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And the World Went On by manno-malfoy

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This is a spinoff my current WIP novel 'Confounding Factors', zooming in on Albus. I hope everything makes sense and that you enjoy it! Happy Holidays, everyone! 

 It’s not every day your world ends. That might just be you though. I wake up often with the notion that the world might end, that all the foundations of my existence will collectively decide to finally give me peace and collapse upon my head. Or at least that’s what my cynical self hoped for many days. It has been an especially common sentiment lately since seventh year is a fragment of hell on my coattails, a proverbial fire under my arse if you will. But the gradual encroachment of my academic demise is not the issue at hand.


 My world might actually be ending today --if the gloomy weather is any indication of my impending doom, and the relief I thought that would bring doesn’t seem to be the dominant sentiment. If anything, I’m a frazzled suffocated mess; face drained from blood, extremities aching from the cold. I seem detached and aloof; accordingly, earning myself questioning glances --and a few concerned ones-- as I make my way down the corridor and out of the train. Rose is right behind me, carrying my trunk and hers because she deemed me unfit for handling heavy objects in my ‘delicate state’.


 We step off the train onto the platform that’s bustling with people running frantically in every direction, and Rose places hand on my shoulder and gives it a squeeze. I suppose she thinks that would be reassuring, but it only makes me realise that my arm has gone numb.


“You’ll be fine. Just do what you feel is right,” she advises me, still gripping my shoulder.


“That’s the most vague and useless piece of advice you’ve ever given me. Ever. And I’ve known you when you were a lot less intelligent,” I snap at her and shrug out of her grasp.


“Hey, just because you’re having a bad day doesn’t mean I’ll let you take stabs at my intelligence, understood?” she laments me, wagging an accusing index finger at my face. “Listen, you incompetent fool,” she begins fiercely and grabs me by both shoulders to make me face her. “None of us can tell you what to do when you have no idea what you want. And it’s okay to not know what you want. But talk to your girlfriend and figure things out!”


“Easier said than done,” I mumble. “Oh crap, here she comes.”


 While my cursing may indicate that I’m upset by seeing her, that’s just because of how much I have been obsessing over the issues with our relationship --to which she is still oblivious. Upon seeing her approach us with a spring in her step as she waves at us, my heart leaps, flutters even, and I find myself smiling at her genuinely.


 She is wearing a dark purple jumper that is so oversized it almost covers her knees. Other than that, she is shrouded in black: a black coat, black tights, a black veil sculpted perfectly to frame her face. She leaps at me with a gleeful squeal and I open my arms to accommodate her.


 She kisses me with the passion of an infatuated teenager, making me stagger backwards slightly, but then I find myself reciprocating with equal fervor despite my calamities about everything. When we stop, she sighs, smiles at me, and laces an arm through mine. “Hi, sorry, for the, erm, dramatic entrance.” She clears her throat gently and turns to look at Rose. “Hey, you must be the infamous Rose.”


I'm not sure how Laila reaches that conclusion, given that I've told her that most of my cousin's sported the same hair and even the same freckles. I wonder if I might've shown her a picture at some point. But after all, I wouldn't put it past Laila to just get it right purely based on good instincts and exceptional deduction skills.


“And you must be Laila. It’s nice to finally meet you,” Rose says genially and extends her hand for Laila to shake.


“Likewise,” Laila replies and shakes Rose’s hand briefly.


“I would love to stay and finally get to know you without having Albus distorting everything, but I have somewhere to be,” Rose says to excuse herself, then she turns on her heels and grasps my elbow. “You’ll cover for me, right?”


“Which excuse are we using?” I ask, too distracted by my own misery to keep up.


“Sana.” I feel like Rose wanted to call me an incompetent fool again, but she censored herself because of Laila’s presence. And I greatly appreciate that.


“What if they check with Sana?” I ask, realising how dumb of a question that was the moment it leaves my lips.


“Sana will know what to do,” Rose replies, still maintaining her calm. But I hear her voice in my head saying ‘unlike you’. Of course, I am aware that Sana Wood is Rose’s best friend and that they cover for each other by default. Sana even covers for me without being asked to. I just cannot seem to get a grip on my mental capacities in the state I'm in. And Laila’s arm around mine is only a reminder of how much I might be losing very shortly.


