We were sitting in the hall, right on the tile, at the fork of the hallways between the two separate locker rooms. Her head was leaning on my shoulder, so naturally, like it belonged there. I believed it did.
We belong together, I thought with a sigh of contentment.
We had known each other since ever. We had never really been close friends or anything. More like acquaintances. Our mothers knew each other from that one year where we went to the same summer camp. That was when I was seven, so we must have known each other since we were very young. But I didnt really notice her until high school.
She was what most people would call a late bloomer, I guess: small, with tiny breasts and slim hips. Or maybe she was just like that. Whatever the reason, I thought she was beautiful.
I admit that since the day I had noticed her in the school hallway, I became more than a little fascinated by her. She was of those loner girls who would sit in the corner of the communal areas reading or doing homework like there was no one else around. Despite the fact that I was nowhere near as lonesome as her or maybe because of it I found that there was something about her that was attractive to me.
I didnt tell anyone, of course. My friends would probably have found it weird for me to have an interest in a girl like that. After all, they would perhaps say, shes a loner, right? Shes a bit strange, so people dont want to hang out with her. Just leave it alone.
I couldnt leave it alone.
One day, a while after I had started observing her, I tried speaking to her. I had a class near to where she normally sat on her own, so I went early and carefully, slowly, like I was trying to not scare away a delicate and skittish wild bird, I sat on the bench beside her.
She seemed to take no notice of me. She was reading a novel of some sort, the small fingers of her small hands curled just so around the paperback covers, the long, dark hair on her head falling in a luscious curtain on her shoulders. She was lovely and I wanted nothing more than to tell her so.
I was staring at her for so long that she must have finally felt it, because she suddenly looked up at me, a frightened kind of expression appearing on her face when she noticed that yes, I was looking at her.
This was my chance. I wanted to say Dont be afraid, but instead I smiled, moulding my own expression into one of innocuous, passing curiosity, and asked, What are you reading?
She stared at me for a second more, like she didnt understand the question, then she said, softly, Enduring Love.
Oh, I said. Whats it about?
Its about a man who...whos stalked by someone because that person thinks theyre in love.
And theyre not?
Will it end well?
No, she said again, then reconsidered. Maybe. It depends on the characters, I guess.
Doesnt it always? I teased her, smiling, a little boldly maybe, and miraculously she smiled back after a seconds hesitation, saying, Of course.
Then I went to my class. From my seat within the classroom, I saw her get up and leave the bench just in time for her own class. I watched her walk until she was out of sight, and she was so beautiful I could have cried.
The hall in the sports wing of the school was still deserted except for us, sitting there together in complete silence. She was so quiet that my own breaths seemed loud and gross, but she didnt seem to mind. She still had her head tipped casually on my shoulder. Affectionately, I turned my face toward her and very gently kissed her on the temple. Her hair was unbound and still sweat-flecked from gym class, but she still smelled and looked lovely, just like I had always imagined she would, up close.
Over the next few weeks, we would meet a lot at school, entirely by coincidence. It was wonderful because ever since we had talked about Enduring Love she would smile at me a little in the hall, a small, secret smile that made me feel weak-kneed and silly every time I saw it. Most times it would be only that, a smile sent in passing, but whenever I had the chance I went to sit with her on her lonely little bench, and we would talk about stuff, like we had always been friends.
I think she was shy. Whenever I came around, she would always look at me a little uncertainly, like she didnt know what to do. I, of course, would start to speak almost instantly, almost constantly, trying desperately to put her at ease. And sure enough, a few seconds later she would open up and start talking, and the sound of her voice would fill me with a warmth such as I had never experienced in all my life.
And then one day, I received it. Her letter.
I hadnt seen her anywhere that week, so it had me a little depressed. I had deserted my usual group of friends and taken to wandering the school grounds during the breaks, thinking only of her and her hair and her voice and the way her fingers curled around the pages of her books. When the bell sounded the end of lunch hour, I returned to the school to gather my things for class, and as I was pulling a binder from my locker it fell out onto the floor: a tiny white envelope, sealed, with a little decorative swirl printed on the corner. The envelope wasnt signed and neither was the letter inside, but I knew, I knew exactly who it was from the moment I held it in my hand. I was positive that it was from her.
