Paula stood there, watching Ezra for a long time. Taking a deep breath, she stepped forward and brushed her fingers over the nape of his neck like she always did. A strange tingle went through her body as she made contact with his skin.

"Ezra?"

He glanced up and went a little pink. Almost instantly, Ezra's eyes fastened to the swimmers in the pool again. "Yes?"

Paula sat down beside him and rested her chin in her hands. "I was in love with you last year," she said matter-of-factly.

Ezra tensed a little. "That was creepy."

"I was in love with you last year," she sighed again, wistfully this time.

Ezra relaxed. "That was creepy."

"I know. It was Ali's fault for introducing me to her cute older brother. I don't understand it, but that's that."

He turned suddenly and met her eyes. "I know. I knew you liked me."

Paula winced. "I noticed. It irritated me that I was so transparent."

Ezra smiled at her. "No more?"

She grinned. "No more."

With that, she got up, and pressing a kiss to his cheek, Paula walked away.

()()()()()

Paula stomped into Ezra's bedroom. He looked up at her. She yanked his short, curly hair.

"What was that for?"

Paula yanked again. "For being such a memorable person. Ever since I confessed that I liked you last year, I haven't been able to get you out of my head."

Ezra's gray-blue eyes sparkled with mirth. "You're upset at me for that?"

"Yes!"

He reached up and pulled her down, flipping over so that the plump, curvy girl was pinned underneath his long, lean frame. "Know what?"

She shook her head, reaching up to catch hold of his hair again. He quirked his brow at her and caught her hands. "First, what's with this obsession you have with my hair and neck? Second, you're a comfortable pillow, and third, I don't like it when girls come barging into my room and--"

"Paula?" a voice asked shrilly.

Ezra and Paula looked up to see Alicia, Paula's friend and Ezra's sister, standing in the doorway, looking slightly sick.

"Yeah?"

"Close the door if you're going to make out."

Ezra and Paula flushed, suddenly realizing what a compromising position they were in. "We weren't--"

"Jeez, Ali, you know me better than to think--"

"I thought you were my friend!"

Alicia smiled faintly at the two lying on the bed as they tripped over each other's and their own words. "I'd believe you if you weren't lying on top of Paula, Ez, and I know you well enough to think, Polly. Considering how bright you are, you should know what I think."

Ali fled, closing the door behind her. Ezra leaned down and rested his forehead on the bed beside Paula's ear. Suddenly he whispered, "I should get back at you."

Paula shifted away from his face. "For what?"

"For that weird thing you do to the back of my neck instead of saying hi. It tickles, you know."

She twisted her body under his, trying to get loose, only succeeding in freeing her hands. "How--interesting."

Ezra smirked suddenly and blew softly on the sensitive skin on the side of her neck. Paula gave a little shriek and shoved at his chest. Ezra chuckled.

"Know what? This is fun."

Paula kneed him in the balls. Unfortunately, his legs were twined with hers, pressing her into place and she couldn't. "It isn't fun for me!"

Ezra dropped a kiss at the base of her throat. Paula gave him a dirty look. "That tickles!"

"So? You tickle me when you do that weird stroking thing to my neck. It irritates me."

Oh, no. "Ezra!"

"Paula!"

"Stop this, now!" If he kept teasing and tempting her, she wouldn't be held responsible for what she did.

"What if I don't want to?" he breathed against her ear.

Paula caught his face in her hands and kissed him. Ezra quickly pulled away. He pushed himself up on his hands, giving her some space.

"Sorry," he muttered. Actually, he was having fun, but if Paula was uncomfortable...

Paula touched his face, and then reached up to play with his black curls. "I think I love you, Ezra," she murmured.

Suddenly, as if realizing what she had said, she pushed him away and bolted. Ezra was on his feet and following her in a minute. She was walking home like she always had, head held proudly, either glaring at guys who checked her out or else giving people she knew a dignified nod.

Ezra didn't have to go very fast to catch her; Paula was a good six inches shorter than he was in her stocking feet (although those three-inch heels she wore and her 'death glare' ruined the feeling that she was to be protected), not terribly athletic, and her idea of a dead run was anyone else's jog. As he caught up with her, he slung his arm around her shoulder and steered her over to an empty place.

"Now, Paula, you can't just say something like that and run."

She shoved him away from her. "It's either run or let you break my heart. I chose to run. I always run," she added dully.

"You don't trust, either," Ezra observed.

"Never."

Ezra put his arm around her shoulders again. "Know what? I think I love you too."

Paula resolutely pushed him away. "If you can wait eight years for me, Ezra, I'll let myself learn to trust you, but I have to finish school."

Ezra rolled his eyes. "Those eight years you're off wrestling with the bar you set too bloody high for yourself and working through college and medical school, what'll I do?"

Paula shrugged. "You don't have to wait. Get married, settle down, have kids, whatever."

Ezra shook his head. "I'll wait forever," he told her seriously.

Paula reached up and kissed his cheek. "I'm leaving for Concord College in West Virginia in two weeks."

()()()()()

Eight years later, Paula dialed the familiar number and waited for someone to pick up. Finally, a woman did. "Hello?"

Paula's voice trembled slightly. "Hello, this is Dr. Paula Buchanan. I"m an old friend of Alicia Russo's and I wanted to know if I could get her number."

The woman gasped. "Paula? DO you remember me? This is Elizabeth!"

Paula drew in a deep breath. "Liz. So, did you marry Ezra?"

She was quiet. "What?"

"You liked Ezra. You were perfect for each other."

Elizabeth chuckled. "I married Levi."

"Ezra's older brother?"

"Yes."

"And Ez?"

Elizabeth fell silent. Paula's heart shattered in that silence, knowing that if Liz told her that Ezra had done as she had told him to, she would lose everything she had been driving herself toward acheiving for Ezra.

"He never married," Lizzy said at last. "When people ask why, he says he's waiting for a woman he used to know and still loves. He's twenty-six now, and if he doesn't hurry up, he'll never get married."

Paula laughed shakily. "I assure you, that won't be a problem."

Author's Note:

So, how do you like my little oneshot. I did everything in the first scene, but the rest is just a weird thing that popped out of my head. Yeah. I actually like a guy who dresses in women's jeans, wears his coat everywhere, used to wear lipstick, has a voice pitched higher than mine, and dyes his hair a different color every week. He isn't gay; he has a girlfriend. Grrrr.

Anyway, you don't need the details of my love life. Review?

--PAB