I think that I fell in love with her on the first day of school. She walked to the bus stop alone, unlike the other girls who congregated like geese and marched across the street in a splashy display. Pig tails and ribbons bouncing, rhinestone laden jean pockets shooting the morning light across the pavement in rainbow prisms.
I never once saw April speak to those girls. She only read her books. Holding them up to her face so that the sleeves of the cable-knit sweaters she always wore fell to reveal the dainty notch of bone in her wrist. She had stacks of these thin black jelly bracelets on both of her arms. Dozens of them. And once, Tony Cassidy told me that if I broke one of them April would have to fuck me. Tony Cassidy is a prick.
That day, April read Lolita. Our English teacher had assigned it for extra credit.
The red lights of the back of the bus halted in front of me. I kicked at gravel, and I walked to the folding doors. They opened with an exhausted sigh. I greeted the bus driver. I liked her. She was the grandmother of one of my mom's students.
"Good morning, Ursula," I said. She smiled impishly, and she shook her head.
"Henry Carver. You old devil."
She wore small round glasses and her long silver hair was piled into a loose coil atop her head. I could tell that she used to be very beautiful. I winked at her before I shuffled toward the back of the bus.
I took the last seat. One next to the emergency exit. The brown leather cushion was tattered and yellow foam seeped out from underneath, like puss escaping a wound. There was duct tape carelessly thrown over the tears, but it was old and peeling. In the back of the bus, I could feel every bump. I set my backpack on the seat beside me so that nobody would try and sit there. Out the window, the trees and hedges and pastel houses slipped away.
I thought about my first period class. About the humming fluorescent lights and Mr. Cassidy (Tony's old man; our parent's were both teachers). He began each class with a riddle, and he tried to weed answers out of us by smacking our desks with a wooden yard stick. I hadn't done my reading over the weekend, and I hoped that we wouldn't review it.
Then, I thought about April. Sitting in front of me. Her chestnut hair falling down her back and sometimes, if I was lucky, spilling onto my desk. I liked to lean forward, hoping that a stray strand might brush against the back of my hand. When I got close, I could smell her. She smelled of strawberries. Not a candied version, but the real thing.
That day, in class, she turned around to speak to me. I watched her lips the entire time. I imagined that they would feel like butter against mine. "Did you know that Nabokov said to caress the divine details?" She asked me. I didn't respond to her, and she rolled her eyes and returned to her writing. I wish that I would have told her that I did. That I watched her tenderly and that I understood her like a poem known by heart.
That April. I think that I love her.