Tom didn't forget. He blew out the eighteen candles on his Black Forest Gateau, thinking ‘I wish for River to find her boyfriend.' And then the next time John kissed him he could totally forget the world and respond fully and without a care in the world, plus with the added contentment that came with celebrating his birthday. John even commented afterwards that that kiss was a lot better than all the rest they'd ever shared.
A little later, he noticed River talking to John in a rather secretive manner. He wondered what they were conversing about.
River had been pondering something.
When John and her brother weren't kissing - in fact, while Tom was opening his presents - River shyly approached the former and sat beside him on the sofa.
"Hey, John," she murmured, in her voice as light and caressing as a slight breeze.
John regarded her curiously: River rarely sought to talk to him alone, though they were reasonably good friends due to their shared closeness to Tom.
"What's up, River?" he asked. River was sure that he was wondering what she could want to talk about to him that she didn't want to mention to her brother.
"Well, I had something to ask you," she said, rather nervously.
"Go ahead," he said, though he sounded gentle: something he'd probably been careful to achieve. River had overheard the conversation in which Tom had made it very clear to John that he should be as kind as possible to her because she was so fragile.
River didn't know how to ask her question. The thing she had been pondering was having a boyfriend. She enjoyed writing love poetry, though it was never based on real life, and from time to time she wondered if the real thing would ever match up to her imagination.
"How... how did you know you wanted to be with Tom?" was how she finally phrased it.
John blinked and looked at her.
"I'm sorry - did I just hear you right? I thought you were asking about how I knew I wanted to be with Tom."
She nodded. "Yes, that's right." She blushed in embarrassment, knowing it wasn't the most common thing you asked someone.
"Well," John said, frowning slightly, "I guess, ... his looks had something to do with it, though that's in no way all I care about." His cheeks reddened. "I promise you that you'll know River. When you meet the right guy, ... your feelings will tell you. Humans don't control love, nothing does. Love is its own force..." The colour of his cheeks deepened: seemingly, River was too interested in what he was saying. "Just ... wait for it to happen," John concluded.
And he was so awkward that after he had said that, he walked over to sit by Tom, where he watched what presents were coming out of the brightly coloured wrapping paper and conveyed far more delight than he could feel about such things.
A few days later, River was sitting in her tutor room for this year, silently watching teenagers around her chat before it was time for assembly. She didn't really see their faces, nor pay attention to their conversations. Staring past was a better term for it than watching. Except that she was staring at something no one else could see. She couldn't have been quite sure of what it was but she enjoyed the tranquillity of being in her own little world. Her blank daydream was suddenly interrupted by the teacher calling out her name as he did the register.
"Morning," she called almost absently.
After that, she took in her surroundings properly. She noticed a new boy sitting in the corner. He had light brown hair that looked quite fine in the strong light filtering in through the windows, cute facial features and brown eyes, from the look of it. For some reason, she found herself thinking about boyfriends again, and she saw a picture in her mind of John and Tom, strolling down their lawns as she'd once seen them, hand in hand. She didn't conjure up a picture of herself and this stranger but she felt something, almost like the tug of a rope, which made her inclined to think that romantic experiences would be linked to this boy.