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Authors: Kate le Vann

Tags: #Adult, #Arranged marriage, #California, #Contemporary, #Custody of children, #Fiction, #General, #Loss, #Mayors, #Romance, #Social workers

Things I Know About Love (10 page)

BOOK: Things I Know About Love
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Inside Adam

AUGUST 8

IT’S WEIRD how you think you’ve got your life sussed and then it flips over and all your priorities change. A few weeks ago I was dreading going back to England because I’ve got to knock the Java project into shape for submission for the course, which means work work work. The work will still be there, but now, going back is suddenly more about taking Livia to my favorite places, and meeting my mates at home and introducing her as my girlfriend.

She still has a few days in Princeton, but I don’t go back till the twenty-fifth, which means two weeks without her. I’m going to miss her, it’s as simple as that. No, it’s not as simple as that. I am going to really miss her. We’ve got a breakfast routine now, you know—we’re supposed to meet for coffee every morning at nine, but both of us always show up about ten minutes early. I’ve never known a girl who’s always early: I’d always worked on the theory that lateness is taught to women in PE at school, when the classes are split girl/boy. Livia has as much reason to be late as any other girl—more actually, seeing as how she’s funny and beautiful and I’d wait three hours for her. So it’s endearingly …
geeky
of her that she never is. I am aware that in any official classification system, I would be a geek and she would be a hottie, but I am quite a cool
geek
— and only technically a geek, being a techie—and she is quite a nerdy hottie, having some kind of mild
Star Trek
obsession and a slightly disturbing knowledge of every British sci-fi series made in the last century.

I love that about her.

And she’s only
technically
a hottie, her claim to the term being exclusively composed of her gorgeous face and body, and having hair like a sunset over a cornfield on the longest day of summer. Apart from that, she’s giggly and clumsy and shy at the most unexpected times.

And always early.

It means I always have to be even earlier just so I can stand outside the coffee shop and watch her walking towards me. I think there’s nothing in the world I like as much as the sight of Livia Stowe walking towards me, and the way she always looks as if she’s trying not to smile, and then gives in.

The first time I went to New York with Livia I was trying (too hard) to show off how hip I was, so I took her round the ultra-trendy districts and the kind of places only New Yorkers know about. We’re going again on Wednesday and I think we should do it differently this time. My new plan is to go about it like a proper tourist, find out the places Livia thinks of when she thinks of New York, and try to head for all of the clichés, in a good way. For one thing, because I’ve only been with my brother before and he hasn’t got any patience for that kind of thing, I haven’t really been to any of the “big” places myself—you know, like the Empire State Building, MoMa, Grand Central Station, and whatever. So for selfish reasons, I would really love to see these places for the first time with Livia, and not waste my next time there with her being all, like, seen-it-done-it-bought-the-pretzel. However, me being me, I can’t be totally spontaneous, so I’m spending the morning working out the most efficient route for seeing any combination of sights Livia might happen to mention, and linking that to corresponding places to stop for lunch or coffee, and I’ll print that out and take it with us when we go.

I might still pretend to Livia that I’m making it up as I go along. As I said, I am quite a cool geek. I’ve got to think of my image.

august 9

I am
not feeling great today, to be honest. I can’t seem to shake off this sore throat. Jeff has said he thinks I should see a doctor. I don’t think that’s necessary yet, but I will soon if it doesn’t improve, just to be safe. Rationally, I know that nothing is wrong, but I’m so used to getting checked out at home, and what with not being near my mum and all of us being slightly more nervous and careful than we usually are, if I don’t have it confirmed that everything’s exactly as it should be I’ll start imagining I’m feeling worse than I am. What I think, though, is that I’m going back on the twelfth anyway, so the sensible thing to do is wait till then, and see people who know me, rather than spend three hours filling in my medical history and insurance forms and waiting in a waiting room, all for a sore throat.

