When she screamed, "nerd!" She meant it. We were both ten.
Her lips curled and her nose wrinkled. Her neck muscles tensed as her face formed the word she loved to say because she hated me so much. Her tongue touched the tips of her perfect white teeth and parted opening a cavern of hate and pain before quickly rolling forward at the tip and sliding across the roof of her mouth, ending again with gritted teeth. The word launched from her face like a sluggish missile toward my direction, and I could not move from my spot.
As I watched the sharp clarity of her stare underneath that tree, hurling the insult at me like the apple Eve gave Adam at the garden, I knew I was in love. I saw the tension of her arm as she gripped the tree trunk shoot a rod of muscle up her wrist and twist her prefect and slim fingers like she was anchoring herself to the spot. A perfect curl of hair separated from the straight lines of her long hair, and for a brief second, she blinked as the strand passed over her soft cheeks and crossed her eyes. Her legs shifted in her sneakers as she braced herself from the recoil of the jagged word she just hurled in my direction.
The word passed through my hair like vapor. My heart had dissolved the hate in its most raw form, and when the anger evaporated from her face, it left behind the shallow pool of admiration that could only come from the fear of an uncertain heart. She hated my guts, but only because she respected the difference she craved to understand. At age ten, it was only her budding notion of popularity that fueled her need for love. She saw my stark contrast to her perfect world and a conundrum she could only mock and deride because she didn't have the skills to think otherwise.
The fact I smiled when she screamed, with my head tilted back and eyes closed, only seemed to power her fear and confusion. She screamed I was "so weird" and dug her feet into the soft dry ground around that pine tree next to the basketball court. But she did not run, she did not approach me, but stayed rooted to the spot because the part I was in love with was holding her curiosity as to what I might do next.
"I will marry you some day," I said.
The arrow of my words pierced her heart, but passed through the wide bars for her knowledge of the truth I spoke. She gasped and frowned. Her immature face twisted in involuntary rage as her small mind tried to think of a better insult, because she most likely confused my carefully-chosen words with blinding ignorance.
"F-Fuck... YOU!!!" she finally said, using a curse term she barely understood, but understood most of the power it contained on young ears. Held like a small child trying to ride an adult bike, the words stumbled awkwardly from her mouth and slammed into the ears of a nearby teacher with disastrous results.
Her face was flattened into a gasp as her eyes locked with the teacher's, and a blush of red rose to her cheeks. I could feel her heart stop, like that moment in a car accident just before you feel the impact of the object you just struck. Even though her mind worked like a child's, already options of getting out of what she said popped in mental soup bubbles leaving nothing but the still water behind.
I cast a smarmy grin.
Her mind emptied in panic. Her answer to, "What did you just say, young lady?" was a mere stutter burped forward by a clenching throat.
"That's what I though you said," said our elder, lacking any evidence to the contrary. The teacher passed by me and grabbed her my the shoulder in a grip that spoke of authoritative paralysis that was both firm and arresting without actually maintaining a steady physical grip. My love went limp with shock, still scrambling in the closing darkness of fear trying to find a match.
But as I watched her be dragged away, I knew that someday, that pretty girl in sneakers was going to be my bride, and we would look on this day fondly.