Legs in jeans entered my field of vision. I looked up to see an incredibly handsome guy standing in front of me looking sympathetic. Whoa, back up there one minute. Incredibly handsome?! He was ... more than that. He had dark brown hair that looked thick and soft and stopped above the collar of the shirt he was wearing, his skin was a warm colour - he was white like me but tanned - and his build was great (he was lean but looked strong) but I think the thing which I found most striking about him was the colour, depth and intensity of his eyes. Dark green fathoms of iris which made me think 'dragon' for some strange reason and gave me the strange impression that he was sage while allowing me, almost inviting me, to fall into them or explore them like caves (caves was another word that oddly appeared in my mind) and pupils in which I imagined I could see myself reflected in looking lost and helpless but not quite in danger... I don't know why but my heart suddenly began to ache.
He crouched down and regarded me thougtfully.
"You're upset, aren't you?" he asked.
Well, obviously, but I was too startled by his looks and sudden appearance to say anything in a sarcastic or annoyed tone. Also, I didn't want to be mean to him.
I nodded, barely registering that my mouth was hanging slightly open.
"Pass me your hand," he said. What a bizarre thing to stay.
My mouth closed, I swallowed and I was able to talk.
"Why?" I asked.
A smile tugged at the corner of his lips but he maintained his serious expression as he replied "Just do it."
I held out my right hand, my writing hand, to this stranger I barely knew but desperately wanted to know.
With cool fingers, he began to lightly probe the edge of my palm beneath my little finger. I watched his long, thin, delicate index and middle fingers as they seemed to feel around for something. My mind blanked. The boy looked up at me, his expression searching.
"Why were you crying?" he asked, his fingers now moving to touch the soft part of my hand below my digits. He sounded like a doctor who asks questions while examining the patient.
I couldn't answer him. I could only stare dumbly into those eyes.
"Why were you crying, Tilly?"
He knew my name?
I still couldn't talk.
"Tilly," he said gently, "I can't help if you don't talk to me."
I gulped and tried to talk. "Wh-who are you?"
"I'm Peter," he answered. "And I know you're Tilly Laughton. What I don't know is why you were crying. So tell me."
His voice was as gentle yet as probing as his fingers - it was like he was searching me as he searched for whatever he was trying to find on my hand.
"What are you doing to my hand?" I asked.
"I don't know," he replied. "Do you want me to stop?"
I had a strange feeling that he couldn't stop.
"Um..." The thing was that I didn't want him to stop. It wasn't like I loved him probing my skin like that, it was just that it seemed natural for him to do it and that if he stopped there would be something missing from this scene and an awkward tension hanging in the air.
"It's weird, isn't it? Let's just ignore it. So, are you going to tell me why you're crying?"
"Er, must I?"
"No but I'd like you to."
"I don't know you."
"Yeah, but I know you. I know nearly everything about you. I care about you and your problem is by default my problem."
"How do you know me? And why do you care?"
"Well, I can't answer the first question - it's difficult to explain - but why I care? Well, you're such a tender little flower if you don't mind me saying. I feel a ... connection with you."
"C-c-connection?" I stammered, suddenly finding it difficult to breathe (had the air become stuffy? Ridiculous: we were outside!)
"Yes," Peter murmured. I suddenly realised the extent of his proximity. If he should suddenly overbalance and topple forwards, he would land on top of me with his knees upon my legs and, because of his height, his face upon my own.
I found myself leaning in towards him, intrigued by his answer.
"Lilac falls of silk do flow where'er the magic roses grow," he whispered.
"Th-that's my favourite rhyme," I whispered back. "I came up with it one evening when I was inspired by the beauty of love and the magnificence of the sunset I was watching and wrote it in my diary."
"I know. And the silk represents the river of emotion in your heart: 'Those silken waters of love and joy from heart and soul of girl to boy.' You wrote it to express your longing to find the love of your life."
"How could you possibly know that?"
"I told you: I know you. Now I quoted your beautiful poem because when I first read it, it struck a deep chord within me. Every time I see you, I think of roses and magic and love. This is the connection I want to tell you about. Stay quiet and believe me and I will show you a beautiful garden where 'Lillies float on the home of kings who reign over palaces and wear golden rings'. I loved your comparison of fish scales to rings: you're so brilliantly romantic! I've always wanted to be a part of that. I hoped, one day, you might say something romantic about me. What an honour it would be to be special enough to be immersed in your imagination. It would be like you touching me with your very mind. Oh, the sweet pain of wanting you! It fills me, drenches my core - you have moved me and changed my essence! I belong to you, Tilly: my heart is yours."
Tears formed at the corners of my eyes. "You mean that?" I didn't care about how he knew me anymore - I thought I loved him.
"Yes, I do, Tilly. 'Change me completely, oh gardens so fine, as I lie on your lawns and our fates intertwine'. Those gardens were love and I want to give you that. Can you love me back, Tilly?"
I nodded, breathtaken. Peter leant in and very lightly, very gently kissed me.