T H I R T E E N
To say that a kiss can change everything is incredibly and undeniably cliched. To think that love could be this life changing experience, of course, without a doubt is one of the most hackneyed and overused concepts Harry has constantly seen even in the best of novels. It is redundant, yawn inducing, and completely off putting after a certain point. Yet, here was Harry, standing in front of Mia, strawberry stem in his hand, as he wondered if he could kiss her again. If this was all some sort of fluke and if the next time he attempted to come near her she would simply giggle and walk away.
There he was, standing before the girl who had undoubtedly changed his life for the better. She had done that. She had made him come to life once again. And as trite as that may sound, as incredibly and totally ridiculous it may seem, it was the fucking truth. And now, now that she had given him the half of that strawberry, now that they had sealed their promise with a kiss, Harry knew...he knew...that this cliched, hackneyed, trite and yawn inducing tale was his. It was his love story. And as much as he may have hated those of others who had spoken about 'lust filled stares' and 'a love that would last for eternity' he could not hate his own. He could only know that this was his. This love, this beautiful girl, this very moment, they were his. And he knew better than to take them for granted.
She smiles, stretching out her hand towards him, "You can call me strawberry girl if you want."
"So you read it." He says taking her extended hand.
"And I can't wait to read the whole thing."
Harry returned home, the sun already long gone, and his flatmate well into his favorite television program. Surprisingly, Niall had been weening himself off the bottle slowly but surely. Only going out once a week instead of everyday. Niall no longer found himself wanting to particularly want to escape his reality, nor numb his emotions. The last few weeks he had been around much more and he found himself happier than ever. Perhaps it was the fact that Mia now came over instead of meeting him at the pub, and that Harry had more or less broken out of his shell. Perhaps it was that he now felt as if he were living with the Harry he had met long ago at fifteen when they had hit it off as soon as they first spoke. Niall found himself enjoying his quaint life for the first time in a long while. It seemed to be a contagious sentiment, for when his flatmate walked in he couldn't help but notice Harry humming as he walked past him.
"Where have you been all day?" Niall says looking at the cheery Harry.
"Well I fucking knew that."
Harry seems flushed, and when he turns his back to Niall to walk away, his flatmate couldn't help but notice that Harry had come back with his white shirt completely covered in a muddy brown, with splashes of a green he had been accustomed to seeing only in the summer when the trees were alive and flourishing.
"Why is your shirt like that, mate?"
Harry stops in his tracks as Niall comes up to him and examines his shirt, "Had a fall."
"Down a hill and into a mud puddle?"
"Were you with Mia?"
"That would be a yes."
"Was this because of Mia?"
"Well..." Harry says, not quite wanting to pin it on her.
"That would also be a yes." Niall says walking towards the kitchen sink and grabbing a glass to fill with water. "Can I ask what happened."
Niall's eyes widen, "You and Mia? You kissed?" Harry nods. "That's fucking ace, mate! Fucking brilliant I fucking tell you!"
Harry smiles the smile of a man who has won the world cup, the noble prize, the biggest trophy or honor you could imagine. He smiles so widely that he was starting to wonder if his face was going to be stuck that way.
Niall walks up to Harry, ignoring the his stained shirt, and wraps a friendly arm around him, "Look now Harry. I know you're a good man. I know that. But this girls, she's been through a shitload. So you treat her right, you hear?"
Harry nods. He wouldn't think of treating her any other way.
"Wait, what do you mean she's been through a shitload."
"She'll tell you in her own time."
"That bad?" Harry tries.
"It isn't good, Harold."
"Well, I think we should all celebrate this. I will gladly be the third fucking wheel anytime, day or night. You kids need the supervision anyways, don't want you running around forest fucking around like some fucking nymphs or something." He says eyeing Harry's back. "You kissed is all right? Nothing else?"
"No!" Harry says turning to look at him.
"I suppose it was in a forest?"
"Goodnight, mate." Harry says heading towards the bathroom.
"Oh, come on. Tell me just a bit?"
"Night." He says slamming the door on his flatmate's face.
"Love you too." Harry says through the door with a smirk. But he couldn't help but wonder what it was that Mia had been through. And he couldn't help but remember that look he had seen in her eyes before back when they had just started talking. 'There was something about the happiest people he thought, that just seemed as if they were trying to make others as happy as they wished they could be. As if they knew how hard it was to hurt, to feel sadness, to feel pain. As if they had gone through the worst of it, and they never wished it upon even their cruelest enemy.