Such a merry, merry season.


“Right, right. You go off be mischievous,” I dismiss her with a nod, thinking about how proud Sana would be of how Rose has been developing this year. She’d probably be beating me on the head with her beater bat for how I’ve been regressing though.


“What’s Rose up to?” Laila asks and looks up at me as Rose melds into the crowd save for her bright red hair that’s peeking out from under her burgundy knit hat. Not that there was anything on the face of the planet capable of containing Rose’s hair.


“She’s gallivanting around with her ‘secret’ boyfriend. I’m not sure what they’re up to though. I didn’t ask,” I tell her with a shrug then interlace my fingers with hers.


 The warmth of her palm against mine soothes me a bit. The sinking feeling in my chest begins to dissipate, and I finally manage to look in Laila’s direction and smile.


“I thought you two were close though,” she says, a question lingering in her tone.


“We are. I was just too excited about seeing you to actually register anything she might’ve said.” Well, I suppose that was a lie. I was too consumed by my own concerns that Rose actually spent the first half of the train ride trying to console me and the other half avoiding me because I kept snapping at her.


“Well, that doesn’t sound very nice,” she says lamentingly and places a hand on my chest.


“Well… I get to listen to Rose and all her issues all year. I only get a few weeks with you.” At least that’s not a lie.


“But you’re finally graduating, so that should be coming to an end by June, no?” she says, clasping her hands together in excitement.


“What do you mean ‘finally’ graduating’? I’m not the one who still has four years to go at university.” I raised my eyebrows at her and crossed my arms, pretending to be dismayed by the what her tone suggested.


“I don’t have to live in a clandestine castle literally in the middle of nowhere --”


“Hogwarts is not in the middle of nowhere!” I object loudly, interrupting her.


“--for nine bleeding months every year. If it hadn’t been for Fares, my parents would’ve thought I’m making you up just to spite them,” she goes on, barely registering what I said. “Where is Fares anyway?”


 She cranes her neck and starts to look around for her brother who should be particularly difficult to miss because of how tall he is.


 I catch a glimpse of yellow striped scarves and point in their direction saying, “Probably in the centre of that congregation of Hufflepuffs sat in the corner there.”


 When she confirms that she sees him amidst them, she says, “Oh well, leave him be. This way I get to say he was the one holding us up.”


“Hey, any chance you can find out if they’re planning to practise Quidditch during the break? Because six of that group are on their Quidditch team,” I ask her, wondering if it was too much to ask of her.


“You want me to spy on my brother and his friends for you?” She seems slightly shocked by the question, but I immediately realise she’s exaggerating just to mess with me as her scandalised facade falters and a glimmer of a smile appears on her face.


“How morally opposed are you to it?”


“Depends on what I’ll get in return for it,” she informs me with a shrug and a wicked smile that suits her dark, edgy makeup and deep crimson lipstick.


“Wow, I didn’t realise you were full on corrupt. I thought you’d need a bit more convincing.”


“Oh no, darling, I’m an opportunist. And if I’m going to do something morally questionable, I might as well get something out of it.” She moves ever so slightly so that she is facing me and snakes her arms around my neck. “You aren’t even on the Quidditch team, no? Why do you care?”


“Just because I don’t play doesn’t mean I don’t want my team to win,” I say as I move my hands to place one on each of her hips that are obscured by layers of clothes.


“So, what’s this information worth to you?” she pouts, trying to seem devilish and scheming. And I’m not going to lie, it suits her incredibly, and it makes my heart pound in my ears. She would’ve made an excellent Slytherin had she not been the stereotypical brainy Ravenclaw with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and almost military dedication to rules. But she puts on an impeccable act of being conniving and malevolent, always trying to seem edgier and tougher than she truly is. Which made me love her even more.


“I’m not sure anymore if I’m bribing you for information or if you’re seducing me into giving this up,” I say and she kisses me very briefly once I stop talking.


