The students' hectic buzz seemed to warm the interior of the train hurrying toward London, a good contrast to the icy, wet landscapes of an october afternoon which heralded the winter's arrival in the european climate. Chatting animatedly in small groups over the first two weeks of term or immersed in fiction romances written by foreign authors, or even reading heavy books of arithmetic, contemporary history, or medical genetics, students of the renowned University of Oxford took advantage of the remaining thirty minutes of the return trip for the weekend in any way that seemed most convenient to them.
Sitting on one of the double seats on the left side of the train's aisle, a tall young man was crouching awkwardly over a sketchbook resting on his lap and was increasingly messing up his own light brown hair as he attempted, not being successful, to avoid his fringe entering his field of vision. He used an extremely fine-tipped pen to draw the outlines of long, bulky strands of hair that fell on a delicate feminine face, seeking to portray on paper, with the greatest reality he could, the figure of the real girl who watched quietly the houses of the villages being turned into blots by the high speed of the train that passed them.
Loud laughter caused the young man to interrupt his activity in a jolt and hastyly hide the sketchbook under the hard-cover book in which it was supported, fearing the possibility of being watched. Luckily, the laughter belonged to the black girl sitting by the window on the right side of the train, laughing at something while accompanied by three other colleagues, completely oblivious to what was happening only a few feet from her seat. Very tempted to keep his eye on the one that always drew his attention so much for the rest of the journey, but afraid to be noticed while in his contemplation, he decided best to look down at her drawing in his hands and could not contain a sad, but affectionate, smile of contentment.
Newt Scamander studied his fourth and final year of zoology at the University of Oxford and spent most of his time cataloging and collecting information on the most varied species of animals found in the United Kingdom. His particular goal was to write and launch a book on these animals as soon as he graduated to raise awareness of the importance of preserving all those species and their habitats rather than exterminating them, and he was very tempted to pass the rest of his life in fieldwork to care for and closely observe species around the world.
He was an unusual young man, characterized by many as eccentric. A little shy, he did not make friends easily and could always be found by himself wherever he went. But it was not like he cared about it. In fact, he preferred to be in contact with animals more than people simply because of the clumsiness he had to interactions with them and the lack of patience and care with which he used to be treated in turn.
Heavy raindrops ricocheted off the glass windows of the train, catching the attention of the students who rushed to put their belongings back in their luggage. Soon they would be arriving at the capital.
As the train reached the platform and the mass of anxious students dispersed from the doors, Newt got up and made his way out. He was in the great hall of London's Paddington Station again, halfway back to his parents' house. He checked his watch, it was only fifteen minutes before the departure of the train that would take him to Canterbury. Beneath the long fringe of very frizzy hair, he gazed at the group of girls who walked leisurely down the main hall toward the outside of the station, his focus fixed on the small, slender silhouette of the girl gesturing excitedly. He wondered in his mind if he would ever, either by irony or good grace of fate, get the chance to talk to her.
The journey from London to Canterbury had always been more time-consuming and less crowded than the previous one because of the absence of the university students, and Newt was accustomed to the darkness of the night's eminence through the glass windows that accompanied him all the way back. He took out of his backpack the notebook in which he wrote the manuscript of the book he intended to launch, ready to use the ninety minutes of the journey about to begin to further develop the chapter devoted to British rodents.
A quick movement drew his attention to the seat in front of his, separated only by a narrow table between them, which was now occupied by a girl who was nervously searching for something in her bag. She was very pale, or seemed to be due to her apparent apprehension, and her hair was very dark and short, quite uneven by her agitation. Newt had the feeling that her physiognomy was familiar to him and tried to remember if he had already or possibly met her in Canterbury, but it did not occured to him any memory. The girl did not seem to notice or care for Newt's presence, so he returned his attention to the paper in his lap, trying not to be any more aggravating to the passenger's restlessness.
Just over an hour and twenty minutes after the departure of London, the train panel announced the final minutes of the trip to its occupants and Newt was pleased to reread the paragraph on Red Squirrels he had just written one last time before finally putting the notebook in his luggage.
"Thanks God you answered my calls!" - Newt startled when he heard the female voice of the girl sitting in front of him suddenly sound very loud, a tone of concern that contradicted the hissing of the phrase - "I just talked to her. Do you know what mess you just got us into?"
Swaying between semblants of worry and anger, the girl seemed to absorb whatever words were directed at her from the other end of the line. Newt was careful not to look at her distressed face for a long time, feeling a great deal of sympathy for the apparent "mess" that was taking away her peace.
"Being careful would never be enough, Queenie! You know how strict she is for the rules!" - the girl let out a resigned sigh, interrupting her angry sermon. She seemed to see nothing beyond her own feet as she impatiently fingered the zipper of the bag in her lap - "She said she wants to talk to us today, just when I arrive at home, which must not be taking very long now..." - another sigh as resigned as the first, followed by a long pause. The girl's eyes seemed to be tingling- "If she's sure that she saw you two, it'll be the end for us!"
Newt watched the familiar landscape of the Canterbury West Railway Station appear in the glass window next to his seat. A heavy rain was pouring on the small British town, accompanied by the traditional cold and humid year-end climate. He reached for his umbrella inside his backpack, depositing some books on the vacant seat next to him to make easier to see through the many jars and small observation instruments stored between the bag dividers.
From his peripheral vision, he noticed a small object falling to the floor beside the girl's pair of boots as she hurried to the open door of the train. She was still on the phone as she bravely launched herself into the heavy raindrops that fell on the station's open platform, completely oblivious to the boy's calls and the object left behind as she quickly disappeared from view. In a very fast and awkward movement, Newt put the books back into his backpack, momentarily forgetting the reason he'd taken them out of there, picked up the object from the floor and, in a rush, jumped out of the train into the storm.
Much heavier than he could hope for, the rain made it difficult to those who intended to see little further than two meters away from their surroundings, and there were no alternative for the boy other than running toward the covered structure of the station entrance.
The entrance hall was packed with a great number of people waiting for acquaintances who were about to arrive or for a moment of respite from the storm to finally leave the station safely, but Newt did not recognize the female face he sought in any of them. When he gave up on his mission, he settled himself into one of the vacant benches he found in the place, instinctively pressing the object in his hands with a little more force than it was necessary. It was an identification badge for the employees of a bookshop settled into the center of Canterbury, cointaining the name and a small picture of the person to whom it belonged.
As he waited for the cab to take him to his parent's house that friday night, the boy cast absent-minded glances at the object in his hands, longing between the name of the bookshop, the picture of a young woman with short hair and very dark that smiled shyly at the camera and the name that laid next to it:
Porpentina E. Goldstein
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
The knocking on the bedroom door had to be repeated for the third time so that Newt finally decided to leave the bed on that cloudy Saturday morning. Sighing with satisfaction as he stretched under the heavy blanket, the boy stared at the small room in the house.
It was composed only by a single bed, a light wooden wardrobe, a bedside table supporting a lamp and a guide to Scotland's native species, and a desk cluttered with scattered papers and stacked books, among which it was possible to find pens of all colors and a computer partially hidden behind several reminders glued around its screen.
Newt was accustomed to returning to the same home he had lived in since childhood on vacation and on weekends when he was dismissed from university for the past three years, always happy to be back where he had made some of the best memories of which he remembered. Although in the vicinity of the center of Canterbury, his parents' house was located in Harbledown, a calm district endowed with a rustic, almost rural landscape, that had brought him close to the nature from the beginning of his childhood . From the window of his room Newt could see the spacious and cozy backyard of the estate where stood, among a few tall pines, an imposing, deciduous canopy, well yellowed by autumn's arrival.
No sight in the world could be more peaceful to him.
After dressing himself appropriately, he went down the stairs at the end of the corridor, crossing the spacious, cozy living room that would lead him into the kitchen, guided by the smell of baked confectionery hanging around the house.
"Newt, my dear, just in time!" - a lady with amiable features and very red hair was happily placing the contents of a baking tray on a large round dish at the table - "The scones have just come out of the oven!"
"Thank you, Mom. Good morning, Father" - Newt turned to the man sitting at the end of the table, partially hidden behind an open newspaper. He stirred the contents of his cup with a teaspoon, a serious aspect on his face as he focused his attention on some of the prominent headlines on the paper.
"Oh, Newt, my son, how did you spend the night?" - and before the boy could respond, he turned his face to a spot on the floor beside his chair outside his son's field of vision, his grade glasses slipping dangerously down his nose with the sudden movement - "You are not picking up the cutlery in the house too, are you?"
Newt smiled, watching a black cat with bright yellow eyes jump over the empty chair beside his father. The animal watched closely the trajectory made by the metal spoon held by the elder's hands, occasionally raising a paw in the air as if wanting to reach the object.
"I thought you were happy with father's keys and wristwatch, Niffler" - Newt teased, a muffled laugh as he stroked the animal's ears - "Little thief... always trying to catch anything shiny"
"So, how are things going at Oxford?" - asked his father.
"I have no news to tell. I'm finishing the manuscript of my book, want to send the copies to the examiners by the end of the year"
Once the manuscript of his book was finished, Newt would send it to Oxford's examiners to get the approval of the material as his four-years fieldwork research collection required for his book's publication. Once the material delivered was considered excellent, Newt would also get a letter of recommendation added to his curriculum that could arouse interest between universities all around the world in offering him a job opportunity in the academic and scientific field of his area. Newt's greatest wish was that the University of Oxford itself could accept him as a good addition to the group of Professors, but he did not consider wise keeping such high expectations.
"Theseus will attend your graduation ball. He hopes to welcome you in London to start your career by the end of next year" - said Newt's father, standing up and heading out of the kitchen. Niffler at his reach, its eyes fixed on the gleaming wristwatch by the sunlight streaming through the windows of the living room.
"And I hope to get lucky..." - Newt replied in a low, restrained tone among concern and discomfort. He sipped the tea in his cup, resigned.
"You will never need luck to succeed at something if you put love in what you do" - the mother stroked her son's hair, a kind and comforting smile on her lips - "You're already good enough"
Newt jumped out of the bus at the beginning of the Military Road and headed towards Broad Street, looking at the windows of small local shops in Canterbury's downtown. He walked by shortcuts that he knew by heart through randomly branching streets, decorated by bakeries, coffee shops, perfumeries and countless boutiques that colored the concrete streets, occasionally interrupted by a private residence or the masterly structure of a medium-sized church. The wind would blow out hard on his face if it were not for the unintentional protection of the private accommodations that made the second floor of each of the enterprises, usually used as a basement or stock. The hand in his coat pocket held the badge rescued the day before, and once more, as he did too many times the night before, the boy wondered if the loss of the object would have been any more inconvenience to that Porpentina's life.
When he turned one last corner, he came across the familiar structure of the bookshop whose name adorned the upper part of the small badge and which he had not paid a visit to for a long time. It was a four-stage building that stood out from the others for some of its quirks and also for its cozy architecture.
The white house with black-painted windows had its floors arranged irregularly, looking slightly crooked. A pane of glass was arranged on either side of a small red door, which hung intentionally to the right. The inner environment was partially visible behind the cards and notes of readers glued to the display window which featured a new medieval novel, two or three editions of university books and a biography whose author Newt was not interested about.
Upon opening the door, the visitor immediately sounded a small bell attached to the top of the door, announcing its entrance. Newt felt more comfortable with the temperature of the room and removed the hood that hid his ever-clumsy fringe to look around, where several shelves full of books covered the walls and a few copies were placed in very high piles on the floor. On the right side of the room was a small red velvet sofa that could accommodate two or three people, and at its feet some colorful cushions were spread over a brown carpet.
An elderly gentleman sat behind a counter and seemed oblivious to the young man's entrance. He stared, with much interest but visibly with little patience, at a small turned-off radio.
"Excuse me..." - Newt whispered with as much caution as he could, approaching the counter and finally catching the attention of his host - "I'd like to talk to Porpentina, is she here?"
The man narrowed his eyes, a funny grimace indicated to Newt that he had not understood the question.
"Porpentina... Goldstein?" - Newt tried again, the other's expression did not change - "The badge says she works here"
Suddenly, the older man let out a laugh, followed by a cough possibly from the effort done. He raised his finger to his right ear and Newt could see that there was a hearing aid. He adjusted a button of the device and, when he seemed satisfied, reached for a pair of glasses on the counter. Large black eyes, whose irises acquired double the original size through the lens, winked expectantly at the boy.
"Forgive me... I'm a little bit deaf" - he laughed lightly. Newt felt more comfortable in his presence - "Did you say, my boy...?"
"I'd like to see Porpentina Goldstein. I found something that belongs to her and would like to return it" - Newt hissed in a louder and slower tone, trying to sound the utmost clarity.
Several pounding sounds were heard, books falling to the floor behind one of the many bookshelves at the back of the store. A tall, very slender figure appeared next to the last dark wood shelf in view in the left corner of the room. She carried in her hands, with great difficulty, a pile that should contain almost a dozen books with colorful hard covers. Newt had the urge to help her, and took a hesitant step forward, stopping in his tracks by feeling fearful.
"Oh, Tina, there you are!" - laughed the gentleman again, exclaiming affectionately - "The boy here has got you a present!"
Clutching Newt's arm over the counter, the man shoved him awkwardly toward the girl. Clumsier still, Newt crossed the bookstore, feeling his cheeks heat up as he approached her.
Up close, Newt could not help noticing the heavy dark circles under her eyes, her expression giving her the air of someone who had not rested much the night prior. The slightly messy hair was barely reaching chin height and very dark eyes, whose color Newt did not have the opportunity to decorate because of the distance that separated him from her, looked at him with an expression between the expectation and the strangeness that the boy could not decipher.
"Actually, I'd like to give you something back. You let it fall on the train yesterday. I think it belongs to you" - he took the badge from his pocket and held it to her. The girl followed the movement with her eyes, and very quickly her expression shifted to one of relief, though the rosy tone that her pale cheeks acquired gave away her embarrassment.
"Ah, yes..." - she laid awkwardly the pile of books she carried on a very similar one to the floor beside her and reached the object in the hands of the boy - "It is mine, yes. I missed it as soon as I arrived to work today" - she showed the boy a smile of gratitude.
"I did not get the chance to return it to you yesterday. You looked like in a hurry and I could not-" - Newt was interrupted by a thundering, stern voice.
"Goldstein! Where is she? Where is she?" - a man of short stature appeared suddenly from a stairway to the back of the girl that leaded up to the upper floor.
He was very red in the face, certainly a consequence to his anger. His brown hair was dark, and his face resembled the gentleman behind the counter at the entrance of the bookshop. Finally noticing Newt's presence, his expressions softened, but the tone of his voice gave away a contained fury.
"Oh, you have a customer. I'll see you in a moment, sir" - he turned to the girl, his eyes narrow and his wrists closed - "Goldstein, why is the new edition of Bogliolo still on the basement if it must have been on the shelves for centuries? Haven't I made the priority of this book being in the showcase of this weekend clear enough?"
The man's menacing tone made Newt uneasy, feeling a great deal of sympathy for the girl who now shrugged and stared at her feet very ashamedly.
"Yes, Mr. Abernathy, but-"
"You've been showing unprecedented uselessness, Goldstein! I think you'd better learn not to bring your personal problems to work!" - he spat out the words sharply. The girl lifted her head very quickly, her eyes were red and wide - "And, for God's sake, look at those books thrown to the floor!" - Abernathy pointed to those that would be the volumes overturned by Goldstein minutes ago - "Get this mess in my shop! Now!"
Without even blinking, the girl bent down in a very quick movement to get four books off the floor. Her hands were trembling, and the way her lips were pressed against each other did not passed unnoticed by Newt: the girl struggled, with great difficulty, not to cry.
"I apologize for the inconvenience, sir" - he turned to Newt - "How can I help you?"
Newt was momentarily unable to return the gaze of the man standing in front of him and held his own at a fixed point near to the girl's feet, following all her movements through his peripheral vision. At that moment, she stood fitting one of the books she'd collected among the others in of the shelves, the other three were held tightly against her chest.
"You can't" - he began in a low tone - "I think Miss Goldstein has already been very helpful and pleasant before you arrived" - Newt nodded before turning his back to the man and walking away, only catching the brief moment when the girl's face turned toward him.
Still teary-eyed but with her lips parted in surprise.
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Newt waited anxiously for the train's arrival nearly to the not-covered platform of the Canterbury West Railway Station that sunday afternoon, under the hood of his now very wet by the light rain sweater, which was starting to make him uncomfortably chill to the bone. He was about to take the five o'clock train to London as usual, the arrival in Oxford scheduled for eight p.m.
He had spent the day before removing from his backpack things that he would be leaving in his parents' house and packing instead what was to be taken back to his studies at Oxford. Just like all of the previous three years, he would not return to Canterbury for the next month, only coming back in early december for the holiday season. Phytotherapy and pharmaceutical books would be essential items for the term, four or five seasons of a police comedy series deposited in his backpack should offer some distraction to the isolation and loneliness of his accommodations in the coming weeks.
The gray train stopped not so far from the spot where the boy stood, and he approached, very quietly, the crowd hurrying through the doors. Workers heading to the capital, tourists returning from their adventures in Kent's countryside and a few students going back to their respective universities after the weekend made London a seemingly more sought-after destination than the small city of Canterbury.
The boy waited for an old lady to take her seat by the side of the aisle before heading to his own, always by the window on the left side and at the front of the train. Knowing that the other passengers would rather take the back seats, he was very drawn to take the front ones and enjoy his journey sorrounded by none of them.
He took out of his backpack the worn-out phytotherapy book, full of footnotes in fine and small handwriting, when he immediately recognized the face of the girl occupying a seat a few meters ahead of himself, by the window at the opposite side of the train. Goldstein stared absently at the blurred landscape of a Canterbury that was being left behind.
Lying in his bed the night before, Newt reflected on the scene he had witnessed in the bookshop that saturday morning. He wasn't sure if his attempt to add assets to the girl would've been enough to soften the angry feelings directed at her by the owner of the establishment and feared the possibility that the real reason for his visit could've been discovered, what could possibly aggravate the situation in his absence. The boy had fallen asleep with an incessant worry in his chest.
With the open herbal medicine book in hands, Newt attempted to focus his attention on a chapter on the use of medicinal herbs for the treatment of circulatory diseases. Sometimes he would glance from behind the fringe toward the girl that was leaning on the table, between the two double seats she occupied, in which there were an open book and a notebook.
She used to interrupt her reading of the thick book to make notes in the notebook by its side, oblivious to the boy's observations. She wore a wine-colored sweater that contrasted with her very pale skin, a gray scarf around her neck concealing part of her lips, and on her face she wore glasses. Absently, she tucked a lock of hair behind her ear that, short as it was, insisted on returning to its original position. Newt found the frequency on which she repeated the gesture endearing. That was the very first time the boy could find a serene expression on her face.
Just over an hour and a half after the commencement of the voyage, the victorian buildings of London's suburbs were beginning to be recognized outside the windows and the noises of the passengers who longed for the landing spread out through the train. Newt, however, kept the book open in his hands, his attention contradictorily turned to the girl packing the notebook in her bag as the train made its stop.
Newt checked his watch, the train to Oxford would leave the platform in fifteen minutes. He stared out into the lighted lobby of the Paddington Station for a moment, where students crowded the boarding platform. Small groups chatted excitedly, while some students stood alone or scattered across the platform floor. Instinctively, the boy searched for long brown hair between them.
"You better not linger sitting in there..." - he heard a low female voice.
Newt found Miss Goldstein standing in the hallway, her face flushed, the heavy book she had just read pressed against her chest. The other passengers already gone through the doors and scattered down the hall behind her.
"I don't think you'd like to return to Canterbury now that you arrived in London" - she ventured a smile. Newt involuntarily mimicked the gesture.
"I think I've seen Kent's pines enough time for today" - the boy joked, his eyes on the floor beside her - "I'd better hurry up" - Goldstein smiled to her feet, starting a walk off the train. Newt joined her.
The mixture of sounds of conversations, suitcases' wheels and the gliding of the trains on their tracks took over Paddington Station. Through the glass roof of the lobby it was possible to watch the indigo sky, not yet engulfed into the darkness of a well-established night. The platform's clock showed that it was ten minutes to seven p.m.
"Are you going back to university?" - Newt asked, pointing to the book the girl was holding.
"My train back to Oxford leaves in ten minutes" - she replied, passing through the ratchets into the crowded hall - "Are you?"
"Oxford, too" - he nodded toward the departure platform across the hall - "I'm attending the last year of Zoology"
"It's my first year at Law school" - she grinned, making the red-burgundy cover with a latin title in gold letters of the book in her hands visible to the boy.
"My brother graduated at the Faculty of Law in Oxford, he is very well recognized here in London where he currently works. The books you read throughout the terms are scarly large" - he said casually, getting an amused laugh from his company in turn.
"And do you already know what you want to do after your graduation?" - the girl asked expectantly.
"I am writing a book" - he replied modestly - "A book on native species of the United Kingdom and their respective habitats"
Newt felt a little sheepish, never before had he had the opportunity to share the information with anyone but his parents. He feared, for a brief moment, that the idea of writing a book could sound prepotent to other people. He was surprised, however, to find an expression of lightness on the girl's face.
"It really sounds interesting" - she smiled. Newt stared at the platform from which they approached, feeling his cheeks burn in his face - "Is it too long now to finish it?"
"I already have collected all the informations in my field research. There are now only three chapters to be written" - he searched for the train ticket in his pocket.
"I'll look out for it" - she smiled sweetly - "I'll get a copy as soon as it gets to the shelves of the bookshop"
Upon hearing the girl's words, Newt froze in his movement to deposit the ticket at the boarding ratchet. Touched by the simple regard of his work, Newt thought there was not greater praise he could ever receive from someone. He blushed like never before. On the verge of formulating a sentence to validate the moments of silence in which he stared at the now rather red face of his colleague, the words of his vocabulary were lost as he tried to find them.
"My name is Newt" - he ventured and, strangely, he was not at all embarrassed by the choice of words or by the awkward handshake he sought - "Newt Scamander"
"Tina Goldstein" - they shook hands, both feeling slightly amused by the awkwardness of the situation.
A loud noise coming from one of the trains that began to move echoed through the lobby, clamoring for the attention of the two students. They finally put their tickets on the ratchet and made their way to the embarkation spot amidst the hundreds of passengers and suitcases waiting on the platform.
A flash of bright light at the far end of the place and Newt watched the Oxford express enter the station. Among the students who were moving excitedly, rising and heading for the edge of the platform, the boy's attention was suddenly confined to only one of the dozens of figures that there were: the girl of always very kind and carefree faces who walked smiling alongside her usual colleagues. She wore a gray knee-length skirt over a pair of black socks and a heavy linen coat and was pulling a red trunk behind herself. Newt felt his breath catch and his heart skip a beat for a minute.
"Newt?" - Tina called the abstracted boy.
Following the path of his gaze, the girl noticed that his focus was lost on an extremely beautiful and short girl who approached the train. She wore very elegant clothes and walked lightly, her long brown hair falling like gleaming cascades on her back. For a brief moment, Tina was convinced that she would once again become one of the many figures who made the trip back to university on their own.
Coming out of his trance, Newt cast a quick glance through the glass windows and identified the familiar profile that now occupied the usual seat on the right side of the train and nodded to the girl by his side toward the open doors, receiving a murmur of agreement as a response.
They hurried through the doors and chose the earlier seats of the train. Sitting face to each other, Newt thought the idea of sharing the table between the seats with someone else for the first time did not sound that bad at all.
The cold wind that ran through Longwall Street ruffled the girl's hair and made the boy curl himself further into his robes. They were the only two figures who dared to walk beneath the long, dark street in the center of Oxford, eventually accompanied by a light or another that indicated the presence of the residents in their respective houses.
They had talked for most of the train ride varied choices on shallow subjects and issues of personal relevance that were significant to establish a friendly relationship between two people. Miss Goldstein listened carefully to the stories Newt had to tell about his field researches and, every now and then, asked questions about the species he observed, which he would happily answer.
In the midst of the conversations, Newt learned that he shared with her the same address of their student accommodation and could finally understand, possibly having seen her entering or leaving the building in the first two weeks of term, that for that reason her face seemed familiar. They took together, then, the bus to go as close as possible from their adress, extending the conversation along the entire route they still had to walk.
It was strange and new, but agreeable, to think that there might be people in the world who were really interested in the things he had to say, and for the first time in years the boy was finally comfortable in having a dialogue with someone for so long.
"I've noticed your accent is not british, Miss Goldstein" - he commented casually. He watched a family sitting at the table in one of the many houses facing the solid wall across the street.
"I was raised in New York" - she replied as she tried in vain to stop her hair from following the movement of the air draft - "I've moved to England as soon as I received my acceptance letter at Oxford, in the middle of the year"
"And why did you choose Canterbury among all the cities?" - asked the boy.
"An old friend of my aunt lives there. She rents rooms for women and agreed to have me and my sister as tenants for a price we can afford" - she looked up at the inscription on the wall of one of the corners of the intersection where they passed. They had reached St. Cross Road.
"And does your sister also study here in England?"
"She has finished her basic education in the United States, but she has not yet chosen her college course" - the girl replied, her cheerful countenance breaking slowly - "I could not leave her alone in New York. We've only got each other since we were kids..."
When seized by the understanding of her words' meaning, the boy hissed an almost inaudible "I'm sorry". The light from the single street lamp they had already passed through giving the girl an even more sad aura. Newt remained silent for a moment in a sign of respect for the other's feelings.
"Listen, Newt, I... I wanted to thank you" - she said after a deep breath in a moment of sudden courage.
"What on earth for?"
"Oh, you know..." - she looked down at her feet as if stuck on the movement of her own pair of boots - "If you hadn't said all those nice things about me to Mr. Abernathy I would certainly have lost my job" - she let out the air she held in her lungs in a resigned sigh. Newt took a brief moment of relief from the confession before being taken by another concern.
"I hope he was not too hard on you after I left the bookshop"
"He's always very hard on everyone, I'm used to it. There was not a single day when I'd do all my duties without having him criticizing me for anything"
"You should not get used to being treated that way. What he did to you yesterday was terrible" - Newt did not restrain the tone of repudiation for the man's way of acting in his voice.
"Most of the time I'm able to control myself and prove my worth to him, but..." - the girl frowned as she interrupted her own sentence - "by that time, yesterday was already being bad enough..."
From the corner of his eye, the boy watched her bite her lips in frustration and thought it better not to go deeper into the subject at that moment.
They turned left and found themselves on Jowett Walk, a narrow, uncrowded aisle where a few buildings were used exclusively as accommodations by the students of the University of Oxford. They consisted of small flats for a single student at a time and were composed of only two rooms. Located in a strategically convenient position for students of both courses, it'd take Tina and Newt to walk only a few blocks to get to the Faculty of Law and the Department of Zoology, respectively.
They passed the first low-grid gate visible at that end of the street, and they climbed, still in silence, the first and second flights of stairs. Tina reached for the bundle of keys in her bag and smiled sweetly at the boy as she stopped in front of the first door to the right of the second floor's hallway.
"See you later, Newt"
"See you, Tina" - he climbed the last flight of stairs to the third floor, right after watching the girl disappear behind the number 205.
Chapter 4: Chapter 4
Newt snorted at what must have been the fifth time in the past ten minutes as he stared blankly at the sheet of paper full of random, hurried notes and scribbles. He'd been working for hours in the penultimate chapter of his manuscript, on the little table under the window of his accommodation, and he was finding it extremely difficult to organize his observations into a coherent paragraph.
In fact, the first week of november had consumed the boy with the arrival of his exams and the speed in which the deadline for his manuscript's delivery was approaching. He was physically and mentally exhausted by his many sleepless nights reviewing the medicinal properties of roots for the physiology of mammals, reading articles on the establishment of hierarchy in species of complex society and discussing the importance of saving the installation places for martens' nests for the survival of the species face to the constant hunting for its skin.
He considered the idea of getting up from the small table and going into the kitchen of the small rented flat to make a hot drink for warming himself against the chill of the drizzle that fell through the window and relieve, even just for a moment, his inexhaustible frustration.
The student accommodation consisted of only a small bathroom and a common area where the boy had placed his bed, a medium-size closet, a refrigerator, a stove and a kitchen sink, as well as a small television that remained turned off most part of the time.
The clock pinned to the wall showed ten minutes past four o'clock on tuesday afternoon and Newt looked through the small raindrops toward the end of Jowett Walk where, at any moment, a familiar silhouette would be passing back home.
Not much longer than expected, the dark blue umbrella turned the corner of St. Cross Road and walked along the curb toward the four-stage building from which it was observed. It drifted from the puddles of water on the asphalt as it crumpled beneath his protection, its face and short hair totally out of sight from where the boy stood. As she closed the gate and disappeared under the glass window, Newt came to the conclusion that the presence of the usual coffee-and-milk aroma would be a good addition to his plans to cool off his head.
They had developed a routine in the past three weeks. Newt and Tina would leave their accommodations every day around seven and a half in the morning, wish each other a good lesson and head to their respective destinations. He'd take Jowett Walk on the left, pass Balliol College Recreation Park on Mansfield Road and get to the Department of Zoology. She'd take Jowett Walk on the right and walk down St. Cross Road to the Faculty of Law's building. The boy'd come back home at one o'clock in the afternoon, while the girl'd do it every day around four.
