We had a great time that day. The next day as well. Time flew by, and soon I forgot about the look Melissa had given me, and the other students grew bored of looking for drama that was not going to happen. Thomas and I spend the lunch breaks together and I was no longer the girl who sat alone in the corner of the cafeteria with her book. I loved not being that anymore. I hadn’t realised how much I missed company. Then the weekend came, and I got a few days to myself. Saturday night, after I had spent the whole day smiling, humming and tripping around the house, my mom entered my room while I was sitting with a book. She sat down beside me on the bed and looked at me with a raised eyebrow.
“What is going on at school?” she asked me. Her blond hair were hanging down to her shoulders, she rarely bothered to put her hair up on weekends.
“What do you mean?” I asked her slowly, wanting to know what she had figured out. Or, halfway figured out.
“I mean why you are so happy when you get home after school? Not that I mind, but you haven’t been this happy since before Maria left,” she said. Oh, so this was it. “I talked to your dad, and he mentioned a boy.” She said with this voice searching for more, a smile playing on her lips. Her bright blue eyes were gleaming in the light from my bedside lamp.
“Thomas. And we’re just friends,” I told her, though my voice was a little insecure. We were friends, but when I said that we were friends, I felt like a knot was tied in my stomach. I didn’t want to think about what that meant. She raised her eyebrow questioningly, and I let out a sigh.
“Mom, really.” I said, rolling my eyes. She raised her hands in defence and smiled at me.
“Okay, I won’t ask any more questions. But you will tell me, right?” she asked me.
“Of course I will,”
She leaned in and gave my forehead a kiss, smiled at me and left my room again. I looked down at my hands, wrapped around the book. I was pale. I tended to be that in winter. I but the book down on the bed and went to stand in front of the mirror.
My hair was a messy stack of hay, but the brown it had was a warm and fuzzy one. My eyes were not hidden behind mascara today, so the green was more protruding than my eyelashes. I was as tall as I had always been, which wasn’t very tall. I had soft curves underneath my sweatshirt and Adidas pants. I tried to straighten out my curls, but without much luck. I sighed at my reflection. Then my phone chimed. I left the mirror and went to my desk, where my phone had been lying since Friday afternoon.
Do you wanna do something tomorrow?:-)”
Yeah, do you have something in mind?:-)”
The next message chimed in just as I sat down on my bed again with the phone in my hand.
I was thinking about that bookstore?:-)”
Sure. Do you want to meet up there around one?”
A couple minutes went by without a reply, so I picked my book up again and started reading again. Then the phone vibrated again beside me.
I can pick you up if you want to?”
I was all up for that. I remembered the smell of him from that morning where he picked me up from school. It was sweet and reminded me of summer and happiness.
Sure, it’s a deal. :-)”
Another few minutes went by before the phone buzzed at me again. He replied with “Great!:-)” and I felt a smile plaster on my face. I even made plans in the weekends now. I hadn’t done that in a very long time. I turned on the front screen of my phone to look at the time. Since it was almost ten, and I wasn’t the type to do much after nine anyway, I decided to go out and brush my teeth and get ready for bed.
Arthur was brushing his teeth when I went through the door. He waved at me (since his mouth was filled with toothpaste, I was relieved that he didn’t try to say anything) and I grabbed my hair brush to do something about my haystack. My scalp was screaming at me to stop, but I kept on combing. Meanwhile Arthur spat and finished brushing his teeth. He sat down on the edge of the bathtub.
“Are you doing anything tomorrow?” he asked me. He was dressed equally comfortable as I was, in loose sweatpants and a t-shirt. I eyed him suspiciously.
“Yes, I am. Why?”
“I was curious as to why you were smiling while ripping for own hair out,” he told me, a crooked smile on his face. I felt a blush on my cheeks and turned away from him, giving up on my hair. I heard him laugh behind me.
“It’s Thomas, isn’t it?” he asked again. I felt like he was starting an interrogation. Wasn’t it usually the oldest sibling who did that?
I waited a few seconds before answering. “It’s Thomas, yes. Anything else you want to know?”
“Plenty, yes. I would like to actually meet him. And I would like to tell him that if he ever hurts you, I’ll kick his ass.” His voice has suddenly turned serious, and I turned to look at him, frowning.