We went out in a large group this evening—some of the American students Jeff’s been taking a history class with, Jeff, Adam, and me. One of the other boys, Carl, was flirting with me, and I didn’t know if I’d walked in looking as though I was with Adam. When you’re at school, everyone knows who everyone else is going out with. I was pretty sure Carl was trying to chat me up but it’s hard to know when to say, “Oh, sorry, I’m with someone already.” If you say it too early, you could find out he wasn’t chatting you up at all, and you’ve made a fool of yourself being big-headed enough to tell him to back off. If you say it too late, you’re worried you’ve wasted his time. Some boys get embarrassed and angry about any kind of rejection at all, and sort of blow up at you if you tell them you’re not interested, no matter when and how you say it. As I was tying myself into knots wondering how I should talk to Carl and whether it was flirty to laugh at his jokes, I caught Adam’s eye. Adam raised his eyebrows an
almost
invisible amount and smiled at me. It was like he was saying, “Don’t worry, you won’t fall. I’ve got you.” My skin seemed to tingle, as if my happiness was sparkling all over me like the fizz above a freshly poured lemonade. I lowered my chin and smiled back at him; it was a smile just for the two of us. Then I carried on talking to Carl.

Jeff was looking at the door a lot. I think he was worried that Krystina would walk in with Trey, the band boy, or even without him, and he’d have to see her, or speak to her, whatever—but react in some way. Jeff’s sort of okay-ish. Well, he’s still a bit quiet and he’s still not talking about Krystina, but he’s started making jokes again. He was very, very into her for a long time before they kissed, but
after
they had, their relationship didn’t go on very long, so I think it was better that it happened now, before he properly fell in love with her. For one thing, Saira always told me that the longer you go out with someone, the longer it takes to get over breaking up with them. What Saira literally says is that it takes exactly
half
the time you go out with a boy to get over him. Back when I was still overanalyzing every moment of my romance with Luke, I used this equation to work out when I’d stop caring about him. For the record, it doesn’t work—the math is wrong—but it does make sense that the longer you were seeing them, the longer it takes to feel normal again when they’re not in your life.

The other thing is, and this is new to me so it may not be true, but I believe you only
start
falling in love with someone when you know they feel the same way about you. That’s when you start to trust them. So you relax and stop thinking about yourself, because you’re not worried about getting it wrong and losing them. When you stop thinking constantly about yourself, it frees up all your spare time to think about how utterly, perfectly perfect they are and how lucky you are to have found them. Yowza, that really is how I feel. Yeek. Unrequited love is like buying a dress that you can’t fit into but you promise yourself you’ll diet for—you can’t think about the dress, only about the fact that your body is too big for it. Unrequited love can give you butterflies and tingly lips and lovely, dizzy days where you analyze every word of every sentence they’ve ever said to you…but you cry a lot, too. Proper being in love isn’t the same: it feels safe, but the opposite of boring. It’s deep; you’re jumping into the waterfall.

I think my lovely brother hasn’t been in too deep this time. That’s why he’ll be okay.

I’m going to New York again with Adam tomorrow. We asked Jeff if he wanted to come. We weren’t just being nice or anything: I think being in New York City with my brother and Adam would make me happier than just about anything in the world. I tried really hard to change his mind, but Jeff says he has to get everything he can out of the libraries before he goes back, because they’re so much better for American history than the one in Manchester. I hope that’s true. I hope he’s not just ducking out because he’s so unhappy, or worse, because he thinks he’ll be in the way or something mad like that. But after New York, I still have one full day and night left in Princeton before I go home, and Jeff has promised to drop all books and let his hair down. I’m going to remind him, and I’m going to make him.

