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When he first met her, he was amazed. Not by her, no.
Well, not exactly.
He was amazed by the sunset behind her. She was just a figure in the foreground. A shadow.
He didn’t notice her until the sunset died down, until all the vibrant colors had trickled out of the sky to form a pink puddle on the horizon, until the darkness it left behind had filled with sparkles and glitter dust.
She was standing not far away, her head stretched up to greet the moon; holding her shoes in one hand and a red cardigan in the other, her bare toes pushed into the sand.
An image of star-stained skin, a yellow summer dress and ruby red hair pulled up into a deliciously chaotic bun, all held together by a blunt pencil that wasn’t quit doing its job; fiery curls unfurled from under the pencil like a blooming rose. She had placed a drooping daisy behind her ear.
This was the first time he saw her.
When he thinks back at that first time, that’s when he is truly amazed, because he knows that it was the sunset that took his breath away that night, not her.
Now it is different. Because now that he knows her he knows that he doesn’t really know her at all.
She is an explosion of sound, of light, shining through the pale skin and giving her the appearance of something close to perfection. She is broken, strong, untamed. Wild, too, and all sorts of wrong.
With just a sprinkle of indecision.
She is a rose petal, a storm cloud, a fallen ray of sunlight. She speaks as loud as a thunderstorm and as soft as a secret; she looks like a sunset, she smells like dawn on a winter morning.
As confusing as she is, he can’t chase her away from his thoughts. She is a puzzle that needs solving, but she is so inexplicable that it seems impossible for him to put the pieces together. Everything about her clashes together, blunt opposites struggling to get the upper hand, and it amazes him.
When she smiles, the world stands still.
He knows this sounds preposterous, but it is true, and it’s the people saying otherwise who are wrong.
He tries to make sense of her, to etch her into the sand, catch her with a camera, pin her down on paper with a sharpened lead pencil.
None of it works, of course. She can’t be drawn, captured, photographed.
The lens of the camera takes away her wilderness, and all her sound and all her light are imprisoned underneath plastic covering of the photograph, so all she looks is sad and lonely. Her fire isn’t there, and so she isn’t her.
Instead, he is going to describe her:
He will start with her eyes, because they are the most confusing of all.
At first, when you look at them, you see little pieces of the sky, a bright, pale blue that you could stare into forever. But then if you look closer, you start to notice the Greens. The Cobalts, the Violets, the Ambers and the Greys.
And in the corner, on the left, that smudge of darker brown, as if a charcoal pen had left its mark there by accident.
Oh, those accidents. She is full of them, of course. You can see them on her, seeping through her skin, floating through her hair and dancing in her gaze, brisk and honest.
He hasn’t even told you how her eyes reflect every star in the heavens when she stares up at the moon, or mentioned her lingering eyelashes, and how they brush the ridge of her brow whenever she looks up at him.
He knows he will never be able to do them justice, her eyes, so he moves onto her hair.
One word comes to his mind at this:
It’s perfect, really, and he doesn’t feel the need to add anything else.
Her skin, on the other hand, is another matter.
How can something be an explosion of reds and pinks, a burst of sunlight, and a statue of frozen milk, all at the same time? This thought brings him back to her opposites. It seems that whatever way he looks at it, she will never be figured out.
So sadly, he brushes his hand over the sand, puts away his camera, and covers up his paper and pencils for the next rainy day.
That rainy day doesn’t keep itself waiting, and soon, he is lying in bed watching his windows weep and trees outside battle against the wind as it tries to steal their leaves right off their branches.
He hears a sigh next to him, a soft outtake of breath so delicate it could nearly be mistaken for a draught. He tips his head to the side and there she is, sound and light and rose petals, Blue, Green, Cobalt, Violet, Amber, Grey staring into his Hazel, that smudge of charcoal disappearing as her eyelashes sweep over it, covering the rainbow.
I don’t want to leave. She sighs, extending pale, delicate arms over her head and scrunching up her nose as she stretches. He watches her and he frowns, because she is still an unsolved puzzle, and even though he loves her, it bothers him, sometimes.
Then stay. He whispers, gently wiping a piece of fire from her cheek. I’ll make you pancakes, and you can lye here and listen to the storm all day. How does that sound?
She smiles, and for that second, the world stands still. The thunder stops, and the lightening flashing through the sky freezes, illuminating the landscape with a bright, eerie glow. But then her mouth droops and the lightning passes, and the thunder starts again.
I have work. She says, looking up at him sadly, and her eyelashes do that thing where they brush the ridge of her brow. If he could catch one movement, he would catch that one and he would keep it, hidden and safe, waiting to be taken out on days like these to be admired. I need to finish that-
But he silences her protests with a touch of his lips on hers, and she melts underneath him, slipping right through his fingers like golden rain.
Before long she is convinced, and his heart leaps, because now that it is raining he can get out his paper and his pencils again, and he can try and solve the puzzle.
Stay still. He murmurs, his pencil poised, waiting in slightly slack fingers; his hand hovers over the page in anticipation.
He starts by drawing the curve of her lips, the kissable crook of her elbow, the arch of her back. His strokes are light and fast across the page as he tries to capture the madness, but soon his hand clenches and his brow furrows in frustration. He cannot draw her, no more than he can describe her or take her picture. It’s not for lack of trying; he does try, over and over, but everytime it just isn’t her.
He places his pen down on his sketchpad in sign of defeat. She frowns when she sees his resigned expression.
What is it? She asks; her voice is softer than a whisper, but still it drowns the thunder.
You’re just too… His words trail off because just like before, he can’t describe her, so he can’t tell her how he feels. But she seems to understand, because she crawls up to him and brushes her lips against his cheek.
I love you. She says, and even though she is beautiful on the outside, at this moment, it’s her explosion of light, sound, and opposites that make his heart hurt.
When she looks up at him, her eyes wide and understanding, a piece of fire curling up around her cheek and her lips slightly open, he realises why he can’t catch her:
It’s not because she is a puzzle, or because everything about her clashes or because she is just a clutter of perfect mistakes.
It’s because he is struggling too hard to understand her, trying so stubbornly to etch her into the sand that he isn’t paying attention to her.
He feels silly because while he was busy taking pictures, he was missing out on being with her, really her, with all her opposites and her wrongs and her mistakes.
He didn’t need to solve her. He knows that know, so his paper and carefully sharpened pencil are covered up for good, and the next rainy day, all he is going to be is with her.