“I’m trying to figure out how much this means to you so I don’t sell myself short.”


“No, Laila darling, you’re not an object. We can’t put a price on you,” I tell and give her a chaste kiss on her cheek.


“Haha,” she mocks me and pushes me away by the shoulders. “Nice try. But I’m not asking you to put a price on me; we’re putting a price on my loyalty.”


“Hmm… well, in that case, we’re going to have to come up with something that appeals to you,” I say and pull her closer to me by the waist. “I’ve missed you.”


“I’ve missed you too. And I cannot wait for you to graduate so I can stop having to miss you all the time like this,” she tells me and buries her head in my chest.


 I envelope her with my arms, pulling her even closer until there isn't any space between us. I try to lose myself in this moment, to inhale all of her beauty and warmth, and hope that maybe, just maybe that this feeling of sheer comfort, that the strength of this connection could save us from all the heartbreak that my confessions might entail.


“I’ll tell mum and dad that you’re intimate with boys,” a masculine voice threatens imposingly, and I open my eyes to find Fares towering over both of us and glowering at me.


 I move to withdraw from Laila’s embrace but she clings to me, placing her head in its alcove against my breastbone once again. “And I’ll tell them that you like boys, and we’ll be even,” Laila counters immediately with a proud smirk.  


 He rolls his eyes then suggests in a bored voice, “Then get a room maybe, the pair of you,”


“Hey, now you be nice to us or I'll let you walk home.”


“I can always take a taxi,” he tells her with a nonchalant shrug and tightens his grip on the handle of his trolley.


“Yes, yes, you definitely can. Excuse me, can you please help me put in my absurdly heavy mammoth of a trunk, oh, and can my owl’s cage take the passenger seat, please?” She laughs a bit, and the soft laughter transforms into vibrations that traverse my chest and run down my spine. “Good luck with that.”


 Fares purses his lips for a few moments, then finally rolls his eyes, sighs, and mutters an unintelligible apology. “Can we go home now, please?”


“The sacrifices we have to make for our siblings.” Laila sighs dramatically before giving me a chaste parting kiss on the cheek and saying, “The usual at eight?”


I nod and repeat in reply, “The usual at eight.”


 I give her one last hug before releasing her, and she waves at me feebly before turning to leave with her brother in tow.


I'm shocked to hear Fares say as he leaves, “Merry Christmas, Potter.”


“Merry Christmas,” I mumble in return.


 The feeling of joy and warmth that Laila’s presence fed me was a life line, a glimmer of hope in the face of the dead end I had been bashing my head against for weeks now. But once I’m back in my room at home and alone with my thoughts, the feeling starts to dwindle away, and I start reverting to the bundle of nerves I had been hours ago.


 I’m collapsed on my bed, staring at the ceiling and hoping for a miracle when the universe delivers Lily and her best friend Rookie Greengrass at my door instead. They announce their presence with a knock but then barge in a most undignified way before waiting for a response.


“Hi. We just wanted to let you know that when you’re punching the wall, you’re interfering with the nap we’re trying to have,” Lily informs me in a patronising tone as she holds onto the door knob.


 I lift my head up ever so slightly to see her friend Rookie standing behind her and peeking over Lily’s shoulder. I let my head fall onto the bed with a soft thud before saying, “Piss off.”


“Hey, that’s very rude, especially since we came to see if we can help somehow,” Lily tells me off.


“I thought you wanted to nap,” I tell her as I sit up with intention to shoo her and her friend out of my room.


“We obviously can’t do that when you’re punching the wall every ten minutes,” she retorts and allows herself into the room. She sits on my desk and starts swinging her legs. Rookie hesitates for moment and then decides to stay by the door. “Besides, we can be very resourceful sometimes.”


“Most of the time,” Rookie corrects her and arrogantly cocks her head to one side.


“Are you still obsessing over the same thing we talked about weeks ago?” Lily asks me, and I turn to find her fondling with my collection of antique chess pieces.


“Yes,” I grumble and glare at her hands.


 She immediately puts it down and clears her throat. “I thought you’d have figured it out by now.”


