I came around to your house early and held you while you said you were scared of playing host.
You came into my life like a whirlwind, upsetting what I knew and accepted. Cute, funny, smart, with that hint of out of my league combined with a flirtiness that caught me. Your admission that you were all but head-over-heels for me was like a shot from the blue. We were polar opposites - you, 22, away from home, had experienced some of the worst the world had to offer. Sure of yourself in public to hide a shy, nervous soul. Me, sweet nineteen and never been kissed, a ultra virgin, nervous in company and yet strangely sure of myself.
It took time to get used to having a girl pressed against me. I uneasily looked around your room, made an excuse, we broke apart and I showed you music - Mew and M83, indier than thou rock from Europe. Never popular here.
Afterwards we sat in your room, holding hands like fourteen-year-olds. You expected me to kiss you, I didn't know what to do. I left with a strange feeling in my stomach. It was like this was some kind of dream.
You couldn't wait until the weekend to see me, so we met in town. I arrived early and stared out at all the people. You were late and sorry. I didn't mind.
We ate at the Hare Krishna restaurant and browsed through second-hand book stores. We climbed the stairs to the deserted second floor on the excuse that we were looking for New Zealand history. We held each other close as we looked at books on Nelson during the colonial period. You kissed me on the cheek, chaste, like you didn't want to break me.
We went back to your place and watched movies on your bed. I remember your hands, untucking my shirt and running up against my skin, cool and smooth. "I'm such a lesbian," you said, grinning as you rubbed my chest. I smiled. "I always get the weird ones," I replied.
Afterwards I gave you more music, Delerium and Chicane. "Some people force their religion on others," I joked. "That's what I have music for."
You tried to get me to kiss you, but I couldn't relax. "It's all new to me," I said. "It's OK," you replied. "I'm willing to wait. I understand it's new to you. We can take this at whatever pace you like." It was then I realised how much I meant to you.
A movie was all the excuse I needed to go around to your house on Sunday. We didn't even bother with the pretense of going anywhere first. I took the Princess Bride and, for my musical offering, Sigur Rós.
We lay on your bed and watched movies again. I learnt how to kiss. You were a wonderful teacher, willing and patient and rewarding and appreciative. I wondered what you saw in me. By the end of the day we'd done more than just kiss.
We lay there afterwards, nestled against each other. "It's like a dream," I said. "I finally get the girl." You grinned and moved closer to me.
We walked to the bus stop arm in arm. We talked of everything. Whatever I said, you seemed to find it enthralling for funny or profound. We kissed goodbye when the bus came, and as I watched the streetlights go by I realised I had become the boyfriend figure I hated so much as a single guy. Any resentment was driven out by the memory of the feel of your body against mine.
It was almost becoming routine, now, seeing you. I took the bus and wandered past elaborate houses with gates and gardens and tennis courts to get to your flat. There was even less pretense for us to lie together in your bed. I still brought music - Röyksopp and Pet Shop Boys. You still accepted it. It was like tradition.
Afterwards, we lay there, in each others' arms again. "I could get used to this," I said. You grinned. You were less nervous about playing host again. I was looking forward to the evening. Until you decided to tell me.
I think some part of me was always waiting for the other shoe to drop. But I didn't expect this. It seemed unreasonable for someone in a wonderful relationship to suddenly feel an irrational fear of her lover's touch - but I understood. I knew you had been through some bad relationships in the past - I had seen it as my job to show you that we weren't all like that.
I remember crying for you, as you lay in my arms. "Freaking out", you called it, as if it was just stage fright or nerves. "I don't know when it will happen, or why." You looked into my eyes. "I think it might be starting now."
My mother never liked me walking to the bus stop at night. That night she came to pick me up early, and we were cut short of any intimacy. The whole ride home your words were on my mind. I prayed to God to give us as much time as possible.
I spent all of Wednesday worrying. You had told me not to but it didn't stop me. Thursday, however, felt better. I bussed into town and bought some chocolate as a gift, a horribly clichéd present for you. A homeless guy asked for money for the bus - I gave him a dollar, figuring I needed all the karma I could get. I met an old friend, and we talked. All this before I even saw you.
We went to the mall, shopping for stuff you and your flatmates needed. For someone who said she froze up around people, you did remarkably well. We went everywhere, posted parcels, bought shoe polish and lip gloss and film and pens. We had dinner there and discussed restaurants in Auckland.
On the way home everything hit you and at times it seemed like I was the only thing keeping you up. But you kept smiling. We go home with an hour to spare, but you didn't feel like anything, so you checked your email while I massaged your shoulders.
"This is me freaking out."
At first the words didn't really sink in. Then the emotions came.
Disappointment. Ten days. Ten days with a wonderful girl, to be cut short now because of something that happened years ago.
Confusion. Surely I was different. We were moving slow! I couldn't have threatened you in any way, could I?
Anger. How could some guy I don't even know ruin our relationship by fucking you up like this?
Sadness. I just have to deal with it once. For you, this is how all relationships end.
We walked to university, no longer arm in arm. I talked of what I had hoped to do with you, of what we could still do. You smiled. We would still be friends. You insisted that I pursue the cute girl in my chemistry class I talked about. "Don't worry about me," you said, your head coming up to my shoulder. "I'm a big girl." You hated hurting people.
Then you talked of your failed relationships. Of when your boyfriend's friend had tried to kill you with a softball bat for taking the front passenger seat of the car. How that boyfriend didn't do anything to stop him. How that boyfriend later raped you. How you still lie awake at night wishing you had called the police instead of hiding it. And I hurt too, because when I wished that I could reach out and hold you, I knew that would just make you afraid. There was nothing I could do.
There was silence between us for a while.
"You're beautiful," I said.
"I hate it when people say that," you said. "Compliments on what I've done, yeah. But 'you're cute'? How could I help that? I can't do anything about the way I was born."
"No," I said. "I mean, you lived a horrible life. You drank and smoked and did drugs and got in abusive relationships and yet you were able to see what you'd become and pull yourself out of that and rebuild your life. And now you don't drink or smoke or anything and you have a job and you're getting a degree. A lot of people would have given up. That's what makes you beautiful."
You smiled and looked at the ground. "Thanks."
We parted in the car park with one last, nervous hug. And I tried to go away and live a normal life.
It still hadn't sunk in completely. I woke up and found myself alone in our house. The silence was oppressing, but when I checked my CDs I realised that I have shared too much, and every album had a little piece of you in it.