The Four Times She Thought She Fell In Love, and The One Time She Did.
i. His name was Nicholas. He saved her seats at recess, shared his snacks with her, and let her play elimination with the rest of the boys in the gazebo at lunchtime. When she slipped on some ice running to class, he stayed back to help her up. And when the snow melted in the spring and he was left hopping around on one foot, his left boot stuck in the mud, she ran back to lend an arm and shove his socked foot back into his shoe. Over lunch one day he said to her plainly: "You're my ginger, and I'm your snap." She glowed.
Later that year, embarrassed by her fondness for a boy, she pulled him aside in gym class and told him to take a hike. He cried and she felt like being sick, even as her friends applauded.
ii. He was a friend of a friend, and they met at a bar. He ordered a Jagerbomb for her, but the bar had neither Jager nor Red Bull, so the waitress helpfully supplied them with Vodka and Rockstar. Warmed by liquor and bundled against the cold of a Canadian March, he agreed to walk her home. Somewhere along the way the notion of a short detour to the 24-hour grocery was floated and agreed upon. With sweater sleeves pushed up and furtive glances, they plucked lobsters from their tanks and set them on the ground to race. "Speedy McFastyPants over here is gonna leave your Speedy McGarlicButters in the dust," he whispered, laughing.
They fought over everything and nothing: the best way to strain pasta and each other's futures. In the end, he moved to Halifax and she never missed him.
iii. They had been sleeping together casually for a few months. He called her one night, moody and unsure, and she told him to come over. A half hour later she heard him closing the front door behind him, heard him toe off his shoes in the hallway. When he padded into her room, he looked utterly beat. Wordlessly, he dropped his torn leather jacket to the ground and crawled onto the bed with her, wrapping his long limbs around her where she sat. She skritched her nails through his hair and for twenty minutes he lay curled around her, silent. Later that night they panted against each other's skin, hands gripping and reaching and teasing and soothing. She dozed naked against his shoulder, his hand tracing lines across the damp plane of her back and lulling her almost to sleep. He whispered her name, and she couldn't muster the energy to respond. "You're wonderful," he murmured, thinking she was asleep.
Eventually he found someone to date – not someone like her, not someone only good for a quick lay when he needed it. She raged and hated and wept but it wasn't for the loss of him; being overlooked hurts, no matter who you are.
iv. When they met in the produce department, it was because she nearly toppled into him as she lunged to grab a plastic bag for her celery. He asked her if she knew where the ginger was – he was making a turkey curry that night. It took him until she was at the check out to approach her again and ask if she liked turkey curry. She grinned and said yes, and he let out the breath he hadn't realized he was holding. The sales associate punched in and weighed her celery and green onions. He nervously adjusted his wool hat and cleared his throat, saying that he was off to get some supplies for dessert and that he'd see her later. Her ground beef booped across the scanner. He turned back a moment later and said "…do you like cheesecake?" She nodded, beaming.
They argued one afternoon because he didn't like her spending time with her best friend. She tried to leave but he stopped her, and when she resisted her hit her. She walked out of her own house and never looked back.
v. She was on the way back from the campus clinic when she ran into him in the busy hallway. It had been a long week – sick and behind on schoolwork and hard up for cash after quitting her job. They had worked together the year before, and she hadn't seen him since the winter semester ended six months earlier. He reached for her now-twelve-inches-shorter hair, and she for his now-two-months-unshaved beard, and they both exclaimed their approval. He beamed down at her and she up at him. She marveled at how she could have missed him so much without knowing it – without thinking of him at all during the six months she didn't see him but now acutely feeling the ache of every day of that separation. "Don't be a stranger," he warned with a smile, "and come back to work." He tousled her hair with his hand. "I wont," she agreed, "and I will."
He's been the stars in her eyes ever since.
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