He never thinks he has the capacity to love. After all, how would he, one who was raised without love, without ever witnessing what it was like to love and be loved, be confident that he is capable of such feeling?
He was born out of obligation. His mother married to the family in order to bear an heir. His father compensated her with a comfortable life, materially speaking. Took care of her family’s debts, but that was it. It was more of a symbiotic mutualism. Like a business transaction. That, he can understand.
“Be a good boy. Excel in your classes. Do what your father told you to,” is what his mother always say. “Don’t be a burden to me.”
He doesn’t know love.
* * *
“It will be three months in a week, Flynn,” the girl sitting across of him at the library breaks the serene silence between the. “Have your feelings changed?”
Hearing the mix of hopes and resignation in her voice, he looks up to find his bespectacled companion peers up at him from behind her book. He stares at her for a moment, but keeps quiet.
She lets out a breath, and returns her gaze into the page. “Well if not, as promised, we’ll end it.”
“I’m sorry,” he finally manages, “I still don’t know….”
Her eyes stay on the book, then, “It’s okay. Please take care of me for the remaining seven days.”
Her name is Jenna. She could be considered his rival in terms of academic achievement. While Flynn only tries to stay at the top of the class to satisfy his family—his father’s family, Jenna competes with him simply because she hates to lose. She hates to be number two.
Flynn always finds it rather amusing, how her normally composed demeanor would evaporate into thin air and then she would swear to better him at the next presentation. The next tests. The next semester.
So it really was rather a surprise, when one day, one year and a half of their acquaintance, she came up to him after school finished, when the classroom was emptying, and said, “I’m in love with you.”
He regarded the statement with a blank look. Stared some more at the lithe girl standing in front of him, gaze unwavering as she looked him in the eye, as If what she’d just uttered was not a love confession, but a challenge.
“You’re kidding,” he stated matter-of-factly. After all, aren’t people who are confessing supposed to be either very shy or—flirty and daring? And well. This is Jenna.
The girl let out an exasperated sigh. “I’m not,” she said, and he could see the subtle blush starting to show on her cheeks as she had to repeat, “I am in love with you, Flynn,”
Now, it wasn’t like Flynn had never dated before. He had his fair share of girls confessing and asking him out, and he had always answered them in the same manner.
The relationships never really lasted longer than two months. The whole school knew about this, and Flynn was sure Jenna was aware of this fact, so why? He ran his hand through his dark locks, a habit shown when he was thinking, hard, then asked, “Are you sure?”
“I wouldn’t be telling you this if I wasn’t.”
Of course. She was the type who would think things through before acting.
“Okay,” he took a deep breath and—repeating his practiced answer, he replied, “I don’t love you, but we can go out, if you wish.”
There was no pause when she nodded, a sign that she really was expecting this answer, which in turn, confused him. Why would she want to—
“Three months,” she suddenly said, “If by then you won’t come to love me, then we’ll end it.”
He blinked, looked at her serious, determined eyes, then, “Okay.”
Flynn never really looks forward to the impending doom of any of his relationships. He might not know love, but he knows to at least appreciate those who want to be with him—whether it is just for show or some kind of attraction. But somehow, he really wishes days wouldn’t go by so fast now.
Maybe because Jenna was the first to tell him she was in love with him.
He doesn’t know what love is, but he’s always felt something different in the way Jenna carries herself around him—in the way she looks at him, the softening of her voice when they discuss even the dumbest thing, how she places small, tentative touches over his arm or shoulder. The way she grips his shirt when he hugs her, or how her lips tremble slightly when they kiss.
And now that only four days are left, those flittering energy usually radiates from Jenna, now has an underlying sadness to it.
It saddens him, too.
“Thank you for walking me home,” she tells him with a small smile. Another day has ended. Their end is nearing.
He stops her with a hand over her shoulder as she’s about to turn around. He thinks he sees a glint of hope in those eyes, but it dies as soon as she blinks. “Dinner,” he blurts out, “Let’s go on Friday.”
Her lips form a smile, but her eyes don’t. “That would be a nice way to end it, thank you.”
Something shifts inside him, twisting in his chest and hitches his breath. He pulls her close then, wraps his arms around her and just—be.
And he realizes he doesn’t want to let go.
“I—don’t know what love is,” he murmurs against the top of her head. “But I want to be with you.”
She stiffens in his arms for a moment, then, “Are you sure?” she murmurs against his shirt.
Flynn tightens his arms around her. “Yes.”
She gently pulls away, looks up to his searching eyes, and says, “Okay.”