My life was becoming more and more real in this new world that I had found for myself, and some days even passed without me thinking of David. But when that happened, I felt guilty that I hadn’t, and somehow cheap that I could let a day pass without him being a part of it.
I knew I had to ‘get over it’ as Karl put it – but there was part of me that didn’t want to, that felt it wasn’t right that I should. In some way, it was as if getting over it meant that I would love him less, or that he was less important to me, or maybe that all we had together was somehow less meaningful – and that wasn’t true. I felt that I couldn’t let it be true. It was the pain that helped to keep his memory alive. But time does seem to numb that pain – at least the everyday gnawing, unbearable pain that eats you up and doesn’t let you breathe. The pain changes to occasional sharp stabs that hit you all of a sudden and take your breath away instantaneously, leave you reeling. This pain can be ignited by a phrase spoken in a certain cadence, a riff of music, a fleeting scent, something that you wouldn’t even think meant anything, but all of a sudden there would be David, large as life, smiling or shouting or whatever, taking your insides and twisting them sharply. This pain took many years to fade completely.
And so my life went on, slowly pushing me up that path of recovery until I saw for the first time in forever the evidence of the sun.
It happened as I was walking down the corridor at school one day, just an ordinary day, juggling a stack of textbooks and a pile of exercise books, as you do. My attention was suddenly riveted by a new poster that adorned the wall at the junction of the corridor – a poster advertising ‘Daffodil Day’ and featuring a mass of yellow blooms. I stopped, suddenly shocked into memories of the past.
I saw David cavorting through the gardening section of the hardware store, camping it up about going there on a weekend like all the straight guys. Sean and I had watched him choose the bulbs he was going to plant along the edge of the garden. I wanted tulips, but David had insisted. He had known even then, although I hadn’t, the significance of what he was doing.
‘Daffodils,’ he insisted. ‘Beside the lake, beneath the trees fluttering and dancing in the breeze,’ then fluttered and danced his way to the checkout, with Sean grinning behind him, encouraging him. I smiled as I recalled the look of horror on the face of the boy at the checkout when he came on to him. As memory flooded back, I could almost feel the touch of his arms around my neck, his lips on my mouth, as he kissed me in front of everyone when I handed over my card, as if what I had done was something special. Now, half-way around the world, I realised how special it was.
Then, inevitably, someone bumped me from behind and the pile of books went flying.
‘F…..or goodness sake, can’t you look where you’re going!?’ I felt rather pleased in keeping the obscenity at bay. I smiled, and bent to pick up the books, satisfied with my unwavering professionalism and startled from any maudlin recollections by the silliness of the situation. I certainly wasn’t paying any attention to the person who had caused the spill.
‘Let me help you, Sir!’ A soft, deep voice disturbed my smug musings, and I looked up into the darkest eyes framed by the longest lashes. He was already crouched in front of me, piling up the books. He grinned at me, then lowered his head to his task, letting floppy dark brown curls hide his smooth tanned skin. Then he stood up with the pile he had made, and I was forced to look up his body to meet those eyes. I stood slowly, and he handed me the books.
Oliver, the boy from the photo, from the glimpses in the playground. But here he was only a breath away; close enough to feel his warmth, to breathe in his scent, to notice the way his hair curled around his ears. I was caught in his spell as he lowered his chin and looked up at me through his long, dark lashes. Our eyes met and we breathed in unison. Oh God. A slow smile curled around his mouth and lit up his face. I stared at his lips, my thoughts stripped completely naked for this young Adonis to read. And I knew, in that second that our eyes held, that he read those thoughts clearly. Then he grinned again and dashed off down the corridor to join his friends. I watched him go, knowing that something important had just happened, but already telling myself that it was nothing. And then he turned, walked backwards a few steps, and looked back at me, smiled, winked. And I knew in that moment that if I wasn’t careful, I would be in the biggest trouble of my life. And it was already too late.
‘He was really helpful. I was just wondering who he was. Tall, dark hair, fairly long. Year 11 or 12 – named Oliver…’
‘Oliver! That’s my nephew!’ Anna laughed. ‘Oh, he’s a charmer all right. My brother met his mother in England when he was on holiday there. Sonia’s husband had died when Oliver was a baby, and Martin fell in love with her and her little boy. He’s very good at drama, too…’ and she was off again about that damned play, about how we should be getting on with it, if I was going to do it, and this time there was no real hesitation.
‘So when do we cast?’
He auditioned for Romeo, and I knew the part was his before he even opened his mouth. He would tilt his head down and look at me from under lowered lashes, and he knew all too well the effect it had. And he’d wait to catch my eye, then hold my gaze for too long, then smile his desire at me, tempting, teasing, cruel. He knew. I tried to ignore, to deny, but he knew, and although nothing was said, and I remained ever the calm professional, there was something unspoken alive between us.
An excerpt from Dancing with the Daffodils by Tarion Keelan.