 I glance in Rookie’s direction to find her running a hand through her short blonde hair. She has always been sporting a boy-cut and sometimes when I look at her from certain angles, I could almost swear that she’s a Malfoy. The girl falters under my questioning glance and looks at her feet to avoid it.


“Rookie knows everything,” Lily informs me as soon as she notices this exchange of looks.


“Everything?”


“Pretty much,” the response comes from Rookie’s direction.


 I’m just about to chastise Lily for talking about my personal problems to her friend when it really wasn’t her place to when Rookie adds, “I’m also ace, so I might be able to give you some solid advice.”


“I never knew you’re ace,” I tell her with a frown.


“How would you? You’re so far removed from everything that’s unrelated to you,” she responds so liberally, and I find her candour uncalled for. And to make it even worse, she finally steps over the threshold of my doorstep and joins Lily on top of my desk.


“Are you calling me self-centered?”


“No, I’m calling you a recluse,” she says in a matter-of-factly tone as if it’s not just her opinion but a well-acknowledged truth.


“And he is slightly self-centered if we’re being honest,” Lily adds.


“I’m trying to be nice, Lily.”


 I’m baffled that this was Rookie Greengrass being on her best behaviour. And for a moment, I consider kicking them out the room and hiding under my bed until Christmas. But I decide that even if Lily and Rookie can’t actually give me any useful advice, at least they are better company than the self-destructive thoughts that have been swarming around my head for weeks.


“I don’t know what to do,” I complain and collapse onto the bed again and cover my face with a pillow.


“Is he always so dramatic?” I hear Rookie ask Lily in a whisper, but by the time I push the pillow aside, Lily is done responding and is flashing me a most innocent smile.


“I know you don’t want to hear this, Albus, but you really should talk to Laila,” Lily tells me, and while it’s not a new piece of information to me --Rose has been telling me that for months now, it still makes my breath get caught in my throat the way it had when Rose first told me that. I was just hoping that by now someone would’ve come up with a new idea, especially since Lily and Rookie are brilliantly diabolical when given the opportunity.


“But what if I lose her?” I ask and I sit up again with a sigh.


“But look at you now. You’re in so much agony that you’re letting us invade your room and offer our opinion on the matter,” Rookie says and clasps her hand in her lap.


Lily confirms with a nod, “That’s how drastic it is.”


“At least if you tell her, you know where you stand. Yes, it might break your heart. But then at least you can move onto a relationship that suits you,” Rookie says, and for a moment, she stops being my little sister’s silly friend.


“Okay, but what if…” I take a deep breath, too reluctant to admit this out loud in front of Rookie, especially now that I knew that she, too, is asexual. I finally swallow my pride and ask with my eyes squeezed shut, “What if I’m willing to maybe try… sleeping with her?” I open my eyes to assess their reaction. I’m surprised that they seem unaffected by what I just said. When I told Rose that months ago, she went on a five-minute rant about how I shouldn’t compromise my sexual identity just to make a relationship work.


“If you’re willing to, I don’t see what the problem is,” Rookie says nonchalantly with a shrug.


“But I’m ace.”


“So?” Rookie counters with a confused frown.


“So wouldn’t I be going against everything I claim I am? I mean, Rose said --”


“Oh, Albus,” Lily interrupts me and releases an exasperated sigh. “We can’t all be as idealistic as Rose. You know that.”


“And if we were, that’d be how romance dies,” Rookie adds with a chortle. “Poor Scorpius is such a hopeless romantic. I don't know how he's coping with that.”


“Hey, that’s rude,” I point out. If Lily had been the one to say that, I would’ve let it slide. But Rookie wasn’t related to us; she shouldn’t be able to just say that.


“It’s also true. We’re not slighting Rose; we know she’s amazing. And maybe she can actually meet the abnormally high standards that she sets out for herself, but we don’t all have Granger blood running through our veins, so we can’t all do that. And that’s okay,” Lily says, and she sounds genuine and concerned which comforts me. Up until then, I was concerned the pair of them were here just to mess with me.


