Disclaimer: I own nothing. Rights go to the respected owners. Hetalia belongs to Hidekaz Himaruya. I don't own Marvel, or anything else alluded to or mentioned.
A/N: This story was written as part of a writing exchange with Hitsu4HinaEva-Hari-Sama with the prompt: Alfred tries to write poetry for Arthur. I hope you like it Hari Sama, and I hope everyone else enjoys it as well.
Roses Are Red
Roses are red, violets are blue,
The first time we met, you tied my shoe.
Not terribly romantic, I know, but accurate. That was the first poem I ever wrote for Arthur Kirkland, way back in kindergarten. We've grown up quite a bit since then, but I still remember that poem and the day I really met Arthur. How can you forget the day you meet the person you'd fall in love with?
"Alright class, I know we're all rather excited, but you all need to calm down and listen."
I squirted the last bit of my glue onto a paper American flag and stuck it on my shoebox. I wiped the extra goo off on the desk and looked up at Mrs. Rogers, my kindergarten teacher.
"We've had quite enough time to finish our mailboxes. I want everybody to write your name on your box, and then put it on your desk."
I grabbed my red white and blue decoration and ran from the crafts table, back to my desk. Grabbing the nearest marker I scribbled "Hero" across the top, and then wrote down "Alfred" much smaller at the teacher's insistence.
"Ok is everyone back at their desk and ready?" She scanned the room and gave a quick nod. "Good. I want all of you to take out the valentines we made earlier in the week. We're going to pass them out, and place them in each other's mailboxes. Does that sound good?"
She smiled and the class broke out in concords of "yes" and "uh-huhs." I for one was excited. We'd spent the last two days cutting out heart shaped papers and writing little notes on them. Clutched in my hands was a ziplock bag full of the valentines; one for every girl in the class. I was pretty proud of them as a six-year-old boy. I'd even managed to write little poems on each letter, and I'd taped a heart-shaped lollipop on them too. No one was gonna beat my awesome valentines!
"Alright class, go ahead and pass them out."
That was the cue. I flew up from my seat and raced around the room depositing one heart in each of the girls' boxes.
"Jennifer, Megan, Kimberly," I counted off while reaching into my bag for the next one. "Rachel, Marie, Samantha."
I was almost done, only one heart left in my bag, when I happened to turn to the right and saw another kid. He was shorter than me, had blonde hair, and green eyes, and these really big eyebrows that were pulled down just like his lips. His name was Arthur. He came here about a month ago from some place called England, but never really fit in. I didn't know him too well, since he never sat with me at lunch, or played tag with us on the playground. I'd thought he was just really quiet, but now looking at him frowning, glancing from his lonely box to the ground, I realized he was sad.
I looked down into my plastic bag and pulled out the lone valentine. It was for some girl I didn't really know, just as all the others had been, and I thought it could be sacrificed. I pulled it out and ran over to Arthur as fast as I could, wanting to give him the little note. Of course, it just so happened that as I ran over to him, I tripped on the laces of my light-up shoes. I fell face first right in front of Arthur's feet.
I lifted my head and found that Arthur was now smiling ever so slightly.
"Don't you know you shouldn't run inside?" he said as he bent down to my level. "And furthermore, you should know to tie your laces."
I glanced at him as he took the two strings on my shoe and looped them back together making a perfect bow. He sat back up on his chair and looked down. He wasn't smiling anymore and that kind of made me sad, but as he raised an eyebrow it dawned on me that he was waiting for a response.
"Uh…eh… what does 'furthermore' mean?"
The grin returned again if only for a second. He shook his head as I picked myself back up.
"You're stupid aren't you?" he said, and it hit me that his voice sounded pretty weird.
"No, I'm Alfred," I answered with a smile, and he seemed to find that response a bit amusing.
"Well Alfred, I'd say you're stupid to-" he paused halfway through his sentence as a girl ran up to me with a big pink heart covered in glitter and stickers.
"Alfred, hi! I know your box is over there, it's really really nice and all, but I wanted to give you my valentine!" She beamed and handed me the heart, and I just smiled back.
"Oh thanks um…"
"Right! Thanks Jamie!"
She smiled one last time and ran off. I put the valentine into the bag I was holding and then turned back to find Arthur frowning again and looking away.
"Are you okay?" I asked and wondered why my voice came out all squeaky. He looked up for a second and then back down at the floor.
"Yes. I'm fine," he glanced at me to check if I was still there. "You can keep giving out your valentines now."
"Ok," I answered and noticed how his lips curved down.
