At the question, Kate closed her eyes and breathed, she could smell his aftershave and the flowers she held to her chest. They were so close. The closest they had been in over twenty-four hours. It had been at Adam’s request. He had said when they first started dating that he “wanted to do the whole thing properly”; only now did Kate realise what he really meant by this. There was a gleam to Adam’s eyes as she walked towards him, that had filled Kate’s chest with so many overwhelming emotions. She had felt as if she could hardly breathe, a feeling she had become accustomed to feeling around her to be husband, it was a feeling Kate had first felt when the couple met fourteen years ago and was yet to leave. The walk to him had felt like it had taken a lifetime, while her heart hammered with passion, excitement and nerves. Kate had never felt comfortable when people stared at her. But she was there, finally standing in front of Adam, and this was it. The start of the rest of her life. She was ready, she blinked, and when she opened her eyes, she stared straight back at Adam’s, who whispered “Hi” to her.
“Hi” She replied. They both smiled and let out a little giggle at an inside joke, no-one else understood.
Kate forgot all about the crowd of seated friends and family, the registrar, the chilly mid-April breeze blowing in through the open doors behind her. She shivered, the breeze was getting stronger, ruffling the table clothes and blowing her hair into her face. The hairs on her arms stood on end. Kate blinked and then all of a sudden. She was standing in a school auditorium. She recognised it instantly.
It was her seventh first school assembly. Kate had shuffled in and picked a seat somewhat at random, but also with purpose. She refused to sit in the middle in case this was the type of institution that required audience participation, for the same reasons, she also ruled out anywhere too close to the front, but also not right at the back, she wasn’t that kind of student, not for the time being at least. Little did she know how much this choice would influence the rest of her life. About 45 seconds before the bell went to signal to late-commers their detention, seeking the few spare seats in the auditorium and spotting the one next to Kate; was Adam. An average height male, with dark hair that wasn’t quite black, brown eyes, and the biggest smile. As Adam walked further into the auditorium several girls moved their bags from the seats next to them in an attempt to attract Adam towards them, but he had his eyes set on one girl, on the other side of the room to where he was now and requiring at least twelve people to stand up or awkwardly scootch their legs out of the way so he could walk the narrow aisle to the seat next to Kate. Kate’s mind wandered back into the room to wonder whether the rows of seats she had walked past and hoped that her friends and family sat there had plenty of leg room.
Kate refused to make eye contact, to acknowledge him, who knew how long her parents planned on staying here before relocating again. It wasn’t worth the hassle of making friends, but as Adam made his way towards her and the seat, his smile and the remarks he made as he apologised to everyone he wiggled past, she couldn’t help but smirk in an attempt to hide a smile.
Finally, he was seated, and the teacher at the front of the hall began. Without a single thought for Kate’s potential interested in the speaker, Adam immediately stuck his hand out and whispered; “Hi”. She could not believe his audacity. Didn’t Kate’s dress sense give off vibes that said; ‘go away’? She rolled her eyes and crossed her arms, but he continued to hold out his hand, wearing this huge smile. She glanced up. His eyes caught hers and Kate could not look away. It was like his whole life and happiness rested on her shaking his hand, so she yielded and mumbled a ‘Hello’ back.
“Hi.” He continued.
“Hi.” Kate replied curtly.
“Howdy.” The stranger beside her looked like he could do this all day. He was laughing to himself. This was apparently hilarious.
Kate refused to play his games and turned her attention to the speaker at the front of the auditorium, still acutely aware of the stranger next to her.
Assembly ended and Kate tried to make a quick exit, but he blocked her path, he cocked his head to one side and asked;
“I don’t know you, do I?”
“No, I’m new, today’s my first day.” Kate didn’t know why she found herself over sharing with him, but it was easy.
“Oh, well. I’m Adam. Welcome to our great educational institution” The smile returned, he gestured around him and then held out his hand again. This time Kate didn’t hesitate.
She giggled; “Well Adam, I’m Kate. It’s nice to meet you, I’ll see you around.”
Adam paused. It seemed as though he had more he wanted to say, but before there was a chance. The greeting was over, Adam’s friend clasped him on the shoulder and Kate wiggled her way past the two of them and made her way to the front of the auditorium and continued on her way to first period English.
