At school, I signed in at the office and Ross convinced the woman who worked there that he was a student, looking at possible schools for sixth form.
"I know Rosa really well," he told her as he looked into her slightly glazed eyes. "So could she take me around? I'd really get a feel for the environment, then."
"Sure," she replied. "I'll email all Rosa's teachers. What was your name again?"
"Ross Eagle. Thanks for doing this."
"No problem. Have a good day."
Luckily, my first lesson was a personal study period. Ross was a surprisingly useful homework tool as he seemed to have a wide knowledge of the subjects I was taking.
"How do you know all this stuff?" I asked, after he had just cleared something up for me in a particularly difficult assignment.
"I have taken A-levels, you know. I suppose it's a coincidence that I took the same subjects as you."
Still, it was a surprise when he began talking fluent French in my next lesson. My classmates were bewildered by the sudden appearance of a mysterious person who happened to be a brilliant linguist in our class but I didn't even care that the teacher was impressed because I was so absorbed in him. He sat next to me and while I pretended to write the essay that had been set, listened, captivated, as he thought romantic French phrases in my mind and translated them.
At break, I led Ross to the common room. We sat on the comfy sofa and chatted about school memories. Amy came and said hi.
"Hey, you're Rosa's ex's friend, aren't you?" she asked Ross.
"She didn't tell you?" he asked, looking mystified.
Amy's brow furrowed. "Tell me what?"
"I'm her boyfriend."
"Really?!" Amy looked surprised. "I... didn't know."
Ross shot me a quizzical glance.
"I... haven't really told anyone, sorry."
"No, that's fine. I suppose I haven't told anyone either, really."
Amy smiled at me. "I wondered why you looked so happy."
"Ah well, now you know."
"Have you been okay recently? Your phone's always off and you never call back and all I've gotten from you over the past two days is an absent-minded greeting."
"Oh, I've been fine. Just getting back into the swing of things."
"It's never taken you this long before. Usually you're bursting to tell me all about your holidays. Did I tell you, I went to Majorca?"
"Oh wow, that's brilliant."
Suddenly, the bell rang. Amy rolled her eyes.
"I've got Spanish now. Might see you later."
I nodded. "Hopefully."
"See you, then."
She hurried off, leaving me to fish out some work to do during study period.
Ross's brow was furrowed.
"Have you been ignoring your friends?" he asked.
"Um... sort of. But not really intentionally. I've just been ... preoccupied."
Ross grinned. "Really?"
"So nothing's wrong or anything?"
"Of course not - I've got you."
"Well, don't let me occupy your thoughts too much; I don't want you getting told off."
The next person to talk to me was one of my other friends, Katie. She came over to where Ross and I were sat, looking curious.
"Are you allowed to kiss prospective students?" she asked.
I smiled. "Yeah, I guess."
"Rosa is very pretty. I think I'd ignore any rule that said I wasn't allowed to go out with her," Ross said.
Katie grinned. "Isn't it a bit weird, though? You've only just met."
"Well, not really. We knew each other for ages before today," I explained.
"How long have you two been together? I never see you anymore."
"A while," I replied evasively.
Katie shook her head. "We really need to catch up."
"I'm off to the library now. See you 'round."
After completing the assignment I'd been meant to start in French, Ross and I went to lunch. We ate relatively quickly and then I took him to the massive field where people hung out during break. I led him to the oak which Jack and I had called ‘our tree'. I sat beneath it and Ross lay on his side, propping his head up on one elbow.
"So you and Jack carved your initials here?"
I nodded. "Yeah, he was really keen to declare our love to the world. I thought it was quite a lovely idea too. Some permanent, physical symbol by which you can remember the relationship and cherish the memories. Hey, let's carve a love-heart with our initials in it!"
I picked up a thick twig with a pointed end and was about to begin carving in the bark when Ross gently prised the stick from my hand.
"It's a bit too soppy and over-sentimental."
"A bit like us?"
"Nothing like us."
"Care to explain?"
"Lovers who draw love-hearts everywhere are too eager and don't really understand their feelings for each other or share love with no real depth."
"Jack and I were into love-hearts," I pointed out.
