It was hard work being infatuated with something like her, a woman who Gilbert was sure was raised by wolves, not humans. Her hardened heart, broken many times over the years caused her to close that part of her and she was determined never to love again, much to Gilbert’s despair. She could tolerate friends, but not a lover. Gilbert was resolute to let her open her mind, to make her see the beautiful things in life and to make them a part of her.
Gilbert glanced down at the voice, meeting large, jade spheres. Her long, russet locks, decorated with a cerise bloom, fanned about her head in the grass, which to Gilbert made her look like an angel. Her mouth was curved upwards in a smile as she gazed at him, showing pearly teeth. In her slender hands she held a crown of dandelions and she beckoned him to bend down with a finger.
‘Come here,’ she said, giggling at the confused expression on his face. ‘I want to tell you something.’
His hearing perked up and he sank onto an elbow until he was at level with her face. ‘What is it, Elizabeta?’
‘Nothing!’ she exclaimed, quickly placing the flower tiara upon his frosty tresses. It took Gilbert a moment to realise what had happened but by then, Elizabeta had slipped away, searching the elongated blades of emerald for more yellow buds, her bright green dress flapping around her ankles.
He watched her, smiling inwardly. She caught him looking and waved a hand. ‘Hey, Gil! Help me look!’
‘But that takes effort,’ Gilbert grumbled loudly, getting slowly to his feet. He laughed at the irritated look she sent him as he walked over to her. She shook her head but a small grin played at the corners of her lips.
‘So are you,’ he retorted, swinging an arm around her shoulders and giving them a squeeze. ‘But I love you anyway.’
Elizabeta rolled her eyes, pushing him playfully away. ‘I love you too, you idiot.’
Gilbert’s heart soared at that but then it came plummeting back down. He knew she only loved him as a friend, a brother even, but nothing more. If only she knew how much she means to me, Gilbert thought sadly, fingering the piece upon his bonce delicately. He took it off and put it in Elizabeta’s hair.
‘What are you doing?’ she asked, a hand going to her head.
Gilbert slapped it away gently. ‘Nein, leave it there. It suits you better!’
‘I made it for you, though,’ she mumbled, kneeling down and picking out more dandelions. ‘I think it goes well with your colour hair.’
He flushed, distracting himself with plucking flowers in his area of the grass. Why does she have this effect on me? This is so not awesome of me, he thought, twirling a stem between his fingertips.
Suddenly, he felt himself being pulled backwards and his nape met something soft. Scarlett eyes going wide, he fathomed that Elizabeta had settled him in her lap.
‘Stay there,’ Elizabeta commanded lightly, setting a pile of the golden blossoms on his torso. Gilbert could only stare at the woman in surprise as she slid a nail into the bottom of a stalk, threading another through the gap she made.
He couldn’t remember the last time she did something like this to any one, let alone him. She had been reserved since that night, hardly showing affection to any living soul. Gilbert didn’t say a word, just merely relished her warmth and comfort.
His orbs trailed over her features, studying them: a face framed with sharp cheekbones, fine jawline and round chin, eyes bordered with black, curled lashes, a straight, dainty nose and lips a subtle pink. A few strands of hair danced in front of him, gleaming in the sunlight.
‘What’s wrong, Gilbert?’ Elizabeta queried, worry embedded in her tone. ‘You’re quiet. You’re never quiet.’
‘Just thinking, Liz-Biz,’ he replied, using the pet name he made for her. He heard her tsk and he let out a chuckle. ‘What? It’s a cute name!’
‘You make me sound like I’m a bee,’ she countered, glaring down at him. ‘Do I look like a bee?’
‘Nein, but it’s a cute name,’ he told her, poking her cheek. ‘And you’re cute!’
She smacked his prodding limb, blushing, which made Gilbert smirk. ‘Shut up. I’m not cute,’ she argued, her brow furrowed.
‘Ja, you are,’ he sang, seizing a lock of her hair and bringing it to his mouth. He put it between his nose and top lip and waggled his eyebrows at her. ‘Moustache.’
Elizabeta snorted, then threw her head back and roared with laughter. Gilbert loved her laugh. It brought happiness in the ambience and it tinkled like an angel’s breath. It caused his beating organ to skip a beat every time he heard it and the corners of his eyes to crinkle in a smile.
‘You are such a dork,’ Elizabeta clucked, brushing his bangs away from his forehead before positioning the newly-created wreath upon his head. ‘There. That’s better.’
‘Do I look awesome?’ Gilbert crowed, hopping to his feet. ‘More awesome than usual?’
‘Yes, oh mighty King of the Dandelions,’ Elizabeta chanted, her irises alight with amusement. Gilbert struck a heroic pose but it didn’t last long as a gust of wind blew his tie into his face. He heard Elizabeta chortle as he moved it away and he gave her a blank expression.
‘Well, don’t just sit there,’ he reprimanded, holding out his hand. ‘Come, let me show you the world, my Dandelion Queen.’
‘Why, thank you, my liege,’ she gushed, taking his hand and getting pulled to her feet. ‘Where to first?’
