Read Things I Know About Love Online
Authors: Kate le Vann
Tags: #Adult, #Arranged marriage, #California, #Contemporary, #Custody of children, #Fiction, #General, #Loss, #Mayors, #Romance, #Social workers
SO, Miss Livia Stowe has left the building.
And I can’t think of a single thing to say.
Just, bloody hell.
took a break from typing and made myself some toast, terrified of waking Jeff up when it
noisily out of the toaster. I only got a couple of hours’ sleep last night and feel tired all over.
How else do I feel?
. I feel happy and scared and a mess and super-confident and so-nervous-I-feel-sick and giddy and restless and I-feel-like-singing-and-dancing and oh my God I love him I love him I LOVE HIM!
I didn’t see a shooting star, but there was at least one. Adam dragged his brother’s tattered little armchair onto the tiny balcony, and we shared it, me curled sideways on him with my head on his chest and his arm around me, and he said, “There! Now! See it?”
“No! Where?” I said.
“Where I’m pointing…it’s gone.”
I hadn’t seen it. “Are you going to make a wish?” I asked him. Adam was silent, and I thought he hadn’t heard me. “Are you going to make a —?”
he laughed. “I was making it.”
“What did you wish?”
“You know the rules,” he said. “If I tell you, it doesn’t come true.” I wished he’d wished for me, but I didn’t get a wish.
We talked about next year. I told him I was taking a year off before university. I was still worrying about having to explain what had been going on with my life. Adam just assumed I was taking the year off for the usual sorts of reasons—to make money or go on holiday—and I borrowed facts from my friends’ lives and said I was considering all the things they’re doing but I hadn’t decided.
The truth is, I
know what I’ll be doing next year. I don’t know what grades I’m going to get in my A-levels—they come out soon after I get back. It’s strange that, considering they were almost all I thought about for the last four months or so, now I’ve almost completely stopped thinking about them. Originally there was an assumption that I’d spend the year retaking them, but my teachers seem to think I might get good enough grades that, with a personal letter from the headmaster explaining that my work was interrupted, would be good enough to apply to the universities I’m interested in. I did work very hard. Feeling slightly out of things made it easy to retreat to the library most lunchtimes in the last term, and I skipped quite a few parties.
All of this means I could have a lot of time to play with, but I don’t have a place at uni this year, and Dr. Kothari thinks it would be wiser to take the year off anyway, to make sure I really get better. “Students typically forget to look after their health in their first year,” she said.
Adam has one year to go—his course is four years, like Jeff’s. And what we hedged around saying was that if we just happened to want to start getting serious about each other, and we just happened to decide to go for it, we’d somehow managed to coincidentally be able to see each other without either of us having to be very far away, for the whole of next year. Adam was worried about me missing the chance to use my year out to travel the world.
“I wouldn’t be doing that,” I said, searching the sky for another shooting star that would take his mind off the conversation.
“I think you shouldn’t give up a chance like that.”
“Really, look, we shouldn’t talk about this anymore. We won’t have to think about it for ages.”
But the fact that he was talking about it, that he was
about it, told me what I’d been dying to hear. That Adam was taking me as seriously as I was taking him. I wasn’t just imagining it. We’d found each other. This wasn’t just a holiday romance.
So go on, Livia,
I was thinking,
tell him. Let him in.
“Adam,” I said. “There’s tons of stuff you don’t know about me, and it doesn’t really matter, but it sort of does. I mean, it doesn’t have to matter, but it might.”
“You’ve got a boyfriend?” Adam asked quietly.
I sat upright sharply and looked him in the eyes. “No!” I said. “Well, I hope I have.”
“You have.” He laughed. “But not back home?”
I shut my eyes and put my head back on his chest. I didn’t want to see his face for this. I didn’t want to watch as his feelings for me changed. Or to see the pity cover his face like a mask, knowing that he’d still like me, probably still want to be “friends,” but he wouldn’t think of me the same way anymore. I wouldn’t be cute and funny and fanciable anymore. I’d be brave and strange and tainted with the smells of hospitals and sickness, and he’d wonder, even though his brain told him otherwise, whether he could catch it from me.