I looked down into my hands and remembered the last heart I had. I walked over to a nearby desk and grabbed at a pencil. My original poem had been way to mushy and weird to give to a boy, so I erased it and rewrote a message just for Arthur. When I was done, I trotted back over and deposited the note in his unicorn-covered mailbox. He looked up at me surprised.
"For me?" he questioned, and I stuck my tongue out at him.
"And you say I'm the stupid one." His cheeks pinked a bit and he glanced away. "Go on, read it!"
He lifted his head back up and blinked at me. I smiled and nodded until he finally lifted the top of his box and pulled out the lonesome red heart. He seemed a bit nervous so I encouraged him some more.
"Read it! Read it!"
"Ok," he said quietly, and that small smile returned to his face. He unfolded the note and read it.
"Roses r red, vylets r blew, the first tyme we met, u tyd my shew."
His cheeks were pink again, but since he wasn't frowning I figured it was ok.
"Didja like it?" I asked and he nodded up and down.
"Yes. Thank you Alfred… but your spelling is atrocious."
I didn't know what "atrocious" meant either but I didn't ask. Instead I smiled and reached toward him.
"There's something else written on the back!" I said excitedly, and turned the note over for him. "Read it too!"
He scrutinized my text, turning the piece of paper halfway around just to read my scribbles.
"Can we be frends?" He paled when he realized what he'd just said. "You… you want to be my friend?"
"Of course!" I grinned with a thumbs-up. "The Hero loves to make friends!"
Arthur smiled and tucked the note into one of his pants' pockets.
"I'd like that very much, Alfred," he said and smiled at me.
I would come to cherish that smile. And the humble poem I wrote in a jiffy all those years ago would be the first of many.
After our first meeting, Arthur and I just seemed to click. We started sitting next to each other, and he would even let me share his crayons (he had the really big pack!), and even when kindergarten finished, we stayed friends. During the summer we'd have play dates, and when we returned to school we were right back to spending all our time together. Since the town we lived in was pretty small, Arthur was lucky enough to be in my class every year, and we definitely made the most of that. He would help me study for our spelling tests, and in return, I'd always let him purposely tag me during gym class if he was ever tired. Our friendship worked well, and by the time the next summer rolled around, Arthur had rode his bicycle to my house, knocking incessantly until I opened the door.
"Happy birthday, Alfred!"
He thrust a brightly wrapped package at me and smiled. I grinned back and welcomed him inside.
"Artie, my birthday party's not till next week!" I told him as we plopped ourselves on the couch across from each other.
"I know… but… I wanted to be the first to get you something," he toyed with a piece of a blanket. "I hope that's ok."
I beamed and hugged him.
"Of course it's ok! I love presents," I assured him. "Can I open it now?"
He nodded affirmation and slowly I ripped away the paper. Arthur kept talking all the while.
"I… I really hope you like it. I spent all the money I earned from our lemonade stand on it and I even had to break my piggy bank."
I should have paused and told him that that was stupid. I should have told him that the money was for him and he shouldn't have spent it all on me. But as it was, immature, 9-year-old me ripped off the last of the paper to find a collectors set of all the Marvel superheroes. All of them.
I looked back up bright-eyed and found Artie looking uncertain. I think I quelled his doubts though when I tackled him down and squeezed him tight.
"You're the best Arthur! The absolute best!"
We both smiled, and when my father came into the room and asked what all the fuss was about, I just held up my present. He smiled and asked whether or not Arthur would be staying for dinner.
The day after my birthday, I was in my room arranging the action figures on a shelf. Captain America was in the front of course, but I couldn't decide whether Spiderman should stand next to Ironman or maybe Wolverine. There were just too many possibilities to choose from.
"Alfred?" I heard my mother knock and then come in. I inquired her opinion on the situation
"Hey mom, do you think Spiderman should be next to Wolverine or Ironman? I mean, if he's next to Ironman that's pretty cool, but their reds kinda clash. Then again if he's next to Wolverine there not both X-men so that might be a bit weird and-"
"Alfred honey," I actually turned away from my figures; yes that's right figures not dolls, as Artie mocked after he gave them to me. She was holding a blank piece of paper, a pen and a clipboard as she sat down in front of me. "Sweetheart I think you should stop playing for just a second and write Arthur a thank you note."
I gave her a blank stare.
"A thank you note? But I already told him thanks."
She handed me the articles and kissed the top of my head.
"I know sweetie but it's polite to write a note. Get creative with it if you want, just make sure Arthur knows how grateful you truly are."
