It was the fact I didn’t actually know what I was walking towards which frightened me most. I guess it was just quite simply, my fate; though whether or not I’d be happy with it, I was still unsure of. I couldn’t even mentally prepare myself for what was about to happen, because it was a mystery. All I could really do was continue walking with my arms wrapped around myself, and find out. One foot after the other.
My stomach tingled when Ryan came into view with his black hoodie on and what I presumed to be a guitar case slung on his back. My heart, which had already been beating erratically, thumped louder against my chest with each step that brought me closer to him. It looked as if we were going to reach the park gate at the same time. We did, roughly.
I became a little weak in the knees when he stopped in front of me. I’ve mentioned it before; my imagination never did him justice. His eyes were still tired like they were yesterday, but a slight glint appeared in them this time, when he smiled at me. ‘Hey.’
His smile right now, was perhaps the best to appear on his face yet. It was a broad smile, and a kind smile, and it was as if it was there because he was genuinely happy to see me.
It wasn’t the type of smile you give someone who’s heart your about to break.
I smiled back. ‘Hey.’
I lead the way through the gate and into the greenery of the park which we walked across together. I didn’t know where we were heading and I doubted he had a place in mind either. I didn’t care; I was too busy revelling in the fact we were alone together and walking side by side. It was exciting, the prospect of spending time with him in a place where we didn’t have to hush our voices. And also a little daunting – being totally alone together.
‘How did she take it?’ I asked.
He shifted the guitar strap that he clutched against his torso. ‘Not well’ he shook his head and squinted up at the low sun ‘I feel awful.’ He looked at me, and his eyes widened suddenly ‘Not that I regret it’ He babbled quickly.
I smiled ‘No, I understand. I feel bad too.’
And I did. Although it was true that Jane touched upon a few nerves of mine sometimes, and that I was jealous of her beyond belief, there was no denying she was a nice girl, and she liked Ryan a lot. And I knew that if I was her right now, I’d be absolutely devastated.
The sun was getting lower and lower in the sky. It must have been around eight o’clock -- the time it usually began to set. Everything appeared warm in the orange glow that fell upon the park. The sky was pink and the shadows as black as pitch. There was no ignoring the fact that the overall ambience it gave was, simply, romantic.
‘Did she... did she ask why?’
He nodded, and I bit my lip. ‘I told her that I had feelings for someone else and it wouldn’t be fair for me to keep dating her. Of course she wanted to know who and I refused to tell her at first, but then she mentioned your name and I guess it became pretty clear.’
My stomach dropped. ‘Does she hate me?’ I asked quietly.
He shifted the guitar strap again ‘Of course she doesn’t hate you’ He said gently ‘I mean... you’re not her favourite person right now, but... I’m sure once she’s had enough time to cool down and stuff, she’ll get over it. It’s not like it’s your fault.’
Something told me she wouldn’t get over it. And this made me feel worse than I would have ever expected it to. Inside I felt a kind of dull ache -- similar to the feeling I would get whenever I moved house. I recognised it instantly as the feeling of losing someone. That is after all, exactly what’s happened; I had just lost a friend.
Maybe he was right though; perhaps it wouldn’t be forever. Maybe if we didn’t date it would be easier for her to forgive and forget. But I knew, however selfish it made me feel, that I didn’t value her friendship quite enough to want that to happen. I valued the possibility of a relationship with Ryan more. But isn’t that understandable? It’s why I was always – almost subconsciously -- careful to make sure we didn’t become too close. Not as close as perhaps, she had hoped we’d become.
‘What did she do?’
‘She cried’ He said ‘And then yelled at me a little. And she had been showing me photo’s from California before, and after I told her, she ripped every single one of her and me up – and threw the pieces at me.’ He recreated the action of her doing so with his hands, tearing up an imaginary photograph and flinging it forward.
‘Oh God’ I said ‘I’m sorry.’
He chuckled and looked at me ‘No need to apologise, it’s not your fault.’
I could argue with that statement, but I decided to bite my tongue. Why did everyone keep on saying that to me anyway? It felt like all of this was my fault. This huge mess I had gotten everyone unknowingly into, it was all my doing. And all I had to do was live here.
We came to a stop once we reached the stream. Ryan looked at me; ‘Mind sitting on the bank?’
I shook my head, and followed him across the very small bridge, where we settled ourselves down at the bottom the grassy hill beside the stream. It made a light tinkling sound as it flowed. It was very tranquil. Virtually no-one was around; spare a mom and her kid who had appeared in the play area yards away. The sun was sinking into the horizon now too, turning the skies orange, and the effect was quite breathtaking. Of course Ryan’s presence made everything that much more incredible.
He’d better kiss me tonight I thought or I might go crazy.
Ryan lifted the strap and removed the guitar case from him as he sat down. It was only at that point I thought to actually question why he had it with him.
‘How come you brought your guitar?’
‘Uh, two reasons’ He said as he rested it upon his legs and unzipped it ‘I told Kate I was going to band practise. It’s the only thing I could think of which would mean I’d be out for an hour or so – at eight in the evening. Even if she finds out there wasn’t one from Spencer, I could say I went alone. They probably think I’m obsessive enough to believe that.’
‘Ryan Ross’ I said in a tone of mock disapproval ‘You lied.’
He smiled as he pulled the case off and took the guitar out ‘Well I didn’t think she was quite ready for me to tell her where I was really going. And nor was I.’
‘I guess that’s understandable.’ I smiled ‘So what’s the second reason?’
