"Do you ever think of yourself as a flavour?" Augustus said, out of the blue. We'd been lying side by side in the clearing where it was possible to see kids playing on the over-sized skeleton; it was warm and sunny, and the bones were swarming with children. We'd been quiet until then, listening to the children's screams and laughter, and I thought maybe I'd misheard him.
Propping myself up on one elbow, I squinted at him. "Do I what?"
"Think of yourself as a flavour," he said, sitting up fully.
Brushing my hair out of my face, I joined him. "A flavour."
"Yeah, a taste-"
"I know what a flavour is, Augustus," I interrupted, rolling my eyes at his grin. "What kind of a question is that, though?"
He shrugged. "An inquisitive one." I groaned: he was definitely too smart for his own good. Laughing, he revised it to: "I don't know. A question," which wasn't particularly helpful as far as revisions of smart-arse statements went.
"Explain," I commanded, leaning back on my elbows again, enjoying the feeling of the warm sunlight washing over me again. Until Augustus had interrupted the silence, I'd been thinking how sometimes I felt like a normal kid. My tank was almost obscured by grass, and my chest felt fine due to the lack of movement. I didn't feel like a cancer kid.
"Well," Augustus said, his long fingers taking a piece of grass and carefully dissecting it as he spoke, "you know how there are billions of different ice cream flavours?" He glanced at me for an answer, and I nodded, deciding not to bother to point out his slight exaggeration. "There are billions of people, too. What if each flavour fit a different person?" There was a pause, while he thought about it for a moment.
I liked that about Augustus; he wasn't afraid to collect his thoughts before laying them out carefully. Like each point was a paint stroke on a canvas, and everything had to be in right place, or else it wouldn't look right. We almost balanced each other out, in that respect, because I knew, if it was something important to me, I could just rush to get my words out, splattering paint everywhere and forgetting the paint brush together.
"Peter Van Houten would be bubblegum," he finally continued, a humourless smile on his face, "it looks great, really pretty, but after the first few tastes, you realise it really isn't that great."
"Augustus," I interjected, "did you just call Peter Van Houten pretty?"
He looked at me, our smiles matching. "Hazel Grace, I can't explain like you want me to if you're just going to interrupt." Laughing, I waved my hand to signal for him to go on. "Anyway... Lidewij would be cornish flavoured - golden, inside and out." I smiled at that, thinking how true it was. "But, like, me..." He stopped, meeting my eyes again. "I know you hate it when I go on about meaning something, and this isn't about that, I swear, but... I'm not really any flavour. I'm vanilla. I'm just there. I don't mean anything."
I felt a spark of annoyance, but more a flame of pain, that had nothing to do with my lungs. "I know it's hard for you to understand, Augustus, but you mean something to me."
"Hazel Grace," he said, seemingly lost for words. Our eyes met, and I was taken aback once again by the startling vibrance of them, and our proximity seemed a lot more intense than it had a few minutes ago.
I endured it, though, and said forcefully, "What 'flavour' do I have to be to mean something to you?"
Another pause. Collecting his ideas. Surveying the canvas. From the length of the pause, it was a fairly large painting he was looking to do.
"Everything," he suddenly said, and my heart started to beat faster as his voice broke. "You're a bit of everything. Strawberry, because you're sweet. Raspberry, because you have an edge to you. Chocolate, because God knows you have something rich to say about everything - and I love that," he added quickly. "Everything. You're everything good in one, Hazel Grace." He shrugged. "I know I'm not meant to say that, but..."
"Okay," I replied simply, hoping he'd catch my real meaning.
But of course, he was too smart not to. "Okay," he repeated, cautiously.
"Okay," I whispered, and suddenly our heads were very, very close, and I could feel his coffee-mint breath against my cheek, and I blushed because I was sure he could hear my heart beating and beating and beating.
He kissed me, and the fireworks exploded.
"For the record," he murmured softly against my mouth, "you're a lot prettier than Van Houten.