“Lor, wait,” I called, when we were standing alone in the meadow.
Lor turned, looking miserable. I remembered Don saying that you never saw Lor weak, and thinking that I had seen him weak; I felt strongly his vulnerability, realising it must be perpetual.
“What the hell are you doing here, Penny? Aren’t you worried I’ll try to take you for my own again?”
“No,” I told him. “I’m sorry for what I said. I didn’t mean to hurt you and I didn’t mean to do it in front of Don. But I came out here to comfort you.” I took a step towards him. Softly, I said “Being able to write poetry is not the be- and end-all of English. I mean, look how good you are otherwise. It’s clear that Julie thinks a lot of you.”
“It’s not just that,” he told me. “It’s being inferior to Don. It’s not fair how he writes fantastically when he doesn’t even appreciate the subject. He doesn’t understand. And then, he sneers at me.”
“Oh, Lor,” I murmured, closing the gap between us. “I know it’s not fair. I mean, does Don think it’s amusing the way he goes on and on about women? I was so surprised when he recited his poem. Frankly I’d expected it to be explicit or at the very least rubbish. Something along the lines of ‘The pools of the moon’s rays are perfect places to lie together’.”
Shyly I put my arms around him. He tensed slightly but then relaxed, surprisingly holding me back.
“How do you do it?” he asked, his breath caressing my hair, his soft voice causing my spine to tingle.
“Poetry? I don’t know. I just like putting the words together and seeing what they can do.”
“It’s that simple, eh?” Lor murmured, his tone sad.
“No, I’m sure it’s not. It’s probably a talent, like being good at science or singing well.”
“So not something that could be taught?”
“Well, you can try to learn. There’s never any harm in trying. Are you going to ask Julie?”
Lor chuckled quietly, sending small, pleasant vibrations through my body.
“No, I was going to ask you.”
Wow... Speechless, I didn’t respond.
Lor didn’t question my silence. We stood there, still, just holding each other. After a time the wordless air began to tremble. I felt myself becoming more aware of Lor’s arms around me, and the part of his body beneath my arms. I could hear his steady breathing and mine, which was a little rougher. I wanted to speak... but I didn’t. Besides, I couldn’t think what I wanted to say. The air was rumbling now, as though the earth beneath it was quaking. And I wasn’t sure what I felt. I only had physical awareness and the perception of my five senses. No... Four. My eyes were closed against Lor’s chest.
Oh gosh. I should let go, break the silence, tap him.
But I couldn’t.
I remembered the times we’d been alone together. In the doorway of my house. In the library on the top floor of the academy. I remembered our connection: the sparks, the tensing of the atmosphere. We were reacting to each other again.
The rise and fall of Lor’s chest pulled me into its rhythm, simplifying things. Up, down, up, down. That was my everything. Yet at the same time it seemed to increase the vibrations in the air. Outside of me, outside of simplicity, outside of Lor’s breathing, the world was shaking.
I hugged Lor, keeping my back to it. It wouldn’t hurt me, wouldn’t dare upset this moment, so long as I just held on.
Lor kissed my hair.
The world broke, violently heaving, and suddenly I was crying, the air having touched me, his action having destroyed the numbness and simplicity I had known.
My body shook. The air was still, its vibrations having turned into mine.
And now I felt my emotions.
Love. Such overwhelming love. And pain. Pain that threatened to rip me into pieces.
And Lor just held me, one hand rubbing my back, trying to draw me into another rhythm - but this rhythm was wrong. I could sense his distress, even though he wasn’t speaking, even though his grip on me hadn’t changed.
“The world is shaken,” I got out somehow 0 I don’t know how.
And then Lor spoke too.
“I’m sorry, so sorry,” he whispered, “never meant to hurt you, never guessed that this would happen... Do you want me to let go?”
“No!” I cried, anguished. I clung onto him more tightly, opening my eyes against his shirt.
“I love you, Penny. Oh, Penny, I love you. I don’t know why - I don’t even know you. But I do, Penny. I love you.”
“I love you too,” I whispered. “I’m sorry about Don. I like him, yes, but this is so much more than simply being someone’s girlfriend. The world was shaking, Lor. I felt it. The world was shaking around us, and then it kissed me.”
“Ikissed you, Penny.”
“Then you must be the world.”
The shaking stopped. I leant my head back, tried to look up at Lor and repeated myself. “You must be the world.”
I jumped, blinked. Lor let go and stepped back. Quickly his face became a mask. His tone cool but his eyes insistent, he told me, “You have to fight your battles for yourself, Penny. Else how will I know you ever really wanted me?”
The question was rhetorical, asked to himself.
Before I could reply, he walked off. And the air around him seemed to hiss fiercely, not permitting me to follow.
The shout came again and I saw Don striding towards me, his expression one of rage.
And then I was frightened.