"I. . .I think I love you".

Her lips formed the words for the ump-teen millionth time. Her reflection said it too.

"I think I love you."

She looked at his picture, cut out of an old yearbook and tacked to her wall.

"I know I love you."

She turned away, away from the mirror and the picture and him.

"I love you. . ."


Her backpack was packed, her wild hair had been tamed by the brush and a ribbon, her uniform was tidy, she had wiped her glasses on the hem of her shirt twice already, and there were simply no more reasons to delay leaving.

Except one.

He hadn't come yet. She had to wait for him. He always came, and she always followed, listening to him talk and occasionally saying something in return.

She gave a sigh of relief when she saw him approach and restored her glasses to their usual perch atop her nose - she had been cleaning them a third time as she stood just outside their meeting point, a gate to the garden of a family friend. It was almost exactly halfway between their houses.

"H'lo Sara!" he called, bright and cheerful as always. Bright like the sun - he was her sun. If only she could tell him. . .but no. He didn't need to know. It was too hard and it would burden him.

"Hello Thomas." she said, head bowed. "I was afraid you weren't coming."

"Ah, sorry about that. I had to finish up my Bio homework. Isn't Mr. Adkinson the worst? I couldn't believe the size of that assignment!"

"Yes, the worst." she said, falling into step behind him as they followed the sidewalk to school. "But at least he's human, right? He can't assign more than he can grade."

He laughed. It was so wonderful when he laughed. The corners of her lips tugged themselves upwards without prompting, and she smiled at the back of his head, happy that he laughed.

"You've got a good point! Dr. Fletcher, on the other hand, is some kind of undead zombie. How he expects us to do a whole paper in three days. . ."

She listened, but only with part of her brain. The rest she allowed to wander, thinking about him and about what she had to say. Unconsciously, her she murmured the three little words she had fought to keep inside her for so long.

"Did you say something?" asked Thomas, stopping.

"N-no. . ." she said, realizing that she had indeed dared to utter the forbidden words. She watched him with fear in her eyes, hoping he wouldn't ask her what she had said, praying it wouldn't burst from her lips again and destroy them.

He shook his head.

"Sorry. Must've been the wind."

She allowed herself a sigh of relief as he turned back around, but panic took over when the bus passed them.

"Oh great! We're gonna miss it!"

He grabbed her hand and started dragging her to the bus stop at top speed.

"Run, you lazy girl, run!" he tried to shout back to her, his panting words broken up with laughter.

She laughed too, laughed at him, laughed at herself, laughed at both of them, laughed at the world. This was why she loved him. This was why she cared.

When she was with him, she was happy. It was as simple as that. Everything he did made her smile inside, even if she didn't let anyone see it. Every time she saw him her petty troubles went away. Everywhere he took her was marvelous. When he wasn't with her, she thought of him and worried about him and anxiously waited for the next time they'd meet.

And yet, they only saw each other for a few minutes every day. They reached an boarded the bus and separated, like always, without even a "goodbye". His friends yelled his name, like always, and he went to them, like always. She stared at his back for a moment, already missing him, and made her way to the nearest empty seat No onw sat next to her, like always, and no one met her as she stepped onto the pavement at the school, like always. She would be alone until they met to go home at last. . . Like always.