Words of Love

by Rafael Henry

A Discovery

I found the note, or letter I suppose it was, in my blazer pocket. It wasn't visible as I reached up to the black painted cast iron coat hook to grab the deep blue jacket bearing the school's badge stitched onto the outside pocket, with the interlocking letters, HCS, prominent in red on the light blue shield. As I put an arm in the sleeve, I saw it, a very small and neatly folded sheet of lined paper, torn out of a 'rough book' probably. More than curious, I immediately pick it out, unfold it, noticing the handwriting. It wasn't the more mature flowing style you would expect from a senior boy, but a rounded hand typical of a younger boy.

I'm late for breakfast, so I scan the note quickly as I walk, turn the paper over and find half of the reverse side is used too, and ending with a row of X's………about a half dozen of them. I feel my face warming as I re-fold the paper and stuff it furtively into the inside jacket pocket. I know this is something that I need to study in private. From my brief scan of the contents, I know it's something personal, addressed to me, and from a boy who knows my name and has signed his name with just a capital 'B'.

Dear Kit, do you think we could ever talk to each other? I want to quite badly. I think you might want to as well. I've always known you like me. I'm sure you do. When I look at you, you look back and once you smiled at me. I liked that and have not forgotten it. I wish we could talk to each other one day soon. Sometimes I feel sad because I can't see you. I want to. You must think I'm silly or stupid or something but I'm not. I mean it because I love you. XXXXXX from B

I read it in the House library where it's quiet and I could think about this thing. First of all, I need to find out who it's from, but I have my suspicions already. I thought about throwing the evidence in the waste paper basket but someone might fish it out and read it. No, tear off the 'Dear Kit' bit first. I'll keep it and as and when I find this boy, I can……..I don't know……..challenge him with it. I think it's rather sweet, and I'm flattered……..and excited.

We boys congregate in the main playground at first break, and that means all the year groups from the youngest to the oldest. There's a long queue at the tuck shop in the corner, but I'm up in the opposite corner under a tree re-reading B's note. I have to know who it is, but at the same time that seems risky because…….I don't know…….perhaps it isn't who I'm hoping it is. I'm not sure what to think. I've had crushes on older boys. It happens quite a lot, certainly to me, and I'm flattered that B has decided to have one on me. But who is he? Tonight I'll try to remember anyone I didn't actually know, who I have ever smiled at. There is someone, but it couldn't possibly be him . Could it be? Please God, let it be him.

When I glanced at the bedside clock it showed ten past eleven. I've been thinking all day about this note from B, and now all night as well. There's one face that keeps coming into my mind, and not just the face. The brown hair simply brushed forward. The smiling face with hands in shorts pockets, taut with hint of underwear, regulation white flashes when his shirt rides up as he runs, laughing in that high pitched way of his, to escape the tagging, delicate pale warming skin revealed. That elegant walk, and so secure in standing pose? My javelin throwing spartan athletic boy, naked in my imagination, who glides over emerald turf. Could it be that rose amongst thorns?

I have no idea what his name is…….

the one…….this focus of hope. He will be around in the playground somewhere tomorrow at break, so I'll just have a wander and see if I can spot him. If it's him, this mystery correspondent, I'll know. Oh bloody hell. What if it is? I have to find out. I will find him. I can't go through the rest of my life not knowing, not even for another day.

I don't know what I'm feeling at this moment. It's a mixture of nerves, fear, and exhilaration. This is so weird, and I'm unbelievably excited.

Ten thirty the next morning.

I've spotted him, the one I think and hope it is. He's on his own and leaning against the honey coloured stone wall on the far side of the playground. I'm going over that way now, and I'll walk past him pretending I've not seen him. Then I'll turn my head towards at the last moment and look him in the eye. Nothing more than that.

When I take that sideways glance at him, he looks back and smiles. Now I'm even more certain. It was a smile of recognition, a smile of knowing I have understood. I look away quickly and keep walking slowly by and then stop at the end of the wall and look back. He's still looking in my direction, his head turned towards me. He isn't smiling now. I'm still looking at him, and he hasn't moved. I have to walk back to him. My mouth is dry and my stomach is churning. He's five yards away and he's staring at me. He looks so serious. I'm going to ask him what his name is. If it's something beginning with B? I'm convinced that my intuition is right.