“Besides, just because you’re ace doesn’t mean you can’t experiment and find out what you like. And ‘sexual’ people have sex with people they’re not attracted to all the time for all sorts of reasons,” Rookie tells me. “Yes, some of us cannot handle the thought of having sex, but some of us do. And that doesn’t change who we are. It doesn’t change the fact that we might not be physically attracted to the person we love. But that doesn’t take away from how much we love them, and it also doesn’t mean we can’t have sex with them as long as we’re the ones who want to and are not being pressured or guilted into it.”


 I let what she says sink in. She said it with so much passion and so much confidence, and I’m inclined to take her words as divine truth.


“And Albus, if you do experiment with her and you decide that you don’t like it or you don’t feel comfortable doing that, then you can always go back on it. It’s not a binding agreement. That’s not how it works,” Lily says gently with a sympathetic smile.


“I just care about her so much. And I really don’t want to lose her. I just don’t know how she’ll take it,” I admit honestly, no longer irritated by their presence or doubtful of their intentions.


“Just talk to her and explain it; she might surprise you,” Lily tries to reassure me and hops off the desk to come sit next to me on the bed. “And if she doesn’t, we’re here for you. And it won’t be the end of the world.”


“If she doesn’t, I hope it does end,” I mumble.


“That’s what we all say, but then we get over it,” Rookie says from her end of the room.


“Eventually,” Lily adds in agreement.


After a long sigh, I turn to Rookie to ask, “How do you have it all so figured out?”


“What? My asexuality?”


I nod in response.


“Well, I’ve experimented for a while till I figured out how much I’m comfortable with. And I eventually co-founded the asexual club at school,” Rookie explains.


“We have an asexual club?”


 Rookie nods and elaborates, “At first it was just us asexuals. There was maybe ten of us, and it was nice. We used to talk about our relationship problems and our identity, and naturally, some of us ended up dating. Recently we’ve even included demi-sexuals who are sex-repulsed or sex-indifferent. And it’s just really reassuring and helps show you that even though we all do share an identity in some ways that we’re also all different individuals as well.”


“How have I never heard about this before?” I ask, flabbergasted by all the information I was hearing for the first time today.


“We already told you, Albus, you’re a self-centered recluse, sweetie” Lily says and places pats me on the back.


 If Lily and Rookie making sense and actually giving me sensible, comforting advice wasn’t a sign of the world ending, I’m not sure what else would be. Every time I start to get caught up in my insecurities and fears, I would just remember Rookie’s inspirational speech about asexuality, and try to bury everything in the back of my mind.


 I was still a prisoner of my mind much to my parents’ dismay until I left for my date with Laila. We meet up at eight in a little cozy cafe that Laila introduced me to shortly after we met. After a while, the pub where we first met became too loud for us to have a proper conversation. And so, the cafe became our regular meeting spot unless we were going out to have dinner or something.


 We spend a long time talking about our lives. We sit on fluffy cushions on the floor with our backs to the wall, a steaming cup of coffee on each of our sides. Laila talks about how difficult studying to be an astronomer is and tries to explain to me as much of the technicalities and complexities as I can comprehend. It helps that I study astronomy at Hogwarts and have a fair knowledge of celestial bodies and their nature. But my knowledge was scant in comparison to Laila’s, especially when that knowledge was coupled with unconditional passion.  In turn, I tell her that my world is ending, but I only discuss the academic aspect of it.

 

 At some point, comfortable silence hangs between us, and Laila shifts around until she’s sitting in my lap, her back pressed to my chest, and her head nestled between my neck and my shoulder. She tilts her head up and plants a kiss along my jaw as I shift under her and wrap my arms around her waist.


“Hey, I’ve been thinking about something your brother said today,” I tell her, breaking the silence.


She looks up at me with a frown and asks, “What exactly? I don’t remember him saying much.”


“About us being ‘intimate’,” I stress on the word as I draw air quotes in the air. I wind my arms around her again and continue, “Would you get in trouble if your parents knew about that?”


