When we were in middle school, I really liked her. I'm talking school boy crush. I loved her cherry red curls and her bad eye shadow before she learned how to put on make-up. She didn't really know about me, only that I sat behind her in math in seventh grade and she would always turn and hand me work sheets with tiny little smiles.
I would say thanks and she'd say you're welcome, and I'm pretty sure that my heart would gallop out of my chest with the force of my blood, staining her beautiful hair a deeper shade of scarlet.
In eighth grade her locker was next to mine and sometimes when she shut it I could smell her shampoo, and she smelled of flower fields and angels and waking up on a Saturday morning near Christmas when your mum has been baking. We had more classes together, sat on the same side of the room in homeroom, but still didn't talk much.
We became friends in our freshman year of high school because we were two of the only people to transfer to a high school that was further away due to border policies. She still used the same shampoo, only her breasts had started to come in and she was overzealous with her eyeliner, making her look like a ginger raccoon or a baby red panda and still I saw her beauty.
Getting to know her was the easy part, she let me in and her doors became windows. She was the daughter of a doctor and a lawyer and was doted upon as their starlet at every possible opportunity. She was naturally red headed, had never dyed her hair, was an A student, favored yellow apples over any other, dreamed of being a poet.
She showed me one of her poems, and I read it but couldn't make head or tail of it, and she said it was about me, and I believed her. I believed her even more when she kissed me and kissed me and kissed me.
Two months pregnant she came to me with no place to stay. Turns out she was a starlet that fizzled out to her parents, who locked their doors and tossed her notebooks full of beautiful words upon their dying lawn in November, leaving her crying on the pavement in a nightgown. My mom let her in, let her stay and I couldn't look at her because becoming a part of her life had weighed down on me.
I wished I could go back to before I knew her, when she didn't have a bosom, when she dressed in tacky shirts from Stitches and popped five cent candies like pills and I didn't know anything about her. I knew too much, had kissed her in too intimate of places, and I ached to forget it. She had complicated me, had afflicted my blood with her curse and made my heart hurt when she woke in my house morning after morning, her belly beginning to protrude and her hair getting fuller and fuller, curlier and curlier.
Her parents stopped her in the grocery store one day, a three month old baby balancing on her hip, and he whined and whined for his mother. I was next to her with a basket in my hand, soup cans rolling against the plastic green. They begged her to come home, begged their daughter to come back.
She looked at them, looked at me, looked at her son, and decided that their daughter didn't exist anymore.
She got sadder after the birth of our son, Mom said it was postpartum, and I agreed because I didn't know what that was. She would wake screaming some nights, and some days couldn't get out of bed altogether. I would sit with her and feel like crying as she slept, a streak of fire against the white sheets of our bed while our son cried in his crib and I listened to him through the baby monitor.
One day she awoke, determined to return to school. She came home one October day with a notebook in hand, poems littering the first five pages and she made me read.
And I got it this time, they were about me, about her, about our son, about a girl without a mother and father, a girl with an enormous heart and an enormous belly, a starlet fizzling out and turning into a meteor.
I loved her so much; love her to this very day. She wears no makeup at all now, and her hair brightened to a strawberry underneath the summer sun, which she sits underneath on her perch in the backyard, watching our son take his first steps across the patio.