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He had scaled mountains, swam across rivers, fought wild boars (okay, that was on his Grandfather’s farm), slept in a tent during a hail storm on more than one occasion, and danced around camp fires, singing, as large yellow-orange flames licked at the twinkling stars, but asking Emilia Blanchard to home coming was something that made Dennis Chang quake in terror.
Dennis had had a crush on Emilia since seventh grade when the sweet, little, blond, girl moved to town. In those days he was even to nervous to talk to her! He could still recall the first words he had ever spoken to her with stinging clarity. There she was, walking down the hall one foot in front of the other swaying like a reed in the stream behind Dennis’ house. Her head was bent and her hair hung around her like a gauzy curtain. Her milk white face was graced by two roses blooming in her cheeks and her haunting, forest green, eyes were down cast behind the lenses of her glasses. Her pink lips moved as she counted the papers she had folded to her chest but no sound came out.
As she passed by Dennis he felt the irresistible urge to pay her a complement. “I like your—your braces look nice!” He shouted loudly enough that everyone in the hall spun round to look at him. Emilia stopped dead in her tracks, mouth agape, and stared at him. The heat rose to his cheeks and he staggered backwards but hit the lockers behind him.
“Stop making fun of me!” She shouted back and trotted away.
Since that day he had avoided Emilia like the plague. When they were forced to be together he’d freeze up and become very quiet. In the three years he’d known her there had been such occasions when they were partners in class. The way it usually worked out was that when they were actually together during class Emilia would do most of the work but for fear of letting her think he was dumb, he’d finish up the assignment at home and bring it to her. One of the times he had done this she laughed, a bubbly giggle that reminded Dennis of water trickling over the rocks of a small water fall, and said “Wow, we should work together more often! You’re pretty efficient!” Dennis melted. Her eyes searched blushing face and darted from red ear to red ear before she gave him a little half smile and turned away.
Three years. Three years he had known her and loved her. Since the day he first saw her in seventh grade. It was freshman year and he was bound and determined to ask her to homecoming! It had actually been his new year’s resolution; to ask out Emilia Blanchard! But where to begin? He asked his very American mother “Mom, how do I talk to girls?”
She didn’t even look up from the pots she was scrubbing “Hi. How’re you? My name is Dennis.”
“Mom! No! Not like that!”
“That’s how you talk to girls, son! They’re people too!”
Dennis growled in frustration, when his father entered the kitchen. “Be a man! Talk to her!” though his father was a first generation immigrant from China his English was impeccable. The only things that alluded to his childhood in China were his face and his slight accent.
“But…” Whimpered Dennis.
“How do you think I got your mother?” Asked Mr. Chang wrapping his arm around Mrs. Chang’s waist.
Dennis sighed. “I’m going for a walk.” Announced Dennis wearily sliding from his stool at the kitchen table.
He exited out of the kitchen door. The screen banged behind him as his worn sneakers met the orange, red, and gold leaves littering the ground. He sighed again. His father would be making him rake those up soon.
Without further ado Dennis bolted away. He pitched himself over the small, winding stream with a grunt and landed on the other bank next to the bridge. He staggered up the small slope and ran to the trees ahead of him. Sticks cracked under his pounding feet, branches reached out to scratch at his face and tug at his blue hoodie. His heart pounded in his chest like a wild bird beating against its cage. It made him smile to think something besides Emilia could make his heart beat so fast. He sprung and grabbed the lowest branch of his favorite tree, swung thrice, then pulled himself into its bows. Dennis ascended the branches like a stair case until he was in the topmost part. From there he could see his home to the south, east: the highway, west: more road and then the town and north: there lay a sea of trees. All of them turning because it was autumn. He slumped against the tree’s trunk as he panted, still clinging to the slim branch with his legs. It was in that tree he resolved to ask Emilia Blanchard to homecoming the very next day.
His heart pounded like a drum in his ears as he neared her. She was sitting there at the table reading. Her glasses were balanced on the end of her nose, her left hand supported her head and sunlight danced in her hair. He gulped. She was so beautiful. “Emilia?” He said quietly.
“Hmm?” Her head shot up and he watched as the mist cleared from her eyes.
Dennis pulled up a chair and sat down next to her, then leaned in close and asked “Have you got a date for homecoming?”
“No.” She answered in a high pitched mewl.
“Would you like to be mine?—I mean, my date for homecoming!”
She smiled sweetly. “I’d like that. Very much.”
Dennis laughed “Cool.” He rose to leave.
“Wait.” He turned slowly. Emilia tore a corner from a piece of notebook paper and scrawled something across it. “Call me.” She said smiling and sliding it towards him.
He took it and nodded then left the room. He was having trouble hiding his silly grin. I guess fortune does in fact favor the brave. He thought to himself. Then he also recalled the axiom “Courage is not the absence of fear, but the mastery of it.” When he asked Emilia to home coming he had mastered his fear and became brave.
Dennis had scaled mountains, swam across rivers, fought wild boars (okay, that was on his Grandfather’s farm), slept in a tent during a hail storm on more than one occasion, danced around camp fires, singing, as large yellow-orange flames licked at the twinkling stars, and asked his crush of three years, Emilia Blanchard, to home coming.