'Bobby? Billy? Bernard? Bradley? Which one is it?' I ask quietly, looking slightly down at the figure before me. He looks up, his eyes wide and true…….pale blue grey pupils edged with deep blue circles. They are remarkable eyes. They are eyes that will take you aback.

He doesn't blink as he answers in perfectly enunciated words……

'Bear. My name is Bear. Bear Trace. I know yours is Kit. You're Kit Harris.' 'Yes I am. You wrote to me didn't you?' 'Yes. Are you angry?' 'No, not now I know you're a bear. Do the other boys tease you? I hope not.' It wasn't much of an ice-breaker. 'No, not really. Some of them call me Teddy…….you know…….Teddy Bear……or Edward. I'm glad you're not cross with me. I'm sorry. I'm stupid. It was a stupid thing to do.'

Bear looks down, his eye lashes covering those centres of brilliance, and then he looks up again, unblinking and mouth slightly open, and waiting for my response.

'I don't think so. Do you really feel like that……like you say in your letter? And yes, I would like to talk to you……if that's what you want. Do you still want to?' 'Could we?'

At the end of school, many of the dayboys walk to the station to catch their trains out into the county to the various villages and small towns up to forty miles away I'm told. It's a very long day for those boys. Bear and I would not be noticed together amongst the crowd. Near the station you turn right at the old iron bridge and along the river path where other walkers are scarce. The river path will take you out of this tiny city and into the suburbs……lines of smart houses set well apart with gardens running down to the river water. There are wooden benches at regular intervals. Twenty minutes saw us alone, and we can do exactly what Bear wants……perhaps to explain, and me to listen.

'You don't need to explain anything Bear. You might want to sit quietly for a while?' I suggest, as he sits close enough for our blazers to touch. 'I'm happy to listen whenever you want to talk.'

Perhaps a minute of silence passes, no more than that, before I feel his head rest on my shoulder. My heart is pounding. I can't stop myself. I place my arm around his shoulder and gently draw him to me. He turns his whole body towards me inviting me to hold him with both arms. Affirmation. Soon it will be time to talk.

He wants to hold on longer than he should, but I have questions.

'Those were powerful words to use……….the last three words in your letter?' Bear looks up again and I see those eyes, slightly glazed. He's like me…….perhaps too emotional. Like me, I know he feels things deeply.

'I couldn't think of any other words. It's how I feel. I can't help it. I'm sorry.'

'Just words then. Not actions.' I say not really knowing what I'm saying. As I look away, observing a lumbering pigeon take off from a nearby tree branch, with some difficulty it seemed, I feel Bear disengage from me which makes me turn back to him. Slowly, as if fearing a rebuke, his lips touch my cheek. I stay completely still as he repeats this delicate gesture three times. Turning my head back, Bear is waiting for my reaction to this physical manifestation of his feelings.

'That was very sweet.' I say weakly.

'I know you're very kind to even speak to me. I know I love you.'

'How can you know that……..dear boy?' As soon as I had said that word, I knew how ridiculous it must have sounded.

'I just know……..and thanks.'

'What for?'

'For calling me that. Perhaps you weren't thinking straight.'

'I think I was. How about Cuddly……for a name?'

'No one has called me that,' he says, almost laughing.

This time the pulling of each other together is stronger, even more affirmative, more decisive, much more in agreement, as if a decision had been reached by us both.

I have once before in my life kissed a boy on his mouth, and I liked it. In this situation I feel I can't possibly do that, but I dearly want to.

The pulling together lasted a half minute perhaps, and I was the one to let go.

'Cuddly suits you I think.'

'You're not going to call me that are you?' he says, smiling with those eyes again.

'No, but you're making me think.'

'About what?'

'I would rather not say. Not now.'

'But one day you will?'

'Maybe……one day. By the way, you kept me awake last night. I was trying to think who it was that put that note in my blazer pocket. I was awake for hours.'

'Did you have any idea it was me?' Bear asks.

'Yes I did. We've met before, sort of.'

'I know. I knew then. It was about a month ago……..in the playground.'

'Yes, I remember.'

'I knew straight away. Afterwards, did you think about me…….at all?'

'I did, often.'

'What did you think?'

'The loveliest of them all.'

'Mirror, mirror on the wall?'

'No, through the glass brightly. But I didn't see my reflection, I saw you.'

'So you might then…….one day?'

Oh yes, my darling boy. One day I will. One day soon.

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