Do You Believe in Love?

"Do you believe in love?"

She didn't used to. She used to think it was all a big, fat lie. That the movies and novels and poets were all wrong and delusional and high on profit, pen ink, and whatever opium was popular in the Middle Ages. Or maybe from all the powder they put in their wigs and the lack of air from those impossibly-tight corsets.

They were all wusses who thought affection was love; or they were all just mistaking lust for love. Physical desires just made them happy – in a different way. And just because people got along didn't mean they loved each other – it's called friendship. Platonic and romantic were very distinct, and people couldn't differentiate the two.

The fact that she never met a decent guy helped this conviction of hers. They all leeched and left – not loved and left. They simply sucked all the affection and time out of you, then left you high and dry. Even the stories she heard didn't do anything to counter her beliefs, although that might also have been selective hearing on her part. Still, the people she cared to listen to didn't have any mushy story to tell, not one that involved roses or gifts or clichés or romantic declarations of like/love.

Simply put, she didn't believe because she's never seen, heard, or felt anything close to it.

And then he came along. Him. The harbinger of all that was perfect and sweet and ideal and lovey-dovey. Oh she didn't think so at first, of course – or maybe she just refused to see it. After all, her head was so wrapped up in conspiracy plans and the innate evil of all people that if a person offered her a chair, she'd think he was just getting her to sit there because he knew the person in front of it farted a lot.

And it wasn't her fault she thought that way. Number one, people have mean tendencies. Number two, the media propagates such tendencies. And we all know the media is everything in this technological age.

So anyway, him. He wasn't the best-looking guy in the world, although a lot of girls told her otherwise. They were fawning over him, acting like he was God's gift to save everybody from future calamities, but she knew better. Nothing can save humanity from future calamities, except maybe intensive reducing, reusing, and recycling. Besides that, nothing can. He certainly can't. What's he going to do, dazzle away the typhoon with his charming smile? Or maybe fight landslides with his defying-gravity hair. Maybe keep the earthquakes from damaging too much property by keeping things together with his lean, gym-going body. Whatever – even his disconcertingly expressive eyes cannot disconcert whatever can be disconcerted that isn't estrogen-filled and skirt-clad.

That would be, of course, disregarding the fact that even testosterone-filled men tended to want to jump his bones. But she digresses.

He was charismatic, but he wasn't supposed to be. He was supposed to be too arrogant to care about what went on around him. He was supposed to be a dick, so she can be a bitch about him. But he wasn't. Instead, he was just so infuriatingly nice. Like, in a non-user-friendly manner, and not even in an I-have-to-be-nice-to-little-people way. He was seriously interested in what happened around him, and she could not find anything that betrayed the opposite. Believe her when she says that she tried. (Or don't, she doesn't blame you.)

Plus, he did origami. What the bloody hell? She did origami. Granted, it was for anger management – or, as a therapist (to whom she went to only once, so don't say she's crazy) told her, some sort of Zen thing for her – but still. Just the fact that a dude like him did ori-freakin'-gami was enough to get her suspicious. Like maybe he did it just so he can show her that her angel – which looked like a flying nun, by the way – was nothing compared to his hopping frog and panda face.

Just another one of his quirks that made him human and reachable and worse, attainable. She'd resigned herself to always just looking on but never quite touching the object of her unfortunate affection – on the rare times that she actually had any warm feelings towards anyone, anyway. Honestly, that was more times than she would confess to; after all, she had her neurotic, pessimistic view to tend to.

So there she was, happy with her voluntary exile from the land of the lost-in-fantasies, when he just appears and boggles the hell out of her, acting all nice boy-next-door who just wants a friend.

Come on, everybody knows she's not friend-of-the-year material. She was too honestly cynical for normal relationships, even though she did have some who put up with her. She says put up, they say adore. She won't deny that she trusts them, even if she says otherwise.

