She was a plain girl. Inconspicuous, unobtrusive, inoffensive, not pretty, not ugly, not disliked, but not necessarily well-liked either. She walked with her team, lagging behind, not speaking, just watching everything with a nondescript expression on her face: something on the verge of a smile, an expression that could be interpreted either as passive friendliness or indifferent detachment. If an outside observer saw the team walking together, he would see a loosely formed group of energetic girls trudging along a path towards a bus, talking and laughing in pairs. It just happened to be that the group had an odd number of people in it, and the girl also just happened to be the odd one out. Not that she minded. And it's not like she would have caught the observer's attention for being solitary either. She was silent and inconspicuous in her dignified separateness, and did not give off any trace of a moping or lonely expression.

The group of girls boarded the bus single file, with the girl stepping up last. As the girls filed down the aisle, they seated themselves in twos and filled a section of seats from front to back. As the last pair of girls sat down, the team realized that the girl had no one to sit next to.

She put on a smile: "It's all right. I'll just sit behind you."

The girls made a show of being worried about excluding her, but were relieved that she seemed content and unruffled. And she honestly didn't mind either. She looked to the seat behind. A boy sat there with a vacant spot beside him. He appeared unassuming and normal enough, wearing a running shirt with his school name on it.

"Do you mind if I sit here?" she asked tentatively.

The boy looked up, startled. "Sure," he replied, sliding himself over. He looked like he would be well-liked wherever he came from, with his classic blond hair and blue eyes and air of easygoing nonchalance. Apparently he did not have a team, because he sat alone.

"Thanks," she said gratefully. The apathetic half smile broadened into a rare unmistakable smile, and she sat down beside him and faced forward, trying not to bother him. He fidgeted a lot and half got up and turned around in his seat and looked around before sitting down again restlessly. Perhaps she was in the way.

"Do you want the aisle seat so that you can talk to people?" she asked him thoughtfully. He looked up startled again.

"Oh, no, no, I just wanted to see who was here, that was all, that's fine, thanks." He gave a quick half smile and looked down again. Then they sat in silence.

In the promise of a long bus ride, the girl started to make a long list of all her favorite songs, as well as other songs that she would like to hear one day. She wanted to make some mixed tapes when she got back. The girl concentrated on writing as he gazed blankly out the window. When she ran out of songs to list, she musingly looked up and turned her face towards him.

"Do you know any good songs?" she asked him.

"What?" he said, and turned around surprised out of his blank staring. She hoped she wasn't bothering him too much.

"What's your favorite song?" she asked him again, sincerely.

"Oh, um, right now, I guess it'd have to be… 'Love at First Sight,'" he smiled, gazing down at her list.

"Thanks," she nodded, smiled back up at him, and wrote it down.

"I don't know if you'd like it though," he said uncertainly.

"I'll try it," she promised. She put away her list, and they both continued to stare out the window, watching the fields and trees pass by in a hypnotic blur.

After a few minutes of that hypnotic blur, the girl felt her head droop and saw the boys eyes start to close. Soon, they were both fast asleep. She kept feeling herself tip over in her sleep with the bus's turns and swerves: towards the aisle, or towards the boy. She kept on trying to keep herself upright, but soon she was too tired to care and slept soundly. When the bus jolted her out of her deeper sleep, she was vaguely aware in her semi-sleepy state that her arm was pressed against the boy's and that they were leaning against each other in their slumber. She felt the warmth of vitality of his arm against hers, and his shoulder against her cheek. She was slightly worried that the boy would be annoyed at her intrusion in his personal space, but felt comfortable and secure there and did not want to wake him up by moving. She felt better when the boy shifted slightly more weight against her, because then the feeling was mutual. With most of her worries of her mind, and the dependable solid warmth below her head, she drifted back into total contented sleep.

About an hour later, the girl was woken suddenly out of her sleep by a sharp crack to her head as the boy's head dropped against hers with a bump in the road. They both pulled apart quickly upright and groggily looked at each other with surprise.

"My bad…" the boy mumbled sheepishly.

"Sorry…." the girl apologized sleepily at the same time.

They both looked embarrassed as they realized in their awake-state that they fell asleep against each other: complete strangers. They smiled at each other, and there was a small understanding. They fell sleep again, and went back to the way they were before, but this time with barely any embarrassment or awkwardness, only simple acceptance of one another.

The bus arrived back home. The spell was broken. They were strangers again. They collected their belongings and all that was left was a smile of acknowledgement and a hasty goodbye. She gazed out the bus window as he left and met his girlfriend outside and gave her a kiss. She was stereotypically beautiful, and also looked like she would be outgoing and well-liked. They were a good match, the girl noted approvingly. She was proud of him for choosing well. He was a totally different person outside the bus; he laughed a lot and yelled across the street at his many friends. The tentative kindness and shy uncertainty from when he was by himself vanished immediately, and the girl was swept from his memory. The girl watched this from inside the bus indifferently, and only allowed herself a brief moment of loneliness, a small secret smile for him before erasing her face, shouldering her knapsack and following the rest of her team outside. She once again trailed behind her loudly laughing teammates, a subtle pleasant detached expression on her face, walking alone, inconspicuously apart, going through the motions of being part of a team, camouflaged by the crowd. She remembered him forever.

"To sleep is an act of faith."
--Barbara G. Harrison