When they'd not find themselves too busy over the unfinished work they used to bring home, they'd sit on the low wall that surrounded the small building simply to have a chat. When it'd rain or the icy currents of air would make it unbearable for the duo to remain in their observations of the narrow, tree-lined street, they would sit on the inner stairway between the second and third floors until one of their neighbors put their head out of the door in disapproval.
Newt had spent the last weekends alone in Oxford since Tina returned every friday after classes to work in Canterbury over the weekend. She'd confided to him that one of the reasons she'd put herself under the bookshop's conditions of work was that Mr. Abernathy Senior had agreed to employ her even with her need on being absent for college five times a week. Tina knew that it would be a difficult task to find another job that would offer her such a possibility and immediately accepted the job that the nice little gentleman would willingly extend to her. Although it reduced her salary in proportion to the time absent, the amount gained was added to the student aid that she received from the university and was, therefore, sufficient to pay her expenses.
The boy reached for his wallet on the bedside table and left his lodge, down the steps that led to the lower floor. He found the girl turning the key of number 205, hearing the footsteps that echoed down the corridor announcing the other's presence.
"Newt" - she smiled - "Wait so I can change these into more comfortable clothes and I'll be back in an instant"
"Actually, I was thinking about having a hot drink in that coffee shop we went to that day... If you're alright with it, that is..."
The girl examined her colleague's face carefully, noting the exhausted and frustrated countenance he tried to hidebehind, and smiled faintly, putting the backpack on the floor of her accommodation, right next to the door, closing it right after.
"It's almost finished, now" - the girl began her reply to the confession of all the boy's recurring concerns, adding two spoons of sugar to the coffee with milk that cooled in front of her - "Just wait until you pass this week's exams. It will be easier for you to write the last chapter when you're less busy"
"My deadline is running out, Tina" - he sighed heavily in an attempt to extinguish his frustration - "I have a few weeks to make my work an acceptable material"
"This book is your life, Newt. No one could do it better than yourself" - she smiled, saying the words quite surely - "You're getting it done"
They sat at the last table in one of the corners of a cozy tea house on High Street. Behind the girl, a window pane revealed the tall, well-detailed structure of the Ruskin School of Art hidden, just for a moment, behind the silhouettes of hurried buses.
The pleasant temperature of the room and the aroma of breads and chocolates that hovered around the establishment attracted more and more customers as they approached five and a half in the afternoon. Some of them would wait while propped against the wall next to the counter, others would sit at the tables by themselves or with their companions to enjoy the cloudy late afternoon sheltered from the drizzle that refused to stop. The employees rushed in all directions to collect cups, make drinks, fill baked goods and call the names written by the blue pen in the notes of each of the order trays.
Newt stared at the mug of hot chocolate, already consumed half of its contents, on the table in front of him. He smiled shyly behind the fringe at the words of the girl who was now turning counterclockwise a small spoon in her own mug. She wore a gray jacket matching her usual scarf of said colour, her nose slightly red from the cold that stood out on the her very pale skin. She often repeated the gesture of putting the same strand of hair behind her ears that the boy'd find endearing in his contemplation. Newt thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity of having the pleasant company of someone so very kind.
Through the windowpane, Newt noticed the group of people emerging from the School of Art on the other side of the street, among them the short and long-haired girl striding lonely across the High Street toward the place from which she was secretly watched. The boy sipped the hot chocolate as he stared her way through the door to the counter until she was out of sight. As she tested the sugary and bitter dosage of her favorite drink, Tina watched the scene unfold, her eyes alternating between her colleague and the elegant girl who flipped through the menu as she talked to one of the attendants at the cashier.
For the three years he'd been at the University of Oxford, Newt had grown into the habit of going to the tea house where he'd noticed her for the very first time, some time around five o'clock on tuesdays and thursdays. He remembered seeing her sitting at the table on the outside of the glass pane in the company of only a sketchbook, that had occupied almost the entire surface, and a well-ornamented glass of strawberry milkshake. Countless times Newt found her in the same place at the same time, immersed in her own thoughts as she gracefully outlined her imagination into paper. Since then, the boy had begun to consider poetic every single one of her movements.
"Hey, Newt..." - Tina started uncertainly. She fingered the handle of her mug in an attempt to show casualness as she drew the boy's attention back to herself - "Who is she?"
"Oh, no one" - he answered, his tone involuntarily resigned.
His friend's gaze remained on the girl that now headed to the counter after hearing the name echoed distinctly by the noisy environment, an employee extending her a brown wrapping containing the same logo stamped on the outside of the establishment.
"Leta Lestrange..." - Tina repeated the name she heard - "Is there anything going on between the both of you?"
"I've never even talked to her before" - he replied quickly, hiding behind his fringe the face of melancholy expressions.
Tina pondered the answer as she followed the girl's way toward the busy traffic street. A new frustrated expression started to show itself on Newt's face, making the girl taste a strange uneasiness.
"She's special to you..." - the girl echoed her most obvious remark, cautiously -"What do you know about her?"
"Not much, really... I know she's french and studies something related to the arts"- the boy risked a last glance at the figure that disappeared from the window -"I also know that she travels by train to London, where she possibly lives"
"If it's up to you, we can find ways to get you closer to her" - the girl ventured an attempt to change his mood - "We can find out the places she goes to, discover what she likes. What do you say?"
"It's a great idea, Tina, but the rumors are that she's already with someone else"
The last sip of Newt's sugary drink still left traces of the bitter taste of his recent confession. Tina, in turn, closed her arms around her own body as she followed the circle-like motion of the tiny bubbles on the surface of the creamy liquid.
The cloudy sky seemed to make the night fall earlier than usual in the city of Oxford. Raindrops dripped on the passersby of Longwall Street. The pair of friends eventually witnessed, on the way back to Jowett Walk, some moments in which a father, a mother or even an entire family would return home after a long and tiring day at work.
"- and during my summer holidays, my grandparents used to take me to observe marine animals when I visited them at their house in Dorset. All these incredible experiences have awakened in me the desire to protect them from a very early age, I believe"
Tina could not help but smile through the boy's speech about his childhood stories. She appreciated to listen to everything he shared with her about his adventures or any curiosity about the species listed in his book that he found interesting. To her, it was captivating the way his eyes sparkled or how he became instantly more enthusiastic as he spoke of what would certainly be the most important things of his life. If Tina was right about something, she'd say animals were very lucky.
"What about you, Tina?" - Newt asked, pulling her out of her private trance - "Why did you want to become a Law student?"
The moments that passed without the answer to the question made Newt wonder if he had actually spoken in a tone loud enough to be heard. Tina, in a heavy silence, stared at the horizon with a vacant look, her former expression ebbing away gradually.
"When I lost them, I experienced a change of life like I had never done before" - her eyes were unfocused on a car approaching in the distance - "I still remember that night, I remember being so afraid and feeling so lost and lonely that I could barely see things clearly"
The face hidden behind the curtain of short, dark hair indicated that this time the front strand was not a nuisance worthy of attention to the girl. Newt knew that there were much greater troubles to her.
"We were dependent on a verdict about our guard for several long days before being turned over to an aunt of our mother and I feared we might be sent to an orphanage. It was painful when I finally realized that Queenie, even the small child she was, could understand everything and share all my worries. In that moment I knew I had a new role to play. I had someone I needed to care for, I had someone that needed me. I had someone to protect in any circumstances, Newt"
Her voice sounded more pitched at every hissed word, her eyes tightened shut in the face afflicted by her memories. She pressed her palms to her face in a sudden stop on her walk, her throat burning with sobs that threatened to bring to the surface the heap of repressed feelings the girl had never been able to soften.
"In all these years I have done everything I could to give her some comfort and security, and I would do it all over again if I had to. I will not rest if there is a child in need in this world"
Blinded by the feeling of suffocation in her chest, she did not see the boy stand in front of her in an awkward pace, nor notice the most frightened countenance the boy had ever displayed in all his life. She also did not see the clash between courage and uncertainty that ran through the boy's mind as he wrapped his arms around her shoulders in a tight embrace.
"You'll be an excellent judge, Tina" - the boy whispered against the hair that caressed his face - "You'll help all those who need you"
With swollen eyes and quivering lips, the girl allowed herself to be kept comfortably nearby and have her hair stroked all the way back to Jowett Walk. She felt the pleasant sensation of the hot palm of her colleague's hand against her own rather chilled as they headed upstairs inside the building.
Remembering a particular item seemingly forgotten among the clothes hanging on inside the wardrobe in his bedroom, Newt thought that, for some reason, that was not the right moment for a farewell.
"Do you like to watch police sitcoms, Tina?"
Chapter 5: Chapter 5
The tall and serious man paced slowly through the small room, gazing into the well-organized and colourful bookshelves, the neat bed where clean, freshly ironed shirts and trousers were piled up, finally peering at the back of his younger brother that was pouring boiled water into a pot at the sink.
"It seems there have been great progress during these three years away from home, brother" - the man looked closely at the lustrous window glass that brightened the room, a playful smile emerging in his features during his analysis - "You've even cleaned the carpet!"
"If you haven't said all these things every time you came here, I'd say you doubt my abilities, Thes" - Newt teased, pushing the red plaid mug at the front of the shelf aside to get the yellow at the back, identical to the one in his hands.
It was quite true that, from his childhood, Newt always endeavored to show his mother and father that he was extremely capable of taking responsibilities and performing tasks at home in exchange for getting permission to take one animal or another which he intended to care or adopt to the immense yard of the residence. As he reached adulthood and settled down to the independence of spending most of his time by himself in a totally new city, there was not a day in his life when the boy would stop thanking his parents for his skills.
If in the last few days Newt had felt the need to leave his things neatly in order when leaving and getting home because he had been receiving visits more often than ever before, whether to laugh with someone of the occasional troubles of a charismatic police officer or to learn and help to prepare a traditionally american cocoa recipe, he'd never dare telling his brother.
In a quick glance at the object that disappeared behind the door as it closed, Newt smiled distractedly at the wristwatch in the arm that held the small round wooden knob of the kitchen cabinet. It was not long until four o'clock.
"I'm just teasing you" - Theseus sat down at the two-seater table under the glass window, Newt carrying a tray of teaware in his hands - "It's such a pity I lost this habit during these eight years since I moved to London"
"You still haven't told me why you're in Oxford, I thought you'd go on holiday only next week" - the youngest commented casually, choosing a Darjeeling tea bag to deposit inside his mug.
"There were a few matters of the ministry to deal with the new Vice-Chancellor of the university, and I agreed to make the trip. I will leave for London tomorrow morning" - the man looked out the window, a small smile spreading across his face - "Besides, the visit to Oxford seemed quite timely"
Newt watched the expression on his brother's face with some curiosity as he tasted the dark liquid in his mug. There was no time, however, for the boy to question the older man's motives.
"And how is the book going?" - he pointed to the green-draped notebook on the headboard.
"There're only a few species left for me to complete the last chapter on amphibians. Tina was right to say that I would write it more easily when I was free from last week's exams"
"Tina?" - Theseus raised his eyebrows. He rarely heard his brother mention third-party names in conversations like that.
"She's a friend of mine from college. She also lives in Canterbury and is studying Law here in-"
"Did you make friends in college?" - Theseus interrupted the other's speech, his expression quite surprised. Seeing that Newt had been struggling, he hastened to say - "That's great, Newt. I'll be pleased to meet them at your graduation next year"
"Actually, I have no other friends here than Tina, and I don't know if she's going to my graduation, Thes" - the boy lowered his head under the confused look of his brother.
"And why not?"
"Well, I never really asked her about it, but I'm not sure she'd be interested in attending to it"
The older man seemed to scrutinize the expressions of the other in front of him behind the nearly closed eyes and the pointed chin slightly projected forward. Newt searched for something to say, playing with the sachet dipped in his mug, to avoid any possible comment that vould be directed at him.
"If you're friends, I see no reason why she should not be interested in going" - Theseus sighed heavily, knowing how his brother had always found difficulty relating to other people - "But you are the one here who knows her, Newt. Talking about this, I hope you don't mind if I take as my companion someone I met in London"
"So it is true, then?" - Newt asked and smiled as he saw his brother nodding his head - "Mom told me when I called her the other day, when can we meet her?"
"I'm afraid there will be a shortage of opportunities for us to travel together to Canterbury until your graduation. Things are getting complicated in London for the both of us" - giving his speech as finished, Theseus drinked most part of the content in the mug in a single sip.
"I just wanted next friday to arrive soon" - Tina grunted in a yawn as she stretched herself out on the wall she was leaning against - "I can't wait for the holidays"
She deposited the book about introductions to the reasoning and legal speech open on her lap, stretching her legs over the narrow single bed where she sat to imitate the position of the boy by her side. Newt was leaning over the small sketchbook in which he was drawing a beautiful sea landscape, where an imposing rock formation in the shape of an arch began to stand out.
Tina leaned her head on the boy's shoulder to better observe the details of the work and he smiled with the gesture, feeling the look of his friend accompany the outline of the slope at the left corner, made by the very thin tip of the pen.
"Durdle Door" - Newt murmured, as if listening to the question hanging over her head.
"I think I understand why you talk so much about it ..." - returning to the previous position, Tina hugged her knees to her chest - "It's beautiful"
"It's even more beautiful in person, Tina. It's sunny almost every day of summer"
"I hope someday I'll have the opportunity to be there" - the girl sighed.
Tina turned her attention to the window of her small room. Temperatures in early november were beginning to drop considerably, announcing the beginning of the transition from autumn to winter. The trees on Jowett Walk sheltered only a few leaves that insisted on clinging to the thin branches against the natural action of the season that was coming to an end. Inside the room, however, the feeling of comfort was pleasant to the two students.
From the first time he had been welcomed to that environment, Newt had noticed that the choice of the objects that were part of the decoration said a lot about the personality of the girl sitting next to him. The photographs scattered on a wall-mounted panel displayed the cheerful figures of two sisters in different settings and different contexts, time and again in the presence of a young boy with mustache who affectionately hugged or kissed the blond-haired girl's face. The bedside lamp was always accompanied by a pile of books on sociology, the history of the Middle Ages, and science fiction that the girl used to carry in her backpack on her travels back to Canterbury. The only empty support of the small collection of colorful mugs hanging from the kitchen wall, used every day to contain many kinds of american-style drinks, reminded Newt of the item that now housed his own kitchen cabinet, forgotten between a marathon of series and another, that the girl didn't show any sign of anxiety in getting it back.
"Can I take a look?" - she pointed to the forgotten sketchbook at the hands of the young man who absent-mindedly observed said set of crockery.
With Newt's consent, Tina quietly leafed through the delicate, thin pages on which were engraved dozens of illustrations drawn in pencil or black pen. Some of them had taken on a more yellowish tint over time, gaining an older look. The pages at the end of the notebook were very white because they hadn't yet been used.
She looked over birds of various species, rodents on rocks, an image that symbolized the point of view of someone who had looked down at a set of trees from a forest. She took longer in pages where landscapes, flower fields, swamps, ponds, or the sunset were pictured on the horizon of a beach, completely immersed in all the richer details of each one.
Tina bit the inside of her cheeks to keep an affectionate smile from appearing on her face as she risked a quick glance at the young man beside her who traced his fingertips down an invisible path between the freckles and the small scars on the back of his own hand.
Among the pages already occupied at the end of the book, the girl found herself facing the rather familiar features of a young black girl with long curly hair watching a blurred landscape through the glass window in an extremely rich setting of a train interior. Pictured with such fascinating precision, the girl could not avoid a strange, uncomfortable pinch in her stomach.
Noticing that his friend had fixed her gaze for a long time on one of the leaves, Newt raised his own to find in the other the shadow of a semblance of nature that he could not recognize. He didnt even have to check to know at once what was so strange in her eyes.
Throughout his twenties, Newt had collected situations in his life that allowed him to understand how much he differed in some significant aspects from those who surrounded him. Of all the pupils with whom he had shared some period of school, he was the least heard by the tutors in the intervals between classes. Among all the children attending the end-of-the-year family gatherings, he was the figure who leaned over alone on his toys by the corners of the room. Among all the young people who interacted easily in conversations or a mere exchanges of glances, it was Newt who had found in that notebook the most desperate way of relieving the painful feeling of not being able to express the things his chest screamed to say.
He had understood, through the most cruel ways he had been directed, that some seemed not to understand the complexity of things that were simple to him.
Seeing Tina keep her eyes fixed on the french girl's drawing in her hands, Newt was martyred by the lascivious conviction that he would not be able to organize words to express to her how all those images had such a naive significance to him. His face quite red and his hands frozen with embarrassment, the boy hid under the mess of brown hair that characterized his fringe.
"I think it's beautiful, Newt, the way you cherish things that are important to you" - he was surprised by Tina's genuine murmur - "For the animals you study, for this girl... it's of such a priceless purity"
Newt stared dazedly at the face of the girl who still kept her eyes on the now closed notebook in her hands. Returning her colleague's gaze her nose and cheeks, which had turned slightly pink, were visible to him.
"It's really rare to find such a thing when it is offered without intention, merely for the simple intention of offering it" - Tina forced a small smile to disguise the uncomfortable sensation in her chest - "Please, never lose the most precious thing you've got... For nothing and for no one"
Disoriented by the startling outcome of what was supposed to be an embarrassing situation and the whirlwind of thoughts beginning to trickle through his mind, Newt did not realize that he had held his breath long enough to be unable to calculate. A strange tingling in his abdomen caught his attention as he stared unfocussed at the tips of the short dark strands curling over the pale chin.
Tina, in a sudden and erroneous realization, inferred that the stunned expression on the boy's face might mean that she had chosen an inadequate and inconvenient set of words in her brief speech. Unable to correct herself or provide explanations, she hurriedly got up to the small closet.
"I have to start packing my luggage for the holidays..." - Tina's voice sounded shaken to break the installed silence, waking the boy from his hypnosis - "And you still haven't bought your tickets, do not forget about it"
"Ah, you're right" - he said, rising quickly in an attempt to keep up with the abrupt change in direction of the conversation - "I must do it today, yes"
Watching the pile of colored sweaters she'd placed on the blue-printped quilt, Newt was paralyzed by the moment he refused to leave. Attached to what would be the last chance of that day to bring up the subject he had longed to mention the last few times he had been in the girl's presence, he had a slight feeling that he would be consumed by the nullity if he left once more without getting confident enough to express what he'd like to say.
"Tina, you know I'll graduate in a little while, don't you?" - he began cautiously.
"I know, early next fall, isn't it?" - she frowned slightly as she pulled a light-blue velvet sweater from one of the hangers inside the closet.
"There's going to be a graduation ceremony and a ball" - he said, choosing to keep his eyes fixed on the carpet at his feet - "I was wondering if you wouldn't be interested in attending them. Of course you don't have to go, if you don't want to... I'm not particularly keen on these events myself, if you want to know. I'll understand perfectly if you don't-"
"I'll be there, Newt" -a very restrained whisper, audible enough for the boy who longed for a timbre other than his own to be echoed by the quiet environment - "Of course I'll be there"
It took him a moment to digest the answer. Tina held her lower lip between her teeth in an unsuccessful attempt to curb the involuntary smile she displayed, without realizing that she was lightly crumpling the garment in her hands. Not knowing what to do with himself, the boy smiled shyly as he focused heavily on the open door of the small wooden wardrobe.
After mentally replaying that scene repeatedly in her mind, before going to bed, Tina did not know that she lacked reasons to feel ashamed of her clumsiness. Much less to worry, more than she should, if her behavior had accurately mirrored the sweet sensation that had been growing in her chest, slowly, and which she would so much like to be able to hide. Nothing the boy had noticed about the girl's reactions. He was completely distracted by the analysis of his own curious sensations as he made his way back upstairs.
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
The last friday of that november dawned in a thin, snowy mist formed during the late hours of the night prior for the residents of Oxford. Colorful jackets and coats painted the scene in which life happened outside the windows of the red bus' second floor that was driven slowly down Hythe Bridge Street towards the train station.
Tina watched a small cloud of condensed vapor from her breath form itself in front of her face as she rubbed her gloved pair of hands in an attempt to soften the faint tremor that swept over the ends of her body. Very low temperatures burned her face even wrapped in her scarf, protected by the cotton coat and dipped under two very thick sweaters. Newt hid his unprotected hands in the pockets of his heavy dark blue coat and muffled his breath in his favorite scarf wrapped around his neck. He watched the lights already on inside the buildings on that rather dark afternoon when he wasn't distracted by the interlaced shoelaces of the pair of incredibly narrow boots at his side.
After rounding a second roundabout of the long Park End Street, the vehicle drove into the vicinity of the crowded Oxford Railway Station, forcing the remaining passengers to face the freezing gusts of wind that swept through the open landscape of that neighborhood.
The express that would take the students to London for the holiday season made the journey of little more than an hour packed with luggage that usually doubled its amount at that time of the year. The suitcases were narrowing their way down the corridor, backpacks occupied empty seats next to their owners that were talking excitedly about their winter vacation plans.
Seemingly little affected by the noises in the train, Tina leaned over the pages of the fantasy bestseller she eagerly read as Newt concentrated himself on writing the first two paragraphs about the last species to be cataloged in his book. Although exhausted, they were both taken by the pleasant sensation of returning home after the triumph of the first trimester of the term.
Distracted by his notes and pleased to finally be finishing a three-year work, Newt didn't bother himself to divert his attention to the black girl who confided, smiling, the endings of a weekend already lived to three excited listeners in a compartment few meters ahead of his own.
More than ever, Paddington Station in London was crowded with passengers rushing through the main hall to their respective embarkation points, colliding with considerable amounts of people during the zigzag. Tina and Newt felt immensely relieved as they passed the boarding gate of the barely empty platform of the five o' clock's Canterbury express.
They ventured to talk about trivial things even with the ceaseless tilting of their jaws, the fringe under the hood of the boy's coat, and the girl's hair flying in the direction of the freezing wind that entered the boarding corridor. They resumed the activities of the previous trip as they occupied the traditional seats next to the window of the train that left the capital.
Newt turned one of the last remaining pages of the green-covered notebook to write, in its verse, the final considerations about the process of naturalization and adaptation of the fire salamanders species to british territory and climate, ending the development of his manuscript. He scanned some of the hundreds of pages with a smile on his lips, stuffed with the same fine and cursive handwriting and outlined in different shades of ink from the various pens used throughout the process. On the verge of communicating to his friend his achievement, however, he found the sleeping figure resting herself on her elbow on the table between the seats.
Book open on an unread page, her head leaned against her clenched fist, her pale lips at low temperatures partially opened to let out a short, light breath between them, the dark strands that hung on the face were in contrast to the pale but slightly pink skin. Newt felt his chest warm as he stared at the scene in front of him.
"Tina..." - he whispered, lightly nudging the girl's hand resting on the book.
Suddenly his friend opened her tired eyes in a snap, her breath momentarily accelerating as she tried to understand the time and space in which she was inserted. The sky plunged into the darkness of the night made it impossible to recognize the landscape through which they passed.
"Have we arrived?" - she asked, startled. Her face briefly flushed under the compassionate gaze of the other.
"No, we're still halfway there. It's just... if you stayed in that position any longer, your neck could start hurting"- the boy reached the book in front of the girl to close it, putting it aside -"Maybe it's better if you take this instead"
Removing the yellow and grey scarf curled around his neck, Newt held it to her rather awkwardly. Tina took a few moments to accept the piece of clothing, but did it with a genuinely tender smile, leaning over the interweaving of her arms and the soft woolen fabric shortly after. She could not help but breathe in the woody perfume emanating from it, nor the unpretentious tingling in her stomach as she watched the young man imitating her position over his notebook on the other side of the table.
Face to face, the girl secretly listed the freckles that leapt from the face partially covered by the sleeve of the blue coat, losing sight of the continuity of that small constellation and the definition of the very clear iris behind the disarray of light brown hair. Moving aside the boy's fringe in a cautious and delicate movement, the vision caused both witnesses of that moment a slight imbalance in their breaths.
Very detailed oscillations between blue and green were analyzed meticulously by the pair of brown irises with such intensity for the first time. The lights of a village they passed by were reflected in very dark orbits like tiny light spots running close to the surface of a pool of mysterious depths. For Newt, it was just like fire in the water. Like the memory of being able to observe for the first time the gleam of a small animal reflected on the shores of the dark water, under the celestial clarity of a starry night. Like writing in the words of the end of a book the grandeur of such a simple moment.
Involuntarily, the girl's fingertips were lost in spiraling movements across the length of curly strands of hair they found, and the boy, seized by a burning of his chest never before experienced, closed his eyes to enjoy all the minutes the moment lasted until it was slowly ceased.
Hanging on the windows and doors of the houses along Sturry Hill avenue, Christmas lights fascinated the girl's lustrous eyes in the shadow of the young man who had refused to let her return unaccompanied to her residence that night.
Sturry was a neighborhood of leafy streets, located near the suburban town of Canterbury, which housed a considerable number of two-stage houses contradictory absent from spacious garages or yards. The main avenue of those vicinities, where the pair of friends strolled slowly, was poorly lit and uncrowded after the rush hour of six o'clock in the afternoon.
"I love observing the lights at this time of year" - Tina pointed to the decorated tree just ahead, pertaining to the sidewalk of one of the houses through which they passed - "There is a similar Jewish tradition for the Hanukkah. We light up the windows of the house with candles"
"Is it an end-of-the-year holiday, too?" - the boy asked.
"It is celebrated between the twenty-fourth and the twenty-fifth month of the Jewish calendar, which coincides with the months of november and december" - she played with one of the colored balls that hung from one of the branches of the tree - "There is no fixed annual date, like Christmas, but there are eight days in a row full of celebrations"
"What is celebrated in Hanukkah?" - Newt asked, feeling his ears warm in embarrassment at the question - "Forgive me if I've been ignorant"
"It is celebrated the victory of the Jewish people over their oppressors through the reconquest of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem" - Tina smiled for the genuine interest of the friend - "It's really a beautiful story. It is said that, on the night of the victory, the Maccabean saviors kindled the Menorah in celebration, and though there was only enough oil to burn the seven lights of the candlestick for a single day, they remained lit for eight. It is called The Miracle of Lights"
"That's why you celebrate for eight days..." - the boy concluded and his friend nodded.
"We used to do it every year when we were kids, but our aunt always preferred Christian customs. Queenie and I followed the traditions, nevertheless. Every year we prepare some typical recipes, such as latkes, which are oil fried potato pancakes, and also sufganiyot, sweet donuts that we eat with jelly"- the girl smiled sweetly at the familiar facade of the next house - "Queenie loves to cook"
The rectangular glazing of the modest facade overlooked the lights behind the curtains of the two-stage building. Two doors rose side by side at the end of the seven-steps ladder to indicate the territorial division between numbers 30 and 26. Newt alternated his gaze, inwardly melancholy for the imminent farewell, between the blue wooden door and the girl who placed her luggage by the little railing of the ladder.
"I'm glad to hear that you've finished writing your book" - stopping at the front of her house, Tina turned to the boy next to her - "I can not wait to read it"
"I can send you a copy, if I may" - Newt ventured, his face flushed with the girl's smile.
"It would be really great, Newt"
Both feeling the weight of the end of that night and of the weeks when they might be out of each other's company, was evident to anyone, but themselves, that they sought as much as possible to extend that conversation with trivial remarks.
"I wish I could invite you in, but no men are allowed in the house" - Tina gave a worried grimace, adding in whispers - "We were almost thrown out when Queenie brought Jacob in to spend the night another day. It was a really big scandal"
"I hope I'm not putting you at risk"
"Don't worry. Actually, I'm really grateful that you're here" - Tina risked a friendly smile on the rather red-faced boy - "Try resting for a little bit these weeks now that you've finished your book"
"Oh, It's a quiet end of the year for me for now. I'll go back home, deliver my manuscript..."
A brief, icy breeze that rocked the branches of the trees on Sturry Hill avenue gently deposited the strand of hair on Tina's delicate face, and the boy made an involuntary movement to return it to its original position. He would have completed the gesture if the girl had not done it with greater agility.
"Excuse me, Tina... But how would you feel if I gave you your copy in person?"
Newt hissed the phrase in shaky words before he could ponder the idea twice, distracted by the expectant gaze he was given. Tina's smile reached the dark eyes that carried an ethereal and charming glow and it mirrored awkwardly in her friend's insecure features.
"I'd like that"
They shared a sweet, timid smile before they heard the door of number 26 slowly open in a creak to allow the light of the inner environment to reflect gradually on the image of the young man standing in front of the small staircase of the neighboring facade. The serious features of a middle-aged lady became visible as the short-haired girl hurriedly reached for the keys in one of the pockets of her luggage, her face returning to its usual pallor.
"Is that you, Tina?"
"Yes, Mrs. Esposito" - she replied, taking the last few steps toward the door.
"Are you alone?" - asked the woman, analyzing with curiosity the rather distressed and embarrassed image of Newt.
"Always alone, Mrs. Esposito" - the girl's voice sounded mechanically, giving the other a brief nod and an implicit apology on her face before disappearing behind the number 30.
A tabby cat walked around the legs of his mistress leaning on the black doorway, apparently satisfied with the outcome of the scene she had witnessed. Free from the older inquisitor's gaze, Newt stared blankly at the white walls of the residence with a contemplative smile on his face before moving away from the building toward the sidewalk of Sturry Hill.
In a sudden glare, the curtains pulled away from one of the two panes momentarily displayed the small, slender figure of a blond and curly-haired girl staring at him with a rather cheerful and agitated face. As fast as she appeared, Queenie Goldstein rushed inside the room, out of sight of the young man who had decided, without further ado, to put on the hood of his dark blue coat to ease the freezing temperature on his way back to the bus stop.