She smiled and closed the door, leaving me alone (well… not really because the Captain and Ironman and all my other figures were there with me, but you get the point). I stared at the paper wondering what to write. Maybe just the word "Thanks" in big block letters would do, but the more I thought about it, the more I disliked that idea. It was too boring, and my mother had just told me to get creative. I started to think about Artie, what he might like, and then it hit me. I pushed down on the pen, but then stopped and chewed on the top instead. This was hard… being a writer, and trying to make it sound good. I also wanted to make sure I spelled everything just right so Arthur wouldn't make fun of me again. After an hour of contemplation, a break for dinner, reading a few comics for inspiration, and another hour of thinking, I finally came up with a thank you-poem.
Thanks a lot kiddo
Is what the Cap might say.
And sending a thank you to your mind
Might be Professor X's way.
You might think it's kind of weird
If you're struck with web like glue
But don't worry, not at all
That's just Spidy's thank you
And one more person shows his thanks
But for him it's not that hard
All he'll do is smile big
And hand you this thank you card.
"Three superhero references and my awesome rhyming skills!" I proudly announced to myself.
Arthur would surely love it.
Two days after my birthday, Arthur and I had agreed to meet at a local park. My note was safely tucked into my pocket as I rode over and then waited for Arthur on a nearby bench. I leaned my bike against the wood and waited. He came shortly after, pulling off his headgear and revealing a mop of helmet hair. I laughed and teased him, but he brushed me off saying safety was more important than being cool.
"Race to the lake?" I challenged and immediately dashed up and left Arthur fumbling over his helmet and bike. Eventually he gave up on them and followed me, always a few feet behind until we almost reached the water. I slowed enough to let Arthur catch up, and then the two of us decelerated and panted.
"I win!" I announced to him as he took in long, hard breaths.
"Hardly," he shot back. "That was a completely unfair race."
We argued over it for a few more minutes until we finally agreed it was a tie and then sat down on the lake front. I was about to ask Artie if he wanted to go swimming when I remembered something.
"Oh hey, Art, I almost forgot!"
He turned his head toward me as I pulled out the note, but then something, rather someone stole his attention away from me.
"Ohohoho look what we have here! Lonely little Arthur Kirkland has a friend?"
Francis Bonnefoy was standing across the lake; a fifth grader who would bully Artie all the time. Usually it was just some annoying teasing, but I remember when Arthur once showed up at my door with a black eye. He'd proudly told me how he'd punched Francis after making fun of him, and it turned into a big fight.
"Who would befriend a Brit?" he spoke sharply eyeing Arthur and then turned to me. "Well I guess it does make sense… that your only friend is four-eyes."
He snickered obnoxiously and Arthur stood up. I tried to tug on his pant leg to let him know I was alright, that it was nothing to get defensive over, but I had no effect.
"Don't you talk about Alfred like that!" he hissed across the pond of bright blue water. Looking down at me for a second he seemed to notice something; he grabbed the thank-you note out of my hand and started folding it. I was confused, but by the time I realized what he was doing it was too late.
"No Arthur, don't!"
But he threw the paper airplane, and it hit Francis in the face before being carried back to the lake on the wind. It landed atop the water and I watched in horror as the work I'd put so much effort into smudged and then sank with the weight of the liquid.
I lifted my eyes back up to see Francis stick his tongue out and simply walk away. Arthur stood standing kind of puffed up, still trying to look intimidating. He didn't sit down until Francis was completely out of sight, and even then, he looked a little on edge.
"Sorry about that," he apologized as he turned to face me. "But em, you wanted to show me something?"
I glanced at him, and then back at the vibrant lake.
"Oh…uh… forget about it."
So he did. We talked about some other things and eventually we did go swimming. I tried to uncover the note but it was nowhere to found. When I got home, I searched my house up and down for a notebook I could use. After 20 minutes of searching, I found an untouched leather-bound journal covered in dust in my basement. Grabbing a pen, I struggled to recall exactly what I'd written on that lost piece of paper. Since then, I've copied every poem I write for Arthur into that notebook.
By the time Arthur and I entered middle school, weird things started happening. First of all, my mom gave me the "birds and the bees" talk, so suddenly a lot weird stuff with my body started making sense; but that was just the start. Since we were no longer in elementary school, we didn't have one sole class that we sat with for the entire day. Instead we had seven classes, of which I was horrified to find I only shared one with Arthur.
"It's not that bad, Alfred," he told me as he tried to sound mature. Lately his voice was fluctuating between high and low, breaking several times a day. He still managed to have a slight English accent though, even after living here for so many years.
"Yes it is Arthur! You don't understand! We only have English together. Only English!"
"I think you should be thankful we have any classes together," he told me, and I frowned.
"You're only saying that because you like to correct my writing and English crap."
