God, this place is terrible. The gray brick walls reminding me of a prison as I step off of the curb towards the parking lot. Lincoln High School. I didn't bother locking the jeep - no one here would dare go near any of my property, let alone try and steal it - so I curl my arm over the door and open it from the inside.

While my reputation for being "scary" was an accident resulting from an unexplained absence from school and my utter disdain for all conversation revolving around Miley Cyrus or fucking girls. Also my dog. And the tattoos. And the piercing. Okay, maybe I encouraged the image a little…

I relaxed into the driver's seat and revved the jeep's engine, peeling out of the school in the most menacing way I could muster. It was hard to resist the scary image because it was sort of fun to be that person. And anyways the school, and the people there, frustrated me.

When I pulled up to the house I could here Sheila barking and Annabelle giggling from inside the house. I parked the jeep on the curb and jumped out, walking around and getting my Rottweiler at the picket fence. She barked happily at me and I patted her head lightly, "Hey, girl." I bounded up the stairs to the house and was met by a smiling four year old wearing a tutu.

"Hey rugrat," I scooped her into my arms, kissing her cheek sloppily.

"Ew!" she squealed, pushing me away. I swung her around in the air and she giggled. When I settled her on my hip again she said, "I'm not a rugrat, Dan-dan!" she pouted, "I'm a princess!" she pointed sassily at the crown atop her pale blonde mess of curls. The blonde she got from mom, but the curls were all Rick's.

"Ah," I said, "Of course," I smiled at her.

"Mommy!" she reached her arms out and opened and closed her fists. I relinquished my hold on her, handing her over to my mother. My mom held Annabelle to her hip and her thin fingers, the same as mine, clasped my shoulder, "Hello sweetheart," she pecked my cheek. I didn't bother looking for Rick, he wouldn't be home till six or so.

"How was school?" my mom asked, her icy gaze locking onto me. She had this talent for reading my face to know whether or not I was lying. I shrugged and picked the orange juice from the fridge and took a gulp from the carton, "Same."

When I looked at my mom she and Annabelle had an identical look of disgust on their faces - their lips pursed and there noses scrunched up. It was actually pretty adorable. My mom shook her head and said: "That is now your carton of orange juice." I chuckled and took another swig.

"Ew," was all Annabelle said.

"How was pre-k?" I tapped Annabelle's nose after returning the juice to the fridge.

"I painted a picture!" she squealed, wriggling to get out of mom's embrace. Mom placed her on the floor and the child ran awkwardly into the other room to get the picture.

"You okay?" my mom's piercing eyes locked onto me. I patted her shoulder, "Yup." She didn't look convinced and I couldn't blame her. She had been suspicious of my alright-ness since after dad, when I was twelve. It only increased when I started getting the tattoos at fifteen, and was even worse since the piercing at seventeen. But I was as fine as I was going to get, considering.

The four year old came sprinting back into the kitchen, almost running smack into my legs. She had a paper clutched in her hand and was waving it at me. "Look, look!" I squatted down so I was level with her and glanced at the paper. On it was four green stick people, atop a red line. They all had purple hair and smiling faces. The smallest one was wearing a tutu and a crown, and she was holding the hand of bald guy with a piercing (and while I wasn't bald, my hair was just short, I assumed it was me) on her right she held the hand of a tall green woman with long purple hair. And further to the right was the tallest man with curly purple hair and glasses - Rick.

I pointed at the one that was obviously my mother and asked: "Is that me?"

"No!" she squealed, giggling, "That's mommy!" I moved my finger and pointed at Rick and said, "Well then, is that me?" She shook her head, a huge grin on her face, "No! That's daddy!" I scoffed in mock disbelief and pointed at the one with the crown, "Then that's obviously me, right?"

"No!" she giggled, "That's me, Dan-dan, that one's you!" she pointed at the pierced green figure.

"Oh, of course it is!" I picked her up again and twirled with her in the air. Her laughs were interrupted by the barking of Sheila in the front yard. I passed Annabelle over to mom and walked outside to find Sheila barking at a grouchy old man passing in front of the house.

"Come on, girl," I patted her head and she sat down, quieting.

"Sorry, sir!" I called. He just grunted something, disgruntled. I sighed and tsked at the dog, "You are not very likable, sometimes." She just panted with her tongue out. I chuckled, "Wait here." I turned back into the house and called to my mom, "I'm going to take Sheila out for her walk!" I grabbed some dog treats and walked into the kitchen.

