Not every word has a singular definition. Love is such a word. We compose a definition ourselves, based on the things we see, read, hear and feel. A feeling of love is composed out of multiple things, such as affection, protectiveness, warmth and respect for another person. Love is one of the most profound emotions we experience as humans. But it also takes on different forms, meaning that we can each experience love in our own way. This is why defining the term 'love' is so difficult.
To sixteen year old Jane, there's love in the way her mom makes gnocchi for her and her brothers. Love is the show of affection towards Frankie in the form of a stomp on his shoulder, and love is letting her youngest brother Tommy pick a movie to watch on Saturday night. It's in her nature; putting everyone else's needs before hers, prioritising everyone's well-being over her own.
If Jane loves someone, she'll rarely ever mention it. Especially sixteen year old Jane. She's all about actions instead of words, and she's waiting for the right person to come along and really notice that about her. But she's only sixteen, and she's not sure she believes in love that goes beyond the love of family. In being romantically attracted to someone. Her parents are always fighting, and although she loves them both, she's not sure they love each other. She doubts real love exists.
Until she falls in love with a teammate from her soccer team, a seventeen year old girl with long, dark hair. Then Jane discovers there's a feeling much worse than love itself: loving someone who'll never love you back. The girl has had a boyfriend for over two years, and there's no way she'll ever fall in love with Jane. The brunette would do anything for her, though. She deliberately chooses the left side of bench in the changing rooms, because she knows the girl will be there, and they'll be able to talk to each other. They live in the same neighbourhood, so they even walk home together. To that girl, it's just a friendship. To Jane, it's so much more.
To sixteen year old Maura, love is abstract. It feels like something she'll never feel. From the scientific point of view, love is a powerful and permanent neurological condition. Love is chemistry and it's not something you can necessarily control. The blonde cannot believe there's someone out there which whom she'll have such chemistry that they fall in love. The both of them.
Because does love really exist, if your own mother leaves you to take care of yourself for 365 days a year? Does love exist if you don't know your birth parents; they'd given you up, since they couldn't (or wouldn't?) take care of you. If they don't love you, their own child, who will love you then? Are you really wanted, needed, on this planet? Switching your feelings off and thinking rationally has brought you so much more than giving into the things you feel.
Love is bigger than us, meaning, though we can invite it into our lives, we don't have control over how, when and where love starts to express itself.
Jane knows she's in love when she shoots herself in front of Headquarters to save her brother. When that bullet shoots right through her stomach and she's falling and falling, Maura's scream echoing in her head. One syllable, her name, called out by the person she doesn't want to leave behind. When the world starts to go black, she remembers those fearful hazel eyes looking at her. In that moment she realised this woman is everything to her. She needs Maura. She would help her with everything, and through anything. She'd marry her. She'd die for her.
The first time Maura notices something's going on between her and Jane, something more than friendship, is when she's laying on her new mattress in the living room - it has been there for a week, but neither one of them cares - and she's talking about her wedding fantasies.
"Can I come?" you ask, knowing the answer will be yes.
Jane grins. "Maybe," she replies with a slight smile, turning towards you and looking up at your face. Her eyes twinkle. Your stomach flips.
Although you know exactly what's happening in your brain right now, you can't even begin to describe what you're really feeling right now.
Jane is still staring into your eyes, and you think of all the things you've been through together. And you realise you're willing to risk your friendship just to be able to say I love you. Because this is the first time you've really felt like you belong with someone. Not with that rich guy from college or the few men and women you've dated over the years. All you want for the rest of your life is to be with this woman right next to you. You share the same experiences, the same job and the same values. The same humor even, because she's taught you that.
The only thing you're unsure of is the consequences. Jane's not very outspoken about her feelings, and you're worried this might cause her to run away from you. Just now you've gotten so close to her. You've seen things she's let no one see. Her late night terrors, her sore hands in the middle of the winter. Her tears in the middle of a stupid romance movie, when it was just the two of you together sitting on your couch. She'd never do that in front of anyone else.
