Rhyley watched Sandra discreetly as his father served up the food. She was doing well, exuding an aura of calmness, wearing a slight smile on her face as though she were finding everything here pleasant. Part of him wanted to gently kick her foot under the table or wink cheekily at her while no one was watching, but this wasn’t mature and wasn’t really appropriate for a girl he had ‘just met’.
He thought back to her panic when she had aroused him. He had been taken aback to be suddenly pushed away and hear a scared-sounding “Stop”. It had been sort of interesting, since his previous eight girlfriends had all been up for much more than a bit of making out. He remembered his first, though: a rather shy girl called Mia Norss with fluffy auburn hair and wide blue eyes. She had been nervous at the prospect of being made love to. He had calmed her with kisses and tender caresses, and she had gradually become relaxed enough to give herself to him. He had remembered his own slight nervousness: it had been a new thing to him, and he’d been half worried he’d mess it up and leave Mia disgusted with him. But it had turned out to be the best experience in his life and each time he had performed the act again, he had grown in confidence until he had reached the level he was at now - completely at ease with it, aware of the pleasure he could bring a girl and knowledgeable of the various ways in which to do it, and of the opinion that the best way to make love was to become completely immersed in and let Nature guide your actions. And it had worked out pretty well for him. Except that now his girlfriend was chaste and the game had changed entirely. He now had to be careful, restrain himself, treat her gently. After this kiss, he was worried he might do something to scare her off completely. But now wasn’t really the time to be thinking about that sort of thing.
Sandra was looking at him over her plate of chicken pie and saying, “So what kind of music do you like, Rhyley?”
Rhyley felt like laughing.
“Rock,” he told her. “There’s nothing better than rock. You?”
“I like quite a range of genres,” she told him. It had been a good question to ask, Rhyley reflected, despite his amusement at it, because they hadn’t known beforehand. He would ... learn things about her throughout the course of this meal. “Classical, pop, rock. You should hear the variety in my iPod playlist.”
“I’d like that,” Rhyley found himself unintentionally saying.
Sandra blushed slightly.
Luckily, it seemed that the four older adults (since Rhyley was 18 and legally an adult too) weren’t paying any attention to the two younger people at the table. Still, the pair kept up their façade, in case one of the parents suddenly became interested in what they were talking about.
“D’you like reading?”
Rhyley frowned slightly.
“Not really. It’s a bit boring, and I haven’t found a book I could really get my teeth into.”
“That’s a shame. I love reading. Always been a bit of a bookworm, me.”
Rhyley smiled. She was really good at this acting like she didn’t know him. But maybe it helped that they hadn’t talked about each other’s personal interests in the time they’d spent together: it had been about simpler, perhaps slightly more superficial, things like doodling and talking about things that were going on right at that moment.
“I like comics,” Rhyley told her.
“Oh, I’d love to look through a comic - just because I haven’t ever before,” Sandra said.
“Maybe if there’s time after dinner, I could show you my collection,” Rhyley suggested.
Sandra smiled and her eyes sparkled almost as if she were about to cry.
“You’re so nice, Rhyley.”
Rhyley looked down at his plate, moving his mashed potato around with his fork. Was he, though? He had always thought his core was basically good but were the difficulties he had had with Sandra perhaps a sign that he wasn’t as decent as he thought?
“Thanks,” he mumbled, feeling awkward about accepting that compliment. He put some vegetables in his mouth and started chewing.
After more questioning and answering, there was time for Rhyley to show Sandra his comic book collection. The older adults sat around the table, all drinking wine apart from Sandra’s mother who was driving the Longmorrows home, chatting about who knew what? When Sandra and Rhyley got back to his room, Sandra spotted the glasses of un-drunk liquids on the table and grinned, saying “We completely forgot about those, didn’t we?”
Rhyley nodded. But he was slightly distracted because he had an idea in mind which he had been forming on his way up the stairs.
“Sit down on my bed and close your eyes,” he told Sandra gently. Before he showed his soulmate his comics, he wanted to kiss her, a) because it was something he enjoyed doing but also b) because he felt like Sandra’s questions about his tastes in various things over dinner had subtly deepened the bond between them. Sandra moved, looking puzzled, and sat on his bed, closing her eyes.
Rhyley sat down in front of her and leant in slowly. He caught her lips and thanked her with a soft, sweet kiss that he sustained for a length of time he hadn’t previously thought was possible without his desire coming on.
Sandra opened her eyes during the kiss and they gazed, seemingly into each other, while their hearts warmed in a beautiful way. Rhyley thought this was a wonderful way to kiss and then was stunned by himself. Since when had he appreciated a soft and affectionate way of being physical? He pulled away and blinked.
“I... You’re changing me, Sandra.”
Sandra looked down shyly.
“Yeah, I can feel it...”
Rhyley rose to his feet and bent down on his floor to rummage under his bed, feeling slightly dazed. Was he... Could he be in love with her? Already? His hands found the cardboard box containing his comics and he pulled it out. He picked it up - with some difficulty, as it was heavy - and put it on the bed next to Sandra.
“They were my dad’s before mine,” he told her. “They were more popular back in his day.”
Rhyley pulled out the top comic. He grinned at which series it was from: Wolfman. He showed Sandra the pictures, read her the dialogue and narration in dramatic tones and grinned with her at the amusing parts. He felt like he was sharing a part of himself with her, and he could see in her eyes how much she appreciated that too. He showed her several more before putting them away.
“Comic book characters were the first things I drew,” he told her. “I was obsessed with them: Wolfman, Pirate, the Bloodthirsty Vampire. I sketched them and sketched them until I could replicate them near perfectly. And then I moved on to drawing other things. Real life things. I only took Art up to GCSE level but the drawing will always be with me.” He smiled suddenly, an idea springing to his mind. “Can I draw you?”
Sandra blinked, surprised.
“Oh, sure you can.” She made herself comfy and looked at him. The way she sat still watching him made Rhyley want to capture her lips in another kiss. But there was something that he wanted more, and that was to capture her - her likeness, on paper. He picked up his sketchbook, found a pencil to sketch with and sat at the foot of his bed, drawing her face. It took perhaps fifteen, twenty minutes, but when he was done, he was satisfied. He turned the sketchbook around to show Sandra.
“Wow, I think you’ve really captured my likeness,” she told him. “The shape of my features, the proportions... I really like my eyes.”
Rhyley grinned and then Sandra grinned too, realising what she had said.
Rhyley signed the picture and closed the book.
“I’d give it to you, but I actually want to keep it.”
“I can understand that.”
“You can have the next one I draw of you,” he told her.
Sandra smiled shyly.
“That would be great. Thanks”
Rhyley sighed. He felt light and free, and so indescribably happy.
“You’re more than welcome.”