Newt had much to ponder upon his arrival at his parents' house for the small winter holidays in the city of Canterbury. He would have as a priority to pass all the content of the thirteen chapters of the manuscript to the computer at his room's desk in the week to come. He would also have articles and more articles to be read for the quarter of classes that began in the middle of january.
However, as he sighed deeply in one more vain attempt to extinguish a particular image from his mind and the unsettling tingling sensation from his abdomen that accompanied said image, the young man decided that, in that night, he would devote himself exclusively to the task of putting in the last leaf of the sketchbook in hand, with as much precision as possible, all the fine features and the most delicate details of the adorably asleep face on the scarf of yellow and grey stripes, decorated during the trip.
Two envelopes rested on the white marble counter in the kitchen of the Harbledown residence beneath the bunch of keys coveted by the black cat sitting on the floor, occasionally waving its long tail in quick movements during its contemplation. In front of the sink on the wall that held a window overlooking the large yard, the red-haired lady tended to the mastery of some small bundles of blueberries, gathered from her own garden, in the company of her youngest son.
"Look, Newt, they are not firm at all" - she exclaimed, examining the small round fruit in the palm of her hand.
"Maybe we'll have to leave the pie for another time" - Newt ventured an assuring smile to encourage his mother's rather disappointed features - "But they're fresh, they're good to make a jelly, what do you think?"
"I think it's a great idea" - she caressed her son's cheeks fondly - "If you get a cup of sugar into the cupboard while I wash the blueberries, I'll be grateful, my dear"
Inside one of the six doors of the light-colored kitchen cabinet, the young man's eyes saw the most different kinds of culinary ingredients to be used in what had become the favourite activity of the middle-aged lady since her recent retirement. Shelves supporting sugar pots, vanilla essence flasks, flour sacks and stacked boxes containing spices waited to be emptied, on a saturday or sunday afternoon during the curly-haired boy's holidays, turning into delicious roasts by the skilled hands of the woman.
Returning the medium-sized pot that contained the mother's request to the inside of the cupboard, Newt witnessed the slight leap carried by the cat to the counter surface and its noisy landing on the yellow-colored envelope resting on its similar, the bunch of keys being moved in a frenzied zigzag through the cat's rather slender front legs.
"Paws off of what doesn't belong to you" - Newt hissed in a quiet voice, carefully pulling the mascot from the furniture a third time to drop it back to the floor - "I'd better take the envelope of the reviewers to the post and deliver the copy of Tina before they get even more creased"
"Wait just a few more minutes, Newt. It should not be long until the recipe is ready. I would like you to take some of this jam to her as a souvenir" - she placed the blueberry units in a pot on the stove, the kindly face amused with a smile - "Besides, you have said Tina likes jellies, haven't you?"
"I must have mentioned, yes"
The boy busied himself by looking for a spoon in one of the nearby drawers to avoid the playful gaze of the other. The changes in the matriarch's countenance were very expressive at moments in which Newt made observations or quoted trivial curiosities about the friend he had met at Oxford. If he knew, however, that to his mother there was no greater contentment in the world than in witnessing the slight and unconscious excitement which the youngest showed by sharing in any situation that he had lived in the presence of the girl, perhaps he would not be at all embarrassed by the contemplative glances that were directed to him.
"Then a gift should do no harm" - she smiled affectionately, accepting the cup of sugar that was extended to her - "It's good to know that you have achieved a friendship that suits you well, my son"
"I'm lucky to have her as a friend, she's very clever, the best student in her class" - Newt sighed, shaking the spoon in hand for a curious Niffler in front of him - "Tina is not like the others, mom. She thinks differently, listens without judgment..."
"I would like you to bring her here, Newt" - the mother wisely analyzed her son's flushed face - "To give me the opportunity to meet her too"
Newt smiled as he watched his mother add ingredients to the bubbly dark mixture over the small flame of the stove, her red hair reflecting the grayish celestial tone of yet another cold, rainy afternoon in the middle of early december.
"Tina is very busy with her work, mom, and you will certainly meet her at my graduation"
"Same excuse as Theseus! I can't stand the both of you!" - she raised her hands in a theatrical plea.
The laughter filled the room on the first floor of the house the whole time it accommodated its two residents. While gingerly analyzing her son's expressions from his arrival back to Harbledown for the holidays, the mother would sigh happily to find in his timid and very clear eyes a flashing glow of which nature the eldest was able to recognize.
There was little time left of the post office when Newt was encouraged to leave by the St. George Street shopping plaza. The rectangular waterly-paved floor reminded the few customers and passers-by in the vicinity of the drizzle that, despite the brief respite of a few minutes, announced it was about to begin again.
The young man entertained himself with the Christmas decorations stamped on the windows of the small boutiques and with the lights that curled up on the poles to cross, from one end to the other, the whole length of that famous street in the center of Canterbury to be traveled by him. He crossed his blue-jacketed sleeves over the remaining envelope pressed to his chest in an attempt to protect himself from the icy drops that fell from the low, gray clouds, in his hands he gently held the small glass jar containing the still warm jelly of blueberries.
He cut his way down the narrow and short North Downs Way, an alley also lined with the most varied types of shops and food outlets, and gazed thoughtfully at an elegant coffee shop at a mall located on its final end. The panes that extended from the floor to the ceiling of the facade had small tables that could accommodate up to three people, which, in the imminence of their closing time, were mostly empty. He walked through Burgate and the small expanse of Sun Street to finally walk the remaining path to the eccentric bookstore at the end of Palace Street.
Newt found no difficulty in identifying, through the glass pane of glued papers, the tall, slim silhouette of Tina Goldstein. Leaned on one of the several bookshelves and holding a stack of three or four in her arms, the girl carried a rather tedious expression on her face as she seemed to follow the monologue of a tall, strong man who leafed rather gallantly through a dark-covered book. The girl wore a hooded pink sweatshirt in contrast to the dark environment in which she were, the usual round-rimmed eyeglasses that, in the boy's opinion, matched perfectly with the delicate features of her face. Newt did not take much longer to enter the bookstore by the intentionally crooked red door.
The bell echoed in the room took the girl from her daydreams to look at the figure of the boy who watched her timidly by the counter, the envelope and the small pot deposited in it under the gaze of an amused Mr Abernathy Sr.
"Gifts are getting bigger!" - exclaimed the elderly gentleman, his hoarse laugh filling Newt's red ears.
Involuntarily, Tina hugged the stack of books she carried with a little more force against her breastplate over her sweatpants, her suddenly cheerful expression decorating her endearing features as she smiled and studied her flushed friend that stared at his feet with great intensity.
"Miss Goldstein?" - the dark-haired man hissed at her side - "Did you hear me?"
She was startled to realize the image of the other very close, completely forgotten of his presence. Tina avoided, with as much skill as she could, not to express in her countenance the slight feeling of displeasure in focusing her attentions on that conversation one more time.
"As I was saying, if you want to become a judge of respect it is crucial that you start reading some of the most renowned writers in the field from the beginning of your course. We have Tom Bingham, Glanville Williams..." - he set the book in his hands at the top of the pile held by the girl before beginning his walk to the counter at the front of the shop - "These seem enough for now"
Tina felt her heart quicken as she approached the place where her friend was waiting for her, polite and gentle as ever. She had not seen him on any of the days that passed between the first two weeks of december, keeping her expectations of being able to receive his visit every morning she opened the bookshop for clients.
"I was advising Tina with her studies right now, Mr. Abernathy" - the man with haughty stance triumphantly said - "If she follows my steps, than she will surely have her name recognized"
"I rather believe in my own potential, Mr. Tolliver" - said the young lady, polite and patient - "It is a consensus, after all, among several of the most renowned authors I have ever had the opportunity to read, that one's success is a consequence of its originality"
Newt concentrated as hard as he could on counting the exact number of copies of any travel guide decorating the right end of the counter to keep a muffled and inopportune chuckling from sounding between the small group of four people. He immensely amused himself by taking quick stares at the frozen, stunned expression of the man at his side, whose brows were held high enough to indicate the loss of whatever his next speech was. Between one look and another he met the one of the pretty and red girl's features, an amused glow dancing by the pair of dark orbits.
"I have no doubt that my girl knows exactly how to become what she wants to be" - laughed the gentleman behind the wooden counter, his affectionate features gazing in admiration at the young woman. He looked, in a rather theatrical movement, at the wristwatch in his left arm - "Oh, it's almost time for you! I do not think there will be any problems if you leave earlier today, m'girl" - he gazed from Tina's confused expression to the silent boy - "You don't want to leave your long-awaited visit waiting"
Newt tapped the ends of the envelope to mask his apparent embarrassment, giving back rather awkwardly the kindly look that was given him by the rather gray-haired lord. Tina, in turn, was a little hard to believe in the sudden change of plans for that day, aware that she would stay late in the bookstore to arrange the new shipments of the week and finish attending an unhurried and irritatingly indecisive Mr. Tolliver. But not at all surprised by the generosity of that Mr. Abernathy, she hurried to fetch her belongings in the attic on the second floor.
Newt and Tina left the bookstore that early december night in a cool, damp breeze that could prolong the effects of the winter rain. Still quite timid by the situation they had witnessed and finally being in each other's presence again, they began a wandering walk through the center of Canterbury as they risked quick glances from the corners of their eyes.
Through the window of the establishment, the man with raised eyebrows and partially open mouth stared in bewilderment and disbelief at the duo route to High Street. In contrast to the eminent displeasure in the features of the other, the gentleman in his late seventies contemplated friendly the serene and cheerful countenance sketched by his best employee before devoting himself to analyzing the pile of books now under his charge.
"You certainly will not bother to enjoy my company, gentleman" - he laughed lightly, receiving a resigned look in return - "I must be old, but I am still very useful"
"The Hound of the Baskervilles is the best novel by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Newt. Comparing it to any other work of his is like comparing coffee with milk to that british thing you are drinking"
The girl watched the last couple of guests pass by the small two-seater round table, which was supporting two cups of white crockery and sweets of the most varied shapes on a metal tray, of that cozy bakery in High Street. She remained in her remarks as they hissed their goodbyes to someone behind the counter filled with clean stacked dishes out of her sight, until the green and blue orbits of her company were again visible behind the piece of crockery.
"Wrong again! A Study in Scarlet is his most engaging work, it took me less than three days to read" - the boy shook his head as he set the cup of tea and milk on the saucer in his hands, a playful smile on his lips - "And we all know americans have rather dubious tastes for their favorite foods and drinks, judging by their burgers and greasy fries"
"I'm american, and I don't!" - Tina hissed in a high voice.
"Well, that's exactly why you've become the cat's meow" - Newt looked down at the watercolor flower design of the crockery in front of him, his face warming gradually under the confused look of the other.
"It's a very old american expression from the twenties, it means that someone is cool or stands out positively on something" - he explained, risking a look under his fringe at the girl of momentarily immobile features.
Suddenly, the empty environment were filled with the echo of Tina Goldstein's sweet and rare laughter. Although he was growing insecure as the girl tried in vain to stifle and stop her laughter that now hurt her abdomen, the boy could not miss the opportunity to observe the free and spontaneous smile on her face that made her eyes twink involuntarily. Newt thought there could be no better combination of image and sound in the world, and allowed himself a soft smile when he found in the other's nothing but naive amusement.
"Who else still uses that expression, Newt?" - she caught a small tear from the corner of her eyes with her index finger.
"In that case, I think it's just me" - he tried to hide his affectionate gaze behind his mess of hair as the pretty red face fluttered the remaining contents into her cup before finalizing it in a gulp.
From her peripheral vision, Tina noticed the familiar silhouettes of the blond and curly-haired girl and the mustached boy carrying a tray full of what appeared to be roasted right from the oven. Clinging to her companion's arm, Queenie Goldstein smiled provocatively as she alternated glances between the light brown-haired boy and the suspicious face of her older sister.
"Are you twos having fun, then?" - asked the nice Jacob Kowalski.
"Newt's being cute with Teen" - hissed the younger girl with some excitement, analyzing the shy expressions of the pair of friends before receiving a secretly reprehensible look from her sister.
"You need to try this orange-peeled paczki, Mr. Scamander" - the man lowered the tray containing several units of round, golden candies covered with sugar and orange to the table - "It's a recipe from my grandmother"
"It is very kind of you, Jacob, but I'm afraid I must leave before the rain gets intensified"
Through the glass doors were visible to the quartet the small raindrops that slipped through the red awning where the name of the establishment managed by Mr. Kowalski was displayed. Tina followed, slightly distressed, the unfolding of the farewell dialogue between the friendly host and the young man prepared to leave. As if she could read the mess of thoughts that hung over her sister's head, Queenie laid her hand gently on the other's shoulder.
"You can leave, if you'd like, Teenie" - she assured the other in a whisper, with a docile smile on her features- "Jacob and I promised Henry that we would stay here until later today"
"If I go, will you promise not to come home so late?" - she felt the arms of the short-stacked blonde girl enveloping her in a tight embrace.
"I'll be with him, Teen" - she tiptoed up to kiss the pale cheek of the older one - "You know you have nothing to worry about"
The imposing cobbled buildings of the far end of Military Road were partially masked by the curtain of hurried drops of the torrential rain pouring from the darkened sky and the arrival of the darkness of that night's early hours. The majestic structure of the church of Canterbury, visibly dawned on sunny days, lay hidden to the horizon of those who focused their attentions toward the vehicles lined up on concrete asphalt.
The young man was following the way of a heavy drop of rain on the glass of the gray bus, caused by the speed with which they rounded the small roundabout to enter a still quite busy Tourtel Road. The girl sitting next to him smiled distractedly at the clear glass pot of purplish content in her hands.
"I still can't believe your mother made this jelly for me" - she tucked the object into the backpack she carried with her, securely with the yellow envelope - "Tell her I'm truly flattered, Newt"
Intimately feeling her chest warm as she imagined ways in which her friend's mother might have heard of herself, Tina watched as her company played awkwardly with his own thumbs to hide a small, shy smile from her contemplative gaze. As she stared at the landscape through the window, she had the feeling that the possibility of sharing such feelings to the boy next to her might not be so remote.
"I'll be waiting for your opinion of my book" - were the words hissed by the boy after a long and silent pause.
"I'll try to be easy on you" - the girl joked, shrugging and making the boy laugh lightly.
Tina planned a comment about the boy becoming a renowned author in his field, but found herself momentarily paralyzed by the line of thought her mind had decided to follow. She remembered an issue she had forgotten since the moment she left the bookstore that afternoon and an insecurity that filled her thoughts every time she allowed a certain sense of hope to grow.
"Hey, Newt..." - she glanced down at her pair of sneakers in an attempt to show casualness - "If Leta Lestrange invited you out, would you say a yes?"
It took Newt a few moments to digest the abrupt change in the course of their conversation and the question he had been exposed to. He took a quick glance at her rather nervous posture while sitting on the bench beside him, clutching her backpack clumsily in her lap. Taken from an unusual sense of strangeness, the boy plunged for a few moments into his inevitable pondering.
In fact, throughout his life, Newt had never given importance to seeking the company of others in any situation. He had grown up alone in the large backyard of his residence at Harbledown, had explored alone the four corners of Dorset, had ventured solitary in his expeditions throughout the three years of his field research. He had acquired as personal truth the fact that solitude was a faithful and essential companion to the science to which he had chosen to devote all his efforts.
It was also true that, even as he collected many moments of admiration at the black-skinned girl with long and shiny hair, in all the years he had risked his secret looks and recalled in a notebook of drawings, a little larger than his own hand, his personal version of her, Leta Lestrange had never been strong enough reason for the boy to question his own truth.
And he wondered mentally at that moment, as he heard an incredibly loud voice in his head shout a name that had brought him, in the recent months, the most pleasant and new sensations he could ever feel, if the french girl might ever become enough reason.
"Leta would never invite me out, Tina"
"But if she did... Would you?"
Distracted by a flash of lightning in the open-air landscape of 28th Avenue in which they were now, the young man imagined himself seated at one of the tables in a small coffee shop in Oxford with the frenchwoman. He could not, however, imagine a realistic dialogue since he did not know much more than three information about the girl. He could not help but giggle at the oddity of that scene.
The friend sitting next to him, eagerly analyzing the silence and all the expressions sketched by the boy, felt a knot forming itself in her throat and a staggering squeeze replacing any pleasant sensation that remained in her by the sudden and implicit understanding.
"Achilles Tolliver invited me out" - hissed the girl in an almost inaudible murmur, lowering her head to hide the unpleasant features of feeling that terribly bitter taste in her mouth - "Next Friday. Right after work"
The words sounded in Newt's ears like a nagging blow to the stomach. With such a lack of orientation, the boy did not know how to remove from his face the embodiment of his stunning. Tina swallowed the tightness in her throat with great difficulty in the hope of containing the display of the annoying sensations, judging herself infinitely foolish by her apparent unpreparedness for that situation.
"Who...?" - stammered the boy - "You... Did you say yes?"
"He's a customer of the bookstore. He's a lawyer..." - she pressed her lips together - "I still haven't given him my answer"
"Do you like him, Tina?"
Tina frowned as she raised her strangely glossy gaze to her friend's questioning features. She wanted, mentally, as strongly as she could, that her pleading countenance should express to the boy everything she was afraid to say. But out of manners, time, or luck, the boy could not decipher the parts of that misunderstanding before the girl could see through the window the neighborhood of Sturry.
She reached with trembling hands for the dark blue umbrella inside her backpack before standing up to call for the vehicle to stop at the next traffic sign. Before he could get up from his seat to follow his friend to the door, he heard Tina's small, low voice rattling through the frightening noises of drops falling on the metal material of the bus.
"You don't have to come with me, Newt. I thank you for your goodwill, but I don't want you to get a cold because of me" - with a last wave and a small weak smile, the girl threw herself into the pouring rain under the sad and desperate gaze of the young boy.
Accompanied by a pair of light-colored eyes all the time the bus drove around the intersection and began its journey back to downtown, Tina Goldstein walked down Sturry Hill carrying the feeling that the distance to the number 30 had doubled itself that night.
Looking herself in the mirror at the wall of the little hallway beyond the blue door she had noticed that, even with the physical protection of the soaked object she had deposited on the floor, she had reached her destination with a considerably shaky and slightly wet face.
The ceaseless ticking of the bedside clock rang up the walls of the small bedroom on the second floor of that silent residence. A single fragile beam of light penetrated through a crack in the partially closed curtain to be reflected on the polished surface of the desk under the window. Immersed in the darkness of the frozen environment, the boy laying motionless on the colorful cover of the single bed sighed heavily very often as he focused his gaze vaguely somewhere on the ground.
He wasn't bothered by the distant noise of a radio playing a traditionally Christmas songs, nor the barking of the dog chasing a bird through the large yard, nor even the muffled voices of the other residents of that address coming from one of the rooms downstairs. The usual three knocks on the wooden door would not have been a significant nuisance if the boy had remembered to turn the key in the lock the night before, but he had not felt insulted to see a low silhouette outlining its shadow between the light that invaded the environment.
Silently running the short distance between the doorframe and the single bed, she laid her weight on the mattress beside the still expressionless figure of the brown-haired boy. Her heart pounding painfully as she stared at him with his face still so disheartened, in the gloom of the room, she raised her hands to give her son's forehead a caress.
"I'm sure she wouldn't be happy to know that you're looking this sad"
"I'm not sad, mom" - answered the husky voice of the boy - "I'm just worried"
"I thought your philosophy was that worrying means you suffer twice?" - his mother teased, making the boy smile slightly - "And we're not even sure she really wants to go out with this guy today, Newt"
"That's not the matter" - the boy stood up to sit facing his mother - "I'm only thinking about my book evaluation, nothing more"
Under his mother's disbelieving gaze, Newt lowered his eyes to the hands in his lap. He felt emptier each day which approached that colorless friday because of his lack of knowledge about what had happened to his best friend over the course of that week. His mother's eyes have been following the young man's way through the house every day, saddened to find once again in her son the curved posture and the stillness as he gazed, sadly, at any fixed point for a long period of time.
"I have no right to feel this way, mom" - he stared at the tips of her red hair resting on her shoulder - "Tina is right to do whatever she wants, and she certainly knows what's best for herself"
"And don't you think it'd be better tell her how you feel?"
"And put our friendship at risk? - said Newt in a high pitched voice - "Tina, before anything else, is the best and only friend I've got and she can't even imagine any of these things, mom. I don't want her to get away from me"
In a resigned sigh, the woman stroked her son's cheeks with the back of her hand before rising to the window to open the beige-tissued curtain. She gazed at the typically gray landscape of that icy december friday, a very low haze hiding the top of the pines and the majestic deciduous of her estate. A nostalgic smile colored her expressions.
"Your father was a great friend in my teenage years" - she observed the long-legged tabby dog sniffing at something on the grass of the garden - "When I first met him, his family was moving to one of the cottages at the end of the street where I used to live. I was dating a boy at that age, Sebastian was his name, he was handsome but a complete idiot"
The mother smiled to herself by hearing a weak laugh from her young son ringing across the room and turned in time to witness the tender smile on his face.
"I had many excellent friends over the course of my life, but your father was different, Newt" - she lovingly fingered the golden wedding ring on her left hand - "There was a time when I simply knew it would be him. No, I wasn't afraid, my dear, because I knew it wasn't supposed to be anyone else. Your grandmother used to tell me that I have the talent to guess these things"
The mother analyzed the son immersed in his own ponderings, the ghost of the discouraged countenance still hovering over his face, and allowed herself a sad smile. She remembered the sweetness and bitterness of living in her own twenties and knew that, although she had the feeling that her suspicions were reliable, there was little she could do for the boy at that moment.
Accepting the hand extended to him, the boy rose from the piece of furniture to plunge into the affectionate embrace of the lady of short stature and very red hair.
"How about going down to eat something and take advantage of the fact that the shops will keep open until later hours this weekend to go and buy her a gift? After all, she's still your great friend" - the mother smiled as her son nodded, leading him down the stairs to the lower floor.
The corridor formed by the cubic structures of the establishments set up in the bustling Whitefriars channeled the strong current of air, which swept through the alley of interesting shop windows to the eyes of the customers, causing the white bag attached to the wrist of the boy hidden under the hood of the black coat to move violently.
Reaching the intersection, under the incredibly darkened sky of charged clouds, Newt looked up at the great rectangular stone structure of the monument erected in honor of the Martyr of St. George, the clock pinned to one of its four sides marking just over six hours of that afternoon. From a distance, he spotted the post office he had visited the previous week and followed the path that still lay in his memory.
Distracted in his observations of the relatively crowded interiors of the North Downs Way shops, he had glimpsed beautiful pieces of clothing, well-detailed bottles of perfumes, and decorations that would certainly require at least three-digit notes to be purchased. The yellow lights that hung low over the tables of the cafeteria at the far end of that alley gave that atmosphere a warm and tempting air for those who sought shelter from the icy breeze at those downtown streets of Canterbury. As he gazed at the cheerful expressions of the customers accompanied by their hot drinks, the young man suddenly stopped on his tracks as he came upon a particular scene happening through the windowpanes.
In a small and rectangular two-seater table, near the intersection of the crossroads with Burgate Street, sat a young couple plunged into a kiss that anyone could consider quite passionate. The black, well-combed hair of the young woman, which barely reached the height of her chin, hid the young man's face at her front of the eyes of a very stunned Newt, showing to sight only part of the cap that was used by him. The scene made the spectator's heart clench in a painful blow and his legs weaken slightly and he thought he might go awry if stared at it for a few more moments.
By goodness of fate, however, the couple got away, without further ado, from their momentary display of affection and Newt finally analyzed the very flushed face of the blond-haired boy of features quite different from those belonging to the man who had inhabited his nightmares for the last days. Shifting her gaze to the outside of the glass walls of the establishment, the girl allowed Newt to find, in her smiling and somewhat malicious features, a face that for him could not be more unknown.
Adjusting the rhythm of his breathing under the distressed gaze of two elderly passers-by, Newt enjoyed the momentary sense of relief that ran through the edges of his body. Fearful of witnessing any similar situation that same night, the boy thought it infinitely safer to keep his eye on his own pair of sneakers all the way back to the bus stop on Military Road.
The first raindrops that threatened its beginning hours ago fell over Newt's hood as he traversed the final distances of Palace Street, the gift package held tightly against the black nylon jacket. He mentally rebuked himself for leaving the brown umbrella hanging by his bedroom door before leaving Harbledown that afternoon.
Instinctively, he looked up at the white, four-stage black building that featured the bookstore on King's Street. In contrast to the darkness of the other levels of that establishment, the light of the second-floor attic stood out in the large glass window to illuminate the warm atmosphere inside.
Suddenly, in a slight movement, the figure of the young girl approached the pane to pick up a large cardboard box resting against the wall, walking quickly back into the room right after. Moments later she was back to do the same process, oblivious to the fact that she was observed by the confused look of the boy on the opposite bank of the street.
In the flash of lightning that screamed for her attention, the girl finally took a look at the outside environment and identified, in the darkness of the dimly lit alley, the trembling, partially soaked silhouette of her best friend.
With hearts pounding in their ears, Tina and Newt stared at each other for a long moment as they sank into the whirl of thoughts that ran through their heads. Newt hated himself for being taken by the selfish and inadequate sense of relief from meeting her on that friday night in the least likely scenario his mind could have built. The girl, in turn, hated herself for allowing the usual tingling in her abdomen to grow every time she laid her eyes on the boy.
A noisy thunder rumbled over the clouds of Canterbury, sending the duo back to reality out of the little bubble in which they stayed. In one last frightened look in the direction of her friend, Tina crossed the room and hurried down the stairs to the red door of the bookshop.
"Come in, Newt" - gave way to the young man to enter the gloom of the environment - "You're pale, and you're trembling! Can I get you something to get dry?"
"I'm fine, Tina" - the boy smiled tightly, lowering his coat zipper to reveal to the girl the dry sweater he wore underneath - "The material is waterproof"
They felt more secure in keeping their eyes focused on anything but their slightly flushed faces. Tina followed the final course of the wet coat's zipper by the time it had remained on the boy's arms.
"You can hang it here in the back of the store, if you like" - sounded the girl's voice as she made her way to the foot of the wooden staircase, closely followed by her colleague.
"Are you closing the bookshop at the usual time?" - he asked, confused, putting his bag and coat on a shelf in the small closet where there was only a single gray sweatshirt next to his friend's backpack.
"We're opening earlier" - she reached the top of the stairs, the yellow light illuminating her rather tired pale face - "I'm staying today to get tomorrow morning's work done"
The boy reached the level of the attic and his eyes were filled with the number of stacked boxes that scattered all over the room, some partially open exposing the hard-covered books that occupied their interiors. A metal shelf stood at the side of the pane on the opposite wall of the staircase, and two others were each arranged on one of the two remaining walls of the square, occupied with few copies of volumes divided into sections by small white slabs.
Tina sat down close to the stairs, next to a pen and a stiletto, surrounded by three closed cardboard boxes, indicating to the young man the vacant space at her side. As Newt settled down, leaning against a stack of four boxes, the girl quickly read the nailed label to the top of the nearest box before opening it with the stylus.
"I can help you with this, Tina, so you'll be free to leave early"
"It's fine, Newt" - the girl smiled, crossing an 'x' in one of the vacant squares on the label - "I'm not in a hurry"
Newt glared at another of the lightnings through the window of the room, the rain pouring violently into the paved ground of King's Street. He asked himself a few questions in his head as he studied his friend's face, intensely focused on the task she was doing, the ends of black hair close to the delicate lips.
"I thought you had plans for tonight" - he hissed in an attempt, watching his friend's reactions from the corner of his eyes.
"Someone had plans for me tonight" - she shrugged casually - "But I have all these new boxes to empty, so..."
The boy moved uncomfortably in his position as the girl separated ten dark green-covered books, depositing them in two piles of five beside the cardboard box. She got up to carry the box with the remaining units next to one of the bookshelves and pick up an already open box of smaller size under the thoughtful and compassionate look of her friend.
"Have you seen the new edition of The Philosopher's Stone?" - Tina asked as she sat down again, revealing the four different colored covers inside the square space and taking a volume of yellow color to extend to the boy - "There are some interesting curiosities about your house in there"
"The blue one, Newt, please"
Her voice sounded louder than usual to stand out from the roaring noises of the torrential rain and the thunders that now roared more frequently as the hours passed. At the request, the boy held out the light blue book he carried in his arms to his friend's hands on the top of the portable ladder. Putting it into the plethora of colored covers from the top of the wooden shelf of the store's first floor, Tina cautiously descended the six remaining steps back to the ground.
"We're missing just this one now" - she nodded at the purple cloak highlighted against the boy's light beige sweater.
"Teen romance" - Newt followed the girl to one of the shelves farther down the shop.
"This book is boring" - Tina hissed in a yawn as the boy adjusted the volume in the indicated place - "I got it as a birthday present when I was sixteen"
When he saw his friend search for her gray cotton sweatshirt in the closet from which it hung, Newt remembered the white bag he had brought with him that now rested unpretentiously on one of its shelves. He felt his face warm instantly.
"Tina, I bought you a present"
The sweater's zipper suddenly slowed down halfway, the girl's startled face appearing behind the curtain of dark hair. Newt briefly witnessed the expectant glow in his friend's eyes before extending her the parcel in which a small wooden box was wrapped in a well-ornamented orange ribbon bow.