That's how you know.
A short pause. Your eyes speak for themselves.
You take a breath.
"I..- I don't want this to ruin our friendship."
She doesn't frown. She knows exactly what you're talking about even before you've said the words out loud. That's how close the two of you are. It only takes one look, one word, or one lingering touch on your arm to understand what's going on.
Jane moves closer and her fingers come up to trace your cheekbone. This is not the closest you've ever been, but definitely the most intimate. Jane has hugged you many times, a particular show of affection coming from her. You've been physically closer with her than you are now. But right now it feels like the universe is shifting.
"I want to be with you forever."
Your eyes meet again, and you haven't said everything you've wanted to say.
"I want to be with you. Take care of you, even though you don't always like it," your voice is soft, but carries clearly in the silence of her living room.
A soft smile is playing on her lips.
"I know. I'm sorry."
You frown, maintaining eye contact. "Why?"
She closes her eyes and buries her head in the space between your neck and upper arm.
"For making you wait so long. I've loved you forever, Maur."
You gently nudge her, waiting until she lifts her head back up and her brown eyes meet yours again.
You want to kiss her.
"I'd die for you," she whispers. "Really."
You kiss her.
Love is giving someone the power to destroy you, and trusting them not to.
Now, you know what it means to love and to be loved.
Still, Jane puts your needs before hers. It's what she does for the people she loves. Unless you're arguing about needing new clothes, because there's absolutely no way she'll spend her day off in boutiques. On that occasion, Jane's need to watch the Red Sox goes before your need for new shoes.
Still, Jane's commitment and dedication shows in everything she does for you. The same goes for you. There's no way you'll be stupid enough to lose her.
The bond between the two of you has gotten even stronger now. Physically, of course, because you've been physically attracted to Jane since the first time you saw her. Now you finally get the chance to really be with her, hold her, kiss her. You love her when she gives herself to you, late at night or early in the morning, with those brown vulnerable eyes looking up at you. Always trusting you.
Love is the way Jane plays with your hair and presses a kiss to your temple when you're almost asleep. Love is the smell of freshly baked pancakes on your day off, pancakes Jane made even though she hates cooking and even more, getting up early to do it. But she does it for you.
Love is you being the big spoon, even though you're significantly shorter, and wrapping your entire body around the tall, lanky body of hers. Holding her close. Love is the affection you feel towards her when she smiles.
You love her when she wakes up on a Sunday morning with her eyes still half closed and she mumbles something incoherent. It always sounds like love.
You even love her when you disagree on something - you still have your differences - and you love her more when she makes it up to you.
Although your meaning of love has changed a lot, Jane's meaning hasn't changed much. All you know about it, is that there's a change in the way she deals with her feelings towards it. She used to be closed off and only show love through her actions, not through her words. Now, she's vulnerable and open with you about everything she feels and she says 'i love you' at least ten times a day. You're the only person in her life who gets to see everything of her. No one's ever been allowed to.
Love is the two of you working together as a team - most times running smoothly, some times less so - and solving every problem you encounter. Together.
Love is familiarity; you know each other's bodies like the back of your hand, you know the meaning of each other's facial expressions down to the slightest frown and stare.
Love used to be scary. It still is sometimes, when you realise that Jane knows everything about you and could still walk away any second.
You trust her not to. You trust her to keep you safe, and you promise to do the same.
That is love to you now.
I might just leave it at this, I kinda like this ending. Not sure yet ;)
Thanks sweetkid45, Scoundrel73, sally rally (hope this longer chapter is a little better!), L2GQ (I loved how you said that applied knowledge is more powerful. totally agree), burglover421, MarCor3 and katie1370 for reading and leaving reviews! They make me so happy and I'm glad you're enjoying the things I'm writing. To everyone else who reads but doesn't feel like leaving a review: thank you too! You're invisible but I still see you ;)
Finally, let me know if I should continue or if you're okay with this chapter being the end of this short series! I can't think of more words at the moment, but they might come to me later. Who knows.