Kate sighed. She had always regretted leaving. She had always wondered what Adam had been going to say, but his friend turning up had changed everything. It was likely he was just being friendly to a new person, yet she had always wondered if there was anything more to it. Unfortunately Adam had a terrible memory, so the knowledge was lost to her.
English was good. It was Kate’s favourite subject and the teacher like her, was new too which made things easier, but Kate couldn’t concentrate. From where she sat she could look out of the door and into the hallway, and daydream about what else Adam had wanted to say to her before his friend had interrupted.
For the rest of the day Kate couldn’t stop thinking about Adam, she had made friends with a girl; Christina, in second period maths and discovered that Adam was the talk of the school. Everyone wanted him. The most widely debated topic by all the girls in school was whether he was actually off the market or not. According to the girls in maths; who saw the lesson as more of a beauty parlour where they could preen themselves ready for first break when they would routinely do laps of the field where Adam and his friends sat, in an attempt to catch his eye despite the rumours that he was impossible to impress.
Kate refused to accept that she was interested in Adam. She told herself that a boy didn’t matter, and there was no way he was ever going to be interested in her. It seemed as though the whole school was obsessed with him. Even teachers treated him differently. It confused Kate that one boy could have such an effect on the female species. She didn’t understand the fascination, but was fascinated, nonetheless. When Christina invited her along to socialise she didn’t turn down the offer. The girls were nice, despite maybe being a little conceited and obsessed by Adam. However, spending break with them meant she wouldn’t be alone. For once, Kate wanted to be in the company of other people, so she didn’t turn the offer down.
The bell for first break sounded and Christina and the other girls; Martha and Kerris showed Kate the way to the canteen, where they grabbed a drink and snack. They headed to the bathroom, where the girls, but not Kate; checked their hair in the bathroom toilets, reapplied lip gloss, mascara, powder and body spray. As if they hadn’t just done this ten minutes ago in a maths lesson, before scouting the playing fields for Adam and his friends.
Adam was out on the back fields, somewhere which seemed to be reserved for the older students, which Kate and her friends were not. No-one had mentioned that he was two years older.
Adam’s friends were playing with a rugby ball, tossing it between each other, occasionally throwing it at Adam in an attempt to get him to join them while he talked to three girls whose skirts were slightly too short and were certainly wearing shirts at least one size too small. As Kate and her friends approached to do their imitation of an aeronautics fly past but with their feet firmly on the ground, Kate felt wildly out of place, the girls talking to Adam were so much more than Kate or her friends could ever be. Christina pinched her arm hard through her blazer, Adam was calling her name.
He had looked up, noticed the group of girls, and the unmistakeable auburn hair belonging to Kate. He had cocked his head to oneside and called her name. Kate had missed all of this but was debriefed later in the day by a very jealous Christina.
The girls froze, Kate had failed to mention their earlier meeting and was now the centre of envy, as she left the girls and started walking towards Adam.
“Hi.” She felt out of breath, despite a walk of no more than three or four metres, she was convinced her hands were shaking so she kept them folded at her chest.
“Hello.” He said, looking up at her, with his huge eyes. Kate was unsure whether to sit or not, so stayed standing. “How is your day going so far?” he continued.
“It’s okay. Same content just the robots delivering it look different, you get me?”
He was already laughing and attempted a robot impression which was of Mr Liabel from the mornings assembly. It made Kate laugh. The girls who were sat with Adam were not laughing.
“Care to sit with us?” offered Adam. Not considering if the girls he was already with were comfortable sitting with a student from a younger year.
Kate glanced at Adam’s friends and her own, ”Oh no, it’s okay. Thanks for the offer, but I should get back. See you around?”
At her words he looked hurt, his eyes conveyed an expression you would only otherwise see in a kicked puppy, did he want her to stay, Kate wasn’t sure, his reply would provide the answer. “Okay, sure. See you around.”
She had felt disappointed at having to leave, she had wanted him to talk to her, keep asking about her day, she wanted to be close to him, to spend every second of free time that she had with this mysterious boy who captured the hearts of every girl in school. But he had denied her, she wasn’t that important to him. Kate told herself it was fine, despite wanting to be important to him, he was all she thought about. He was all she wanted, and Kate couldn’t even explain it. All she knew that seeing Adam again made each day okay, and during the week it was fine, she’d bump into him in the corridor, or stumble across him in the back of the library with a girl she assumed was his girlfriend, something she didn’t tell Christina and the girls. She even chose her seat for English so she could see out of the window onto the playing fields where she could see Adam whilst he was in football training.
