She didn’t know Enigma Boy.
He was tall and had long legs which he would stretch out over the aisle, and she would have to carefully step over them when she came late to her lectures. Sometimes he would notice and pull them back quickly, looking up at her with these deep green eyes, murmuring a ‘sorry’ in an accent she could not place.
At first, she would see him around the library sometimes, or sitting in the cafeteria with that other boy he was always with. With the snub nose and the toned arms. But it was only him she had the eyes for.
His complexion, she remembered thinking, was healthy. Cheeks that were a beautiful combination of reddened brown, the result of a lot of healthy sunshine and clean air. Thick dark hair that fell over his face just a little, just so, and he was always perfectly dressed.
She wasn’t. Perfectly dressed. Ever. She wore black jeans every day and alternated between three grey tops, over which she would shrug on her black hoodie and if it was cold, her dark green trench coat. Same black lace up boots, like out of a victorian photograph, and her curly black hair up in a messy bun, always, because she mostly forgot to brush it.
He probably just thought she was a messy person. Maybe he didn’t even notice her. But he talked to her friends, oh he talked to her friends. Maybe because she was too awed by him, that she was frightened to talk to him. She knew she gave off indifferent, moody vibes when she was shy. And she was tremendously shy around him.
Her heart thundered in her ears when he passed her in the corridors, and the notes of his foreign, exotic language were a soft melody in her ears. She could pick his voice out in a crowd.
And anyway, why was she thinking of him like that when she had herself the finest man a girl could wish for. At least, that is what she told herself.
He IS a fine man.
He wasn’t as handsome as Enigma Boy, that was for sure. And he didn’t have good haircuts, was a little too skinny and smoked legal highs. She spent a fortune on his legal highs, mostly to avoid one of his horrendous tantrums. His ‘ludicrous’ moods. Well, that is what love is, she would sigh to herself, sitting in her lecture, while he was probably out somewhere smoking weed. Love is sacrifice. Love is patience.
And yet, despite all the sacrificing, patient love, this Enigma Boy occupied all her thoughts.
Once she was outside the lecture hall having a naughty smoke. She puffed in and out and closed her eyes and enjoyed the acridity of it, because it made her brain float a little and she needed that. Then she froze, because there he was standing right in front of her, also having a naughty smoke, only he was not puffing, just sucking it into his mouth and blowing it out.
She saw him talking to a glamorous girl with red lipstick and thick, straight, glossy hair, both of them smoking, telling the girl that he did not smoke, he just puffed socially. Then he looked up, directly at her, her, and she looked away quickly.
Once he sat right in front of her in the lecture hall. His hair was so neat from the back. And when he shifted in his seat, she smelled him. Tobacco, mint, leather, spice. She closed her eyes and breathed in deep until someone poked her and asked if she was okay.
I’m okay. Oh. I am okay.
Then Enigma Boy turned. Their eyes met. She didn’t know why, perhaps it was out of habit, but she forgot to be shy, and she smiled at him. Not a regular smile that you give to somebody you see daily in your lecture hall. Not a ‘hello, there’ kind of smile, or even a smile of acknowledgement.
It was fully fledged smile, of warmth and comradery and her teeth even showed a little bit, so maybe it was a grin.
Oh, how embarrassing.
She smiled before she realised what she was doing and by then it was too late. Her heart dropped, thudding pitifully somewhere at the bottom of her ribcage.
To her surprise, he smiled back. A wide, friendly smile. Not a stranger smiling out of courtesy, but a smile as though perhaps they had known each other all their lives.
Warmth bubbled up gently in her chest, and she averted her eyes back to the projector screen in front of them, pretending like she was listening aptly, when really she was graining that smile to her memory, burning it into her retina. Those green, green eyes. That wonderfully tanned face, with features so perfect in their slight imperfection. The way he’d turned, looking at her.
She barely heard the discussion between her friends after the lecture. All she thought about was that smile.
On the last week at university her friends went to have lunch together. He was going, too. Ar first she wanted to say no-no-no-no. But her friends dragged her along, insistent. She ordered a tall glass of vimto, and then he was there sitting next to her asking how her exam went. At first she was fumbly and shaky, her heart an oscillating drill, thump-thump, thump-thump, thump-thump, but then her thoughts gathered themselves and soon she was prattling on, sipping her vimto, while he listened and laughed sometimes and then it was his turn to talk.
Into the evening, they talked and laughed and then she was not feeling nervous but happy. Funny. Liked. Listened to. Appraised for the words she spoke, and the thoughts she shared. Not like she had felt in a long, long time. All through the evening and then the fairy lights came on and it was twinkly and summery and four of them wandered back to the bus stop together, Danielle talking about how her engagement went down, glittering her large ring at them. Laughter and happiness floating up into the summer twilight.
That was her last day at university. Last day ever. They didn’t even swap numbers.
Years later, after she had miraculously escaped the malicious grip of her ‘man’, after she had left university and met another gentleman, so kind and sweet and handsome, and married him, she was to remember that green eyed smile. Not for the butterflies it gave her, for that memory could not resuscitate any giddy feelings within her that her husband had not made her feel beforehand, but for the happiness she had felt during and after.
She remembered that smile and thought sadly that perhaps it was not a romantic smile, perhaps it was the smile that might have made for a wonderful friendship.
One can never know.