I cannot write. I am not a poet. I am not an author of any kind. Never will my work be published or read by anyone of any seniority. But if I am lucky, maybe, you will read it.
Beautiful people are unattainable to me. Years before I met her, I spent summer nights smoking a cigarette on the flaky paint of my porch, reading dirty magazines that had been bookmarked by the previous owner, a reminder of what they could never have. My sister brought home her fiancé, slicked back hair, oozing charm behind those white teeth, and not a single part of me wanted anything to do with the rock twinkling on her finger. I had watched her leave our home, without so much as a warning to go start their life together. I had watched her leave me behind. In my not so relevant opinion, Love was overrated.
In fact Love kept taking away everything I cared about. Love was the reason the cute boy with green eyes chose my best friend over me. Love was the reason my parents spent all their time with my new baby brother. Love was the reason I cried when my grandmother passed away. I decided that when Love came, I wouldn’t want anything to do with it.
When I finally met Love on my 17th birthday, she came different than I expected. When Love walked in, she leaked vanilla on the path, trailing it all the way to the grass. She wore low-top white Converse with polkadot blue socks and a matching summer dress. The straps showed off her sunburnt shoulders, flashes of red and white, her pale skin incapable of tanning regardless of what she did. Her hair was braided into two messy plaits, blonde highlights streaking through the dark red strands that she failed to tie back. I stood in the midst of the summer garden party, curious as to how someone could be so incredibly awkward yet so unconsciously breathtaking. When I finally got the courage to talk to Love that day, she blurted out ‘happy birthday’ as if it had been bottled up inside her, spilling it with a jumble of vowels and nervous smiles. When I made a joke, her laugh sounded a little forced and she tilted her body to one side. I felt sweat on the back of my neck. It could have been from the heat. Of course, she was not a stranger to me. I had seen this girl many times. I knew the feel of her hands, the way her fingertips trailed over my skin, the feel of her breath against my neck. I knew exactly who she was. I put down my cigarette and held out my arms to Love. When Love hit me, I knew it was coming. But I did not expect for Love to hit quite so hard.
I took Love out to the movies on Saturdays. She stole my seat and started the popcorn during the ads. I watched as her eyes creased when she laughed, her body folded over, not giggles but intoxicating laughter echoing through the room. Blue. Her eyes were so blue.
We snuck out near the end and walked down the street, our hands aching to touch but never quite getting the courage. We crawled into her cupboard one night, light from the stolen liquor from her father’s cabinet. Her breathing heavy as our initials were engraved into a triangle, exclaiming that a heart was stupid and for little kids. Thighs pressed against each other, her piano fingers on my leg and my blood ran hot, scolding my cheeks to a bright red. Love hated when I didn’t text goodnight but never told me, instead her lips trembled with fear, her anxiety getting the best of her. She would blush when I told her how she looked. You are gorgeous. Blush. You are gorgeous. Blush. You are beautiful. Silence. Love was scared of what we had but she was not afraid to try.
When I introduced Love to my parents, she didn’t talk that much. Shy smiles, head bent, small talk that was a stranger to me. I pulled her aside. Nervous fingers trembled, telling me that this was new to Love. I kissed her fingers, whispering promises that they would love her, that she was the most beautiful person I had ever met. Love smiled. I took Love grocery shopping, her body holding tightly onto the cart as we rolled down the aisles, sheepish grins as she apologised to workers that would see us. Love played games, slipping in soup packets and spray cheese in hopes I would buy them for her unconsciously. Love knew I would buy them if she asked. When I got sick, Love brought flowers, pink wilting flowers she found in the neighbour’s garden but they smelt as sweet as her smile. Reading books about kittens until I fell asleep, my fevered head in her lap, Love would make sure I was not too hot, running her arms along my skin, kissing every part of me until I was strong again.
Love was older than me. Love had friends that I didn’t like. But she always told me where she was going, what she was doing, Love reassured me that we were okay. Love was stubborn. Our fights lasted longer than they should, neither of us admitting defeat, our pride bigger than our heads. But as night drew, our walls would collapse and we would rush into our open arms, lips pressed against each other, mumbling apologies that had already been said. Love liked to cuddle but got stuffy in the night, rolling away and taking the blankets with her. I would wake up, covered in goosebumps and the heat of her body on the sheets the only sign that she was still there. Love would never leave me alone but she often left me cold. Love is the reason I wear socks to bed. When summer came around, I took Love to my beach house, spending days soaking our veins in ocean salt, lying on the sand, stealing kisses and pretending like nobody else existed. And when we were together they didn’t. Love got sad sometimes. On those days, Love didn’t like to talk to me, didn’t like to see me and pushed me away. On those days, I ignored her wishes, knowing Love didn’t like to be alone. On those days, I would visit, watching the movies she loved that I usually refused to watch, holding her in my arms and kissing away her tears. On those days, I didn’t make Love talk, I talked instead, telling her stories about why I loved her, making her lips curve into something so beautiful, it almost drew me speechless. On those days, I made sure Love knew that she was not alone.