"It's really simple, but I hope you like it"
With her hands slightly shaken, Tina pulled the ends of the bow until it was dismantled under the watchful eye of the boy who tried to take all the reactions that the other could sketch. Behind the lid of the small dark wooden box were seven small round and yellow candles arranged in a well-organized circle.
When she thought she understood the meaning of the present, Tina's smile reached up to the lustrous eyes to make two small tears fall on her slightly pink cheeks. Newt smiled affectionately as her gleaming gaze fixed on his own.
Newt did not have time to decorate the other's laughy smile before the pair of thin arms enveloped him in a tight embrace, the two tears having their way extinct on the sweater on which the girl's chin rested. With his breath caught and his expression surprised by the long moments when the girl hissed her gratifications against his shoulder, Newt ventured to wrap his rigid arms around the rather thin waist covered by the gray material. In a secretly brave act, Tina breathed deeply into the woody scent of the perfume she had dreamed of for some time, before moving slowly away from the boy.
Still paralyzed in his daze, the boy kept his hands frailly flat on the girl's back as the face of colored expressions was again visible to his eyes. With an intense tingling in his veins, Newt had the opportunity to examine the simpler details of the dark eyes that gazed at him expectantly, the rosy-looking nose and, finally, the delicate lips slightly parted in a closeness never before experienced by them.
Losing ephemeral contact with clear orbits, the girl followed the trail of freckles that painted his cheeks until it culminated with the boy's partially opened lips. She had the urge to trace with her fingertips all those small, graceful stains that there decorated, but her hands remained motionless on the softness of the light beige cotton piece of clothing.
With his mind shuffled by disconnected phrases and ideas, Newt's body decided to follow on its own the one that stood out tempting among the others. Judging in a state of growing numbness, Tina could not tell whether the ghost of the boy's close breathing against her face was a real sensation or just a figment of her imagination.
There was no time, however, for them to even close their eyes. In the next second echoed through the concrete and wooden structures inside the bookstore the frightening tremor of the thunderous roaring that carried with it the working of the electric lights of the establishment. Frightened by the deafening noise, Newt and Tina parted away from each other, as unconsciously as they approached, with both hands over their ears.
Scaring howls recounted the drag of the water bursts down King's Street with the successive flashes of lightning that decorated the dark bulk of the sky. Tina moved a few steps ahead to watch, somewhat destabilized, the storm that danced outside the glass windows of the bookstore.
"Good thing we didn't leave this place" - the girl's voice sounded loud as she headed for the front counter, Newt going down to look at the small window on the side wall - "We could be soaking up in such an hour"
"Or stuck inside the bus" - the boy replied, striding toward the small red velvet couch in the darkness of the room, collecting a colored pillow from the carpeted floor.
"I hope it doesn't take so long for it to stop" - Tina sighed, turning toward the other.
Feeling still slightly shaken by the sequence of just past events, the girl walked slowly and cautiously to the small sofa between two tall shelves, from where her silhouette was secretly observed. She settled down beside her friend to hug her knees to her chest, seized with embarrassment and insecurity. She bit her lip for all the minutes that they remained in a morbid silence.
Newt toyed with the material of his jeans as he swallowed the bittersweet sensation that now replaced that pleasant one that had just inhabited his body. He knew he was failing to mask the feelings that grew in his chest. The silence on his friend's talkative figure served him as proof of their impropriety.
"Have you ever been on a date, Newt?" - the girl voiced her most incessant doubt, untying the white lace of her sneakers and letting it lay on the carpet.
"No" - the low voice sounded slightly trembling - "Have you?"
"Me, neither" - she rested her head on her knees, closing her heavy eyes for a brief moment.
"Mr. Tolliver must have been very upset, Tina" - the young man murmured tentatively.
"He seemed really disappointed when I declined the invitation earlier this week" - Tina confessed, leaning her head against the wall on which the couch leaned.
"It was the right thing to do" - the girl sighed - "I don't want to be with him, then it wouldn't be fair to either of us"
A flash filled the space followed by a thunder in the distance, less intense than the others. Tina yawned, bringing her hand to her eyes to wipe them. Her back ached and she was feeling exhausted by all the heavy boxes of books she'd been carrying into the attic since that morning.
The boy watched the sky through the window, lightning falling repeatedly and illuminating the sky with heavy clouds, when he felt the girl cautiously moving in the space at his side, tentatively placing her head on his shoulder. Newt blushed at the pleasant sensation of holding her close to him again, breathing in the floral scent emanating from her short hair.
"Newt, I read your book"
"Did you read?" - she smiled at the surprised tone in her friend's voice.
"You've done a really great job, even better than I could have expected" - she linked the arm of the young man with both of her own, tentatively searching for the hand that collected scars - "It was nice knowing a little more about the animals from the United Kingdom"
"My best friend's opinion is very valuable to me, Tina" - said the boy, full of sincerity.
He felt his abdomen tingle as one of the girl's hands reached his right one to slide the tips of her fingers all the way in his palm. With no apparent pattern, she drew large and small circles, lines that bent abruptly to change their directions, lingering zigzags reaching the boy's fist. He filled himself with the hope that he might not have put everything to waste yet.
They remained there for a moment, concentrating on each other's breathing and on the contact they made until the moment when the yawns became very frequent and the delicate hand fell, motionless, beside the larger and more calloused one. Before the unconsciousness of her weariness, the girl had the slight sensation of witnessing the pale fingers being entwined by those replete with freckles in a subtle and gentle grip.
Chapter 9: Chapter 9
The light that passed freely through the glass panels of the bookstore's facade gave the sleeping girl of a slightly frowning face, as she made her slow, lazy awakening, the greetings of a newly installed saturday morning in the partly cloudy sky. A lively song of birds from a roof somewhere among the hundreds of buildings nearby sounded far away in the young woman's ears, forcing her to open, a little reluctantly, one brown eye at a time.
The first sight that filled the girl's eyes depicted bookshelves and more shelves from the floor to the ceiling of the first stage of the establishment, clogged with books of all colors in contrast to the dark wood of the shelves that organized them. Some of the sun's refracted rays illuminated tiny particles of dust that hung over the carpet on the floor and were carried by a cold stream of air that entered through some possible gap near the slightly crooked door. A small, hoarse growl escaped the girl's throat while she wondered why on earth the colorful rug of her own room wasn't on the floor.
Resting on a soft, beige surface, much closer than the piles of books scattered about the place, was the rather pale hand of fine fingers. Tossing the palm tentatively a few inches below where it was positioned, the girl finally realized what that warm surface was.
Partially seated, partially propped up against the side of the red couch and the bookshelf behind his head, Newt Scamander slept silently under the astonished figure of Tina Goldstein attached to his chest. Instantly awake and somewhat confused, the girl looked up at her friend's serene face, strands of his fringe falling over his still closed eyes, his lips half open to allow a small cloud of steam of breath to pass through them.
The two arms covered by the beige cotton mesh tied around the short-haired girl's slender waist while one of her own rested on the seat of the furniture behind her friend's back, the hand of the opposing limb visible to the dark eyes on the curve of the neck of the boy. Tina felt her cheeks burn wildly with such closeness as she ventured a brief, vain attempt to pull herself free of the pair of steady arms, before putting her head back on the boy's shoulder with a resigned sigh.
Distracted by the light breathing her friend's chest held, and by the slight unconscious beat of her own fingers, Tina focused her attentions on a few freckles jumping out of the sweater to draw a disheveled path toward the stretched neck. Curiously fingering the round neck of the beige fabric with her delicate tips, the girl wondered how much more of that pattern of small spots the garment could be hiding.
It did not take long for the low, mechanical bips of the boy's wristwatch alarm to in the girl's ears, causing her company to stir in a deep breath, giving the first signs of his awakening. Sensing her heartbeat hasten by the possibility of being caught in her contemplation, the girl did not have time to think of a better solution other than to shut her eyes in a frighteningly fast act.
Judging by the strange position and lack of softness of the upholstery in which he had fallen asleep, even with his eyes still closed, Newt was certain that this well-lit room definitely did not belong to Harbledown's residence. Sighing heavily as he felt a nagging, persistent pounding in his neck as he regained consciousness, the boy had the slight sensation of having his chest filled with a soft floral fragrance that was not at all unknown to him. With his features quite astonished, in a sudden movement, the boy opened his eyes to take a look through the environment and, finally, to analyze the partially deposited on his chest figure of the girl with dark hair.
Feeling instantly embarrassed by the sudden notion that he wrapped her in a tight, unconscious embrace, the boy raised both hands into the air to rest them anywhere else respectfully away from his best friend's waist.
"Tina?" - he whispered, still very confused, causing the girl to open her eyes warily.
For a brief moment, the light irises struck the dark ones in a naive and unpretentious act during the time when they anxiously questioned themselves how much of strangeness that scene could make the other feel. Finding embarrassment in the red face of the boy and an as frightened and astonished expression as her own, Tina moved quickly to a sitting position in the vacant space at the other end of the small sofa.
"Newt, I'm sorry" - echoed the shrill, trembling voice of Tina, who was searching for the pair of sneakers on the carpet - "It's all my fault. If I hadn't fallen asleep, you could have gone home yesterday"
"It's not your fault, Tina" - the boy stopped the sound of his alarm clock - "And I doubt we could have gotten home before the sun came up. The ravages of the storm must have affected even the traffic"
"You must be sore all over your body... This sofa is completely uncomfortable" - she hissed to herself, the features disintegrating in an agonizing expression.
"Hey, I'm fine, and I didn't have a bad night at all" - he called the girl at his side, sitting with his elbows on his knees - "Sleeping on an inflatable mattress is worse, if you want to know"
Newt chuckled as he drew in his mind the memory of one of dozens of fateful nights in which he had collected attempts to remain comfortable and minimally static about the flabby consistency of the accommodation in his open-field research. If he had a little less modesty and reproach about his own thoughts, the boy would assume to himself that the feeling of sharing the bookstore couch with his friend in a naive embrace, though of such impropriety, was not unpleasant at all.
"And did you... Did you have a good night, Tina?" - he ventured, his eyes wandering on the bookshelf to the opposite wall of the room, upon which was fixed a well-ornamented clock of Roman numerals.
With her hands slightly shaken, and still feeling her pale face in scarlet tonalities, the girl hugged her body as she pondered a sincere and coherent answer to a question that brought her so many opportunities to compromise herself. To her misfortune, or fortunate in her individuality, the movements of the greyish sweater made hover around the delicate figure the rustic and lightly woody scent to it ingrained.
"I think so, Newt"
In a quick glance at the boy from the corners of her eyes, the girl was surprised to find him confused, his brows drawn together under a frown, his lips slightly parted as he gazed at the wall opposite to the small sofa, plunged into his own and private tracks of thoughts.
"Tina, what time did you say you were opening the bookstore?"
The fine red seconds hand stood out from the white background of the watch as it was in half of its way, a few moments before it reached the short, paralyzed black hours hand to mark seven o'clock that saturday morning. In a noisy inspiration, Tina rose from the red seat in a leap to face the outside environment beyond the windows.
"Oh, My! Newt, you have to go!" - the girl turned panting to the stunned boy at the back of the store - "It's saturday, Mr. Abernathy must be coming in to check on the load. If he suspected we were here, I'd be fired in a minute"
She watched, at once frightened and melancholic, the figure of her best friend disappear and reappear in the dark nylon coat hung before in the closet near the stairs, in the face of unusual pallor stood out the countless and prominent freckles.
"Forgive me, Newt, for all this things" - she begged, embarrassed.
In the last moment he remained in the bookstore, Newt used his fingertips to return order, as gently as he could, to a strand of slightly crumpled black hair, a small and assuring smile on his face. Tina, inserted in a wave of silence installed by the environment, took advantage of the moments of her solitude to exhale a long and heavy breath that she had for long held.
The tip of the forefinger ran up and down the smooth surface of the dark wood under a plethora of color changes and thicknesses of the spines of the books, to make two light taps on the red and white material of the one her eyes searched for. Two pairs of almond-shaped eyes peered curiously at the illustration of the cover, now revealed off its shelf, of the silhouette of five men set amid the backdrop of some of the oldest buildings of a Canterbury belonging to another century.
"Here it is" - Tina smiled, extending the book of over five hundred pages to the young girl's hand in front of her - "The Tales of Canterbury are important pieces for the history of English literature. Chaucer the poet wrote them in the fourteenth century, a period of consolidation of our language"
"I can not believe we were able to find it before we left for Cambridge" - the boy celebrated, casting a long look at the book on his companion's hands.
"Great luck that it was arrived in time, we've been waiting for it for days" - the girl smiled affectionately at the pair of curious customers, attentive to each new line of the employee - "This edition is excellent for you who study the origins of british english. For every disused word or expression mentioned in the texts there is an interesting explanation in the footer"
Contemplating the young couple of lovers flicking through the illustrated pages of the delicate leaves in the volume on the girl's hands, Tina allowed herself to go into little illusions created by her imagination between sighs of daydreams and, eventually returning to reality, of resignation.
Between the strands of dark curly hair and the shoulder covered by the boy's black leather jacket, Tina saw the tall, irritatingly haughty figure of the client that she least wanted to have to attend that day enter the red door of the bookstore. The searching eyes scouring the environment for the slender image of the short-haired girl suddenly made her stand in front of the pair of tourists again, her voice excited to attract their attention once more.
"I can point out to the both of you some tourist places mentioned in the book to visit in the last two days of your trip, if you wish" - she was relieved to get two lively nods from the customers.
Focused on detailing the exact route to visit Westgate Towers, an important backdrop to the plots described by Geoffrey Chaucer, the girl risked a quick glance at the man who was now walking toward the rear of the store, visibly embarrassed, in the company of the heir of the Abernathys. It took the minute hand of the clock to the wall six or seven turns so that Tina would be followed by the duo to the counter where stood waiting, distracted by one of the copies of the daily newspaper, the eldest Mr. Abernathy.
"The Stour overflowed yesterday with the storm, at the height of the Barton Mill Road, Tina" - he left his rueful expression as he set the leaves on the counter to risk a sympathetic smile at the two copies given to him by the girl - "Oh, visitors ? A pity you could not see our beautiful Canterbury on its sunniest days"
They heard the bell hanging above the door ringing again that morning, and Tina instinctively turned on her heels to greet the new customer before she was found alone again and had to deal with the cynical countenance of Mr. Tolliver. She did not know, however, as she leaned against the counter behind her in surprise, if she avoided expressing in her face the astonishment of seeing her light-haired friend starting a timid walk toward her.
"It's a beautiful day" - the girl's voice sounded distant to the girl's ears as she extended to the gray-haired man a credit card - "I'm sure we'll take advantage of it while we visit the places in the stories that Miss Goldstein so kindly indicated us"
Following the trail of the girl's gaze, behind the magnifying glasses hanging over his slightly curved nose, an attentive Mr. Abernathy smirked at himself as he handed the bag with the two copies to the dark-haired boy, sounding his farewells for all the path they carried out from the establishment.
"Tina, I'm sorry that I'm here, I promise I won't stay long" - whispered the boy, his hands hidden behind his back revealing a beige paper wrap containing the familiar logo of Jacob Kowalski's bakery - "I just think you didn't have any breakfast today"
The brown eyes flickered a few times as they alternated between the package stretched out to her and the flushed face of a rather sheepish Newt. The girl took one of her hands to accept it, her eyebrows raised and an inhaled inspiration, arranging words to formulate an appropriate phrase.
"There's everything you like in there" - her friend's voice murmured harshly - "Queenie was very worried, too"
"Ah, Newt..." - she sighed, smiling a little at the black nylon material in front of her - "I really appreciate it. I'll keep it and I promise, as soon as I can-"
"If you leave these amazing things waiting for more than five minutes, you'll risk losing them for me" - interrupted the old man's smiling voice, attentive to their conversation.
The young man smiled shyly at the wood of the counter from which they were observed by the enlarged orbits through the lenses. He took one look at the face between the dark curtains of short strands, and from the peripheral vision he noticed the presence of the small, agitated figure of a young Mr. Abernathy chatting animatedly with a client behind one of the bookshelves at the back of the store. Feeling relieved by his accomplished mission, he thought it infinitely better to leave the place as quickly and descriptively as possible.
They exchanged a cheerful smile before the boy hissed his farewells at the pair of staff near the counter. Among the indications of reading nailed to the glass of the establishment's facade, Tina watched with affectionate eyes all the way carried by the dark jacket towards Borough Street, until it disappeared behind the commercial buildings that decorated that corner.
"Oh..." - a masculine voice echoed firmly behind the young woman to withdraw her from her contemplations - "I should have known that there was something about that bloke..."
Tina frowned as she digested the words that sounded incredibly naughty to her ears, turning to face the impassive features of the man leaning against one of the shelves on the right wall of the room. Her thin, pale fingers pressed against the book's cover resting on the counter, which the girl chose to return to its proper place rather than having to bother herself even more with that conversation.
"His name is Newt and he's my friend" - she hissed angrily, passing the tall figure of Achilles Tolliver to one of the shelves at the back of the shop - "And this is none of your business, Mr. Tolliver"
"I thought you were smarter, Goldstein" - he chuckled to himself, shaking his head in denial - "But you chose to turn down the heir of the city's most influential lawyers to make out with the Scamander's useless son"
"I do not owe you even the smallest information as to what I do" - she slipped the hardcover book into the vacant space at the end of the shelf with a little more force than the necessary, turning to the man standing by her side - "But if you really want to know my reasons, Newt doesn't have to say a word to make me want to stay with him for a whole day. You, on the other hand, stay here all day and nothing that you say makes me wish something other than to see you walking out that door"
Rather breathless from the adrenaline rushing through her veins, Tina expelled the words she had long held with her head up, staring at the angry expression that was drawn in the features of the elder with the same intensity.
"How rude, Goldstein, didn't your parents give you some education?" - he smiled mischeviously - "Oh, I don't think they could, could they? I forgot they are-"
The sound echoing between the still volumes on the shelves interrupted the next words of the monstrous phrase the man kept pretension to say. He found himself forced to raise both hands to his hot cheek by the firm contact of the girl's palm, his face filled with disbelief as he stared at the tempestuous gaze directed at him.
"One more word and I lose my mind again" - she growled, swallowing with difficulty the knot at her throat - "This conversation is over. I thought I was doing you a favor by refusing your invitation, but I did it to myself. You're a taker, Tolliver. I need a giver"
Facing the reddened, aching palm of her right hand, the girl vaguely followed, by her peripheral vision, the figure of the visitor turning on his back to leave the store with heavy steps, the thud of the door against its frame ceased the disturbing noises of the grunts that filled the entire first floor of the property. Tina leaned against the shelf behind her, the view slightly darkened by the heap of heavy feelings that screamed in her head, feeling very difficult to remain on shaky legs for much longer.
She felt on her shoulder the fragile hand of the seventy-year-old gentleman, and looked up to find his compassionate and kindly figure resting on the walking stick, his free hand holding out the small bundle of paper left by her friend just a few minutes ago.
"I confess that if I were you, I would have hit him with my fist clenched" - laughed Mr. Abernathy - "but that beautiful slap gave him the lesson he deserved to learn, Tina"
She was encouraged to let a muffled laugh appear between the desolate and somewhat distressed expressions of her face. The rather shaky fingers of the older man stroked tenderly the disorderly strands of dark hair, offering a confident smile to the frightened eyes and receiving, in return, a small nod of gratitude.
"Come on now, my dear. A little sugar and cinnamon will make you feel better"
Newt closed the light wooden door behind him to be greeted by the pleasant temperatures of the living room of the first floor of his residence. It had taken him longer than usual to get to Summer Hill because of the kilometer traffic and the countless detours made by the bus on free roads from fallen trees, poles, signs, and uncoordinated signal lights during the storm last night.
He removed his damp nylon coat to hang it next to the cotton beige overcoat and the two umbrellas at the hat stand by the door. He bent down to greet the black cat as it trotted toward him, shaking the bunch of keys to stir up the long, thin front legs in their persuit for the shiny material. The pulling of one of the kitchen chairs made itself heard in the quiet, enlightened residence, followed by the hurried steps on the short distance that separated it from the doorway at the end of the small corridor. The surprised and rather relieved image of the matriarch of the resident family sprang forward with great speed to squeeze the tall boy in a desperate embrace.
"Oh, Newt, where have you been?" - she analyzed cautiously her youngest son's face - "I didn't get any news! For God's sake, I was so worried!"
"It's all right, mom. It was just an unforeseen business" - the boy wrapped both feminine hands on his lightly flushed cheeks with his own - "Tina and I ended up getting stuck in the bookstore because of the storm last night"
The instantaneous effect of the young man's words on the surprised and slightly curious face of the red-haired woman was to froze her in her movements, her lips parting to form a perfect circle as she scanned with analytical eyes, from the pair of tennis shoes to the lightly disheveled mess of hair, the visibly badly rested figure of the boy in front of her.
"Your mother didn't rest well last night, my son" - came the man with serious features from the adjoining room - "I can only hope that you and your girlfriend have prevented yourselves from other possible and unforeseen future things"
"No, dad, we are not-"
"I'm not scolding you, Newt" - he winked at his son, making the boy's cheeks turn into a scarlet tone, regaining the seriousness in his voice once more as he sat down on the couch to turn on the television - "But, as your parents, we should instruct and remind you of your responsibilities"
"Tina is not my girlfriend" - the boy corrected quickly - "She's my best friend. You know that, don't you, mom?"
Taken by the embarrassment of her most introverted son, the mother deleted all the most improbable hypotheses her mind had built in the past few moments since the arrival of her son, sighing in conformity with being back to square one.
"Leave it, my dear. You and I know that Newt is a responsible young man" - his mother smiled, stroking his red cheeks - "How about a cup of masala chai to warm you up?"
Being carried by his mother into the bright, cozy space of the kitchen, Newt set about removing the crockery from that morning's breakfast that still remained on the table to avoid the provocative glances and smiles of the older woman while she poured him the creamy beige liquid in one of the small white crockery cups.
"Don't you think I did not notice the different perfume on your sweater" - she whispered, watching her son take the chair facing hers at the table, a playful and lively contagious look on her face - "You can start telling me about the recent events from the part in which she does not go out with that customer of the bookshop"
Chapter 10: Chapter 10
The landscape of the second trimester of classes for the students of the University of Oxford was bathed by the thick layer of snow that had fallen between january and february, covering the medieval structures of its most famous places. The residents of the Oxfordshire county town were dressed in their colorful coats, sweaters, and caps when, in moments of courage or unfortune, they left the comfortable surroundings of their accommodations to face, on the streets, the breezes of temperatures that bordered to zero.
In the twilight of some of the term days, the monotonous corridor of Longwall Street had witnessed the bustle of two pedestrians walking unhurriedly down the snowy carpet, by the height of their ankles, on the concrete sidewalk of one of its banks, the sound of laughter muffled by their scarves echoed by the facades of the two-stage houses that there were installed.
They bent down to pick up small handfuls of ice on the ground, turn them into round bunches, and toss them as far as they could into a fun contest. When the girl judged her company distracted enough to have any defensive reaction, she targeted the tall silhouette of the curly brown-haired boy just to start, with great difficulty, a run toward St. Cross Road, eventually feeling a light, icy weight hitting her back to the sound of their high laughter.
It was at one of those moments, between the last week of january and the first of the following month, that the girl had missed her step in her play and felt a nagging pain in her ankle prevent her from standing any longer. Feeling full of anguish that had lasted for the long minutes she'd been carried to the nearest hospital, Tina thought herself finally able to regain her calm breathing as she watched, still slightly distressed, the bracing that now protected the end of her left leg.
They then exchanged long walks to the High Street cafeteria for movie and series marathons in the boy's accommodation on the fourth floor of the building accompanied by a home-made cocoa mug. They risked returning to the snow that surrounded the narrow Jowett Walk just to build and decorate a small snowman that, while not even approaching the expectations of the pair of friends, gave them an amused, laugh-filled memory.
Tina kept more affectionately, among the various moments that warmed her chest in the coldest weeks of the year, the one when Newt had volunteered himself to accompany her on her way to the Faculty of Law and then back to the number 205, not hesitating to ask permission to carry her in his arms in the path of ascent and descent of flights of stairs between floors of the interiors of both buildings. Even when she had regained her ability to walk skillfully with both legs, Tina never made the round walk by herself again.
By the time the girl had been allowed to go back to work on weekends, Newt had felt the weight of the silence set among the furniture scattered about the small space of his accommodation. He had grown accustomed to the tall, slender figure watching the snowflakes in its slow zigzag to reach the ground through the window pane, the timbre of the voice that sounded like music to his ears when commenting trivial things of the everyday of the runners of the college she attended. In the county of Kent, for her part, Tina thought it strange to remain silent for the entire train journey and to have as sole companion on her walk down Sturry Hill the low, thin howling of the icy breeze of february.
Precisely for this reason, the boy had decided to save on his expenses to spend the weekend in the city of Canterbury during that end of period at Oxford and the beginning of the next.
"If I file a lawsuit and have a good case, I can get them all out, can't I?" - asked the young man leaning against the wooden counter in the bookstore.
"Even if it is in favor of morality, it may be considered illegal, Newt" - replied the girl, changing the position of two books on one of the shelves - "Zoos are under government responsibility, then it would be like fighting a battle of the ministry against itself" - she sighed, putting her hands on her waist - "But you can get a better life for them if you have someone with impeccable judicial arguments at your side"
Tina searched for a small pile of three books, fresh from the showcase of the windows, behind the counter where her two companies were standing on the first saturday of may. She glanced at the title of a yellow-hooded self-help book and tried to rescue in her memory in which of those innumerable shelves she would find its matchings under the thoughtful gaze of her best friend.
"You have impeccable judicial argument" - the boy commented casually - "You would get me allowed to transfer them to an environmental reserve in a snap of your fingers"
"Oh, I'll want a good share of the profits from your book for that, Scamander" - she teased, walking to the back of the store with the pile of books, the sound of the laughter of the other occupants echoing through the room.
"I'm relieved to know that I have someone of confidence to get me out of jail when I set out to implement my plan to swim naked one last time in Brighton" - Mr Abernathy winked at Newt's smiling face.
"In my own defense, Mr. Abernathy, this act is completely illegal" - the silhouette of the young lady appeared behind the dark wooden structure of the nearest shelf to move toward the closet at the bottom of the stairs, an amused smile in her lips - "And I am sure that it's not in favor of morality either"
Newt followed the girl's movements to wear the light blue sweater that there was hung, he liked the way all the delicate features that decorated the pale face and the strands of black hair, which now passed discreetly from the height of the chin, made up the physiognomy of the smarter person he had already had the opportunity to meet.
"You should invite her out, my boy" - hissed the low voice of the gray-haired gentleman - "I think she keeps hopes up for that"
The older man was amused to see the boy's clear orbits widen in a mixture of surprise and dread as he looked worriedly at the figure who was distractedly searching for something in her backpack, sighing slightly relieved to see her unaware of the conversation in the front of the store. His freckled face had turned a very red tone as he found on the other's face a warm, amused look.
"I'm her best friend, Mr. Abernathy" - he mumbled rather restrainedly, could not help but feel a slight unease in his gut by that conversation - "Tina has already refused to go out with other people before, it would be no different with me"
"Certainly I can not speak for her" - started the gentleman, the tranquil features making room for a kind smile - "But I can assure you that I have never seen such brilliance in my girl's eyes since the day you set feet on this bookstore for the first time. And in yours I see the same thing, if you want to know"
"I left everything ready for tomorrow" - came the voice of the girl approaching the two companies, causing the boy to move a few centimeters in a slight start - "I'll leave the cash's report on Mr. Abernathy's desk"
"Do not worry about it" - the older man waved one hand up in the air - "You need to rest, dear. I do not want to see you here for any more minute"
Tina smiled, tucking the strap of her backpack over her shoulder and pulling her hair behind her ear. Newt watched discreetly the strand that held the new assumed position immobile, with no pretense of falling back upon the length of her pale cheek, but he avoided smiling, afraid that any movement might give the girl the information of the master shared with him.
He whispered in low murmurs his farewells to the older man with his eyes fixed upon the ground, following his best friend beyond the red door. On the verge of closing it behind himself to begin his walk toward the Military Road bus stop, beside the girl who watched the partly sunny sky with curiosity, Newt heard the words echoed by the now quite quiet environment of the establishment.
"Courage, m'boy" - and after a short pause - "You will never know the answer unless you try"
A cool, pleasant breeze caressed the young woman's face as she walked through the neighborhood on the stretch of Sturry Road that early evening, and smiled to herself as she felt the ends of the strands of hair run through the draft. The arrival of may brought with it milder temperatures and partly sunny days that animated the features of those who had become accustomed to the cloudy, damp landscape emblazoned by the windows of their residences.
Beside her, though, the tall, curly-haired boy did not seem to mind the beauty of that sunset painted among the trees and rooftops of the suburban neighborhood of Canterbury. His eyes were fixed on the residence that was approaching slowly, his lips pressed into a thin, single line, and his forehead slightly furrowed in concentration as his thoughts raced through his mind.
"Newt?" - she called, tentatively, making the clear orbits shot up - "You're quiet, you look annoyed. Have I said something wrong?"
"What?" - the boy blinked a few times to focus his attentions on his friend's words - "No, I'm fine. I'm just thinking a little..."