It couldnt not have been from her. Although I had never read her writing or examined her penmanship, I was certain that the letter was from her. The letter within the envelope contained all the nuances I thought I had heard in her speech. I could imagine her lips forming every word, her voice cushioning and lifting the syllables to my waiting ears. I could even hear the scratch of her writing instrument as she penned every word, every letter that formed the confession of love that I was reading at that very instant.
For it was a confession, that much was certain. Searing, yet delicate. Fumbling, yet sincere. In those few words, I had glimpsed the extent of that angelic power of hers that I had been hunting for ever since the day of our true meeting. In that letter, she had laid bare her soul for me, invited me into the deepest recesses of her being, cajoled me to her breast like the sweetest of lovers.
I sat in the hall next to my open locker, clutching the letter to my chest and crying, crying because finally my wish was coming true.
Already, the sun was casting its last light into the sports wing as it set. Soon, the shortened day would turn to night. I could hardly wait. I was so excited to be able to be with her for the whole evening.
She was quiet, so quiet and peaceful. She hadnt changed out of her gym clothes yet, but I didnt mind. She looked stunning, especially bathed in the red light streaming in through the high windows, the red light trickling down the wall.
I shifted as carefully as I could and took her hand, lacing our fingers lovingly together. Her fingers were cool from touching the tile, cool and white and perfect.
Footsteps sounded farther down the hall, coming toward us. Voices too. But we didnt care who saw.
I waited for days to be able to speak to her again. I was constantly giddy and on edge, exuberant and in a sort of rage at having to wait so long. I didnt have to wait, not really, but I had told myself that it had to be perfect, our meeting, and that for it to be perfect I would have to wait for the ideal moment.
So I waited until the end of the week. On Friday, we had gym class together. I would speak to her then.
Time seemed to crawl by as we ran lap after lap in the afternoon sun. I thought I had run miles more than I actually did, but that was because my mind was always racing ahead, far ahead to the end of class, when we would finally speak face to face again.
The moment class was dismissed, I dashed from the track and seated myself on the stairs overlooking the entrances to the locker rooms, not even bothering to change out of my gym clothes. Then I waited, waited with one hand drumming an impatient rhythm on my knee.
Then I saw her, sweaty and exhausted from running, but no less beautiful in my eyes than she had ever been. She was going into the girls locker room as a throng of people was exiting it. As eager as I was to confront her and make my love for her known, I feigned indifference as she passed. I focused on the twittering of the girls walking by me : I am so tired! That guy is such a jerk, I cant believe it... So if you subtract that much from the trig circle, then you get that answer? Did he even say anything? Not a word. Probably tossed it the moment he saw it, the jerk. Yeah, so that makes three-quarters-pi your value. But you stuck it in his locker, right? I need to get home! Yeah, I think so. Im almost sure...
Once the crowd had moved out of the sports wing and out of sight, I thought it safe to assume that we would be alone.
Boldly, I leaped down the stairs and entered the girls locker room.
When I saw for certain that she was the only one there, I exhaled a sigh of relief. I would have hated for anyone to infringe on this crucial moment. I dont know how I would handled it.
I glimpsed her at the end of the room and approached her slowly, from behind. When I was two steps behind her, I stopped, taking care to announce my presence by making my last step a little louder.
She glanced back at the sound, then swerved around completely as she saw me. I smiled brightly, knowing she had recognized me, but inside I was confused at the look of fright on her face.
I thought maybe I had scared her by coming in right behind her, so I tried to fix my mistake by saying in my gentlest tone: Hi.
She only stared at me, holding her arms up slightly in front of her, like a shield. Why was she so afraid? I felt a leap of tenderness toward her and thought I should take her in my arms right then, but I held back.
I got your letter, I said.
E-Excuse me? she said.
Your letter, I repeated, deliberately, gently again. I got it a few days ago. Im sorry I took so long to respond.
What...what letter? I never sent you a letter.
Of course you did. I got it in my locker.
Her face hardened suddenly, losing the look of confusion and taking on a strange, defensive cast.
I never sent you a letter, she said again, but with a new tautness in her voice that was not pleasant to hear.
