500 Ways to say 'I Love You'
Three words that we leave unsaid, three words that we don't hear enough, three words we long to hear. He never told me, never said them. That was the one thing I needed from him and he didn't give it to me; maybe he couldn't.
I stare up at the ceiling. I try to make something of the brown stains there, try to find greater meaning. I don't want to take my eyes off the ceiling because then I would have to look at the bare and dusty room I am in. I don't want to see any of that, I don't want to think about any of that so I just sit here and try to find a sign on a stained ceiling.
I close my eyes, not wanting to search anymore but not wanting to face reality either. Not yet.
I remember our first day together. Our first moments together. I was brought into this world by him, the first thing I saw was his face. He had big, blue eyes and chocolate brown hair. His face was pale, just like the rest of his body. His expression was blank. It was like he didn't care. I was his first neopet after all; didn't that make him feel something?
I tilted my head and blinked at him, taking my first few breaths. I started to stretch my legs and arms; it was then I found out I had wings and a tail. I gave my wings a few flaps causing a bit of wind. I brought my tail to my eyes and saw that it was yellow. I wiggled my tail, just to make sure it was mine. I then looked at him; his face was still blank.
“My name is Colt, and your name is Layla,” he said very stiffly.
“Colt?” I asked. I widened my eyes, hearing my voice for the first time.
“You are a Shoyru,” he said, ignoring me.
“A Shoyru,” I repeated, the word sounding right.
“We are in Neopia Central, in Neopia,” he said, almost mechanically.
“Neopia,” I said, testing out the word, “Our home.”
“You are a neopet, my neopet, my first neopet. I bought a neohome; that's where we are going to live,” he said, almost as if he was going through a list of things to tell me.
“Our home,” I repeated. “Me and Colt's home.” Saying his name felt right.
“Layla and Colt,” I said, smiling for the first time. Our names sounded like they were meant to be together. I felt something for the first time, something that made me feel so good. It made me feel warm and fuzzy.
“Love,” I whispered. Somehow I knew that's what it was called.
“Layla loves Colt,” I told him. He had turned away, as if he didn't care.
“I love you,” I tried again, almost desperately.
“OK,” he said, like he didn't know what else to say. Didn't he know what love was? Couldn't he feel it?
“Get up. Time to leave,” he said, already leaving the room.
I got up and stood on my legs for the first time. I put one foot in front of the other without really thinking about it and followed Colt out of the door. Outside the door was a hallway lined with more doors, all closed. Colt started walking down the hallway without even looking to see if I was behind him. I followed him, struggling to keep up. I refused to be left behind; I loved him! I forced my legs to go as fast as they could.
I trailed behind Colt through hallway after hallway. I didn't care where we were going as long as we were together.
We soon came to double doors at the end of a hallway. He opened them and I trailed after him.
My hands instantly went to my eyes. The first time I ever saw sunlight. I slowly withdrew my hands from my face. The world was so bright. I was in awe.
Colt wasn't; he just kept walking. After a few seconds of taking in the sunlight I realized he had left me.
I rushed after him. He had probably seen sunlight a thousand times before. That's why it wasn't a big deal to him. At least that's what I told myself. I was so delusional making excuses for him. It's all so clear looking back on it. I guess I shouldn't be too hard on myself; I was just a child, after all.
I caught up to him. I wore a wide smile. My eyes darted everywhere, taking in everything. Colt started explaining things, like food, neopoints and other things like that. He was just trying to inform me. That was it. He didn't enjoy teaching me things, discovering and exploring with me; he just felt obligated. Nevertheless, I hung on every word he said.
“Layla loves Colt,” I said again, making sure he knew. I just felt like it was a good time to say it. He was after all talking to me. Somehow that made me feel special.
He didn't reply.
“I love you,” I repeated in a sing-songy voice.
Again, he didn't reply. He didn't even glance behind to see me.
