The first time I saw Foxx was in a little suburb outside Toronto, at the Pacific Mall. I was trailing behind my family, not really wanting to be there at all but having no place else to go. He was shades of gold from head to toe, from his bronze hair to his sun-kissed skin, even to the light brown clothes he wore. He leaned unobtrusively against the glass wall of a camera shop as people eddied around him. He only caught my eye because he was so beautiful.
I craned my neck to keep him in sight as we passed by when suddenly he stiffened, aware of my scrutiny, and glared at me. Quickly, I averted my gaze, my face flaming with embarrassment. Oh, I hope he didn’t think I was looking at him! I tried to cover by pausing to stare in the windows of each camera shop we passed by. There were a lot of them. When I finally risked a glance behind me, he was gone. I sighed with relief.
We stopped at the food court upstairs, and I sat at a little table with the bags while my aunt and my parents went to find us something to eat. I stared at the animated groups of people at nearby tables, wishing I could be more like them. Wishing I was having fun, too. With a jolt of shock, I recognized the young man from the camera shop seated two tables away. He looked right at me. Oh, he was beautiful, even with the angry scowl that drew his bronze eyebrows down at the center. I tore my eyes away. Coincidence. It had to be a coincidence.
My dad came back, just then, with two trays of snacks. My mom and aunt carried a drink—one—for us all to share. We shared everything, little tastes from around the world. I wasn’t hungry, but I ate so I wouldn’t have to look and see if that beautiful boy was still watching me. When we got up to leave, I peeked, and he was. His gaze didn’t shift one bit. I hurried after my family.
Somewhere on the escalator to the ground floor I felt a tap on my arm and I just knew it was him. Why was he even following me? It’s not that I was pretty or anything. I didn’t think I was particularly ugly, but not stare-worthy, like him! Was he that offended that I’d stared at him?
He tugged me to a stop as we got off, and my family obliviously walked on ahead, talking non-stop as they always did when they got together. I didn’t think they’d notice if I wasn’t right behind them, and I was right.
The beautiful boy was tall. He glared down at me, still with one hand clamped around my upper arm. “You see me,” he said. His voice was golden, too. Like honey. Except I could tell he was angry. “How?”
I always get tongue-tied with strangers, even beautiful ones. Especially beautiful ones. “I—I’m sorry,” I mumbled, dropping my gaze. I didn’t know what he was talking about, and guessed that English was probably not his first language. “I didn’t mean anything. I won’t do it again.” Meaning stare at him like the infatuated teenager that I was. “I’ve got to go now.”
My family had stopped at the exit, finally having noticed I wasn’t with them. My dad gave me an impatient look and jingled his car keys. The boy’s grip slackened, and I hurried away from him, not daring to look back this time.
We stayed in Toronto for two more weeks before heading home to New York and school. I found excuses not to go back to Pacific Mall the few times my relatives wanted to shop there, though I regretted not being able to see that boy one last time. I thought I saw him once or twice in other places around the city, but I was too afraid to pursue it in case it was him and he got really mad. What was wrong with me that I had to be so painfully shy? Why should I care what some stranger thought of me? Still, I wished I could have seen him once more. He was that beautiful.
The second time I saw him—the second time for sure—was in New York. Now, what would a boy from Canada be doing in a small town in upstate New York? He didn’t see me, which made me think maybe he hadn’t come here because of me. Why would he? My imagination, as usual, was running wild.
At home, my parents were more normal than when we visited our relatives in Canada. For one, they didn’t make me accompany them everywhere. I had taken the bus from school and gotten off at my friend’s stop. It was a good two miles from my house, but not a bad walk if the weather cooperated. Jenny had been my best friend since elementary school, and now that we were in high school, we stuck together even though we weren’t in many of the same classes. I stayed for a while, then started the brisk walk towards home before it got too dark.
A car buzzed past, and I stepped onto the grass rather than risk getting hit in the fading light. There was a short-cut through a parking lot of the local grocery store. I took it, and that’s when I saw him, the beautiful boy from Toronto. He was walking out of the grocery store behind a couple with a full cart of food. He had no expression on his face as he followed them. I couldn’t help watching him. Was he connected to the couple somehow? They didn’t look alike at all. My boy was gold and brown, and they were—middle-aged and not whatever-he-was. I still couldn’t tell. He got into the backseat of their car and drove off with them, out of my life. Again.
I found myself sketching his face in my notebook during class. Jenny leaned over, impressed with my mediocre artwork, but it was the subject, definitely the subject. I had managed to capture his sharp cheekbones, his pensive eyes, the hair that sloped down in a V to cover half his face when he looked down. When he looked up, my world stood still. I doubt I captured all of that, but enough that Jenny admired my doodle. “Who’s he?” she asked, intrigued.
“Nobody, just my imagination,” I fibbed. I hoped he wasn’t, but I half-suspected he might be. Why else would he keep popping up in such unexpected places?
That night, the news was full of a fire which had torn through a local home, killing all the inhabitants. I remembered it because it showed a photo of the people who died. I couldn’t be sure, but they looked a lot like the couple who had driven away with my beautiful boy that afternoon. My heart thundered at the thought that he might be dead. I wanted to go see for myself, but of course, I couldn’t. I was just a kid, and the house was nowhere near mine. Instead, I scoured the news for mention of any other victims, but there wasn’t any.
