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The facts are these: the girl did not plan to wear the shirt on Saturday. She had her choice of outfits, she could definitely wait a few days to wear it. Besides, she did not want to get her favorite shirt dirty so early in the week, especially not in a place so infamous for its malfunctioning washing machine. I’ll be fine wearing something else, she told herself. What’s wrong with a nice dress?
Nevertheless, on Saturday, June 30th, she strode out of her room wearing her favorite blue shirt.
Nobody noticed it at first - maybe they didn’t get it. She noticed a few boys staring at her chest, but she had a feeling that it wasn’t the words that they were looking at. By the time dinner was over, she had forgotten that she even had the shirt on. Then a young, frizzy-haired woman looked at her and smiled.
“Hugo,” the woman observed. “Les Misérables. I read it four times, once in French.”
The girl gave her a confused look, then realized that the woman was commenting on her shirt. Of course. The shirt had every word of her favorite chapter of Les Misérables printed on it. She smiled, happy to finally find somebody who enjoyed a good classic novel as much as she did.
“Loved the book,” the woman continued, “but the musical was better. Hey, I know a guy who was in it - played Javert in his school production. I’ll tell him to look out for you, but I’ll warn you - he’s quite the character. Carries an umbrella everywhere, if that gives you any perspective.”
“Oh - thank you,” the girl replied, dizzy with the suddenness of it all. She couldn’t believe her luck - a boy who had played her favorite character in the musical version of her favorite book. She couldn’t resist the beam that was spreading across her face as she thought of them laughing about their favorite moments in the book, something that she had never been able to do with her other friends. She practically floated on her way back to her room, unable to get her mind off of this perfect potential friendship.
Sunday morning, after searching extensively, the girl found the boy. At first sight, he did not seem to stand out in any way. He was of medium height with soft, deep brown curls of hair and warm brown eyes - he was no different than any other teenage boy. Looking closer, though, she noticed his right hand, firmly grasping an umbrella. She noticed that, though he was not tall, he had a kingly stance, with his shoulders back and his chest puffed out. She took a few deep breaths, then marched up to him and introduced herself.
“Hello, Madam,” he greeted her and shook her hand. She laughed to herself.
“You present yourself as if you were the emperor of Rome,” she giggled. He paused for a moment, then smiled.
“Just an ordinary Roman citizen, Madam.”
The facts are these: from that moment on, the girl knew that she was right in thinking that she and this boy would become friends.
“Come on,” the boy, to her surprise, opened the umbrella and gestured for her to go under it with him. She laughed softly, and they walked to lunch together.
The facts are these: many people would think that a boy and a girl walking under an umbrella together would be awkward, but this moment was too busy being beautiful to even think about being awkward. The girl enjoyed his company. She liked the sound of his loud, confident voice as he told her about the birthday present that he got for his girlfriend. She liked the way he walked with a swagger that seemed to be taken right out of a vintage romance movie. She liked the way that he seemed amazed by the fact that she was a writer, as if she was the first writer that he had ever met. Above all, though, she liked his warm, friendly smile. She sighed. Though she often grew tired of the chatter of her other friends, she felt like she could talk to him all day.
At the moment that she was thinking this, he put his arm around her.
The touch surprised her, but she embraced it. As they walked together, arm-in-arm, she noticed people pointing at them, smiling at them. Her face flushed a deep crimson and she suddenly pulled away, overwhelmed by the attention.
“Sorry, my dear,” he whispered to her.
They went their separate ways to lunch, and she internally chastised herself. How dare she let him hold her! He had been clear about it: he had a girlfriend. She had just known him for a few hours and she was already making his life harder by tempting him so.
The facts are these: despite everything, she could not help but wonder if he would hold her again.
On Monday, she tried not to bother him. She honestly tried, but soon enough, in the line for tickets to a museum, he was next to her again. She smiled as he opened the umbrella over their heads once again and flashed her his signature grin, the one that she had already grown to like. She fumbled in her bag for her wallet but found her bag empty. She sighed - she had left her wallet in her room. Sensing her frustration, he took twenty dollars from his own wallet and handed them to her.
“You deserve to see the world, Madam,” he told her.
She burst into tears. Were they tears of happiness? Gratitude? She did not know. She pondered this as she walked to dinner, from dinner, to her room, and as she fell asleep.
Tuesday was the day of the holiday dance. She slipped on her lovely, flowing dress, strung her golden ribbon around her tiny waist, and placed a flower crown on her head. Walking with confidence and grace, she stepped into the room.