He hoped that Mia's happiness was real, not just something she used to make other happy. He hoped that she never questioned the sincerity of her smile. And most importantly, he hoped that she from now on, would be the happiest she had ever been.
It wasn't much he hoped for, and he believed it wasn't selfish. All he wanted was her happiness. Nothing more, nothing less.
Harry awoke the next morning with an undeniable calm. It was short lived though, because the moment he remembered the evening before his breath caught and he felt panic set in. He hadn't called Mia, hadn't messaged her, hadn't done any of the proper things a man should do when he expresses such blatant interest in a girl.
It had been a while since he had been in the game, but he knew that was not an excuse. He didn't want to be the type of man that waited three days before calling, or avoiding the person in question because looking eager is incredibly unattractive. And quite honestly, he didn't think Mia would judge him harshly for either not calling or making any contact at all, but he didn't want to disappoint her. He wanted to be with her, and he wanted to make sure that was undeniably clear to her.
While Harry hurriedly gets up to get washed and grab his phone, Mia is laying lazily in her hammock in the shade of the cabin porch. She came back at the crack of dawn, her one bedroom flat feeling much too solitary and much too confined for the state of mind she was in. She plucked a strawberry from the bowl she had upon her flat stomach and studied it.
There were many things her mother would tell her about strawberries, many. They were her mother's livelihood after all. She had dedicated the latter part of her life to maintaining this field and making sure that each harvest was as perfect as the last. She had made sure that Mia was fed, clothed, and happy by maintaining this very field. And towards the end of her mother's days, Mia she worried about her. Whether she would grow up to be strong enough to live without her , if she would grow to be wise enough to make a living on her own. If she would find love.
Mia started eating strawberries at a more rapid pace, believing now more than ever, that the sweet fruit would fill her life and heart with a love so strong, it would never falter.
When Mia was a child, she recalls, she asked her mother where strawberries came from.. Her mother, her beautifully tanned and sun hatted mother led Mia from the field to the porch and sat down with her. She plucked a strawberry from one of the baskets that lined the porch and showed it to her child.
"There was once a beautiful goddess whose name was Aphrodite."
"Aphrodite? She's the goddess of love right?"
"Yes, love. She was the goddess of love." Her mother covers her hand with her own and smiles endearingly at seven year old Mia, "She loved a man Adonis so very much. But there was one very big problem."
"Adonis was mortal."
Mia's eyes widen as her mother's smile falters a tiny bit. That year Mia had been very much into Greek mythology, and surprisingly enough, her mother had been as well. Her mother read to her every night from a thick book that laid upon her bedside table. So it surprised Mia to see that her mother was stating the story verbatim, but it made it much more important because of the fact, that it was obvious she would never forget the tale.
"And she was immortal because she was a goddess, right?" Mia says worriedly.
"Well, love, Adonis was a hunter. He loved the sport, even though it was very dangerous. Aphrodite would plead with him not to go."
"But he did, didn't he?"
"Yes. And he was killed while hunting a wild boar."
"Oh." Mia said sadly.
"Aphrodite was so sad, so incredibly crushed that her love was gone that she began to shed tears. These tears fell from the heavens as red shaped hearts. The legend is, little one, that she had so much love within her that when she shed her tears for her lover those tears turned into the fruit you see before you. Red hearts that were as sweet as the love she had for him." Her mother give Mia the strawberry she held in her other hand and smiled at her daughter sweetly.
"Wow." Mia said looking at her mother, accepting the strawberry and looking at it pensively. Of course, as smart as Mia may have been for a seven year old, a child is a child. From that moment Mia believed that eating the hearts would give her a love so powerful and so beautiful as the one Aphrodite had for Adonis. She became obsessed with eating the fruit, convinced that if she cried for someone whom she truly loved, she would also cry the red heart shaped tears as Aphrodite did, flooding the world with the sweet fruit that was once her own cherished love.
Even now, at twenty, Mia believed in this tale. After her mother had passed, she had eaten so many strawberries, she was sure she would turn into one. She wanted so badly to carry within her a love that would not let her feel loss. She wanted to believe that Aphrodite's pain, became a beautiful gift from the heavens.
She wanted to believe, that love, as painful as it may be, is a gift given to us to cherish and to learn from. And the strawberries she adored, the strawberries that meant so much to her, they were a symbol of just how much love she wanted to carry within her.
She hoped one day that if she passed, no one would cry for her. She wouldn't want all of her lover's love to leave them. She wanted them to keep it within them always.
The world had enough strawberries anyways. She didn't want her love to make for more.