"No it's true! At least in elementary school when you showed me how to use commas and stuff I could make it up to you by helping with long division and stuff! Now we don't even have that…"
"Oh come off it," he told me as he grabbed my hand and dragged me to 5th period, the only class we shared. He said something after that, something about still seeing each other in the hallways and during lunch, but I wasn't really focused on that, I was more concerned over the fact that Artie was holding my hand.
See, lately, another weird thing started happening. I'd realized that Arthur was actually pretty good looking if you could get past the eyebrows and foul attitude, and I started to think that his smile was really bright and beautiful; even though it was seldom seen. And things like now, when Arthur was holding my hand, would get me all worked up inside. I blamed it on the hormones. My mom told me they take control when you're this age, but she also said they might get stronger if I saw a pretty girl.
"Now, sweetheart, I just want you to know that if anything strange happens with your body when you seen a nice girl, it's perfectly natural."
"It is! You might have thought girls had cooties earlier, but you're going to be interested in them soon enough."
But the strange part was, Arthur wasn't a girl. So I didn't understand what on Earth was going on. Maybe it was just a stage or something…
"Sit," Arthur ordered and brought me back from my thoughts. I noticed that he'd brought us to our new English room and was waiting for me to take a seat. I did, and as soon as Arthur deemed me safe and secure, he let go of my hand. I felt almost regretful, and I don't know why. His hand was warm, and now mine felt very cold. I spent the next few minutes pondering the temperature change as more kids filed into the room.
"Welcome back!" A plump, short woman with curly gray locks said as she moved to the front of the classroom. "I hope you all had a great summer, but we're not going to waste any time now that you're all back and ready to learn.
"We'll first off, my name is Mrs. Garvey, as I'm sure you all know from your schedules," she smiled sweetly and kept talking. "I enjoy knitting, reading, and bird watching."
"Oh my god this year is gonna suck…" I mumbled quietly, and Arthur discreetly yet painfully elbowed my left side.
"But that's enough about me, I want to learn about you," she said as she motioned toward us. "I want to learn about all my students, but not in a conventional way."
I was going to ask Artie what conventional meant (my vocabulary still wasn't that good) but the teacher would not shut up.
"I'd like to learn about you as a person, not just your name and what you look like. We're going to do that by writing haiku's!"
I'm pretty sure she and Arthur were the only ones looking excited at the moment, but it actually felt good to see Arthur happy.
"Alright, I'm going to spend the next fifteen minutes explaining the basics of haikus, which are a type of poem for those of you who don't remember, and then each of you will write your own haiku on something that is very important to you personally. It's a great way for me to get to know each of you individually!"
She went on, talking about how to correctly write the poem, five syllables, seven and then five again. She said something about brainstorming, making sure you pick something that means a lot to you, but I already knew what I wanted to write about.
My Best Friend
His name is Arthur
My best friend in the whole world
I want him to know
I was just as proud of this poem as I'd been for the last one. It was a lot shorter, yes, but I think it meant just as much. I'd picked Arthur as my topic, Arthur as someone who is "very important to me personally." It felt good, better than the first time, and as I snuck a peek at Arthur, I almost wanted for him to read it too. Would he like it? Did he think the same? Had he written about me? My thoughts were broken by the teacher's high-pitched voice yet again.
"I think that's quite enough time! Now for the sharing. Who'd like to go first?"
I saw Arthur squirm a bit in his seat and look away. Even though his English work was much better than mine (he had talent I tell you) he was still shy and avoided anything that involved public speaking. Luckily for him, a redhead in the back raised her hand and was called up to the front. She read her poem on her cat. After that, a few more kids went, their poems ranging from being about their family, to about how happy they were for finally beating the elite four.
When nearly half the class had presented, I nudged Artie a bit and whispered, "You should go. Your writing is always amazing."
He rolled his eyes at me and snapped back "Why don't you go? You've been all smiles throughout class."
My cheeks pinked, and I didn't have time to retort before the teacher came over and said, "I think that's a great idea! Go on up."
Suddenly I became nervous. I was proud of my poem, yes, but I wasn't sure I wanted the whole class to hear me read it.
I made my way to the front of the room and stared out at all the faces. It should have calmed me that most of them were bored, or looking out the window, not paying attention in the slightest. There was however, one pair of green eyes that were focused on me. And there was in the small classroom, one person smiling.
"Go ahead dear," the teacher encouraged, but I kept staring at Arthur. He mouthed "Talk, idiot" which made me smile, and gradually the nervousness started to fall away. I winked at him and then swallowed hard.
Before even two syllables were out of my mouth, the bell rang signaling the end of class. The teacher said something about remembering to get our parents to sign a form. Kids rushed by me toward the door, trying to be first into the crowded hallway. One of them was Arthur.
"Hey Alfred, I have to run! The gym's all the way across the school you know."