“What do you mean?” I asked. He stood up. He also towered over me, not as much as Thomas did, though.
“I mean, that if he ever does anything to you, I will be very, very mad. I’m your brother, Ellie. I can see that you like him.”
I took a step back. My face felt ablaze, but it was not like I didn’t recognize what he was saying. He was also the first one to realize what was going on in my freshman year. Arthur knew me better than I knew myself.
But did he really think that? That I liked Thomas? We had barely known each other for a week, but from the first five minutes I had known him, we clicked. When we had known each other for 3 days, he had stood up to Melissa in front of the entire school. But still it felt like we had known each other for years. I didn’t know what to make of it, and that was why I was so bloody confused. I found myself looking down again.
“Ellie, please. You know I mean well. But we both know what goes on in schools, and I want you to be careful.” Once again he put on the big-sibling role. How did he do that so easily?
“I am careful. And you don’t need to beat anyone up, Arthur. Thomas is a good guy.” I told him. I didn’t want him getting into trouble. He sighed at me and dragged a hand through his hair.
“I still want to meet him. I need so see for myself that he isn’t deceiving you or something.”
As he said that, I felt something shut down in my brain. Could that be it? Could he just be deceiving, playing a game with me? Was he a part of Melissa’s scheme? No, he couldn’t. Even Melissa wasn’t crazy enough to pull a stunt like that in the cafeteria just to get to me. I shook my head in denial.
“He isn’t. I can feel it. You might be better at reading people than I am, but I know that he’s sincere.” I told him, grabbing my tooth brush and added some paste. I could feel his eyes piercing my neck. I turned around to face him. “He’s picking me up tomorrow. You can follow me to his car, but you behave nicely, I swear to god, he is the only thing I have here who is somewhat like a friend.” I said, my voice a little more thin and high than I would like. He sighed again.
“Okay. But if he hurts you-“ I opened my mouth to protest, but he stopped me by grabbing my lips behind his thumb and index finger and pinched them together, making me pout. “If he hurts you, I will kick his ass.”
I dressed in a white lacy shirt and a pair of dark blue jeans that day. The shirt was one of my favourites, made completely from lace, with sleeves going to my elbows. Underneath it I wore a black tank top. I pulled the curls above my ears back with a hairband, and when I finished with my very basic makeup, I actually found myself rather pretty. Turning around in front of the mirror in my room, I couldn’t help but smile. It was a little past 12 am by then, so I went down to eat lunch. I had told my mom that I was going out, and obviously she had told my dad, because when I entered the kitchen, he looked at me disapprovingly. I sighed.
“Dad, I’m going out with a friend,” even though my belly tied up itself when I called Thomas a friend. “It’s not a date. We’re just going to the bookstore. Calm down.” I went to the refrigerator and opened it in search of something to eat. I found leftover pizza from last night, so I pulled out the container and put a few pieces on my plate.
“If it’s just a friend, why are you looking like a princess?” he asked me, sounding almost terrified. I looked at him and I couldn’t help but laugh.
“Dad, you say that I look like a princess when I walk around the house in an oversized t-shirt and a pair of Arthur’s soccer shorts. I don’t think you really know what a princess looks like.”
He ruffled up his hair in frustration. Arthur turned the corner into the kitchen just when I was putting my plate with the pizza in the microwave.
“Don’t worry, dad. Nobody will want to be with her anyway, she’s way too nerdy,” he said, winking at me, and I smiled, happy that he was acting a bit more like a younger brother now, and was trying to make my dad calm down. I started the microwave and found a knife and a fork and filled a glass with water, putting it at the kitchen island. When the microwave beeped at me, I took the plate and sat down. My dad and Arthur were talking across from me, and I was thinking. Thinking about what Arthur had told me last night. I still didn’t believe that Thomas was just another asshole, I refused to believe it. I had finally found a friend, someone I could confide in (who was not my brother or my mom or Maria on the other side of the world whom I only talked to a few times a month). But Arthur had been right about something. I did like Thomas. A lot more than I would ever admit. And I felt so weird about liking someone that I had only known for a week. I felt cheap and easy. But the way my stomach squirmed when he looked at me with those pure, blue eyes was amazing, and the way my skin burned when he touched me was intoxicating. I wanted to hug him, to burry my face in his shoulder and have the smell of him filling my nostrils.
