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“Loathe at First Sight” by Ellen Conford

“You ARE dripping on my toes.” The girl seemed to be really angry with the boy, as her deep blue eyes shone almost black.

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“I’m sorry. I was admiring you from afar, and I wanted to admire you from a-near. From afar you looked terrific.” The boy flushed, pecking at the sand of a wonderful seaside.

“Oh, thanks a lot. Meaning, up close I look like a toad.” Without a doubt, she seemed to have misunderstood him.

“That’s not what I meant at all! You look good up close, too. I love your bathing suit.” The boy nearly cried with indignation.

“Then why do you keep staring at my toes?” She calmed a bit, though still looking with distrust.

“It’s that stuff you’ve got on them. What do you call that?” The boy stopped “digging” the sand with his foot and bent a bit to the ground so that to have a better look at it.

“Nail polish.” She didn’t seem to be proud of her manicure.

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“I know, I know. I meant, what color is it?”

“Rosy Dawn. Look, what is this with my toes?” The girl was still displeased and could pay no attention to the wonderful sun shining high, to the gulls’ calls and to the tender whispering of the waves.

“Rosy Dawn. That’s kind of romantic. I would have thought it was just pink.”

“Will you stop talking about my toes? What are you, weird or some­thing?”

“No! Oh, boy, this whole conversation has gotten off on the wrong foot. Wrong foot—ha! Get it? Foot, toes?” The sweet-bitter irony seemed to satisfy the boy’s curiosity and distract from the topic so unpleasant for his interlocutor.

“Ha ha.” She didn’t have that sense of humor.

“Just a little humor to lighten up a tense situation. I thought you’d appreciate a good joke.” Nevertheless, he didn’t seem to be offended.

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“I do appreciate a good joke.”

“I just thought it was too early in our relationship to make personal comments about how great you look in a bathing suit.” He broke the silence, as another coming wave indicated the ten-second break in their conversation.

“Our relationship? What relationship?” This time she cried with a feeling deeper than simple indignation, there was no mercy in her words, rough and caustic.

“The one we’re going to have.” He said and flashed a hopeful smile at her bronze face.

“Oh really? Have you always been this unsure of yourself?” They seemed to switch the roles in their peaceful seaside play.

“Have you always been this sarcastic? Look, I just wanted—”

“Now, come on, don’t go all cold and sarcastic on me again. We were doing so well a minute ago.”

“I hadn’t noticed.” Either her still childish character or his premature maturity was keeping the distance between them.

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“Sure, you were laughing and everything. Really sort of loosening up, know what I mean? You were right here; you wouldn’t have missed it. What’s your name, really?” The boy sat on the sand, as he was no more in his good mood. As she kept mum, he was staring at the sea, from time to time closing his eyes and enjoying the picture in front of him – deep blue friendly waters of Atlantic lit by the bright sun beams and the millions of sunlight spots over them running here and there. The white sands of Florida, hot and sugar-like, he wished they were sweet than!

“Anne.” She introduced herself after another time interval, this time it was much longer.

“There, that’s better. Mine’s Alan.”

“You told me.”

“I know, but I’m running out of ideas. I did all my best stuff already.”

“That was your best stuff? You’re in trouble.” She started slowly to understand his best intentions and sat alongside the boy.

“Well, help me out. What kind of a person are you to leave me floundering around for something to say like this? I mean, this is really embarrassing. The least you could do is hold up your end of the dis­cussion.” Alan said, with his eyes closed again.

“I didn’t start this ridiculous conversation—if you can even call it a conversation. I don’t see why I have to take any responsibility for keeping it up.” Using the opportunity she tried to examine his face. It was sun burnt a bit, with freckles on his nose. White fluff on his upper lip toned with the faded hair. His sky blue eyes (the fact that she noticed earlier) effected in her strong belief that he was of somewhat Scandinavian origin.

“What kind of an attitude is that? What if everybody felt that way? What kind of a world would this be?” He examined Anne with a look full of excitement.

“Quiet.”

“Boring.”

“Peaceful.”

“Not necessarily. If nobody communicated with anybody else there’d be wars all the time.”

“There are wars all the time.”

“… Uh, yeah. Well. Good point. Would you—um—like me to rub some suntan oil on your shoulders?” He switched to another topic quickly, as he noticed the first tears in her eyes.

“No, thank you.”

“Would you like to rub some on mine?”

“Not particularly.”

“Look, Anne, I’m getting desperate here. Where did I go wrong? Did I come on too strong?”

“Yes.” She turned her face off him and tried to brush away the tears. She hated to look weak.

“A little heavy on the wit and charm?” He joked again, smiling a charming friendly smile.

“Hey, I like wit and charm as much as the next person, but—”

“I overdid it.” He seemed now to regret the intensiveness of his speech and that “attack” that, in fact, spoiled some of his chances. At least, he understood now that the more waves he was noticing, the less he was speaking or listening to Anne. He didn’t want to do that any longer with her, because she was a nice girl, and her beauty emphasized the picturesque of the side.

“Yes.”

“It was the toes, wasn’t it? I really turned you off with that stuff bout your toes.”

“Yes.” Too many yes!

“It was just what you call a conversational gambit. You know, an ice-breaker. I mean, not that I don’t think your toes are extremely attractive—”

“Alan—” She prevented his apologies and gave a scornful look to him.

“All right, all right, I swear I’ll never mention your toes again. From this minute on, as far as I’m concerned, your toes don’t exist. It’s just— well, what should I have said?” The question didn’t catch her unawares. Anne was ready to give the proper answer and rested against his back.

“What’s wrong with hello?”

“Hello? Just hello? But what about after that? What happens after I say hello?” His indignation knew no bounds now.

“Who knows? If you don’t try it you’ll never find out.”

“All right. Here goes. But I don’t think this is going to work…. Hello, Anne.” Alan pronounced the last phrase as if he was trying to copy the speech of a British king, pompous and condescending.

“Hello, Alan. How’s the water?” She ignored the intonations and kept the conversation running.

“Uh, it’s very cold when you first go in, but it warms up after a while.” And he continued in the same friendly way as if he was saying I’m sorry. I was admiring you from afar, and I wanted to admire you from a-near… once again.

“A lot of things are like that, don’t you think so, Alan?” He clearly understood the hint as their relations were similar to that cold warming water.

“I… I think I see what you mean.” He said smiling.

“I felt certain you would…” And she smiled in return.

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