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Love Always Finds Its Way Back Home
We were in third grade when I first talked to a boy who didn’t believe that girls had cooties. Our teacher had just asked us to write a paragraph on what we did over the weekend, to help us improve our writing skills. The boy who sat across from me at the table looked up and taped on my side of the table.
I looked at him and noticed he had a mischievous grin on his face (even though I didn’t know what that word meant back then, I remember him smiling like that). “What?” I whispered, afraid we were going to get shushed by the other two kids we shared the table with.
“Can I borrow a pencil?” He whispered back.
I bent down in my chair and looked inside my table cubby, checking to see if I had a spare pencil somewhere. Just as I was about to tell the boy that I didn’t have an extra one, I spotted one at the very back of the cubby. It was a pink pencil with a ballet shoes top eraser.
“Thanks,” he said, taking off the eraser and putting it next to his lined paper. “I’m Bradley.” He looked at me, his startling (but beautiful) pale gray eyes sparkling, and he was smiling a wide smile.
“Mae,” I replied, shyly smiling back before returning to my paragraph.
Over the years, we grew closer. We had fun, chasing each other around the playground and playing Hide-n’-Seek. And when we got into middle school, he would help me with my homework. He was always the smarter one out of the two of us, and he did it without trying.
Then, on Valentine’s Day in the seventh grade, Bradley was dared by his friend to kiss me on the cheek. But instead, he kissed me on the mouth. We were together, or as together as seventh graders can be, for the rest of the year.
Then, in the first weeks of summer, he told me he had to tell me something important. So we met up at the neighborhood park.
I was hanging out on the swings when he walked up, his hands in his pockets. “Hey,” I said, offering up a small smile.
“Hi,” he replied, looking at the ground, kicking at a pebble.
He sat in the swing next to me, and we sat in silence, both of us staring at our feet. Finally, he said, “I’m moving.”
“What?” I said, looking over at him.
He sighed. “My dad got transferred to Washington. We’re leaving in two weeks.”
“Oh,” I said. It was all I could think of to say. I put my thumbnail in my mouth, absentmindedly chewing at it.
We walked to his house in silence. He opened the door for me, and I looked into his family’s living room. Things had already been taken off the wall and put into big cardboard boxes, as well as things from the kitchen and garage. I followed him down the hallway and into his room, which already looked different, even though nothing was put into boxes yet. It made me sad; I almost wanted to cry.
Over the next two weeks, I helped him and his family pack, and on the day they left, me and my mom and dad were standing on the curb next to his family. Bradley walked over to me while our parents talked to each other, saying their last goodbyes.
“So,” he said.
“So,” I echoed.
“I guess this is goodbye.”
I didn’t say anything, only nodded as he pulled me into a tight hug, and didn’t let go until his parents told him to get in the car. I stayed right where he left me, waving as I watched the moving van and his family’s car drive off, and I felt a tear slip from my eye.
Today I decide to go to the library, since my roommate is attending a yoga class. I have never really been into yoga, not like she is, so I really didn’t feel like going with her.
With my history textbook in hand and a tote bag over my shoulder, I look for an empty table among the stacks. And there one is, at the opposite wall against a window. I go over to it and set my stuff down.
After I study for about thirty minutes, I notice a guy is staring at me openly, just a few feet away from the table I am sitting at. He is cute, tan, has dark hair, and is pretty tall. I feel flattered that he is staring at me, but also a little uncomfortable.
“Need something?” I ask, trying not to sound too harsh.
“What? Oh, no. I’m sorry,” he says, seemingly embarrassed that I had caught him staring at me.
“That’s okay,” I reply, turning my attention back to my history book. But not a minute later, I feel his eyes back on me. “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but I have a history test Monday that I really need to study for.”
“Sorry,” he says again. He takes a step closer, and now I can see his face more clearly. “I was just wondering if I could borrow a pencil. You see, I have this eraser, and I don’t have anything to erase.” He holds up a faded ballet shoes top eraser.
Startled, I look from the eraser to the boy’s eyes: very pale, very beautiful, pale gray.
I gasp. “Bradley?” He smiles, and in an instant I threw myself into his arms. “Bradley, I missed you so much,” I tell him softly, as he hugs me.
Now, I thank God I spotted that one pencil in the back of my cubby all those years ago in the third grade. Because if I hadn’t I probably wouldn’t be as happy today, in the arms of Bradley Keefer.