This is part of my novel, "What Losing You Did to Me". To start at the beginning, click here. Right now a new section of my book posts every Tuesday and Saturday.
"So." Cielen says, leaning over his plate of cheese fries, "Tell me about Aainn."
I feel myself smile. Thoughts of Aainn suddenly drown out the strum of old-fashioned music in the little diner where Cielen and I are stitting. I'm flooded with memories of... Aainn's smile. And the way his eyes crinkle when he looks at me. His arms, so skinny and long, the way his hair would always flop over his eyes until he'd finally remember to cut it... Those memories meld to images of our first year together, when I'd realized Aainn wouldn't let me leave my clothes everywhere. He'd always come behind me and neatly lay everything on our bed, like an unspoken reminder for me to hang my own stuff up. Or...(and my mouth waters at the thought) Aainn's breakfasts. He'd always insisted on making me breakfast. And he was good at it, too.
"Start with how you met." Cielen says, breaking my train of thought, half a fry hanging out of his mouth. "I don't think you ever told me."
I smile again. That was so long ago.
"We met in college." I say. What next? How do I explain?
"Was it love at first sight?" Cielen says, and I try not to laugh.
"No, not at all..." I say. "Aainn is a year younger then me, but we had some of the same classes together. He asked me to tutor him. I turned him down, but he kept asking. I thought it was because I had the highest grades at the time...and maybe it started out that way..."
"I was already tutoring a few other students to earn money. I did need more money, but on top of all the others I was helping, I didn't know if I had time. But Aainn kept asking, so finally I said yes."
"My first thoughts were that, boy, Aainn was stupid. I guess he had a lot of teachers give him special treatment back home because of his grandfather. I think they'd just passed him because of who he was. That first six months I taught him a lot of basics. And I found out he was smart."
He also outgrew his little spoiled streak, I think to myself. Being out West really taught Aainn a lot about himself. It was good for him. I mean, for the first time in his life he had to actually get a job and shop for his own toilet paper. I laugh, remembering Aainn during the first few months I'd known him. Cielen raises his eyebrows at me, reminding me to continue the story.
"I think I was the first person to treat him, well, like a normal person, and not like an extension of his grandfather. Most the people out West knew of his grandfather, but because of my sheltered upbringing, I had no clue. He really was just another guy to me."
I stop for a second to take a bite of my soup that's arrived. It's warm, and smooth, and reminds me of cozy winter nights when I would make the same soup for Aainn and myself. Perhaps that's why I'd ordered it.
"Well, when did you fall in love with him, then?" Cielen asks, his eyes twinkling.
I put down my spoon, remembering. "It was the next year," I say. "I was junior and Aainn a sophomore by that point. I was still tutoring him but things had changed. The sessions became more about just hanging out and discovering things together. One day I just woke up and realized that Aainn has a deep heart, and a kind one. I knew then I liked him. We started meeting at coffee shops and dinner places and finally at each others houses--something I'd never done with any of my other students."
Aainn had such a cozy apartment, full of blue tones and very functional furniture. I had enjoyed my time there, back when we were just student, and teacher.
"I guess the point where things escalated was when we kissed on the beach." Warmth floods me as I remember that kiss. I'd wanted to kiss him. I'd wanted him to kiss me. But I'd never been able to put it into words, shyly hiding behind lessons and friendship. Aainn has seen all the nonverbal signs and, well, let his lips do the talking. It had been amazing.
"And then, just like that, you were in love?" Prompts Cielen, his fingers smeared with cheese. I hand him a napkin across the table, my mind still on Aainn's lips.
"Well, no--then we both knew we liked each other. I stopped tutoring Aainn and started dating Aainn." And I learned more about him. I learned he was actually pretty shy. The cocky tough boy act was just that--and act
It turned out that everyone expected the grandson of the famous Rien Durithean to be a certain person and act an certain way. He'd had all that pressure on him for years. And that, he told me one day, late at night, why he'd come here. To find out what he wanted.
"I never did ask him why he thanked me" I say, my mind still on that day by the sea.
"Hmm?" Asks Cielen.
"He thanked me. Right before he kissed me." I say, realizing I'd skipped that part.
"Wow, that's weird." Says Cielen.
I smirk. "Yeah. But it's something Aainn would do."
Cielen takes that as his cue to launch off into a story of his own. It's about a girl he kissed in high-school and how her breath had tasted just like strawberry ice cream. I laugh. Cielen knows just how to be funny.
Before I know it I've finished my soup and we're leaving. Cielen pays the waiter and we head back to the hotel.
"That was fun." I say.
"You seem much more relaxed." Cielen says.
I stop walking, and Cielen almost runs into me. "Hey!" He says. "Give a guy a warning."
I am less stressed, I realize suddenly. I feel more like myself then I've felt in ages.
"I do feel a lot better." I say. "But I do wish it was Wednesday."
"I know." Cielen says. He takes my arm and I start walking again. "It will be Wednesday before we know it...and we will rescue your Aainn." His eyes narrow as he says Aainn's name. I can tell he really wants to see me happy.
"But tomorrow we'll see about Mai." Cielen finishes, and I can tell he's thinking about Rien Durithean and what he did to Aainn and I. And what he might have done to Mai.
I'd forgotten about Mai. As the hotel looms closer, towering over most of the other buildings in this downtown section, I find myself wondering what happened to her. Maybe tomorrow I'll find out.
Click here for the next part.