And at the same time, I was so terribly afraid that he was not interested in me at all. I had lain awake for a long time last night, just thinking and wondering and thinking some more. I knew that there was no reason for him to like me. I was nerdy, just as Arthur said. I was a loner, who preferred the company of books and fictional characters to that of living people. Half of the time I barely bothered to dress for school, but then again I was way too self-conscious for my own personality. I needed to look decent when I left the house. And I needed to look good when I was going to be with Thomas. I wanted to impress him. And again I felt so bad for have fallen for him like that. I was going to ruin whatever friendship we had built over the past days if I didn’t watch my step. But oh, how I wanted to be more than his friend.
When I finished eating, I went back up to my room, leaving Arthur to deal with my dad. In my room, I looked at myself in the mirror for the 50th time that day.
My makeup still looked great. My eyelashes were long and framed my green eyes nicely. My freckles were pale due to the lack of sun on my face during the winter, but they were undoubtedly there. A few strands of my big bunch of curls had fallen out of the up-do, and framed my face from the spot right in front of my ears.
Thomas was going to be in front of my house in 20 minutes time, and I started to wonder what jacket I should wear. I looked at my outfit in the mirror. Damn, I was such a girl. Pathetic, a voice whispered in the back of my head. I pushed the voice away, shutting it off in the depths of my brain, and decided to wear my black trench coat with a light blue scar med from a light fabric.
When it was finally time for me to leave the house, I went down and put the jacket and scarf on, topping the outfit with a black pair of leathery boots, reaching almost to my knees.
“Arthur?” I shouted through the house. He had stuck his head into my room after I went to bed last night, and made me promise to tell him when Thomas was there. I hadn’t looked for his car yet, but I was anxious to get out of the house.
“He left a few minutes ago,” my dad yelled back. “What do you need?”
“I just wanted to talk to him.” I said. “I’m going now. Bye, dad.”
I had my wallet in a pocket, my phone in the other, and when I opened the door, I saw Thomas standing outside his car.
While he was talking to Arthur. I couldn’t believe it. Arthur had gone out without me and was talking to Thomas. If he was actually threatening Thomas… then Thomas would know that something was up. I shut the door behind me and quickly walked up the driveway to get to them. Before I got there, I heard Thomas laugh. Then he saw me, and waved.
“Hey, Ellie,” he said, smiling at me. Arthur turned around and I gave him a look full of thunder.
“Hi, Thomas,” I said, smiling at him quickly. “Arthur, you should go inside. Dad was asking for you.” I told him. I wanted him out of there, before he could do any damage or act like a weirdo.
“I was just talking to him, Ellie.” He said, but he did the slightest of nods. He’s good, it meant, and I gave a relieved sigh, barely noticeable. “But I’ll go. I’ll see you later.” He said, turning around. I turned to Thomas, and suddenly felt very awkward.
“I’m sorry if he was weird-“ I started to say, but Thomas interrupted me.
“He wasn’t, we just talked soccer. I didn’t know that he played.” He said.
“You do?” I said, my eyes widening in surprise. He laughed at me. I probably looked like a frightened deer or something like that.
“I used to, at my old school,” He said, shrugging. “Should we go?”
“Yes!” I said quickly, and he walked around to the driver’s door. I opened the passenger’s door and sat down inside. The moment he shut his door, the smell of sweetness and summer flowed around me. I felt a slight flush growing in my cheeks. He started the engine (again it started much smoother than mine) and the black car started moving.
“Do you have any books that you want to look at in particular?” I asked him.
“I was thinking about getting a new sci-fi book that just came out. It’s called Hidden Winter and sounds quite good. I’ve never really read sci-fi before, but there’s gotta be a first,” he said, smirking at me. I smiled back at him and nodded.
“I don’t do sci-fi much. I’m more into medieval-ish stuff.” I admitted.
“I’ve noticed,” he said, laughing. “Your brother seems really nice. How old is he?”
“He’s turning 15 in a few weeks. Please tell me he didn’t do anything embarrassing?” I pleaded.
Thomas laughed. “He didn’t. He seemed really smart. One of those people who can read you in an instant. But still pleasant to be around.”
