by Justin Lo


I don’t know if anyone really ever cared for her.  I mean, judging by the way she hung her head like that, ashamed for the sake of being ashamed, dainty feet caught in a clumsy shuffle, that’s what anyone would’ve thought.


She had long, sepia brown hair tied into one long pigtail that crept around her back down to her waist.  Even the girls who were obsessed with their hair didn’t keep it that long, so I assumed the hair just grew out of disuse and not for any sort of aesthetic rationale.


On this particular day, I had come across her on the dirt path road that led to school from the back entrance.  For some reason or another, I told her to wait for me to catch up, and she did pause, maybe more out of shock than anything else.  When I had caught up with her, she began to shuffle along again.  I looked at her stoical face, her thin-rimmed glasses reflecting the brash sunlight into my eyes.


“Hey, exams are almost over,” I said to her, trying to break the ice.  It was, of course, a repetition of the obvious, and I’m sure she felt that it was completely unnecessary save for the ulterior motive.  For whatever reason, she accepted the bait.


“Yeah, they’ve all been rather straight-forward so far,” she replied in a high, almost sing-song voice.  It sounded brisk, a hint of cheerfulness enmeshed within the various intonations.


Could she possibly be happy, even when she never spoke to anyone and never participated in any group activity?


“Are you glad summer’s gonna finally be here?”


She suddenly stopped and looked at me with appraising eyes.


“The seasons don’t matter to me,” she said.  “The eras of people’s lives are defined by their own seasons.”


Abruptly, she leapt at me, wrapping her arms around my back and hauling me with her over to the shade of an adolescent maple tree with broad green leaves that drooped because of their immensity.


Through her glasses, I saw her gray eyes, gray from the dust that had settled on them from the library ceiling.  She squeezed and I could feel her warm body pressed against mine, and even though I tried to ignore it, I could feel her small breasts touching my chest, causing my heart to race.  Did she want to kiss me?


“Please …,” I entreated her, “let go.  I don’t think this is what you wanted.”


Her thin lips twisted into a small smile.


“Don’t worry,” she said softly, in the same soprano voice as before.  “I just want this summer to mean something to me.”


With desperation, she laid her lips on mine, almost angry in her passion, and I let myself go and kissed her back, feeling a slight nudge when her glasses slipped off her face and slid down to my cheek.  When at last it was over, she let go of me and repositioned her glasses.


I looked at her.  Her face was not really beautiful.  Her skin was youthful and her hair was clean and pure, but her face wasn’t quite symmetric and her lower jaw wasn’t quite ideal.  Yet, that certain level of ugliness made me feel a bit attracted to her.


She shrugged, slipping her hands into the front pockets of her plain jeans.  “I hope you didn’t mind.”


I shook my head, keeping my mouth sealed shut, as if keeping in the remnants of the kiss.


“I’ll be here after school.  If you stop at this tree and knock on it twice, then for this summer, I will be with you.  If you just walk past, I won’t bother you any longer,” she said.


With that, she walked off towards the brick school, hands still in her pockets.  There was already another girl I had had a crush on for some time, and I doubted that I would cease trying to get her attention.  And in spite of it all, when I came out of school that day, I walked past the girl, turned around, and knocked on the maple tree twice, and we walked home together, hand in hand.