"We need to talk."

Nothing good ever followed these words, she knew, and he stood in front of her, blinking his widened eyes. For the briefest moment, she was distracted by his lashes – she'd always adored them. There was something about how dark they were, or maybe how long and fluffy they were and how they stroked his cheeks when he blinked that rendered her lost and confused. Now, though, was not the time to get lost and she fumbled to gather her bearings and focus. Around them, people pushed, jostling them with their bags in a hurried frenzy to make it class on time and stay out of the frigid cold. Her nose was probably pink. She hated pink.

"Now?" he asked.

A firm nod was her response.

"Look – I've got to get to class-"

"No, you look." Her voice was firm and strong. How unusual for the girl who usually let him barrel on ahead. "I have a lot to say to you and if I don't say it now, I never will."

The look on his face suggested that he was shocked and secretly, she was pleased. Opening his mouth and closing it, he reminded her of a goldfish she'd once owned. Like all guppies, he had very little to say to this firm statement of hers.

"What is it, then?" His voice came out cautionary. Guarded and wary.

As serious as she could, she met his eyes squarely (which involved tipping her head back and looking up six inches) and asked, "Do you remember the first time we met?"

Now, frustration was written on his face. "Yes, I do," he informed her in an exasperated tone. "What is this about? Can't it just wait?"

"No. It can't. Now tell me."


"Tell me about the time we first met."

Studying him, she watched the way his brows furrowed down over his nose, knitting in the middle, like a furry little caterpillar. Towering over her, he could easily push her out of the way and go to his nine o'clock (Trigonometry), but she could see his thoughts spinning in his mind. Curiosity had him stapled to the floor and despite his perfect attendance record, he couldn't bring himself to break her eerily firm gaze.

He sighed heavily. "We met in the park, that one night," he said, straining his voice. "In the grassy area."

She smiled and nodded at him in a manner that urged him to continue, but he only looked at her with curious impatience and confusion. Sighing, she shifted her weight, adjusting her bag from one shoulder to the other. A cold gust of air blew around them and whipped her hair into her face, but she couldn't be bothered with batting it away.

"What?" he asked, his voice raised, and annoyance clearly obvious. He was no longer holding back and she took a perverse pleasure in the way his annoyance riled her.

"Describe it to me. Can't you remember well enough to describe it?"

Another heavy sigh. Closing his eyes, he tipped his face back and groaned. "Of course I can." His voice came out a murmur. "You were seventeen and I was eighteen. I was in the park hanging out with Matt. You remember that I moved into town only a few weeks before? Or do I need to reiterate that?" Sarcasm dripped and when he opened his eyes and found that complacent smile still on her mouth, almost mockingly, he huffed and carried on. "Matt was showing me the town and the sky was really clear, so we stopped in the park. It was a nice night, summertime and I was looking at the sky, pointing to constellations and telling him about them."

Despite her reserve, she couldn't help herself and eagerly, she added in, "You were pointing to the eastern sky and saying 'That's the big dipper.' And when I looked up there, I didn't know what you were pointing at, but it wasn't the big dipper."

A smile growing on his lips, he nodded slowly. "You jogged over to us, looking all graceful and stuff. And you waved to Matt."

"Mmmhmmm. My cousin and I were always close. And I turned right to you, pointed to the northern sky and said 'That is the Big Dipper' and you just stared at me."

"Of course I did! You came in and in this very know-it-all like voice, snippily told me I was wrong. My ego was blown! A cute girl jogged over to me and cut me down in less than a minute. I felt very miserable."

"You liar!" she teased him back. "Two nights later you went on a date with that skeezy Rebecca Collins."

"Because you wounded my ego!"

They chuckled, before she resumed her stony, stoic form. His laughter cut short as he watched her face rearrange in this way and she knew she had him confused. He was always the one with the upper hand – she was complacent enough to just go along with the ride. If ever she had a problem with something he said or did, she let him know, but mostly, he was the driver of their Ferrari relationship.

"What did you think of me that night?"

Grey eyes on her, questioning what in the world she meant, she waited patiently. If he had any questions, he could address her. He was no cow and she had no cattle poke for that matter. If he wanted an explanation, he needed to speak up. She was doing her part, stepping out of the box. It was his turn to do the same.