I nodded, but inside I felt sad for some reason.
"I'll see you after school for soccer practice?"
He turned and left, while I still stood there holding a worthless piece of paper with words of someone who meant the world to me. The teacher collected it, and I packed up silently and left. That night I copied the poem into my journal, and I started to wonder if Arthur would ever get to read it.
Unfortunately for me, middle school was only the start of the horror, because while most everything in my life continue to spiral downwards, things with Arthur stayed the same. That probably makes no sense, but in my mind it did.
I'd thought back in middle school that it was the end of the world since Artie and I only had one class together, but I was wrong. By the time we were in high school, we more or less knew what we were good at. Me? I was good at science and math. Arthur? He was good at English and history. Generally schools offer more advanced courses for pupils with promise in a given area. So while I advanced in my areas of expertise, and Arthur did so in his, it made for neither of us having any classes together. What was worse was that since elementary school, Arthur had actually made a few more friends. He joined the reading club, and the newspaper while I joined the school's soccer team and science club. I should have been happy, really I should have, but it wasn't so. Arthur had these new friends, these people who shared his interests, and I think somewhere along the line he realized that the two of us didn't have much in common. That's not to say of course, that he abandoned me, no not in the slightest, but if we ever had the same lunch period, Arthur would always sit with his new reading and writing buddies instead of me.
"You're sure it's ok?" he'd asked me sometime back in 7th grade.
"Yeah, go ahead. It's not like they'll take away my title of 'Arthur's best and heroic friend.'"
"No of course not," he'd said with an eye roll. "You're sure you don't mind?"
He did, and he rarely came back. Now I'd sit with the rest of the soccer team and listen to them comment on which girl had the nicest rack, which were butterfaces, and who they thought would give the best blow job, or worse, who actually did, which disgusted me.
"Jones!" one of my team mates shouted at me from across the table. "You should totally hook up with Becca. She's definitely got the hots for you."
I turned around and found a pretty brunette waving at me from a few tables away. I waved back and shot her a smile; but it was fake, it always was.
It might sound a bit weird for me to say that 'nothing changed' when in a sense, everything did. No, Arthur didn't sit with me at lunch, and no, we didn't have any classes together, but still our friendship didn't really change. We still had movie Monday every week, and biked to the park together when we had time. On occasion Arthur would come over and help me with some homework.
"You still have those silly dolls," he observed and sat down on my bed one afternoon.
"Action figures, Arthur. And of course I do! I'd never throw away something you gave me."
He smiled and suggested we start working on that essay.
I probably should have been happy over this, over the fact that Arthur and I were still such good friends, but in reality… I wasn't. See, somewhere along the line, I'd realized that those weird feelings I'd had for Arthur were actually, maybe, perhaps, symptoms of liking someone. And I like, liked, him not just like. So yeah… I had a crush on Arthur, and I had for awhile now; that's why our friendship not changing was a problem. All Arthur thought of me was as a friend. A best friend maybe, but nothing more. That made my stomach twist and turn, and some nights I'd stay up in bed concocting ways of confessing to Arthur and his possible reactions. Generally Arthur would throw his arms around me, confess his love as well and then kiss me into oblivion. I liked when that happened, as it made my stomach feel tight and my heart real warm. But I knew as well as anyone that that was the unlikely reaction. Sometimes in my mind his face would contort into one of disgust and he'd stomp away, never to talk to me again. I didn't want that. I don't think I could've handled never being able to talk to Arthur again, or making him laugh or smile, but at the same time, I knew that if I didn't try anything, nothing would ever change. I started thinking, wondering how I could tell Arthur while still maintaining a safety net. It was hard to piece together, but I eventually decided upon a brilliant plan that could not go wrong.
"Al, you gonna eat that muffin or what?"
One of my 'friends' was eyeing my tray hungrily. I handed it to him and stood up.
"Ah no, you can have it. I was gonna get going anyway."
He nodded a goodbye as I tossed out my garbage and headed through the double doors of the cafeteria. Once in the quiet hallway, I pulled the thrice folded paper from my pocket and read it over one last time.
Beauty from the Sidelines
You might say your hair is blonde
But to me it is pure gold,
And you might say that your eyes are green
But emeralds are what they're truly made of.
You might think you're not that smart
But you're a genius in my eyes,
And you might think no one notices
But when you smile, I want to sing.
You might feel insecure about this note
But I'd just think it's cute
And you might think that this is all a joke
But then I'd tell you, I'm in love.
