It was her birthday. She sat among her group of friends at the cafeteria table, resplendent with half eaten cake bearing its jammy centre which oozed and clotted on the plate. Striped bags stood in a disorderly line, protecting gifts and sprouting gauzy coloured paper from their mouths. Cards, some standing and others fallen or still sleeping in their pastel covers, taking up space on the table; a table wearing a picture of companionate emotion. And whilst it was all so touching and stroked her soul with belonging, her emotions were elsewhere.
The chatter of her friends like a white noise in the background. It was present but she couldn’t hear it properly. Because she wasn’t there. Tuned out and captivated with the form across the way. His shoulders as he stood talking to his peers, strong and steady and moving solidly under his sweatshirt as he gestured with his arms. The way his t shirt underneath moulded to the base of his neck. A place she’d like to brush with her lips. The perfect shape of his hands as he lifted them to his face, the length of his beautiful fingers that she longed to feel tracing her skin. Holding her hand within them. Stroking her hair. She’d dreamed of how that would feel and not just when she was sleeping; she dreamed with her eyes open. His mouth. Oh my god his mouth. Soft, full lips that made her weak with a hunger to taste them. Just to watch them as they formed the words she couldn’t hear. To study the shape they made. Just one kiss. Just one and she could live happily forever. The way they broke into the cutest of all smiles and made her heart lurch. A heart already swollen and bruised from being too small to hold the bounteous desire. A mania of which he had no understanding. Oblivious to its yearning. How could he not feel it?
She visually traced the contours of his face to his eyes. Windows full of questions and glorious thoughts. Soft eyes, like swirls of chocolate. Pools she wanted to drown in. She was drowning, falling into them hypnotically....
He was looking back at her. Too late to turn away. Her heart quickened. Her breath caught in her throat and dried her mouth. She flushed, conscious of the moment and caught out in her trance.
“Happy Birthday.” He mouthed across the room and smiled. Immediately returning to his audience, leaving her insensible and bereft at the same time.
His words hung in the air, floating above the other gifts; the best present of all. But not present in her reality. He may as well have been a thousand miles away. A vision behind a screen. Untouchable.
I love you, she thought.
Her friends were leaving the table now. Moving on. They said things to her and she replied but she didn’t know what anybody said. Auto pilot fully ensconced. They all left bar one. Louis stayed at the table, watching her, watching him. The way she sat transfixed with her chin on her hand. Her fingers twiddling with the jangling, hippy bracelet on her wrist. Mousy blonde hair falling softly on her cheek and pooling at her shoulders. Biting her bottom lip as she was lost in the reverie of her thoughts.
“You know that people should climb mountains for you.” Louis said, trying to break into her world.
She turned briefly and gave a smile, but not with the eyes.
“Show me the mountain.” She said determinedly. But not to him.
Louis gazed upon her face as she watched him leave the cafeteria.
I love you. He said, internally.