“Okay, listen,” I began, “I wish I didn’t have to talk about this now, or ever, but especially now because you really don’t need to have this kind of thing dumped on you when you’ve only just met me, basically….”
“Livia, you’ve gone all wordy on me. Is this something to do with your leukemia? Are you getting sicker again?”
I suddenly couldn’t breathe.
. How do you know about that?” I managed to ask.
“Well … Jeff talked about you quite a lot at uni, because he was missing you all the time. But to be honest—God, is this insensitive?—I just didn’t really associate
Jeff’s sister with
Jeff’s sister when I met you. You’re so happy and easygoing and, you know, extremely good looking. I just keep forgetting. And I didn’t bring it up because I didn’t know how much you wanted to talk about it.”
“You’ve always known?”
“Well, yeah. I just…I don’t know, I thought maybe you were sick of talking about it.”
“I was scared of talking about it. I thought you wouldn’t fancy me if you knew.”
“If I knew what?” Adam said. “Just tell me.”
“If you knew about the leukemia,” I said.
“What about it?”
Adam grabbed hold of my shoulders. “Just
it? That’s all? Not that you have to leave for a year to go into hospital again?”
. I’ve been all clear for a year.”
“So, what are we talking about?” Adam said. “You thought I wouldn’t fancy you if I found out you’d had leukemia?”
I lifted my chin. “Well?”
Adam kissed me, stroking my hair, tracing the edge of my face with his fingers, holding me really close, and my eyes were shut, but I could feel tears starting to spill through the lids.
“I’m really crazy about you,” he whispered, kissing the tears on my cheeks. “For the record, I fancy you very much. Now, in the interests of full disclosure, do I have to confess to my flat feet and the mono I had when I was thirteen?”
I sent Jeff a text at about one a.m. because I didn’t want to go home, and I didn’t want Jeff to worry. It was starting to get too chilly to sit out on the balcony, although it was still too warm inside, and we left the windows open. Adam told me how he and his brother made their first computer when they were kids, out of old calculators and cardboard boxes.
“Wow, did it work?” I said.
Adam tilted his head on one side and grinned. “Yeah, but, as its central mechanism was a completely hollow shoe box, we had problems configuring the software to go with it.”
“Oh, fine, make fun of me,” I said. “Well, you’re a pair of computer geniuses, aren’t you? Who knows what you could do with shoe boxes?”
“We did attach little working LED lights to it. It would have fooled a lot of people.”
“It’s good that you still get on so well,” I said. “I used to worry about losing touch with my brother when he left home. There was a time when I used to constantly be writing in my diary,
Today was probably the last time Jeff and I will ever talk like this on the phone…
and now that all seems stupid because we’ve never been closer.”
“Are you still writing your blog?” Adam asked.
I flushed. Ahem: am I? Look at it, it’s practically a novel. “Yes,” I said. “I’ve been keeping up with it most nights.”
“Oh, so does my, er…Does my name come up at all?”
“No,” I said, completely deadpan. Then I smiled. “Well, I think I might have mentioned you in passing. You came with me on my New York trip, right?”
“Did I tell you I started my own blog?”
“Really? Can I read it? I mean, is it open to the public?”
“No. I just wanted to see what the appeal was. I’ve discovered I’m not very good at writing.”
not—you don’t have to be. You just have to be good at telling the truth about yourself.”
“You’re good at working out what that is,” Adam said. “I think not everyone can read people as well as you. You always seem to be good at getting me. I don’t feel ‘got’ all that often.”
“I’ve never been good at it before,” I said. “I never know what people are really thinking. I was clueless about my last boyfriend. I thought I knew him, but actually the more he knew about me, the less he liked.”
I thought. Don’t mention the last boyfriend to the new boyfriend.
not that he liked you less the more he knew you.
“Is he the one who made you afraid to talk about yourself?” Adam asked.
“He’s an idiot.” Adam shook his head and stretched back, smiling. “I could listen to you talking about yourself all day. I honestly think I could never get tired of listening to you. Are you still…Do you still think about him a lot?”
“You mean am I over him?
, I am.”
