It was probably her hair. At least, that was the first thing Adrian always thought of, those stringy blonde strands falling down her back as she ran across the playground. Always down. Always a tangled mess. He remembered Kathryn’s mother trying to tie it into a ponytail, only to have her wiggle out of her mother’s grasp and dive headfirst into a mud pile. But that had been years ago, back when they first met, when he was about eight.
Why he could never explain. But, it was what he looked at, instead of the math equations being written out on the board at the front of the class. Not that Kathyrn noticed, her head down, doodling lightning bolts all over her notebooks.
It was on a Tuesday, he remembered that much. Valentine’s Day. Seventh grade. The last year they would have to deal with the insufferable practice of giving everyone in their class a Valentine of some sort. Most kids just bought a box of candy. Some of the girls actually took the time to write out messages to everyone individually, but most just signed their names. Adrian’s mother had bought valentines for him, and written out each name in her tidy scrawl. All Adrian had to do was pass them out. They were sitting in a bag in his desk, waiting for their homeroom teacher to announce when they should begin.
Adrian hadn’t really thought about it before the moment Ms. Garcia told them they could distribute their cards. Should he have written something more on Kathryn’s card? Which one had his mother chosen for her? It was too late to check. It was too late to switch it. He swallowed, and made his way around the room, dutifully dropping the little folded cards on to the desks.
He made his way back to his desk, taking advantage of Mrs. Garcia’s distraction so he could lean his chair back, almost to the point of toppling it over. Kathryn wasn’t too far behind him, and he noticed her frowning at a few slips of paper in her hands. Her dark brown eyes surveyed the room, taking in each desk, before looking up again. Her head tilted, looking at the students in her immediate vicinity.
“Hey, Adi,” She turned to him with a smile, and he almost toppled his chair over.
“Hey, Ryn.” He smiled back. “What’s up?”
“You like ice cream?”
“Um,” What kind of question was that? Who didn’t like ice cream? “Yeah,”
“You want these? My mom got too many, I think.” She held the slips of paper under his nose. He took them from her. They were coupons for a free scoop of ice cream at the diner n town.
“Why don’t you want them? You should keep them,” He tried to hand them back to her.
“Nah, Mom’ll think I stole them from some kid I didn’t like. You keep ’em.” She smiled again and sat back down in her seat.
He held the coupons in his hand, examining every inch of them.
Out of twenty-four people in their class, she’d chosen to give them to him. Him. Adrian Carter.
He slipped the coupons into his pocket, away from the rest of the treats on his desk, and watched her push her messy hair over her right shoulder.
Maybe it wasn’t her hair. But damn if he was not in love with her.