I pecked Annabelle's cheek and said, "Later, rugrat." She protested, saying she was a princess, but I just pecked mom's cheek saying: "Be back later." She squeezed my shoulder and turned back to my sister.

I greeted Sheila outside again, and we walked outside the gate. I kept a slow pace, in no hurry to go anywhere. Sheila trotted happily belong side me, nudging the dog treats in my hand. As I walked, I watched as the sun lowered in the sky. We were still far off from the sunset, but still the view was pleasant.

By the time we got to the park, the sun was setting in the distance. I hurried and gave Sheila her food. She barked happily and I watched for other loiterers at the park. It wouldn't be the first time Sheila had a run in with other dogs or patrons; Sheila was a big softy, but sometimes she took her time getting used to people. By the time she was sufficiently worn out and fed the sun had come down. Although it was even nicer out now, with the sun below the horizon, the hot summer temperatures cooling slightly at night.

Suddenly some voices caught my attention, Sheila's heckle hair went up and she was growling at the sounds. I patted her head and she shushed; I looked closer at the scene. There was a girl standing under a lamp post waving at a heavier figure retreating to a car. When the car pulled out of the lot, the girl sat despairingly on the curb.

I watched her closely. She looked familiar, and guessing from her location she went to my school, but honestly I wouldn't know. She had long, wispy mouse-brown hair - in fact, it would probably be the same color as mine, if I let it grow out. She sat close to her back pack and clutched at something small in her hand.

I heard a new voice then, a gruff sound that grunted rather than spoke. She jumped to her feet and froze, her hand shaking, still clutching the small thing. From out of the shadows appeared a rather large, rather dirty man who seemed to stumble over to her. I couldn't hear exactly what he was saying, but I guessed it wasn't pleasant. I immediately began approaching, Sheila staying close to me, growling dangerously.

Now the man was touching her, his unwashed hand crawling up her arm to her neck, were it rested as he spoke. Then Sheila's growl sliced through the air louder now, I felt my muscles tense and rage filled me: "If you keep touching her, I'll break your hand." My fists clenched and I refused to look away from him, prepared to go to extremes for this girl I had never met.

But before I could even think about making a move, this tiny, defenseless girl brought her foot down on his, hard. And she brought the clutched item up and out came a long stream of pepper spray with impressive force. "Get away from me!" it was half scream, half sob. When I looked at her, there were tears cascading down her cheeks. I felt my breath catch in my throat, a great, uncomfortable tug in my chest.

The man made a terrifying cry and stumbled away. I raised my eyebrows, impressed, "Damn." And the girl collapsed onto the curb, dropping the pepper spray and scratching desperately at her neck. The tears came in an endless stream down her cheeks. Next to me, Sheila whimpered and I let my fingers graze the top of her head in a comforting pat.

I took a deep breath and walked towards the girl, I knelt down and grasped her wrists and held her hands in mine delicately. I looked at the almost terrifying red marks on her neck, a sadness welling within me, making my chest feel heavy. I tried to steady my emotions and inhaled again, moving my hands to take away the tears on her face. I brushed my thumbs under her eyes, trying to dry her cheeks.

"Breathe," I whispered, my hands barely able to catch all the tears. Following my advice, she inhaled deeply although it was shaky. I smiled at her, trying to be encouraging, as my thumbs caught the last few salty tears from under her eyes. "You didn't even need me," the words escaped my mouth, uttered in disbelief, before I could stop them. A bark of laughter escaped her, coming seemingly right from her chest; it was completely forced and sounded somewhat painful. She covered her face with her hands and I shifted to sit next to her; without thinking I wrapped my arms around her, rubbing her arms up and down half for comfort and half to warm her up.

Suddenly Sheila walked up between her legs and prodded the hands with her nose and licked the girl's fingers. I shook my head at the dog, "Sheila," I scolded, a smile creeping onto my face. That is the sweetest heart trapped in the body of a mean-looking dog.

The girl took her hands from her face and looked shocked to see the menacing Rottweiler slobbering all over her with a happy grin on it's face. The girl carefully held her hand out to be sniffed and Sheila took that as an invitation, because she pounced on the girl licking her face happily. The girl's shell cracked slightly, and she began giggling and laughing. Leave it to Sheila; I laughed quietly at the scene before me.

"There's a smile," I joked, pushing my shoulder against hers lightly as she cleaned her glasses with shaky hands. "What's your name?" he wondered.

