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It had been two weeks since the end of the quarter. Only two weeks, and he already missed her. He knew he shouldn’t, and for the most part he kept himself distracted with his work. But whenever he had some free time, or (what was worse) whenever he saw his girlfriend, he thought of her. He missed her shy smile (now that she had gotten her braces off her smile had gone from cute to stunning), and the way she fleetingly met his eyes when he said her name before cutting away as quick as she could.
He sighed, thinking about how she was gone now. They weren’t going to have classes together, and chances were they would never see each other again. How had she slipped through his fingers? She had been right there for the better part of five months...and now she was lost to him.
“Stop pushing me! I’m going, I’m going!”
“You’re so slow! Move!”
He recognized the laugh that accompanied the order, and his head jerked around so fast a sharp pain stabbed him in the neck. Wincing, he strained around to look for the source of that voice. That familiar voice...
Then he saw her. She was wearing jeans and a blue long-sleeve shirt that almost looked like a sweater, with just enough of a v-neck to make him swallow. It was her alright. Her curly blonde hair was a little frizzy on the left side and her smile was radiant, head tilted back like it did when she laughed. She hadn’t seen him yet, so he slid out from behind the counter and quickly followed, picking up a pile of clothes so at least he looked like he was working.
When he was close enough he said, like he had every day in class, “Hi, Marney.”
She jerked, startled, and turned wide eyes on him. Then she smiled nervously and lifted her hand in a small wave, like she always did, too. “Hi.”
They both knew one of them should say something else. Their friend, Ashley, stood there trying to hide a smile and doing a terrible job.
“What’re you doing here?” He asked, flicking the tag on the shirt he was holding. Thirty dollars for a green t-shirt...way too expensive.
“Oh, you know,” Marney waved her hand vaguely, “Shopping.”
Ashley burst out laughing.
He turned on her, frowning a little. “Why are you laughing?”
She grinned conspiratorially. “Because it’s just so funny.”
He was about to ask, ‘What is?’, when Marney nudged her friend in the side and twisted her hands together.
“We should be going,” Marney said, almost reluctantly. “My Mom’s going to be here soon to pick us up--” She stopped abruptly, going pink in the cheeks as if she’d just said something she hadn’t meant to.
He understood. She was a Freshman, he was turning seventeen in a few days. The age difference was there, and she couldn’t hide it any better than he could. Even so, his current girlfriend (Alicia) was a Freshman.
“Yeah, and I have work to get back to. It’s a busy day, too.” He said lamely.
Marney glanced quickly around the near-empty store, and cracked a small smile. “Good luck keeping up with all the business.”
“Right. Thanks.” He pretended to look around, like he was bored.
She grew even pinker and mumbled, “See you later,” Before dragging Ashley away.
He didn’t even get the chance to say goodbye.
For the next hour he watched the entrance, waiting for Marney to leave the store so he could get his chance. He had almost wasted what he thought was his last, and he’d done it again earlier. This time would be different. This time he would establish some sort of link with her. Finally, he saw her, checking out at his friend Harlem’s register. Harlem flapped his hands around like he was doing some sort of impression, and Marney tilted her head back and laughed delightedly. A sick feeling grew in the pit of his stomach as he watched the exchange.
But what could he do? Reality hit him, then. He was graduating in a year and a half while she still had almost four ahead of her. He already had a girlfriend who he cared about, and he wasn’t entirely sure he was ready to throw that away. But still, Marney...she wasn’t any special beauty, but to him, she was what nectar is to bees. Necessary. It wouldn’t be fair for him to claim her for the next couple years, though. This was the time when she should be exploring her options, not tied down to someone who would abandon her halfway through high school.
A wild notion came to him. What if he just kissed her, consequences be damned? Kissed her, and took her on dates like going to feed the ducks or taking a walk in the Fall. They could go on adventures together, be partners in crime, Marney and him...and what if he didn’t give her up after high school? What if they kept dating, and she came to college with him, and they dated through college and then what if after college...? And what if the sky was purple and everyone walked on their hands.
He sighed, knowing the right choice and hating it. He couldn’t help calling out, “Marney!” as she was leaving the store, however.
Marney turned, an eyebrow raised.
He formed his hands in a heart and smiled, trying to convey everything he wouldn’t let himself say.
She grinned at him, a faint blush spreading up her cheeks, her hand jerking in a small wave as she turned and walked away.