“Yeah, he does read people very easily. It can be scary at times. Often he knows what I’ll do before I even know it myself,” I said, giggling. “Do you have any siblings?”
“Nope. My parents had trouble even getting me, so they never had luck again. I’m a very spoiled only child,” he said, smiling. That dimple…
“I can see that.” I said, gesturing at the car’s panel in front of him. “This car must have been expensive.”
“It was. But my parents also told he that they expected this car to last 10 years, so it’s not like I’m getting a now one for my birthday.” He said.
“That would be very spoiled,” I said, laughing.
When we got to the store, Thomas parked a few blocks away. The store was open for another 2 hours, but it was time enough for us. Once inside, we started in the sci-fi department and found the book that Thomas wanted. After that, I went to the department where they kept the classics. I found a collection with all 7 of her novels. I only looked briefly at the price (I wanted them no matter what, they looked so pretty). Thomas joined me at the fantasy area, where I was looking at one with a title I didn’t know about. Standing behind me, Thomas looked over my shoulder to read the text on the backside with me. I was hyperaware of how close he was standing to me; every nerve and cell in my body was buzzing with energy, and I wanted to lean back against his chest so badly.
“It sounds good,” he said. “You should get it so that I could borrow it.” He added with a grin. I laughed awkwardly.
“Yeah. But if I am going to get these,” I raised the collection of Jane’s that I had pressed protectively against my chest “I can’t afford any more.”
“That’s too bad. We’ll come back for it someday, though. Do you want to go for a walk, maybe? I would like to go back to the park. It was nice there.”
“Yes, let’s do that. Did you want to get that sci-fi book?”
“Yup, I’ll try something new. Be a little brave.” He said. The way he said it made my heart go berserk and once again I was aware of how close he was standing to me. I quickly put the book back on the shelf.
Once we had paid (my pocket was hurting a little - the books had been expensive) we put the bags in the back of the car and drove to the park. Thomas parked the car in the same spot we had Wednesday, and we left the car behind us, entering the park trough the old-fashioned iron gates.
The insides looked even more beautiful than the last time we were there, if it was even possible. Icicles hung from the trees and most of the park was covered by a fresh, undisturbed layer of pearly white snow. The snow sucked up all the noise of traffic. Everything was quiet, beautiful and perfect. Or, almost perfect. It would be perfect if I was holding Thomas’ hand.
We walked in silence for a bit. It was a nice silence, though. It fit the silence around us perfectly. I felt comfortable and happy. We walked slowly, and I could hear the hard compressed snow creak underneath our boots.
“It feels quite magical, doesn’t it?” Thomas asked me, voice low, almost whispering. I walked a little closer to him to better hear what he was saying.
“It does. Like walking around in Narnia or something,” I whispered back, smiling. My heart was betraying me, beating hard against my chest.
He looked at me, and those blue eyes looked so amazing against his black hair and the white background. He looked at me. He looked at me. The words kept on repeating themselves in my head. His eyes made my skin burn, and suddenly I realized that we had both come to a halt. Thomas was turned towards me. We were standing underneath a big weeping willow, the frozen hangings almost reaching Thomas’ head. We were standing so, so close. Thomas’ hand lifted slowly, then wrapped tenderly around my cheek. I felt my own arms lifting, one draping itself behind his neck; one went under his right arm and onto his upper back. His touch made my mind twirl. I had to stand on my toes. Then his arm wrapped around my waist, and his hand held my lower back, and at the same time we leaned into each other, and if felt his soft lips crushing onto mine. I clung to him for dear life, and he held me so tightly it almost hurt. My heart was pounding on my chest, threatening to break through my rib cage. Thomas sighed through his lips and pulled me even closer to him, making me feel like he really needed to have me close.
It was in that moment that I finally realized how deeply in love I was. I fell in love with his lips, the touch of his hand through my jacket, his fingers gentle caressing the edge of my hairline by my neck. I wanted nothing more than to stay like that forever. I feel in love with all the words that he had told me.
I slowly pulled away. My toes were hurting from leaving my weight on them, and I felt breathless. I looked at him. He looked at me. And then I also fell in love with those blue, blue eyes. My mind cleared again, and we both started to laugh, and his hands slid down to catch me in an embrace, and I locked both my arms underneath his armpits and held him as close as he held me. It was cold, but I felt like I was burning. I could feel his muscles through the layers of clothing, and his smell… My knees were jelly and the only thing that kept me on my feet was his arms around me. I closed my eyes and pressed my face into his chest. I could feel his cheek resting on top of my head. It felt surreal.