"Melanie Adams," she said softly and her voice was sweet like honey. "Daniel Bird," I responded. She pet Sheila again, who had her tongue out happily. I smiled at the scene, "She likes you," I told her. The smile that overtook Melanie's face was beautiful and I couldn't tell if it was because of or in spite of her puffy eyes and less than stereotypical beautiful face. But it was, it was gorgeous.

A pause stretched out between us where I kind of just got lost in looking at her. She obviously went to school with me, how had I not noticed her? She wasn't pretty in any way that was obvious and maybe that was why. She didn't naturally draw attention to herself with her looks, it was so underplayed and beautiful. And maybe she was more so because of how she defended herself, but either way I was caught up in it.

"That was really brave, you know," I told her, feeling as though I was simply stating the obvious. She looked away from the dog and I found myself facing her big green eyes full on. And the tears made them shine bright and look clear.

She shook her head, her mouse brown hair covering her face like a curtain. She whispered, "Not really, I froze."

I was shaking my head too, my lips pursed, "No," and without meaning too my fingers reached up and tucked her hair behind her ear so I could see her face, "It was brave." She took a deep breath and her voice came out nervous and high pitched, "Can we not talk about this?"

I nodded, looking away from her, my hand coming to rest on the sidewalk between us. She seemed to breath easier now and I felt my breaths begin to match hers. I let the silence envelop us for a moment, letting the ease of it comfort my speeding heart before I wondered aloud: "Why were you out here alone, anyway?" She took a beat before responding, "I'm waiting for my mom to pick me up, she works late. I'm usually in the library, but…" Her sentence trailed off, but I filled in the blank for her, "Not tonight."

Then, out of the darkness came a sudden stream of bright lights that I figured were headlights. Melanie got up, slinging her discarded backpack on her shoulder and patted Sheila on the head. As she made her way to the car, she suddenly turned back to me and said: "Why were you out here alone?" I was about to respond when the car honked and she got in without another word.

I watched the taillights disappear as they turned the corner away from the school. I rested my arms on my bent knees, trying to calm down. Sheila nuzzled her head into my side and I broke my pose to scratch behind her ears. "What have I gotten myself into?" I asked her.

As I stood up, ready to head home, I noticed the palm sized canister lying next to the street light. I bent down and picked it up, recognizing it as Melanie Adams' pepper spray. I smiled, tucking it in my pocket and looking forward to tomorrow.

That night I got home by eight-thirty, in time to tell Annabelle's favorite story to her at bedtime; her favorite story being the one I made up about the brother saving the princess from a dragon. It's kind of a classic. I didn't tell mom or Rick about the experience with the drunk guy or the beautiful Melanie Adams. I went to bed early, although sleep evaded me.

The next morning I double checked the pepper spray in my pocket, kissed the rugrat and mom on the cheek, pat Sheila on the head and sped away in my jeep. I don't know why, but my hands shook and my knuckles were white on the steering wheel. This may have been the first time ever that I was excited to go to school.

I felt more attentive at school than I ever had in my entire life. In every class my eyes flit from person to person, searching for the same mouse brown hair, the same bright green eyes, the gorgeous smile. I didn't find her in any class, which in retrospect was probably good thing because what would I have done had I found her?

When finally I did see her it was just before lunch, and she was practically inside her locker (number 125). Her head was ducked and at first I didn't even know if it was her. But when her eyes flicked up I saw that familiar green and a brilliant urge to look into them pushed me forward.

I walked up to her and took one of her hands in both of mine, sliding the pepper spray into her nearly frozen fingers. As I slowly grazed my fingers across the back of her palm, I leaned down and said: "Don't say anything about Sheila." That impulse line had the exact desired effect because that smile took over her face suddenly. I grinned down at her and winked, striding away, happiness buzzing within me. Although I was sort of freaking out because, why on earth did I wink?

As the final bell rung, I found myself rushing towards the library. Multiple things motivated me: I wanted to drive her home, I wanted to avoid what had happened last night with her, but mostly I just really wanted to see her again. Oh, how I wanted to see her again.

When I had the library in my sights, I consciously slowed my pace, not wanting to seem to eager. As I walked I realized how ridiculous I was being - I didn't want to seem too eager? Why was I so concerned? I just met this girl yesterday! But even then, as I opened the door to the library - earning a suspicious glance from the librarian whose name I didn't know - I felt my heart speed up as my eyes searched for her.

I found her in a corner by a window, her shoulder hunched and her head in a book. I smiled at the image of her so concentrated on her work. If I looked closely I could see a little wrinkle of concentration between her eyebrows and I found it oddly adorable. I walked over to the table and slid the chair out diagonally across from her and sat down. She glanced up at me from above her glasses, her eyebrows raised.