I wondered what I was doing wrong. Did he not understand? Didn't he know what love was? I mean I had just come into this world and I knew what love was. Maybe he wasn't hearing me, but I was saying it plenty loud, wasn't I? I began to worry. How was I going to tell Colt I loved him? He had to know, he just had to.
We passed a shop with little critters on the roof. Colt then started talking about petpets. My eyes widened.
“Petpet?” I asked in awe, looking closer at the creatures on top of the shop. They obviously weren't real, but they were so cute. I wanted one so bad.
“Can I have a petpet, Colt?” I asked longingly.
“Not right now. Maybe later,” he mumbled, then went on to tell me about the different types of petpets.
I glanced over at the petpet shop wistfully. I saw a neopet emerge out of the store, a petpet in her arms. She was followed by her mother. I realized the neopet was a blue Lupe. Somehow I just knew, just like I knew the petpet she rocked in her arms was a warf.
“Mommy,” the little Lupe started, looking distressed.
“Yes, darling?” asked her mother lovingly. Her tone was so different than Colt's.
“Mommy, petpets can't talk, right?” the Lupe asked, troubled.
“Yes, they can't talk,” the mother confirmed, nodding.
“Then... how can my warf tell me she loves me?” the Lupe asked, her voice getting shaky.
“Honey, there is more than one way to say 'I love you',” the mother explained.
The Lupe tilted her head in confusion.
“She can tell you she loves you by cuddling next to you. She can tell you she loves you by wagging her tail. She can tell you she loves you just by looking at you with her pretty eyes. There are plenty of ways to say 'I love you',” the mother elaborated.
“Are there five hundred ways to say 'I love you'?” the Lupe asked, looking down at her new petpet.
“More.” The mother beamed.
“Wow,” the Lupe gasped.
I had listened to every word they said. More than one way to say 'I love you'. I could tell Colt I loved him without saying I loved him. Maybe then he would understand. I just needed him to understand.
I then realized Colt had left me behind again. A few seconds of panic revealed that he was only a few feet ahead of me in plain view. I scrambled to catch up. I reached him. He stopped.
“I'm hungry. Are you? We are going to Hubert's Hotdogs. I brought some neopoints. It's over this way,” he babbled, then started walking in a different direction without waiting for my answer. I hurried after him, noting that I was hungry.
As I was walking, I was thinking about ways to say 'I love you'. What I wanted more than anything was for Colt to know I loved him. I would make sure he did, no matter what.
Hubert's Hotdogs came into view. My stomach gave a rumble. I couldn't wait for my first taste of food. Colt gestured to a table with an airy wave of his hand. I went and sat down while Colt went to order.
I waited patiently. My eyes swept the other tables. I saw neopets laughing, and having fun and lightly teasing each other. They seemed happy. I wanted that, I wanted to be happy. Be happy with Colt. Was I happy? Was Colt happy? Our lives had just begun; was it too soon to tell? I didn't know then and I still don't know now.
Colt walked over to the table bearing two hotdogs. I smiled widely.
“Thank you, Colt,” I said cheerfully. Being gracious and polite was one way to say 'I love you'.
At least I think so, and I am sure plenty of people agree with me.
He shrugged and put a wrapped hotdog in front of me. He sat down and started to unwrap his own hotdog. I unwrapped mine excitedly, like I was unwrapping a present.
It was just a regular hotdog with some mustard and ketchup squeezed on it. I didn't care. It looked so good. I scooped it up and took a bite. My taste buds screamed in joy for the first time. I quickly chewed and swallowed then took another bite. Soon my hotdog was gone.
“Thank you so much, Colt. That was really delicious,” I said, wiping my hands on a napkin.
He was still eating his hotdog. It didn't have anything on it. He simply looked at me. Just a blank stare. I smiled. Smiling is another way to say 'I love you'.
Colt finished his hotdog. I hurriedly gathered the trash and then went to throw it away so Colt wouldn't have to. I returned to him. He tilted his head, looking confused. He shrugged it off.
