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The Perfect Accident

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I’m running in the dark, and it’s raining, hard. Great. Every now and then, a fork of lightning dyes the sky a weird, purple-y-blue color. I don’t really know why I’m out here right now. I could just as easily get up early tomorrow and run. But the air seemed to draw me out of my front door, and, well; here I am, brown hair soaked to black, blue jacket clinging to my skin, rain mingling with sweat while I slosh through puddles. Probably, I’m an idiot for running around in a thunderstorm. But I can’t deny how alive I feel right now.

I glance down at my wristwatch, taking a moment to squint at it before remembering how it has a button that will turn on a neon backlight. I don’t stop as I read my time, 8:03:21. That’s great, I’ve covered a little over a mile, and I have to say I’m pleased to be progressing like I am. My training has paid off, and I don’t need to walk at all.

The next mile takes me on another loop around my neighborhood. I think to myself that I’ve got about half a mile before I meet him. Four minutes. Four minutes to get everything hashed out, analyzed and organized mentally, before I run across the object of my pondering. Even with my feet bounding off of the wet concrete of the sidewalk, I’m mentally somewhere totally different. I’m in a little coffee shop. It’s quiet and cool inside, and my hot chocolate is steaming in a mug next to my usual plain old bagel. I stare at the people and the yellow walls while I’m waiting for him, annoyed by his apparent tardiness.

“Is Seth late?” the waitress, named Suzanne, asks me as she puts a to-go cup on the table in front of me, and sets a chocolate muffin and a plastic bottle of skim milk in the seat opposite me. Suzanne is practically the only friendly waitress in this joint, and Seth and I make a point to sit at the same table every morning before school, just so that we get her and not some crank. She has wavy red hair that is curled at the bottom and an optimistic smile.

“Apparently,” I say, grumpily picking at my bagel with a sigh. Just then, the door’s bell announces an arrival, and there he is, framed in the doorway. He’s tall and thin, almost gangly (he’s a little too well-muscled to be exactly gangly), and he’s got floppy sandy hair. Seth zeroes in on the usual table and lopes over. Sometimes, he reminds me of a golden retriever.

“Speak of the devil,” laughs Suzanne, with my money in her hand. She’s even shaking her head as she walks away.

“You’re late,” I inform Seth. I hate scowling, but I know my face is all scrunched up right now.

“Dog ran out the front door while I was leaving,” he tells me with a mouth full of muffin. When I look up, he grins. “Were you worried about me?”

I roll my eyes and let it go. Seth likes to make things awkward. It’s one of his least-charming personality traits. I look at my watch, and realize that we’re four minutes behind schedule.

“Can we gooooo-?” I whine at him. My mug has been empty for a few minutes now.

“Gees, I’m not that late,” he says, but he stands up just the same. Suzanne walks over, rag in hand. She eyes the table warily.

“Seth, ya made a huge mess!”

“Wouldn’t be the first time,” I tell her sarcastically. Seth punches me on the shoulder, and then drags me out the door with a goodbye to Suzanne.

School is going all according to plan until sixth hour. I’m sitting in Mr. Bender’s history class. His brown-bag humor has been winding me up all hour, and even though I’m a pretty level-headed girl, I’m at my wit’s end.

“Mr. Bender, can I go to the vending machines?” I ask him post-lecture.

“No. Go to the cafeteria. Women belong in the kitchen!” He’s laughing, but he’s the only one in the class who is. Maybe the whole class is annoyed at him, or maybe it’s just the look on my face, but they’re silent as the dead.

“I won’t be coming back today,” I tell him. We’ve got half an hour left of class, so I’d bet money he took my words as a challenge to his authority. His face gets all red and he draws in a breath.

“You’re right, Carla. You won’t be back in my class, not with that attitude!” He bellows the last few words. In all honesty, I’m fighting back a laugh. The man literally just gave me permission to skip class-and when he tries to discipline me tomorrow, I have his sexist little comment as a weapon to defend myself. So I grab my book bag and walk out the door with a smile on my face. I can’t be mad at an idiot like that.