He sighed and laid the guitar across his legs, which he had led flat out in front of him. It reminded me of a small kid. It was cute. ‘Ok’ He said, placing his hands upon it and looking up at me ‘Do you remember me saying to you the other night that I had a million things to say to you, or something, I just didn’t know how to say them?’
I nodded, curious as to where this was going.
‘Well’ He said with a gulp ‘I think I’ve found a way to say them’ and he drummed his fingers upon his guitar.
I looked at him blankly at first, but then realising what he meant, I blinked and my lips curved slowly ‘you mean... a - a song?’
He smiled shyly and rubbed the back of his neck ‘Yeah. Well –‘He shrugged ‘More like a ditty.’
I barely contained my squeal. This was far too good to be true! ‘Did you write it?’
‘Yeah, I figured maybe making the words into lyrics they’d be easier for me to say and for you to understand – if I said them it would probably just come out in some sort of weird jumble that made no sense.’ He shrugged and smiled shyly.
‘Ryan, I don’t mean this in a bad way, but sometimes your lyrics don’t make a lot of sense to me either.’ I said, biting my lip and smiling. I was elated.
He laughed ‘I made sure these were simple don’t worry. Trust me; they’re pretty basic to understand. It’s only short, and I wrote it in a really short space of time and I haven’t really had time to practise it through so if I mess up it will be really embarrassing and I’m sorry –‘
‘Just play it!’ I demanded, with my excitement clear. The fact that he had actually written a song (or a ‘ditty’) for me... it was far too amazing to believe until I actually heard it with my own ears.
He laughed at my eagerness and then bit his lip and groaned a little ‘Do I have to?’
I dropped my jaw slightly and hit him playfully on the shoulder ‘Yes!’ I said ‘You can’t just tell me you’re going to play me a song you’ve written and then not do it.’
‘Okay’ He sighed, the corner of his mouth curved ‘I’ll play it. But if it goes wrong, I will look like the biggest idiot ever. So just, go easy on me ok?’
I nodded and smiled. I couldn’t stop shifting around on the spot and fidgeting. I was electric with eagerness and excitement. And, not to ruin a delicate moment, but I could have peed. The trickling of the stream wasn’t helping at all. For all these reasons I had become completely spasmodic. But I calmed down a little, when he folded his legs, propped his guitar up and started playing the first few chords. ‘Ok’ He said with a heavy sigh ‘Here it goes.’
There’s not much I can say to describe the melody that decorated the mildly warm air now, apart from it was as if it was made for this scene – as if it was meant to be played here. It was quirky and sweet, but simple and very beautiful... and then a million other things at the same time. It was perfect. My smile refused to leave my face. My eyes refused to leave his face.
I laughed as Ryan smiled and rolled his eyes as the intro dragged on a little. His eyes were stuck on the sky as he seemed to be counting himself in, in his head, and his fingers remained strumming the strings of the instrument almost effortlessly. He blinked and glanced down.
The sun had finished setting now, and more and more shadows were beginning to fall. They fell around him.
She’s everything I need.
And I just want to be with her,
I just want to make it easier...
For her to see,
That she’s the one...
The one for me.
I can’t explain, how
Much I want her,
Much I need her now.
I really have to say...
Everything that I want,
Everything that I want...
That’s why I wrote this song;
I want her to be mine
I wanna hold her tight
She needs me most
I feel so high; my feet leave the ground...
Whenever she’s around.’
He strummed the final chord, cleared his throat and looked at me with a blush upon his cheeks, waiting for some sort of reaction. I was speechless. Incoherent. Tongue tied. My chest felt like someone was blowing a balloon up in it. It was making it hard to breathe properly. The balloon was my heart.
He set his guitar down beside him, pulled his knees to his chest and clasped his arms around them. ‘Please say something.’
When had it become so dark? I could see the moon, and even some stars. Their reflections glimmered in the water. Absolutely no-one was around. I had been staring into space for a while now and Ryan was watching me nervously.
I shook my head and looked at him ‘I’ve got everything you want? You’re telling me you want recklessness... and ridiculousness, and... bushels of bad habits? ’
Ryan smiled ‘Bushels?’
I unfolded my arms and turned my body towards him. ‘I act before I think. I’m clumsy and I’m careless. I can be dishonest... and impulsive, and just totally reckless. I make bad decisions. I get myself into complicated situations all the time. I don’t listen. I procrastinate everything, and I’m almost always late. I’m forgetful and impatient and... and...’
Ryan blinked at my me and smiled. ‘Steph’ He said ‘We all have bad habits.’
‘Oh yeah?’ I said, dropping my hand down upon the grass and bringing my legs closer to me. ‘What are yours?’
‘Well’ He said, shifting round too, so that we were now more or less opposite each other as opposed to side by side. Our legs touched. ‘I’m kind of a perfectionist. I can get a little controlling of things, especially music wise. I’m over-protective. I can become moody within an instance and distance myself from everyone for periods at time. I worry too much. Sometimes I focus too much on detail. I generally over think everything. I tend to keep my feelings bottled up. Sometimes I crack my knuckles. I stay up too late...’
We really did have little in common.
‘Point is’ He continued ‘I want to be with you – bushels of bad habits or not.’
I couldn’t resist it; I kissed him.
This took a while. Writing this was like... hell. 14/16 exams completed. My summer officially starts thursday 3pm. Updates hopefully quicker - at least until the weather gets better:)
Everyone who reviewed the last chapter, I cannot thank you enough -- they made me so happy! xoxo