 She purses her lips in thought and hums for a moment, and I feel her take a deep breath against me. “A bit. Kind of, yeah. But ever since I started uni, I’ve been staying at the dorms most of the time, so they’re not that involved in my life anymore. We’re still close, but they don’t know every detail about my life, which I think is very healthy.”


I’m about to ask another question when she goes on, “And we’re relatively well-behaved when we take into consideration what I was doing with other boys before. So don’t worry about my parents, babe.”


“Okay… I have another question but if you feel like I’m overstepping, you don’t have to answer it.”

 

She looks up again to analyse my facial expression and she moves ever so slightly so that she doesn’t have to keep on craning her neck to see me. “See, now you’re making me worried. But go ahead.”


“How much trouble would Fares get into if your parents know that he ‘likes boys’ as you’ve put it?” I finally manage to ask.


“He also likes girls, you know. But mostly boys. But yeah, he’d get in trouble,” she confesses and sighs heavily.


“Would they, like, disown him or something?” I wonder out loud then worry that I might have been offensive.


She surprises me and chuckles in response. “I don’t think so. I like to think they’re more progressive than I give them credit for. If they managed to accept this magic thing and live with it, who knows what else they’re willing to accept? At least when it comes to Fares. I also like to think that they wouldn’t distance him more than he already is. But who really knows?”


The only response I find appropriate is a solemn nod. And once again, she places her head against my shoulder.


I hated to disturb the peace once again, but I couldn’t help but grasp the opportunity to finally talk about the thing that has been agonising me for months. “Laila.”


“Hmm…”


“While we’re on the topic of sexuality, I… I want to talk about something,” I start, wondering if I will actually go through with it.


“You’re awfully serious today, babe. What’s up?” She gets off my lap and moves around. She stretches her legs so that they’re perpendicular to mine and places a hand against my cheek. “You know you can tell me anything.”


 I melt under her touch, and my heart that was already racing somehow starts to thump more vigorously against my chest.


“Albus?”


I take a deep breath, close my eyes and finally muster, “Laila, I’m ace.”


“Oh…” is her only her reaction as she withdraws her hand, and I feel a familiar lump rise up my throat. But then I feel her grab my hand and give it a firm squeeze. “Albus, babe, are you breathing? I kind of need you to breathe if we’re going to talk about this.”


“I’d breathe more easily if you give me a substantial response.”


“Give me a moment to process it maybe? I haven’t stormed out yet, so don’t freak out,” she tells me with a smile, and I try to take that as a reassuring sign.


 It doesn’t stop me from feeling my pulse pound in my head, but I do try to breathe regularly.


“Can I ask questions now?” she asks me softly, her hand still tightly wound around mine.


“Please do.”


“Hmm…” she purses her lips in thought as is her habit then finally inquires, “So you never want to have sex?”


“Well, you see, that’s the thing. I don’t really… know. I don’t have it all figured out yet,” I say with candour.


“So you’re just not attracted to me?” she wonders, and I begin to feel guilty.


“Not in the conventional way, no.” And then I find myself apologising.


“Albus, don’t apologise. It’s just who you are. And this explains so much anyway,” she tells me and interlaces our fingers.


“Such as?”


“Such as how your hands have never gone near my arse. I have a great arse, you know. Blokes are usually all over it,” she says, and I’m not sure if she’s joking, but I find myself laughing a bit despite the perpetual nervousness that has set up home in my mind.


“Laila, I’ve been driving myself crazy over this. It’s just that…” I sigh and try to gather my thoughts, wondering how to explain this to her in the best way possible. But before a coherent thought is formed in my head, I find myself saying, “I understand how much this complicates things. I do. I just love you so much and I don’t want to lose you. But --”


“You love me?” The words come out in a squeak that I’ve never heard the like of from Laila.


I don’t understand why that statement is so shocking to her. “I thought that bit was obvious.”


“Maybe. I could never be really sure. And no one’s ever told me that they love me, so will you let me revel in it?” She punches me in the shoulder but then directs a most radiant smile at me.


“Yes, sorry. Revel away,” I concede and raise my free hand apologetically, and she immediately intertwines her fingers with mine and leans forward to kiss me for a substantial fraction of a minute.


