2015 - 2016
Chapter 1, 8/2/15
It had taken her months to get here. Sitting in the dark cinema was their first proper date and nerves seemed to tingle down her spine. As the film ended she got up from her seat - her legs were stiff from two hours of bracing against the floor, turning to fidgeting, then back to still and tense. The details of the film had slipped away and all Ceris could remember was a Sci Fi genre and a tonne of closeups that ruined the action of the film for a poorly written romance.
Maybe that was why she hadn't kissed him. Over the last school term, Ceris could read Nathan's face in barely a glance, staring into each other's eyes at the cinema she was certain he'd wanted her.
“You all right, Care Bear?” he said, wrapping an arm around her waist and grinning down at her, black eyes slitted into a swirl of mischief.
“Oi,” she warned, shoving him playfully to ward off the stupid nickname, “that's not even fair! I can't call you anything that stupid.”
“Really? You're clearly not trying hard enough.”
“Is that so? What about Natty, or Nate?” She paused for a minute thinking and their fingers twined, almost as natural as breathing. Next, she squeezed against his palm as an idea struck her, slyly saying, “Fiat.”
“That's not original at all!” He protested.
“You think Care Bear is? They're kids toys, I had that name when i was seven.”
He laughed and shook his olive head, black curls bouncing where a halo might be painted on a stained glass portrait of a saint. Taking a deep breath as they walked along, he seemed to pick up pace.
“So, where are we going?” Ceris asked, looking up into what would have been a honey tanned face, had Nathan not spent the majority of his life indoors. For someone who'd even nabbed a part time job that kept him glued to a computer, he seemed completely capable of handling himself in the outside world too.
“Not far, now.”
Entering the park that sprawled along the river's edge, she saw a group of druggies collected in a huddle, hoodies covering worn down faces in shadows. From a small phone and speaker, rap music was blasting the same abusive culture across the recently mowed grass, making her feel nervous in the nibbling February chill.
As they passed, no one looked up, despite their too intense glares that darted to spot any wondering police officers. Nathan seemed to have hardly registered them back, long fingers tapping the back of Ceris’ pale hand. Guiding her with long strides, she was walking quickly uphill and he abruptly plonked himself down on the bench at the top, the rest of the park folding out below them. Slowly Ceris sat beside him and, in the most unladylike way possible, spread her legs and slumped against the painted wood, dirt clotted Nike trainers leading up to mud splattered dark blue jeans.
For a little while they sat in silence, looking down at the children climbing all over a blue set of swings and slides and seesaws. After a minute, Nathan edged politely closer and wrapped his arm around her shoulders, tugging her gently until she turned towards him and nestled her forehead against the crook of his neck. A soft, warm feeling seemed to ebb from him and Ceris tucked up her arms to place them on his chest and press a little closer. Her head slipped down a little to his chest and he propped his chin on top. Through a grey shirt and army style jacket, she felt Nathan's breath catch and his chest was rising and falling faster. A soft sigh escaped him and he turned himself towards her as well, forcing a copying sigh from her still half breathless lungs that were recovering from the walk. He pulled back slightly but his arms held her from doing the same. She caught a glint from his wide, deep, black eyes and saw his lids hung low, his head was also drooping when he shut his eyes completely and his mouth collided with hers.
For a confused moment it was a strange clash of lips and messed up motions. She wondered if, like her, he just had no idea of what people kissing was supposed to be like and if his suave confidence was really just for show. In the next moment they broke apart and stared at each other, before he leant forwards and tried again. This time, Ceris thought he took the lead so she shut her eyes and eventually decided to try to copy him. It still felt like a collision but this one felt as if all the desperation of crushing on him was being chipped away, a dizzying sweet softness filling the cracks behind.
“So does this count as going out?” She asked, moving her mouth just centimetres away from his, their foreheads touching.
“Definitely,” Nathan replied, grinning his sharp lopsided smirk at her and leaning away until they were cuddling again.
“You know next time, maybe we shouldn't do that in public,” Ceris said teasingly.