‘This way!’ Gilbert shouted, dragging Elizabeta off in a random direction. He peeped back at her and beamed, his crimson spheres glinting with adventure and she returned the gesture with a devious grin.
They spent the rest of the day running around the field, acting like little children and Gilbert’s infatuation with Elizabeta had turned into pure love by the end of the day.
‘Mein Gott, it’s hot,’ Gilbert complained, pushing his dark sunglasses back up his slippery nose.
‘Be glad we’re not in Australia, then,’ Elizabeta muttered, slapping sunscreen onto her arms and legs. ‘Now there was a hot country, if there ever was one.’
‘I still can’t believe you didn’t tell me you went until you got back,’ Gilbert rumbled, peering over his shades at her. ‘I was worrying about you for weeks!’
‘You know, Gilbert, you’re like a puppy,’ Elizabeta told him, smiling hugely. He scoffed, crossing his skinny limbs across his bare chest. She giggled at his childish behaviour.
It was a hot summer day, and the sun was taking its toll on every one, and due to this, the beaches were packed with people, Gilbert and Elizabeta amongst them. If there was one thing that Gilbert hated, it was heat and with his pale complexion, the beach wasn’t the most ideal place for him to be, no matter how badly he needed to cool down. But Elizabeta had begged him to go with her, promising a great day out.
The things I do for that girl, he mused, watching her rub in the cream on her skin. He had to admit, she looked sexy in her black one piece: it hugged her curves and showed just the right amount of cleavage.
‘Put those eyes back in that skull of yours, Beilschmidt,’ Elizabeta warned, glowering at him. He put his hands up in a surrender, smirking at her defensive stature.
‘Alright, I’m sorry for staring at a pretty woman,’ he murmured, resisting the urge to grin at her flustered state.
‘M-Make yourself useful,’ she stammered, holding out the bottle of sunscreen. ‘Can you do my back?’
‘Yes, ma’am,’ he said, ducking as Elizabeta attempted to hit him. He snickered, squeezing some of the white liquid out into his palm. ‘Turn around, Liz-Biz.’
‘Please, stop calling me that,’ Elizabeta grumbled, spinning around in the yellow grain, facing the other way. Gilbert chuckled, about to say a snarky remark when his voice died in his throat.
Why didn’t she tell me she had a backless swimsuit? He panicked, struggling to not ogle at her bare back. She was exposed from her shoulders down to the small of her back, where the shape of the costume curved into a point just above her hipbones. Gilbert spread the cream all over, his cheeks very warm, and not because of the sun.
He tried to keep his hands under control as he rubbed in the lotion; they trembled slightly as he went lower and lower. Her flesh felt smooth underneath his calloused palms and plenty of naughty scenarios played in his mind. No! Bad Gilbert! That is unawesome of you!
Wiping the excess fluid onto his own skin, he stuttered, ‘You’re ready to go, frau.’
‘Thank you, Gilberry,’ Elizabeta prattled, pecking his crimson cheek, digging around in her bag for her hat.
‘G-Gilberry?’ he spluttered, the spot where she kissed him tingling. ‘Where did that come from?’
‘It’s payback,’ she replied matter-of-factly, tucking her plait into her large, straw sunhat. ‘For calling me Liz-Biz.’
Gilbert narrowed his eyes at her behind the lens when an idea came him. He waited until Elizabeta had turned away before scrambling to his feet. Sliding his arm under her knees, she let out a squeal as he picked her up. Laughing manically, he ran down the sand and jumped into the water with Elizabeta still in his hold. The sea was cold but pleasant on their hot bodies.
He let go of her under the water and reappeared from beneath the blue world. Realising that he lost his sunglasses, he looked around the ocean-floor, patting his foot in case they were nearby. He found them when his toe knocked against them and he retrieved them, putting them back on after shaking the water out of them.
Suddenly, a wave of spray splashed his face and he turned to the source: an angry, sopping wet woman with a long braid of brown hair and a black swimsuit.
‘GILBERT!’ Elizabeta yelled, clutching her sodden hat. ‘What was that for, you twat?’
‘To loosen you up,’ Gilbert told her simply, shrugging. ‘You’re too uptight. It’s unawesome of you.’
She glared at him for several moments, her hands in fists and on her hips. He blinked innocently at her, his mouth curving upwards in one corner.
‘Oh, this is on,’ Elizabeta growled, scooping some of the ocean into her hat and chucking the item at Gilbert. He yelped as the hat hit him square in the face, sending him flying backwards into the water. Her triumphant laugh filled the air, however, it was short-lived at Gilbert splashed her in retaliation.
They raged on, continuously splattering each other with the sea, their war cries and raucous hoots and snorts piercing the atmosphere well until it was dark. It was then that Gilbert apprehended that Elizabeta would always, no matter what, be the one and only woman he loved.
Gilbert’s heart was in his throat. Fear coursed through him like a treacherous high tide, engulfing him and clouding his senses. He banged on the door to Elizabeta’s apartment with urgency, his silver hair matted to his forehead and his cherry eyes round in horror.
