“Man, that’s just insane,” James told me that evening, as we were dropping our bags off in the barracks room we were sharing. “Insane.”
“I heard the first time,” I said, taking my toilet bag from my duffel and chucking it onto the bed, followed by pyjamas. “And yeah, I noticed too.”
“I... do you think it’s true?”
“We’ll find out in three weeks, I guess.” James knew what I was thinking, though. If anyone could do it, the professor could.
After a while, he spoke again.
“What about that Alex, eh? In all my life, I have never seen such beauty.”
“Yeah, she’s pretty,” was all I could manage.
“Pretty? Pretty? You have no poetry in your soul, man.”
“I...” I tried to explain, “I have it in my soul... but it’s bloody hard to translate.”
James barked a laugh as he strutted towards the door, heading for the mess for dinner. I followed after, I hope a little less arrogantly.
I guess we were just overawed. It was too much to think about. So we spent the whole dinner telling Alex about the place we grew up, instead of discussing the implications of what we’d seen and heard. James flirted with her outrageously, of course. She listened intently to everything we had to say about the place we grew up, and at some point I found myself telling her about the things I loved most about our home.
“Well, yeah, James and I had a treehouse out back of his place, looking west across the fields, and I’d often go up there to read. One time I was up there reading Lord of the Rings and I kind of-”
“You seen the films?” James interjected.
“Oh, yeah, loved them.” Alex replied, taking a spoonful of the jelly we were having for dessert.
“The Shire scenes were filmed not too far from where we live,” he said, with the kind of grin he usually reserves for saying “Eight inches”.1
“Fascinating. So, you were saying, Will?”
“Uh... oh, I was up there all afternoon, and when I finally looked up – I think the Company had just arrived in Lothlorien – the sun was setting. The most amazing fiery orange, with thin lines of pink cloud painted across it, silhouetting the row of poplar trees at the back of the farm. It was... well, I’ve seen a lot of things, but I think it was one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen.” Like you, I didn’t say. Well, you don’t, do you? Not unless you’re both naked and wrapped up in a single sheet.
“I’d love to see that some time, it sounds amazing,” she replied, obviously with no idea of what was running through my head.
“I... I’d like that,” I said, and blushed into my jelly. James picked up the baton again, explaining the rules of rugby.
1 Complete lies, of course, but who’s going to get out a tape measure in that sort of situation?