you should work on your verb tenses.”
She scrunched her nose. “I don’t understand.”
He stroked her cheek and smiled. “Should fall. Future tense. Darlin’, it’s far too late for that.”
He smiled, grabbed her hand, and they continued their walk back. They never mentioned that moment again. It just felt right at the time.