There was no answer and Gilbert was ready to sob. The message he had received from her earlier was imprinted in his mind, branded in his vision: It’s over.
Why didn’t I see it sooner? He scolded himself, running his hands through his drenched hair. If only I stopped it before it happened… I should have seen it!
‘Lizzy! Open the door, bitte!’ he called, his crown rested on the egress, his palms flat against the wood. ‘Please… you don’t have to do this!’
‘How do you know?’
Gilbert paused, relief washing over him. She’s still here, he told himself, breathing in deeply. She hasn’t done anything stupid.
It had been a month since that day at the beach and in the meantime, Elizabeta had found herself a new man. Gilbert had known that her most recent boyfriend was trouble and that he was going to do what the others did to her in the past. He hated himself for not realising sooner and for not saving Elizabeta while he still could. Guilt flowed in his veins, along with sympathy and anger.
‘I know because that arschloch doesn’t deserve you and you certainly don’t deserve him,’ he replied, fighting to keep his voice steady. ‘Oh, Liz. Why do you keep choosing those who aren’t right for you?’
‘What would you know, idiot?’
The entrance to the residence burst open, revealing a tear-streaked, messy-haired Elizabeta standing in the archway, her irises darkened in fury. Gilbert took a step back, terrified and unsure of what to do. In her sorrowed state, Gilbert was surprised at the vigour she had in her when she launched herself on him, beating him wherever she could.
‘How the hell do you know how I feel?’ she shouted, her arms flying at Gilbert’s torso. ‘How do you know what I’m going through? Who are you to know who’s right for me? How do you…’
She stopped abruptly, breathing heavily and her stature limp. Gilbert said nothing, just merely looked worriedly down at her, slowly wrapping his limbs around her. Elizabeta broke, weeping quietly into Gilbert’s shirt, her sniffles muffled through the material. Gilbert led her back inside, shutting the door with his foot. He held her as she cried, whispering soothing words and rubbing circles on her back.
‘I’m sorry…’ she muttered, gazing up at him imploringly with shimmering pools of green.
He shook his head, tucking a lock of russet behind her ear. ‘Don’t be,’ he told her, pressing a soft kiss to her temple. ‘It’s not your fault.’
Returning Elizabeta into his embrace, Gilbert scanned her apartment, the dining room table catching his attention. Upon it were bundles of rosemary, tied together to form chariots. It was a habit of Elizabeta’s that whenever she was upset, she built random objects with whatever she could find. It seemed that the herbs in her cupboard were what she had left.
Gilbert hummed to show that he was listening, still hugging Elizabeta’s shivering figure. The scent of her shampoo wafted past his nostrils, the sweet smell causing memories to burst into colour.
‘Why do I keep choosing the wrong guys,’ she said, locking her wrists around Gilbert’s neck, ‘when I have you?’
He froze, unable to think straight. Did she say what I think she just said?
‘You’re always there for me,’ Elizabeta continued, and Gilbert could feel her fingers playing with the little wisps of hair at his nape. ‘You treat me with kindness, and even though you’re an idiot, you somehow manage to make me laugh.’
All that Gilbert was able to do was to stare at Elizabeta with his orbs as big as dinner plates. He didn’t want to believe what he was hearing in case it was a hallucination, but a part of him was driving him to consider it being true.
‘To be honest, Gilbert, I would be lost if it weren’t for you,’ Elizabeta resumed, threading her digits through the platinum strands on Gilbert’s head, who purred with satisfaction at the touch. ‘You’re my best friend and I… well, I thought that’s what we’ll always be. That’s why I went out with those guys: to try and forget that you and I were never going to be together. I’m so stupid, aren’t I?’
If she was expecting an answer, she didn’t get one for Gilbert, in the spur of the moment, crashed his lips onto hers. Almost instantly, she kissed him back and Gilbert’s stomach began doing flips. Her lips were warm, velvety and heavenly – it was better than he had ever imagined.
His hands rested on her hips and the back of her head as he tilted to the side to deepen the exchange, sparks exploding at their connected mouths. Elizabeta’s palms slid down his chest as they parted, her lids hooded with love swirling in her irises.
It was a sight Gilbert vowed to never forget. Too long had it been since he had seen her so full of life, so radiant with affection, so happy with being in love. He felt accomplished in terms of making her see the beauty of love and he had finally gotten the woman of his dreams.
‘Is this your way of telling me that you love me?’ she joshed, a cheeky grin playing at her features.
Gilbert looked at her seriously, nodding. ‘Ja, because you are – how do you Hungarians say it? – my awesome kedvesem.’
Elizabeta flushed and a victorious feeling bubbled in the pit of Gilbert’s being. It was rare to see Elizabeta embarrassed and flustered but whenever it happened, Gilbert couldn’t help but feel jubilant, especially if he caused it. He received a light punch in the shoulder and another passionate kiss.
‘You’re an idiot.’
‘But I’m your awesome idiot,’ Gilbert rebutted, rubbing his nose against hers. She chuckled, the corners of her eyes crinkled in a smile.
‘Yes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.’