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When Love Happens: Chapter One
I don’t know what happened. One minute, I was just standing there next to the girl with whom I’d collided, and the next thing I knew I was reaching forward to catch her when she started falling. I’ve come to realize that moments like this occur not by coincidence, but by destiny. At the time, I viewed this as merely a clumsy moment, nothing else. But sometimes, the most seemingly insignificant moments can turn out to be the beginnings of one of the most significant times of your life, which is what catching the girl in the food court was for me. But back then, I never would have expected anything to blossom from this.
I had every intention of helping the strange girl stand back up but something was keeping me from shifting my position. My eyes were glued onto her, exploring every inch of her body, as to not overlook a single detail. Her wavy dark brown hair had a lovely shine to it and appeared to be soft and lustrous. Her ocean blue eyes glistened and matched her ruffled blouse. Her waistline was slender and toned. It was shaped in a way that my hand could perfectly fit around it. Her lips were sufficiently plump, her nose was small, and her collarbone was prominent and nicely-shaped. Everything about her was beautiful—she was beautiful. I had never been so wonder-struck by the beauty of another before. It had only been a few seconds, and I could already feel myself going crazy.
Finally, I was able to come out of my trance, and asked the girl, “That was a close one. Are you okay?”
Still looking a bit shaken, she nodded, keeping silent for a moment. Then she replied, “Yeah, I’m, uh, fine.”
I pulled her back up and helped her regain her stance before letting her go. Releasing her made me lose the sense of how she felt, and I desired to hold her again. “I’m Dylan!” I suddenly exclaimed.
The girl seemed to come out of a trance of her own at that moment, and I could tell she was trying to return to that state of anger she was in previously. Avoiding eye contact, she started gathering the things she’d dropped earlier in silence.
“Well? Aren’t you gonna tell me your name?” I asked.
“What’s it matter? We’re never gonna see each other again, anyway,” she answered bitterly.
Stubborn, this one; how amusing. I liked a little resistant spunk in a girl. For some reason I’d always found that to be a very sexy quality. “Well, I really am sorry,” I said sincerely. “I hope none of your stuff got too dirty.”
She rolled her eyes. “Whatever. Just forget about it.” She picked up the last of her bags and started walking away, but I quickly trailed behind her.
“Hey, to make up for my clumsiness, let me buy you lunch.”
“I’m not hungry,” she said.
“I saw you heading over to Taco Bell,” I accused.
“I’ve lost my appetite.”
“At least let me buy you a new smoothie.”
“Sorry, I don’t take bribes from strangers.”
“Strangers? I believe I’ve already told you my name,” I teased.
“Really? I don’t recall,” she said, flashing a smile to insinuate her sarcasm.
“Yep, now I just need to know your name and we’ll be almost like friends.”
She scoffed. “Like that’s ever gonna happen. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must be getting back to my hotel.”
As she walked away, I added, “Yeah, and my break is almost up, so I should probably get back to work.”
What I said made her stop, which wasn’t my original intention. She turned around. “You work here?” she questioned curiously.
“I sure do, ma’am,” I confirmed, “at a nice little boutique called Perfection Nails.”
The girl snickered in surprise. “Wow. Good for you,” she said. “Now, since we’re on the subject, what in the heavens are you doing working a nail spa?”
I didn’t expect her to ask me that, and suddenly I was wishing I’d never brought the subject up. I tried to beat around the bush, hoping that would be enough to satisfy her. “Oh, you know, the usual: manicures, pedicures, and things of that nature.”
“No, don’t go there with me, boy,” she said with a sly smile. She came back over to me, wagging a finger in the air. “You know exactly what I mean. Why are you working at Perfection Nails?”
Shoot! She had me cornered. This was one persistent girl I was dealing with here. And though I admired her for her wittiness, I couldn’t deny that at this moment I wasn’t particularly fond of it. The last thing I wanted to do was explain to her why I decided to work at a nail studio. I wanted her to like me. But there was no way around it. Unable to mask my sheepishness, I said, “Oh, well, I applied at Perfection Nails because I would have the privilege of getting to stare at and handle beautiful women all day.” Then I held my breath, waiting nervously for her reaction.
After a moment of silence, she chuckled lightly. “Interesting. Typical for a guy, I suppose. Well, you have fun with that.”
“Yeah, it is fun; I love my job,” I said enthusiastically. Then I got an idea. “You know, if you were to come in sometime, I could give you a discount on a pedicure.”
She giggled at my offer, and by the way her laughter rang in my ears, I knew immediately that it was the best sound I’d ever heard. It was the first time I’d heard such a sound emit from her, and I was honestly surprised that a laugh like that could come out of such a headstrong girl. However, I started to believe that her titter was involuntary, because as soon as it escaped, she tried extra hard to prevent any other ones that might still be inside of her from coming out. She collected herself and I saw her eyes go cold again. When she was safely encircled by her tough emotional barrier she looked me in the eye and steadily remarked, “I’ll pass.”