"You've been like this ever since we left the bookstore" - the girl's voice sounded apprehensively - "What I said about wanting some of your profits was a joke, Newt. Of course I would help you without demanding anything in return. You're my best friend and your cause is-"
Out of the corner of his eye, Newt saw his friend suddenly stop at her phrase and her walk. Her eyes widened, and the pallor reached unseen shades as she stared at something at her front. Voices filled the boy's ears and he turned his head quickly to understand what caused his company such distress.
Through the blue wooden door, where the number 30 of the Goldstein sisters' residence hung, a low, familiar figure emerged from a mustachioed boy chatting animatedly with someone at his back. To make it even more astonishing to the eyes of both spectators of that strange scene, at the top of the small staircase of seven steps was visible the slender figure of the middle-aged lady who lived next door, and in the following instants, the blond and curly hair of a smiling Queenie Goldstein.
Tina approached, with fragile strides and a frantic pace of beating from her heart, the modest facade of the two-stage building, drawing the attention of the three characters standing there in a lively conversation that the girl, in her most confused and stunned mind, had no capacity for understanding.
"Look who's coming!" - Jacob exclaimed, smiling at the pair of cautious friends.
"What's going on here?" - Tina's voice trembled with concern for the answer to that question.
"Jacob and Mrs. Esposito have come to pay us a visit, Teenie" - Queenie, at the door, hissed excitedly.
"I'm sorry you're already leaving, my dear Mr. Kowalski" - the tone of the middle-aged lady's voice made itself heard for the first time, causing Tina's brows to unite beneath her frowning brow - "But I think the girls have a lot to talk about"
The dark haired girl felt her head throb slightly, such was the speed with which she was thinking to try and fit the pieces of that incoherent puzzle exposed in front of her. The analytical eyes behind the lenses of the woman who was holding her arms crossed questioned the figure of her greatest interest, among all the others that stood there, belonging to the messy-haired boy.
"Are you also heading back there?" - Jacob pointed to the direction in which came the pair of friends - "Would you care having my company, my friend?"
Feeling embarrassed enough to hiss a good response, Newt shook his head in denial, risking a quick glance at the girl who was breathing heavily at his side. The young man felt powerless to find no ways in which he would be able to bring support to the sisters in whatever was supposed to be the outcome of that night.
"I can stay here in the neighborhood, if you want" - whispered the boy - "In case you need anything..."
"Don't worry, Newt. I think I'll be able to deal with it again" - the girl murmured, almost inaudibly, to assure her friend - "I'll see you tomorrow at the platform at five o'clock?"
The boy nodded and Tina smiled faintly, releasing the breath she had been holding for some time to follow the small staircase where her sister's quiet image awaited. Lowering his eyes to his own feet when he noticed that was still being analyzed by Mrs. Esposito's clinical expression, Newt turned to his colleague who was waiting patiently before he began, resigned and still rather pensive, his slow walk to the busiest part of the Sturry neighborhood.
"So, do we have a lot to talk?" - Tina questioned, watching the younger girl close the wooden door gently.
"I didn't do anything wrong, Teen" - the younger one replied, staring at her own feet and keeping her arms behind her - "She's not mad at us for him"
"I would like you to explain why"
The light-eyed girl watched the older walk the small length of the narrow corridor to place the small backpack she carried with her on the living-room couch, leaving the weight of her body loosely on the light upholstery soon after.
"I invited her for afternoon coffee, Teen, told her I'd like him to be here today" - she began tentatively - "I thought you were going to get in early today, but I didn't know Newt was going to walk you home. We wished you were here so we could tell the news, but Mrs. Esposito was in a hurry for him to leave the house before nightfall, so..."
"What news?" - she raised her eyebrows, analyzing the anxious and agitated figure of the youngest.
"Jacob and I are getting married!" - Queenie vibrated, jumping with joy as she let her sister see the shiny ring she carried in her left hand.
For the moment when she kept her focus on her sister's laughing and amused face, Tina thought she was taking part of a very well-played joke that counted on the illustrious and unexpected participation of the tenant of the property to which they lived. However, the reflection of the lamp under the ceiling of the room that gleamed the stone highlighted in the silver material of the ring that decorated the delicate finger of the youngest made the girl finally put together the loose threads that made up the context of that reality.
"Did you accept a request for a marriage?" - she felt something stop the sound of her words from getting out clearly from her throat.
"Actually, I made the proposal" - she laughed, amused.
"Queenie, you're not even old enough!" - she could not help being taken in by the feeling of unbelief.
"I'm already of age, Teen, but anyway, it's not for now" - hissed patiently the dreamy expressions on her handsome face - "Jacob and I want to use our savings to make some improvements in the bakery before marriage and thus start our life together"
"But what about your studies, Queenie? You have not even chosen your training yet!"
"I thought we had talked about it. You're the career girl, Teen! I'm happy at the bakery, I'm happy working with what I love to do. You know there's nothing that makes me happier than that, don't you?"
With her elbows on her knees, Tina dipped her fingertips through her short, dark hair, closing her eyes to take a deep breath a few times. Her head was throbbing with the amount of new information that was filling her now, and her chest tightening in growing concern as she was seized by the acceptance of the truths in all her sister's words.
In truth, for some time now, she had known that she was gradually losing her sister to the paths designed by the world. She knew that the fragile, innocent, blond-haired little girl was turning into the brave and determined woman who wanted to take flight toward the most naive dreams in her heart. Tina knew that sooner or later she would have to let go of the delicate hands that had accompanied her all her life so that she would be free at last.
"How will I protect you?" - whispered the question that, contradictorily, was directed at herself.
She tried to hide her wet eyes with her palms as she felt a weight settle delicately into the vacant space of the upholstery beside her, the pair of thin arms wrapping her in a tight, loving hug.
"I'll protect myself, Teen, I'll take care of myself"- she whispered against the dark strands of hair - "You did it for the two of us, you gave me the best example I could have. Now I'm going to take care of my own family"
Queenie fingered the gleaming jewel on her ring finger, smiling at the achievement that instantly hit her by her own words. She hugged her sister harder, her laughter choked with a cry of emotion filling the quiet space of the first floor of the house.
"My dream is coming true!" - she teary laughed - "I'm going to start my family next to Jacob. I'm so happy, Teen!"
A sob escaped through the trembling lips of the dark-haired girl, drawing her younger sister's attention. Queenie frowned slightly as she found a red face and swollen eyes in the face of the other, feeling her heart clench instantly in the seemingly shaken image of the one that always seemed so strong.
"Teenie... Why are you crying?"
"You grew up, Queenie..." - she whispered tenderly, wiping away a tear that ran under her fingertips - "They are very proud of you"
"They're proud of the two of us, Teen"
They stayed in a hug on the upholstery of the room for long moments in which they were filled with emotion. From the glass window to the wall opposite the one on which the furniture was leaning, they watched the cars' headlights flutter in both directions of the avenue. The blond girl's little fingers slipped through the short black threads in an affectionate display of that grand love.
"So... do we have your blessing?" - Queenie smiled when she saw Tina nod.
Chapter 11: Chapter 11
The mirror, set up in one of the four walls of the room, in which all the details of the small, well-lit changing room were reflected, was filled with the black clothing worn by the young man. Fingering with some insecurity at the cuff of his left wrist, he mentally thought about how he did not feel the least as comfortable as possible in costumes like that.
He looked up to analyze his own silhouette as a whole, the arms covered by the sleeves of his suit stretched out beside his body, the white buttons of the social shirt jumped from beneath the black fabric in continuous line. Leaning on the wall perpendicular to the flat, glossy surface on which his image was reflected, Theseus Scamander watched the younger brother's expressions as he displayed a proud countenance on his face.
"You have two weeks to get a job done on your hair" - he joked, approaching the round platform where the other stood up - "Now that you are a respected personality by the faculty members of Oxford, you have to be presentable to them from head to toe"
"Foolishness at all, Thes" - he stared at the social trousers - "They approved my book, just that"
"The evaluators just approved your book with praise of excellence from each of them" - he shrugged, cluttering his brother's fringe in an exaggerated move - "We're proud of you, Newt"
The younger one smiled shyly as he felt his brother's hand greet him with two light slaps on his back, the reflection of the tall, strong man who had opened his arms in an encouraging gesture invited him into a tight embrace that they hadn't had the opportunity to share for a long time.
"Great year for us" - muttered the older man, parting from the other to straighten the slightly crumpled front of his suit - "You're graduating... I'm about to get engaged..."
"About to get engaged?" - Newt was surprised. He had no recollections of hearing his mother mention such an event in her updates on the life of her eldest son in London.
"You're the first to know, brother, so I beg you not to tell our parents about it" - he walked slowly to the mirror to examine his beard - "I want to propose at your graduation ball"
"That's great, Thes" - he smirked at the other's cheerful features - "Mom will be even happier when she gets the chance to meet her"
They had their conversation interrupted by the entrance of two of the atelier's employees into the environment to ascertain the need for some final adjustments in the boy's graduation attire. They decided to take advantage of Theseus' last day's visit to Canterbury to talk, sitting at a small table on the sidewalk of a coffee shop, on the English football championship, the insane economic measures of the new president of the United States, about a movie or other that was in theaters.
Just at four o'clock of that sunny saturday in early june, as was his habit, the short and black-haired man stepped out the red door of his establishment to disappear, on a rather brisk walk, down the length of King's Street. Making sure that his presence would not trouble any of the two remaining employees, the young man entered the pleasant surroundings of the eccentric bookstore he had gotten in the habit of visiting every weekend when he returned to his hometown.
Welcomed by the ever-gracious host of gray hair, the boy looked around the room for his friend's cheerful, chattering image. Just as in the last few times he had performed the same sequence of actions, Newt found in the young woman's countenance a strange stillness accompanied by heavy shadows under her tired-looking eyes.
He remembered that she had confided to him the difficulty of reconciling work and study in the final quarter of that first year at the Faculty of Law. Several times he had learned that the girl was sleeping very little to do, in the late hours of the night, the reading of heavy books of tiny letters she placed on the bedside table in her accommodation at Oxford. The constant preoccupation with the arrival of her final examinations was added to these events, and however much she tried to hide from the clinical and analytical eyes of her best friend, with the well-being and happiness of a younger sister who seemed to be getting slowly away each day from the Sturry Hill's modest residence.
The compassionate gaze of the orbits blended in blue and green accompanied the silent face as she carried in her arms, up and down the wooden staircase at the back of the store, half-empty cardboard boxes and a few colorful books that did not seem to please the sight of the passers-by in their contemplation of the store windows anymore. He waited patiently for the moment when his friend sought her belongings on the second floor to finally leave the establishment on that early evening.
"I envy you who are already on vacation" - she sighed as she strolled over to the large stone arch that marked the beginning of Borough Street - "Or practically graduated, which is even better"
"I appreciate your delicacy, but I think unemployed would be the best definition, Tina" - the boy teased, happy to hear his best friend's sweet laugh for the first time that day - "You were excellent at all the exams so far. I am sure that there'll be no difficulties in those up to come"
"I wish I could believe that, Newt, but I still have a lot of revising to do..."
She stared with her brown eyes at the image of a young, laughing little boy being whirled around the air next to a telephone booth set up on the sidewalk beside the gravel wall in the arms of a tall, grinning man with partially gray hair. Newt followed the girl's line of sight, and watched the tired countenance of his company grow even deeper as she laid her eyes vaguely on the floor of three-colored tiles.
"I know you're worried about Queenie, Tina" - he confessed what had long since noticed, and the girl looked up at her friend quickly.
"I just..." - she ran her fingers through the length of the shoulder strap hanging over her shoulders, choosing carefully the words to express her discomfort - "I'm still afraid she could get hurt, Newt. I'm really happy for her to be fulfilling her highest will, but I can not help but be afraid that something will make her suffer"
They reached the sidewalk on the right bank of the narrow concrete street to allow the passage of a police motorcycle. As she stared once more at the pair of dark sneakers she wore, the young girl was ashamed to confide in her best friend a concern that for her, at times when she thought herself lucid, to the ears of others would sound so irrelevant.
"I know it's foolish to think, I do not even have reason to doubt that Jacob is the perfect person for her" - she murmured to herself.
"I don't think it's silly when there's a bond as strong as yours" - Newt replied after a short, silent pause - "If you want to know, I feel exactly like you when Niffler goes out to hunt and stays a few days away from home"
Tina could not help a slight laugh escape the small smile that colored her features. She watched, affectionately, from the corners of her eyes, the boy's thoughtful and slightly flushed face hidden behind the fringe of his light brown hair, waiting for him to finish the line of thought that seemed to run inwardly.
"I always look forward to him coming home safely, afraid that something will happen to him and that I won't be there to protect him, I even wonder why he would exchange all the care and comforts he receives through the uncertainty of outside world"- they stepped away from a small group of people leaning against the wall of a pub - "But it's part of the nature of everyone to seek freedom, and also to watch over all that we have affection, Tina"
The cobbled buildings that marked the beginning of Broad Street became visible to the duo as they turned right around the busy corner of the bar, that saturday evening. Some of the shopkeepers of the full-scale establishments, whose colorful facades stood out from the flat, slightly old paintings of three-story residences, locked the doors and turned off the lights to end the week's work.
In the sky, orange and blue hues were painted to show one of the most charming twilights the pair of brown eyes of the short-haired girl had ever witnessed. Looking closely at the blush that was still present with the numerous freckles on the rather timid features, Tina lovingly memorized yet another one of those moments in which the boy showed his singular and charming way of saying correct words.
They walked for a few more minutes quietly, their light and dark irises wandering the illuminated curtains on the inner glass windows of the houses, on the well-detailed poles from which hung yellow lamps, on the shadows of the branches and leaves of great trees designed over the colored glass panes of a local church. They finally reached the intersection with the busy Military Road, where the lighted headlights of cars, buses, and trucks turned into hurried blots as they headed toward their destinations in both directions of the avenue.
Tina advanced to the end of the sidewalk on the asphalt pavement that would allow her to cross the opposite bank of the road and reach the stopping point of the green line bus that would take her to the Sturry suburb of Canterbury. She would have arrived at her destination before a red bus if she had not felt her fist being enveloped by the firm yet gentle hand of her best friend.
"Tina, I'd like to take you somewhere tonight" - the boy murmured, preferring to keep his gaze on his friend's left shoulder - "There's a person I'd like you to meet, if you don't mind, that is"
The girl thanked her friend mentally for choosing to hold her by the wrist as she thought she would not know how to lie about her pale hands becoming chilled as a result of the tingling that filled her abdomen when she was asked for in an apparently simple request. Instinctively, taking in a pleasant restlessness, the girl nodded in a slight movement.
As they walked side by side toward the stopping point of the bus that would go in the opposite direction from what they usually took to reach number 30 on Sturry Hill, they both felt the chest heat up in an uncharacteristically pleasurable sensation as they risked a quick glance at one another in their moments of distraction.
The lights of the rooms on the first floor of the large house illuminated the spacious yard covered by the thin layer of newly trimmed grass. Through the panes partially covered by a white curtain the interior of the comfortable living room was visible, through a similar open window the visitors could see the wooden cabinets lodged on the walls of the well-lit kitchen.
On the right side, on a lawn almost as large as the main building, was the large and imposing deciduous among some very tall pines, the leaves of its canopy covering a small pergola illuminated by two posts arranged to both the ends of the small straw upholstery underneath it. To the left side of the house were the small shrubs of an incredibly varied and well-organized garden.
Taken by the necessity of his vision to close the lock of the low wooden gate that constituted the entrance of the property of his family, the boy reluctantly diverted his look from the quiet and partly illuminated silhouette of his best friend for a few moments before showing the way by the trail of small brown gravels by the lawn.
The usual three turns of the key in the lock of the light wooden door made visible in the girl's eyes a small narrow corridor decorated by only a small glass altar under a rectangular mirror fixed to the wall, next to it was positioned a hat stand in which hung a lonely umbrella.
At the end of the small corridor stood a well-polished wooden staircase leading up to the upper floor, to its right side was the doorway that would most likely mark the entrance to the well-lit kitchen of the residence. On the left side a large arch on the wall made it possible to see the glossy wooden floor of the room from which the distinctive sounds of any television program echoed through all the other rooms of the spacious and well-decorated property.
Tina stared at the slightly flushed face between the strands of dark, short hair reflected on the flat surface above the altar, her hands clasped behind her back in an attempt to contain the slight embarrassment by which she was taken. Between the voice of a lively talk show host and the bunch of keys being shaken to rotate another three turns now in the opposite direction, the careful thud of a door to the upper floor reached the girl's ears.
"Already at home, dear?" - the woman's voice grew louder and louder, the bronze-haired low silhouette drawing itself as she cautiously descended one stair step at a time - "Theseus left with your father to London just now, but left his farewells and promised to be back before your-"
An admired exclamation filled the gaping features of the kindly matriarch of the Scamander family. Her jutting eyes stared stunned and startled at the rather timid figures of the curly brown-haired boy and the tall, slender girl with delicate features standing at his side. Involuntarily, her countenance filled with fervor and joy, the feminine hands of many freckles came together to be pressed to the breast in a laughing sigh as she watched fondly a small smile decorate the pale face of the one that all days she desired the opportunity to meet.
"Mom, this is-"
"Of course it is!" - exclaimed the smiling lady, holding the icy hand of the girl with the both of her own - "Oh, my dear, you're so beautiful! Just as Newt described you to us!"
Tina felt her cheeks burn as never before when she heard the compliments of her addresser. She took a quick glance at the boy at her side, his scarlet ears visible even though his face was hidden behind the mess of strands of his bangs, the eyes fixed upon his feet, one hand held over some short strands on the back of the also quite red neck. Tina felt the blood circulate at the edges of her body with greater speed as her heartbeats echoed more often in her ears.
"It's so wonderful to finally get to know you!" - she drew the momentarily distracted girl's attention back to herself - "I've been waiting for this moment for a long time!"
"It's a pleasure to meet you too, Mrs. Scamander" - Tina smiled, placing her free hand affectionately over the delicate grip the three others performed- "I have much to thank for all the souvenirs you always send to me"
"Why, silly!" - the lady's glowing eyes wandered over the details of the young woman's rather flushed face - "Please, let me say I care for you as a daughter, Tina"
She lowered her eyes tentatively to the laces of her own sneakers as she felt the older woman lay the strand of short, dark hair behind her ear in an affectionate gesture. She witnessed the approach of a small black figure to rub zigzagging between her best friend's blue jeans and, after raising his piercing yellow eyes to the unknown face, through the black material of her own.
"Make yourself at home, my dear. Newt will keep you company while I prepare something for the three of us" - she smiled as she analyzed their shy expressions - "Do you prefer pie or strudel?"
"I don't really have a preference" - she adjusted her backpack over her shoulders, smiling sympathetically.
"She's just like you, Newt!" - his mother was thrilled after a short pause, disappearing through the kitchen doorway shortly thereafter.
"I'm sorry for the embarrassment, Tina" - he put together some papers scattered on the wooden table - "She is not accustomed to receiving visits from my friends"
"It was lovely to meet her" - she approached the small pair of eyes that watched her curiously - "I think I've never been so well welcomed by someone as your mother"
The delicate gray-yellow feather on the cockatiel's head fell to the left as bright black eyes gazed cautiously at the girl from one of the branches of the small tree planted to one of the corners of the tight wooden shed built in the back of the residence. The faint light emitted by the electric lamp hanging from the young zoologist's desk created a comfortable atmosphere in the small room between cabinets filled with research instruments and first aid supplies.
Newt chuckled as he watched the bird lift one foot at a time in incessant repetitions, and the confused and rather frightened countenance of his best friend to the movement it was making, walking the short distance that separated them to show the small animal an stretched index finger and thus see it step to the back of his hand.
"This is Pickett" - the boy drew his fingers close to the girl's shoulder, allowing the bird to walk through it, and she laughed lightly as she watched the curious face drawn toward her out of the corner of her eye - "He was very injuried when he arrived for us at the department, his feathers were torn out in a clandestine breeding ground. I brought him here to take care of and then return him to nature as soon as he was recovered, but he has been attached to me for two years now"
"Do you take care of many animals here?"
"Yes, I take care of, feed and protect them, then I gradually try to teach my fellow professionals to do the same. One day I want to build a hospital much bigger than this one" - he was amused by his friend's startled face by hearing a very high pitched noise in her ear - "He likes you, Tina"
They shared a few amusing moments in which Pickett had toyed with the tips of her short hair and refused to accept his caretaker's index finger to return to the small wooden house on one of the branches of the tree, until the knocking on the door of the shed invited them to return to the interior of the house and taste a delicious specialty of the lady of red hair.
Dinner, for the three companies, had been accompanied by light and pleasant conversation, and Tina had no reason to be embarrassed when she became the focus of it. Intimately, the girl felt her chest warm by being in the company of such a loving and maternal figure and acquire the certainty of the origins of such gentleness carried by the boy sitting beside her.
The matriarch's animated face subtly disintegrated as she realized that the hour hand of the clock had already advanced to the final quarter of its course, and that she would have to bid farewell to the girl who, for reasons now completely obvious to her, had aroused unprecedented feelings in her youngest son's heart.
In the middle of the path of brown gravels, when Tina and Newt were about to leave for her residence in Sturry, the trio had been surprised by the white figure of the long-legged, tabby dog that ran in circles to greet them, giving little leaps and barks to the laughing figure of its owner and sniffing the presence of the younger girl.
"You got away again, did you?" - he caressed the animal's ears - "I'm going to forgive it because I know you wanted to meet Tina, Dougal"
"Dougal?" - repeated the girl, with a restrained laughter, and the dog ran awkwardly in her direction to get an affectionate caress.
"He is essentially peaceful, but has a good bite when provoked" - he whistled to catch the mascot's attention - "I'll just lead him to the back yard and I'll be back in a moment to take you home, Tina"
He moved away from the group under the two pairs of loving eyes, the dog reaching the height of the boy in animated jumps, amusing them while they were waiting for him to return. In secret, the middle-aged lady stared fondly at the younger woman's half-lit face, sighing in content to take a particular moment away from the youngest's pleading eyes.
"Tina, I apologize if I have overreacted to meeting you today" - she started, smiling openly at the light features on the pale face before her - "This is the first time that Newt brings home someone important to him"
"It was a very pleasant evening" - the girl smiled, folding her arms behind her own body - "Thank you for all the hospitality you have had with me"
"I'm the one who needs to thank you, my dear, for doing so good to us" - she sighed, staring at the silhouette of the boy crouched by a wooden house at the foot of the great deciduous - "The world has always been a hostile place for him but, since you've been around, Newt is someone happier now"
"I think that makes the both of us, Mrs. Scamander" - Tina sighed after her confession, staring at her own feet as her cheeks heated.
She did not notice the wise, triumphant smile that colored the matriarch's features for a few moments before she was seized by a strong, unexplained emotion. Her eyes were lightly blurred as the silhouette approached, and she turned instinctively to face, one last time, the sweet image of that famous Tina from Oxford.
"I've long been dreaming of your arrival, Tina" - she whispered after a pause, a small smile on her lips - "Even before you meet him"
"What are you two talking about?" - came the male voice.
"Women's things" - the lady said, laughing lightly - "Now hurry and take Tina home, she must be feeling exhausted"
The lady waited patiently until the pair of friends disappeared from her eyes through Summer Hill with long and heavy breaths of relief and comfort. She dropped a single tear in her little walk through the garden, and as she leaned against the closed door of the living room, counted the minutes eagerly for the return of the son, accompanied by the expectation of receiving any good news at the end of that night.
Tina alternated long glances between her best friend's face and his cautious movements to avoid stepping on the lines and cracks in the concrete that constituted Sturry Hill's long walk, a cool breeze making both of them find it necessary to wear the coats that they carried with them. Through the glass windows of the buildings, the dark environments partially illuminated by the operation of their televisions were visible to the illumination provided by the public poles at that hour of the night.
Throughout the bus trip and their walk, they were immersed into trivial matters of little importance, and the girl began to analyze, while attentive to her friend's monologues, the small and lovely details of his profile. The boy, in turn, distracted by his own words as his mind traversed very different secret paths, had noticed nothing but the tingling sensation that gripped the ends of his rather icy fingers.
"Your favorite genre is suspense, isn't it?" - and the girl nodded, silently - "Theseus recommended a new movie that you will surely like"
Newt put his hands in his coat pocket, bending down to pass through a low tree branch on the sidewalk. He could see the approaching familiar facade of the two-stage white house that seemed to be empty once more and heard Tina's heavy sigh sound down his side by the same vision.
"It tells the story of a widow who goes on to investigate the reasons for her husband's suicide" - he took a look at his friend's upset features - "I think you should watch, Tina. Going to the movies and having fun will do you good"
"You're right, Newt" - she smiled faintly - "I need to distract myself a bit, and the film looks really interesting"
The boy stared at his own feet just in time to notice that he stepped exactly in the division of two colored tiles. He could not help frowning slightly as he looked away at the adjacent asphalt.
"Thank you for the opportunity to meet your mother, Newt" - the girl murmured - "It was very kind of her to make that delicious dinner for us"
Her pale hands searched for the keys in one of the outer pockets of her backpack when they were close enough to the silent residence. Tina flashed a smirk at the low noise of an advertisement of powdered soap echoed from the living room of her tenant's house.
"I wish I could return the hospitality, but..." - she nodded at the partially lit window by the black door.
Newt followed the girl's way up the seven steps of the little staircase until she reached the blue door lock. He felt a knot forming in his throat that he knew he would have difficulty in swallowing it if he turned his back on the last chance to risk what he had come so close to saying. He needed courage, for he would have no other means of knowing the answer unless asking that simple question.
"Tina?" - he hissed tentatively, with great difficulty.
"It's just... I've been thinking..." - he shook his head slightly, staring at the freckles of his fingers on the railing - "What would you think of going to watch the movie with me? Next saturday, after your work?"
Tina stared at the numbered plaque of her house for a few seconds, her hands instinctively releasing from the just opened door. Her jaw dropped slightly in her stunned expression as she slowly turned on her heels to find on the other's an insecure face. Distracted by the beating of her heart in her ears and the pleasant tingling in her abdomen, she did not hide the discreet smile that reached her incredibly bright eyes.
"I'd like that" - she was amused by the stunned expression the other had displayed - "Very much"
"You do...?" - Newt took a few moments to assimilate his friend's response and smiled openly between his flushed cheeks - "Yeah... That's cool..."
They showed each other their faces that shifted from disbelief to joy as the boy risked a few steps back, murmuring low and disconnected things between short and quick exhalations of his breath. Pushing the door with her heels and blindly fumbling for the small hallway light switch, Tina followed the scene while biting her lower lip to suppress an exaggerated smile.
The creaking of the black door did little to annoy the pair of friends immersed in their own thoughts, nor the steady voice of the middle-aged lady in her usual, repetitive questionnaire.
"Is that you, Tina?"
"Yes, Mrs. Esposito"
"Are you alone?"
The girl's smiling, dreamy image disappeared behind the flat surface of number 30 of Sturry Hill that night leaving the question, for the first time in months, without an apparent response.
Chapter 12: Chapter 12
The fingertips of his left hand messed up the fringe that fell on the boy's freckled and he snorted audibly, peering through the reflection of the mirror attached to the door of his bedroom closet the T-shirt of white linen under the dark jeans jacket. Perhaps paying a visit to the hairdresser that week before his prom wouldn't be such a bad idea.
The wristwatch was just over four o' clock in that sunny afternoon of mild temperatures when the gray and blue taxi that would take the boy to Sturry's great avenue had parked in front of the gate of the two-story residence of Summer Hill. Out of the generosity of the elderly gentleman who ran the bookstore where she worked, Tina had been dismissed for taking the day off and her friend had suggested that he should pick her up at home and go together to the cinema where they would watch the drama chosen by them.
On the way to his destination, the young man had repeated in his mind all the cautious speeches and audacious advises given to him by his parents throughout the week that had taken place on that long-awaited saturday. He imagined the most improbable outcomes if he dared to put any of those absurd recommendations into practice as he stared with unfocused eyes on the low, leafy trees of Tourtel Road passing through the car window.
He had noticed the smiling image of the blond-haired girl at the window of the living room of number 30 before he focused his attentions on the one he was anxious to meet the most. In a navy blue dress that reached a few inches above her knee and a pair of black boots, the girl had cautiously descended the steps of the little staircase under her best friend's dazzled gaze. Both with their cheeks slightly flushed by not being able to avoid secretly studying each other, by the time they gave their greetings, they occupied the rear seat of the automobile to finally go to the central neighborhood of the great church of Canterbury.
They entered the cubic black-walled structure of the traditional Westgate Hall Road cinema a little more than thirty minutes before the time indicated on the tickets the boy carried inside his wallet. Few visitors waited for their sessions in the brightly lit little hall of the establishment seated in colorful chairs, arranged close to the walls of woody-looking tiles, or distracted by the delicacies in the counter on the background. Newt and Tina waited for the room of number six to be arranged by picking packets of colorful chocolates and two buckets filled with buttery popcorn. They sat side by side on the velvet red armchairs of the second row of the five installed there, their legs crossed over the dark carpet, to lay their eyes on the main actress of the drama.
In a moment of courage, as the story reached its halt, Tina moved slightly to the left end of the seat to place her head rather cautiously between the shoulder and the curve of the boy's neck, dragging the brown orbits to the corner of the eyes in order to analyze his reactions. The weight of the arm in the jeans of the jacket wrapping around her shoulders and the freckled fingertips running through the dark strands to express, in a simple gesture, a part of the heap of pleasant feelings that filled his chest caused, in both hearts, an instantaneous and persistent haste of beats.
