It’s a slow, cinnamon summer.
There is no room in my body for
anything but you. My arms love
you, my ears adore you, my knees
shake with blind affection.
The Princess Bride.
Our summer romance started like this: in a secret garden that bore witness to the passing of spring as well as the lethargic exchange of our tentative smiles.
We spent the balmy midsummer days tangled with one another, laying wakeful and undisturbed by smouldering societal pressures and expectations.
Achilles had his hand in mine. By then, the intertwining of our hands was a thoughtless thing. Something that just was . Our entangled hands were as warm as the height of summer. Though, I much preferred the intrusive cold one could endure during the midst of winter, when Achilles’ cheeks and the tip of his nose bloomed a rosy hue, like the exposed red flesh of sliced figs.
“Am I not allowed to love you?” he had asked, voice slow, pouring like honey down my ears. He held my hand tighter then, as though he was afraid I would pull away, afraid that I would leave him here hidden amongst the sunflowers that chased the evening sun, their stems swaying in whichever direction spring had escaped to.
“It’s not that…” I started, ever the master of floundering for words that were incapable of explaining exactly what I meant. It’s not that I didn’t feel anything for Achilles; because I did . And I think there was where the problem lay: nude and trembling under the harsh light of this sudden reality that came without a forewarning.
See, I had spent much of my youth growing accustomed to the hollow bittersweetness unrequited love tended to bestow upon one. Had come to terms with the soft petals of marigolds that fell silently on my head, and choked me, often marred by blood with a pigment as loud as the saccharine arils of spoiled pomegranates, whenever Achilles so much as looked my way with that damned soft glint in his eyes. I had even gone many evenings unravelling our entangled memories, trying but mercilessly failing to identify exactly when I had fallen so gracelessly.
It was embarrassing really, the fact that I allowed myself the pleasure of loving him in silence for so long. The simple way in which I had accepted that intimate dreams were the only way my desire for anything more between us could become reality. Loving Achilles in silence didn’t hurt as much as I anticipated it would. Instead it felt warm, slotting itself gently between the many folds of my throbbing heart, where it belonged. Loving him gave me purpose.
“I’m just… not used to it, is all,” my cheeks grew hot under his careful gaze, the fingers that were not interlocked with his craved to touch something other than his cool skin. He often ran much warmer than I did under the sun, though I guessed this summer was different. The slow, cinnamon summer of change. “It’s… weird.” I shrugged, my bare shoulder bumped against his own and stayed there. Neither of us withdrew from the constant physical contact we maintained.
He hummed for the longest time, a tune I didn’t recognise but loved nonetheless. “Do you trust me?”
I didn't even have to think about it; “Yes,” the word was tender and raw, like a fleeting kiss, against his star stamped cheeks.
“Good,” he whispered. “Then, you know that I’m not going to hurt you,” his voice was light, crafted of calmness and the gentle caress of a much anticipated midsummer’s breeze. I felt the words were enough to cool the simmering desire within me. “I’m not going to hurt you, Patroclus,” he reiterated, words firm yet softened by the way his tongue curled around my name.
It was hard to describe the sudden tender aching in my chest when he turned to bury his nose in the hollowed dip between my worryingly defined collarbones. Harder still to not gape at his odd promise; odd merely because it wasn’t as if my mind had slowed enough to even consider the possibility of getting hurt by Achilles. I assumed getting hurt by him would be an unfamiliar affair, one I would not be accustomed to merely because our relationship— relationship; the love was requited now —had never been founded on wounds and misery, but rather on selflessness and affection.
We had met at the vulnerable age of 8, doused in the kind of innocence that found children at such an age to be wholly tender-hearted. I was quiet, kindly, a little too slim and gangly with awkward movements and skin that stretched tight against my ever growing bones. Achilles was pretty, in every aspect of the word. The other kids in our class called him “Golden Boy.” His eyes were what I imagined a canopy of leaves looked like under the scrutiny of the warm presence of the sun, and I was an “Admirer of Jewels,” as my mother had once said; enchanted by the gemstones others would wear around their necks, or on their ring fingers, cool and glistening and garish against pale skin. It was difficult not to be completely awestruck by him.
We had grown so much over the last decade; had become wiser, forbearing. Achilles’ light never wavered or dimmed. It seemed he grew brighter, luminous and clear under the supervision of puberty and the woes of the world. I would look at him and think of glossy glacé cherries, of our place in the cosmos, of the forbidden love between the sun and the moon, of the scintillating emerald and gold leaf pendant I wore around my neck, of yearning, devotion, trust .
He would always be so special to me. The love I felt for him was the purest form of love that ever existed. I couldn’t ever imagine loving someone else; I was so sure that he was the only person I was capable of loving like this , wholeheartedly and unabashedly.
I turned my head slightly to marvel at the deep, verdant leaves of the sugar maple tree we stretched under, offering us much-needed seclusion and shade. Achilles was lovely and cool, the supple skin of his side refreshing against my warm chest. His molten gold strands of hair tickled my nose just so. It was magical, intoxicating even.
“I’m not going to hurt you either,” I promised, as it felt fitting then. I wanted to have him in every way possible, to love and cherish him in every way possible. I wanted to know him in ways no one else could, wanted to know the inner workings of this divine being even deeper than I already did.
Achilles moved against my chest, shuffling himself further up my frame and looking down at me until we met eye to eye. I admired the slope of his nose, the subtle pucker of his soft berry lips with its enticing rich ridges. Admired the quirk of his brow too, and the anticipation bubbling in his eyes when he breathed “Look at me,” and I did. Because a soft shade of powdery blue accented his figure, splashing against the sky which was nothing but colour and silhouettes. His thumb rested at the hollow of my neck, pressing gently.
“I love you,” he declared, his smile delicate as he lowered his head and nudged his nose against my own. “I love you,” the words emitted were incandescent, searing and permanent like a tattoo.
And perhaps time stalled when his lips met mine; slow and tender, fleeting almost, just as this summer was, giving way to autumn in the coolness of his mouth. I was infatuated by his taste, the heady scent of honeyed peaches and the bliss and content that melted over my heart like a powdered sugar glaze.
Everything felt right, light, heavenly .
This was where I was meant to be, here, slowly coming undone beneath the boy that I loved with every fibre of my thrumming being.
This was where I belonged.
Achilles and I were alone in the world. His kisses became lingering and I burnt out a fever. I loved him. I loved him. I loved him so much, I ached .
The smile he blessed me with when he pulled back and held my face between his trembling hands was infectious, as contagious as a child’s giggles. I fumbled for one of his hands, captured it in my warmth and brought it to rest, palm down against my chest, directly over my throbbing heart. It was a short gesture, conveying the outpour of affection that rattled my bones.
It was a short gesture, but it was enough to show him how utterly besotted I was.
“I love you too,” my voice had never sounded so compelling. It was enough to summon a light summer rain over our secret garden.
It was the mark of a new beginning.
Our summer romance involved discovering each other and ourselves, the unconscious interlocking of fingers, the gentle pounding of feet that stumbled after one another, careful and sure, wading through all of life’s woes and never once thinking of letting go.
Lazy evenings were spent in each other’s company, the sweet nectar of the figs Achilles would break open for us, dribbled down our chins as we laughed, light pouring out of our mouths.
And each and every day, I promised Achilles I would love him more than an artist loved their art.
I promised I would love him wholly, furiously, forever .