experiment with or show a superficial interest in (an idea, activity, or movement) without committing oneself to it seriously.
The first time she speaks to him is at the year ten social. They are sixteen.
He is standing beside the bowl of what is purportedly tropical punch- bright red and swimming with pineapple chunks and glacé cherries- with an all too innocent expression on his face. She's about to pick up a red plastic cup when she glimpses his left hand deftly slipping a short and flat glass bottle back into his pocket while his right taps the beat of the music blasting out of the stereo onto his thigh.
She arches an eyebrow at him.
"Did you just spike the punch?"
He blinks, unflinching, before running a hand through his hair.
"What with?" she leans across the refreshment table and plucks the bottle from his pocket, glancing at it before handing it back.
"I'm more a whiskey kind of girl," she says flatly.
He taps the side of his nose, "I'll bear that in mind next time."
She picks up an empty plastic cup and holds it out to him.
"Some punch, please."
He peers at her through his fringe, his brow furrowed, "Aren't you on the organising committee?"
Nonetheless, he fills the cup to the brim for her and hands it back.
She takes a sip, avoiding the question.
"I won't tell if you don't."
The second time, they are on the train home and she's flipping through some mediocre amateur photography magazine and he's somehow ended up in the seat across her, ipod plugged in and gazing out the window at the terracotta roofing and kidney shaped patches of blue that is suburbia. Halfway through the ride, she puts her magazine into her bag and stares morosely out the window.
He smirks at her.
"Magazine that good then?"
"Yeah," she says dryly, "So good that I put it away in favour of staring out the train window."
He pulls out his left earphone and tilts his head.
"Bearing in mind that there are other things to look at in this carriage."
"Well," he begins, "There's the train network map, the various snogging couples around us, the rather attractive collection of highly creative artist impressions of phallic symbols by the stairs... of course, there's always me..."
He smiles teasingly and she crosses her legs.
She notes his straight teeth.
"Have you had braces?"
He shakes his head. If he's slightly taken aback by the question he doesn't show it.
"No. But I'd like to, just for the experience. See how they feel."
She raises her eyebrows at him. He runs his tongue over his teeth thoughtfully.
"Lucky. Let me sum up the braces experience for you in four words: they make everything harder."
"Everything?" he asks suggestively, lifting an eyebrow.
She nods, not missing a beat, "Everything."
"And what, pray tell, do you mean by everything?" he leans back in his seat, folding his arms, ipod long forgotten in his lap.
"Well, just... everything," she says in a deliberately airy voice, "Anything that you can imagine doing with your lips, tongue and teeth, made about ten times harder."
"Anything? By anything, to you mean things that you would do on a daily basis, or just anything?"
He smirks and she laughs.
"You're such a boy..."
"And you're such a girl," he returns, tipping his head.
There are a few seconds of silence.
"This is my stop," he says, standing. He wraps his headphones around his ipod and jams it into his pocket, picking up his schoolbag. She smiles.
"See you tomorrow."
He nods and walks to the doors. When he gets off the train, she watches him walk down the platform, wind further messing up his hair. Then she takes out her magazine again.
The third time is at the shops, the day before Christmas eve. She's wearing a big white tee shirt and brown sandals. He's carrying his skateboard.
She's about to go into Woolies to pick up some stuff for her mum for Christmas dinner, when she hears an all too familiar voice behind her.
"Forgot your pants, then?"
She turns around and he's grinning. She tugs at the bottom of her shirt.
"Forgot implies that I didn't do it on purpose."
He tilts his head.
"Fair enough. Shall I rephrase that, then? Decided not to wear your pants, then?"
"I had a feeling I would run into you today."
"Ah. A clairvoyant. Unfortunately, I do not posses the same talent of foreseeing who or what I will encounter during the day. Rest assured that if I had known I would run into you, I would forget- I mean, -decide not to wear a shirt or some other item of clothing."
"I can't decide if that's necessarily a good thing or a bad thing."
"Ouch." He smiles good-naturedly at her.
"So, what are you picking up?" He nods in the direction of Woolies and she extricates a screwed up serviette from her wallet and peers at the writing on it.
"Some ice cream and paper plates," she replies.
"Are you walking home?"
"The ice creams going to melt."
She peers through one of the shopping complex's large windows.
"It's not really that hot outside. It's bearable."
"And what makes you think I was referring to the weather?" He arches an eyebrow at her, blue eyes sparkling. She smiles.
"I would ask you if you wanted to help me carry the ice cream home, but something tells me it would just melt sooner if you were with me."
He laughs and she smirks.
"I'd better let you get to your ice cream and paper plates then, can't keep them waiting."
"I certainly can't," she replies.
He jerks his head at her, "I'll see you around, then."
"Yeah. Merry Christmas."
He moves schools the next year. Life goes on.
Her friends tease her. She takes the train. She buys ice cream. She conveniently forgets to wear pants with her long tee shirts. She goes on dates. And at the year twelve formal, she finds herself spiking the punch.
She also finds that she misses the outrageous flirting.
Her first university lecture is spent in a dingy lecture hall on a scorching summer day, with the overhead fans sending papers flying and hot air swirling around the room and her skirt sticking to her thighs.
Halfway through the lecture, something hits her on the back of the head. She scowls and turns around.
The boy behind her hands her a balled up piece of lined paper, looking hopeful.
She thanks him and turns around.
'Third row from the back, fifth seat from the left. The lecture was boring me to death so I was looking for a window to stare out of. There are, as you can see, no windows or train maps, nor are there snogging couples or impressionist drawings of penises. However, you are here, and even though you've decided to wear pants today, you're still the best thing to look at in this room.'
She turns around and sees him in the third row from the back, fifth seat from the left.
He smiles and so does she. They are nineteen.