Over the next two years, Scripps has plenty of time to think about why he wasn’t friends with Posner before. The short answer is, of course, he hadn’t had a bloody clue who Posner was, but there’s something there that just makes him wonder.
Posner does wax poetic on his long-dead playwrights, but he’s self-aware enough to know it’s endearingly sad. He’s just caustic enough for him never to be called sweet. He has a dry sense of humour that verges more than a little on the self-deprecating, and a confident, dramatic streak that at times rivals Dakin’s.
Scripps finds himself easily adopted into Posner’s life and Posner’s friends- which generally seems to just consist of Akthar and another boy called Lockwood, though he seems more Akthar’s friend than Posner’s- and in between work and church and piano practice he finds himself floating away from Dakin, a bit.
It’s a little sad, but they’re growing up. It happens. Dakin goes in one direction with his people, and Scripps wanders off down his own path. Scripps goes down academics; Dakin goes down socialisation. They’re still friends, but they aren’t as close as they once were.
Despite Dakin (or maybe because of it) Scripps pushes the thought of Posner as his soulmate out of his head. He’s brilliant, and they’re friends, and he wouldn’t be so bad, but it’s just not right, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
And he doesn’t know what Posner’s words are.
It’s in the term when Scripps decides to be an idiot and stay for an extra four months at school when two major developments happen. The first is that Posner falls in love with Dakin. Which is fine, really.
It’s the open secret that they only address once, when Posner’s found the sheet music for another tragic love ballad that Scripps has to change the key for so that Posner can sing it. He reads the lyrics, and closes the book while Posner sits in a plastic chair by the side of the piano stool.
“Does he even fit?”
Posner looks shocked. “What do you mean?”
“Dakin. Does he even fit what it says?”
Posner’s hand drifts to his right shoulder, where Scripps guesses that his words must be written. “He could do. It’s not particularly specific.” He shrugs. “It’s not him anyway, though. It’s not what he said.”
Scripps stares at him. “So why bother?”
“The romanticism, maybe? To have the experience of being in love more than once?” He gives out a long sigh, full of pathos. “If you think about it, the whole idea’s kind of terrifying, isn’t it? Here’s the person who’s perfect for you, who’ll love you forever. No mistakes, no exceptions. Except there are- or else you wouldn’t have soulmates killing each other, or unrequited marks, or people without them at all.”
Scripps gawks. “You don’t believe in them?”
“It’s not a case of not believing. I just don’t think they’re infallible, that’s all. And vis-à-vis Dakin,” He smiles softly- “It’s non-committal. Safe. I can have the feeling of being in love before it means anything- I’m only young once. So, I’ll let myself enjoy it while it lasts.”
Scripps can’t think of anything profound to say to that, shocked at the genuine depth of self-analysis Posner has, while still being lanky and sandy-haired and more like a boy than the rest of them. In the end, without anything intelligent to add, he just jokes, “Byron would be proud.”
Posner grimaces. “Please don’t compare me to the worst Romantic.” He picks up the songbook and flips it open to the page they were on before. “Now play.”
And Scripps does, letting his fingers fly over the keys while off in another world, thinking of Posner trying to enjoy his love, scared of when it might mean something bigger, while Posner sings an unrequited tune in a tiny room with bad acoustics.
The second major development is that a new teacher turns up.
Who wears glasses.
And Dakin’s obsessed with him.
Scripps is trying to find a half-decent primary source in the library when Stuart Dakin come wholeheartedly crashing back into his life. He thinks he may have found it, but then Dakin slams himself across from him and starts tearing papers out of his bag.
“Have you seen this? ‘A piece so lacking in any interest whatsoever that one might find it relegated to the local interest section of a village newspaper.’”
Scripps attempts to keep working but acknowledges internally that it’s ultimately futile. “What makes you think that I care, Dakin?”
Dakin looks surprised and a little hurt. “I just thought you’d want to talk about it.”
“Tell Timms. Tell Crowther. Hell, tell Rudge.”
“It’s not the same.”
“They’ve got ears as much as I do.”
Dakin rolls his eyes. “You know what I mean. They hear, but they don’t listen.”
Scripps looks up. “Is this your way of trying to say that you’ve missed me?”
“No.” But the look on Dakin’s face is clear that he means yes; that he needs someone to talk to, to think about what he says, that won’t make his problems a joke. He won’t say it- or can’t say it- but Dakin is begging for his best friend back.
Scripps flips his book shut. “Go to the shop and we’ll talk about it?”
Dakin lights up, practically beaming. “I owe you a pick’n’mix anyway.”
And just like that, they’re friends again.
“How’s it going on the Posner front?”
Scripps ignores him. It’s his own fault for trying to do his homework at Dakin’s, he supposes. He feels something bounce of his head- Dakin’s throwing balls of socks at him. “I said, how’s it going on the Posner front?”
Scripps picks a pair of socks up off the floor and lobs them back, Dakin dodges. “Nothing’s happening on the Posner front. There is no Posner front. And anyway, he’s in love with you, your great tit.”
Dakin singsongs. “It’s him, I tell you.”
Scripps glares back at him. “How’s it going on the Irwin front?”
Dakin looks affronted and turns back to his work in a huff. Scripps chuckles to himself- it wouldn’t be so funny if it wasn’t so obvious that Dakin was so utterly fascinated with Irwin.
But then it happens.
Scripps should have known that Dakin would ultimately be the trigger for the words.
Dakin uses a convoluted metaphor for his relationship with Fiona, and Posner shoots down his point every time. It’s Posner’s reedy voice going “You’re not disputing the territory, you’re just negotiating over the pace of the occupation.” that does it.
Scripps turns around to quip at Dakin when he says that, and sees Posner enjoying himself. Nervous, but grinning, and so undeniably clever. It’s great to see him like this- he’s been too withdrawn lately, what with all the stress, and Scripps can’t help but think that Posner should look like that more often- warm, full of jokes, sarcastic, casually perched on a desk. He looks happy, and Scripps realises that he really, really likes seeing Posner happy.
And that’s when it hits him. But he says nothing.
Dakin’s not really left the room when Posner turns around to say it.
“Oh Scrippsy, I can’t bear to listen, but I want to hear every word.”
Scripps sees Dakin swing around in the corridor- obviously he heard. But he thankfully doesn’t come back in. It still leaves Scripps high and dry though, with no idea what to do in such a situation. He’s in front of a piano, and he panics, going into default.
“He’s a fool. And don’t I know it…”
Posner laughs at that, and picks up the rest of the song, not noticing Scripps desperately trying to process as the other walk back in.
He’s in love with Posner. Posner’s in love with Dakin. Dakin’s not Posner’s soulmate, but Posner likes being in love with him anyway. Posner’s scared by soulmates, he likes being in love, being young, he doesn’t want the big commitment just yet, he’s only just eighteen.
If he said anything, he might break the spell that Posner has with Dakin.
Would Posner resent him if he did that?
But Posner’s his soulmate.
But is he Posner’s?
The thoughts run around in a terrifying loop, over and over and over again until the song finishes, and Scripps has to go and sit next to Dakin, who has that ugly smug ‘I-told-you-so’ look on his face, which Scripps (in a moment of great Christian forbearance) decides to ignore instead of punch.