Kate remembered how in the early days of her friendship with Adam, when they were both still at school, how she hated the weekends. It was the one time she was guaranteed she wouldn’t see him. However, on a Friday, it appeared that the two of them made a larger effort to see one another, sometimes spending the whole of lunch or both break times together, or walking home together, if Kate had an extra study session at lunch. Kate remembered how on other days of the week, while Kate waited for Christina and the other girls. Adam would sometimes come over and stand with her while he waited for his friends. These meetings were so brief, and so sporadic. But as Kate remembered the joy of afternoons when he waited with her, and the disappointment of afternoons when he couldn’t. She felt her heart long for Adam.
One weekend Kate’s mother took her shopping at the local shopping mall. Kate asked her mother if it was okay to have ten minutes alone browsing the bookstore. After browsing the bookstore and limiting herself to only purchasing three books but promising to come back to the dozen others she had found. Kate walked out of the store and took a few steps forward so she could read the map and find the right exit to meet her mother back at the car, when she heard her name being called.
She looked up, glanced around but couldn’t see anyone she recognised. Kate returned to the map, found the right exit, and started heading in the right direction when she heard her name again. Through the crowd of people, on the other side of the hall, was a milkshake bar, and behind the counter, was Adam.
Kate laughed, and made her way over to him, and sat down in one of the tall chairs.
“How did you recognise it was me?” she was still laughing. How loud was he shouting over the noise of the crowd for her to hear him?
“Hi.” Adam said.
“Hello.” Replied Kate. It was almost a habit now, for every greeting to begin like this.
“It’s easy to recognise the girl who’s always running through my dreams”, he replied while getting a glass and a blender ready. He gestured to the topping and flavour board behind him, “What would you like?”.
Kate was blown away, there were so many options, fruits, chocolate, sweets, different flavours of ice cream, she didn’t know where to start. Eventually she settled on haribo starmix, cherries and vanilla ice cream.
Adam rang it through the till, “That’ll be £3.90, my manager’s working today, so I won’t be able to give it to you for free I’m afraid.”
Kate snorted and wondered how many times he had pulled this trick, before she could stop herself, she was asking. He looked at her bashfully, she was onto him, and he hadn’t expected it. Kate was impressed, pulling down the veil that Adam hid behind meant that she got to see more of who he really was, rather than the rumours or who everyone thought he was.
“That’s okay.” Kate replied, she didn’t mind paying really, and it was more the company she was after more than anything.
Kate remembered how several hours went by, Adam finished his shift and they continued to talk, about everything and anything, how Adam felt pressured at school because everyone noticed him, to hobbies and dreams for the future. It was easy with him. Kate wasn’t sure what would happen at school on Monday, but she knew that the dynamics had shifted.
From this one meeting; in an assembly hall at school when she was thirteen, Kate had had the pleasure of finding the one. It had taken a while, she and Adam had spent almost nine years as friends before realising that what they had was huge, bigger than anything either of them had ever experienced before. Of course it hadn’t always been plain sailing, and of course marriage was going to be more of the same, but in the pit of her stomach, Kate knew she couldn’t do life without Adam, he completed her world and even she felt more whole with him than without.
In the distance Kate could hear Adam talking, his accent had stayed, but his voice sounded older. The smell of spring flowers filled her nostrils before the goosebumps and breeze returned, blowing her hair about her face. When Kate opened her eyes, her hair was in place as it had been before she had walked down the aisle and Adam was standing opposite her. Kate was back in the present, she noticed the lines in Adam’s face that had worked their way in over the past fourteen years. She had only a few times noticed how much fuller his face looked compared to the photo’s they had from when they were younger. It didn’t matter to Kate in the slightest. When Adam had finished his vows, the registrar turned to Kate. She began to panic, thinking she had taken too long to answer the question, and everyone was staring at her, wondering if she was about to run back past the rows of chairs, she had walked calmly up, just moments before. Kate looked at Adam, his eyes unchanged despite all the years that had passed. Kate took a deep breath and spoke, with all the confidence and surety she had; “I do.”