When we made decisions, we tried to make them together. Love told me that we would start our life together. Love made me feel like my sister’s fiancé. Love didn’t tell me about her plans to leave town to study. I was proud of her. I wanted all the best for Love. But Love had to give up what she was leaving behind. Confrontations in tears, angry shouts, her words hit places that made me fall to my knees. I spent a week telling myself that she was in the wrong. It took me another week to realise that maybe she wasn’t. Love apologised. Love kissed me. Love began to pack her bags. Love was not simple. She was messy. She covered my eyes when I needed to see and held me tight when I needed to leave. But Love was sweet. We spent days together, my skin always touching hers, desperate to hold on for as long as possible. Our limbs intertwined, Love hated cuddling at night but for me she made an exception. She promised she would be back all the time.
And Love kept her promise. Love spent weekends in my room, tracing the marks she left on my skin, telling me about her new life, who she liked, who she didn’t. Love called most nights, whispering that she loved me no matter what. I miss you. I love you. I want you. I love you. This is so hard. I love you. I need you. I love you. Love didn’t care when people doubted us, she reminded me everyday. Love grew. She sent letters, inked flowers and affection pouring over the pages, pages and pages of how she felt. I sent them back, sending photos and flowers so when she opened the envelope she could remember how much I loved her. But Love didn’t need flowers to remember. Love knew.
I moved in with Love. I learnt things about her I didn’t know before. Love hated doing the dishes but liked folding towels. Love was a morning person and wanted me to be, making me breakfast and pulling the sheets off the bed. Love got grumpy when I showered in the morning because I made the room smell like apple shampoo. Love hated apples. Love’s hair knotted while she slept and her breath smelt like dry cornflakes when she woke up. Love made me leave the room when she wanted to go to the toilet. Love liked collecting notebooks but she never drew in them. Love didn’t like to drink out of mugs. Love thought my TV shows were stupid. Love couldn’t cook very well. Love got angry when I told her she couldn’t cook. Love didn’t mind making me sleep on the couch. Love listened to rock music that I didn’t like. Love ordered Rolling Stone magazines. Love had rugs instead of carpet. Love yelled when I got home late. Love yelled when I left food on the bench. Love yelled when I interrupted her studying. Love yelled. But Love also put new sheets on my bed. Love let me sleep in on weekends. Love brought me apple shampoo. Love played with my hair while we watched TV. Love painted. Love texted me when she was coming home. Love brought me coffee. Love watched my TV shows. Love took cooking classes. Love knew my favourite orders off by heart. Love listened to the playlist I made her. Love let me study in silence. Love knew when I was upset. Love knew how to make me smile. Love cuddled me in the night. Love talked about everything with me. Love made me feel safe whenever I was with her. Love respected me. Love understood when nobody else did. Love showed me things I didn’t know before.
Love held on to me when I didn’t know how to. Love helped me understand who I was. Love showed me how sweet she could be at first. Love showed me how deep she could cut. Love left. Love came back. Love left. Love lingered. Love made me lose myself. Love broke my heart. Love destroyed me. Love healed me. Love swept in like a wave. Love crashed like a wave. Love left me but stayed with her. Love stayed with her but left me. Love came at the wrong time. Love came for the wrong person. Love kissed me so sweetly I couldn’t imagine anything better.
And now Love is on one knee, holding that rock that I used to hate. Now it looks like the moon itself has been caught inside it, splashing over her face and bringing out the colour of her eyes. Love doesn’t look the same anymore. Love has brown hair now, tan skin, sunkissed by the sun and chunky frames that cover her eyes. She is nervous, green eyes blinking at me anxiously, her breath uneven as she holds her heart in a box the size of my hand. Love offers all she has to me today. Love doesn’t know about the dirty magazines under my bed or the ashtray on the windowsill. But Love will. Love doesn’t know about the girl with red hair that used to steal the blankets. But Love will. Love is always learning and growing and Love does fade. But tonight under the glimpses of the moon, I believe that Love will stay. I believe that even if Love goes, she will come back again one day.
I cannot write. I am not a poet. I am not an author of any kind. Never will my work be published or read by anyone of any seniority. But for you, I have thrown away the cigarette and I give myself completely to you, Love.
About our Short Story author:
Trinity Jackson was born in 2002 in Hamilton on the North Island, but now lives in Whanganui. She is in her fourth year at Whanganui Girls’ College. This short story was based on her concept of love and was written to give the reader the idea that ‘Love’ does not always come or stay in the way that we believe it will. The words were inspired by a beautiful redhead who proved this.