I almost got angry then, almost reached out to grab her and tell her to cut the crap, but I couldnt because she was so pretty and delicate. And that was when I realized what was happening.
Oh. Oh! I get it. I see. Oh, Im so sorry.
I shouldnt be pushing you like this. Of course, youve never done this before. Youre shy, right? Oh, but you dont have to be with me.
What are you...
Its okay, really. Im kinda shy too. Ive never met anyone as beautiful as you.
Her eyes widened then, and I felt another smile pull at my lips, but it faded when I saw her take a step back, away from me.
Whats wrong? I asked her. Its okay. Dont be scared. Im ready to be with you.
Im flattered, she said then, still defensive, still hiding behind her arms. But I cant...youre...
You cant what?
Youre...I have to go... I have to go...
And suddenly she pushed away from the lockers and tried to run past me, but I managed to catch her by the arms and pull her back toward me.
Dont run! I said to her. Please, dont run! Im scared too, but we can do this together, so please dont run!
She started to say something but I silenced her by pressing my lips hard against hers. That seemed to mollify her, and she became less stiff in my arms, but the moment I tried to hold her against me she struggled again and hit me over and over with her elbows. I tried desperately to hold on but couldnt when she delivered a stinging blow beneath my chin. I fell away and she ran, ran right out of the locker room.
I was confused and slightly heartbroken, but then I thought Shes only shy, shes only scared of our love because its so strong. I need to help her. And I chased her out of the room.
I caught up to her in the hall separating the girls locker room from the boys locker room. When I grabbed her by the arm she still struggled in that weird frightened manner, so I did the only thing I could think of and shoved her back against the wall with a kiss. Our union was like a crack of lightning and when I pulled away she gasped, to which I smiled, finally letting all the affection in my heart show through.
But then something went wrong. Perhaps it was her shyness, or some inner fear I had not glimpsed through her letter, but she started to fight me again and try to run, and I had to hold on, telling her to please, dont run, well get through this, but then she started to scream, screaming help, help, someone help me, and the poor thing was so scared that the only thing I could do to keep her quiet was to hold her tight, tighter than I ever thought it possible to hold someone.
And before I knew it, she was relaxing in my arms, and when I released her throat, the source of the noise she had been making before, no sound came out. She was quiet and still and accepting. Finally, finally. I smiled, and whispered I love you, and kissed her as we sank to the floor.
We arranged ourselves on the floor of the hall, just as I had always dreamed we would after class, our backs against the wall, her head leaning so naturally on my shoulder, our hands touching so innocently. This was how it was supposed to be. This is how we were meant to be.
The light was almost gone from the sky. Our little hall was already cast in shadow, with only the dim fluorescent lighting from each of the locker rooms reaching out, not touching us.
We had probably missed the buses by now, but we didnt care.
The footsteps were getting louder, the voices were getting louder, but why should we care about them? We were just another couple, except that our love was deeper and stronger than any simple teenage love could ever be, but they couldnt know that, no, they definitely couldnt.
So we resolved to ignore them as they walked past. I turned my face away from the hallway ahead and kissed her again, reaching out with my other hand to caress her long, dark hair. She smelled sweet and sharp and so perfect, just like her skin was perfect and her voice was perfect and her eyes, her dark eyes open so wide and beseeching toward my own, were the very essence of perfection.
I was so absorbed in my love that I was startled when a girl screamed. I looked up at her and she screamed again, a long, wordless sound that grated at my ear. I spoke up and told her to please shut up, were not in your way or anything, but she only screamed again and again and more people were running up now, the volleyball team or something, and they were standing there confused and noisy and asking me what the hell was wrong with me, and I said nothing, whats wrong with you, cant you see that were busy?
Then my gym teacher appeared and without any warning at all wrenched me away from her, and that was when I began to scream too, stop it, stop it, what are you doing, mind your own business, asshole, but he kept holding me back and keeping me from where she still sat on the floor, sitting beautiful and pale and quiet, my beautiful pale quiet love, please dont take her away, please dont, no, please dont dont dont dont dont but no one heard me because the first girl was screaming blood, oh God, oh God, blood blood blood.