She remembered a conversation in class once, when they’d been given free time. The class had begun to talk about what they looked for in a lover. She didn’t remember how the conversation had started. But they all talked about all sorts of things. Big and strong. Lithe and charming. Tall. Smart. Pretty. Handsome. Bertolt had leaned over to her. “What do YOU want, Annie?”
Annie had just shrugged. It wasn’t that she didn’t know, it was just that she didn’t know how to put it into words. She didn’t want some super hero or fairytale. She wanted something real. She wanted to be with someone who listened to her. Who she could be herself with. Everything else was superficial. She figured she’d know it if she ever found it.
“Where are we going, Armin?” He was pulling her along a dark path on one of the nearby hiking trails, the only light coming from his flashlight.
“We’re almost there.” Was his only answer.
“Why do I feel like I’m going to get murdered?”
“I couldn’t overpower you if you were sleeping.”
He had her there. “I can’t fight a bullet though.”
“Where would I get a gun?” Shit. He had her again. “Here we are.” They stepped through the brush out onto one of the rocky overlooks.
“Holy shit.” Annie gasped, staring up at the sky. There were so many stars.
“The light pollution that we get from town isn’t visible with here.” Armin said, sitting down and pulling off his backpack.
“It’s amazing.” Annie didn’t think she’d ever seen so many stars in her whole life.
“Careful of the edge. That’s a long way down the gorge if you fall.”
She looked down, and with the light of the moon, she could just see the sparkle of the river. “How did you find this place?”
“Uh, it’s sort of a long story.”
“I think we’ve got time.” Annie backed away from the edge, and sat down a couple feet from Armin.
He let out a sigh as he pulled out a sketchbook. “I don’t really talk about it.”
“Oh.” Annie got the hint. She pulled her legs up to her chest and hugged them. “Sorry.” There were a lot of things Armin didn’t talk about.
Armin was sitting crosslegged, his sketchbook of his lap. He was drawing the constellations. Annie watched him out of the corner of her eye. He was good.
She had started hanging out with him over Christmas break, months ago. She’d never really talked to him before, hadn’t really noticed him before. He was a quiet kid with long blonde hair that he used to hide his face, and wore baggy sweaters to hide the rest of him. He hardly talked to anyone and mostly kept to himself.
It had been an accident that she had started talking to him. She’d almost run over him with her bike one Saturday outside the mini mart. Instead of getting angry, he’d just apologized, and then smiled at her. Annie had felt her heart melt. She was instantly addicted to that smile. She craved it. Needed it. From that day on, she started to spend time with him.
He was a quiet kid. Unlike most of the kids at school, he rarely talked about himself. She didn’t even know where he lived, though he’d been to her house countless times. She suspected that he was abused. It would explain a lot, from the mysterious bruises to his demeanor to his incessant need to apologize if he got any inkling that the other person was upset. It broke her heart to think that anyone would hurt this angel. How could anyone want to do anything besides hug him close and bring out that smile? His smile was like the sun. And his eyes, those deep blue pools were like the ocean. And his laugh…that was like heaven itself.
“How long have you been drawing?” She asked after a long while.
“Since I was little.” He said, glancing at her. “I’m not super great at it.”
“You’re better than me.”
“I practice. I bet it wouldn’t take long for you to pass me. You can pick up anything.”
Annie felt herself blush. “You flatter me.” She said, looking down.
“I’m telling the truth.”
It was too bad he was so skiddish around other people, because he was a great friend. Always complimenting her and helping her. Well, too bad for everyone else. It meant she got him all to herself. If anyone else gave him a chance, she was sure they would love him as much as she did. Hell, even Dad liked him and Dad didn’t like anyone. Annie didn’t want to share her angel, so she was grateful that everyone else was stupid. Her gaze flicked back up to the stars. “I wanted to be an astronaut when I was younger.” She said, crossing her arms and resting them on her knees.
“I wished I could be a star.” Armin said, looking up at the sky. “Just a great big ball of burning gas. A star has no worries. No one can hurt a star.”
Annie looked at him again. He had this sad, wistful look on his face. “Must be awfully lonely to be a star though. Never interacting with anyone.”
“Yeah, but if you never talked to anyone ever, would you have any semblance of loneliness? If all you’ve ever known is solitude, you wouldn’t even know there was another way.” He finally looked at her.
“You may not be able to out a name to it, but I think you’d still feel it.” She stared into his eyes.
“Maybe.” He shrugged his shoulders.
Annie was quiet for a while. “What do you want to do now?”
“With your life. Once you graduate.”
“Oh. Get far away from here. There’s nothing keeping me here.”
“Oh.” Annie didn’t know why she felt so upset. It wasn’t like they were dating…were they?”
Armin clearly saw the look on her face. “Wait, Annie I didn’t mean-“
“No, it’s not. I didn’t mean it like that. I didn’t mean you.”
“Armin, it’s really fine-“
“Annie.” He dropped his sketchbook and pencil, and knelt in front of her. “You are the best thing – the only good thing that has ever happened to me.” She glanced up and gasped. His face was right in front of her’s. “You make me want to think about tomorrow, and how I’ll get to spend it with you.” He put a hand on her chin and tilted it up. “Run away with me.” His voice had dropped to a whisper.
“Okay.” She whispered back. He smiled, before closing the distance and kissing her softly.
This. This was what she wanted. Something just like this. She couldn’t believe she’d found it with this soft, warm, kind-hearted boy. Slowly, she lifted a hand and buried it in his hair. Her heart felt so full. If he always made her feel so happy, she’d follow him anywhere.