I grinned smugly at her and wiggled my fingers in a wave. Only to be followed by the question in my mind - did I just wiggle my fingers? God, I'm losing it. I quickly dropped my hand into my lap as she straightened and pushed her glasses up her nose with the knuckle on her pointer finger. She looked at me as if waiting for me to say something, but I just smiled at her.

"Uh, what's up?" she said finally. I shrugged and placed my hands behind my head comfortably, putting my feet up on the chair across from me, watching her. She raised her eyebrows suspiciously and went back to the homework she had been working on before.

I moved my hands and took out my phone to check my messages. I wasn't expecting much because I was lacking quite seriously on the friend front, because of the whole scary-reputation-thing. Glancing at it I see a text from mom asking where I am. I glance at Melanie and type a quick reply that says simply that I'm at the library.

I tucked the phone back into my pocket and when I looked up she was looking at me. "Well?" she let out a huff.

I chuckled, "Well, what?" She shook her head, a smile small on her lips that made me smile wider.

"You're supposed to be scary," she said. I froze, my heart racing. I wasn't in the mood to tackle my reputation with her. I didn't want that to be a thing with her, a barrier.

"So?" I said, the word coming out intense and cold, biting even. I could feel myself getting defensive, getting ready to draw away from her.

Melanie looked away, out the window and said in a quiet voice that spoke of silent daring, "You're just…you're really normal. I mean you're funny and nice and warm, and if anything the tattoos just make you hot."

Her head snapped back to me and her jaw clamped shut at the last statement. I could feel the giant grin on my face and my heart swelled. I felt giddy and excited, suddenly.

"Shut up," she murmured, her cheeks flushed and her hair covering her face as she dove back into her homework. I busied myself with watching her for a few moments until I realized how creepy-stalker-Edward-Cullen I was being and took out my phone. I must have played thirty five levels of Candy Crush by the time the librarian called from her desk: "Almost quitting time Melli, dear!"

With a grace that came from practice Melanie stood and began gathering her things as she said: "Okay, thank you!" I stood as well, glancing at my phone before slipping it into my pocket. It read six o' clock; that seemed way earlier than yesterday but I didn't question it.

When we were outside the sun was still shining bright, it being the summer and sunset not beginning until after seven. Melanie stopped at the edge of the curb and I paused there too, but the librarian kept walking as she and Melanie said their goodbyes. When she was finished she turned and seemed surprised to find me standing with her, "Well, bye," she told me, doing a little half wave.

I shook my head, "I'm driving you home," I told her matter-of-factly, because I wasn't going to let her refuse. "Excuse me?" she gaped at me, her eyebrows elevating to near her hairline. She waved her hand between the two of us as she spluttered, "Is that why you were…you really don't have to, I can totally wait…"

I furrowed my eyebrows as the memory of last night flashed in my mind: the grubby hands, the dirty beard, the stinky breath, the way he touched her and the way she reacted, the scratch marks I could faintly see on her neck now. I shook my head again, locking my eyes with her: "I'm not willing to take that chance."

"Okay," she murmured looking at her feet.

"Good," I nodded and gently placed my hand on her elbow and guided her to the jeep. I paused to help her into the elevated seat but she shook her head and climbed in herself. I climbed in myself and started the vehicle, asking: "Where to?"

Melanie looked at her fingers in her lap and barely whispered: "Can you not take me home? I don't want to go yet…" I nodded and wanted to ask why, wanted to learn about her home life, wanted to learn about her in general but I just said: "Sure, we can go pick up Sheila." Which was, I suppose, a suitable alternative to bombarding her with questions. I pulled on the gear shift and sped out of the parking lot, itching to be free of the ugly fence that surrounded that place.

"Can I borrow your phone?" she asked, her voice breaking through the windy silence around us. I nodded, reaching into my pocket and handing her the slim device. She dialed a number on it and held it to her ear. I looked straight ahead and tried not to eavesdrop on her conversation too much, it seemed as though she was talking to her mom. I tried to focus more on driving and less on the sweet sound of her voice or the pounding of my heart.

"Love you too," she said and the phone call ended, she placed the phone on the car's dash and asked me: "So why do we have to pick up Sheila?"

I rolled my shoulders back, shrugging and answered: "I usually pick her up and feed her and walk with her after school. She's probably feeling a little cooped up by now."

"So I get to see your house?" she sounded bewildered and when I looked over her eyes had widened. I chuckled and nodded my head, looking away, "One of the lucky few."