“Let's go. I want to walk around some more.” And with that, he walked away. I followed him, ready to see more of Neopia Central. I was ready to see anything with Colt. I liked being with him.
Colt started talking again. This time about the world. Different places we could go, what we could do there. I wanted to go everywhere. I wanted to see it all. I wanted Colt to be by my side; I wanted us to see the world together. Did Colt want that too?
We walked along a path that weaved in between tall trees. The tree's shadows danced all around us. I could hear neopets playing among the trees. Chasing and hiding from each other.
“Maybe we could go play with them,” I said slowly.
“No,” Colt said coldly.
I wanted to demand why. I had yet to talk to another neopet. Why couldn't I? I took a deep breath. That was no way to tell him that I loved him.
“Ok,” I said, dropping the subject.
I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. It crossed my mind that it was one of the playing neopets. I turned to see, discovering that the source of the movement was a petpet. The word spardel forced its way into my mind. Yes, a spardel.
“Colt,” I called. “Look.”
I didn't wait for a response. I made my way over to the petpet. It realized I was there and gave me fearful looks.
“Shhh, it's ok. I won't hurt you,” I cooed.
The spardel looked scruffy. Its fur was caked in dirt. It was extremely skinny.
Colt walked up behind me. The spardel started to back away.
“It's ok. That's just Colt. He won't hurt you either,” I said softly, trying to not scare the poor thing away. The spardel blinked and tilted its head. The fear was slowly creeping out of its eyes.
I nervously took a step towards it. It watched me with wide eyes. I took another slow step. The spardel held its gaze. I timidly reached my hand towards its head. It didn't bolt, or show any signs that it would. My hand gently rested on its head. I ran my fingers through its brittle and rough fur. The poor thing really was in need of a bath.
I felt something wet on my other hand, then realized the spardel had leaned over and licked it.
“You are just the sweetest thing.” I swooned.
I put my arms around it and gave it a big hug.
I whispered into its ear, “I love you.”
I never wanted to let go. I just wanted to spend forever with the spardel in my arms. I was woken up from my dreams by Colt.
“It's getting late. Time to go,” he said, void of emotion.
I pulled away from the spardel and turned to look at him.
“Can I keep it? Please? I don't think it has an owner. Look, it needs me. It needs us,” I pleaded.
“No,” he said simply and almost cruelly.
I blinked. I wanted to cry and yell. I wanted to refuse to leave without the spardel, but I knew that was no way to tell Colt how I felt about him. I knew I had to let go.
With one last parting glance at the spardel, I followed Colt home.
I felt numb. I had really wanted that spardel. I had loved the spardel. Inside I knew Colt knew best, so I put it in the back of my mind. It was best just to forget about it.
I was lost in my thoughts the whole way home. It wasn't until I heard the click of the lock that I was snapped out of them. I then was filled with excitement. I walked into the entry hall and I was not disappointed. It was a simple neohome, but it was mine. No, it was ours. There was a rug that Colt had obviously picked out himself. It was gray and patternless, but I still loved it. I loved it because he picked it out. I glanced around eager to explore, to see what else he had picked out.
“I did some shopping. I got you a bed,” he said lamely.
“Thank you,” I told him, not hiding my enthusiasm. I wanted to see my room.
He gestured towards the staircase. “Your room is up there. Are you hungry? We ate late. We should get to bed,” he babbled, then herded me up the stairs. I didn't mind. I was starting to feel tired, and fussing just wouldn't do. Doing what was asked of me was another way to show my love. It was a hard way as I was learning, but that didn't matter. I was going to do whatever it took to make Colt see that I loved him. Whatever it took.
We soon arrived at my room. I still hungered to see what was in the other rooms, but I knew it was time for bed. I looked around my room cheerfully. It was somewhat bare. A bed was in the corner. It was a very plain bed, but I knew that Colt had picked it out, which made it special to me. There was a desk in another corner. A drawer was up against the back wall next to a window. I peered out the window to see the backyard. It was too dark to see it clearly, but I had already fallen in love with the view.