But he was… irresistible. He just was so refreshingly different she couldn't predict what he was going to do next. That, she tells herself, is the reason why she hasn't been able to formulate her rejections and her refusals. She hadn't had the time to plan out her elaborate spurning speeches, so she wasn't able to give any when time came that he did ask her.

But she swears on her life and everybody else's – not that they matter much to her – that she hadn't known he liked her that way. As in, beyond an ordinary friend way. She'd thought he really was that attentive and thoughtful to all his friends, until he said otherwise.

She'd also thought herself truly happy and quite possibly shifting on that whole trusting people issue, until he made her see otherwise. She'd thought they were a happy couple, barring the fact that they weren't officially a couple – she'd made it plain from the very first that she didn't believe in labels, but she hadn't expected him to actually follow her on that. After all, he hadn't followed her whenever she voiced out her cynical, realistic views; he certainly hadn't agreed with her when she said he was an idiot for being so happy all the time. So wasn't it normal for her to be disappointed, because once again, she hadn't been able to map out his actions?

Her fears – not that she'd ever admit to being scared – turned out not to be completely unfounded.

Missed dates, missed calls, mixed signals going haywire, especially since she wasn't at all experienced in relationships or how to deal with them. Was that the break-up? Did people no longer go through a proper break-up and goodbye and just sort of fizzled when the attraction faded? But when did attraction fade? She'd thought they were good. She'd thought he'd accepted the fact that she was always going to be sort of paranoid about everything, because she'd accepted that he was never going to stop being so damned optimistic. How was she supposed to see the exasperated glances he'd sent her whenever she made another one of her disparaging remarks? The ones that had lessened considerably since she'd met him – unbeknownst to her, every time she congratulated herself for toning it down, he grimaced whenever she said something.

She didn't know. She didn't have a clue. All she knew was that he was suddenly a different person, and so she'd made the decision to cut him out of her life before he could cut her out of his.

She didn't know it was his way of telling her that it wasn't enough. That her poor attempts at changing weren't sufficient, especially if she wasn't even going to show them, compared to what he'd been going through for her – the teasing and jeering, the silence he had to keep to avoid fights, the personal opinions he had that he could barely argue since she just chalked it down to his innocence. It wasn't innocence, she sees now, but the willingness to accept everything despite the crappy stuff that came with it. She was one of the crappy stuff that came with it.

But he never even told her any of this, so how the hell was she supposed to know?

Now here he is. After their one and only big discussion-turned-argument following a rather heated him barging back into her life and demanding why she hasn't been eating lunch – damn her unfaithfully loyal friends –, waving aside her lame theory of cafeteria food poison, and shaking her out of her stupor, which only pissed her off and made her think that this was another one of his attempts to pull one over her and subsequently made her scream at him to leave her alone. To just leave her alone because she couldn't take any more of his crap after going against all her ideals and actually making herself think that free samples were, in fact, not in any way filled with addictive opium.

Here he is, after getting it all out. Asking her if she believes in love. What is she supposed to say?

He was the first one to make her forget about hidden agendas. He made her not want to doubt good people. He made her appreciate the better things in life and stop focusing on the bad. He made her think that everything was possible, that nothing was impossible. Beyond being a sports apparel ad, he really really changed her and the way she thought about things.

Ridiculous, really, that at the same time, he'd crushed her pride to pieces and made her wish she never met him, that she never allowed him to change her, that she never let him be somebody she thought she could depend on, because it turned out that she can't.

So she was neurotic for a reason. She was a conspiracist whose smoke actually meant fire. She was the cynic proven right. She was the number one feminist just appalled at herself, but most of all, she was the heartbroken girl who, despite all this, still wanted to believe.

"I do now."

A/N: So this was written for a friend who gave me only the line "do you believe in love" to work with. After quite a few months of ignoring this, ta-da. (I know this heroine wouldn't suit you in real life, but hey. It is entirely too hard for me to put a sweet lil thing in here.)

Comments? Suggestions? Violent reactions? Leave 'em all!:D


P.S. Lame title, I know. The working title never upgraded to anything else. Any suggestions?

- che