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I met the girl one night at a park by my house. I hadn't planned to meet her there or anything. H***, she was a stranger to me. I hadn't even seen her before. Or maybe I had, I don't really know to tell you the truth.

The sky was smooth, the colour of dappled roses. I sat alone on one of the only two swings at the park. When the park was made there had been six, but the other four were broken over the years. I scuffed my winter boots against the snow-covered ground, which glinted like a billion tiny gems beneath the silver moon. I never scuffed hard enough for it to go anywhere, though. I just sat in silence, softly scuffing snow with my boot and staring across the street at the line of houses covered in Christmas lights that shone like rubies and diamonds and emeralds and sapphires. It was kind of beautiful, in a way.

I didn't see the girl at first, only heard her voice when she said, "Hi."

I gazed around, peeling my eyes from the pretty show of lights and peering through the jungle gym a couple feet away.

Nothing.

I crooked my neck, checking behind me, but all I could see was a thick cluster of pine trees. I tightened my gloved hands on the swing. "Hello?" I called out, pretty d*** sure I was hearing things. If I was, I was going to have to get that checked out.

"What's your name?" She asked, her voice reminding me somehow of warm coffee in the early morning and the waves of the ocean.

Though I knew I shouldn't be sharing my name with people I didn't know, especially when I couldn't even see them, I replied with: "Nick. What's yours?"

"Doesn't matter. How old are you?"

I slowly shook my head. "I can't tell you that." I said, pursing my lips.

She sounded hurt when she spoke but at the same time, she didn't. "Why not?"

"'Cause you won't tell me your name."

It was quiet for a moment, but then, "It's Girl."

For some reason, I just laughed.

"What?" She asked, and by the sound of her voice it seemed like she was laughing a little, too. "What's so funny?"

I pulled my hands from the swing and stuffed them into my coat pocket for warmth. "You can't actually expect me to believe your name is Girl." I said, once again looking at the twinkling Christmas lights. "I mean, no offence, but what kind of name is Girl?" I realized all of a sudden how stupid I would look if someone happened to walk by at that exact moment. They'd probably think I was going crazy or something. Then again, maybe I was going crazy.
"What? So it's okay for a male to have the name Guy but a female can't have the name Girl? That's a little sexist if you ask me."

"You're right. I'm sorry, Girl." It was silent then and I bit my lip hard to keep from laughing out loud.

"So?"

My eyebrows knitted together. "So what?"
"So how old are you?"
"Oh," I said, remembering why she told me her name in the first place. "Seventeen, you?"
"Seventeen in two days."

I smiled sadly. December seventeenth. "That's my Mom's birthday."
"That's sweet. What are you getting her?"
“Nothing. She’s died seven years ago.” A lump formed in my throat, making it hard to breathe. “I’ll probably leave flowers on her grave or something like that.”

“I’m sorry. I’m sure she was lovely.”

“Yeah,” I agreed, trying to recall her face to find that I couldn’t. Everything was fuzzy, marred with time. The fact that I couldn’t remember my mom’s face was like a stab in the heart. “Yeah, she was.”

Girl changed the subject, which I was grateful for. “When’s yours, anyways?”

"March fourteenth." I told her, looking down at my feet. "Oh, and happy early birthday."

"Thanks. What's your favourite colour?"

"Easy, blue."

"Why blue?"

I laughed. Who was this girl? "I don't know."

"What do you mean, you don't know?'

"Well I'm sorry, I wasn't informed you had to like a colour for a certain reason." I exhaled, watching the white smoke of my breath hang in the crisp air for a moment, then disappear as if it was never there.
"Of course there has to be a reason. You can't just like something for no reason."
"Okay, so what's your favourite colour?" I asked her, somewhat amused by this whole situation.
"Orange." She answered with absolutely no hesitation.
"Why?"
"Because," She said the word as if she couldn't even believe I was asking. "It's the colour of bonfires and apple cider and fall leaves and the sky at dusk." She sighed, "I enjoy all of those things, therefore I enjoy the colour orange. Why do you like the colour blue?"

I shrugged, making a move to the pads of the gloved fingers through my hair, then realising my hair wasn't long anymore and dropping my hands into my lap. "It's like water, or the sky. It's kind of like freedom, I guess."
"You like water."
I noticed that it wasn't a question, but it didn't seem like a statement either. "Yeah," I agreed. "I like water. I was on a swimming team back in the ninth grade."
“What happened there?”
I closed my eyes, exhaling, then opened them again. The lights across the street were blurry now, as if I was watching them through a sheet of rain. “I don’t really know. Things changed. My passion for it changed.”