They passed again through the automatic glass doors of the establishment to find, in the sky, the indigo tone that brought to the few passersby of the poorly lit alley the compliments of a night not yet installed. Immersed in superficial remarks, intimately believing themselves unable to initiate a debate about the film that had become the background of their focus, they walked the streets of cobbled houses and commercial buildings to reach the very busy and noisy St. Peter's Street.
On the concrete-tiled floor, dozens of tables were lined in front of crowded restaurants and bars in their busiest period of the day. A small line formed at the door of a building lit with neon-colored lanterns had drawn the attention of the pair of friends to the myriad of arcade machines positioned near the walls of the place. By depositing a few pounds sterling each on the last two machines set farther in the background, two karate fighters wriggled through the screens by the random pressing of knobs in the arcade panel.
"That machine cheats to rip people's money!" - Tina hissed in a falsely offended tone as they left the playhouse, the boy's laughter reached her ears - "Of course I knew which ones I had to press!"
"And your intention was to make it somersault when the rival hit it with a punch?" - he raised his eyebrows in a provocative expression.
"My tactic is surprising the opponent" - the girl shrugged casually, unable to contain the amused smile that had formed in her features.
"At least we won a prize" - Newt pointed to the bag of sweet and colorful popcorn the girl carried in her hands.
They walked at a slow pace along the length of the building corridor, pausing for a moment to examine the shop windows that were already closed and the crowded places inside pizzerias, cafeterias and bistros that discouraged the eyes of the pedestrians drawn by scents scattered to the outside environment. Between commercial structures and cobbled houses on both its banks lay the river of calm waters visible to visitors behind discrete railings at the beginning of the High Street. Tina and Newt lingered staring at the bright yellow lights of the windows of those buildings reflected in the dark waters of the great Stour.
The boy had smiled, in his silent contemplation, because the concept of that image was all familiar to him. He gazed at the girl's quiet silhouette, her so brightly eyes closed to enjoy the current breeze running on the surface of the mysterious depths to find her free hand hanging beside the dark blue material of her dress. Distracted by all the magic that emanated from her, he unconsciously tied his scarred fingers to the delicate ones in a gentle grasp. When the brown irises captured for the first time the image so present in her most secret dreams, Tina wasn't afraid to return the gesture with the same intensity.
They remained linked most of the time, on their faces a subtly flushed tint coloring the small, discreet smiles that refused to leave their lips. Again and again, in a natural movement, their thumbs slid a few inches over the skin where they rested in a simple and naive display of affection, leaving the both of them fearful that their accelerated beats would be heard amid the noises of the city center.
As the narrow Sun Street had become visible to their eyes, the duo had turned their attention to the cluster of people in front of one of the establishments there set up, clouds of dark smoke rising from the broken windowpanes of its facade and a red light blazing incessantly on the walls of the residences on the opposite bank, where heads poked from the windows to show frightened and perplexed expressions. Tina and Newt exchanged a quick glance before stealthily approaching the crowd.
Low flames were still battling against the jets of water and foam designed by the fire truck's hoses in the catastrophic environment of an old and renowned Italian restaurant. Close to an ambulance parked on the sidewalk, some people were receiving emergency services while seated in chairs of neighboring establishments and wrapped in gray, fine-mesh blankets, holding in their trembling hands partially emptied glasses of water.
In the midst of the rapid strides of onlookers moving from side to side to watch the men dressed in red and watch the frightened faces of the customers surprised by the gas explosion, a little girl with curly hair stared, lonely and somewhat displaced, the faces of the people who passed distracted by her. The sharp, desperate childish cry, distinct from the tumult of silhouettes and sounds, had Tina immediately letting go of her best friend's hand to make way for it.
"Hey..." - Tina's voice sounded unsteady as she crouched beside the younger one, a pair of rather frightened green eyes turning to her pale face - "Is everything alright? Are you lost?"
"I don't know where mommy is!" - the older one had understood it between the series of sobs.
"Where have you last seen your mother?" - she removed the strands of hair that fell in front of the red eyes.
The little girl picked up the small, trembling forefinger and Tina, right after seeing the image of her best friend crouch down beside her by the peripheral vision, had turned her eyes to the sirens of the car on its way to leave the end of the alley at full speed.
"I asked for an ice cream" - she continued, tears streaming down her cheeks - "She was inside with my brother and told me to come alone. After that loud noise, people didn't stop running and I couldn't reach her"
Tina and Newt gazed at each other with worried looks. Tina, feeling a gigantic knot in her throat, raised her slightly trembling thumb to dry wet trails in all over the cheek extension of the younger one.
"What's your name?" - the boy's voice sounded for the first time.
"Hey, Eve. I'm Newt, and this is Tina" - the little girl took her little thumb to the mouth as she alternately glanced between the livid faces of the two adults - "We'll help you, don't be afraid"
"No need to worry, okay?" - Tina hissed, risking a tight smile and the other nodded - "Newt and I will protect you"
Tina brought the little girl into her lap, cradling her in a comforting embrace until her sobs had subsided and the childish face had returned to a serene countenance, as her friend questioned the authorities about the exact destination of the victims. They searched for transportation to the nearest hospital and waited, as advised by the emergency ward receptionist, for the arrival of relatives already aware of the occurrence, Newt distracting the little girl with the pack of colored popcorn, Tina running her delicate fingers through the cascades of her hair.
By the time he had waited for any sign of recognition to the child snuggled in the lap of his best friend, Newt could not help but find beauty in all her movements in one of the many situations in which she felt obliged to watch over the people who needed her. Something about the way her minimal actions became great to restore peace and serenity to the little girl of green eyes made it impossible to the boy to divert his own from any detail of that scene.
Newt admired, among all the most beautiful traits of her personality, the way she brought her empathic and compassionate skills to her firm and strong surface. He identified himself with her inability to measure efforts to accomplish everything she considered correct, and found it comforting to have as companion one who could truly understand his needs to do the impossible to take care of the welfare of any animal that crossed his path. Tina was undoubtedly exact like Newt. And for this simple and fundamental characteristic the young pair found it so easy to understand, accept and respect all the most peculiar singularities belonging to each other.
At that moment, silently following the lyrics of a lullaby spelled out by the sweet, low voice of the girl for whom he was hopelessly in love, Newt had understood the meaning of a phrase long ago addressed to him by the wise red-haired lady.
It was Tina. It had to be Tina. And if the world showed him the opposite, he knew it wasn't supposed to be anyone else.
Taken by the intensity of the feeling that had consumed him, Newt moved toward the girl to gently lay a kiss on her forehead. The incredibly bright brown eyes took a few moments to open through closed eyelids, and when they did, they showed their viewer a momentary tranquility, a small smile coloring the face of such a pallor before it was once again placed on the boy's shoulder.
The desperate image of a man of tall stature and haunted features had appeared through the glass doors to the right wall of the well-lit environment, where blue upholstered chairs lay empty in rows. In exclamations of relief, the father figure had wrapped the silhouette of the little girl in a tight embrace, hissing to the pair of friends his most sincere thanks, before disappearing through the elevator of the building accompanied by the nurse responsible for the care of his wife and his youngest son.
Newt and Tina resumed their way into the rather dark streets of Canterbury with a little more tranquility from the sense of completed duty, their hands linking involuntarily as if they belonged to each other. The shivering caused by a pretty icy breeze swept over the girl's body, making the boy wrap the his jacket over her bare, pale arms and exposing the wristwatch that marked just a few hours for the end of that night. They then judged, in a mournful consensus, that that would be the most appropriate time to go back to Sturry Hill.
For a little more than thirty minutes as it had slid down the asphalt carpet into the suburbs of the city, the gray car had been filled by the light conversations of the two occupants of its rear seats, the lights at the windows in the middle of the night darkness being watched as the boy drew abstract patterns with the tips of his fingers on the back of the pale hand deposited on the seat. He took a cautious look at the figure at his side during the short walk they made to the front steps of the residence, the denim jacket tightened over the dark knit of the dress to prevent it from being charged by the fresh air stream.
"It's good to know I'm going to have you as a company next week, Tina" - he said in a murmur.
"For what, exactly, Newt?" - the girl frowned in confusion.
In a sudden stop at the foot of the first step, his heart racing and his expression blurred, the boy gaped at the questioning expressions of his best friend. Had she forgotten the invitation her friend had made so long ago that she would attend his graduation and all the times they had talked about it in recent months? But before he could utter a coherent sentence, his company's sweet laughter echoed through the silent facade of the two-stage house, and he looked up at the amused expression on her face.
"I wish you could see your face!" - she hissed, smiling affectionately under the narrow gaze and the other's smirk - "It will be an honor to be at your graduation, Newt"
As she slid down the narrow piece of clothing to be returned, Tina scrutinized the vulnerable expressions of her best friend. She wished, mentally, to be brave enough to risk a more daring move to show her appreciation for the lovely moments she would happily remember, but found herself pressing her lips gently to the velvety surface of the boy's cheek.
Even in the midst of his stunning and never-so-intense tingling that took hold of his abdomen, Newt could feel the subtle and deliberate zig-zag slip of the delicate small nose over the place where the ghost of the soft lips now made its presence.
"It was a wonderful night, Newt" - came the low and close whisper - "Thank you for sharing it with me"
The boy remained with his eyes closed to enjoy of the pleasurable sensation that invaded his chest as the girl moved slowly, one step after another, towards the blue toned door. Among his reveries, in a moment of recklessness, he thought of grasping the pale hand to bring her back to him, following the most audacious advice of the Scamander matriarch. However, with his frozen, motionless arms hanging at his side, he satisfied himself with returning the small, timid smile directed at him.
Gazing vaguely at the decorated numbering of that residence, the boy sighed quietly before turning around and starting the short way back to the parked car. He had no reason to worry at all. He would be in the company of the young lady, in the following weekend, for a second chance.
Chapter 13: Chapter 13
Hey, there! Hope to see you at the end of this chapter!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Your tie looks lopsided, dear"
Newt looked up from the buttons of his black suit to the kindly and somewhat dazzled face of his maternal figure. In a beige gown with small golden details, a few wisps of red hair purposely escaping from the well-knit bun, she crossed the distance from the small rented room of a hotel of the center of Oxford to put the bow tie straight on the white linen dress shirt. She stared tenderly, from head to toe, the dark suits and the freshly cut light brown hair that made up the rather uneasy image of her younger son.
"You're so grown up" - she sighed, adjusting a curly strand of the boy - "I remember just like yesterday when you graduated from elementary school, those times when I still could force you to attend the prom"
The low chuckles of the two occupants filled the cold room that early saturday night. Through the half-open curtains and glass panels to the front wall of the building, life was drawn in cool temperatures and breezes beneath the clear sky that covered the well-lit buildings of downtown.
"And now I must get used to the idea that this will be your last time" - she finished her speech, a proud tone in her voice.
"Theseus is coming to town" - said the Scamander patriarch, the phone pressed in his hands as he reached for his jacket stretched out on the double bed - "It's not bad at all, this proposal of employment for him in France, you see. The british ministry is making him absurd demands"
"Theseus has handled it very well for eight years, my dear. You know the reason for him to leave the country is another..." - the woman placed her hands on her hips, her face amused - "By the way, Tina must be waiting our arrival"
"If we're all ready, the car is already waiting downstairs" - the oldest dressed the last piece of clothing from his social set.
The younger son cast one last glance at the mirror fixed to the side of the door to ascertain the effect of the gel on the haircut with which he had not yet become accustomed, leaving the cozy environment to follow the parents down the hall on the third floor of the building . Feeling nervous as he waited for the lift doors to open into the main hall, the boy fumbled for nonexistent pockets in his social trousers, sighing heavily for not finding safe hiding places for the icy hands that night.
The sound of footsteps echoed through the strangely empty, silent structure of flights of stairs between the second and third floors of the building on the narrow Jowett Walk. The automatic light illuminated the corridor just as the young man stepped in front of number 205, the three quick beats sounding slow as compared to the frenetic beating of the boy's chest. Newt waited a few moments, hearing a slight muffled movement inside the small room, before the well-delineated dark eyes appeared gradually behind the smooth wooden surface.
His breath caught as his eyes wandered through the purposefully flushed face and across the length of the black material of his company's long gown, small silver dots glowing from the waistline to the bar of her slightly bulky skirt. The boy felt the blush take over his features as he noted that his silent remarks about the perfect contrast between the dark lace of the dress and the girl's pale skin had not gone unnoticed.
"I know it's a bit simple" - Tina hissed in a low, restrained tone, her white hands nervously smoothing the side of the dress - "but Queenie did it to me with such joy that-"
"You look beautiful, Tina" - he released the words in a soft exhale, his eyes trailing through the dark strands partially tied back until they involuntarily were drawn to her wine-lined lips - "As you always do"
Tina smiled shyly at the rather paralyzed expressions of her best friend before closing the door to extend her slightly shaking hand to him and so walk down the stairs back to the ground floor, where the sympathetic figures of the oldest couple were waiting for them.
The University of Oxford Club stood illuminated between the lawn in the gloom near Balliol College park, where dozens of people in lavish gowns and suits jumped from cars and walked up the stairs to the grand main hall. Hanging from the high ceiling were chandeliers made up of thousands of tiny shiny stones that gleamed from the beams of spotlights. At the tables of six seats scattered about the room stood a luxurious chandelier between the detailed sets of crockery and cutlery.
The four of them sat on a rectangular table next to an arrangement of white daffodils, the sweet aroma emanating from it, along with the pleasant music played by a band of instrumentalists, gave to that particular space a comfortable atmosphere to all its occupants. Every time and again, between the light-hearted conversations and the eager remarks of the red-haired lady about the absent son and daughter-in-law through dinner, Newt and Tina bumped their knees in subtle and purposeful movements or very loosely intertwining their minimal fingers resting on the table, on the serene faces the ephemeral apparition of small smiles.
The older man of the quartet offered a toast to his youngest son, and the pair of friends held muffled laughter from the grimaces displayed in synchrony as they sipped for the first time the sparkling wine on their glasses. The pair was just lowering their glasses back on the glass surface of the table when the hall was filled with the churning chords of an old song, the woman rising from her seat to invite her companion to a nostalgic dance of their youth.
"Newt, Tina, you shouldn't stay seated in the best track of Saturday Night Fever!" - said the excited older woman.
"I don't know how to dance" - the boy murmured in response, shrugging as he watched his parents clear their way through the small groups of people scattered across the dance floor.
"I don't know either, Newt..." - the girl stood by her chair, her hand extended to her friend - "but I would love to dance to this song"
The boy stared thoughtfully and somewhat sheepishly at the palm of her hand, her brown eyes watched expectantly beneath the raised eyebrows, and he found himself unable to make another move but to wrap her fine, delicate fingers with his own.
In the center of the ambience illuminated by the globe of light, the gentleman and the lady with kindly features were immersed in a slow dance. The young duo chose to head for the farthest corner of the great hall, at the opposite and empty end of the place where the musical instruments were installed. Turning to each other, Newt and Tina stared at their flushed features for a moment, mentally wondering what to do next.
The girl kept her gaze fixed on his bow tie and the trail of buttons that came beneath it as she risked a step forward, raising their hands together at the side of their bodies and placing her other one on the boy's shoulder. He, in turn, noticing the growing insecurity in the brown irises, carefully and gently put his hand on the cloth of his best friend's back, advancing the final step to close the distance that still separated them. Resting her chin on the suit that covered the other's shoulders, Tina tentatively began a swing to the rhythm of the song.
They turned unhurriedly over the same circle of tiles drawn to the ground, the two pairs of eyes sweeping the room in silent analyzes of the various couples who moved excitedly in random steps. Tina smiled as the golden detailing of the beige gown of the Scamander matriarch reflected the white lights of the spotlight in a graceful whirl.
"Your parents are incredible people" - the girl confessed, pulling her face away from her colleague to look at the couple in question - "Your father is an excellent dancer, I don't think I saw that coming!"
"Well, my mother has peculiar ways of teaching us all to dance" - the boy chuckled, accompanied by his friend - "It's such a shame that her efforts don't work for me"
"I think we're doing it very well. They didn't ask us to leave the room yet" - she risked a quicker turn and her friend laughed.
"You're doing it very well" - he remarked, removing his hand from Tina's back to spin her around.
The girl laughed sweetly at the accomplished step, staring at the swaying of the dress's hem under the fascinated gaze of her single spectator. The same red-lipped smile reflected on the boy's mesmerized features as he brought her gently back to him, the intense cold in his stomach making presence as her pale cheeks brushed slowly against his own to rest once more on the soft fabric of the jacket.
The sound of slowed footsteps was lost amid the final chords of the melody. Newt rested the side of his face on the top of her dark hair, vaguely observing their joined hands by the side of their bodies. Tina, slightly inebriated by the boy's scent and the unconscious caress that the thumb of his flat hand held on her back, felt their fingers intertwine in a sonorous sigh.
"I'm very lucky, Tina..." - he finally murmured after long moments of reflection - "Much more than simply the most intelligent, funny and beautiful girl at this party, I'm dancing with the person who I most wanted to dance tonight "
The brown eyes opened slowly, the fast beating reaching the girl's ears easily and she was sure they could be felt by her friend. Cautiously, with her breath locked, the girl stared at the blue and green irises that were already intensely staring at her. Feeling his hands tingling, the boy decorated the smallest details of the astonished face before him: the bright eyes highlighted by dark makeup, the lips half open showing their scarlet softness.
Tina formulated in her mind some phrases she wanted to say at that moment, but she found herself unable to hiss them as she felt the freckled forehead lean softly against her own. In the absence of reciprocity of the clear-eye gaze, the girl closed her eyelids to enjoy the subtle slide that the tips of their noses performed in an unprecedented greeting. Newt then closed his own, tilting his head slightly to the side to make himself say something he had long wanted to share.
"Tina..." - and he swore he felt the ghost of her delicate lips brush against his - "I am in-"
"There you are, brother!" - the heavy hand of the man with a firm voice landed on the boy's shoulder and the air around the pair of lovers disappeared into a single, synchronized start - "I've been looking for you!"
Newt stared dazedly into the girl's wide eyes, the slender waist slipping through his instantly fragile arms. The feeling of frustration in his body was so heavy that the boy felt as if a huge block of ice had fallen on his stomach. He watched, rather breathless, her eyes widen further as she faced a fixed point behind his back before turning on his heels toward his older brother.
"Newt, I want you to meet Leta Lestrange" - and the boy blinked a few times to stabilize his still rather blurred view, the words making little sense as he vaguely focused on the small silhouette of the owner of the name that had not been in his mind for a long time.
In a well-detailed and revealing black dress, the black woman stood elegantly propped up on Theseus's arm. The hair that was always so big was clinging to a bun adorned with a luxurious adornment, a kind and loving expression on her face thrown at the young pair.
"As I told you, she is my fiancée" - he finished, proudly. Tina's frowning and confused face went unnoticed by all the other presents.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Newt" - the french accent sounded for the first time during their rather awkward handshake - "Theseus always talks a lot about you"
Tina found it difficult to breathe, taking a nagging grip on her chest as she analyzed the frustrated expressions on the Scamander's youngest son's face. Her mind worked with immense speed as she digested the information shared by the older man: Newt knew about Leta's engagement.
"And you must be Tina" - the woman turned to the bitter-faced girl and she swallowed the knot formed in her throat to force a calm smile - "Theseus's future co-worker"
"Pleased to meet you, Leta" - Tina's voice sounded firm as she returned the handshake - "My congratulations on the engagement"
From the peripheral vision, the girl noticed the gaze of her best friend in her direction, but she felt momentarily unable to face it. Lowering her eyes to her own feet, Tina fought an inner battle between the deception of an illusion and the compassion for the feelings that certainly corroded the chest of the boy in that moment. He, a few steps away, wondered if the desolate expressions that the girl carried on her face were also caused by the frustrating loss of what would have been their best chance.
"I think we should get back to the table" - Theseus intertwined his beloved's arm with his, kindly - "Mom is very excited about the news"
Tina and Newt missed opportunities to make their eyes meet during the night. She risked hurt glares at him, he risked embarrassed glances at her. They participated in the conversations that had been set up by the other four occupants of the table only when they were directed to talk about the process of writing the successful book or the heavy volumes of hundreds of pages required by Law School.
Tina could not help recalling memories, once so joyful, of the months she had lived next to the curly-haired boy sitting in front of her. She felt foolish for not having noticed her best friend's efforts to forget the platonic love he had for the elegant girl who now gestured sympathetically under the glittering gaze of the red-haired lady.
When she felt herself suffocated too much to bear the weight of those accomplishments any longer, Tina rose from her seat resolutely as the clock at the entrance to the main hall made the sounds for the first hour of that sunday.
"The party is really excellent and I am very grateful for the opportunity to be here today" - the girl started, under the confused looks of her companies - "but it's late and I must rest to return to work in Canterbury tomorrow"
Newt looked up in surprise and sorrow as he heard his friend's words, the beating painful against his chest. The red-haired lady analyzed with concern the absence of dialogue and visual communication between the pair of friends of distressed expressions.
"Oh, my dear..." - she searched for her pale, icy hand resting on the back of her seat - "It's such a pity that you can no longer stay with us. Newt will surely take you home"
"No need, Mrs. Scamander" - she ignored the young man as he jumped to his feet - "I'll be home in a minute"
"I must insist, Tina" - Newt's unsteady murmur echoed across the table - "As you said it, it's late"
The girl stared at her own feet to sigh discreetly. She hissed her farewells and her thanks to the family before marching to the gates of the hall, the silent boy at her reach.
"How long have you known?" - the girl's expressionless voice showed itself for the first time after the long, heavy silence.
She looked closely at the structures of the buildings on both sides of Mansfield Road, where she walked faster than usual with the young zoologist next to her. She performed heavy exhalations quite often as she hid inside his borrowed suit rested on her shoulders.
"For a long time I knew that Theseus was in a relationship" - replied the boy, the voice contained as he noted his friend's empty expression - "Recently he told me about the engagement"
Tina laughed low, humorless, shaking her head slightly in denial to her own thoughts. She felt on her lips an unbearably bitter taste every time she remembered, now with another point of view, at the behavior of her best friend throughout the year. In addition, she felt a stifling grip on her chest as she imagined her best friend's frustration at the realization that his attempts to get involved with someone else to forget his sister-in-law's feelings had been futile.
"I feel really sorry for you..." - she hissed in a low, sad tone - "I really feel"
"Why would you, Tina?" - the boy said quickly, laying his confused eyes on his friend's face - "Leta is the perfect person for Theseus. My brother is happy like never before and I'm happy for him"
A stream of icy air ruffled the strands of the girl's hair. The brown eyes followed the movement of some dried leaves lying on the asphalt of the deserted street where the duo passed, a small, sad smile on her pale face.
"Does it hurt too much, Newt? Trying to move on when you love someone else?"
Tina looked up at the frown on the boy's face. Newt was immensely confused by the abrupt change of course in that conversation and the unprecedented hissing of the girl at his side. He opened his mouth a few times to search for motives for that questioning, afraid that his guesses about its nature were true, but a new muffled, humorless chuckle of the girl reached his ears before his voice could be heard.
"You know the most comical part of it all?" - her voice sounded slightly shaky, her brown eyes pinned to the hem of her dark dress - "I'm not able to hate you"
Newt frowned under his wrinkled forehead, his lips slipping weakly as he found the well-decorated pair of eyes with a red color and a strangely sad glow. The boy felt his legs weak with such painful words and expressions.
"I can't hate you, not even for a second, because you have no fault at all" - the grip of the knot tied to her throat becoming unsustainable - "You have no fault, Newt, if I fell in love with you"
Echoed through the nearby buildings the strident, solitary thumps of the high heels in the three fragile steps walked by the young lady. She stared at the first brick building of Jowett Walk before pressing her eyes shut tightly, the tremor that ran through the edges of her body had nothing to do with the low temperatures of that early morning.
Newt stood frozen a few feet behind his best friend's destabilized figure, his eyes wide turned to the golden ornament she wore between the dark strands of her hair. He felt dizzy by the rapid pace of his breathing and heartbeat, and doubted whether the words that now repeated themselves incessantly in his mind were real or projections of his imagination.
"What did you say?"
"I said I am a fool" - Tina replied very quickly, risking another fragile step toward the rectangular-glassed building - "Please don't make it worse than already is"
"Did you fall in love with me, Tina?" - he reached the hurried pace of his friend and she let a tear slip away in embarrassment.
"Please, drop it, and go back to your party, Newt" - she turned her pleading features to her friend's rather pale face - "Your family waits for you. Leta waits for you"
"There's nothing about Leta, Tina!" - the exasperated tone of his voice made the girl's ears startle - "I didn't even remember her until I discovered today that she is my brother's fiancée!"
It was Tina's turn to stand in her tracks and frown in confusion. She blinked a few times to wipe away the tear-stained vision before turning on her heels to face Newt's panting, distraught figure.
"You didn't know it was her?"
"Theseus never said much about his relationship to any of us, not even her name, which is sort of mildly hilarious" - the boy stared at his suit over his friend's shoulders.
Tina felt her rigid stance breaking with regret as she digested all her friend's words. The freckled face contorting unconsciously as the girl's expressions filled itself with remorse and compassion.
"And does he think you want to win her back?" - she pressed her lips in a thin line - "Do you want to win her back, Newt?"
"I would never do that, Tina, even if I cared about this marriage business"
"You don't need to lie to me" - she whispered, her vision blurring again by the regret of her unfairness - "I know you care, I know you're upset. You like her, Newt"
"How could I like someone I don't even know?"
"You did it! You loved her in the purest way anyone could do!"
"It was never love, Tina!" - the boy exclaimed, laughing without humor before continuing his reasoning - "One day I also thought it could be, but it doesn't even compare to what I feel for someone else"
They exchanged a long, intense glance, mentally wishing that their eyes would cast the words stuck on the boy's throat and the girl's implicit and sincere apologies. Tina thought she could not keep staring at her friend's painful expressions any longer.
"Please, answer the question I asked you" - he begged.
"I ruined your night, Newt" - the whisper made itself heard in the current of air that shook the branches of the trees erected on the concrete sidewalk and the girl risked a step backwards - "Please, excuse me for everything... "
Lowering her head to the high heels she wore, Tina turned her back on the rather breathless figure of Newt. The sight of his aching eyes became blurred by the shattering sense of desperation consumed by the boy in his chest and he felt that his knees would go weak if he accompanied the image of his beloved disappear through the low gate of the building to which she was approaching, in that night.
"I have drawn you, Tina"
Newt could not stop the words before they sounded loud enough through the silent Jowett Walk. The pale hand deposited on the fine gate became motionless in its movement to open the entrance of the four-stage building. The boy took a deep breath to reduce the tremor in his hands before the dark eyes were once again turned toward him.
"When I did it for the first time, I did not understand the reason why I had decorated the image of your sleeping face over my scarf on one of our trips back to Canterbury" - he began, quite trembling, and the girl's lips opened slightly - "In the second time, I found it funny that I could not get the brilliant effect that your eyes have when watched in person" - he stared at the luminous points of the mentioned pair of eyes before lowering his gaze - "In the third time, I took out the pages of the notebook and put them in a pocket of my backpack for fear that you would find them and discover, in seconds, what it took me months to realize"
Newt buried his fingers in the short strands of light brown hair in frustration under his best friend's motionless expressions, her brown orbits moving swiftly to follow every small gesture and word of the young man.
"But you're right, Tina, I'm really upset" - he broke the silence again - "I'm frustrated because all I wanted tonight was a chance to dance with you again and complete the sentence I didn't have the opportunity to do. I wanted to dance with you all night, Tina. Only with you"
Distracted by the reflection of the lights on the lustrous surface of his shoes and the beating of his heart in his own ears, Newt did not notice the thud of the fine heel on its descent from the edge of the sidewalk to the paved ground, not even the delicate rustling of the fabric of the dark skirt of the gown.
"Please, Tina, I need you to understand what I mean to say. If what you said is true, I beg you to answer my-"
He did not have time, once again, to complete a sentence that night. Nor did he have the opportunity to analyze the nature of the pale features that were approaching him so quickly. The moment he looked up at the noise of swift strides, he closed his eyes instantly to welcome the contact of icy hands on his bow tie and the intense pressure of soft lips painted on wine over his own.
It took them a few seconds to orientate themselves between the incredibly high beats of their hearts and the electric currents that ran through the ends of their bodies. In synchrony, as if they knew exactly what they were supposed to do, they silenced the outside world around them to enjoy the moment with which they had long dreamed. They were not afraid, after all, of showing the feeling that took them completely. They had finally overcome their last remaining secrecy barriers.
Her pale fingers traced a small course to the boy's cheeks to held them firmly, and his strong, callused hands found their way blindly to be gently laid over the waistline of the dress. They could not remain in their contact for long because of the need to search for air in their lungs, and the sonorous breaths mixed themselves between their flushed faces.
The tips of their noses touched and slid over each other in random patterns, and their eyes opened when they thought they were ready to plunge into the depths of each other. Newt, refusing to face anything else in the scene beyond the pair of intense eyes, smiled.
And laughed, because all his senses brought him proves that the moment was real. Tina, as if she could read the thoughts on the other's mind, accompanied him in his gesture. The scarlet lips emitted the boy's favorite sound until the distance to the bodies to be pressed to each other was overcome and they were taken, once again, in a kiss of same intensity and a little more depth.
Between the sequence of passionate kisses and hissed confessions with great affection that succeeded that long awaited moment, the suit rested over the shoulders of the girl slipped through her arms without being noticed. It stood motionless on the asphalt of the quiet Jowett Walk by the time it had been necessary for them to express the dimensions of feelings they carried intimately through words between them never before exchanged.
