What can I say? Country music makes good Addergoole songs. This one’s light and sweet, as such things go – content warning for discussed violence.
He knew within ten minutes of starting to go after her that it wasn’t going to work.
Oh, he had no doubt he could get some of her time.
He was charming, he knew how to listen – or to at least look like he was listening, but he found with her he didn’t have to fake it much – he was good looking – which around here was like saying he was breathing; everyone met certain base qualification – and they shared three classes. He had plenty of time to chat her up. He just wasn’t going to get her.
He already knew it was doomed when she agreed to a date.
He made the plans anyway.
She was bright, a smile that lit up a room. Unlike Fareed, she was almost certainly not Arabic – that fair blonde hair, that northern nose – but she had an Arabic name and that made him even more interested in Ruba, the first-year with the fiery smile and the dangerous easy comfort with him with everyone.
He took her to dinner and he flirted shamelessly – not just because she brought it out in him but because she flirted, too; she made him feel brave in a way that made him realize that he hadn’t been feeling brave about people since his first week here had gone so spectacularly bad.
She took him to bed – her bed; he found that interesting and hot, and altogether foreign. She whispered his name in a way that made him want to stay forever.
He asked her to be his, of course. They might throw him out of school and definitely out of his cy’ree if he didn’t even try.
She laughed at him, so gently, so lightly that he couldn’t even take offense. She shook her head. “I’m a no strings attached sort of girl, you know, under the table, tax-free. I’m here tonight. That’s more than most people get.”
“And I thank you for it,” he’d said, and he had proceeded to show his gratitude. She was a miracle, and he was going to miss her if this was the one night he got with her.
Later, when the sun was probably thinking of coming up, sometimes outside their bunker walls, he let himself get serious.
“I won’t ask you to be mine. I won’t ask you to stay with me. But I want you to promise me one thing.”
“I’m not a fan of promises,” she warned him, “but I’ll hear you out.”
“Promise me that the next time a guy – the next time someone – promise me if someone asks you, that again, someone not me – and they will – if they give you trouble when you say no-”
“You assume I’m going to say no?”
“Yeah. You’re a no strings attached girl. The smart thing to say would be no, and you’re quite smart. If they give you trouble, Ruba, promise me you’ll tell them to come talk to me about it?”
She’d given him a strange look at that. “You’re sweet, Fareed. Do you think we could do this again sometime?”
“Yeah, yeah I’d like that.”
That was how Fareed ended up spending most Friday nights – and some Wednesdays and Tuesdays, since neither of them minded if they didn’t get much sleep – staying up with Ruba, going out to the meadow with Ruba, shooting pool and darts and toy guns and bows and arrows with Ruba. It was how he ended up breaking three noses and seventeen fingers of people who didn’t like her answer.
It was how he ended up being the one that told her everything, being the one she punched until he was bleeding – and then practiced first aid until he could heal himself and spent three days apologizing – for the shit that was this place. It was how he ended up as her closest friend, and she as his.
Not bad, he would sometimes think, her head on his shoulder as they threw windfall apples across the meadow, for the one that got away.