I left it at that. She obviously wasn’t going to crack without putting up a fight first, and I didn’t have time for that right now. Besides, the situation was rapidly becoming more awkward for me, most likely from telling her about my motivation to work. I knew that it wouldn’t make a good first impression to tell someone that you thrive on hooking up with all the pretties you pamper. That automatically classifies you as a player, or just a bad boy in general, and I completely understand this. I’m not denying the fact that I am a bad boy, because I really am one. I always have been. I tend to always pick up at least a dozen girls per weekend, spreading each date apart by a few hours at a time. I drive a sick Harley—it has a high-lacquer finish of red, silver, and black—which I constantly take women for joyrides on. I go to clubs every so often and party the night away with my buddies, though I rarely drink. I am a bad boy through and through. But I don’t want you to start getting the idea that I always turn my dates into one-night stands or anything like that, because I honestly don’t. That’s just not my thing. Then again, neither is commitment in a relationship. I just like to keep moving. Frankly, going steady just feels oppressing.
Anyway, you get the point: I am a bad boy, and I am completely comfortable with who I am. But for some reason, that mysterious girl in the food court made me feel different about myself. I wanted to make the best first impression I possibly could. For the first time, I wanted someone to see me as something other than a bad boy. I couldn’t explain it. But I decided to think that all through later. Right now, I had to get to work…like, fast. So I said my goodbyes to the unknown girl and we walked away from each other. I got so busy, though, daydreaming about my encounter with her that I didn’t realize I was slowing down and making myself even later than I already was. I barely clocked in on time.
“Dylan, where have you been?” Steven, my boss, asked me when I walked inside. “You can’t keep pushing your luck like this; one of these days you’re gonna walk in here late and I’m gonna have no choice but to mark you down for it.”
“I’m sorry, Steven, I was, uh, distracted.” I knew it wasn’t a valid excuse, but it was the truth. That had to count for something, right?
I walked over to the front counter, where I checked the list of appointments. The first open slot was for a pedicure, and a woman named Candy had filled her name in on that line. I called, “Candy?” and one of the ladies sitting in the chairs by the doorway stood up. “Follow me, and we’ll get you started right away.” Candy slipped out of her shoes and took a seat in the big leather chair while I started filling the water tub up with hot water and scented foot care products. As I prepared all of the supplies on my little wheeled cart, I subtly glanced over at Candy a few times, checking her out. And I swear, this girl looked freakishly like a Barbie doll clone, except she didn’t look fake. She was one good looking woman. I was looking forward to giving her a pedicure; she should be easy enough to sway. And she was. My usual tactics worked like a charm. Yet, the entire time, I was haunted by thoughts of the girl I’d just met earlier that day. I couldn’t get her out of my head.
For the rest of the day, my thoughts never shifted from that girl. Though I flirted up every one of my clients, deep inside I was only thinking of her. And some of my clients that day were pretty stunning, too. I’d seen girls with gorgeous long legs, hot miniskirts and tight halter tops, lovely makeup jobs, cute hairstyles, you name it. But it hardly fazed me this time. All I could think about was that exceptional beauty whose name I didn’t even know yet didn’t seem to matter in the least. At one point, I recalled her mentioning a hotel, which told me she was planning on staying in town for awhile. And that meant I would probably get the chance to see her again…well, at least I hoped so.
At 9:30 that night when I’d finished my shift, I grabbed my coat from the tiny break room in the back of the store and walked out into the quiet and nearly-empty mall. I glanced over at the food court as I passed by and stared at the dozens of rows of identical tables. I couldn’t have determined which table it was where the incident had occurred, anymore. Her spilled smoothie had long since been mopped up by the custodian, erasing the memory of that beautifully awkward moment from the floor. I sighed and continued to saunter through the mall towards the east exit. It was getting darker outside, but the little last sliver of sunset that was left illuminated the sky with just enough light that the parking lot was still visible, and I found my car right away. I pulled the key out of my pocket and unlocked the door. I opened the door of my blue Ferrari and slid inside the front seat. The air was cool, but not uncomfortable. I leaned back in my seat for a minute, and then I stuck the key in the ignition and turned the car on. The engine purred. It was the most relaxing sound ever. With a sigh, I positioned my hands on the wheel at 10 and 2, and drove out of the parking lot.
Now, I am normally a tremendously vigilant driver. I’ve never gotten a ticket in my life. My concentration is the most unbreakable spell you could ever face. But on that day, I had my first experience with on-the-road distraction. You can probably guess the cause of it: that girl, that beautiful girl with the feistiness of a kitten. I found myself just daydreaming about her, reliving the moment that I stopped her from falling again and again. In addition to that, I kept asking myself questions about her that I yearned to know the answers to, most of which were the classic cheesy ones like, “I wonder if she liked me?” And the more I thought about her, the foggier my focus became. I never strayed from the lane or anything, but I had a few moments where I would slow down and then suddenly press the gas. I considered the possibility that thinking about someone to this extent could drive a person over the edge of insanity—no pun intended.
Eventually, my actions started to catch up with my swirling questions and fantasies. Everything I was doing found a way to remind me of that girl. When my hands would slip down on the wheel every time I turned around a corner, I would think about the feeling of the gracious curve of her waist, and it made me want to feel her again, to caress her body and never let her go.