When the tall, somewhat distracted figure appeared through the gates of the main hall of the University of Oxford Club, the disheveled hair and the jacket hanging over his shoulder not going unnoticed by the analytical gaze of the ginger lady, the roman numerals clock marked the first minutes from the third hour of that sunday.
The same kindly, cheerful smile on the mother's features mirrored itself in her youngest son's face as her feminine hands brought a gentle caress to his red cheeks, between them a communication never before so silent, elucidated, and accomplice.
"Your tie looks lopsided, dear"
If you kept on reading until this point and didn't gave up on this chapter, I hope you've enjoyed the end of it so far! Finally the wait is over!
Thank you so much for reading. I really hope you have enjoyed their start of something new!
Hope to see you all in the next chapter ASAP!
Chapter 14: Chapter 14
The girl placed her free hand over her eyebrows to cover up the intense rays of sunlight that still lingered on that saturday afternoon in august. The shadows of the leafy branches set in all the sidewalks of the leafy Harbledown neighborhood momentarily softened the high temperatures of the hottest time of the year in the city of Canterbury.
In his usual slow and carefree walk, the young man beside her carried with caution a small, slightly breathless wrap snugly between his palms. He smiled at the curious glances of his girlfriend plunging toward the gray-yellow feathers and the black, shiny little eyes of the just rescued European robin puppy, all the way through those rural landscapes.
In truth, they had used no formality to establish compromise between the both of them. They found no need on kneeling questions, on bouquets of colored roses nor boxes of heart-shaped chocolates from the most expensive confectionary of the town. The unpretentious mention of a relationship by the matriarch of the family, at one of the several dinners provided by her, was enough for them to exchange timid looks and agree in their silent communication that said status was more than welcome.
For the two months they took advantage of their freedom to express the sensations ever so present in their hearts, Newt and Tina proposed late-afternoon walks around the grand Canterbury, visits to medieval parks, squares and monuments during sunday mornings, fridays dedicated to the making of recipes with the red-haired lady, and also marathons of the most diverse series released by the television streaming system on saturday nights, such as the one they planned to do at the end of that same day.
Newt enjoyed to think, secretly, of how foolish his worries were that one day the girl would come to find out about his feelings. He would withdraw from his mind the scenarios in which they would lose the friendship established between them by Tina's inappropriate discovery and soon fill it with all the recent moments, full of the same companionship and mutual respect, occasionally with a stolen kiss or another, experienced by him and his always best friend.
"It's going to be fine, isn't it?" - those brown's eyes blinked twice at Newt's sunlit face.
"Its left leg is bruised and it is a little scared" - he removed the thin cotton blanket to reveal the bird's small claw - "But it will be free again in a short time"
They went through the wooden gate and headed straight for the shed at the back of the two-story house, the ever smiling, friendly figure of the red-haired lady nowhere to be seen in the large garden or across the panes of the kitchen and the living room. Tina deposited the backpack she carried on the floor of the small space to close the door and turn on the electric lamp while Newt placed the small, delicate animal on his work table.
"It's still very young, I doubt it has more than a month from its birth" - he untied it from the tissue to examine the injured claw, the girl's attentive figure appearing at his side - "I don't know how long that nest was fallen, but this little one certainly must be hungry"
The dark-haired girl risked a step toward the wooden shelves filled with small glass jars with the most varied types of contents. The larger ones were filled with grains and seeds of all colors, some smaller ones contained rather green herbs, others colored themselves with pasty jams made from fruit. The narrowed brown eyes wandered cautiously in search of one in particular among the others.
"The feeding of the robins is not at all complex" - the boy reached out for the ampule of a dark green substance to be applied over the wound - "It's still a bit small to be fed on worms, so I guess the best option is-"
"Insects!" - Tina exclaimed, watching the peculiar content she searched through the transparent material of a small pot, getting on tiptoes to reach it.
Newt stared at the object slipped on the wooden surface of the table by the girl's hand, the clear orbits accompanying her movement in search of a small aphid to be extended to the puppy's eager beak. Tina laughed lightly when she noticed the slightly gawked expressions of the young zoologist.
"What?" - she shrugged casually, taking a handful of sunflower seeds from a rested packet beside the first-aid box - "It's in your book, Mr. Newt Scamander!"
"It is" - he smiled, staring proudly and rather passionately at the path she had taken to the branches of the corner tree, where Pickett's figure was waiting excitedly for the dark seeds to approach - "Yes, it is"
Newt concentrated on applying the medicine and on improvising a small splint for the animal's limb. Tina was busy lining a ceramic bowl, found on the uppermost shelf of the closet, with wool tufts and cotton blankets to simulate a warm and cozy shelter for the puppy. After making sure the robin was well fed and comfortable under the dim lighting of the lamp, the couple sat on the wooden floor of the shed, their backs straight against the wall and their crossed legs stretched out in front of them, to throw a small round rattle in the space between their bodies and see the cockatiel move around quickly enough to bring it back.
"They always like you, Tina" - the boy watched Pickett place the rattle on the back of the girl's hand - "I do think, just like you'll be a judge, you'd be an excellent zoologist"
"Am I being promoted from my position of your official assistant?" - she smiled, laughing as she threw the object next to her feet again - "If you want me to go with you on your field trips, you'll have to find more comfortable beds than inflatable mattresses!"
Newt laughed, watching the cockatiel's exaggerated walk to drop the toy on the legging pants the other was wearing. He felt his chest warm as he projected in his mind a context in which he would live new experiences in the field he liked the most, working with the person he would like the most to share.
"Would you go with me?" - the brown eyes turned to the boy's dreamy expressions and the girl smiled sweetly.
"Would you like me to go with you?" - she asked, in turn.
"It would be nice to have someone to help me study the effects of poison from common snakes" - he chuckled at the frightened expressions on the other's face - "I'm joking. But when I get back to the field, I'd really like you to be with me, Tina"
"Then I'll be" - she smiled, flinging the rattle one last time before projecting herself toward her boyfriend to catch him in a gentle kiss.
Tina plunged her fingers through the curly strands of light brown hair as the boy pressed his hand to her waist so she could get a little closer. He blindly tucked the strand of dark hair behind the girl's ear as the little environment was filled with the strident noises made by the little cockatiel, the beak nipping incessantly at the material of the jeans he wore in an attempt to draw the attention of the couple.
Newt and Tina laughed at Pickett's grumpy behavior, in which refused to accept the index finger extended by his caretaker without risking good bites in the freckled skin. Realizing that the two pairs of eyes were set back upon him, the bird hurried to fetch the little forgotten toy, and let it drop by Tina's bent knee.
"So you mean you have a new favorite?" - Newt hissed in a falsely offended tone and the girl laughed as she saw the bird threaten once more to pinch the material of the boy's jeans.
Three light knocks on the wooden door preceded the chill wind of the night getting into the small shed, the low lady's silhouette and kindly expressions drawing themselves to the door shortly after.
"I hope I'm not interrupting anything" - she laughed, smiling at the couple who stood up in an instant - "But a letter has come to you, my dear"
Newt picked up the white envelope extended to him by his mother, on the back of the paper was stamped a blazon unknown to him. Under the sound of greetings from the other occupants of the environment, he ripped open the envelope to read the paper with several lines printed in black letters, the sender identifying himself as the rector of a university.
"Dougal has torn out the mail again, Newt" - the mother scolded her distracted son - "Two of them are impossible to read, your father will not like it"
The two female appearances watched the boy's restless countenance, his freckled lips parting to form a perfect circle as he advanced in his reading.
"I'm invited to be a Professor of a Biology course!" - he exclaimed without further ado.
Tina and Mrs. Scamander fluttered as the boy's rather shaky voice made itself heard through the silent environment. He remained in his reading of the final information of the letter while vaguely listening to the churning voices of his companies. He felt a growing excitement in his chest, until his eyes focused on the blazon drawn to the right corner of the paper.
"My son, you deserve it so much, I always knew you could do it!" - said the lady, involving the tall figure of her youngest son in a tight embrace. Newt's eyes turned to the girl's excited figure at his side - "Oxford? Cambridge?"
"Stanford" - the boy's voice sounded slightly inexpressive - "In the California of the United States"
In synchrony, the excited features of his two spectators weakened slightly as they digested the words of the young zoologist. Newt kept alternating glances between the two very distinct faces as his mind worked all the new information with great intensity, yet unable to reach a consensus between the contrast of bittersweet emotions.
This was, after all, Newt's greatest dream. He had worked hard for four years to receive such news that he would be invited to join the faculty of a university that would recognize him for his talent and his profession. This was the long-awaited opportunity to disseminate the knowledge acquired to people who had made the same choices as him. But the United States were so far away, just an ocean away from Harbledown, from Oxford, from his family, from Tina.
Newt stared into the bright, intense eyes that carried an expression he could not define. He was beginning to feel a strange, unpleasant squeeze as he mentally replayed all the information on paper.
"That's great, Newt!" - Tina hissed in her incredibly firm voice, a small, proud, reassuring smile again coloring her pale face - "Stanford is an incredible university and will welcome all your knowledge"
Newt opened his arms to accommodate the slender silhouette of the girl in a tender embrace, her soft lips deposited on his cheek in three swift, soft kisses. Tina looked worriedly at the boy's scruffy brow, lifting his chin with her index finger to line the clear pair of irises to her own.
"I think we deserve an italian dinner..." - the mother said to break the settled silence, making sure her son would be well supported before leaving through the wooden door of the shed.
"We're so happy for you" - a small smile appeared on Tina's face, but it soon fell apart for not being reciprocated by the other - "You don't have to think about everything now, you know it"
Newt united their foreheads and closed his eyes to enjoy the slow glide of the tip of her pale, icy nose over his. He searched for the girl's left hand to entwine their fingers in a subtle grip, a half-shy smile on the feminine lips before they were pressed gently over those decorated by lovely sunspots.
Tina laughed lightly of any popular reference made by the main character of her favorite police comedy. She raised her free hand to readjust her glasses that slid down the length of her nose, and her eyes turned instinctively to the one decorated with scars on her lap.
Newt, sitting next to her on the big sofa of the dark living room, on another one of the evenings when they kept on their marathons late enough for the buses to end their taxiing and the girl to occupy the guest room of the house until the next day, caressed the fingertips of her left hand and seemed unconcerned with the plot of that new episode on the television.
"I don't like to see you like this..." - the girl's voice sounded low through the quiet environment.
Newt blinked a few times, awakened from his own deep reflections, before looking up at the girl's worried face. He smiled minimally at the blue polka-dot print of the pajamas she wore before bringing his own knees to his chest to hug them tightly.
"If Stanford were not so distant..." - he murmured in a subdued tone.
"This will not be your only job offer, Newt" - Tina played with the curly strands of the boy's fringe in gentle affection - "I'm sure a closer university will contact you over the next month to offer a chance of working in the field of Zoology"
"What if that doesn't happen?" - a weak whisper, after a small silent pause, the light and the brown orbits facing each other with intensity - "What if I have to leave?"
The girl felt her chest fill itself with a strange anguish, which she had not yet had the opportunity to experience that day, and felt she would be taken by the need to look away from the rather distressed eyes of her companion. However, daring not to lower her head once more to the painful feeling of losing someone she loved, Tina gently traced the freckle trail drawn on Newt's face with the tip of her index finger, a small assuring smile lifting the ends of the delicate lips.
"Then we will all be waiting for you here, proud of your achievement"
The boy smiled at the statement he did not expect to receive, an intense and pleasant sensation in his chest swelling his lungs. He cupped the girl's hand with his own on his cheek to place a naïve kiss on the icy cream-colored palm and watch her close her eyes with the gesture.
"Do you like this, Tina?" - he searched for the little necessary confirmation for his most secret thoughts - "Me and you being together, I mean"
"Of course I like it, Newt!" - she laughed at the questioning, but then the funny expressions were broken by a moment of insecurity - "Why? You... You like it too... Don't you?"
"I like it more each day" - he confessed, receiving a sweet smile in turn.
"Then we'll find a way" - she whispered, analyzing the green and the blue from her favorite image - "We'll do it too many times, if necessary"
They exchanged an accomplice smile before Newt's lips were pressed against his lover's forehead, the perfume emanating from the dark strands momentarily numbing the boy's insecurities. Noses touched briefly before the feminine lips walked a path of simple and gentle kisses over the lips, cheek, and jaw of her boyfriend. On the verge of making an unprecedented descent down the side of his neck, however, they were jerked away in response to the distant growl echoed by the environment.
"More space there, you two" - the Scamander's father figure forced a scolding tone in his voice, propped against the wall of the entrance arch of the living room, in the hands the end of a toothbrush pointed alternately to the red faces - "I'm too young to be a grandfather"
Newt and Tina held muffled laughter until the serious face disappeared through the darkness of the wooden stairs to the second floor. They decided to continue the final half of that episode at another opportunity and head to their respective dormitories. At the foot of the stairs, barely visible the two very yellow orbits shimmering in the darkness, they lowered themselves, one at a time, to give the black cat a brief welcome.
"You hear father, Niffler" - Newt joked, guiding his girlfriend by the hand to the first few steps - "Night walks on the roof are indefinitely forbidden"
The end of september arrived with partly cloudy days and airs of melancholy for the couple who quietly enjoyed the sunset over the blue water of Tankerton beach. With her brown eyes fixed to the white sails of a boat on the horizon, over the delicate fabric of a beach towel stretched to the fine sand, Tina's fingers were lost in spiraled movements by the light haird dispersed on her lap. The clear irises reflected the orange hue of the six-hour sky as they accompanied the unpretentious zigzag of an ocean bird.
Blessed by the dawn of a sunny day and mild temperatures for that saturday, the couple enjoyed the city's most beautiful sceneries and all the hours on the eve of the young zoologist's trip to american soils in exclusive company of each other. As they glided over the calm waters of the great Stour in the small and narrow gondola and walked through the cold, dark corridors of the imposing church of Canterbury, Newt and Tina exchanged intense silent gazes full of sure promises for a never-before so uncertain future.
They tried not to think of the deadline stipulated by the correspondence of Stanford throughout the course of that month, but the sneaky approach of the date on which the young man was supposed to present himself to the position offered took them more and more each day from anguish by the absence of opportunities from other institutions. When the weekend preceding the early days of october stood out in the calendar hanging in the kitchen of the residence in Harbledown, there weren't for Newt other options besides pulling out piles of clothes from the closet of his room to deposit them in his spacious travel bag.
The matriarch's almond-shaped eyes carried heavy shadows of sleepless nights and accompanied the sad anxious looks of the son thrown at the gate, the clock hanging on the wall, the figure of the girl always so present in their residence. Their warm, cheerful glow, involuntarily appearing in response to a particular confession of the youngest at breakfast on a rainy sunday morning, was quickly broken by the painful certainty of witnessing, for the second time in a short period, the takeoff of a distant destination airplane.
Watching the movement of the tips of the dark strands in the swing of the icy breeze of the early evening, Newt glanced at every little detail of the pale face that had already been impeccably decorated by him. He closed his eyes to the tender glide of her icy hand on the hot surface of his own face, sighing to soften the bittersweet sensations hidden deep within him.
"I'll go back to Oxford tomorrow, Newt, at the five o'clock express" - the female voice sounded low in the sound of the stream of air over the surface of the water - "I can't stay here for two more weeks without you"
His heavy eyelids opened so that he could see the girl's somewhat silent features, feeling the bitter taste of sharing similar expressions on his lips. He lifted his trunk to level her strangely opaque eyes, depositing a strand of hair behind the girl's ear before joining the tips of their nostrils in a delicate affection.
"I'll be back in a heartbeat" - he hissed confidently, his thumb sliding down the side of his companion's face - "We'll celebrate Hanukkah together, what do you say?"
Though a small affectionate smile was present on Tina's sad countenance, the boy noticed the slight redness acquired by the brown eyes before they were diverted to the pair of feminine boots. She interlaced his callused fingers, nodding at the simple, but so significant, proposal of her best friend. She felt the light pressure of soft lips on the dark strands of the top of her head before the boy proposed a tantalizing visit to her favorite hot dog seller in the heart of Canterbury.
"Almost a year ago I met you, Newt..."
Tina gazed at the contrast of colors between her black pantyhose and the short beige knit dress she wore, hugging the linen sleeve of the boy's shirt with her arms forcefully. He smiled at the distracted, nostalgic features of his company, involuntarily filling in the memories of that rainy october of the past year.
They strolled slowly the end of the empty Palace Street, over them the dark and clouded sky of the late hours of that night. Instinctively, just the way he used to do every time he walked those paths, Newt raised his eyes to the peculiar and cozy structure of the bookshop. Recaptured, with immense care, memories of very important chapters of the romance he thought he would never have the possibility to live.
In the eccentric setting of that four-story building, between darkened wooden shelves and piles of colored books, the pair of dark eyes had turned to the somewhat embarrassed figure of Newt for the first time. Beside the antique wooden counter, under the careful and cheerful gaze of the elderly host, pale hands settled themselves on the achievements of the boy's four years of research for the first time. On an evening of bright flashes, shrill thunder, and howling winds from a little merciful storm, Newt and Tina were close to making grow something new for the first time.
Although they were unconsciously reflecting on how they could have enjoyed the most of their time, if they were not so insecure in admitting their feelings to each other, none of the lovers dared to listen to their regrets. They wouldn't wish to change a single second of the whole journey.
He, momentarily seized by a silent anguish as they approached the stone structure at the beginning of Borough Street, heading for the Military Road bus stop, slowed down the hesitant steps, the hand free of the clumsy embrace of his companion unconsciously lodging inside the pocket of the dark jeans. Tina stared, a little confused and worried, at the deep breaths and the afflicted face of the curly-haired boy.
"I don't want to go home, Tina" - he murmured, restrained - "At least, I don't want to do it now"
The girl, in a gesture of support, interlaced the fingers of the trembling hand to hers in a gentle grasp. She shifted the dark, subtly fiery orbits from her lover's painful expressions to the white building of dark windows behind her, nodding weakly before guiding him back to the deliberately crooked door of its front.
They sat on the little red velvet couch to exchange words of comfort and passionate kisses for the end of that night. In a moment of pause in her expressions of affection, Tina watched the details of the boy's face beneath the tips of her fingers and sighed discreetly. They would still have one last night just for them.
One last night.
The girl struggled to ignore the piercing pain that filled her chest every time those words repeated in her mind. She hated them for reminding her that in a few hours she would be alone again on her journey. She detested them for reminding her that the compliments of the next dawn would bring her the experience of another goodbye she would surely never be ready for.
In that moment, between the proximity and the unavoidable distance from all that she wished most to be able to keep close to her, the girl felt unable to win the battle against desperate tears that ran the pale extension of her face.
"Tina..." - Newt felt an extremely painful knot form in his throat - "Tina, don't do that, please..."
"Forgive me, Newt" - sounded the voice choked with tears - "I'm truly happy for you, I swear, it's just-"
The sob echoed by the silent environment sounded painful in the young boy's ears. His heart tighter than ever before, he tried to push the strands of dark hair from her rather red face with a trembling hand, using the other to support the fragile body of the girl sitting next to him. He wrapped her slim, panting silhouette to press her close to him in a strong, secure embrace, his words of comfort quietly hissing themselves unconsciously as he silently reflected that the moment with which he had dreamed for some time gave him the clearest signs of its arrival.
"I need you to look at me, Tina" - and plunged into the dark orbits - "I've been keeping something I'd like to say to you"
Tina nodded, closing her eyes to enjoy the slip of the boy's thumb over her cheek. She felt a light kiss being deposited on the trail of tears and breathed deeply to control involuntary sobs.
"You know I'll never find something or someone like you, Tina, I don't want to find anyone else" - he sighed, pulling their foreheads together - "You're the one I want to share all my moments with, it's your company that I want to have all the days of my life, because you are my best friend, the woman I love more every day. It was always you..."- he pressed closed the burning eyes -"I don't fear time, or distance, because I know I'll always come back to you"
The girl bit her lip harder as she kept in her memory all the words of the boy's impassioned speech, stubborn tears escaping through closed eyelids. Distracted by the mix of feelings dancing in her chest, Tina did not notice him searching for something he carried carefully inside the pocket of his jeans.
"I would like to know if there's ever a chance you might feel the same"- looking for the hand that lay forgotten on the girl's legs, Newt lowered his gaze to the contact he made -"If there's a chance of you wanting the same..."
Tina moved inches away from the boy's face to caress him with the back of her hand, a small, faint, loving smile on her own features. Trying unsuccessfully to draw the attention of clear eyes back to her, so that she could confess how lucky she was to be convinced that she was reciprocated in all the innumerable burning feelings in her being, the girl lowered her own gaze to their linked hands.
In a momentary loss of all the beautiful things she intended to say, the exclamation of the female voice filled the silence between the two lovers in response to the view that received her eyes.
Between the thumb and forefinger of Newt's trembling hand it gleamed the delicate, small, transparent stone of a simple yet extremely beautiful silver ring. With his eyes full of emotion, he turned to the gaping, mesmerized, expectant face of his spectator, the assertiveness of the most daring phrase he had ever had occasion to say made itself heard, in each new word, by the silent atmosphere.
"Will you marry me, Tina?"
The limbo between expectation and realization caused two crystalline drops to leap from the intensely bright surfaces of the brown eyes. Her lower lip trembling, the pulsing beats in her ears, and her pale, astonished face bringing Tina to the certainty that she had not projected in her imagination the explicit request displayed in every small detail of the immensity of blue and green irises.
"Of course we don't have to do it now, there's no reason to hurry" - Newt hastened to say, in a low and restrained tone by the absence of an answer to his question - "We'll have all the time of the world, Tina. If you say yes, I mean..."
"That's all I want, Newt..." - the whisper freed itself after the long pause - "I want to share all the time of the world with you"
Newt felt anesthetized by the swirl of feelings that perfused every cell in his body. He could see nothing but the smile that reached the pair of dark eyes for which he was fascinated, heard nothing but the laced laughter that escaped the soft and delicate lips. He did not notice the lonely tear that had crept up his face before plunging into the ever firm and warm embrace of his best friend and, now in that never-so-real dream, the partner of his most unexpected adventure.
After the long moments in which they remained united to confide words of love and genuine promises, the boy slipped the jewel through the fine ring finger of his companion to make that vision the most beautiful ever witnessed by the two witnesses of that moment. The two pairs of eyes meeting in a brief second of intimacy, among them the silent communication of the intensity of overflowing emotions, Newt and Tina forgot about the outside world before being delivered to a series of intense and completely passionate kisses.
They did not realize that in one of the many times when they were driven by the need for closeness that night, the legs wrapped in thin stocking settled on the upholstery of the sofa on either side of those covered with jeans. They were distracted by the light pulls of the female fingers between the light brown curly strands, the pressure of the involuntary movements of the thumbs on the well-drawn waist, the panting loud breaths among the silent walls of the first floor of the establishment.
When Tina thought her air-desperate lungs would make her tingling lips incapable of waging a new battle, she decided to follow a trail of simple, quick kisses down Newt's chin, cheek, and jaw. As an incentive to the received affections, with his eyes closed to enjoy the course of soft lips, Newt ran the prominent extension of the girl's vertebraes with his fingertips.
Inebriated by the woody scent of her favorite perfume and the electric waves caused by the gentle glide on her back, Tina deposited for the first time the warm surface of her lips over the side of his neck only to feel the random pattern of freckles shivering under her contact. The girl moved back a few inches to search for consent on Newt's flushed face.
Feeling somewhat embarrassed by his reaction, the boy tentatively raised his clear orbits toward the face of the girl sitting on his lap, feeling his cheeks burn furiously under the analytical gaze directed at him. Tina, in her silent thoughts, found the image that her eyes captured extremely cute and, with a little more inocence, left over the boy's parted lips a simple, reassuring kiss.
Newt, still bound to the pleasurable sensation of the pressure of soft lips in never before explored territories, filled himself with curiosity as to how softly pale and delicate skin, partially hidden by the dark, unkempt strands, would be felt under the touch of his own. His hands trembling with uncertainty, the young man pushed the dark brown curtain aside, approaching slowly and cautiously to the rather shivering surface of his companion's neck.
In her silent remarks, Tina thought there were no ways to be taken, even more, by the sensation of anesthesia that circled the ends of her body in that night. She knew she was wrong in her statements, however, as the boy's careful fingers slid between the strands at the nape of her neck, and the drawing of warm lips contrasted over the cold skin of her throat. The brown eyes closing and the noisy accelerated beats making themselves heard in the silence of her locked breath, the girl bit her own lower lip to avoid letting out the sound formed with great impropriety at the base of her neck.
Doped by the floral perfume emanating from the girl's hair, Newt continued his activity by a trail of wet kisses across every white surface he found. Halfway through his path, exactly in the curve that would take him to the beige-covered shoulder, Tina, utterly distracted by every move he had made, let out a hoarse exclamation in approval throughout the first floor of the bookstore. Out of the bubble of pleasurable sensations in which she had once immersed herself, with her eyes wide open on her never-so-blushing face, the girl realized that she held the delicate material of the social shirt tightly between her clenched fists.
With his pupils very dilated, Newt stared at the girl's trembling lips by the time the sound that escaped between them repeated like music to his ears. He shook his head lightly to get rid of his reveries as he found in the dark eyes remnants of restrained embarassment. He tucked delicately a strand of dark hair behind her red ear before moving slowly and gently to slide the tip of his nose over his bride's flushed face. He waited for the moment when he would be reciprocated by his companion in his gesture, when the distressed expressions on her pale face would be softened, to meet her in a calm and unhurried kiss, full of naive declarations of love and companionship.
Through the blind and unpretentious path they made on the linen cloth, guided by an ancient and ever-present curiosity, Tina's hands searched for the first of the buttons of the shirt, under which hid the surface decorated by unknown patterns that she secretly enjoyed to imagine. However, taking a momentary insecurity from her own judgment of impropriety of the act, she failed to free it from the narrow space in which it joined the other end of the garment.
By the time Newt had realized the intent of the movement, which had been effected with difficulty by her trembling fingers, he wrapped her fine wrists firmly with both hands to break all the contacts made between them. Showing apprehensive expressions by the interruption, Tina filled herself with worrying uneasiness. Lowering her shamed eyes and putting her hands still on the black pantyhose she wore, she was tormented by the thought that she might have passed a barrier she had not been invited to.
Without taking his eyes from the distressed face within inches of his own, Newt quickly resumed the movement intended by the interruption. Directing his firm hands to the position once occupied by the insecure palms of the girl, he found no difficulty in releasing the small button of its hole to expose a small expanse of skin decorated with freckles. This time accompanied by the confused and surprised look in the brown eyes, he didn't hesitate to repeat the action with the next button, just below.
His thumb running over Tina's cheek in an encouraging gesture, the boy followed every movement she made to separate the remaining ends of his clothing. He could not, however, keep his eyes open for the cautious slip of the fingertips of the female fingers over the uncovered skin, the tingling in his lower belly causing the abdominal muscles to be involuntarily contracted with each new centimeter drawn by that track.
The slid of the linen piece over his shoulders and arms, to be rested and forgotten on the small velvet couch, preceded the sneaky approach of the floral scent. The fine fingers lost themselves in the curly hair, a trail of wet kisses was left by the exposed skin surface and Newt could not contain the low gasps echoed by the environment. The audacious course of his hands on the thigh covered by the fragile material of the black stocking were approved by the muffled grunts on the curve of his neck.
Lips searched each other once more to be united with a little more haste and urgency as Newt slid the zippers of the pair of the women's boots to remove them, one at a time, and drop them nonchalantly on the floor of the establishment. Tina turned her face in time to follow the deafening thud of the second shoe on the brown carpet and gazed, somewhat anxiously, at the arrangement of the colored cushions at the feet of the small two-seater sofa.
The boy, realizing that her attentions did not focus on the kisses he left on her jaw, followed the line of her thoughtful gaze to immediately understand his companion's trace of thoughts.
"Tina..." - he called, silently, her brown eyes back to him.
She bravely stood in front of the anxious figure of her spectator, tentatively extending the palm of a trembling hand toward him. Newt blinked a few times, never taking his uncertain eyes from Tina's expectant ones. After the moments in which he waited unnecessarily for signs of insecurity or regret that would make him deny the timid invitation implicit in her decided features, he stood in front of the female silhouette to interlace her pale fingers and lay on their joined hands a simple and gentle kiss.
There, in the bookstore that became the setting for that not-so-unlikely romance, Newt and Tina allowed themselves to know each other once more. They did not care about the hundreds of inanimate witnesses who surrounded them, silently, in their spectacle of love. None of those books would dare, one day, to tell that story.
Hi, thank you for reading! Hope you have enjoyed this chapter so far!
Well, as you can see, by the end of this chapter Newt and Tina shared a very important moment of their lives. What I want to ask you is: would you guys like me to release the material of this moment as a one-shot? What do you think about? Please, leave me your wishes on the comments, it would make me very happy to know what you, guys, think about this idea of mine.
Once again, thank you very much for reading this work! You are really important to me! Have a great start of week!
Chapter 16: Chapter 16
The dark shelves reflected the bluish tinge of a sky that still hadn't shown the first rays of sunshine of that sunday morning. A stream of cool air moved a few strands of the boy's messy fringe while he laid on the floor of the bookstore and settled comfortably, for the third time that night, the cushion placed beneath his head. He had not closed his eyes for more than a minute in all the hours in which he had remained in that same position, nor had he turned them away from the interweaving of resting legs on the soft surface of the carpet, from the gleaming ring by the hand resting on his abdomen, from the sleeping girl on his chest.
