There was an old bench by the duck pond that didn't look like the rest. The rest were shiny and new, with polished armrests and strong, sturdy boards. The old bench, named the Lonely Bench, was near a state of disrepair, the boards old and creaky, the iron armrests rusted. Nobody sat on it anymore, except for the exceedingly lonely who wished to stay exceedingly lonely. And this was how Elle met Kavien.
On foggy or rainy days, the duck pond wasn't very popular, even with tourists. It was taken care of beautifully by the city, litter always picked up, lake always clean, and grass always perfectly trimmed. But when it was raining the ducks would retreat out of sight and leave you staring at a rather nicely shaped pond while standing in the middle of rather bad weather. The lake always looked sad during bad weather, and since many don't go to duck ponds just to feel sad, the pond was nearly abandoned in bad weather.
Nearly abandoned is not the same as completely abandoned, though. Elle rather liked dreary weather, mostly because it was the only kind of weather she could enjoy the fresh air in. On rainy, stormy, or foggy days, she could always be seen strolling along the winding paths with her earphones in, listening to her music. She'd cut through the grass and go straight toward the Lonely Bench, and sit there and listen, and be exceedingly lonely. And that's how she liked it.
On a nice foggy day, when the air was cold enough so that you couldn't wander outside without a jacket, Elle was seen cutting across the damp grass near the duck pond to the Lonely Bench. The fog was think enough so that she didn't even see the Lonely Bench until she was nearly ten feet away. At the same distance, she could tell that her rickety old bench seemed occupied by somebody else, but she was not going to let that deter her. She marched forward and took a seat on the Lonely Bench, right next to the figure.
She sat peacefully and watched the fog swirl as her music blared in her ears, until she felt a bump on her shoulder. She looked over to see the other occupant of the Lonely Bench, a teenage boy with dark, shaggy hair, shifting his position. He brought out his own music player from his pocket and switched songs, and then shifted back to place his music player back, safely away from the fog again, accidentally bumping Elle again. He glanced over this time, and saw her curious blue eyes staring right into his green ones. He blinked, took in her long, damp hair, dark clothes, and own music player, and then went back to his own world. And so did Elle. And that was that.
Elle went back and sat on the Lonely Bench in bad weather with the stranger three more times before something besides silence happened. It was a foggy day again, and Elle strolled slowly along the path, enjoying the feeling of the cool fog against her skin. She saw the Lonely Bench, and saw that it was empty, but this did not worry her. The stranger only showed up somedays, and perhaps he was there when she was not on some days as well. She would sit alone, and that was perfectly alright.
As Elle was turning to cut across the grass to make her way to the Lonely Bench, she saw something ahead that she did not normally see. There was a figure standing at the edge of the duck pond, looking down into the water. Elle suspected that this was the strange boy, and she was curious. He had sat on the Lonely Bench with her four times before, and never had he wandered up to peer into the water. Elle let her curiosity take hold and slowly walked towards the figure.
She arrived at the strange boy's side, and noticed that she was a few inches shorter than him. One of them had always been seated when the other had come up, so she had not known until now what their heights compared like, but she had little issue with it, if any at all. She stared down into the water with him, looking for anything interesting, or anything sad. She found nothing at first, but another, closer look at the surface of the water and she saw a little black music player partially floating right below the surface of the lake, too far to reach without wading to the waist, and probably too waterlogged anyway. Elle took out her own earbuds, the music spilling into the silence between them.
They stared at the water some more, and both watched as, slowly, the music player sank further and further into the depths of the duck pond, until it was no longer visible. Maybe a duck will find it, Elle thought, but said nothing, since the thought was not particularly humorous, especially to a stranger who had just lost their music player to the duck pond.
THey both stood on the edge of the duck pond, staring where the music player had disappeared from view. Elle noted that the boy's face was blank, almost free of emotion, but his green eyes were a different story, swirling with so many powerful feelings that Elle could not decipher a single one with the mix of all the others. "Do you want to listen to mine?" Elle asked after several minutes of staring at the murky water. The boy nodded, and Elle offered him an earbud. They walked together to the Lonely Bench, listening to the music, and watched the fog swirl, each lost in their own thoughts.
An hour or two passed, and Elle pulled out her earbud, the same time the mysterious stranger pulled out his. She wrapped her earbud cord around her own music player, and placed it in her sweatshirt pocket.
"I'm Kavien," the boy said.
"I'm Elle," Elle told him. They parted ways.
After four sessions of sitting on the Lonely Bench, listening to Elle's music, Kavien got a new music player. They still sat together on the Lonely Bench, and watched the fog swirl, or the rain pitter-patter against the surface of the pond. Little conversation happened, if any. They both sat there, gathering their thoughts and enjoying their time outside. But when the clouds showed signs of breaking up, or the fog started to lift, both wrapped up their music swiftly and departed. They hardly ever murmured farewells to the other, but after time, they started to understand that silently, the other meant to say goodbye, just didn't aloud.