-A secret admirer
"Great," I said and smiled to myself. This plan had to work. I'd actually thought about confessing to Arthur through a poem more than once, but I still didn't want to risk his rejection. Instead, I thought, if I signed as a secret admirer and stuck it in his locker, he'd never know. Of course he'd come show his best friend the note, and I'd act cool and ask him casual questions like "Who do you think it is?" and then in a more teasing way, "What if it's a guy?" That last one, obviously, was pretty important to the plan. I'd gauge his reaction and see exactly what he said. If he was cool with it, I might confess right there, but I'd probably wait just being content that Arthur might be bi. But then again, there was also the possibility that the question insulted him… in which case I'd know I'd have to hide my feelings away forever.
"But I've gotta do this," I mumbled and held the love note up to the slits in Arthur's locker. "It's worth a shot."
And I pushed it in, smiling.
"What was that, Alfred?" A familiar voice asked me, and I paled as Arthur appeared next to me fumbling with his books and binders as he tried to open the lock.
"Ahaha nothing! What are you doing here Artie? Lunch isn't even over!"
He eyed me suspiciously and yanked open the door. I could see my note lying neatly at the bottom of his locker… but on top of a pile of candy wrappers and other garbage.
"I could ask you the same thing," he said and then glanced back to his locker. He sighed exasperated and reached down. "Bloody people using my locker as a rubbish bin." He scrunched up the pile, note on top and headed to the nearest trash can.
"No Arthur, don't!"
Well that sounded familiar didn't it? He turned with an arched brow.
"Eh… I mean… check if there's any candy left in there!" I supplied, even adding a fake smile and laugh. He rolled his eyes and tossed the mound away. When he came back, he grabbed a few binders and shut his locker rushing down the hall, but still managing to talk to me.
"I'll be at your soccer match next week," he turned and waved before disappearing.
I smiled sadly and then walked over to the "rubbish bin." Scrunched up and abandoned was my perfect plan. It would be two years before I tried again.
Throughout the rest of high school, not much happened. Well actually, that's a lie. Of course there continued to be tons of work, and the stress of college applications was upon us. Amazingly enough, Arthur and I had both gotten into the same college and he thought it would great if we were dorm buddies. I said yes, because it had become impossible to say no to him in the past year.
What I mean by "not much happened" though, really only referred to my relationship with Arthur. We had to start canceling movie Monday junior year since we finally started to feel the burn of copious amounts of work, but we were still close. He would come to as many of my soccer matches as he could, and in return, I promised to tutor him in pre-calculus and trig at least once a week. It was all good… except for the fact that my heart still ached. Yeah I'm sure that sounds sappy, but it's true. After my first failure, I hadn't tried to secretly woo Arthur again, but astonishingly I'd gotten an answer to my question anyway.
Arthur had come to my house on Valentine's Day to exchange gifts. Ever since kindergarten we'd always given each other friendly notes and a small gift on that chilly day in February. We were sitting in my room as he handed me a card and present, this time just an iTunes gift card (which wasn't nearly as good as the action figures, but I'd never tell him that). I leaned in and hugged him anyway.
"Thanks, man," I expressed my gratitude and released him.
"Of course," he smiled and motioned toward my iPod docking station. "I know you love that crappy music of yours."
"Hey it's not all crap!"
"Really?" he said skeptically.
"Yeah! I've got plenty of Beatles music on there," I paused trying to think of another British band to impress him. "And Queen! They're one of my favorite bands."
Arthur looked confused for a fraction of a second.
"You like Queen?" he asked rather quietly.
"Yeah?" I said a bit unsurely. I started patting my legs to the beat of "We Will Rock You."
Artie went a bit pink in the face and looked away.
"Did you know the lead singer was gay?"
He was so quiet I'd almost missed it.
"Freddie Mercury? Yeah, I know," what I didn't know was where this conversation was going so I prompted Arthur. "Does that bother you?"
Arthur immediately looked back and waved his hands around in a frenzy.
"No, no of course not!" he all but shouted then added much more quietly, "I would have dated him…"
My eyes went wide and I could feel the blood rush as my heart beat faster, but I tried to keep myself under control.
"Haha, me too…" I mumbled, but I don't think Arthur heard.
He just started teasing me about my dolls.
It was May of our senior year, when I dared to try asking Arthur out again. Almost 3 months had passed since he'd inadvertently let me in on his sexual orientation; he was gay too! Or at least bi.
I hadn't done anything up till now out of nervousness, but I was running out of time. Around late April I'd decided I had one last chance: ask Arthur to prom. Great idea right? And I knew exactly how I was gonna do it. I spent hours, maybe even days, antagonizing over that poem. I wanted it to be romantic and sweet, but I wanted Arthur to see through the words and know it was me that wrote it and no one else. The day before the big dance I stood on Arthur's porch reciting the poem I'd written in my head.