"God! What is this about? I'm already late for class and-"

"-good." Her response was quick, cutting his off, and catching him off guard. Before he had a chance to react, she'd pushed him against the building and his eyes were widened with shock. She could hear the thoughts in his head. Where is my little girlfriend? "Answer the question."

Another guppy phase as he seemed to gather his wits and comprehend the words in his mind. Then she saw the resignation she was awaiting and his shoulders slumped.

"You don't want me to tell you."

"But I do."

"You won't like it."

"It doesn't affect now, does it?"




"Exactly. Tell me. Think back two years to that night and tell me what ran through your mind."

Shrieking, the wind interrupted them, whistling around them, now whipping her hair to the side and partially obscuring her view of the boy she had caged against the wall. Both shivered at nearly the same time and she continued to watch his grey eyes, doing her best not to swoon. Her shiver was not from the cold, but it was a much safer alibi. Tipping her head coyly to the left, she waited. Already, she knew his first impression of her hadn't been amazing or even great. This was why she needed to hear it. She needed to hear how she'd changed in his eyes.

"At first, I thought that you were cute. You seemed totally innocent and shy, one of those cute, naïve girls that boys take advantage of. And then, in less than a minute, you seemed like… a know-it-all. One of those girls who kept her nose shoved in a book and probably didn't realize she was so cute but wasn't worth the trial and effort, because you were bossy and liked to show people up and probably didn't even like boys. Or girls, I don't mean I thought you were a lesbian. I guess I thought you were like… I don't know? Asexual?"

With all her effort she tried, so hard, and her face scrunched up and probably turned redder than it already was and her concentration was slipping. Laughter erupted and he seemed surprised, the way his brows lifted and eyes widened and she wanted to hug his stupid, silly self, but reminded herself to stray from that track. She did not belong on that track. Her trail of breadcrumbs lead else where and veering off course would only do more harm than good.

"When did I change? When did the way you perceived me change in your mind?"

His fight was given up, she could tell, and his shoulder still hung, slumped. Perhaps he'd figured out she wasn't giving in and realized that he'd not be free to go until he answered all her silly questions. Confusion was still etched, though. Nothing good ever followed the words "We need to talk," as can be reminded and he was probably dwelling on these ominous words, trying to figure out where she was leading him. In circles, it seemed, thus far.

"I don't really know. I saw you a lot, when I started hanging out with Matt. I swear you seemed to live at his place, and you were always around to throw out some smart alec-y comment that no one cared about, but always came back to me. I'd be in bed and suddenly, whatever factoid you gifted me would come back and haunt my mind till I fell asleep. And it was hard to sleep with your bossy, know-it-all-y voice in my mind." She smiled. "I think it might've been that one night. That was like, what, November, December? When Davis dumped you?" He paused but she didn't nod nor shake her head. It had always been a touchy subject and though she was long over the jerk who lied and manipulated and broke her heart, he knew she liked to pretend it never happened.

"You were in Matt's room and he and I were in the living room with the PS2. I went to the bathroom and then remembered that I'd left my calc book in his room and when I headed over to get it, I heard you crying. And when I toed open the door, I found this pitiful little girl curled up on his bed, bawling and sobbing in a really scary way, sniveling and kind of snotting. It was gross in a way that really made me ache inside. For the first time, you didn't seem like this intimidating man-eater. You seemed really broken and small and it was kind of scary."

She stayed quiet, listening to his words, no emotion written on her face but inside her stomach squirmed at the rawness of what he was saying. That night, she'd never pictured what she looked like, hiding in her cousin's bedroom, crying on his bed. In fact, she'd tried to think very little of that night at all, especially when it came to the tears and how broken she'd felt. For a moment, she felt a glimmer of the sadness she'd felt that night, back when her heart was shattered for the first real time. When Davis didn't just let her down but slammed her into the ground in a painful, humiliating manner. The night that she realized she'd fallen in love and done nothing about it and let it spiral into vapor, into a jerk who manipulated her and played marionette with her.