He smiled, all the time, because for him the real image of Tina wearing his shirt was better than any other once projected by his imagination. He could not contain the dreamy smile of his features because the image of having their hands entwined to lose himself in love with Tina was surreal. He could not relieve the burning sensation that was taking hold of his being because the image of Tina agreeing to share with him the rest of their lives was more than he could ever imagine.
He gingerly removed the messy dark strands from the serene face before placing a light kiss on the top of his fiancée's head. Leaning back to the dark blue cushion, Newt stared at the wooden structure of the establishment's ceiling, instantly immersed in his own thoughts as he brought to the forefront the memory of all the events to happen throughout that day. In less than eight hours he would be taking flight to american soils.
Distracted by the anguish of having to bid farewell to the life that made him so happy in Canterbury, Newt barely noticed the hoarse grunts and the discreet movements of the awakening of the girl lying beside him. Her dark eyes flashed a few times into the gloom of the room before they were turned to the enamored face of their beholder, a playful smile appearing on the girl's sleepy face before it was buried in the curve of the boy's neck.
"Morning..." - the husky voice rang in Tina's ears - "Did you sleep well?"
"It's good for you to know that you have become my favorite pillow" - she murmured against the boy's neck, and he laughed when she reappeared with her subtly pink cheeks - "Morning, Newt"
Newt wrapped the girl's waist tightly against his body, his thumb sliding in circles over the back covered by his social shirt, to place a delicate kiss on her smiling lips. With her dark hair scattered once more on his bare chest, they both sighed to trace their own thoughts into the silence set comfortably between them. As she relived memories of the kindness and passion demonstrated by the boy the night before, he was still trying to find ways to deal with the afflictions of his imminent changes.
"What if I hadn't dropped that badge, Newt?"
Tina's voice echoed after a long pause, her index finger drawing random patterns to interconnect the freckles and prominent pints on the boy's uncovered skin, and neither could avoid being taken back on that late october rainy afternoon.
What if she hadn't dropped that badge? He also wondered. What if they had not, by the irony of fate, taken that same train to London the day after? Newt thought he could remain an eternity by questioning possibilities. All of them would bring him even more certainty to the answer of the question posed by his fiancée.
"I'd be in love with you, Tina" - he replied, after several moments of pondering, when the girl was no longer waiting for any answer.
She lifted the head rested on the boy's chest to watch, with some confusion, the sure countenance stamped on that face. Returning order to a few dark strands, Newt laid a tender smile on his lips as he watched the ever so tempting depth of the dark orbits gazing at him with encouragement for him to speak a little more.
"All this time, every time I wanted to see you, fate took me to you, Tina" - he stroked the cheeks under the bright, attentive eyes - "It never failed us, so I'm sure that even that that was not our chance, one way or another it would bring us here, so that I could be completely in love with you"
The girl smiled, a little dizzy from the momentary quick beating of her heart, blinking a few times to make the slightly blurred vision of her eyes clear. In a gentle move, she arranged their faces aligned inches apart to share a deeply passionate kiss. As they separated for air, after a few seconds of secret reflection, the silent environment filled itself with Tina's sweet laughter.
"I've noticed you in Oxford before we met" - she shook her head, biting the lower lip to suppress a kind smile. Under Newt's curious eyes, she continued her confession - "Twice or three times, on the way to college, you held the gate of the building open for a group of students to pass through it and, well, I was among them"
Tina fingered the freckles between the boy's neck and chest, feeling her cheeks burn slightly and her heart warm as she recalled memories of a time that seemed so distant to her.
"I wish I could talk to you, but you always walked in the opposite way" - she connected the freckles on the cheeks of the boy, who gave her a crooked smile - "You were really cute, Newt..."
In a quick but cautious movement, Newt braced himself over the laughing figure to hold her comfortably between his arms. Instinctively, Tina covered her flushed face to stifle laughter and shield herself from the sequence of tickling kisses all over the expanse of skin within the boy's reach.
"So you planned the whole history of the badge, Porpentina Goldstein?" - he hissed in a provocative tone, their laughter echoing through the bookshelves.
"I didn't do it, Newt! I swear I didn't!" - she said exasperated, and he laughted of the embarrassment in her face - "If I really wanted to do it, I would plan a more romantic soundtrack than the screams of Mr. Abernathy!"
They filled the silent atmosphere of laughter before Newt caught Tina's lips for yet another passionate kiss. Slightly breathless, he slipped the icy tip of his nose over the warm, soft surface of his lover's face to purposefully reach the height of the small, delicate, shiny earring.
"You've played a game..." - the low, hoarse voice rang in the girl's ears and she felt a shiver run down her neck - "Now it's my time to do it"
"And what is it?" - she stared provocatively at the dilated pupils in the center of his clear irises.
"I let you wear it yesterday" - he slid his fingertips to release the first button down his shirt - "Because I knew I would have to take it off you..."
With the intense shared looks and smiles causing pleasant electric currents to run through the full extent of their spines, the couple concentrated exclusively in separating the ends of the clothing to enjoy the contrasts of hot lips on icy surfaces.
"You'll have to get used to american coffee, Scamander"
Newt forced an agonized grimace to make the girl's provocative smile beside him burst into light laughter. Resting his light irises on a red car parked across Sturry Hill, where they walked slowly that morning, he finished the remaining content of his still-hot black tea from his disposable cup in a single swallow. He felt the growing annoyance of the consciousness of being on that customary route for the last time.
In his silent ponderings, as he absorbed from the image that his eyes captured as much detail as possible, he realized that he would miss the ever-present cloudy sky. He knew he would find nowhere else in the world the odd sound of the rustling of Canterbury treetops, let alone energetic comments about Chelsea or Brentford victorious games, set amidst the cozy cafes of St. George's Street. Newt found it ironic and amusing every time this particular reflection was present in his thoughts because he knew that he had never really enjoyed football in his whole life.
He imagined, lying with his eyes wide open in his room until late at night, what it would feel like to remain indefinitely away from his residence of Harbledown, or what it might feel like not to be able to call his the home in Harbledown. He wondered, at the apex of his melancholy, what it would be like to arrive in a tiny apartment of ordinary decor and be greeted only by the blinding silence of his own existence.
With the presentiment of being within a few steps of overflowing that hidden grief, the boy turned his gaze to the only vision capable of enveloping him with promises of a secure future: with a deft step, the cheerful and stubborn smile radiated from her lips to her sparkling eyes, Tina unconsciously moved the brown liquid of her coffee amid the agitation of her lively monologue.
Newt smiled fondly at the rosy appearance of the pale face, wanted more than anything else to have the clock in his favor to say, how often he found it necessary, how much he surrendered himself to any and all of the more discreet details that made up the woman for whom he was absolutely fascinated. He would have to learn how to deal with the absence of the ever so cold fingers intertwined with his, with the absence of the cozy sound of laughter filling his ears and warming his heart, with the absence of the always calm, dark, and inexplicably glowing surface of those brown eyes.
Newt blinked a few times to get rid of those reflections and to capture, for the last time, the arrangement of the rectangular windows of number 30 of Sturry Hill. He would have enough time, in the coming months, to listen to the nostalgic and sad tales of his melancholy.
"Checking luggage is a mandatory process in the United States, so don't forget to remove all locks from your bag before boarding" - Tina advised, turning to her companion at the bottom of the seven-ladder staircase - "Don't forget your coat. It's hot in California but London is cold"
"You're spending too much time with my mother..." - he teased to make her laugh, wrapping his spectator's waist to bring her close to him - "Anything else?"
Tina smiled fondly, placing both hands on the curve of the boy's neck so that her thumbs moved freely along the line of his jaw. She bound their foreheads together, closing her eyes to enjoy the ever so pleasant slide of the tips of icy noses before their lips held a delicate and gentle encounter.
"Don't forget that I love everything about you" - she finished, and he chuckled, shaking his head in denial, never turning his pale irises from those darker ones.
Tina wrapped him in a steady, slow embrace and a series of kisses and words of affection in the time it took them to hiss their momentary farewells. She gave him a last affectionate smile before he disappeared through the neighborhood constructions and sighed deeply before closing the blue wooden door behind her frail body.
She should prepare herself, physically and emotionally, to meet him at Canterbury West Railway Station and watch him leave, definitely, through the glass windows of the four o'clock express.
The boy stared at his own feet as he mechanically closed the low wooden gate. Beneath the messy strands of his fringe, he gradually lifted his eyes to fill them with the familiar structure of his childhood home. In his unsteady steps down the gravel road, he watched the great deciduous turn the vivid green leaves red by the fall's arrival, under it the agitated and clumsy figure of the tabby dog inviting him in barks for his innocent game. He slowly ascended each of the steps of the staircase that would take him his bedroom, the silence installed in every spacious room of the house denying the presence of any other resident awake at that time of the morning.
The deafening creak of the door of his small room sounded like a sad melody to the furniture that stared at him strangely empty in its absence of personality. Newt sat on the single source of color between the yellowed walls and distractedly smoothed the colored quilt from his single bed. He stared without much interest at the traveling trunk set at the foot of the empty wooden cupboard, feeling too weak to perform any of the tasks he carried pretense to do. He set his body on the soft surface of the mattress, closing his eyes so that he could smell the floral scent embedded in the linen threads of his shirt.
When he hoped that the warm waters of the shower would carry with them all the afflictions lodged in his chest, he turned toward the open door of his bedroom only to notice that he was not alone in his silent immersions.
Anchored to the doorframe, her hands clasped against her chest, was the very emotional figure of the lady with vibrant red hair. The lustrous eyes flickered in the clarity refracted by the open curtains as they stared indecipherably at the image of her youngest son.
He could not count the moments so that she would cross, very quickly, the short distance of the room and wrap him in a firm embrace, audible sighs being muffled by the crumpled fabric of his clothing. Somewhat awkwardly, Newt returned the embrace to stroke her hair in an affectionate consolation to the mother's emotions, masking on his own surface the corrosion that his own feelings caused within him.
"You'll be glad to hear she said yes, mom" - he smiled, waiting for the matriarch's always cheerful exclamations.
He frowned at the concerned expressions, however, as he heard the first of the series of loud sobs echoing between the four silent walls, disjointed murmurs hissed by the choked voice stood out between cut exhalations. The boy felt, in his chest, continuous and painful pangs by his inability to relieve all the bitterness carried by his mother.
"It's not forever..." - he said in a whisper, and wished that the words would also bring him anesthesia for all those anxieties.
In a deep breath, the dripping face of the short woman became visible again to the boy's defeated gaze. The feminine hands, though shaken, slid over the wet material of the shirt to leave there a maternal caress.
"Oh, Newt..." - and he saw a small smile mold itself to the flushed face - "There's something you should see, dear"
The young man's face filled itself with curiosity between the pair of unsteady hands that enveloped it. Searching for the cold, scarred hand to give it an assuring grip, the older woman saw him nod in a silent gesture.
A little more than twenty steps from the wooden staircase that would lead them down to the lower floor, mother and son performed a course full of eagerness and caution. Letting himself be carried away by the kindly gaze of his maternal figure, Newt confided that the welcoming caresses left between the misaligned strands of light brown hair would be able to soften all his eminent dismay.
The heels protected by the rubbery soles of the pair of women's sneakers collided frantically against the marble floor of the century-old building. Her brown eyes darted nervously at all times to the silver vehicle parked just above the rails of the uncovered platform of Canterbury West Railway Station.
In a repetitive and unconscious sequence, the girl looked anxiously through the busy hall for the tall figure of the curly-haired boy. She felt a growing anguish every time she stared at the electronic panel at the top of the white wall in front of her. The train that would take the young zoologist to London would be gone in ten minutes.
When the height of her anxiety kept her from sitting on the upholstered benches in the main hall for a longer time, Tina strode slowly to follow the four o'clock train's swift glide as it parted from the small town of Kent. Putting to the ground the heavy backpack, packed with necessary things for her extended stay in Oxford, to lean against the nearest wall, the girl distractedly fingered the brilliant jewel to the rays of the sun on her finger.
Tina loathed the sensation of numbness in her fingertips and her beating as a result of the current nervousness in her veins every time she thought of that unwanted farewell. She reflected, silently in the midst of her pondering, if she would ever get used to the ever-so-similar effects of the restlessness of watching someone go. She wondered, as she sighed deeply to eliminate, little by little, the tightness in her lungs, if Newt had thought it better for their feelings to part to american soils without painful farewells.
The absent-minded, clumsy boy with adorable sunny hair and the infinitely sweet singular words of the five o'clock train. The welcoming, bright-eyed colleague of upstairs. The careful friend and companion of warm embraces and enthralling quirks of the most eccentric bookstore in the city of Canterbury. The companion of the journey that they, possessors of all the time of the world in their favor, would still write.
If Tina had been right about something and could alter her original phrase, after all those unpretentious lines, all the chapters of her favorite novel, she would say that, just like the animals, she was very lucky.
She let out a lone tear, small but sufficient to contain a sample of the bittersweet feeling that danced in her being. She wanted, more than anything in the world, to see him one last time. She wished she could kiss him once more, embrace him once more. If only she could...
Her eyes fluttering through her heavy eyelids, she blinked a few times to stare clearly at Newt's tall silhouette of indecipherable expressions. Behind his slightly breathless body, his callused, freckled hands freed the handle of the backpack they carried to receive the slender, momentarily frail body of the dark-haired girl. She, deeply inhaling the mixture of perfumes emanating from the gray sweater and the wet brown hair, allowed the firm grasp of her arms and the tears released silently on her companion's shoulders to alleviate, even if only for that moment, the most desperate discouragements of her chest.
"Why are you crying?" - Newt asked with difficulty, he felt an extremely painful knot in his throat.
"You missed the four o'clock train, Newt" - she whispered, sad to give him that information, pulling away to watch his freckled face.
"I'll get on board on your train, Tina" - he hastened to say, only to see her expressions turn even more worried.
"You won't arrive in London in time to get on your flight if you take the five's express"
"I'm not afraid to miss that flight" - he confessed, without further ado, because he felt himself unable to face the afflictions on his fiancée's face anymore - "I will not travel to the United States, anymore"
Tina, preoccupied with regaining the stability of her lips and shaking hands, took a few seconds to understand and interpret the sentence of the anxious boy in front of her. Surprised to realize that her hearing had not failed to capture words of such remote possibility, the painful eyes were blurred in confusion under the instantly frown.
"It's a pretty funny twist story" - he shook his head in low laughter, staring tenderly at the slow, carefree walk of his parents across the hall - "But I found out this morning that I got some other job offers in other countries and also here in England"
He amused himself to keep up with all the slightest changes in his fiancée's scrambled countenance. From desolation to confusion, and then surprise, remnants of a contained doubt, and finally the subtle design of a cheerful smile in understanding, the girl clasped her hands to cover her gaping face and muffle the joyous exclamations of her realization.
"Oh, Newt, that's wonderful!" - she burst out, throughing herself involuntary into the boy's warm arms - "Which one did you choose?"
"I chose to live my dream, Tina" - the smile reached the boy's bright eyes - "I'm going to be a zoology professor at Oxford"
Newt did not restrain his laughter, for to say such words aloud was extremely pleasurable. Burying his smiling face over Tina's shoulders in response to the firm embrace of her arms around his neck, he wrapped her drawn waist to lift her up and rotate her into the air amid the sound of his favorite laughter. Regardless of the looks directed at them by some other passengers hurrying through the main lobby, Tina laid both hands on the boy's flushed cheeks to distribute quick kisses all over the face of her best friend.
With the growl echoed loudly behind the boy's back, the couple moved away from each other to find the cheerful and amusing figures of the matriarch and the patriarch of the Scamander family, greeting them with big smiles stamped on their faces.
"The groom is late, sweetheart" - joked the older man, to make his companion of amiable features laugh.
"Oh, Tina, my dear!" - the almond-shaped eyes flickered expectantly at the slightly flushed face of the youngest one - "Can we see it?"
Under the encouraging gaze of her companion and the anxious eyes of her two other companies, Tina raised her delicate hand to expose the small sparkling stone and make the older woman's breath sound loud in approval. She still smiled, a little sheepishly, at the very wet eyes, full of affection and admiration, of her spectator.
"Newt makes great choices" - she confessed, and Tina knew she was no longer referring to the ring - "Having you in our family is the best gift we could get, Tina"
"We have another wedding in sight, who would have thought!" - the older man welcomed his emotional wife into a side hug.
"Actually, I think you'll have to content yourselves with Theseus's wedding, for now" - Newt ventured, casting a glance at the amused face of his fiancee - "Tina and I agree we have a graduation in Oxford to prepare"
"Talking about Oxford, you still have not told me about the funny story of your job offer" - Tina recalled, narrowing her eyes in amusement to examine the boy's flushed face.
"You will not believe it, Tina, if I say that we could have avoided all those agonizing days from the beginning" - the female voice stood out again among the noises of the station's loading stalls - "Dougal had, some time ago, resumed his old habit of taking the mail to tear it all and bury it in the garden. Last afternoon, when I was taking some fruit from my orchard, I found an envelope recently hidden between my two strawberries benches"
"I swear I reprimanded him..." - Newt whispered, staring at his feet to hide his reddened cheeks from the girl's incredulous gaze.
"We could have avoided your concern, my dear, but I could not inform you two of the misunderstanding until this morning. I did not want to disturb you yesterday" - the older woman continued in her speech, a malicious smile drawing itself in her features - "And, well, you know that Newt did not come home last night..."
Feeling their cheeks burning violently and their breath catching immediately, Newt and Tina turned their embarrassed eyes to the ground in an attempt to escape the matriarch's wise looks and the patriarch's somewhat distrustful glances.
"I guess that means I'm going to continue to see you every day on Jowett Walk" - Tina brilliantly changed the subject, happy to be able to say that sentence.
"About this, Tina..." - Newt started, putting a hand on the back of his neck in a sign of insecurity - "I think you know that I can not stay in the student accomodation anymore, now that I'm a professor. So, now that I'll be looking for a new residence, I thought it might be a good idea to find a little more spacious place for you, of course, only if you agree with it, to-"
"Live with you?" - she finished his sentence, her eyes blinking beneath her raised eyebrows in the gaping face, and he, very clumsily, nodded silently.
With her bottom lip tucked between her teeth, Tina reached for the boy's hand resting beside his body to intertwine his freckled, scarred fingers with hers, casting him a shy, naive smile before catching him in a simple, but immensely passionate kiss.
"You see, my dear? I told you they completed each other's sentences" - the lady whispered to her companion, indicating to him two vacant seats in the lobby to give the couple some privacy - "They are just like the two of us"
The tall, numerous pines of a landscape dipped in green, blue and brown tones were reflected in irises of the same colors in their racing through the glass windows of the five o'clock express. In lively conversation in their expectations for a future never before so secure, Newt and Tina laughed, unconcerned, of all the presets given to them by fate as they sat side by side in the same seat, on that so familiar journey, for the first time.
As he listened fondly to the girl's proposal for a marathon of their favorite films accompanied by two mugs of hot chocolate, for that night in Oxford, Newt was amused to think how that proposal, in particular, always marked the beginning of something new for the pair of best friends.
Placing a kiss on the top of the head resting on his shoulder, Newt found it opportune to alter and hiss, in a moment of silence comfortably settled between them, the phrase spoken by his companion of adventures on that very and same day.
"You'll have to get used to british tea, Scamander"
Something about the birdsong or the sound of waves crashing against the surface of the sea in the distance caused the man to open his heavy lids reluctantly that sunday morning. Greeted by the rays of sunshine, in the still dark surroundings because of the white curtain of fine fabric, Newt looked around at the light furniture in the spacious bedroom of his grandparents' old vacation house.
He watched the discreet movement of the cloth to hide the large glass window of extremely beautiful sight, he had certainly forgotten to close it the night before. He stared at the old, but well-kept, well-detailed wardrobe, the comfortable armchair beneath the cream-colored table lamp, so that, at last, he gazed at the disarray of sheets unintentionally intertwined with the pale, bare legs on the spacious bed.
The long strands of dark hair spilled themselves over the mattress in an explicit contrast to the very light fabrics that coated it. The thin, delicate fabric of the light blue satin nightgown showed the white surface of the back in its ascents and descents to the calm rhythm of her breathing. Lifting his trunk to sit himself on the softness of the bed, Newt smiled passionately at the sleeping image of his wife.
Filling his eyes with the image of the glowing golden wedding band in his left hand, the man withdrew a few dark strands that fell on the closed eyes of the always very pale face, unconsciously sliding his thumb over the warm expanse between the little earring and the neck partially covered by the dark brown cascade. He smiled as small, subtle movements began to be drawn to announce the awakening of his favorite company.
As usual, Newt worked his soft lips over the prominent vertebraes of the woman lying next to him, time and again leaving a gentle kiss down his path until he reached the base of the rather shivering neck. He could witness the stubborn apparition of an amused smile on the lips of the woman before the hoarse voice by the disuse was echoed in a false rebuke among the walls of the quiet room.
The low chuckle sounded at the woman's ear, and her sleepy face turned toward her viewer, her brown eyes flashing a few times to get accustomed to the brightness of the room. Tina assessed the figure partially deposited over her body, his unkempt hair at the top of his head matched perfectly with the youthful air of her husband's pleading and playful expressions.
"It's been so long, Tina..." - he muttered, distractedly fingering the hem of her blue satin nightgown.
He watched his companion's brows getting forrowed and her provocative dark eyes straightening before they were diverted to his wrist, where the gray wristwatch lay, always forgotten. It lasted only a few moments before the two pairs of eyes widened in despair and the hands of the men were deposited quickly, but with great caution, on her closed lips, a chortle echoed loudly through the silent structure of the holiday home. Eyebrows lifted instantly, the woman brought the detachable accessory to the man's wrist so that it penetrated his field of vision.
"It's been seven hours, Newt!" - she smiled at him as she lifted her trunk to align her defiant face with his.
"You know what I meant..."
With a quiet smile on her lips, the woman left a gently naive caress on the light pinkish cheeks of her companion, feeling in the delicate surface of the palm of her hand the light brush of an almost imperceptible beard. She searched for his freckled lips to deposit a series of kisses on them.
"Tonight, okay?" - she hissed in a low tone, as if that was a secret to be guarded, and she sealed their lips once more.
Newt watched his wife lay back down on the soft mattress and smiled as she lazily stretched herself between the tangle of pillows and sheets, nodding in agreement. Under the ever so lively and loving-minded gaze of her companion, the feminine lips mimicked his gesture while the pale hand that did not contain the bright band groped the empty space beside him in a silent invitation.
"We should take the opportunity we have to rest..." - she yawned, her heavy lids still blinking with difficulty - "We have a full day ahead"
"You rest, love..." - and he removed some long dark strands from her pale forehead to lay a tender kiss on it - "I'll make breakfast for us"
Tina kept the unpretentious smile on her face by the time she accompanied the figure of her best friend slowly rising and disappearing, cautious and quite silent steps, by the open door of the more spacious suite of the Scamander family' summer house. She smiled even bigger when she saw him enter the open door of another room on the opposite side of the great corridor, sighing contentedly at being taken by a pleasant relaxation.
Anchored to the white wooden door, the woman unconsciously clutched the satin blue gown she wore against her chest. There was an intense gleam in her eyes and an immensely affectionate smile lingering on her lips as she stared at the only two new furniture amid the Victorian bedroom furniture. Through the closed windows to the opposite wall, Tina could see the blue expanse of the North Sea bathing the rocky coast of Dorset County.
Attracted by the sounds of waves crashing against the beach sand and a seabird to make its first morning flights, the woman walked the distance from the corridor and the living room to be greeted by the mild breezes and the cozy sun of Durdle Door. She removed a strand of dark hair from her face so that her eyes could capture with clarity all the magnificent mixture of shades of those surroundings. She watched the elegant hovering of a seagull while her bare feet led her to the edge of the slope.
Every time she had looked into that vision in the last days, during the two-year anniversary trip from which she said her heartfelt words of loyalty, trust, and love alongside her best friend, Tina thought she could easily get used to the tranquility emanating from the blue sky of always so sunny days. She remembered, very fondly, the drawing of the imposing rock formation made by the curly-haired man on a cold Oxford afternoon, just over seven years ago.
Tina allowed a nostalgic smile to appear in her face as she resumed all the walking steps alongside her favorite company. She brought back memories of the day in which they moved into the small but enough spacious apartment they shared for the three years that took her to complete her degree. She also brought back the night they attended, for the second time, a graduation ceremony at the University of Oxford club and received the news that the Kowalski family was about to get a little bigger.
She remembered entering for the first time, the year after her graduation, the room where she would lead as the Advocate for Childhood and Youth of the British Ministry, with freckled fingers entwined with her own. She also affectionately took up several memories of applauding him and seeing him being applauded, all around the world, for the success and popularity of the book she most liked to read.
She felt her chest warm and her breath fail as she recalled the simple request of the ever so gentle old gentleman for them to take the lead and bring to life his secret plan to make the profits of Canterbury's most pleasant bookstore into service and visibility for social projects of assistance to the most vulnerable people, and could not contain a low and emotional chuckle as she remembered, at the height of her nostalgia, the moment when the doors of the Church of Canterbury were opened, exactly two years ago, for them to be welcomed and to say their vows of respect and understanding, unity and companionship in all the memories that still, together, they would make happen.
With her eyes fixed on the blue surface of the ocean to the horizon, immersed in her own thoughts, Tina could only feel the hand that dazzled the golden band to be sought by a larger and more callous one, the face of tranquil expressions being deposited on the shoulder covered by the ice-cold satin material while her old porcelain mug appeared in her field of vision.
"Coffee?" - Tina laughed as she watched the dark and hot content, sipping the perfect sweet and bitter combination in a try - "You're getting really good at this, I must say, but your hot chocolate is still my favorite..."
"It's unfair when the recipe is yours" - he teased, just to listen to her laugh again.
The woman held the crockery in both hands and allowed herself to be wrapped around by Newt's tight, freckled arm, a grinning smile coloring her face once more as she returned his embrace to observe together, in those moments of tranquility, the life following its course in that so extraordinary setting.
"What are you thinking about?"
The man's voice sounded audibly enough through the refreshing breeze and Tina sighed deeply, resting her head on the curve of his neck to be intoxicated by her favorite scent. She closed her eyes for a few seconds, allowing an affectionate smile to tickle her lips.
"About how far you and I have come, Newt" - she confessed, smiling proudly because she knew that on the face of her beloved would be a kind smile - "I have had many incredible moments during these years, but this is undoubtedly the best of all"
"Mr. Abernathy will be proud of both of us..." - he laughed, allowing the wife to pull herself away enough for the brown irises to wink, amused, toward him.
"Oh, he'd really bet all his chips on us!" - she could not contain a nostalgic and affectionate laugh.
A gentle breeze moved the long dark hair and made some strands lay on the pale face to form a beautiful contrast between them. As usual, just from the beginning of their journey, he liked to do, Newt searched for the most rebellious strand to deposit it behind the ear of his best friend.
"You were right, Newt..." - she said thoughtfully, in her eyes a gleam that fascinated her viewer - "Of course your drawing leaves nothing to be desired, but this place is even more beautiful in person"
"It's even more beautiful because you're here" -and their smiles reached their eyes in their silent communication.
Orbits mingled in blue and green plunged into those brown ones by the time it took Newt to reach the amusing and secret conclusion that, by a wise decision of nature, such beauty could no longer be contained in only a single pair of so full of sweetness eyes. As if because of his own thoughts, between one of the kisses full of silent love-declarations shared by the couple at that moment, there was heard a distinct and uninterrupted cry echoed between the empty, quiet structures of the summer house. Instinctively, in his usual movement, Newt lifted his wristwatch to confirm the exactness and the reason for that momentary cry.
"Hunger, and in five, four, three, two..." - the man's voice lost its prominence so that a second cry echoed in unison with the first, low laughs released by the couple in their most naive fun - "Just in time!"
"British punctuality..." - Tina rolled her eyes theatrically and her companion laughed.
"She needs you, so I'll go for him"
Tina could not help but smile openly at that dream so real. She felt her chest warm once more as she was overcome with a pleasant eagerness to see the two pairs of flashing brown eyes of their twins of little more than four months of age and the certainty that the most incredible person she had ever had the blessing of meeting, disposed exactly in front of her, was taken by the same feeling. Without further ado, holding out a hand to be firmly held by him, they began their hasty walk to the guest room of their temporary residence.
Thank you for reading! I would like to leave a special message here for you, dear reader, who accompanied this story to the end and gave me the motivation to get here.
This is our story. Mine and yours, you who praised my work, who gave me advice to improve it, who talked to me to make, in a simple commentary, the day of this very happy writer. I hope I have met your expectation and have given you a little bit of affection and fun for this story.
I would also like, through this not so small note, to inspire you to write and share the works of your imagination. Don't be afraid to imagine, to write, to share with other people an idea you have created. You, like me, only have things to win. It's so good, my dear reader, to wander through the streets and ways of life and imagine your own characters in these very everyday situations, it's really good to express what your mind screams to say, it's really good to receive a compliment so sincere about something that you so hard work to do.
If you have a dream, a will to write, do it. Trust your imagination. Give someone the joy of being able to share your imagination, it's all we have.
Once again, I'll leave you here, thank you very much!
From the reader and also writer,