“Could we revel some more? I really enjoyed that,” I say as she withdraws and lets go of my hand.


“Later maybe. Now it's my turn to talk, don't you think?”


I gesture for her to go ahead and say what she wants on the matter, not sure what to anticipate.


“While we're stating the obvious, I would like to point out that I love you too, which is why we're going to figure this out together,” she says so formally as if she's giving a lecture. But I can't help myself but lean over to give her a peck on the lips.


“Sorry, you go on with your speech.”


 She slaps me lightly on the arm and scolds me, “Don't mock me while I confess my heart’s and mind’s contents, Albus Potter.”


“I did apologize,” I point out.


“I'll let it slide this time,” she relents with a nod.


“As I was saying… I have zero issues with taking the time to figure this out with you. And you know that I come from a conservative, moderately religious family. I comply to some requirements, but I can't lie, I disregard some. So yes, I may fool around with boys, but I've never really crossed the threshold of sex. It's not a line I ever found myself brave enough to cross. Not yet anyway. So there's no immediate need for us to fret about this, but I'm also not sure if I can go on forever without having sex. Given that, you know, this relationship becomes a long term commitment or whatever. Okay, that's all I wanted to say. You may speak now.”


“Ahem, thanks for the permission to speak,” I start mockingly in an equally formal tone. “I just want to say that I'm not saying I won't or can't ever have sex. I don't mind trying. I was conflicted for a very long time, not sure if I'd rather lose you or compromise my sexual identity just to keep you in my life.”


She interrupts before I can elaborate, “And what? You're choosing the latter?”


“Not exactly, no. I finally talked to someone who is ace today, and she helped me come to the conclusion that it's not an either or situation. That if I love you enough and maybe potentially even enjoy being that intimate with you, then there's nothing wrong with that. And it doesn't mean I'm not asexual,” I explain to her.


“Hmm…” she hums again as she ponders over the information I unloaded on her. “You've been really stressing out about this, haven't you? Did you, like, think that I'm not open-minded enough or care about you enough or something?”


“No, that's not why it was stressing me out. But I just know how big of a deal sex can be.”


“Sure, it can be and it is, but it's not everything. We have so much else,” she counters immediately, not even taking a moment to think about it, and I admire her so much for it. “Albus, you've involved me in your world and taught me more about it in one year than Fares ever did in five. And when I talk about my studies, you're genuinely interested and you even read stuff so you can keep up. No one’s ever done that for me.”


I'm touched by what she’s saying, but can't help but dispute it. “All of that is true and wonderful and why I love you, Laila. But sometimes all of that is not enough.” I wasn't sure why I was playing the devil’s advocate when it wasn't in my favour. I suppose I just wanted to be sure that she fully comprehended what she was getting herself into.


“But sometimes it is. And it's enough for me for right now. Can't we take it one step at a time and deal with it when it becomes an actual issue depending on how and who we are by then?”


“That sounds reasonable enough for me,” I agree. I proceed to pull her back onto my lap and my lips brush against her scarf as I say, “How are you so amazing?”


“It comes with my bomb of an arse. I'm still kinda bummed out that you can't properly appreciate it,” she jokes and accentuates her feigned disappointment with a sigh as she reclines her head against my chest once again.


“I can appreciate it,” I claim and I see her eyebrows rise in suspicion. “Aesthetically, perhaps. It might not turn me on per se but… it feels nice against my legs when your sitting in my lap, if that's worth anything.”


Her response is uncontrolled laughter, which makes me push her off my lap and watch her with silent contempt.


“I’m sorry, I'm sorry,” she apologises between laughs as she gasps for breath. “Come here,” she says and pulls me into an awkward hug, throwing one arm around my back and another across my chest. She places a kiss on my cheek first, then cranes her neck to place another one on my lips.


“I’ve heard all sorts of comments about my body in the short period I've dated boys, but this is the first time I get this one,” she informs me, traces of laughter in her voice.

 

 

And as much as I hate being cheesy --an unfortunate characteristic that Rose has managed to infect me with, I look at her and can't help but think that maybe the world can end some other day.

 



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