When people talk about what initially attracts them to someone, that first glimpse that makes them turn around and take a second glance, they usually say something sweet. Like pretty eyes or a nice smile. For me, it’s her toes. Shiny, bright pink, polished toes dangling from the passenger side window of a car. Her milky white feet bounce up and down as she sways her legs to the beat of music I’m unable to hear. And I really wish I could hear it. To know what sound flows through her ears and makes her move like this.
My eyes trail up her legs, over her knees, and follow the path down her thighs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen skin so smooth and pale. My gaze sticks on her faded Beatles tee shirt for several seconds before I finally find her face. Her eyes are closed, long dark lashes resting on her cheeks. Her lips are shiny and I catch myself wondering what they taste like.
Tearing my eyes away from her mouth, I flick them up to her hair, pooled around her like spilt silk. Shades of pink, purple, blue, and green peek through the otherwise dark strands. She has ear buds in, the cord stretching to the iPod clutched in her hands above her head as she lies across the bench seat. I can see the red vinyl through the gages in her earlobes. Everything about her is different. Singular. Special.
She is the most beautiful girl I have ever seen.
I don’t use the word beautiful often. It’s an overly used word that has begun to lose its importance. But it fits here. Every one of my senses recognize this girl as just that. Beautiful.
I force myself to keep walking toward the school, but I allow a quick look back as I step out of the parking lot. Her feet are gone. The car windows closed.
I’m about to turn back around when I spot her walking next to a girl that fits into what I refer to as “the mass produced” category. Tall, tan, blonde hair, name brand clothes that half of the girls at this school probably own as well. She looks like the perky cheerleader type—popular and well liked for her status. I’m not trying to stereotype. I’m just good at reading people. It throws me off to see these two completely opposite girls walking together. Their heads are turned toward each other, engaged in conversation.
I wonder for a second what they’re discussing. What topic could be mutually gratifying to such different girls? It bothers me that I really want to know. Why am I even thinking about this?
Then the one girl, the blonde, stops abruptly, her attention sliding to a big guy in a letterman jacket. Probably a football player. Probably her boyfriend.
Blondie shakes her head and glares at the jockstrap as if the sight of him makes her sick. He laughs and takes a step in her direction. And something very much unexpected happens. The other girl, the beautiful one, puts herself in between them. All of a hundred pounds and she’s what stands in the way of this guy getting to the blonde.
The jockstrap laughs again, but there’s no humor to it this time. He’s pissed. His face is red and his eyes narrow. And now I’m not thinking about anything. I just start heading in their direction. I’m about twenty feet away when the asshole puts his hand up and actually shoves the girl backwards. What the fuck? But she doesn’t fall. She was braced for it, which I find extremely interesting.
I’m ten feet away now and I have absolutely no plan. All I know is I am not about to just stand by and let this dickhead intimidate someone smaller just because he thinks he can.
“Don’t touch me again,” the girl says. “And stay away from Annie.” My eyes flick to Blondie. She must be Annie.
Jock-boy smirks, his lips turning up in this smug, assholey way that makes me want to punch him right in the face. He extends his meaty fingers and brushes them over the girl’s cheek. I cringe and I’m not sure why the idea of his sweaty fingers on her skin bothers me, but it does. A lot. Her eyes, which I can now see are blue, slit into a murderous glare. Obviously it bothers her too. I open my mouth to say something, to tell this guy to go fuck himself, but before anything comes out, the girl swings her leg up and kicks him right in the balls.
Priceless. I throw my fist over my mouth to hold in the laughter threatening to explode. Jock-boy grunts, his face somehow manages to turn an even brighter red, and grabs himself as he falls forward. The girl doesn’t miss a beat. As soon as he’s down, she swings her leg again, kicking him in the chin. The snap of his teeth slamming together makes me cringe. But the girl swings again, thrusting her foot into his stomach. Air rushes out of his mouth sending a spray of saliva and blood across the blacktop.
“I said not to touch me again,” the girl says in an unnervingly calm voice. She picks up her foot and I know she’s going to kick him again. I should let her. I should stand back and enjoy the show. But I don’t. I step up behind her, wrap my arms around her waist, and swing her so she is facing the other direction. I can feel her shaking with adrenaline or rage, so I let her go quickly. But in the two seconds she was against my body, I caught the scent of her shampoo, something fruity that will drive me crazy until I can identify it. I also decide I like the way her back felt pressed to my chest.
She looks up at me, her mouth opening in shock. “I don’t think he’ll touch you again,” I say, and I can’t help the smile that forms. I don’t know this girl, but I feel some unwarranted sense of pride as I gaze at her.
And she does something else that surprises me. The anger leaves her face and her lips turn up in a way that has my brain stumbling all over itself. For a second, I feel like a complete idiot because I’ve lost all ability to speak. The words tongue tied finally make sense and all I can do is stare at her mouth. “Thanks,” she says.
The blonde—Annie?—grabs her hand and pulls her away before I have a chance to respond. What was she thanking me for? For what I said? For pulling her off that guy? For staring at her like she’s my favorite flavor of ice cream?
They make it about five feet before an older man in a suit, probably the principal, takes her by her upper arm and drags her off in the direction of the school. She doesn’t fight him, but after several steps she turns her head and looks back at jock-boy as his friends help him stand. There’s blood dripping from his mouth and he seems to be having trouble straightening up. The girl’s lips form into a radiant smile.
“Fucking bitch,” jock-boy spits. And she winks. She freaking winks at him.
I realize I’m grinning like some psycho. Because what just happened, the entire situation, as crazy and violent as it was, was so frigging hot.
I think, for the first time in my life, I’m in love.
© Cheryl McIntyre