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The girl sat on the make-shift bridge – a plank of wood thrown across a thin creek – and stared off into oblivion. The thoughts running through her brain were disconnected, and she didn’t concern herself with keeping them on a specific track. She let her inner self run free within the constraints of her mind. To the world outside of her skull, she looked idle and bored, her legs swinging steadily back and forth over the dribbling water, her shoulders slouched and eyes pressed firmly closed. She was nothing special. Just a teenager who looked she was twelve years old, with an overactive imagination and a shy smile.
But she fascinated him.
He knew that she couldn’t see him. For one thing, her eyes were closed. For another, he was hidden in a blackberry bush. Ah, the things one suffers for love. Even from afar.
He’d seen her there at the beginning of the summer, swinging her legs back and forth across the creek, head turned down, lost in the pages of a book. He never had found out what the book was. It really didn’t matter, after all. Every day, around the same time, he had taken to visiting her at the creek. Only, she didn’t know she was being visited.
He thought it was romantic. His adoration for her, combined with the fact that he didn’t even know her name. It was beautiful, in some strange, poetic way. He’d never felt like this before, and didn’t know what to do with himself. It was different. She was different.
He’d never seen her before that June afternoon. For a while, he hadn’t even known if she was really real. Maybe he had been imagining her. After all, she was in his backyard. What kind of girl spent her time lounging around on planks of wood in other people’s backyards? He didn’t know the answer to his question. He’d never spoken to her. How could he? It would ruin everything. He didn’t want to know who she really was. That would make it all too real. It would take away the element of mystery, of fantasy. She would be just as real, as mediocre, as his friends at school, as his hockey buddies, as his obnoxious little sister. He didn’t think he could deal with that.
He thought once of revealing himself to her. Not telling her that he’d been watching her almost daily since the beginning of summer, of course – that would seem strange. Creepy. But just introducing him self. Saying hi. It couldn’t hurt, could it? Something good might come of it.
But he’d chickened out. He always chickened out. He could play hockey with the best of them, throw a punch like a pro, beat everyone in the room in a game of Halo, but could he talk to girls? Not a chance. Especially ones like this one. The ethereal ones always confused him. It was almost as though they didn’t belong on earth. Like they weren’t quite human, like everyone else. As though, some time while they were being created, a bit of matter got mixed up and they became one with the gods.
He didn’t believe in gods, but girls like her made him think he ought to. That, maybe if he did, he would have a chance. But you don’t have a chance with someone you can’t even talk to.
Not only that, but would he want the chance if he got it? It would change the way people saw him. He wouldn’t be like everybody else. He would have her, and she was different. And, to some people, different isn’t a good thing. It’s a reason for ridicule and torture. It makes people harbor hatred and jealousy. It can be a thing of horror as well as one of beauty.
It makes you think twice, doesn’t it?
He sighed quietly, lamenting his inability to expose himself, to come forth from the underbrush. He lifted a foot off of the ground to regain his balance, and before he could realize what was happening he was heading backwards, wheeling his arms around to steady himself. It was useless. He fell to the ground with a loud thud, accompanied by a quartet of cracks.
Her eyes shot open. She was pulled back to reality with the severity of a blunt knife. She jumped up as quickly as she could, and stood bewildered on the plank.
“Who’s there?” She whispered, a look of desperate wariness plain as day on her face. Even when he wanted nothing more than to turn and run away in fear, he was still taken aback by the things he could read on her face. Never before had he met a girl who so wore her heart on her sleeve.
He sucked back a gulp of chilly air, trying to keep his calm. This was it. It was all or nothing. All he could do was try not to make a fool of him self. Not exactly a short order, but he could manage. Right? He wasn’t too sure.
“Hi,” He said, emerging from the bushes. Well, he tried to say it. His voice got stuck somewhere just inside his throat, and he stepped forward with just an abrupt squeaking noise. He cringed, and stuffed his hands inside his pants pockets, trying not to think about the humiliation he was about to put himself through. He took another step forward, and was immediately tugged backwards with more force than he could have possibly expected. He shot backwards, settling quite uncomfortably with his rear set in a nice thatch of prickles. He winced in pain, and dislodged the blackberry vine from where it had snagged on his t-shirt. He should have worn long sleeves, he thought as he surveyed the wounds in his arm left by the moderately large thorns that had been so viciously attacking him.