One day, when Elle strolled up, Kavien was already there, which wasn't uncommon. She didn't have her music player out today, and when she sat down next to him, neither did he. The clouds were less thick than normal when both of them showed up, and neither of them felt like staying out if the weather did clear up.
"Want to go get coffee?" Kavien wondered.
Elle nodded, and that was all that needed to be said.
When the sun looked dangerously close to interrupting their sessions of listening to their music in bad weather, each would get up from the bench and walk side by side to the nearest coffee shop. It was only natural to speak in coffee shops, so a few more words were exchanged then at the pond. Elle learned that Kavien was bullied in school, and Kavien learned that Elle was home schooled. Elle asked if it was bullies who threw Kavien's music player in the water. Kavien nodded, and asked if Elle disliked her parents. Elle shrugged. Kavien understood.
They switched around their music players to see the other's music, because you could learn a lot from the other person's music. They had nearly the same songs, but Kavien had newer rock and Elle had older rock. Both had sad songs, and slow songs, and sweet songs. Neither had pop music, and that made the other happy, though neither admitted it. They didn't need to even say it. The other understood.
They switched around their coffees, as well, and discovered that the other's drink tasted just fine. Elle got herbal tea. Kavien got black coffee. Sometimes Elle got black coffee and Kavien got herbal tea, just to switch it around. They both laughed at this, but not aloud. On the inside, where it really mattered.
Kavien ordered herbal tea. Elle order black coffee. Kavien brought out a black marker and wrote something on the cup before passing the cup to Elle. she looked down at what he had written. A seven digit number. Elle reached for her sharpie and wrote her own seven digit humber on his black coffee cup before passing both to him. Neither mentioned what the numbers meant, just enjoyed their drinks and music, and decided that today did not need meaningless chatter.
Kavien texted Elle when she was at her adopted sister's ballet recital. Her phone blasted a sweet song loudly, making several people turn to look at her. One of those faces stood out in the crowd, and Elle looked at him, and felt the corners of her mouth turn up. She texted Kavien all throughout the show, fending off boredom of the annoyance they'd both been forced to attend. Neither asked about who the other was attending with, because they could clearly see the person sitting next to them. Kavien had an older boy wearing clothes considered "cool" seated next to him. Elle was surrounded by seven other people who looked nothing like her, and nothing like the others at all, and at the end, a wealthy looking couple holding hands and reprimanding those who dared disrupt the performance.
Both understood the other without words. Elle was adopted by a wealthy couple as a charity event, and they didn't care about her as long as she did nothing to make them look bad. Kavien lived with his older brother, because his parents were nowhere to be found after six years of them being missing, and his brother was legal age. Both had younger sisters in ballet, who their guardians seemed to care about more than them. Neither pushed, and they went on with their life contentedly.
Kavien showed up near the duck pond with a black eye and a swollen lip. Elle had listened to him before, so she didn't need to ask now. Bullies. That was the answer to any question spoken at the time. And since she very well already knew the answer, Elle didn't bother to question. Just scooted over to let Kavien know she wanted him there, even though, there was more than enough room for him already on the Lonely Bench.
When the rain started to slow, both stood up at the same time, each soaked to the core. Elle's dark hair was plastered to her neck. Kavien's wet hair stuck to his forehead. Blue yes met green, and even though no words were exchanged, Kavien got the message, and Elle knew that the message had been received. Please be careful.
Two weeks later Elle got a call. Kavien told her about the cool kids, and his head and leg and arm. She caught a taxi to the hospital, despite the sun shining bright overhead, and rushed inside the doors. The perky receptionist told her that only family was allowed inside the room, so Elle stood in the waiting area. She stood for three hours, not moving, before Kavien's brother ambled in. HIs name was Doug, apparently, and Elle almost felt anger against him for being so late. He didn't talk to her, even though he knew who she was, and didn't tell the receptionist to let her in.
Elle stood there for another hour before the brother emerged. He didn't so much look at her as he strolled outside and got in his fancy car, driving off. Elle didn't expect him to be back for quiet a while, and he wasn't. So Elle stood in her position for hours, not shifting, and stared down the receptionist. She said nothing, pleaded nothing, and finally the receptionist had had enough. She told Elle that she had to leave or she'd call the police. Elle turned away, blue eyes no longer on the receptionist, and stared at the wall. She stood for many more hours, and never listened to music during that time.
The night shift receptionist came, and went, as well as many family members of other people. The night receptionist asked her name, and Elle gave her first, not dumb enough to provide the last name. She requested access to Kavien's room, and was again denied when she said she wasn't family. So Elle stood some more, because it had been over a year of coffee shops, dark music, green eyes, and not-so-lonely benches, and she wasn't giving up after a few hours.