We talked most of the night lying side by side on his brother’s sofa, and eventually I had to rest my eyes and I could hear my voice sounding slow and stupid and Adam’s getting more distant until I was turning things he said into dialogue in a dream. I woke up at about six thirty and he was asleep. I tiptoed to the bathroom and took a look at myself. I looked quite a lot like a lunatic: mascara around my eyes, my lips dry and bright pink (very possibly from snogging a lot), my hair matted and sticking up all over my head. I could see myself more like a stranger might, in that unfamiliar mirror: the freckles standing out on my skin as if I were seeing them for the first time.
I feel as though I’m changing. Growing. I think I’d made myself a bit crazy overthinking the sex issue recently, and now, today, I feel that whatever happens is just going to happen and be easy. I just feel somehow calm now, and happy, not so anxious anymore.
When Adam woke up, he looked disorientated, and then he saw me and smiled, and he seemed to
“Morning,” he said. “Did you sleep?”
“Yeah.” My voice croaked, from overuse the night before.
“Are you feeling okay?”
“Er…do you think you’re going to say anything other than ‘yeah’ this morning?”
I smiled, and then nodded. “Yeah.”
“You look…a bit mad. You look very pretty, though.”
“No, just mad. I’ve already seen myself.”
“Hey, shh,” Adam said. “You look beautiful. Thanks for staying. I didn’t want to…you know, I was really happy to keep talking to you.”
“Me, too. I should go, though,” I said.
The early mist filtered that icing-sugary morning light I love, and there was a dewy honeysuckle scent in the air. I was wearing Adam’s waffle-cotton shirt over my T-shirt and jeans, and I’d calmed my hair into two braids, the ends fastened with tiny rubber bands I’d found in Adam’s brother’s flat. A couple of joggers ran past us, panting and talking to each other. The weird diner made out of an old bank was already quite bustling, and I could smell pancakes as we walked by the door. I suddenly felt hungry, and my tiredness caught up with me as if I’d just put on a heavy coat. I kept sneaking little glances at Adam just because I wanted to see his face, because his face made me happy. We were holding hands, and I realized that my hands didn’t feel sweaty at all.
We kissed outside the door, and whispered our good-byes.
“Do you fancy doing something a bit later?” I asked. It crossed my mind that this sounded too keen, and I should have let him ask me, and then, according to some romance guides, I should have turned him down. But I didn’t really care. It just doesn’t feel right to play who-cares-less games with Adam. It’s a waste of our time.
“Yes,” he said. “I might go back and sleep for another couple of hours. But call me anytime you want.”
We looked at each other. We just couldn’t seem to let go.
Come on, Livia,
I was thinking,
you look terrible, get inside, do yourself a favor. Call him later when your hair is nice.
This logic finally won me round, and I kissed him once more and went in.
AUGUST 3: PART 2
JUST, BLOODY HELL. I love her.
a few days since I updated my blog, but look, I’ve been busy. It’s been
than a few days since I updated my “Things I Know,” so that’s what I’m going to start with.
Things I know about love.
1. Nothing that happens between two people is guaranteed to be private.
2. Strangers are called strangers because they are strange. Duh!
(These are Unshakeable Truths.)
3. People don’t always tell you the truth about how they feel. And the truth is, it may not be the same as how you feel. And girls can be as guilty of this as boys.
4. Hearts don’t really get broken, but if you practice too hard with them, they can get quite hurt. It feels like they won’t get better, but they do.
5. I am in it.
The bad news first. Krystina told Jeff that she was now seeing Trey, the musician guy she’d been dancing with at the party. Jeff said he must have read the signs wrongly because Krystina “seemed surprised” that Jeff thought they were going out. This made me
. It’s one thing to dump my brother, but another to pretend you didn’t even dump him. She was snogging him on the sofa in this very flat, and yes, sometimes a snog means nothing, but when the snoggee is as into you as my brother was into Krystina, and you know it—and she
it!—you have to respect their feelings a bit more. You can’t just go around saying, “Oh, were you serious about that? Really? How funny, I snog all my friends,” or whatever Krystina said. Jeff didn’t want to talk about it, and was only answering my question about what was going on between them and I wish I hadn’t asked.
