she didn’t know she was smiling until she felt his waves through her teeth.
a foreign feeling spread throughout her skin, from the inside out. like a gooey, magical conglomerate of her three favorite things: big, soft marshmallows, sunshine, and a tinge of stardust. what was this? this sensation that caused her cheeks to upturn without her consent–almost without her knowledge–into a smile so wide it rivaled that of the one beaming from her mother’s framed face across the room.
she and her mother smiled that entire day. that day of bright blooming flowers and saturating joy.
this though. this feeling … this unexpected happiness. this smile brought upon her by the befuddled creature before her, with his handsome features and olive skin.
the feeling moved downward. upward. diagonally tingled through protein strands resting on her head, zested down to the keratin painted sky blue atop the soft pads of her fingers, and up through the enamel now breaking free of the cage her lips usually held them in, as if they were gaining freedom for the first time.
she turned her head away slightly, her face flushed, afraid he may be able to see evidence of the sparkly, marshmallowed-sunshine taking over her bloodstream. “no one’s ever said that to me.”
his features contorted even more, as if their attempt at twisting themselves into a sort of ugly bewilderment failed the first time. the second attempt was just as futile. he still looked … indescribable.
he was a boy that sent vibrations so strongly through her core, she saw him only in sound waves. try as she might, she could never quite capture him in words or plain image. so unstable was her equilibrium in his presence, she could only remember the vibrations that sang through her once he was no longer there. she saw him in lovely, delirious lines of electric blues and static whites, reverberating from the walls to the floors and back up through the soles of her feet, and ear lobes, and sky blue fingernails. she didn’t see him. she felt him.
“you’re lying.” his face still contorted in disbelief, he scooted closer to her on the white leather chaise they were lazily lounging on, waiting for his mother’s shiny white BMW to appear through the breezy white curtains on the living room windows.
they could always count on his mother to be at least fifteen minutes late when she was picking him up from the small yellow house. she cherished those extra minutes, like a gift so secret, she felt she was somehow stealing them with her will alone. every weekday at 5:15, she started creating scenarios in her mind as to why it would be almost impossible for Mrs. Washington to show up at 5:30. they started out grand: she decided she needed a break and went to a spa day unexpectedly after work; she’d gotten some incredible offer from a charismatic pyramid-scheme representative and had to be orientated right away; her car had mysteriously been on four flats when she walked out of the grand twelve story banking headquarters that employed her.
once she realized it was nearly guaranteed that his mother would never show up at 5:30 like she promised him each morning when she dropped him off at her house, her reasons became much simpler. still, she dared not create a reason, for fear that she in fact had been controlling the time continuum that forced his mother’s tardiness. she tended to stick to things that would shift her whole day by a half-hour now: a pantyhose run in the morning and subsequent stop at the store which caused her to be late, or a late lunch meeting that pressed her workload into overtime.
“i’m not. no one has ever called me beautiful.”
the marshmallows inside had bloomed into every corner of her, squeezing her heart so that she could feel it thumping just under her breasts. she had breasts. the word frolicked around her mind all day, reminding her of the pretty new bras she was now required to adorn them in each morning. this new phenomenon had her staring in the small mirror above the bathroom sink after every nightly shower, and then still in the long one hanging on her bedroom wall, amazed at the emergence of these two foreign appendages that seemed like they had never not been there. thirteen was an interesting age.
and now, she was beautiful. was it the breasts that had caused this new epiphany? last summer, the only thing differentiating her chest from his was that it was inhabited by her, and the fact that he loved to bare his to the sunlight. she’d been called dopey and silly and smart once, and even heard “i guess you think you’re a girl now” the first time she’d worn a skirt voluntarily in his presence, but never beautiful.
“not even your mom?”
“no.” she wondered if this was strange. did other mothers make a habit of calling their daughters beautiful for no apparent reason?
“my mom calls me her beautiful boy. i hate it. but she only does it at home.”
she imagined Mrs. Washington rubbing his dark hair through her long, thin fingers in that way she always did, and ordaining him beautiful. the vision was vivid. she believed him.
her mother preferred more diplomatic words like brilliant. her name could be interchanged with brilliant by now, as she’d probably been called it just as many times as her birthright. “oh, you brilliant child of mine” was her mother’s favorite. she contemplated her rather plain and unsubstantial face, her cloud of hair that stayed tamed in a thick ponytail at the base of her neck. maybe her brilliance wasn’t beautiful.
she had forced her cheeks downward by now, her face into a more normal expression. “why am i beautiful?”
the sound waves in his dark eyes suddenly turned her way as he stared, ebbed through her own and squeezed inside the mushy marshmallow her brain had become. she’d faint soon, she just knew it.
his shoulders gave a completely contrasting message to the one his eyes were searing as they shrugged indifferently. “you just are.”
and at once, it was the greatest reason he could have given of all.