You never thought that you would ever have found yourself happiness. It was a foreign concept to you, not having grown up with much love or compassion as a child, or even during your schooling days. It was new, something to explore in depth, like a critical analysis of a text or poem.
But then you realised: this was your story, your poem, not something that someone else had written in their perspective. This was the aspect of your life that you had yet to understand fully, had yet to feel to the brim of your being.
You were afraid. Having not ever been in a positive relationship with anyone in your life, you were terrified you were going to screw things up. Wanting to be a part of something or part of someone’s life was the most important thing to you, and now that you had some form of happiness forming in you for the first time in your life, you never wanted to let go.
No—you couldn’t let go. You couldn’t let go of the little happiness you had obtained so far. You needed the warm, fuzzy feeling of being needed and loved. It was addicting, intoxicating. Is this what they call love? You didn’t know. But you were willing to find out.
However, who was the person, the happiness-giver who had popped up in your life?
Was it the familiar pair of children who never hesitated to smile at you in the street whenever you met? Was it the woman who had taught you everything you knew during high school and now starting to in university? Was it the girl who had taken you into her dormitory at the start of university without a moment’s hesitation? Or was it the boy whose kindness never wavered, whose eyes never ceased to twinkle, whose affection for you never faded?
It was all of them, you decided. Every one of them made you content and wanted in their own ways. Each of them had given you something to hope for, had given you the chance to build on your happiness and had given you the opportunity to be a part of their lives, however subtle your actions were to one another.
Over the years, you had learnt their names.
The children’s names were Sam and Susie O’Brien.
The woman’s name was Hanji Zoë.
The girl’s name was Sasha Braus.
While you saw and interacted with them on a somewhat daily basis, none of them made you happier than the boy who accepted you for who you were, not for what others perceived you as, who had instantly called you a friend and who had opened up a spot in his heart just for you to fill.
His name was Marco Bott.
And he was the one who made you afraid to stuff everything up.
This was due to the fact that you saw him the most and had grown closer to him than anyone else you knew. While you saw Sam and Susie, you only saw them on some occasions. While you saw and talked to Hanji, you only did so whenever you had her lectures. While you interacted and lived with Sasha, you didn’t really know how to cooperate with her as well as you did with Marco.
Maybe one day I’ll be closer to them all.
Although you had known Marco for just over a year, something in you, an alien feeling that you had labelled “unknown wriggles” for the time being, had overtaken your body, your mind, your very essence. It overwhelmed you to no end, caused your stomach to do multiple, odd flips and it made your brain ache—and it was happening to you again right at that moment.
Marco had invited you to join him in a period of study outside on the campus grounds, away from prying eyes and noisy, smelly weirdos. The pair of you were seated underneath a huge, billowing willow, shielded from sight and the whistling wind by its ducking arms of jade. Encased by its shade, Marco and you were surrounded by several textbooks and notes, their edges anchored down by rocks you had found around the area.
Laying on your stomach, you were attempting to decipher your atrocious shorthand that was your Chemistry lecture notes, your eyebrows furrowed in deep concentration and your eyes narrowed. Dappled spots decorated the papers, their white patches illuminating the scribbles and symbols. Finally being able to make out one word, you scoffed in annoyance: it was a word you didn’t know how to spell properly and had absolutely no idea of the meaning. Searching for your dictionary amidst all the course books and flapping pages, you repressed a groan as you realised that you had left it in your dormitory.
Maybe Marco knows what it means!
Craning your neck in the direction of the boy, your mouth open and the question dancing on your tongue, you paused and then let out a giggle. Leaning against the sturdy, robust trunk, his jaw slack and agape, Marco’s orbs were shut, his figure relaxed and at ease. His novel lay in his lap face down, the aged, crinkled pages loved and used over the years. Chest rising and falling at an even pace, he appeared like the very façade of an angel fallen from heaven.
Discarding your previous thoughts about the mysterious, complex word, your attention was solely fixed on Marco. You were completely mesmerised. You had never really taken in the features of Marco, although you had certainly taken on the habit of calling him ‘Freckled Jesus,’ like his roommate—was Jean his name?—did on a daily basis.
Getting up from your comfortable position, you wriggled over to Marco, making your faces be merely inches apart from each other. At the close proximity, the “unknown wriggles” were doing jumping jacks in the pit of your belly. It made you uneasy… but, bizarrely, in a good way. You liked the intimate nearness, strangely enough.
Up close, to you, Marco looked beautiful. The speckled rays pranced across the scattered freckles lining his cheekbones and nose. His dark lashes fluttered in his slumber and you could imagine the irises coloured like melted chocolate witnessing something peaceful in his dozing. The ebony tresses that adorned his head glimmered in the sunlight and ruffled in the slight breeze. His lips were a delicate shade of rose and you suddenly longed for them to be stretched in a calming smile—the very smile that never seemed to leave his face when he was awake.
Against your better judgement, and normally sensible mindset, your fingers softly touched Marco’s cheek, the pads barely skimming the skin. Your rapidly beating heart rammed painfully against your ribs as if it were attempting to escape the confines of the emotion bubbling within.
What is this feeling I’m feeling? It’s weird… I like it, though.
Your reluctant resolve was slowly beginning to crumble and you felt bolder. The fact that Marco was asleep and in an entirely vulnerable state made you excited. You could say things you wouldn’t dare say to his face when he was awake and you could finally let your confusing—did they call it affection? Fondness?—whatever the sensation was go.