This was all so strange. I’d never felt like this before. I know that’s like the oldest line in the book, but I honestly can say that this storm of emotions was completely unfamiliar to me. I was falling for the first time in my life, and the feeling was so powerful that I couldn’t tell if I liked it or not. It was amazing, but overwhelming at the same time.
Finally, everything that seemed to be blurring my vision of the road got the best of me, and I absentmindedly swerved. A nearby car blasted their horn at me, which jolted me back to reality. I instantly gripped the wheel at 10 and 2 again and steadied my car. It didn’t take long for me to come to my senses. That’s when I started contemplating the severity of this situation.
This was crazy. Nothing had ever decreased my attentiveness to driving. Ever. And that girl had become the key to changing that in one night. God, I hated that, calling her “that girl” I mean. I hated not being able to call her by name. I wanted to know who she was and everything about her. But I was discouraged that I would never get the chance to. Who said I would ever see her again? The chances seemed microscopic. After all, we were in a big city. And who was to assume that she’d ever come near Great Lakes Crossing again after I so foolishly told her about my job, anyway? I would have understood if she went out of her way to avoid me. I didn’t exactly make myself look like the greatest person in front of her. I kicked myself mentally for it, because I knew I’d probably blown my one and only chance with her already.
Though she seemed like she could be nice when you get to know her, I could tell that she was angry and reserved for a reason. She’d obviously been through a lot in her life. She had herself confined within four walls impervious to anything potentially problematic. She was disturbed and mistrusting, a haunted spirit. I knew I would have to handle the situation as delicately as humanly possible to win her over…that is, if I ever saw her again.
When I arrived at my apartment complex, I rushed straight inside, remembering that I had accidentally left my cell phone in my room that morning. Hadn’t I done that, I would have been talking on it from the moment I got in the car. So, to make up for lost time, I bolted upstairs and into the apartment. My dog was lying on the couch, half-asleep, and perked his head up when he saw me come in. Without stopping first, I quickly greeted him on my way to my bedroom. I lunged forward when I opened the door, clumsily flinging myself onto the bed where the phone lay. I flipped it open and speed-dialed my best friend, Ben. As I waited for him to pick up, I heard the jingling of my dog’s collar approach my bedroom. It wasn’t long before he was trotting inside and hopping up onto the bed beside me, his tail wagging merrily. I lovingly rubbed his head. “Hey, Lightning,” I said to him.
Suddenly, there was some static on the other end of the phone. “Hello?” It was Ben’s voice.
“Hey, dude, what up?” I asked.
“Not much, just got back from a date with my sweetie.”
His sweetie, huh? Suddenly I felt envious toward him. But I tried to cover up my jealousy with a joke. “So, what’s wrong with her? She certainly couldn’t have liked you for your looks, so something must be up.”
Ben was quick to respond. “Oh, okay, you know what? Shut up!” he exclaimed. There was a smile in his voice.
I laughed. “You know I’m just kidding, bro.”
“Yeah, I know. So how was work?”
His question forced my thoughts to rotate back to that girl again, and I smiled. “Work was amazing.” I knew I sounded like a complete dork.
“Really?” Ben sounded surprised. “What happened?”
“Well, I met this girl…”
“Dude, you meet girls every day. Haven’t we been through this enough?”
“No, you don’t understand. This happened outside of work. And it was different.”
“Oh, different, huh?”
“Well, don’t be shy. Tell me all about it,” he pressed.
So, right then and there, I spilled all the details of my experience over to Ben. I told him about the collision, the smoothie, everything. He was being a vastly good listener, as usual, excluding the occasional question he would ask. But when I reached the end of the story, he burst into laughter.
“Oh, my goodness, dude! What is the matter with you? You just let her get away?”
“Hey, I tried to lure her back, but she’s a tough shell to crack.”
“So, what you do when that happens is grab the girl and mess around a little bit until she likes it.”
I shook my head. “No…no, it’s much more complicated than that. I don’t want to be that way with her; I wanted to be different. I want her to see me as a better person.”
“Are you serious? I’ve never heard you say anything like that before.” I could hear the shock in his voice.
“I’m totally serious. She’s been burned a couple of times in the past, and I don’t want to be the one to put a fresh scorch on top of her scars. Plus, I think I really like her and I’d really like to get to know her better.”
“Well, Dylan, if you were right about her only staying in town for a few days or so, then you’d better start keeping an eye out for her. You never know where she might show up and this train is gonna pull out of the station pretty quick if you don’t get a move on.”
I scooted down to the edge of the bed and hung my head down toward the floor, running my fingers through my tousled hair as I felt the blood rush northward into my skull. Ben was right, I couldn’t deny that. I had to catch this bird before she flew away, but how I would do it I honestly didn’t know. Honestly, I predicted that ultimately I would have to face the truth that she wasn’t really the one for me, that we weren’t meant to be together. And the truth hurt. In fact, it killed me. I could feel words being withdrawn from my breath, disabling my ability to speak.
“I know,” was all I could say at that point.