Just as I was about to enter the school, I noticed her standing over by the pay phone. She had long hair wild like kelp, catching the water from the melting snow off the roof and letting it dribble off the tips. Her head hung low in defeat; her eyes seemed to try to see through a small opaque pebble lying on the concrete, trying to penetrate but never succeeding.
I felt sorry for her, but I didn’t know what I could do to cheer her up. Hesitantly, I approached her.
“Is something the matter? Is there anything I can do?” I asked.
She looked up at me, empty eyes staring into mine. Suddenly, she pulled her hands out of her pockets to brush her saturated hair out to the side, then replaced her hands once again. She shook her head, at least I believed that she did, but the gesture was so minute that I could hardly tell if her head had actually moved or if the shimmering water simply made it so.
Giving up, I started towards class. Halfway down the hallway, I realized that she was following me. I turned around to face her.
“Do you need something?”
She blinked twice but did not say anything. I realized that her eyes were unusually large, and her gray irises had the faded look of an old black and white photograph. For a moment, all I could see were those enormous cloud-colored circles; my eyes would stare at the outside rim and then drift inwards towards the black void at the center.
“Please do not stare like that,” the girl said in a flat tone. She didn’t seem angry or irritated, nor did she seem to be secretly relishing the attention.
“Sorry,” I said, turning away.
But when I entered my classroom, she was still there behind me, and she sat in the desk adjacent to mine.
“Um, I’m sorry,” I began, facing her, “Stephen sits there.”
She shook her head, more emphatically this time than before. “Stephen isn’t there.”
“Well, he’s just tardy. I saw him on the bus. Don’t you have your own class to go to?”
She shook her head again. “We have to go, now.”
She stood up abruptly, her long hair bobbing once before settling back down, one single hair daring to lay itself out of the order of the others, curling horizontally onto the back of her sleeve.
Instinctively, I followed her. The hallways were empty; the lights seemed dimmer. I could hardly recognize the places I passed by, the tiles and lockers turning into an infinite corridor of the same foot repeated over and over again until the world dizzily collapsed from the disorder of order.
At last we arrived at the room. In it was a single upright piano. She sat down and began playing a soft, gentle melody with a haunting bell-like quality. The lingering resonance filled the gaps in the notes, drifting away with choked reluctance.
I saw Stephen in the corner of the room, leaning against the wall. His body lunged forward and he began to dance with a slow elegance, holding an invisible girl who stepped with infinite feminine grace. The dance was beautiful. But Stephen was lonely; the girl was nothing but empty air.
Then, the song cut off.
Stephen dropped to the ground, motionless, and the invisible girl knelt down beside him.
I had no time to mourn, for the song picked up again, and I felt myself beginning to step about the room. Suddenly, inspired by an unknown force, I lashed out and halted my dance. I did not know why I did not want to dance, I did not know how I stopped dancing, all I know is that it happened and I felt that it was right. The song broke down and I grabbed the girl’s shoulders, demanding to know what spell she was trying to cast.
Her empty eyes filled with tears and she hugged me tightly, crying into my chest.
“Thank you,” she whispered before collapsing to the ground.
I never saw her again, yet I can never forget those days when I walked alongside her and when I danced to her song and that passionate feeling I felt when I broke free of the alluring spell. Even today, I do not know why I could do it and Stephen could not; all I know is that, if I should ever meet her again, I would like to hold her tightly and show her a new dance – one with the same elegance but full of a wonderful joy and warmth. Gliding about on the pebble-strewn concrete with me, she would smile, I think, and it would be beautiful.