“And why not? Although I really like the idea of next time.” He replied, his arms squeezing tight around her as she laughed.
“Because, if a little old lady saw two horny teenagers making out on the bench she wanted to sit on, she might have a heart attack.”
“Horny teenagers? Well if you were...” He replied, planting a kiss on top of her head and smirking again as she hit him lightly on the stomach.
“Shut up, Nathan Ford.”
“Yes ma'am,” he replied smartly, and then they were kissing again.
“So have you had any girlfriend's before me?” She asked curiously, the title applying to her felt strange in her mouth.
“I don't think so. That's not as bad as it sounds, by the way. I fancied someone, she fancied me back but we didn't actually go out and it was in primary school.”
“The world where nothing counts once you reach secondary school,” Ceris grinned, “I went to a little Welsh school before we moved to England but no boyfriends then either.”
“I really couldn't have guessed that Welsh bit from your accent,” he replied sarcastically.
The bus lumbered around a corner at the top of the road and Nathan quickly hugged her before it stopped against the edge of the pavement. “Later, Welshie.”
“Alright, see you,” Ceris replied smiling and stepping on to the waiting double decker.
Climbing to the top deck, she saw Nathan turn and head home, as the bus pulled out he looked back and for less than a second their eyes caught. When he was out of sight, Ceris sank deeper into the seat and grinned, her arms hugging her as she made a tiny squee-like noise in excitement. The day had been beyond perfect she decided and as the bus squeezed through the city traffic, Ceris couldn't stop smiling.
Chapter 3, 1/5/15
Detaching from situations was too easy for Ceris but it definitely could come in handy. For example, as she sat bored to death in her Geography lesson, counting the minutes before she could go home, she started returning to the daydreams that had started to follow her.
“Ceris, what process causes what I was just talking about?” The teacher asked, noticing she was no longer listening and pointing towards part of a poorly drawn diagram of a cliff on the whiteboard.
“Hydraulic action,” Solomon muttered instantly.
“Um, hydraulic action?” Ceris replied after squinting at the board and pausing, the show of authenticity. She dropped her voice and murmured “thanks,” once the teacher had turned to pick on some other unlucky student.
“No problem,” he smiled at his paper, the expression for her but hidden from the teacher.
“How come you were listening this time, anyway?” She asked, he had an impressive habit of getting in trouble for the opposite.
“I know what I'm missing and choose not to do it,” he said contemplatively.
“No, you don't, you never listen."
“Ok, luck then,” Solomon admitted with a shrug. He picked up her pen from the desk and waved it at her, “the trick to not listening, is looking like you are.” He handed it to her and dipped his head down at a perfectly elegant and attentive angle, his own pen held softly just above the book. Ceris looked in front of her, the cleverest students were writing notes and yet Solomon looked even smarter, without the sagging tired shoulders or face rippled with lines of concentration. She tried to copy him, it didn't feel real but maybe with practice she'd look less like the stereotypical air-headed art fanatic people thought she was. That at least would be a start.
“Ok so you don't listen, or actually take notes, but still get decent grades in exams?” She questioned, wondering how much revision the guy had to do.
“I copy smarter people's work then too but you wouldn't do that, right?”
“No way, I almost thought you were smart, but you really have no morals.”
“Eh, what good are they?” He replied laughing, Ceris laughed back. She wasn't sure he was joking. From the back of the class, she turned and watched Nathan. He was also taking notes, he didn't look it she thought but he was one of the smartest when it came to geography, just as much as computing. It reminded Ceris of Anna's A-star cleverness for everything. Like the other academics their shoulders bowed and tensed, hands going through their hair roughly. Solomon was much more neat, when he started doodling on his book, his long black coffee fingers curled and stretched smoothly, showing flashes of pale palms. Nathan, when he wasn't working, drew in sketches and blocking shapes, although he was definitely better at it than the random mess unraveling on Solomon's notebook.