The night receptionist got off shift, and the old receptionist came back, as well as a new receptionist. The new receptionist asked of Elle after a while, and both previous receptionists told him the story. He assessed the situation, and then asked who she was there to see. He assessed the situation again, and then waved off the other receptionists. As soon as both were gone, he told her in a quiet voice to go in, since he was alone. She nodded at him once, in silent thanks, and followed the room numbers to the one she knew was Kavien's.
"You came." Kavien's voice was hoarse and throaty. Elle didn't like the look of his head bandaged, his wrist in a splint, and his leg in a glaringly colorful neon green cast.
"Always," Elle said, and sat down next to him in the chair by the bed. Kavien fell asleep, and Elle curled up in the chair and followed his example.
Elle helped Kavien use black marker, tape, and paint to cover the bright color of his cast, because he didn't like it. He had never liked the color neon green, because it looked too unnatural. His brother had chosen the cast color, because Kavien had been knocked out. HIs injuries had been serious, as minor head trauma, a sprained wrist, and a broken leg. He's be on crutches for at least a month.
Tripping down to flights of stairs was dangerous, especially when you hadn't tripped. Kavien didn't mention it, and neither did Elle, because she knew he didn't want to talk about it. Inside she wanted the cool kids to pay, because they hadn't been blamed, even though it was clearly their fault. He'd "tripped" and with several witness accounts, who could argue against that?
The weather got worse, but that only made Elle and Kavien's meetings more frequent. They met when the sun was out, now, in the coffee shop. Kavien disliked the sun because it reminded him of things he'd rather forget. They didn't talk about why Elle didn't like the sun. They talked about things that weren't sore topics for either of them. Elle played with Kavien's hair. Kavien played with Elle's fingers. Elle and Kavien kissed over the coffee shop table.
"What's your favorite color?" Kavien asked Elle.
"Green," she replied.
"Blue," he said. They kissed again.
When Elle and Kavien were with each other, they could forget about their hard lives. They forgot about bullies, and siblings, and social images, and being the obsolete one in the family. They forgot about being a burden to those around them. They forgot about negative thoughts. They discovered some version of love, because they both loved the other more than they loved their sisters or brothers, their bullies or parents. They felt more love for the other than they ever had for a singular person, or maybe even all the people in their lives complied together in general. Because nobody had ever understood them as much as the other, which meant the other mattered more than anybody else, and if that cannot be classified as some form of love, than what can?
Elle was there the entire time when Kavien got his cast off, despite the sun streaming through the windows and his brother's refusal to close the blinds. He didn't know, and Elle didn't care, as long as Kavien knew she was there for him. And he did, and they both rejoiced with a small walk, even in broad daylight, to their coffee shop to get some herbal tea or some black coffee.
And Elle and Kavien shared a kiss, like couples do, and switched cups, and listened to music, and talked some more. And Elle got Kavien to ignore the fact when two of the four who had pushed him down the stairs walked in. And she got up from the coffee shop table, in front of everybody in the coffee shop, and grabbed Kavien's hand, and dragged him with her. And she went over to the two "cool" kids and stared at them until they were mildly uncomfortable, and shooting Kavien glances with obvious recognition, though they pretended not to recognize him.
"Apologize," Elle demanded, gripping Kavien's hand. Even the bubblegum-chewing coffee clerk even seemed to be paying attention, along with most of the people in the shop. And the two said no, and tried to move away, looking uncomfortable, but they would have lost their spot in line, and by giving up the spot, would have admitted to themselves that Kavien mattered to them somehow. So they stayed, and Elle repeated her demand. And half an hour later, she left the coffee shop, her hand in Kavien's, both having accepted the whispered half-apology as all they were going to get.
Two happy years of support from the other happened before Kavien received a message on his phone. A text, asking who he was. He knew whose phone it was from, and he knew that Elle already knew who he was, so he replied with a response he was proud of, and told the person with Elle's phone that he was her boyfriend. Another text came, telling him that the person on the other end remembered Elle telling them that she had a boyfriend. And then the worse part, where he received condolences.
He asked why, through text, because he didn't know why he should be receiving condolences, but fear tugged at the back of his mind, and ran through his entire being. And his fear was proven well placed. Elle's severe photosensitivity, her allergy to the sun, and caught up with her. She'd received skin cancer over a year ago, which she hadn't told him about, and Kavien knew why. She'd died yesterday, and Kavien looked back at his last text from the really Elle. You matter to me. And just like that, the only person he truly mattered to was dead.
Two months later, Kavien had left a note for Elle. Kavien had decided to go after his lost music player, the one he'd had when he'd first met Elle. Both it and him were found by the ducks.