She recognized him instantly - he was wearing a blue t-shirt and shorts, and he was still holding his umbrella in the center of the mosh pit. He beckoned her to join him, but she shook her head. “I can’t dance. I quit lessons when I was six,” she explained. Then she laughed. “What holiday are you supposed to be?”
“Star Wars Day, of course,” he said, gesturing to the logo on his shirt. She rolled her eyes, and he looked her over. “You’re the Ides of March? How clever!”
She nodded her head and giggled, and she followed him onto the dance floor.
The facts are these: neither of them knew how it happened, but it did. He took her by the hand and spun her around, and suddenly they were dancing hand in hand.
They still talked, though, despite the intensity of the moment and the loudness of the music. They talked about their favorite songs, movies, books. Finally, somehow, the topic of Les Misérables came up.
“I was in the play last year,” he said.
“I know,” she replied. She looked into his deep brown eyes and smiled, and he looked into her forest green eyes and started to sing.
He began with the first line of Stars, and she quickly joined in. It was awkward at first, but pretty soon their voices blended into a perfect medley. He continued to spin her around, holding her tiny hand as tightly as he could, and she continued to twirl away from him and back into his arms. He dipped her on the final note of the song, and it was then that they noticed the crowd of people gathered around them.
“I’m going to get some water,” he said and linked his arm with hers. “Come with me.”
He was different, she noticed as they stood together at the refreshment table drinking the miniscule cups of water. His eyes were dark and distant, and she could tell that something was troubling him. “What’s wrong?” she asked, worried.
“Just thinking,” he replied melancholically. “I never had my first dance with my girlfriend. I miss her.”
At those words, an overwhelming sense of gloom washed over her. She was confused - what had happened so suddenly to make her feel this way? He had told her before that he had a girlfriend; it was not like the fact was news to her. Besides, the relationship between them had never gone deeper than a friendship, and she had never considered it to be anything else. Why, then, did that one phrase, that one mention of another girl, disturb her so? The more she pondered it, the further her mind seemed to fall into this convoluted mess of thoughts.
He sensed her unease immediately. “God, I’m sorry to be like this,” he apologized, running his hand through his dark curls of hair. “You were having so much fun. I shouldn’t have gotten like that.”
“It’s okay,” she reassured him, putting her hand on his shoulder.
To her surprise, he took her by the hand and spun her around again. The two of them continued on like that, dancing and laughing as if nothing had happened, until the last song of the dance had played. After the dance ended, she locked herself in a bathroom stall and cried for an hour, wallowing in her confusion and sudden dejection.
The facts are these: that night, she realized her fatal flaw - that she was in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and above all, she was the wrong girl.
Early Wednesday morning, she woke up nauseous and lightheaded. “Are you sure you don’t want to stay in bed?” her roommate asked, but she shook her head. Today was the day that she and the boy were to go to the museum, and there was no way that she was missing out on that - especially since the boy had paid for her ticket. Dizzy as she felt, she got out of her bed.
The boy seemed to have gone back to his usual charismatic self. He greeted her, umbrella in hand, at the museum, and they walked and joked together. No mention of the awkward situation at the dance was made, and it was just like that Sunday afternoon when he held her under the umbrella. No jealousy, no despair, nothing was there except the boy and the girl.
The facts are these: All good things must come to an end, and soon Wednesday turned to Thursday.
On Thursday she wore the shirt again. She didn’t know why, but she did it. All day, knowing that he was to leave that day, she looked for him. Until the night, she didn’t find him.
The moment that he saw her, he pulled her into a tight embrace. She was sobbing, but he still held on to her, not once letting her go.
“Promise me you’ll write something about this week,” he whispered softly. “I need something to remember this by.”
“I will,” she sobbed. “I promise I will.”
“Good.” He pulled her closer. “Maybe I’ll read it someday.”
He kissed her hand, and when she smiled at him, he kissed the top of her head as well.
“Thank you,” she replied, unable to think of anything else to say. One last time, he gave her his perfect smile.
The facts are these: while he held her, there was no other girl, no crowds of people, nobody else. The moment was perfect, but it ended quickly. They had to follow their paths, even if their paths lead away from each other. He had his life to live, and she had her story to tell.
“It is time for us to go our separate ways, my dear,” he told her, and before letting her go, leaned into her and whispered, “May the road go ever onward.”
The facts are these: they exchanged farewells and finally parted, walking in opposite directions, both of their roads going ever onward.