She was on her way to school. She was wearing her uniform with small and dark shiny shoes. I never knew how to approach her. In fact she was never alone, always with boys and girls, girlfriends or her brothers. She was this kind of girl, pretty and sure, knowing where to go and what she wanted to do with her life. She never seemed afraid of anything, even when she was going back home after a party in town. She would never run when meeting a group of guys on the pathway or, like I did many times, take a knife with me, in case, for the ride after midnight. She was tall and thin, with pink cheeks and green eyes. I knew that every boy in her class was dreaming of going out with her. I stood no chance. Yet I took one.

  • Hi Ella!
  • Hi Martin! How are you doing?
  • Can I walk with you?
  • No rush this morning?
  • For once. So what’s new with you?
  • You know, same old story.
  • Come on, you are the most beautiful girl in town! Everybody wants to be like you Ella. Girls are dreaming of you each night. I don’t even talk about the boys.
  • I know and it makes me sad.
  • Why?
  • People only see what’s outside. They don’t know me. I mean, really know me. You understand?
  • People don’t know me either.
  • You’re invisible Martin. And I am all visible. Yet we are two under-rated young adults.
  • Who cares after all?
  • I do. I’d like people to see behind the first look.
  • I do.
  • What?
  • I do Ella. I do see you as you are. I know you by heart and I know that your heart is big – it is beating at the same rhythm as mine.
  • How would you know this Martin?
  • We met in kindergarten Ella. We are living in the same street. At some stage we shared the same games. Even our first kiss, remember! Then you moved on but I kept watching you from a distance. I saw you becoming a confident and easy-going girl, messing up with crazy people, yet staying on the right track.
  • I thought you moved on too.
  • I tried but I have to acknowledge that I can’t. Not without you Ella.
  • What are you trying to say?
  • I think I love you Ella.
  • Really?
  • Why? This sounds too funny or scary to you?
  • It’s just I never thought that you even liked me anymore.
  • Why?
  • Since secondary school, you don’t talk to me, you rush home after school, you don’t say hello when we meet in the street, you always answer “no” to party invitation and you even missed my birthday this year.
  • You are never alone Ella. You are with your girls, the ones who make fun of me. And boys who yell at me “Martin is gay, Martin is gay!”
  • I never listened to them, you know.
  • Who cares Ella. Who care if you did.

We were at school by now. I didn’t want to let her go. I could imagine how hard it was now for her to make a choice, even thought I’d never ask her to choose. We could be friends. Maybe. She stood there for a while. I felt lighter inside. I bet her heart was beating hard into her chest. I would have loved to put my hand on it, but I would not want to embarrass her in front of her friends. She moved slowly away towards the entrance, without saying a word to me. I stayed behind, waiting for something to happen, knowing nothing would.

It was one the longest day of my life. It ended at some stage and I walked back home on my own. Till I heard heavy footsteps on the ground. I did not turn away. I kept going like nothing was happening. And then Ella was there, in front of me, looking exhausted. I was about to say something. She didn’t let me. She pushed her lips towards mine. She closed her eyes. I closed mine. I could hear nothing except the song of the church bells announcing dinner time. We stayed like this for a minute, maybe less, maybe more. I didn’t count. We open our eyes and without a word, we walked hand in hand towards the hill, the sun brushing our backs and keeping us warm.


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