“I bet it’s still there.”

Confusion set itself on my face. “What’s still there?”

“The passion.” Girl murmured, just loud enough for my ears to catch.

“Yeah,” I said, nodding, “Yeah, maybe.”

"So what do you think is the most beautiful thing in the world?"

I hesitated, not really sure how to answer. "Maybe the time in the morning when the sun is rising, so it's kind of dark and light at the same time." I said, slowly.
"Oh," She said, as if this answer surprised her or something, "Why?"
A laugh escaped me. "Really? Are you seriously doing that again?"
She laughed too, and I found myself wanting to hear her laugh again. "I told you. Everything has to have a reason. I can't just tell you that you're beautiful, I have to tell you why I think you're beautiful."
My throat was suddenly dry, like sandpaper. Bitter wind bit my cheeks. "And why is that?" I asked.
Somehow, I felt her shrug. "I don't know," She said, her voice bright. "Maybe it's how clueless you are. Or—actually, you know what? I think it's your hair."
"My hair?" I was actually a little surprised. I'd gotten a buzz cut a few days ago, actually, and to be honest I wasn't really feeling it. "Seriously?"
"No." She smacked her lips together. "I think it's just you. You're just plain beautiful."
"Ha. Thanks. I’d tell you the same if I could see you.”
“You don’t need to see me to think I’m beautiful.”
My mouth twitched, the beginning of a grin. “Okay then, Girl, I think you’re all kinds of beautiful.”
She didn't answer.
"Girl?"
"Mhm?"
"Just making sure you're still there."
Again, she doesn't answer. I tilted my head back and stared up at the sky. It was the colour of a dark pair of denim jeans now, and the stars were hanging so low I could feel their white heat pricking my skin. Or maybe that was just nerves, though I couldn't really tell you why I was nervous. I just was.
"Nick?"
"Yeah?"
It took a moment for her to continue, but she did, "Can you do me a favour?"
"Uh, sure. What is it?"
Her hesitation practically howled at me as I sat there beneath the full moon, and this weird feeling broke free in my chest as I waited for her to speak. "Let me kiss you."
My throat closed up and moths, or something bigger maybe, like birds, swarmed in the pit of my stomach because, well, I'd never actually been kissed before. Not like that would come as a huge surprise to you, or anything. I guessed I had nothing to lose. "Alright," I told her, my voice low and husky. I wanted to laugh then, with how stupid I must have sounded. "Go for it."
"But you have to promise you'll keep your eyes closed."
"Okay."
"Swear it."
"I swear that I will keep my eyes closed while you're kissing me." I smiled a little. I couldn't believe I was saying this. It was sort of funny, really.
"Alright." Girl said, "On the count of three, close your eyes."
One. I heard the crunch of snow which must have be her footfall somewhere behind me, and all of a sudden I was kind of afraid that she was going to stab me or something.
Two. But, no, I didn't think she'd do that. I'd only known her for about half an hour, yet already I found myself trusting her.
Three.
I squeezed my eyes shut and a moment later her hands were bracketing my face. A fire was burning somewhere inside of me, the flames charring my throat, as Girl pressed her lips to mine, short, longer, longest. She breathed warmth into my mouth and suddenly all I so badly wanted to pull her against me and just feel her, all of her, but then she pulled away. "Thanks, Nick." She whispered, her words falling onto my forehead. "This means a lot."
I heard her step away from me, but after that everything was silent. The sound of traffic honking floated faintly to me from some distance away. "Alright." I said, "On three I'm going to open my eyes."
One.
Two.
Three.
I opened my eyes to nothing. "Um, Girl?" I called, kind of upset that she wasn't there. Okay, I was really upset, but I couldn't just admit that. I was a man. My head dropped and I stared at the snowy ground, where something caught my eye.
Footprints.
A smile broke over me; I was going to find her. I stood up, the swing squeaking at the sudden movement, and followed the footprints away from the park. Cold air slithered like a charmed cobra up the folds of my coat, leaving goose bumps on my skin. As I reached the curb of the street, the footprints disappeared, but in a clean patch of snow there was a message obviously written by the clean hand of Girl:
Bye, Nick.
I smiled, even though I'd practically lost this one. I sat down on the curb and spent the rest of the night being bathed by the moonlight and thinking about how she smelled a bit like apples and cinnamon and how I kind of liked it.



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