I remembered the first night we spoke, at a party, a week after I turned fourteen. It was a humid Saturday night and an ex had decided to start a fight with me. I turned into a full fledged drama queen, and ran crying to the solace of a wooden gazebo on the edge of the woods behind the party house. The tip of his long shadow touched the steps of my fortress before Toby did, “Are you OK?” he asked.
“Yeah,” I said between racking sobs.
“You want to talk?”
“Yeah.” I went on for what felt like years but was actually a few hours without taking a breath. “…he’s just such an asshole you know, I could do so much better than him.”
“You could do a lot better, like me.”
For the first time that night, I burst out laughing.
The side of his mouth turned up in a half smile. “What’s funny about being my girlfriend?”
“You don’t want to date me, I’m like, totally crazy.”
“Maybe,” his light eyes enveloped me. “But you’re laugh is the most beautiful sound I’ve ever heard.”
Before I could decide if he was serious or not a group of boys with baggy jeans, flannel shirts, and backwards baseball caps called out, “Hey! We’re leaving, man. You coming?”
He stood up. The eaves of the rotted wood sighed beneath his tall frame. “I gotta go, see you around.”
“See you around.”
That Monday, Margo and I strolled up to the side entrance of the two story brick prison called high school, and there he was. His azure eyes were half closed as he sat on the steps playing an acoustic guitar the color of wheat. The scene was more fantastic than an e.e. cummings poem. My heart stopped beating in my chest as I followed the trajectory of his skinny left arm and the fingers of his right hand caressing the neck. Even though he was fully clothed, a hundred feet away from me, and so into the song he didn’t know I was staring at him, it was the most erotic event of my life up until that point.
Margo, my best friend since forever, nudged me. “Gawk much?”
I took a breath, not realizing I’d been holding it the entire time, and shook my head. “No way. Total waste of time. It’s not as if he likes me, or whatever.”
“He totally likes you, Caroline.”
“How do you know? Are you psychic?”
“I have eyes.” A smirk stretched over Margo’s tan skin. “Every time you speak, he looks over at you and smiles like a little kid. I’m afraid he’s gonna pull on one of your pigtails during recess, or something.”
My pulse sped up. “Really?”
“Watch him for yourself if you’re so interested.”
I did. Our eyes met for the briefest of moments and it made me feel as if I’d been shot out of a cannon. I turned back to my notebook and started to write, secretly wishing my Mom would give in and buy me a cell phone. Since I was fourteen, the best idea for expressing my undying love to him was to pass him a note after class, and that’s exactly what I did. The rest of the day proved supremely agonizing. As I walked out the front door to my bus, he stopped me, and handed me a note of his own.
I wrote him a note every day for the next two years.