She likes to make paper cranes.
Or, that's what he assumes. She is always making them, whenever he gets to see her. At lunch, she sits alone, and she keeps to herself at her own table, her fingers moving deftly over the paper squares before her, folding the cranes delicately and perfectly each time. She has it down to a science, and he is transfixed by it. Sometimes she has a nice little pile made by the end of the allotted time, which she carefully moves, one crane at a time, into a plastic shopping bag.
He doesn't know what she does with the cranes. He doesn't know why she likes to make them so much. He doesn't know, but he wants to. Watching her becomes a habit, and is encouraged further by the fact that she never even so much as glances up at anyone. Does she even know he's watching her? Does she care? Does she know anyone else at this school? Or does she even want to make friends?
One day, his curiosity gets the better of him, and he stands up from his table, leaving his friends to cross the tiled cafeteria to her.
"Do you mind if I sit here?" he asks, and she doesn't even glance up from her work, but she shrugs. So he seats himself, and leans his chin comfortably against his palm, watching her methodically finish folding the crane, and then immediately move on to the next. He picks one up, admiring how perfectly it's folded.
"Don't touch that!" she suddenly snaps, and he starts, surprised that she had even spoken. He blinks at her, and then carefully sets it down on the table. Her delicate hands quickly snatch it up, and she sets it back into the pile. She has a fierce look in her eye when she turns back to him, "Don't touch these. They aren't for you."
"Sorry," he says quietly, and she nods, returning to her work. Her face becomes expressionless, and she finishes three more cranes before he dares to speak again.
"Why do you like cranes so much?" he ventures, and she doesn't answer right away, her hands not even pausing as she works.
"I don't," she says, stacking another and picking up a piece of origami paper, "I hate them."
"What?" He asks, surprised, "Then why do you make them all the time?"
She pauses, and then her hands resume their work. He feels a little embarrassed; now she knows that he's been watching her, or at least she can probably guess that he has. For a moment, he wants to correct himself, or at least explain away what he said, but he doesn't have a chance to say anything before she speaks.
"I am going to make a thousand," she says, "I have to make a thousand."
This intrigues him. He pauses for a moment, his eyes on her fingers.
"Why?" She makes a disgruntled noise, and he wonders if he's bothering her. Her fingers stop their work, and she looks up at him fiercely again, her brows furrowed, and her brilliant green eyes shining with a defiance that sends a thrill through him.
"Because I want a wish," she says simply, unblinking. He feels trapped by her gaze, like he can't even breathe, "I need a wish. I've heard that if you fold one thousand cranes, you get a wish," she finally looks away, back down to her work. Neither of them speak for a moment, and then she says again, quietly, as if she were talking to herself, "I need a wish."
She hates making paper cranes. She hates it, but she does it anyway; she needs a wish.
"I've never heard that before," he comments idly, and she doesn't respond, "Why do you need a wish?"
Her hands stop completely, and she looks up at him for a long moment, her eyebrows furrowed, and her expression mildly confused. Neither of them speak, and then the bell rings for the end of lunch period. She looks up, and then begins gathering, one by one, her paper cranes, setting them carefully into a plastic bag she produces from a pocket on her shoulder bag. When they are all put away, she gives him one last glance that he can't interpret, and then she leaves.
"Can I ask your name?" he says it politely, and she pauses at her locker, her hand on the combination lock. She glances up, calculating him, it seems, and then she looks back down, twisting the lock this way and that, and opening it up.
"Catherine," she says, "Catherine Eves."
Her name feels elegant, and it floats around in his mind, twirling and spinning. He makes sure to remember it.
"My name is Brock Johnson," not elegant, not handsome, not fancy, not anything. He almost feels embarrassed, "It's nice to meet you."
She makes a sound of consent, carefully tucking the bag of origami into the top nook of her locker. She makes sure that none are in danger of being bent or smashed by the door, and then she closes it, looking up at him for a moment, as if unsure what to do next. He rubs the back of his head, nervous.
"Um. You say you hate making paper cranes," she nods, and he glances around the hall, watching people talk and walk by and clog the traffic of teenagers, all struggling to rush to their next class, even though they complain about not wanting to be there, "If... if I learned how, could I help you?"
She stares at him for a moment, and then shakes her head.
"I have to make them," she says, adjusting her shoulder strap, "Only me."
She walks away, and he sighs, watching her go. After school, he spots her walking home from the bus window, and he wonders where she's going. He wonders where she will store all of those cranes, and he wonders how many she has already made; how she can even keep track of them all. She hates making paper cranes, but he doesn't know what she likes to do. He doesn't know why she's so quiet, and he doesn't know why she doesn't try to make friends. He doesn't know why she needs a wish.
He doesn't know, but he wants to.