We live in a three-bedroom home, on the third floor of a large apartment block.
Our choice of view is either the other apartments overlooking the inner courtyard with its weird statues of children playing leapfrog or the exceedingly ugly high rises being built on the other side of the street.
There is only one other apartment on our floor, on the other side of a short hallway. The people who live there are nice enough. They grow ferns in front of the floor to ceiling hallway windows.
The husband travels to China a lot, the wife is a piano teacher, but he says he is the real piano player in the family.
They have two kids, a son, and a daughter. He's about thirteen or fourteen I guess. We've kicked around a ball a few times in the park near our building.
His sister, Claire, must be around my age. I've never asked her or anything, but I just have this feeling that she's my age, and that we're kind of similar, or something.
I've never actually talked to her. She's just the girl across the hall.
The girl across the hall wears glasses. She reads a lot. Well, I assume she reads a lot. She always has a book tucked under her arm when I see her.
She has straight black hair and a fringe that looks like it was cut with a laser. It frames her face and almost makes her look like a doll until she smiles.
Then her whole face comes to life as little wrinkles dance around her eyes and the corners of her mouth. I've never gotten more than half a smile from her.
She licks her lips and stares at the floor when she's uncomfortable. I know this because we've been in the lift together countless times.
"Hi." That's the most either of us has ever uttered before staring awkwardly at our respective corners of the elevator.
I love that I make her uncomfortable. No... I love that she notices me enough to be shy around me. I wonder if she feels the same.
I go to school not far from our building. I cycle there every day. She cycles too. Sometimes we wave at each other in the basement when we get our bikes.
Our parking spots are right next to each other's, but still, we just wave.
I wonder if that wave feels enough to her. It's never felt like enough to me. Not even once. Not even the first time. Still, I try to leave for school at the same time that she does.
Sometimes I listen at the door until I hear her door open. Sometimes we say, "hi." Mostly we just wave.
"My name is Eric," I said that to her the other day. It just slipped out.
"I know," she replied and stared at her feet. She was wearing a pair of bright red Adidas. I stared at them too for a while. They shifted left and then right.
"I'm Claire," she said right before the lift doors opened. Then she rushed off to her bike and pedaled away quickly. She still waved at me. I was late for school that day.
Claire has very dark eyes. They are so dark her pupils seem to melt into her irises. I saw them, really saw them, for the first time when our eyes met in the park.
I was playing with the dog. She came jogging by. To my surprise, she stopped and sat down next to me on the grass. She seemed surprised by this as well and we sat in silence for a while.
"Beautiful dog," she said, rubbing our golden retriever's head when he came bounding over.
"I hope he's not too loud when we're not at home," I replied. She shrugged and said, "no."
She threw the ball again, and the dog went chasing after it. She smiled at him, and then looked over at me. Our eyes met.
She looked away first, smiling shyly. Sweat glistened on her neck, and my palms. My lips tasted salty. She suddenly stood up, as if she just remembered something.
"Are you going home," I asked. I stood up as well and brushed the grass off of my shorts.
"Yeah, see you later?" It sounded like a question.
"Sure, but wait a moment. I'll walk with you," I didn't want to sound too eager. I didn't want to scare her away.
"Okay," she said. The lines around her eyes danced as she smiled.
We walked home together. The dog ran ahead. We took our time. Still, all too quickly we were back at our apartments. I stared into her dark eyes and said goodbye, in front of her door.
The girl across the hall smiled at me.
"See you soon, Eric," she said before opening the door and going inside.
The girl across the hall smiled at me!
The End *I should have cut this into three parts, but I wrote it as a whole. Hope it wasn't too long and that it kept you glued to your screens. Thank you so much for reading.