"So I knocked on the door, to let you know that I was there and you sat up, wide eyed, looking really frightened and I think it took you a moment to recognize me or something, because you just stared with that deer in the headlights look and finally whimpered softly before burying her face into his pillow. I think your mascara stained it."

He needn't carry on and she remembered clearly, anyway, how the events followed. Face buried in the pillow, she felt the bed shift as he sat down and a moment later, his hesitant hand was on her back, rubbing gentle circles. She snuffled and he didn't ask and eventually, her sobs gave way to mere tears and she wiped her nose and thanked him. When she got up and stumbled out of the room (she really wasn't as graceful as she'd seemed when they first met), he watched her go and stayed in the room a while longer.

The next day at school, he stopped at her locker with a "Hey, how're you feeling?" and a strange friendship had bloomed.

It wouldn't be for another two months after that night that he'd find out what made her fall apart that night.

"What is this ab-"

Again, she cut him off.

"One more question."

Yet still, he waited, watching her with the same impatient curiosity. He still had no idea what was going on, she could tell, and it weighed heavily in her chest, ominous. She was not looking forward to this – it made her feel nervous and frightened. What if he didn't react the way she wanted him to? Oh, this could only be nauseating.

"Remember when you asked me out?" Her whisper came out light enough to be picked up and carried by the strong wind and he had to make sure he'd heard it right before he carried on, nodding. He was learning, it seemed, and needed no prompting. "I was a freshman in college, last year. That was… wow, December, right? Before I came home for winter break? And you drove up to surprise me and you stayed in my dorm that night. I had to sneak you in and my roommate was there so you had to share the bed with me. And it didn't feel weird or anything. It just felt… right. I faced the wall and you had your back to me, but neither of us could sleep, so eventually we sat up and were watching a movie. I can't remember the movie because by that time I knew I liked you and I was working up the courage to, you know, ask you out.

"It was cold and somehow, you wound up curled up to me with your head on my chest and it was the most right feeling in the world. I just knew you belonged there and I was stroking your hair when suddenly you were mumbling something and I had to sit up so I could hear you. And you said 'Sometimes, I feel like we're meant to be' and you blushed and looked kind of shy. It was a shock to see you so shy and I smiled and took your face in my hands. 'I feel like we're special, too' I admitted and then you smiled back. When I released your face, you didn't move and then you said 'I think we should be more than friends' and I said yes by kissing you for the first time and it was another of the most right things I've ever felt."

Smiling, she felt the stirring of a swoon within her – that memory still rest vividly in her mind and still evoked such strong emotions from her. That night, she'd be uncertain if telling him that would have been the right thing to say. The situation was one of those obvious kinds, where both counterparts obvious cared for each other but still doubted whether it would be wise to say anything about it, so she'd literally forced herself, afraid of his reaction. And his response was better than she'd imagined that it could have been.

"Look," he said his voice dropping and crooning. "What's this about? I don't get what you're trying to say here…" In his voice was a tone that read fear and he kept his voice low and gentle and it made her stomach shift uneasily to hear.

How was she to tell him? Looking up at him, she bit her lower lip thoughtfully, trying to gather the words in her mind. But they were alarming and startling and felt strange against her tongue (she'd practiced them in the mirror the night before). It felt impossible to spill her guts and tell him these words, even after all of this.

"I… I don't know how to say this…" she told him, feeling nervous, her stomach full of fluttering feelings that only served to make her feel nauseous. Looking up to meet his grey eyes again, she found them concerned, his brow dipping down again as he watched. How horrible this sounded, she realized, and she swallowed thickly. "I needed you to tell me all of that because… I wanted to make sure… but… see… now I can't explain it anymore," she mumbled. "I had this all worked out and now I don't know how to say it…"

"Just say it."

The sharpness of his voice made her head jerk up and her lips parted. Was he angry? Why did he sound so angry?

"I just had to make sure I had my feelings in the right place. I was getting worried that maybe… maybe I was too carried away or that maybe I was imaging but I don't think… I… oh God, I should just say it." Pausing, she took a deep breath, looked up at him, smiled, and for the first time ever, said, "I love you."