The first time Henry saw Isabelle he was fascinated by her strength. He was also scared by it. She radiated that certain nonchalant flair that boys find equally striking and stinging. They got introduced through a mutual friend but Isabelle didn’t really take any notice. Her mind was spinning around that song, that boy, that pair of shoes, that piece of art, that argument she had last night with that boy about that piece of art. Her mind was always spinning. Too much.
Henry was a nice guy. He was one of those that don’t make much of an impression when you see them for the first time. When you see them for the second time, you pick up on all these little details and become intrigued. His clothes didn’t match, but they did give him personality. His opinions didn’t match either, but they showed the passion and vigour of a thinker covered by the exterior of an underachiever.
Henry was a strange one. Always fiddling around with things to cover his nervousness, he found it very hard to concentrate. Preferring solitude to company, one could easily assume that Henry was some kind of outsider, but on the contrary his quirky charm opened up many doors.
When Henry finally gathered the courage to ask Isabelle out, she didn’t think much of it. She simply assumed another date, another disaster. Isabelle was not very lucky with men. She preferred to play around rather than to be serious about that thing called ‘love’. Even though, Isabelle wanted to believe in that ‘thing’, her life had taught her otherwise.
Judgemental people would probably say she wasn’t girlfriend material. Isabelle, however, didn’t really care. Open about her feelings and intentions, she tended to put men off rather than to attract them. If she liked someone, she told them. Straight, but also scary.
On her first date with Henry, Isabelle tried very hard to behave like a lady, but once the first ‘fuck’ slipped out of her bawdy mouth, she gave up. Five minutes in, she already told him about her bizarre love for busses, obsession with cats and passion for music he hated. Isabelle wasn’t very good at the dating game.
Henry was nervous. She could see him shifting in his seat, she enjoyed his shyness. It made her feel less shy. Less awkward. More normal. Isabelle could tell that Henry wasn’t good at the dating game either. She really liked that.
Henry wanted to come across well too. He had, after all, been chasing this girl for more than two months, so he didn’t tell her that he was terribly, terminally hung-over and bravely downed his pint. As tongues loosened, the fear loosened too and Isabelle actually saw Henry clearly for the first time. Interesting, independent, charismatic and honest. Isabelle started to fall for his charm at exactly the point when Henry said “You’re really the only girl I cannot charm”. Isabelle had before called one of his lines ‘cheesy’.
As the two said their goodbyes that evening, Isabelle’s mind was spinning, but this time it spun around Henry. She thought about what it would be like to kiss him. She wondered whether all his awkward yet equally amiable mannerisms extended to that area too. She thought about what it would be like to play video games with him, to geek out with him, to walk through the park holding hands. She despised herself for having all these stupid romantic ideas, but she couldn’t change it.
After a week Isabelle started to become nervous. She over-thought, over-complicated and over-analysed things. She became THAT girl. She got scared. Scared to be rejected, scared to be hurt yet again. She was convinced that pushing people away was much safer than letting people in, so she provoked an argument with Henry. Irrationally and irresponsibly.
Henry didn’t know what was happening. It didn’t make sense to him. He felt strangely confirmed that Isabelle was that little bit too crazy, too impulsive, too ‘high-maintenance’ for him.
Days later, as Isabelle was dialling the first digits of Henry’s number, 079….., to explain herself, to apologise, to make sense of her senseless behaviour, she didn’t see the bus coming from the left.
Henry met Anna at Isabelle’s funeral. They got married six months later.