But Jeff has been pretty blue since this happened, and I only have six more days in Princeton and I don’t want Jeff to be moping all the time. That sounds really selfish: I don’t mean it to be about me. It’s just that I feel useless, but as I’m spending more time with him than I ever have before, I feel that I ought to be use
I’m worried that I’m annoying him by being upbeat and chirpy. I’m worried that I’m having this stupid, exciting romance with Adam in his face all the time.
Yesterday, I’d arranged to go for a picnic by Lake Carnegie with Adam but I called him to cancel, and said I wanted to spend the day with Jeff. I didn’t explain why, but Adam totally got it, and was really sweet. Jeff and I went to see a pretty bad comedy at the cinema in the shopping mall—and then we came home and made a chili together from scratch. This may seem like a slightly insane thing to make when it’s so hot out, but Jeff wanted to prove he was good at making it, and said people in hot countries ate the hottest food, and we had a really good time. Jeff showed me how to wash your hands with oil before cutting the actual chili peppers, so they don’t burn your skin. We baked some bread to go with it—weird sort of bread, kind of like scones—that one of his American friends had taught him to make. We turned the stereo up really loudly and rocked to it as we chopped and kneaded and baked and, for the first time in a couple of days, everything seemed to go back to normal, and it was like we were kids again, working hard together on something.
Although, something happened in the middle of all this that wasn’t so normal, or nice. Jeff had sent me out to get some cumin seeds for the top of the bread. I went to the little outdoors mini mall where there’s a very posh food shop which sells that sort of thing, and I saw Krystina. She was alone. I gasped as if I’d seen a ghost, and then panicked about what I was going to say to her. The last time we’d talked, I’d been dancing with her at a party and she’d been my fantastic new friend. A few days later, should I just act as though nothing was different? Should I be cool with her, or disapproving—confront her or make a big deal out of letting her know I forgave her? I hadn’t forgiven her.
I didn’t have to make the choice. Krystina saw me—our eyes met properly, there was no mistake—and she turned in the other direction and vanished into the DVD-rental shop. I didn’t follow her in, of course. I mean, maybe she was as nervous or as embarrassed as I was. I just stood there, sort of paralyzed and feeling dizzy, my heart beating as if I’d had a real scare. I was so upset that I forgot all about the cumin seeds, and when I got home I had to lie to Jeff and tell him they didn’t have any. I didn’t say I’d seen Krystina.
When we’d made our chili, we put on the webcam to talk to Mum. It was late at her end, and she was wearing pajamas.
“So, are you feeling ready to come home?” she asked me. “Or have you fallen in love with America, too?”
Not with America,
I thought. But. I’m just saving it. I’ve talked about him, obviously, but I’m going to
tell her all about Adam when I get back. If I tell her now, she’ll only find something new to worry about.
“I’m missing you,” I said.
“Oh, I suppose that means you’ll be getting the plane back next week, then?” Mum said. My God, it really was just a week away. “I’m afraid I’ve already sublet your room—I’ll have to give the new tenant notice.” Jeff just laughed; he doesn’t take jokes too seriously, but he does indulge my mum’s weak ones.
“Could you also make sure you have lots of Cadbury’s chocolate in the cupboard? I’m missing it,” I said. “This Hershey’s stuff is —”
“Are you getting a cold?” Mum asked suddenly. My voice was croaky again, as it had been on and off since the night of the Butler party, when I’d had to shout over the loud music.
“No, it’s just a sore throat,” I said.
“No, I just mean croaky. It’s not sore.”
“Are you taking your pills?” Mum demanded.
“Of course I am.”
Just when I’m having a normal conversation with Mum, she will always remember to slip back into Classic Mum, which involves treating me like a five-year-old, or an idiot, or both.
“Jeff, is she okay?” Mum shouted.
“We’ve been tasting the chili,” Jeff said. “It’s pretty strong. It might have taken a layer off her throat.”
“I just worry, Livia,” Mum said, going all honest.
“And I miss you a lot.”
“I miss you, too, Mum. I can’t wait to see you,” I said, wanting to cry.
“Hey, what about me?” Jeff shouted from the other side of the room.
“You, too,” Mum said. “I wish you’d both come home.”
“We’ll be home soon,” I said. “Me first.”