Our rough plan for tomorrow is to act like tourists. Adam’s asked me to come up with a list of things that I think of when I think of New York, and I can’t make up my mind. Central Park, definitely. Macy’s or Barneys or Saks or Bloomingdale’s? Broadway at night, maybe? I love that it’s so warm right now that you never feel cold in the evening, and the daylight lasts and lasts until the sun sets, which start off like fresh pink rose petals until the sky seems to tear in half, light and dark. Oh, Grand Central Station—it sounds so romantic and looks so beautiful when you see it in films. The thought of going back into Manhattan is giving me such jitters, in a good way, that I might not sleep tonight. It’s nearly midnight now and I don’t feel tired at all. We’re setting off really early. I’ve got a paper note here on my desk, and Adam has written on it,
Wear sensible shoes!
and on the other side he’s added,
And a short skirt.

Things I know about love.

1. Being

2. In

3. Love

4. Is

5. The

6. Best

7. Thing

8. In

9. The

10. World.

august 10

6:19 a.m.
Throat still hurts. I’m worried that I’m feeling a bit woozy still, but I’ve been feeling woozy practically since I got here, and at first it was jetlag, and then it was sunstroke, and this time, I just think it’s a couple of late nights. Should I tell Jeff? If I tell Jeff, the jig is up. Jeff will insist I stay home and rest and we call out a doctor. I’m flying home in less than two days. I don’t have time to rest. But I think I will tell Adam I don’t feel great. I’ll tell him when we’re on the train.

I have my list. Grand Central Station is on it, because last time I assumed the Princeton train would go straight there, and was a
little
bit disappointed when it took us to a modern station in a kind of ordinary shopping mall—it’s called Penn Station. I want to see the one you see in films. Then there’s Central Park, Bloomingdale’s, the Museum of Natural History and the Planetarium, the Empire State Building, and tea at the Algonquin Hotel.

I just feel a bit…like when I close my eyes for more than a second and open them again, my brain has started to fall down through my body and it has to hurry up to the top of my head to get back to business. The only reason I’m even slightly worried about this is because the last time I had a persistent sore throat, you know what happened.

Look at my list! It could be a year, it could be
years
before I have another chance to see those things. Whatever is wrong with me—and it might just be hypochondria—It. Can. Wait. Because I can’t.

august 11

Mum’s
on her way. She’ll be here some time in the early morning. I know she won’t show it, but I know how angry she’ll be: blaming herself for letting me come here, blaming me for not looking out for the signs earlier or telling someone. This was the last thing I wanted in the world, hurting my mum again when it could have been prevented and she’s been through so much with me already. I feel better today, but I’ve been told I’m worse, that I only feel better because they’ve controlled my fever. This isn’t my computer—Jeff didn’t bring my computer. There’s a computer room here in the hospital and they said I was allowed ten minutes to check my e-mails. I told them I really needed to check my e-mails. Marigold, the film-star beautiful Japanese nurse, has pushed me here in a wheelchair and is standing with her back against the wall, reminding me that I only have five minutes, and not to tire myself. It’s ten minutes, Marigold,
ten
, and what else am I going to do all night? They sent Jeff and Adam away about half an hour ago, but they’re staying in a hotel nearby, and not going back to Princeton.

I don’t have any time to write, and I don’t know which order to write in. I can’t believe this. I’m scared and ANGRY because THIS WAS NOT THE TIME FOR THIS TO HAPPEN! I have to stop looking so angry while I’m typing because Marigold is looking. I keep smashing the keys and sighing. I have to calm down.

Calmly, then, my white cells are up a lot. I knew it as soon as I saw their faces; it’s a look I’ve seen before. The tests confirmed it.

We were on the train to New York and I was resting my head on Adam’s shoulder.

“Are you okay?” he asked me.

“It’s just the early start,” I said, and shivered.

He held my hand and I was aware that it felt cold and clammy, so I pretended I needed to fix my hair.

“Well, let’s go slowly today. Anyway, it’s too hot to do everything,” Adam said, and I felt sad all over, and was determined not to let anything else show.

By the time we’d got off the train, I was feeling really energetic again, although I was trying not to talk too much because my throat was dry. The first place we went was Grand Central Station, which made me speechless anyway. It’s so beautiful, almost like a palace, and the ceilings are painted like the night sky, with golden stars set on navy blue. Walking into the station straight from a bright, sweaty New York morning is like walking into the past.