“Thank you so much for the room, Colt,” I gushed as I turned to face him.
Colt simply shrugged awkwardly. I climbed into bed. Colt started to leave.
“Good night, Colt. Sleep well,” I called after him. He didn't reply.
Sleep soon overcame me. My first dreams. I still remember what I dreamed about. Colt and me being together forever. We were happy and we loved each other. I never wanted to wake up, but I did.
I open my eyes. I don't want to think about it anymore. It is just too painful. I used to hold on tightly to those memories; now I just want to forget them. My eyes have been opened. I was so naive back then, actually believing that Colt had any feelings towards me.
I sigh. My room is bare. Everything is gone, my bed, my desk, everything. I have to escape from this, so I close my eyes and slip back in to my memories.
From that first day I put everything into saying I loved Colt. After the first few mornings, I would get up and make Colt breakfast, then serve it to him in bed. He would simply stare as he ate.
At first we explored Neopia together. Every day we would go through a routine going to certain places. Soon Colt grew tired of that, so I went by myself. I would go every day, doing things that were called dailies. I longed for Colt to be by my side, but I went without him. It was one of the ways I said 'I love you.'
I would spend hours at the games room making neopoints. I knew Colt didn't like doing it, so I did it for him. When our neohome got dirty, I would clean it. Anything Colt didn't want to do, I did it.
I would start up conversations with him. He would then babble on about topics that interested him. I would listen closely. I would nod and ask a question here and there. Caring about what Colt was saying was another way I said 'I love you.'
I remember the first time I got sick. It was sneezles. Colt simply bought the cure and that was that. A few weeks later Colt got sick. I took care of him like you were supposed to be taken care of when you are sick. I made him stay in bed. I brought him all his favorite books to read and cooked all his favorite foods. It was just another way I told him that I loved him.
Colt never once said thank you. Not that I cared. I wasn't doing this for a thank you. I wasn't even doing it for him to tell me that he loved me. No, I was doing it because I truly loved him with all of my heart. I wanted him to know, but even he if he never did, I wouldn't regret a thing. That's what love really is.
Then it happened. It wouldn't be the last time either. Colt started to pack up our neohome. He sold everything he owned, then gave away all of his neopoints. He said he was leaving Neopia and never coming back. I was heartbroken. I didn't know what I was going to do. I kept a strong face around him, but when I was alone I fell apart. I'm surprised I didn't run out of tears.
Then I was saved. Colt changed his mind. He told me that a plot was going on and he just couldn't leave in the middle of it. I felt like the world was lifted off my shoulders. It was put back again only a year later.
He did it so many times. Claimed he was leaving, then not, something kept holding him here. Each time it almost killed me.
I open my eyes. It is time to face this. Colt is leaving and this time I know it is for real. Nothing will hold him here. I am going to lose him. I am awake now. Colt never felt anything for me, nothing at all. I still love him; I will always love him.
I pick myself off of the floor. It is time to say goodbye. I don't know what is going to happen to me, if I am going to the pound. I don't really care.
I make my way downstairs. Once I am down, I just stand in the entrance hall and stare at the door.
“Layla,” Colt says from behind me.
I turn, ready for whatever is coming. Ready for the end.
Colt reaches in his pocket and produces a small object. He holds it out to me.
“What...?” I ask, breathless, taking it with shaking hands. I realize it is a small, glass figurine. It is a spardel. I look up in awe.
“You remembered,” I whisper.
“I saw it and thought of you,” Colt says awkwardly. He turns to leave.
“I'm staying. Something just keeps holding me here. I don't know what,” he says. Then he retreats to the kitchen mumbling about all the work he has to do.
I am absorbed in the figurine. He had thought of me.
“I love you too,” I whisper.