The sight of the warm yellow house filled me with happiness as well as apprehension. I was nervous for Melanie to meet my family, because let's face it, it's a little early. When I pulled to the curb and turned off the engine Melanie turned to me and said: "Why're we here?" I shook my head, chuckling at her, of course it wouldn't occur to her that this was my house I'm "supposed to be scary." I ran my hand over my buzzed hair and said: "I live here." And I promptly exited the jeep. I gave her time to absorb the information as I walked around the car to meet her at her door. I reached over the door and opened it from the inside, an old habit, and told her: "Don't worry about it too much."

"I'm sorry," was her response as her feet hit the pavement, she looked so guilty. I smiled at her but before I could address it, a familiar squeal interrupted: "Daniel! Daniel!"

Instinct and habit took over and I swung away from Melanie and towards the voice. I jumped over the gate in my way and immediately lifted Annabelle in arms and started twirling. Annabelle giggled and squirmed in arms and I asked her: "How was your day rugrat?"

"Princess!" she proclaimed, tapping me with her glittery wand.

"My apologies, Princess," I dipped my head as a mock bow and she laughed and hugged me tighter. Suddenly Sheila was at my feet, barking at us in our excitement. But she was gone in a moment as Melanie entered the front yard and Sheila went to greet her. I secured Annabelle on my hip and walked over to meet her saying, "Princess Annabelle, I would like you to meet the lovely Melanie Adams." I felt her squirm in my arms and I set her onto the grass. I watched as she approached Melanie and immediately asked: "Are you Dan-Dan's girlfriend?" I put my face in my hands, holding back a groan of embarrassment. I heard her cough in surprise and then Annabelle said: "You're really pretty."

"So are you," Melanie replied, easily communicating with a four year old, a trait I readily admired. "I love your tutu!" she continued. Annabelle twirled, holding onto her tutu. Suddenly my mother called from the house: "Annabelle dinner's ready!" Without pausing to say goodbye Annabelle sprinted towards the house, Sheila following after her. Melanie stood from her crouched position and smiled at me, making my breath catch. She tucked her hair behind her ear and asked: "How old is she Dan-Dan?"

I grinned and bumped my shoulder with hers as we made our way to the house, "Four," I told her.

"She's adorable," she told me.

"Yeah," I agreed, "She's my mom and Rick's daughter."

"Rick?" she asked, pausing on the first step to the door. And as if to perfectly demonstrate "Rick" a voice called through the house: "Well howdy there princess!" I chuckled and waved into the house, inviting her inside to see Rick. I heard him continue, "Who wants some mac n' cheese?"

In the kitchen was Rick, still in his business suit, waving a plate of mac n' cheese in front of Annabelle, who promptly answered: "Me! Me!" And there was mom wiping down the counters and cleaning the mac n' cheese remains that had landed on the oven.

Sheila was sitting patiently next to Annabelle at the table, whimpering for food. Annabelle, being the susceptible four year old that she is, offered to give her some mac n' cheese. She was in the middle of offering the dog a spoonful of the cheesy noodles when mom intervened saying: "No! No food for the dog sweetie, just for you," and then to me, "Daniel, please, the dog!" At this point she looked at me and I smiled at her sheepishly, waving.

"Oh, my apologies, I didn't know anyone was with you," she looked directly at me. I averted my eyes and whistled, calling Sheila over to me. As the dog slid across the kitchen, Melanie greeted my mother: "No, I"m sorry to intrude, my name is Melanie."

"Will you be staying for dinner?" she asked, looking at Melanie warmly and then sharply at me. She didn't want Melanie to stay; not because of anything Melanie had done, just because she thought the house was dirty and she wasn't prepared, blah, blah, blah.

I lifted my hand from Sheila's head and shook my head, "Nah, I don't think so mom, we'll just pick up some food for Sheila and take her on her walk." Mom sighed, releasing the breath she'd been holding and I lifted my hand to squeeze her shoulder comfortingly.

"Just be home before midnight, okay?" she looked at me inquiringly. "Of course," I bent down and kissed her on the cheek before moving farther into the kitchen. I turned to Rick and we clasped hands quickly. Rick and I had an okay relationship considering; I had pretty much let go of past resentments towards him when Annabelle was born four years ago, I couldn't hate Rick and love Annabelle at the same time. We had an unspoken agreement that he wouldn't try to "dad" me and I would accept his presence in my life, which wasn't hard when I realized how happy mom was with him.