Please? Is what I had in mind
But thought you'd think it plain
I could have asked you before the class
But that'd be hard to explain
I wanted it to be romantic
And perfect just for you
But then I gave up perfection
Because I didn't think you'd mind
You know I'm not that great at English
You've known that the whole time
But now I am just rambling
The reason I'm really here
Is to confess a secret I've been hiding
For years and years and years
I like you Arthur Kirkland
No wait, make that love
I hope I look remotely calm
As I ask you
And only you
To attend our senior prom
That was it. Pretty simple, and I hoped my personality shined through. I took a deep breath, knocked, and within thirty seconds Arthur had opened the door.
"Alfred! I've been calling you for the last 10 minutes! Where have you been?"
"What?" I asked truly confused, but Arthur just shook it off and showed me one of those rare smiles.
"It doesn't matter, you're here now and I have some great news!"
"Oh?" I inquired curiously. Arthur was clearly very happy over something and I wanted to know what it was.
"Do you know Grace? The one from my reading club?"
I nodded, not liking where this was going.
"Well I asked her to the prom," his smile grew even brighter, "And she said yes!"
He looked really happy, totally oblivious to the fact he'd just broke my heart.
"That's great, Artie," I spoke softly not even trying to fake any joy. I think Arthur could tell because his smile faded and he looked concerned.
"What's wrong Alfred? Did something happen? Did you come here to tell me something?"
He put a hand on my shoulder but I easily shrugged it off.
"Oh yeah… I wanted you to know that… I'm feeling kinda under the weather and I'm not gonna go tomorrow night."
By now it had become almost impossible to hold back my unshed tears (and a hero never cries, so that was really something).
"Oh Alfred I'm so sorry to hear-"
And I was sorry to hear that too, but I didn't want any sympathy from Arthur. I turned away and started walking back to my old Toyota.
"Have fun, Artie."
I cried when I got home, and when I was finished, I recorded that poem alongside all the other ones.
I decided that day, that I'd stop pursuing Arthur Kirkland. It hurt too much.
College – Freshman Year
I discovered the summer between the last year of high school and my first year of college that giving up on love was not that easy at all. I told myself there were others, and that Arthur and I could stay good friends, but that didn't work. After all the time I spent trying to convince myself otherwise, the moment Arthur stepped into our shared dorm room, I fell right back in love. He told me all about prom since I'd missed it. He said he was going to kiss Grace, but decided against it at the last minute.
"I knew we were going to different universities, so I didn't want her to get the wrong idea," he told me as he started to unpack.
I nodded and told him that was a good decision, that he should wait to kiss someone he knew he truly wanted to be with.
Time went by, but it was fun. I'd decided to major in molecular and cell biology and Arthur in English (shocker, right?). Arthur was a great dorm buddy too, because not only did he not complain when I was up all night studying, but sometimes he'd even do my chores for me. I'd come back after having spent hours working on an essay in the library to find my bed made, and my fresh laundry folded. I always made sure I thanked him every morning, just before he rushed out for class.
Surprisingly, even though college was pretty hard work, the two of us made time for each other. Almost every day we'd go to the dining hall together, except for the rare occurrence where I had a chemistry lab that lasted from 5 to 9. We even resurrected movie Monday and shared the nights in our dorm room with Arthur making snarky remarks about the action movies I picked, and me telling him that he knew he loved them.
As for my feelings, they didn't quell, but I'd come to terms with the fact that I'd never really have Arthur. I still thought about it sometimes, and one day while I was alone in our room I'd flipped open my old journal and was reading through it, marveling at just how many poems there were. Plenty of them never made it past the bounds of this notebook. They were just ways I could express my feelings toward Arthur without him knowing. They weren't meant for his eyes, or anyone else's for that matter. They were a secret I kept, that no one needed to know about.
I grabbed a pen and flipped to one of the last clean pages near the back. For once I actually wasn't occupied with something school related, so I thought it'd be a perfect time to write. I twirled my pen for a bit before it finally met the paper.
Love's a Silly Thing
Don't you think it's funny?
That you're the English major
And yet, I write.
But there's just so much to say
And never enough words to describe you.
A few examples would be:
The love of my life.
Well, you don't know that last one
But that's ok
Because love's a silly thing.
I've tried to tell you many times
But now I've given up
Or so it seems
I don't think I could ever give up
Because love's a silly thing-
That last letter twisted uncontrollably as I heard the key turn in the lock to our room. I scrambled to hide the book, stuffing it under the sheets for the time being, as Arthur stepped into the room.
"Arthur!" I said just a bit too quickly. "I thought your next lecture was until 4!"
He smiled very slightly and dropped his book bag on his own bed.