“I feel like I’ve known you forever…” he whispered into my hair. My heart literally skipped a beat, and I felt breathless.
“Same here…” I whispered back. His arms tightened slightly around me before loosening so he could look at me again, and once again I fell for his eyes.
“I know that we have only really known each other for a week, but Ellie… I have never met anyone like you,” he said, his eyes so tender and beautiful it took my breath away completely. My chest was hurting. “I feel … complete around you. I feel whole. Like something had been missing until last Monday.” His hands were resting at my hips, my skin still burning through all the layers of clothing.
“I feel the same, Thomas. It’s just weird, knowing that we only met Monday… it feels like…” I stopped, looking for words, but no word felt sufficient. “I don’t believe in soul mates and destiny and all that, but it’s the only thing I can find to explain it.”
Thomas smiled at me, and his hand cupped my cheek again, and both my cheeks heated up. His thumb gently caressed my face. Then he leaned down and kissed me again, and I felt like exploding. I wrapped my arms around him, and he pulled me close. When I pulled back again I looked at him, straight in the eye. Then I broke into a smile.
“What does this make us?” I asked him.
“I don’t know exactly. In love, I would say.” He said. Once again, my heart skipped a beat. It sure acted up today. He is in love! A voice in my head screamed at me, and I felt like dancing, which I was really bad at, so that was saying something.
“That sounds good.” I whispered.
The door closed behind me, but a huge smile was still plastered on my lips. I pulled my boots and jacket off, and dragged the bag with my newly purchased books with me upstairs.
We had walked back through the park and then he drove me him. He had held my hand while we walked, and given it a squeeze when we said goodbye. I couldn’t wait to see him tomorrow. We had only been out for a little more than 2 hours, so it was only just past 3 o’clock, and tomorrow was painfully far away.
In my room, I crashed on my bed, exhausted. I couldn’t get the smile of my face, though. I was flying around on my own little pink cloud, caught up in happiness and pure joy.
He liked me back. He liked me back! I wasn’t the weird one, we were weird together.
I spent the rest of the day reading and dancing around the house. My mom was eyeing me the whole time, and Arthur smiled at me openly. My dad was scowling. But I didn’t care the least. I felt lighter than a feather. I had a constant smile on my face and by dinnertime the muscles in my face were cramping and aching. Still, the smile stayed up my face, persistent.
“Did you and Thomas have fun today?” asked my mom, looking at my, the corners of her mouth curling upwards. I nodded.
“When are we going to meet him?” My dad said. He used his lawyer voice, serious and without inflection. I picked at my food.
“I don’t know…”
“You could bring him home after school tomorrow. For dinner, maybe?” Arthur said, smirking at me. I stuck my tongue out at him. He mimicked me.
“That’s a great idea! I can prepare something really nice.” My mom said. And so it was - Thomas would be coming over.
Except for the fact that he would have to face my dad, who would pull on his scary face, and my mom, who would be over-the-top courteous, I was happy. My parents inviting him over meant that they had an okay feeling about him. Maybe Arthur had been talking, but it didn’t matter, really.
It also meant that he would spend more time with me from then on.
When I got to my room, I grabbed my phone and found Thomas’ number in my contact list. The phone rang 3 times before he picked up.
“Hello beautiful,” he said when he picked up. I could hear the smile in his voice and the blush spreading across my cheeks at the adjective.
“Hello there. I just wanted to hear if you were doing anything tomorrow night?”
“I think I might be now?” he said suggestively. I laughed.
“My parents want to meet you. They have invited you over for dinner,” I told him.
“Oh, so we’re doing the meeting-the-parents thing from tomorrow on?” I could hear him smirking. “Well, I’m free. When should I come over?”
“Around six, I think. You don’t have to dress up too much, though, I’m forcing my parents to keep it casual,” I said.
“I’ll note that down. Just so that you’re warned, my mother is anxious to meet “this mystery girl you have been spending some much time with,”” he said, quoting his mother. I laughed at the wall behind my bed.