"Their love has comparatively less depth then," Ross amended. "What we have is profound and special. We're serious about each other in a way no one else ever could be. We don't need love-hearts, Cupid's arrows, roses, chocolates or anything else because we convey our love in a way that makes such things unnecessary and seem like poor imitations of the real thing. On any special day, the gift of your kiss would always top a hundred bouquets of flowers and a thousand boxes of chocolates is worth far more than a million gift-wrapped presents that contain things I don't really need. The top of my wish-list is always your continuing love for me and desire to remain in a relationship with me. Do you see?"
I gazed into those intense blue eyes feeling simultaneously more in love with him, awed by his love for me, intimidated yet inspired by the power of his words and shallow for wanting to do something as meaningless as carving our initials into bark when it was obvious I should be trying to be the best rose-dove in the universe.
"I do," I replied sincerely. "And I'm sorry."
Ross looked amused and raised an eyebrow. "Sorry? For wanting to be romantic?"
"Well, you've made me see it was silly rather than a symbol of love."
"I didn't say that," Ross said gently.
"But I realise it's below us now."
"Oh, Rosa, you sound like I've told you off." He pulled me down to his level and stared more intently into my eyes. "I just think our love is one of a kind. I was expressing a view, not reproving you."
"You should reprove me. Here I am trying to destroy the specialness of this beautiful relationship."
Ross rolled his eyes and reached out to stroke my hair.
"You can be quite silly sometimes."
"That's what I was saying."
"No, Rosa, that's not why you're silly. You're silly for putting yourself down when you're the only thing that matters to me."
"But I must annoy you so much. You must have seen in my thoughts that I always found the physical symbols of love appealing."
"You would have felt my annoyance," Ross pointed out. "I don't mind what you like or dislike as long as I fall into the former category."
"You should mind. What if I started buying you heart-shaped cushions?"
"You'd want me to tell you off?"
"I suppose I'd feel I deserved it."
"Okay," Ross said, smiling mysteriously.
Quite suddenly, his expression became stern. Holding my gaze with a severe one, he said, "Rosa Foxtail, you are a very bad rose-dove for seeing yourself in a bad light. You've totally disregarded my feelings for you and shown no consideration for the effect your negativity has on me."
I nodded. "Yup, that sounds about right."
Ross's face softened. "You daft girl."
Pulling me closer in towards him, he started kissing me, filling the open space in our minds with waves of the feeling behind an exasperated sigh and rolled eyes amongst the usual affection; he sent me a promise to care for me and protect me and conveyed the desire for me to accept his view that I was his perfect rose-dove.
‘It's not just my view,' he thought to me, ‘it's a fact.'
I smiled, forgetting any negative feelings.
‘I'm so glad we're lovers.'
Despite my flaws?
‘Which ones? Did I ever tell you that at times I think I can see the pink and orange lights of your soul dancing in your eyes?'
Ross drew away to reply this time.
"Hmm, I don't know. I always feel I have to make an effort to convey my love effectively. Whereas you... well, you capture my heart easily. And you have a brilliant imagination and always have new ideas about what to do in the evening. I'm so much less original: I just want to hold you and go to our little world."
"Of singing hearts and spinning planets," I reminded him. "If you find at least that simple, you don't need to try so hard to please me. And, as for the imagination and ideas, well that's just me, isn't it? Things that characterise me. You're special, too. I admire your quiet adoration. It's a silent but immeasurably strong force. While I'm in constant elation, bouncing with euphoria, you look at me with such love in your eyes that I feel weak at the knees yet strangely calm and at peace with the world. When our minds connect, there's a noiseless explosion and your joy and tenderness tumbles over my thoughts and I feel I can only enjoy it because I'm too overwhelmed to reciprocate the immensely powerful affection you send me."
Ross seemed to struggle to respond. "See, when you say that kind of thing, you blow me away. I know you're talking about me but all I can focus on is the intensity of your magical green eyes and the amazing love that saturates your tone and the memories of the sensation of your kisses and thoughts in my mind which fill up the space in it and render me totally lovestruck."
"You render me lovestruck too," I said softly and leant in to kiss him again.