“Ceris, stop staring at Solomon. I know it's amazing to you that someone can concentrate on their work and take notes but you can flirt outside class.” The teacher stood at the front of the class. The front half of it laughed and a hot poker of embarrassment was plunged into her chest. She almost yelped as her porcelain pale skin burned red with blood. She looked at Nathan, who'd rotated in his seat, scared and half guilty that she'd been caught talking to Solomon when hardly anyone even knew about them dating. He looked at her steadily, not angry but as if thinking. Before he turned back around he gave her a calm half smile and she tried to relax. Solomon was grinning mockingly to his notebook though and Ceris attempted to ignore him before rang, taking real notes for once with no problems at concentrating.
Nathan stood outside the classroom waiting for her, in the florescent lighting of the corridor his hair glinted with copper. “You ok?” He asked.
“After ritual embarrassment, not so much…” She grinned wryly.
“Aw, poor, delicate, little, Care Bear.” He drawled, “I didn't know you liked guys like Solomon.”
“I don't,” Ceris shouted, appalled, “I'm not a cheater!”
“Wow, alright, I didn't mean it like that,” he covered as he put his arm in the usual spot, circling her waist. “I thought you thought he was a dick.”
“He is but at least he's funny about it. Unlike a certain geography teacher,” she grumbled under her breath.
“You know I don't think you're a cheater, that's one thing I'm not going to let you do.”
“You're definitely allowed to stop me,” she agreed.
“You don't think you ever will?”
“Do you?” Ceris said sharply.
“Just wondering. And no, I don't think so.” He tugged her close.
Anna had already left to find Seth, who would be waiting for her to find him when he came out of his maths class - they stood cuddling when Nathan and Ceris arrived at the usual patch of grass just off the playground. Though they didn't seem exactly happy, at least she hadn't been told about any more bad stuff happening. Anna looked up then and dashed over to her, grabbing her arm to walk off with a quick, “She's mine, now!” directed towards Nathan.
“What do you want then?” Ceris said with mock weariness.
“Guess who got an A-star in the geography test last lesson?” She beamed.
“You? But he didn't give us our results…”
“I asked at the start of class. He said he couldn't tell me but that someone who sat in my place was only one mark off a hundred percent.” Anna recited and Ceris felt her jaw drop.
“That's awesome! I don't think I want to know what I got. “
“He also told me that no one failed so you'll be fine.” Anna added, “you're not that bad at stuff that isn't art, you know.”
“Nothing compared to you and Nathan though, is it?”
Anna paused, there wasn't really any denying that as usual, then said, “It was really horrible for Mr Martin to call you out in there though. I would've hated that.”
“Yeah, I was so embarrassed. I think he hates me because in the first few lessons I forgot to do a homework for him - I've done all the rest though.”
“Ok, well anyway was Nathan mad at you?” Anna asked cautiously.
“You know, looking like you were flirting with Solomon. “
“No, of course not,” Ceris replied, though a worried tremble fluttered in her chest, “it wasn't as if I actually was.”
“Oh ok, good, I was worrying about you guys. I'd get mad if Seth did it, I think. He would for me too.”
A chill raised the hairs on Ceris’ arms, “I wouldn't. Nathan's not a cheater.” She changed the topic, “So how are you and Seth?”
“We're great, much better than when that little thing happened.”
“Awesome," she tried to convince herself, that little thing, "has any other stuff happened with you guys?”
“Not really, but we do that a lot more now,” Anna winked.
“Ew,” Ceris said, “I haven't done anything with Nathan.”
“Are you sure you're not asexual?” Anna asked, “Where you don't get attracted to anyone ever, like, never feel turned on.”
Ceris stopped dead, it hadn't occurred to her she wasn't anything but straight. In the pause, she sifted through her memories, searching for the feeling. She wasn't sure but replied, “no, I don't think so, we're just ok with going slow.”
“All right, are you sure he is ok with it?”
“Yes.” Ceris replied pointedly, “There's no problems for us.”
“Home, sweet home,” Nathan said. Ceris had never been to his house before and as he unlocked the door and bowed sarcastically to let her past, she decided it wouldn't be as weird as she'd thought.
