When I open my eyes, I recognize him in an instant. Before my brain can even process him, my body reacts to him in ways that completely surprise me. Who would have thought that after ten years, he could still affect me this way. I feel nauseated, the taste of bile rises in my throat. A few seconds ago, I was completely fine, but now I’m clammy and hot. My hands are shaking, and my voice is gone, just like it always was around him years ago.
He hasn’t changed one bit. He still has the same piercing blue eyes and dirty blond hair, always kept a little too long. He still has that laissez-faire air of a boy who knows he has the world at his feet.
I fell hopelessly in love with him the first day I met him, a warm day in September, in seventh grade. He was the new kid on the block, and I was the shy self-conscious overweight girl. We’d met at the corner store next to the school. I would often sneak over there to buy treats because my mom wouldn’t let me have any — there were no sweets at our house. Dessert once a week was the rule.
I had bought a chocolate bar and a bag of jujubes. When I’d accidentally dropped the bag, and quite a few had fallen out, I was devastated. Matt picked them up quickly, one by one. “Five second rule,” he said, and popped one in his mouth. He gave me the other ones. I couldn’t help but smile.
I fell in love that instant.
We sat together on the picnic bench next to the store. He popped his bag of Doritos open and offered me one. I politely declined.
“Thank you so much,” I said to him, “for saving my jujubes. I don’t get to have candy often.”
“Me either.” He helped himself to another Dorito. “My mother is a health freak. My dad is a workaholic.”
I studied him carefully from head to toe. We were from different worlds. He was obviously a rich kid. His shoes alone were probably worth more than my whole wardrobe.
“Me too,” I told him. “My mother won’t let me have candy either.”
“Why?” he asked, as if it were not completely obvious. One look at me was enough to answer that question.
I stared at the ground as I dug into my bag of jujubes and reached for another one. “She thinks I’m fat. She says I need to lose weight.”
He smiled. “Don’t listen to her. Parents don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Did he really not see it? Did he think I was just fine the way I was? My mother didn’t. And my dad certainly didn’t either. Unlike my mom, he wasn’t polite about it. He’d always call me his ‘little tubs’.
“Are you new here?” I asked, an attempt to make conversation, and to learn everything there was to know about him.
“Yeah, we just moved here. My dad just started a real estate law firm. Apparently, the real estate market in this town is booming.”
I smiled. “I don’t know much about that.” I thought about my sad little apartment, and knew I’d never invite him to my place.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Kayla,” I said. “Kayla Wilson.”
He offered me his hand with a big smile. He had the biggest, brightest most charming grin I’d ever seen. “Matt Moore.”
Butterflies were dancing in my stomach. “Nice to meet you, Matt Moore.”
From that moment on, I was obsessed. I thought this was the beginning of a beautiful friendship, possibly more. I couldn’t even let my twelve-year old brain go there.
I had no clue that it was actually the start of my own personal nightmare.