I wander outside towards the school’s long forgotten apple tree. It’s almost off campus, but it’s right by the school’s track, where it seems a gym class is running the mile. I think idly that Seth has P.E. this hour, when someone comes jogging over to me.

“Hey there, Carla,” Seth tells me with another one of his carefree smiles. I can’t help but think he should find a smile charity. He’s got plenty of grins to donate.

“Hey, Seth. Won’t you get in trouble for cutting gym?”

“Worrying about me again, eh?” he smirks. ”Won’t you get in trouble for skipping history?”

This time, I hit him. “Bender,” is all I say. He’s not listening anyways, so I don’t explain.

“Owww,” he whines, rubbing his shoulder. “Why can’t you be like other girls, Carla? At least they only slap you when you make fun of them.”

“Because I don’t WANT to be like other girls,” I say with a sigh. He slides down against the trunk next to me. We’re quiet for once. We can hear the coach tweeting his whistle and yelling at kids to ‘stop walking’, and informing the heftier ones that ‘they can make it.’

There’s a cool breeze and it’s just so incredibly nice outside. This is exactly why I love spring. The apple tree has all its leaves again, and the birds sing so loud that you almost forget that they’ve been gone all winter.

Seth turns towards me.

“You really aren’t like other girls,” he says quietly. I’m suspicious of the tone in his voice that indicates he’s having some sort of revelation somewhere in that tiny brain of his.

“Wow, nice of you to notice. You’ve only known me since, what, kindergarten?” I say, heavy on the sarcasm.

“You aren’t though,” he responds evenly. Is he making fun of me? I can’t tell. I turn to read his expression, and I’m shocked. There’s a foreign burning in his eyes, some sort of intense fire that I’ve never seen before. It makes his green eyes shine brighter than ever.

“I, well, I guess not,” I stammer. It happens so suddenly that I barely have time to think about what is happening; Seth leans in close and presses his lips against mine, gently, solidly. I can taste the salt from perspiration on him. I’m even more stunned when he’s the one who breaks it off, instead of me. My insides feel like I just took a long walk off a short cliff.

“Definitely not,” he says quietly, turning away again.

What the…?

Our faces burn red and we’re silent until the bell rings. We don’t speak in the car, either, and our goodbye is half-hearted, each of us speaking distantly from our own little worlds. Then I shut it all out, saving it for later, when I run.

Which is right now.

I check my watch again, and I’ve got a good thirty seconds left. I let myself spew all the questions that have been building up against my mental dam.

Why did he do that? Why didn’t I stop him? Did I say something? Do I like him like that? Why didn’t we do that sooner? Why did we do that at all? What the HECK was he thinking? What am I supposed to say to him? How do I talk to him now? Awh man awh man awh man awh man. He’s actually a pretty good kisser… This is so WEIRD.

Fifteen seconds is up. I’m in view of the mailbox where Seth and I always meet up. At first I don’t think he’s there, because it’s so dark that I can’t make anything out. But he’s watching me from the usual spot. And now I have ten seconds to make up my mind.

Ten. Will this change everything?

Nine. I think it might.

Eight. But, I think I want this.

Seven. What if he doesn’t feel the same?

Six. If he doesn’t, I’ll just...

Five. I don’t know what I’ll do.

Four. I’ll get a cat and become a hermit. Plan made.

Three. What should I say to him now?

Two. Maybe I could do something?

One. Oh, I know!...

And I slow to a walk at the mailbox, stopping my timer on 12:15:98.

“Hey,” I say quietly.

“Hey,” he responds.

I’ve decided to do something spontaneous. I rise up on my tip toes, in order to plant a small kiss on his cheek. But it seems he’s got a similar plan, trying to kiss my forehead. It’s so dark that it’s an accident, but it’s probably the best accident I’ve ever experienced.
Our lips meet again in the darkness, sheer luck bringing them together in the storm.
I really love accidents.



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