I didn’t want to know. I suspected the answer I would get and absolutely did not want to hear it. But it was necessary. No matter how much I wished otherwise, I couldn’t go another day without asking. I sucked in a breath, praying to all the gods greater and lesser for strength to accept the answer when I heard it. she looked at me, expectation turning to confusion. Come on, deep breaths. You’ve faced death. That didn’t make it any easier. But it had to be done. Clenched my fist, fingernails biting into my palms. I focused on the pain, steeling myself against what would come. Jamming a toe in the dirt I pushed out the words that had to be voiced, wishing I could call them back even as I forced them past my lips.
“Do you like me?”
Blood rushed into my face, cheeks turning what my mother called cherry red. It only made me feel worse, but I could do nothing to prevent it. I dropped my gaze, unable to watch the look of revulsion that was the inevitable reaction. I clenched my hands harder, hoping somehow that the pain in my palms would medicate against the heart hurt that was coming.
Giggles from at least three distinct sources reached my ears. Maybe she wouldn’t even bother. I couldn’t decide whether that was better or worse. I could only stare at my toes, watching the heat in my face extend to my clenched hands, and likely the rest of me as well, waiting for the hammer to drop. Still more giggling. Reluctantly, slowly, I rallied my courage once more. Reminded myself I had already asked the question, facing my death head-on would not alter my fate. And blinked, as I realized she was not one of the ones giggling. That was her friends. She looked at me silently, searching my face. Did she- were her- was, she blushing too?
Impossible. She was unflappable, immaculate. Beautiful. The blood rushing to my head must have made me woozy to even think I was seeing what was before my eyes. Amber, blushing and smiling, ever so slightly.
“Ask me again in eight years. Frederick.”
With that declaration, she jumped from her perch, gave me a peck on the cheek and flew across the playground. Her friends scrambled to catch up, forgetting the boy, me, standing there dumb-founded. The kiss was so fast I guess they hadn’t seen it. I might not have noticed, but for the lightning bolt it sent all the way to my toes. Did that mean yes? I thought it did.