"Hey rugrat," I bent down to Annabelle's level. "Princess!" she protested. I hoped this kick wouldn't last long, because I'd been calling her rugrat for too long and it would be too hard a habit to break. I chuckled and told her: "Well, I'm gonna go out for a while, I'll be back later okay?" She nodded before placing her tiny hands on my face and looking at me seriously: "You have to protect Princess Melli, Dan-Dan, you have to."

I smiled widely at her adorable serious face and looked back at Melanie in the doorway, talking to my mom. Turning back to my sister I said, "I don't think she needs my protection, rugrat." And with that I secured some dog food, messed up Annabelle's hair and walked back over to Melanie and my mom.

"I got Sheila some food, ready?"

Melanie looked as though she had seen a ghost and I raised my eyebrows at my mother. She had a mischievous smile on her face, but she just pat my shoulder and went back into the kitchen. Melanie nodded, "Uh-huh."

I led the way outside and opened the gate for Sheila, and then stood by as Melanie exited, placing my hand on the small of her back to usher her out gently. It took me longer than strictly necessary to remove my hand but I dropped it at my side as we continued down the sidewalk, away from my house. A silence stretched between but it wasn't awkward as so many silences are, it was comfortable; I could have walked with her like this seemingly forever.

"Where are we going?" she wondered. I shrugged, rolling my shoulders back and looking towards the pink sunset. And then I looked at her as she quieted. The way the lowering sun accented her eyes and her hair, I took gulps of air to calm my speeding heart.

"My sister likes you," I told her, rubbing my shaven head with my hand, resting the dog food hand on top of Sheila's head. Melanie smiled brightly back at me, "Really?" I nodded and looked forward again.

"She's adorable," she continued. "Yeah," I murmured, smiling at the thought of the curly, toe-headed child in a tutu. I scratched my head again, trying to find something to do with my hand other than have it grasp hers. I let my eyes drift over to look at her again and found myself asking, "Do you have any siblings?"

"Nope, just me," she took a breath, thinking, "How long have Rick and your mom been married?"

I sucked in a breath, my muscles clenching at thoughts of my father. I looked at the sunset, pictures of my sickly dad coming to my mind unwillingly. I swallowed the sadness that welled in me and answered, "Ummm, four or five years?"

"Oh," she looked down at her fingers and I could tell she wanted to ask me what happened. But of course she wouldn't ask a question that sensitive. However, I felt myself wanting to share with her, despite the pain; I wanted her to know more about me, suddenly, which was not a feeling I was comfortable with.

Pushing past my discomfort I explained, "My dad died from cancer when I was twelve." I felt a rush of accomplishment when I prevented my voice from breaking in the middle of the sentence.

"Oh my god," she gasped, sympathy evident in her eyes, "I'm so sorry."

I frowned and let myself feel sad for a moment before shaking my head and moving on, "It's fine, it was a long time ago. And Rick is good for my mom, they're happy." She looked back down at her fingers and I worried that I had ruined the conversation, or the comfortability between us that I had grown so used to.

Before I had too much time to analyze the situation, Sheila barked in joy and sprinted off in the direction of the park. I ran after her, turning and grinning at Melanie, "We're here." I spread my arms wide, pretending I was free for a moment, before joining Sheila in the green fields. I sat the food down for Sheila and walked back to meet Melanie.

I joined her under a tree, sitting beneath the tree and watching Sheila play in the park happily.

"That's why you were there the other night?" When I looked over, Melanie was pointing at the fence that bordered the school. I saw the familiar street light and felt my face turn down in an angry frown. Even more reason to hate school, I guess.

"Thank you," she whispered, and it was so soft a sound that I almost didn't hear it. "I don't think I ever said it," she finished. I looked down at her, the sunset playing perfectly across her features. I placed a hand on her cheek and drew her towards me, placing my lips on her forehead. It wasn't even a gesture I thought about, just something I did, as if my body new the action before I did.

I looked down at her, our eyes locked and I waited for her to make the decision. Did she feel what I felt? Could it possibly be the same? But before I knew it she was leaning forward and our lips met hesitantly at first, then slowly more and more comfortable.

We kissed for forever, neither of us desiring it to end, but Sheila was jealous and came barking up to us to interrupt. I smiled largely, the happiness inside be bubbling through to the surface. I placed my arm over her shoulder, and tucked her into me, my other reaching out to soothe Sheila. "It's weird," I told her, "How I only just met you and yet this feels like the most natural thing in the world."

Check out this story from Melanie's perspective my profile under "The Most Natural Thing"