“Thanks, uh, where do I put my shoes?” She asked, guessing they didn't go about in shoes.
“Over here,” he added with a grin, “my dear. Look, it rhymes.”
“That's terrible,” she replied but couldn't help laughing as she shoved at his shoulder. He shoved her back but caught her in a quick hug before she could trip. “So what now?” Ceris said after tugging off her shoes.
“Guests don't know what people do in other houses,” she replied, “and I'll be fine with whatever you want.”
“Ok then,” he said, leading them upstairs.
Nothing, she saw, was blue in Nathan's room. A typical, guy-like gaming mouse was hooked up to a large laptop but other than that the room was clean and subtle with oranges, cream and white. His white bedsheets had a fire graphic at the bottom, heating up the room more than the broken radiator.
“Nice,” she said, unsure whether to sit on the bed or keep standing as he landed on the desk swivel chair. Looking up he seemed to notice her awkwardness and pushed himself up to standing and wrapped her up in his arms.
“What now?” She asked again.
“Let me show you this anime?” He said, pulling away with a confident smile.
“What's it about?”
“It's cool but I warn you now, the tits are huge despite how bad-ass most of the girls are.”
Ceris rolled her eyes, joking, “Which of those are the attraction?”
“Well I like you. Definitely the bad-ass side.”
“You mean I have no tits?”
“Maybe, I'm unsure,” he leant down and kissed her gently.
“Well that's just avoiding the fact you're being rude,” she muttered.
“Is it working?”
For a little while they kissed quietly, eventually wrapping up in the covers of Nathan's bed and cuddling. As he pulled away Ceris tried to catch his lips again, his voice muffled and unsure, “I could check if you do have tits?”
“I'm alright, thanks,” she replied lightly, though a feeling gripped her suddenly. Her blood drained from her face and the smile from their kissing slipped down to… Disgust.
He pulled back and considered her and she tried to fix her expression, going for something shy with half a grin. Her muscles seemed not to respond properly and jerked in her attempt to control them. He grinned then and hugged her tight, “Always the sensible one.”
“So much for watching anime, though,” she answered.
Care bear: so what are you up to?
Ford Fiat: busy sorry
Care bear: you're going then?
Ford Fiat: yep
Care bear: see you then xx
Ceris found it very easy to get annoyed with Nathan when he text her. After he hadn't replied, Ceris was certain he was annoyed - mostly, Nathan was twice as soppy as her and she started wondering what was wrong.
Maybe it was because I didn't let him do that thing earlier… She couldn't help thinking, the idea making her stomach lurch painfully. Or what Anna said about cheating with Solomon, she swatted the thoughts away quickly though. Either way he shouldn't be angry with her and he did seem alright about both when they happened. She could probably ask him later anyway.
The more pressing thing was her reaction to Nathan when he was talking to her in the bed. Romantic slop had never been a problem with her: cheesy pick-up lines were less cringe-making and more endearing to her. Making out with Nathan sometimes reminded her of times she had been bullied - her senses had sharpened and there was a feeling of living to the edges of her being - all the life, and instead of the worst, the best times of her existence.
When it came to sexual anything though, she felt like a squeamish kid.
Anna had tamped down the wildest spikes of Ceris’ inexplicable emotions when her and Seth had started messing about but all of a sudden they were back. In the bed she was comfortable sitting on his lap or with him almost lying on top of her but her face contorted with disgust when he had felt like touching her.
Was she asexual? She hadn't really considered it earlier before answering Anna during break but she was certain before fancying Nathan she had felt it. So why not Nathan? She had no idea and she felt guilty, the one guy she liked that had liked her back was stuck with her sudden, stupid, fear. Maybe she wasn't ready yet, that was the way Anna had put it with Seth, although she worried then that she might never be. Her head span until she felt sick under her skin - if something were wrong with her, or if Nathan would leave her for it, or if she might have to let him do that to defeat whatever problem was inside her head - she felt trapped, waiting it out like a fever.