"The professor had to leave halfway through. She was feeling ill."
"Oh… that's too bad."
"Yes, but actually as I was coming down the walk I got some news for you."
I scrunched my eyebrows. The last time Artie had news for me it hadn't been good.
"News?" I asked hesitantly. He handed me a flyer I didn't realize he'd been holding. Once I'd read it, I dropped everything I was doing.
"You serious? This true?"
The handout he'd given me said the Psychology department was doing some research involving food, of which would be gratis. Now clearly Arthur knew me well because if there was free food, I was there.
"Matthew gave it to me. I highly doubt he would make counterfeit flyers for a phony event."
He was teasing me, but I didn't much care. I was now thinking with my stomach rather than my brain.
"Fulton Hall," Arthur supplied and I thanked him and ran out the door.
Lucky for me, almost no one else showed up. The Psych department was doing some investigation on how food choice affected personality. They had a table, covered in all types of food; good for you, great tasting crap, cultured food, anything you could want. And the best part was that they told me to take as much as I wanted, since the amount I took somehow aided in the research. Well an hour and a half later, I'd had four free burgers, 2 plates of fries and a doughnut. I asked them if I could bring something back for Arthur, and since there was plenty to spare they said sure why not. I wrapped two scones in a napkin and headed back to our dorm. I was still licking my fingers by the time I got back.
"Hey Artie, I got you something," I said cheerfully as I stepped into the room.
He was seated on my bed with his back to me and spoke no response. I didn't think anything of it, since when Arthur was studying, he was usually in the zone and didn't want anyone disturbing him. At least, that's what I'd thought until Arthur uttered something.
"There's one missing."
That went right over my head, so I walked over to Arthur.
"Artie, what the hell are you talking abou-"
But I didn't finish, in fact I dropped the scones I'd been holding. My face paled and I was completely frozen.
Arthur turned to look up at me. In contrast to my face, he was bright red as he repeated:
"There's one missing."
"Arthur, I can explain-"
"Are they true?" he interrupted me.
I stood there silently as Arthur reached into his pants pocket and pulled out an old red heart made of construction paper. I was stock still for a moment, not knowing whether I should answer that question. Arthur was staring at me with bright questioning eyes. I knew I had no choice but to tell the truth.
"Yes…" I mumbled and looked away. All those times, I'd thought about confessing my feelings to Arthur, not once did it happen like this. He should be looking appalled any moment now, probably start packing up his things and find a new roommate as soon as possible. But, against my better judgment, I chanced a glance and found Arthur writing something on that small piece of paper I'd given him all those years ago. When he was finished, he patted the bed and I cautiously sat down beside him. He handed me the red heart.
"What… Arthur why did you keep this all these year-"
"Just read it," he interrupted me, and so I did. On the front was the exact poem I'd written him in kindergarten, right down to the "atrocious" spelling. One thing was slightly different though, he changed the point of view so it instead read:
Roses r red, violets r blew, the first tyme we met, I tyd your shew.
But I still didn't understand.
"Arthur, I don't-"
"There's something written on the back," he interjected.
When I failed to flip the paper, he reached forward and did it himself.
And so I did. There again was 6-year-old me's handwriting, only slightly altered.
"Can we be boy-frends?"
I glanced up at him thinking it was a mistake, but when I looked into his eyes, I saw the same anxiousness as the lonely little boy I'd met in kindergarten. I felt my face heat and my heart beat pretty quick.
"I would like that very much, Arthur," I said and smiled at him. He smiled back, and I slowly leaned in to hug him. He was so soft and warm and lovely in my arms, just like I'd imagined. When I leaned back, that gorgeous grin was still there.
"You're an idiot, you know that?"
I frowned at that, and he continued.
"I've loved you just as long."
My eyes widened at those words and I didn't know what to say.
"But, but, Grace-"
"-was a decoy to make you jealous. She'd agreed to help me since we were good friends," he frowned at the floor for a moment and then looked back at me. "Clearly that backfired."
I stared at him perplexed, but he just smiled fondly.
"Alfred, you were my first friend, the first one who ever cared for me."
I kept looking a bit stupidly until finally some words made their way from my throat.
"You love me?"
"I've always loved you…"
That was all the assurance I needed, as I leaned in and kissed Arthur on the lips. He kissed back, and since then, he's always kissed back. Every Valentine's Day we give each other romantic notes and plenty of kisses. He lives with me now, together in an apartment downtown. He's a teacher at a local high school, and I'm a physician. We've been together for almost eight years now, and when I finally get it in me to propose I know exactly how it'll go:
Roses are red, violets are blue
Arthur Kirkland, may I marry you?