Marigold is saying I should come back to bed. I have to hurry.

If Adam hadn’t left me alone I might have been able to keep faking, but we split up for about a half hour because he said he really needed to get some extra hard-disk space for his brother’s computer and he had to get it from the Apple shop and he wouldn’t be long and he didn’t want to drag me with him when he could just do it quickly. At the time I thought this was a brilliant idea, because we’d been walking down Fifth Avenue and I needed a rest. There was no real reason I needed a rest, because we were walking on the shady side of the street. I told him I hadn’t really worn my most comfortable shoes because they didn’t go with my short skirt. Adam found us the sweetest little coffee shop, all bent-wood chairs and chocolate cakes with raspberry pink icing, and sat me down with an iced tea and some pistachio cookies and said he’d be back soon. He did come back quickly, but by this time, I’d sat long enough with nothing else to think about and realized how I felt and that I felt horrible. But even then I just couldn’t tell him. I’m such an
idiot.

Our next stop was FAO Schwarz, which is the fanciest toy shop in the world, and appears in a film I once saw called
Big
, where the main character dances on a giant piano and plays “Chopsticks” while he dances. We just meant to basically walk straight through it on our way to Central Park, where our plan was to lie in the cool, damp shade and watch New Yorkers for a couple of hours, and eat ice cream, and read our books and pretend we lived here. I knew I could handle that. We were wandering through the shop and everything was so beautiful and I wanted to touch it all, but I was looking at a wall of fluffy soft jungle animals, like giant furry tigers and lions, and I suddenly had the feeling that the wall was going to come down on me and I couldn’t stand up anymore and then I must have fainted. When I came to, I was lying down, and instead of the furry tigers and lions looking at me, there were now lots of strange, loud faces, people I didn’t know crowding me, and I was completely disoriented, and shivering so much that it felt like I had frostbite, and I told Adam I’d better get to a hospital.

His face. I felt like a
fraud.
Guilty
.
As if I’d been fooling him by not telling him the truth about how bad I’d been feeling. Adam looked terrified—he was white and swallowing a lot. He said he’d called Jeff. I said, “Don’t call Jeff!” weakly, but I was so glad Jeff was coming. Then Adam lifted me up and I held his neck and I was terrified, because you go through life hardly ever being lifted and it’s disorienting—moving too quickly without doing any part of it yourself. I held on to his shoulders, and he carried me outside the shop, where there was a cab waiting somehow, maybe the shop had called it, and we drove to a hospital. He held my hand so tightly while we waited, and while I was trying to explain my medical history to the ER nurse, and when I was transferred to a wheelchair. Adam still held me, and when I had to go alone down into the ward for tests, he leaned close to me and put his arms around me and whispered, “I love you.” I said, “I’m okay. Don’t worry. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” and he whispered again, “I love you. Shh.”

Please, Marigold, just another couple of minutes. I know I can come back later, but I want to write this when it’s fresh in my mind. I don’t want to forget. I believe everything Adam tells me, all the things his eyes say as well as his lips, but even the truest, best guy would be forgiven for watching this kind of thing happen to me and thinking,
Enough, too much, I need to get away
. So what I feel right now, I want to write about while it’s still as pure and real as it ever will be. Before life comes in with its big clumsy feet and stamps all over my heart.

I love him.

This doesn’t feel like the loves I’ve known before, the boys who’ve made me cry and filled my diaries. We’re not playing games—holding back and pretending that we don’t really care, or that we really do. We just like to spend every minute together, and the days burn up as fast as matches and it’s me and him together talking, and laughing, and talking, and holding each other, and knowing it’s right. When I’m in his arms, sometimes the emotions feel too big for me and I want to cry. It makes me afraid because I’m so
happy
, and the future is
huge
and in front of us, and I can’t believe I might spend it with Adam. I’m so angry with myself for getting ill again—I don’t have time for it.

BOOK: Things I Know About Love
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