“I guess I’ll have to go through the meeting-the-parents thing too,” I said, the muscles in my face aching from the smiling.
“I do believe so,” he answered. I sat down on my bed.
“I guess I’ll see you in school tomorrow?” I asked him, my stomach twirling at just the thought.
“You will. I’ll see you then,” he said.
“Okay. Bye,” I said.
“Bye, Ellie,” he said in a soft voice, giving me goose bumps. I hung up and throw the phone on my bed. I sit down on the edge of the bed and look at the clock on the wall over my desk. It reads half past seven. I decide to just start getting ready for bed. I have nothing more to do, anyway - I spent the day doing homework and assignments, and I’m all done.
When I put my book down around 9, and turn around to lie on my right side, facing the wall, I felt a little anxious, restless and nervous. I didn’t know over what, though - Thomas meeting my parents tomorrow, seeing him in school, facing Melissa in school, or just Thomas in general?
I had no idea why he would possibly fall for me. It made no sense; it felt too much like I was in a dream. I pinched my shoulder, biting my nails into my skin. I felt the pain, but nothing changed. My stomach was still lurching and turning and twisting.
I hugged the corner of the duvet to my chest. The smile had dried off my face. I felt an ache in my chest, behind the duvet. My heart was beating hard, like it was struggling against something. I crossed it of as anxiousness, while thoughts and theories were haunting my mind.
Thomas seemed too good to be true. Smart, kind, and handsome. He was so much more than just that, but I cannot put it into words. And I was slowly starting to realise that it might not be true. The first few thoughts I had when he sat down at my table in the canteen almost a week ago started to emerge from my memory. Was he just toying around with me? Was he only playing a game, was I only a piece in it?
I felt my lip quiver. No, of course not. No one could have faked that moment in the park. I recalled the feeling of his lips on mine. Soft, but strong and persistent, all at the same time. I felt a tickling in my belly. But still the smile does not resurface. My chest ached, and I hugged the duvet tighter to me, taking 3 deep breaths with my eyes closed, to try and calm down. If Thomas was not what he is acting like, he wouldn’t consent to meet my parents. He must be for real.
I tried forming my lips like I did when he kissed me. It felt ridiculous, so I stopped almost immediately. I took another deep breath and bit my upper lip. I wasn’t as eager for dawn to come any longer. I wanted to stay huddled under my duvet with music surrounding me from my audio player.
But dawn did come. I don’t know when I fell asleep, but I did, and then the alarm clock on my bedside was yelling at me to get out of bed. I moaned as I sat up and swung my legs out of bed and into the cool air of my room. On my tiptoes, I walked to my closet and drew out a pair of blue jeans, a black t-shirt and a baby blue knitted cardigan, all of which I pulled on. I grabbed the black scarf of the light, fluffy material and draped it around my neck. The cold was picking at my skin, and I wanted to cover myself up.
I walked down the stairs, yawning, and enter the kitchen. My mom was mixing something on the counter as I sat down at the kitchen island, grabbing the cereal and a bowl.
“Good morning, sweetie,” she said in a sing-song voice.
“Good morning. Are you already preparing for dinner?” I asked her as I poured milk in the bowl.
“Yes, I’m not sure if I’ll have enough time to cook everything when I get home, so I figured I would do what could be done now,” she said, and placed a plate with marinated meat into the fridge. Arthur entered the kitchen and sat down beside me.
“Can I get a ride with you to school, Ellie? I really don’t feel like that cold today,” he said, and I glanced at him. He was even more covered up than me, in dark jeans, a button down shirt and a knitted sweater over that.
“Sure. I’m leaving on 25 minutes,” I told him.
“Great,” he said, smiling at me. “So, how do you want us to act tonight?” then he smirked.
I rolled my eyes. “Relaxed. Down to earth. Keep it real and all that,” I said, eating my cereal, starring at the island.
“Okay, so no pretty suits and dresses?”
“God, no!” I said, sticking my finger into his side. He squirmed away from me. “Keep it real, I said. Just act like a normal human being for one.”
“Eliza and Arthur, would you calm down? I know that tonight is going to be a test, but don’t fight over it.” My mom said, looking at us with a stern glance.
“Yes, sir…” we said together, looking at each other with big grins. She rolled her eyes at us and turned back to whatever she was doing.