The next day I felt a crushing sadness all out of proportion to my imaginary acquaintance with a boy who might or might not have been real. I moped through my classes, I moped on the way home, I—
He stood at the end of my driveway, regarding me impassively. My heart leapt with joy. He was alive! He was—how was he here? I stuttered to a stop, suddenly afraid. A small smile crept across his lips. “You do see me,” he murmured in that honey voice of his.
“Why are you following me?” I whispered, though my traitorous heart didn’t care. It was glad he was there, whatever the reason. A cold chill traveled down my spine as I remembered the couple who had died in the fire. “Were you at the grocery store?” I couldn’t bring myself to be more specific. He had a temper, as I remembered.
His smile blossomed, transforming his face from just beautiful to stunning, if you could apply that adjective to a boy. I could. I did. “You saw me there?”
Slowly I nodded. “Were you—why?” I still couldn’t ask, because I didn’t want to know.
He walked towards me, his smile gradually fading until he was only beautiful again. “They didn’t see me.”
“They didn’t--?” What did he mean? I’d seen him climb into their backseat.
“They didn’t.” Now his face was solemn, expressionless again. Still beautiful. I couldn’t stop looking at him, even when I suspected he might have had a hand in those peoples’ deaths. “People don’t. See me. You see me.”
Now I was really confused. Was he being philosophical, because he was standing right in front of me, plain as day. What a stupid expression. Plain as day. I was plain as day. Not him. “Why are you here?” I asked.
He smiled again. “I need you to do me a favor,” he replied. “Can you drive?”
I had just gotten my license last spring, though my parents seldom let me borrow their car. Where would I go, anyway? “Yes,” I said warily. “But I’m not supposed to take the car without permission.”
“But you can drive.” He took my arm and steered me up my own driveway to the beat up sedan parked there. Both my parents were at work, but I knew where the keys were. Against my better judgment, I took the keys and followed his directions down the road out of town and onto the main highway. I hoped he didn’t want me to drive him back to Toronto. I had barely driven on the highway before this and I was not at all confident in my driving skills.
He had me drive maybe twenty miles out before we pulled into a rest area, a lookout along the high cliffs which ran along the Hudson. I had never been here before, even though it wasn’t all that far from where I lived. “Wait here,” he told me, getting out of the car. I blinked in surprise. Where was he going now? There was nothing out here for miles. I looked around, bewildered. What was I supposed to do? But he was already gone.
I waited, watched as occasional cars pulled into the rest area, stopped, looked at the view, and left again. Each time a new car approached, I tensed, but they all ignored me. Finally, when I’d begun to think maybe I really was crazy, my beautiful boy slid into the seat beside me. “Okay, let’s go.”
We drove in silence as the shadows gathered. I flicked on my headlights when a cop car screamed by on the other side of the highway, followed in quick succession by two more. I was glad that whatever happened was in the opposite direction. I was in enough trouble as it was.
“My name is Emily,” I finally said, for something to say. He’d retreated behind his impassive mask again without giving me any further instructions on where to drive. So I headed for home.
“Emily.” He looked at me out of the corner of one eye. That’s all he said. I didn’t push the issue. It wasn’t in me. We pulled up to my house and he got out with me. My mom’s car was already in the driveway, which meant both my parents were home.
“Mom? Dad?” I opened the front door and took a deep breath. “You remember when we were in Toronto? I met somebody there, and he’s come to—“ I glanced behind me, and once again my beautiful boy was gone. “—visit,” I finished in a whisper. He was gone as quickly as he’d come.
Of course I got in trouble. My parents took the car keys and grounded me for a week. I didn’t much care. Except for Jenny’s, I didn’t usually go anywhere, anyway. As for driving, well, it wasn’t my idea to begin with.
I went to bed right after supper, confused and upset. Why had he needed me to drive him twenty miles out of town and back? I had been used, that was obvious. Used and abandoned. But why me? You see me, he had said. I still didn’t know what that meant.
The news that night showed a massive pile-up on the highway outside of town. That could have been me, I thought with a shudder. No, I wasn’t sad that my parents had taken away the car keys.
I woke in the middle of the night with my heart pounding for no good reason, until I saw him leaning against my dresser, watching me. I drew my knees up and clutched the covers around me, scooting back until I was huddled against the headboard. “What are you doing here?” I whispered, scared. How had he even gotten in? My dad was militant about locking doors.
He sat on the edge of my bed. “Thank you. For earlier.”
My heart was still thudding but it wasn’t all fear. “Who are you?” I asked faintly.
He smiled. “Who? I go by Foxx, if that’s what you mean.”
It wasn’t, but it was more than I knew five minutes ago. I felt like I was missing an important piece of the conversation. “Foxx. Why are you in my room in the middle of the night?”
He rose. “Do you want me to go away?”
“No!” It came out immediately, involuntarily.
“You probably should.” He smiled again, that achingly beautiful smile, but he sat back down.
We talked until morning when he said he had to go. We talked about me, my school, my friends, what I liked and what I hated. I never noticed until after that he’d never spoken about himself.
“Will I see you again?”
Foxx paused in the window. “I hope so.”
With that, he jumped lightly down to the ground and ran off. I lost sight of him almost immediately. I sighed. I couldn’t be sure, but I think I had a boyfriend.