The first girl I'd ever loved smelled of musty sea salt and lavender, with windswept dark hair that was too light to be called black, but too dark to be called brown. Her eyes changed with the sea; murky with the clouds, and a sparkling blue with a clear sky. She had skin so soft you could just sit there with her hand in yours and stroke it for hours, and it was peppered with freckles like a starry sky. Her voice was quiet, like she was scared to reveal the melody she possessed deep within her soul. She lived in a big white house with bay windows looking over the coast, and spent her time reading on a white-fenced balcony, feeling the wind in her hair and the air drift across her skin, goosebumps rising with each gentle breeze. Delicate fingers handled her books as though they were baby birds with broken wings, ready to nurse them back to health.
Her mother never went outside, and no one knew why.
I lived down the street from her, in a small house with flat windows and no balcony, with parents who preferred to be outside than inside. Small, skinny siblings followed me around, desperate to either learn from or annoy their big brother as a way to pass the endless hours of the summer holidays. Two pale, freckled sisters - twins - and a slim-framed brother, all no more than 6 years old. As the eldest by twelve years, I was put in charge of the children when my parents went out, and it often ended with crying sisters and a silent brother. I always tried my best to look as though I hadn't been shouting at children all morning, but always ended up walking into school rubbing my throat as though it would help, with sunken, tired eyes.
It was in this way that I met her. Our shoulders bumped, I glanced at her angrily, and walked away, rubbing at my neck.