The rain fell in heavy sheets.
They were alone, barely dry, on a small island at the center of the school they first met in. They were standing apart, under a shed in the heart of the school’s soccer field. A small storm was raging around them. Rain battered classroom windows. Torrents of water flowed through the campus like rivers.
Neither had spoken for what felt like forever.
He glanced at Ellaine.
She looked tired, but beautiful. Her wet hair stuck to her face, giving her an otherworldly, almost ghostly look.
Her gaze was faraway, as if she was looking somewhere beyond the confines of the campus. Her eyes were melancholic. They spoke of nostalgia.
She was looking back, looking away toward simpler times.
They first met a year ago.
Michael was a sophomore in college, Ellaine a senior in high school. They came from sister schools; two universities that thrived under the same parent organization. Events, ranging from sports meets to seminars, were common between their institutions.
Her school was hosting a seminar, their first big one for the year. Students from prestigious schools all over the region were invited to attend, he and his classmates included.
Michael and his classmates arrived under a grey sky, on a mid-morning day in the middle of summer.
It was a Friday and the school was alive with activity. Students moved through the campus in hurried steps. A soccer game was being played on an open field, sharing space with students playing softball, while in the far distance, a cadre of volleyball players went through their morning drills.
There was a noise in the air. The yells and cheers and jeers of bystanders and players alike. Michael asked one of their hosts if some big sporting event was coming up.
“Just the intramurals,” his host said. “Everyone’s gearing up for it even though it’s still a few weeks away.”
Michael smiled. His gaze fleeted across the sports field. He couldn’t help but smile. Their uniforms and the campus layout were different, but he could feel the same competitive spirit in the air. If he closed his eyes he could imagine himself back in his home campus, back in the company of students who were always working hard, who were always going full-speed ahead toward their dreams.
He watched as a pair of soccer players skirmished over a ball. They were only practicing but both players were taking the game seriously, fighting over the ball as if they were playing in a championship. With a sudden burst of speed, one of the players dashed forward and stole the ball away from his opponent.
He meant to pass it to his teammate on his right, but he put too much strength into his kick, and the ball instead sailed high into the air, flew over a shed near the edge of the field, rolled through the green grass, and somehow ended up a few feet away from Michael.
The players waved for him to return the ball.
Michael glanced about, expecting someone else to take the responsibility off his shoulders. He sighed, stretching his arms as he strode toward the ball. Back in high school, a girl he liked once called him a ‘peak physical specimen capable of one day becoming the greatest sports player of all time.’ Whether she said that in jest, Michael did not know, but he was confident that he could return the ball with a kick.
Perhaps sensing what he was about to do, one of the soccer players waved for him to take it easy, yelling at him to just ‘throw the ball back.’
Throw the ball, Michael scoffed. Like he’d do that.
He took a running start toward the ball and gave it a kick.
The soccer ball flew through the air in a gentle spin. He watched it go, his gaze falling briefly toward the shed that the ball flew over just moments before.
A spectacled girl in a high school uniform sat there.
While the school around her was alive with activity, she seemed to be in a world of her own. Her eyes were buried in a thick, leather-bound book. There was an atmosphere of tranquility around her. The air around her was still. Though the skies were overcast, there was a gap in the cloud cover, from which a pillar of sunlight shone through. It landed on her and her shed like a spotlight. Michael had never seen someone so beautiful.
She lifted her eyes from her book and her gaze fell on him.
The world was in slow motion now.