“Hi,” He repeated, this time getting the words to come out. He was surprised by the force with which he spoke – his voice was far louder than intended. It sounded a bit rude, really. He stood up, brushing off his jeans and hoping that he hadn’t squashed any berries into them, though it was unlikely that he hadn’t. His butt was probably bright purple. “I’m Brandon.”
“Mira,” She said. Mira. It sounded cheesy, but he couldn’t help but think it appropriate that her name was so original, so pretty. What if she’d been a Lauren, or an Emily? What then? Would it detract from her novelty? He thought so. He couldn’t imagine her being generic. It just didn’t work. “W-were you hiding there?” She asked, a puzzled expression shadowing her face.
He couldn’t speak. He wanted to answer, to deny it, but the words wouldn’t come out. He couldn’t even think of the words he wanted to use.
She had an accent. She was British. Her voice flowed like honey and milk. He was floored. He literally felt faint, like his head was about to explode. Was it some sort of sensory overload?
She frowned, confused by his silence. She was concerned. What had happened? Had he been stung by a bee? She had seen a lot of bees about that summer – especially around the blackberry bushes. Bees like sweets. What if he was allergic? Her eyes widened. She didn’t have the faintest idea what to do with a bee allergy. She had none, herself. She’d never encountered a person with a bee allergy, not when they’d actually been stung. What would she do?
“Are you okay? Do I need to run home and call an ambulance?” She asked, her voice soft as feathers. He could hear the slight panic in her voice, and grappled to find the words to tell her that he was fine.
Finally, after what seemed like a lifetime, he seemed to find them. “No,” He breathed as loudly as he could (which wasn’t very loud at all). “I’m all right. Nothing’s wrong here,” He insisted.
He sighed then, grateful to his brain for not completely failing him in his time of need.
A long silence passed. Both teenagers stood still, not wanting to look at one another, not wanting to be the first to break the quiet.
“Well, I’ve never seen you before,” She said quietly, biting her lower lip. “Did you just move here?”
He laughed. Imagine, having just moved here! It was undeniably funny, though she didn’t get the joke.
“No,” He smiled, trying to wipe the smarmy grin off of his face. He didn’t want to come off as even more of a idiot than he already had. “I’ve lived here all my life. I was actually born in my parents bathroom. I’ve peed in that creek countless times.” And there I go giving away too much unnecessary information. Scaring her away. She’ll be running away screaming soon, he thought. “Sorry,” He quickly apologized as she looked down at the thin creek running beneath her with apprehension. “I shouldn’t have said that. It was stupid.”
“No, don’t worry about it. It’s not that big a deal.” She said, looking up at him shyly and than quickly averting her eyes. Maybe, just maybe, he wasn’t the only awkward one in the forest. Maybe there was hope yet.
“So, you must be new around here if you’ve never seen me around,” He said. Immediately he regretted it. Self-conscious, he realized how pompous and self-important it made him seem.
“Yeah, actually I just moved here. With my grandparents, at the beginning of the summer,” She replied. She crossed the plank carefully, not looking up from her t-strap flats. She stood hesitantly on the opposite bank of the creek.
“Your grandparents? What about your parents?” He inquired.
She shifted her weight from one foot to the other tentatively.
“Wait, sorry, that was rude. I don’t mean to intrude into your personal life. Hey, did you notice that? I rhymed. Rude and intrude,” His laugh was nervous, but his smile was real when he saw her crack a slim grin.
“Yeah. Well, I’d better get home. Nana’ll be worrying. She’s not too good with me going off on my own. I’ll see you around?” She posed it like a question, and he wanted nothing more than to give her a definite answer. He wanted a time and place, something concrete. Something, anything, to prove that she wasn’t just a dream. To prove that she was really real.
“Yeah. See you around.” He repeated her words, not trusting himself to think of others. He needed to calm down. She was just a girl. It wasn’t that big a deal.
“Oh, and Brandon?” She said, turning around to face him just before the edge of the forest.
“I’m really real.”