I Think I Love You Better Now


2. 1: Gabrielle

What is perfection? 

When someone asks me this, the answer still remains the same.

"Gabrielle. Gabrielle is perfection."

I told her this in a Citizenship lesson in our final year of primary school. We sat cross-legged, straight-backed on a worn carpet which had been picked at by hundreds of small fingers over the years, all in a circle, discussing what the word 'perfect' truly meant. A deep concept for a group of 11 year olds who failed to understand basic mathematical processes, I know, but we were supposedly intelligent and it was 'good to talk about these things'. Not for me.

I wasn't all that great at talking. I would have complete, beautiful conversations formed into my head and then everything would jumble up when it came to expressing them. They said my vocabulary was 'poor' and I should 'read more novels'. They didn't know it was just getting my words to escape that was the issue.

I hid inside myself, because I couldn't seem to grasp the meaning  of the world and the people in it. Mum always told me I was just sad, yet she always wrote it down in capital letters; like the word really mattered, it needed emphasis, it had a specific importance. I would go to her bedside in the depths of the night, a blind panic, and she'd stroke my hair and tell me I was unique and special and destined for great things, and I was just a little bit sad, that's all. Just a little bit S-A-D.

We went around that circle anti-clockwise, which meant I was last. She sat across from me, perfectly opposite, entwining her little finger in the kinks of her hair. Long, dark eyelashes fluttered open and closed every now and again as she studied a specific spot on the floor intently, soft lips just touching one another. Her shoulders rose and fell with every breath.

"Gabrielle. What is perfection?" 

Her chin raised at the sound of her name. She appeared a little lost and bewildered, as if someone had cruelly woken her from a daydream in which she'd rather have stayed. This was probably true. 

"Perfection is...perfection is... music." After a gentle pause, the voice I knew by heart concluded.

"Why?" The teacher pressed, searching for greater elaboration. 

Gabrielle looked away from the group and appeared to find something very interesting, invisible, out of the blurred windows as she replied.

"Because...music can make you feel anything. Whether that's happy or sad or a little bit in between. And you don't have to be anyone... special. It's everywhere." 

I watched her cheeks turn a scarlet shade at being so open and in the spotlight. Her gaze flickered from the teacher to the floor and an uncomfortable weight appeared to settle on her shoulders. 

"That's a lovely explanation, Gabrielle."

Unaware of any of the other answerers, I studied her. The way she ran her fingers over the bumpy, carpeted floor and pulled a lock of hair behind her ear every few seconds. The way that when she exhaled, her chest would fall ever so slightly, underneath her small checked red dress that was regulation for the girls to wear in summer. The way she had so much to give, but was so reluctant to give it.


My name made me jump ever so slightly. Gabrielle didn't flinch.

"What is perfection?" 

The words were crashing over each other in my brain again. I had the entirety of the English language stored somewhere, yet my access to it was barred with a padlock of which I did not own the key. And just then, something awful fell out of my mouth. 

"G-G-Gabrielle. Gabrielle is perfection."

I remember her face vividly, the way it snapped up at her mention. Her hazelnut eyes widened as her rosy lips formed an 'o', and after a few seconds studying my face, she hastily looked away and tried to conceal herself. This time her cheeks became a deep crimson.

I hated myself for causing her embarrassment. The nausea overcame as the sniggers started and the other girls began to nudge her, making 'woo' sounds. 

"I-I'm sorry." I stuttered, "I didn't...I mean... I..." 

The laughter ensued. It ricocheted around my skull and stayed there, somewhere at the back, and continues today. The plummeting of my stomach as I hear them begin to chuckle is a feeling I am not unfamiliar with, and yet still catches me out every time.  

Gabrielle, who wouldn't look me in the eye quite the same, even when our families saw one another like they always had, for over a year.

I'm out of touch.

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