I leaned back against the cool wooden bench and gazed up into the night sky, imitating Ron but also looking because I thought the stars were beautiful too. When I had been younger, I had liked them a lot more but as I'd grown up, I'd found that thinking too deeply about space and the universe frightened me and caused an unpleasant, seemingly chemical reaction in the pit of my stomach.
Tonight I tried to lose myself to a safe extend in the wonders of Nature, altogether too aware of the heat radiating off Ron's body beside me and the way he was so relaxed he was almost unwittingly inviting me to snuggle closer to him.
I sighed and absently toyed with the ring on the fourth finger of my right hand, it being the closest thing I could fiddle with. Ron had been my only ever best friend: though our relationship wasn't yet four years old. Kind, caring, selfless and honourable, he had been the prince to slay the dragon named Loneliness, and rescue me from the tower of darkness. And I couldn't help but feel something more than respect and friendly admiration for him. It was just the ... decency he exuded. I knew I exaggerated it mentally, because he was a guy and he watched the way girls walked just like any other guy, but to me he was a knight in shining armour, nobleness rolling off him in a tangible aura. How I wished he would regard me, with his soft chestnut eyes, and tell me that I was his and his only. There were rare moments (of deep-pervading joy) when I felt that his protection only extended to me but the customary lack of them left something to be desired. I wanted that sensation to last: to wrap me up in cotton blankets and whisper of its exclusive nature, to fill my mind and heart - and perhaps even touch my soul. Ron could offer the deeper understanding I so yearned from a guy and from time to time I saw a light in his eyes as he said something romantic, which always made me feel wonderfully like I was falling...
But I was so terrified of rejection that I couldn't bear to bring it up. I watched him smile at beautiful girls, paid heed to the fact he never smiled like that at me and shrank into my tortoise shell to silently cry in my head.
‘So the stars,' I thought briskly, so that I might not cry right now. ‘Shining, twinkling, sparkling, glinting, glowing, ... radiating light.'
I started and glanced at Ron who was looking at me quizzically.
"Yeah?" I asked, wondering what was wrong.
"Are you okay?" he asked, sounding a little concerned.
"Yeah, fine," I replied, smiling. Thank goodness I was a good actor. "Why?"
"You were frowning at the sky. You looked like you were concentrating immensely on something. Is something up?"
‘Yes,' I thought.
"No," I answered.
"You sure?" His eyes told me to trust him but this wasn't helpful because my mind was trying to tell me to trust him enough to tell him I had a crush on him.
"I'm great," I told him, still smiling.
His expression relaxed.
"Well, if you're sure..."
He smiled. His eyes left my face but rather than returning to the night sky seemed drawn to my hands. Unexpectedly they lit up with amusement as he gazed at them.
"Harmony, ... why are you clutching your purity ring?"
I stared down at my hands in shock. It was true. I was holding the circle of metal so tightly between my left thumb and forefinger that the skin on them was pale.
I let go hastily and looked up into his amused face.
"I don't know," I told him honestly.
He chuckled. "Are you sure there's not some guy you're thinking about?"
"No!" I exclaimed, mortified. "And don't tease me: you know what my ring means to me."
Ron's face softened as he looked at my hands again.
"I know. I bought it for you, remember?"
He looked back into my eyes.
"I remember," I whispered.
"Whoever you choose for life, Harmony, will be extremely lucky," he told me, with such sincerity that for a second I found myself imagining that he loved me back.
But after that second he broke the eye contact and looked once more up at the sky. His ability to maintain his smile told me that he only regarded me with affection.
I sighed, softly enough for him to not hear me.
He reached for my hand as he watched the stillness of the heavens, and held it. I was almost inclined to think he had heard me sigh but Ron was the sort who would make a big fuss if you showed the slightest signs of being sad. I knew he just sought connection to the Earth, as if he weren't watching the stars after all but instead exploring the astral plane with his mind.
‘I'll be your anchor,' I thought silently. ‘I'll be whatever you need me to be, whenever.'