Cupping his cheek, you leant forwards towards his ear, but your sudden determination began to falter and your breath hitched considerably. Panic coursed through your veins and you wanted to turn around and flee with all your might. However, you were paralysed—you were utterly trapped and you didn’t know if you would ever be able to move again. It was as if you had fallen into a cage and the constricting iron bars were closing in around you.
Marco snorted in his sleep, his dark brows coming together like knitting needles. You didn’t dare move. Watching him, your heart leapt into your throat, beating away like someone had taken a tenderiser and pounded it harshly against a cut of steak, scaring you.
Only, if anything, this was not a situation where you had gotten spooked by a sudden bang of tenderising meat, for God’s sake. This was Marco Bott! The boy you really liked and admired—and the one you were currently, if creepily, staring at and touching.
Grudgingly, you removed your hand from his face and backtracked a few inches. You could feel a foreboding aura around you and a sparking feeling on your skin from where your palm had been moments beforehand. You could also feel your cheeks growing warm and your stomach doing somersaults like the maniac it was. Moaning in annoyance, you buried your head in your hands. Thoughts of various contents swirled in your mind like brainless fish hurrying about in a pond.
It was strange. There you were, freaking out over a tiny little thing—which was really just touching someone that you knew—and you still didn’t fully comprehend what you were experiencing. What was it exactly that you were feeling for Marco? What was he to you? A friend? An acquaintance? A crush? A lover, even?
Hell if you knew.
But you got your answer sooner than you thought.
With a squeak, Marco’s head suddenly jerked upright and his lids slid open, dazed and glazed over. He blinked owlishly, proceeding to glance down at his book whilst rubbing one of his eyes. He scowled at the state the paperback was left in, visibly fighting the yawn that passed his lips. Chucking in a bookmark and gently placing the novel on the grass next to him, Marco turned his head to you and his signature smile spread across his cheeks, pearly teeth showing through and the corners of his eyes crinkled.
Your face had never been redder.
He’s so cute. Like a princess.
‘Hey,’ he said, shifting his position against the tree. ‘How long have I been asleep for?’
Shrugging, you replied, ‘I’m not too sure. I was studying, then I turned around and found you sleeping.’ You grinned at him. ‘Did you sleep well, Sleeping Beauty?’
Marco spluttered at the question and you clutched your tummy as you chuckled at his expression. His freckles stood out against a dark scarlet and, completed with his mussed “bed-hair”, he looked like a little blushing schoolgirl.
‘I-I slept well, thanks…’ he mumbled, rubbing the back of his neck in embarrassment.
His mien caused you to rupture the atmosphere with a deep laugh that bubbled from the pits of your soul. Falling backwards, you began to flail around in the grass with tears of mirth rolling down your cheeks. You didn’t know why you found his mortified face so funny, but then again, you didn’t know a lot of things, starting with how you felt about Marco to what exactly you felt for Marco. It was beginning to turn into a nightmare for you, really.
But Marco seemed unfazed at your boisterous laughing fit. On the contrary, he cracked a sheepish grin.
‘Oi, stop it,’ he grumbled but you couldn’t take him seriously due to his smile. ‘(F/N), come on, stop it!’
‘It’s not my fault your face is priceless,’ you shot at him, sitting up and wiping your orbs, ‘and the fact that you can’t accept that you’re Sleeping Beauty.’
‘But I’m not Sleeping Beauty!’ he cried, pouting.
‘Yes you are,’ you sang, flopping onto Marco’s lap, staring up at the shining brown spheres that gazed down at you. He shook his head at you, grinning widely and picked up his book again.
‘Hush you. Don’t you have work to do?’ he asked, raising his eyebrows in query.
‘Yeah… but I’d rather be here,’ you told him.
He hummed in response and began reading again, just missing you grimacing at yourself.
A moment ago, you had been flustered and anxious about touching Marco and there you were lying in his lap, of all things. The “unknown wriggles” returned tenfold and you thought you were going to be sick.
Several minutes went by with you and Marco sitting in silence, with him reading his book and with you staring up at the cover with an intense look. His long, manly legs were warm beneath you and, for some reason, the warmth made you sleepy. Everything, along with Marco, was quiet, serene and quite frankly, perfect.
You found your lids slipping shut against your will. Knowing that you were going to lose the battle of remaining awake, you shuffled in your spot and wrapped your arms around Marco’s waist, your cheek nuzzling against his abdomen. The strong scent of lavender and a sweet smell that could only be described as “Marco” hit your nose.
Most would find the position you were in uncomfortable, but you found it more than satisfactory—especially since it was Marco you were currently snuggling up with.
What is happening to me?
‘Look who’s the Sleeping Beauty now, eh?’ you heard Marco’s smug tone from above you.
Cracking an eye open, you poked your tongue out at him. ‘Shut up.’
‘Me? Never,’ he joshed, ruffling your hair fondly. ‘Not while you’re with me, I won’t.’
Scoffing, you poked his stomach, causing a laugh to erupt from him.
‘Read your goddamn book,’ you grumbled. His reply was merely a snort of amusement.
You could feel sleep overtaking you and Marco’s warmth and invigorating aroma wasn’t doing you any favours. As the darkness enveloped you, you swore you felt a hand brushing the hair away from your face and a soft, gentle something pressing on your cheek, along with a murmured, ‘Sleep tight, love,’ in your ear.
Maybe I’ll find out what he means by ‘love’ when I wake up, you thought, your skin growing hot and your lips curving in a tiny beam.
The wriggles skipped and frolicked in your tummy, but you could feel them changing—changing into something bigger. And as the wriggles grew into something larger, your feelings blossomed into…
What was it called again?
That’s right. Love.
They blossomed into love.