Love Story — Lori’s Version

“Kaularnè,” I said as I wrapped my arms around her and kissed my best friend in all creation hello. I didn’t even realise the slip of the tongue – my heart taking control of my words while my brain was preoccupied with what I was going to wear to the theatre Sal was there to take me to. I realised the word I’d spoken, not the usual ‘kautarsè’, at the same moment I realised my heart still had control of my mouth – this was a deeper and longer kiss than usual, and my greatest wish was for it never to end.

Three heartbeats, racing such that I felt faint, later and she’d stepped back smiling and held both my hands in her own. Maybe she didn’t hear, or doesn’t know the meaning, I thought with no conviction. Salandra speaks enough Xentoran and is familiar enough with our ways … and we’re best friends! Everything I say to her is as important and precious to her as her words are to me.

I closed my eyes and prayed to all cosmic powers that this would end well, end with her still smiling. Even if my heart were shattered, I wanted her happy. Two more fast heartbeats – had I really had all those thoughts so quickly?!

“Kaularnè?” she said. Something made me open my eyes and I saw her skin tinged blue in that adorable blush that I think tipped me over the edge to loving her completely instead of just as the best friend I could ever want. She took a deep breath while I tried to recall how to speak, “D-Do you really feel that way, Lori?”

I’d only just noticed her hands still held mine – tighter now and a little painful, she was nervous and forgetting her strength. She sought my eyes and all I could feel radiating from her was anxiety; nothing to reassure me about my next words, but I would never lie to her. Not to someone I can’t remember not knowing or loving.

“Yes,” I said softly, looking deep into the dark hypnotic pools of her eyes, “You’ve always been my dearest love, my seireau, you know that … but one day I realised I felt more. I wanted nothing more than to call you laeryí, my dearest lover, my soul,” I began to cry, “I haven’t said anything. All this time, I’ve just used those feelings to cement the depth of our friendship because I’ve never felt love from you other that the kind you feel for Sarah, or Claxxy. I couldn’t bear the thought of making you unhappy. You’re so sweet and sensitive I was afraid that if you know how I feel how I love you you’d be devastated, eaten up inside by the fact you don’t feel the same way. I could never do that, I’d die a thousand times in every horrible way before I’d see you hurt in any way – especially by anything I might do.”

I couldn’t let go of her hands. Her grip slackened in surprise, but she didn’t let go and my grip tightened in terror that if the contact ended so would we. I was crying harder, sobbing as well as running with tears. I loved this quirky, gentle, kind, curious, silly, brilliant, beautiful creature and now she knew it and now things would never be the same between us. I knew she loved me, I knew I was her best friend, she’d called me ‘seireau’ as often as by my name for years. I knew in my mind and I knew in my heart that wouldn’t change for this. That she would be flattered and amused and charmed and warmed by the affection, but I didn’t believe it. Even if I had, I knew it didn’t matter. Too sweet and too much in love with me it’d hurt her to not call me her laeryí, even if we married and lived together for the rest of our lives, she’d know I wanted to love her with more than my spirit and heart and she’d hate herself for not being able to let me.

All of this was pouring out in quiet sobs and silent tears. I was so lost in berating my own carelessness I didn’t feel the change in her emotions, nor did I see her step toward me with loving concern etched so deeply in her face and eyes it’s a wonder they ever went back to normal. I didn’t notice these things until she had brushed the river of tears on my cheek in a soft, tender caress like she’d done an hundred times in the past when I’d cried. I was looking at my hands both now holding her one and wondering how they’d got that way, and before panic at the loss of the touch of the second hand could set in, that hand raised my face to her own – close enough now that I couldn’t help but sink into her eyes – they were all I could see – and then I felt her breath on my lips, her own almost close enough to brush them.

“Kaularnè si à laeryí qashirè níå fathyro,” in barely a whisper so loud the sound echoed in my ears and nearly drowned out every other sound in the universe for the rest of my lifetimes before closing the last of the space between us in a lover’s kiss, our bodies as close in embrace as her clothing and the cruelty of physics would allow. It lasted through an infinity of eternities and for the span of twenty of my still racing heartbeats at one and the same time.

She held me in her lap like she so often had in the past, though it seemed closer, warmer, even more loving than at any other time in our lives. She hugged me close and said softly, “Darling, silly, Lorixa… I love you. You’re a damned fool at times and I love you the more for it since it keeps life interesting. I could never love you less or differently than you would have me love you. I would have gladly lived my life never more than your seireau, and I’m honoured and thrilled beyond words that you would call me laeryí. Love is when another’s happiness, hopes, dreams, and feelings are the most important things in all the universe. My love, if it would make you smile that I be yours – and if that meant you had to be mine as well then, darling, that is an offer I’d be the biggest idiot on the planet to refuse. Nothing could make me happier than to call you laeryí, and mean it with every fabric of my being; and by all my ancestors, I do.”

We kissed again and our embrace became limited only by the cruelty of physics and we missed the play and the next sunrise. Before we knew it it was midday and two beings have never felt such love and joy in all the history of emotion.

“Was it so bad?” Sal asked brushing a tear away with a kiss.

I smiled and laughed, then tenderly kissed her lips, “It was that wonderful.”

She smiled, blushed and snuggled into me and fell back to sleep. I just laid there thanking the creators and the spirits – I’d never been so glad to have been so wrong and wished only that my heart had taken control of my words sooner.