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“Stop crying, it’s annoying.”
“Well no one asked you to be here,” the tiny girl hunched up on the steps in front of the local elementary school lifted her head slightly to pin a rather vicious glare at the intruder who had made the comment, “leave me alone.”
Tucking her head back into the safety of her arms, the child continued to let out muted sniffles of discontent as fat droplets of tears hit the pavement below. He knew he should have left at that moment. He had never been one to deal with crying children. Especially kids of the girl type. At the age of fourteen, the only girls Chase willingly communicated with were his mother and teachers. He had no intention of sticking around to comfort the girl, but there was something in the dejected slump of her shoulders and the way she curled in on herself, as if trying to be as inconspicuous as possible that bothered him. Letting out a tired sigh, he took a seat next to her on the concrete steps.
Leaning back on his elbows, Chase turned to look at the girl beside him. Shoulder-length brown hair cascaded in bouncy curls, pinned back with a butterfly clip. She was wearing a bright yellow sundress that was streaked with dirt and grime. As her tears finally came to a stop, the girl took a few deep breaths before looking up at the older boy. Tear-filled blue eyes peered out from behind thick lashes, and she lifted her hand to wipe away the remnants of her distress.
"The others made fun of me," she said by way of explanation, lower lip quivering.
The words came out in a quiet whisper, but he managed to hear them over the dull background noise of the city. He waited for her to continue, allowing her to speak at her own pace. It appeared the silence made her uncomfortable, and she found the need to fill it with her own chatter.
"They said,” she paused, stumbling over her words, “my daddy didn’t love me because he left, and that if my daddy didn’t love me, then the boy I liked would never like me back either.” At this confession, she flushed a bright red and dropped her head back to the protection of her folded arms.
Her voice wavered on the last words, threatening more waterworks, and Chase stilled, finding himself in a delicate situation with the nine year old girl. Tears threatened to spill from her eyes, and Chase felt the urge to stop that from happening.
"That’s not true."
Her head shot up at his comment. "What do you mean?" she asked, her dejected tone had an underlying edge of curiosity and hope.
Placed in this awkward and sensitive situation, Chase had no choice but to explain as best as a fourteen year old boy could. He really didn’t know much about parental abandonment, but now that the girl had a slight hope, he had no other option but to reply. Hopefully, it went smoothly, he wasn’t sure he could handle her tears again.
"All parents love their children, even if the things they do make it seem like they don’t."
Blue eyes brightened in hope, "Really? But he left, and didn’t say goodbye." The hope dimmed.
"He may have had his own reasons for leaving, but I’m sure he loved you in his own way, even if it didn’t seem like it to you" Chase answered gently.
She glared at him suspiciously, but after a short, internal struggle, she lifted her chin up and smiled.
It was then he noticed the scrapes that adorned both knees, and the surrounding bruises. It appeared as though the other children were quite vicious in their taunting. Slipping off his backpack that still rested on his shoulders, he rummaged around until grasping the items he searched for. Pulling a worn water bottle and a bandana from the bag, he turned back to the girl has he twisted off the lid.
"Let’s get you cleaned up."
She looked at him in surprise, until she realized what he was holding and nodded her assent. Pouring the water on the bandana, Chase squatted before her as he waited patiently for her to stretch out both legs. Dabbing gently at the wounded skin, he carefully removed dirt and stones from her cuts. The girl didn’t make a sound as he worked, but the clenching of her fist told him enough. Giving her a small smile, he moved back to sit beside her.
"Thanks…" she said shyly. He shrugged in reply. Looking at him again, the girl blushed before working up the nerve to ask one more question. “The other kids said that because my daddy left, no boy would ever like me?”
Again, Chase found himself in an awkward situation. This one was probably worse than the previous. The topic of boys wasn’t one he was comfortable discussing, especially with this tiny girl. Wasn’t this a mother-daughter conversation? He wasn’t really sure what he could say, but he may as well try.
"There are other boys."
Her eyes widened in disbelief, as if such a thing was unimaginable. She opened her mouth to reply.
Chase silenced whatever she was about to say with a look. "You don’t need to believe me if you don’t want to, but there are other boys. This one might be the only one now, but that can always change.” Glancing at his watch, he realized it was high time he continued his way home. Hefting his bag back up, he stood and turned to go.
"Thank you..." she blurted out, hands clasped behind her back in embarrassment.
"Chase," he replied, turning back to answer her unspoken question.
"Sarah," she smiled, her posture relaxing into one of contentment. "Thank you, Chase."
He gave a tiny shrug in response. "You're welcome, Sarah," he said gently, "and, try not to cry any more. Silly things like boys aren't worth your tears."
"Stop crying, it's annoying."
She let out a huff of breath in an effort to quell the tears that continued to roll down her cheeks as she giggled. Smacking him on the shoulder, she scolded him, "Chase, can't you just let me indulge myself in the romance of this for a minute?" Another joyous giggle rose to her lips, and she found herself laughing and crying simultaneously, earning strange glances from passerby’s. "I swear you are the most unromantic man I know. Why do I even put up with you?"
"As a matter of fact, Sarah, I can be romantic, but I'd much rather discuss my romantic abilities later and discuss the question I just asked you now. The question you’ve completely avoided answering for the last two minutes with your ridiculous need to cry."
Sarah smacked him again, giving him a glare that had no bite. Looking at her evenly, his posture betrayed none of his nervousness, but he waited tensely for her reply. She put his fears to rest as she threw herself on top of him, knocking them both to the ground. Lying on top of him in the grass with his face cupped between her hands, "Yes, you unromantic loser," she breathed, pressing her lips to his, her words escaping around fervent kisses, "a hundred times, yes. Of course I’ll marry you! Nothing would make me happier, Chase, than to be your wife."