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Strange and Beautiful This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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She tries not to think about it – about him – too much, but the thought of him pops up every once and awhile.

She might think of him at her desk at home when she notices that photo booth picture from when they were younger, or while she's buying coffee and remembers his order (black with three sugars and two creams), or walking through the shops in town and seeing that crazy shade of gold that tinted his eyes in summer. It might be when she smells the stale popcorn on movie seats, or looks at the old pictures – letters she wanted to send, and ones that aren't there anymore, because they were sent, and letters she received, small presents from holidays passed, and pictures of his brothers as they age slowly, photo to photo.

Mostly, it's when she sees the snapshot of him that his mother managed to catch, and the message scrawled in messy handwriting – “Look, hasn't Sean grown? You should visit us soon, Fruit Loop. We miss you.”

She had moved for work. A successful company in Australia offered her a position after school that she couldn't refuse. Of course, a school friend was now in charge, which may have been the reason for her being hired. She was sure her friend was nervous, taking over the family line, so to speak. She worked diligently, to be sure, and never complained; she did everything she was told with a smile. She didn't have any trouble moving up.

No, she had a problem with moving on. Everyone had realized it was impossible for someone like her.

(But was it really? Or was it just because of him?)

She had never wanted anything more than the rolling sand dunes of Sydney's countryside. She told herself this when she moved to Australia at eighteen and left him behind – three years of a broken heart.

(But then, she was lying if she said that. Because when she was little, she said the same thing about the town they used to live in. Of course, she can't ever go back there now. She's stuck – here.)

She'd sent him letters to keep in touch even after the fact (the fact being he dumped her) because, obviously, letters were more romantic than e-mails.

It wasn't like she was trying to win him back. She wasn't. She hoped he was happy with his normal, boring, new girlfriend, who was nice (enough) and who was stable and rich. He loved her. (He had the security she couldn't have given him.)

There was no way she could interrupt his life.

(Biggest lie she'd ever told. The truth was she never intended on loving anyone but him. She would settle for nothing but golden hair and bottle green and molten gold eyes.)

To me, you're strange and ­beautiful.

There were so many possibilities. She could look back at the years they had known each other, and mull over the things they had done, pick everything apart with a scalpel, and still not understand how she had come to love him as she did now. It was, and most likely would forever be, a mystery, but she would have liked to understand, just a little, what it was that started it.

Was it his hair, his bangs always falling in his eyes, the smell of laundry and mint? Was it the color of his eyes, and when his cheeks burned when he was embarrassed? Or was it his skater clothes, always brand names? Him holed up in his room, his clothes that never quite fit, his mumbled comebacks that were sometimes too soft to catch, him pulling away from her. Some of these were reasons for her to hate him, not love him.

Maybe they really weren't so different. After all, love is only one chemical, one single ingredient away from being hate. It's something the brain understands, that humans have denied subconsciously their entire existence. (At least, it was something she had always tried to ignore.)

She had tried to hate him, but she couldn't do it. She came so close, so, so close, but she had never been able to. It should have been easy, but his smile flitted into her mind, and the way he stumbled over his words, his lost contacts from swimming and scars on his hands from falling off his skateboard, that thin necklace he gave her that she wore (and still wears), and his freckled neck.

Once she had come close, and she was sure this was it, but then his voice called her name, crying, happy, flustered, angry, soft, and everything shattered. She found ­herself immersed in memories she didn't want to remember: the sound of his name, the feel of his coat, the touch of his lips, and everything else.

Love was never easy. No one had ever said that; it wasn't what she had expected. She had just wondered if he loved her too. (She had thought yes, but perhaps she was just being conceited.) But maybe she had thought that a love as strong as hers could have been easy. (Maybe that was just her being conceited as well.)

They had their first kiss early on in their relationship. She didn't remember the number of dates or anything else like that. She hadn't counted the seconds – three million, seventy-five thousand, one hundred and three, give or take some – that she had known him. (She didn't mean to count, in the beginning. It was just something that happened.)

It was funny, though. She didn't remember how or when. She just remembered him leaning into her shocked face and touching his lips to hers.

It wasn't a perfect kiss, but it was good enough. She knew there had to be something there from the way he tilted his head and closed his eyes.

It was hot that summer day. That was all she remembered. The heat baking on their faces, the sun smiling at them. Her eyes watering from the brightness. But they had laughed all through their date, leaving downtown after god-knows-she-didn't-remember-what, and walking through the park holding hands as best as you can hold hands in blistering weather.

It was stupidly hot, their breath thick and moist in the air, the sun beating down, tanning their skin.

Maybe that was why the touch of skin chilled. Everything else was hot, burning hot, and yet his lips were cool like ice cubes. He tasted of ice cream, she thought, but he might have tasted like rain. It was so, so stupidly hot; feeling melted into the sidewalks, taking too long to reach the heart and brain, or maybe it was just shock.

(She wouldn't know how describe the taste of rain, now. It was like growth, thick with life; like an awakening and like love. It was him. That was all she could remember. It was him.)

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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fountainpen This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 7, 2013 at 11:58 am
This story is amazing - the breathtaking imagery, flawless prose, and elegant details made this piece one of my all-time favorites!
 
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