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I didn’t mean to have anything to do with that obnoxious, pig-headed jerk but he was just so charming and fascinating. And to my eternal dismay, no one ever knew me better than he did.
My name is Emily Faber and I’m just a simple girl. I’ve got dark brown hair, light brown eyes and lightly tanned skin from being in the sun too long. There was a sprinkling of seven tiny freckles on my right cheek and occasionally my ears turned red with embarrassment. There was nothing remarkable about me.
He was a transfer student from Krista McAuliffe, a school that took in juvenile delinquents. It was the last step until Juvie. He had been reinstated in our school on the grounds of good behavior. There were rumors about what he had done to land himself a place at that reform school. Things like burning down the Science building at his last school and assaulting a teacher after receiving a detention. None of the rumors were ever confirmed but he was most definitely feared. He maintained a faraway look and was usually aloof. His name was Benjamin Morgan but he went by Benji.
I’m Emi Faber, he’s Benji Morgan and I loved him. With all my heart.
I had never been asked on a date before so I wasn’t certain on the normal patterns of courtship. I had been taking a walk in the park after school and was resting at the pavilion when Benji, who was illegally sitting on top of the condemned jungle gym, had randomly asked me out. I was so startled, I couldn't do anything besides nod my head in agreement. And after that he didn’t talk to me again. Although I was innocent in the matters of dating, I was positive he was supposed to at least acknowledge me.
It took me days to work up the courage to confront him.
“Hey,” I addressed him softly. It was lunchtime and I was returning from a tutoring session. I found Benji wandering the hallways which was against the school rules.
“Hey,” he nodded.
“So are you just gunna not talk to me?” I asked, biting my lip nervously. He was said to have a horrible temper.
“I talk to you. I’m talkin’ to you right now,” he retorted, a twitching smile quirked on his lips.
“Yeah, sure,” I scoffed. Benji’s smile eased my tension into relieved sarcasm. I suddenly felt comfortable enough to act naturally. “Right. Now I remember; we had a lengthy and descriptive discussion that day at the park and yesterday after school. And then last night you called me and wouldn’t let me off the phone ‘til I fell asleep. Of course, I remember now.”
Benji smirked, making my heartbeat stutter. “Are you trying to say something?”
“Not anything you shouldn’t know already.”
We stared at each other for a long moment and the venom left my tone.
I crossed my arms and glanced up at him, his superior height daunting. I set my jaw and asked, “Why did you ask me out?”
Without hesitation Benji replied, “’Cause I felt like it.”
I blinked incredulously. What kind of a answer was that?
“’Cause you felt like it?” I was getting steamed up. “Well, how about this? I don’t feel like going out with you anymore!”
I was all set to flounce away in a temper but Benji called my back again.
“Aw, c’mon! Hey!” he caught me by the arm and spun me around. “Hey, I’ll bet you never had Thai food before.”
I looked at him in confusion. “So what if I have or haven’t?”
“You don’t seem like the type to stray from the norm; not the type to go with something exotic or foreign.”
His words rung with a double meaning. It felt like he was testing me.
I scoffed at his assumption. “And what would you know?”
“You never had anything beyond the Chinese stuff; I know you haven’t.”
I boldly lied,” Yeah? Well, I have.”
“Sure, sure,” He said patronizingly. He pulled me in closer and nonchalantly pressed his lips to mine, catching me off guard. “Hey meet you up front after school today? Then I’ll take you on that date I asked you for.”
“Huh? Oh......uh, sure.”
A sign on the door of Benji’s favorite restaurant said, “Seat Yourself.” Benji snatched up two cushions from a couch in the waiting area and tossed them next to a low-to-the-ground coffee table. He motioned for me to sit when I stiffly asked what in the world what he was doing.
“More authentic,” he had said.
The dishes on the menu were either in a different language or sounded completely unappealing. I started to panic. Rice cooked with chicken fat? Half-cooked intestines stuffed with partially digested meat? Spicy curry with dog? What if I had to eat something awful?
Benji ended up saving me from my suffering by ordering a sour fish curry without even looking at the menu. He and the waiter glanced at me and shared a significant look at my expense. After the waiter left, he declared that although I might be well cultured in Thai cuisine, he personally still had to stick with the milder foods.
I could tell that he was mocking me but the laughter that followed after made my melt.
After dinner, Benji took me back to his place. At first I nervous at the invitation but he, seeing my inhibition, laughed it off.
“I’m not going to mess around with you,” he assured me with a toothy grin. “I figured you were the kinda girl who’d like a guy to play guitar for her; I’d like to practice some stuff I wrote on you. Is that okay?”
And he was true to his word. Benji only touched me to lead me by the hand through the sketchy neighborhood where his family lived. It wasn’t a place I’d normally feel comfortable in but with Benji guiding me, I felt the safest that I had ever.
His music was as mysterious and enticing as he was. It flowed from his fingers like a night flower opening under the moonlight. I could never forget the blissful expression on Benji’s face as he strummed and picked out his beautiful melody for me, his audience of one. The feeling he put into his music brought scalding tears to my eyes. I could tell that this was his passion.
“Do you like it?” he asked earnestly when he finished.
“It was that most beautiful thing I could ever imagine or hope to hear,” I told him fiercely and sincerely. No one could ever say any different truthfully.
The look that lit up on Benji’s face as I praised him was of joyous gratitude. It was like he was a completely different person. Like a flower bursting into bloom.
“How did you start playing?”
He shrugged and answered, “I just felt like it one day.”
I scowled and punched him in the arm.
“Is that your answer for everything?” I asked impatiently.
“Pretty much,” he teased. “Ma says I could never make a living off of the stuff I write. But I tell myself that I’ll be a professional some day, even if it’s for less than a week.”
Benji looked into my eyes with a look of determination, like he had just decided his mind on something difficult and I was the rock he was going to swear on. The fire in his blue eyes scorched higher as he reached out to me.
“Thanks, Em. That was exactly what I needed to hear.”
As he walked me to my front porch later on that night, he kissed me long and fiercely. When he walked away down my street I knew in my heart that Benji, jailbait and delinquent, had stolen my heart. I decided I didn’t care to have it back any time soon.
That was our first and last date together. Less than a week later, Benjamin Morgan dropped out of school and disappeared. His parents were frantic with panic and worry. They spent more money than they could afford to send out a county-wide search party to find him. The local police were sent to find his friends and question them within an inch of their lives. I myself was mercilessly interrogated.
The weeks of desperate searching and police interrogations came to nothing. Benji could not be found. Everyone believed him to be kidnapped by a gang he was involved in and killed but I knew he had just run away from home. What galled me the most was that he never said a word about it to me. He hadn't even said goodbye.
A few day later, after the search was abandoned and things started to settle back down, I received a letter from Benji.
"Em, I know you're p*ssed at me. Probably super p*ssed. Maybe I should've told you I was leaving but you might've tried to stop me. Don’t say anything to my folks. I'll send you a letter every now and then. Don't look for me.
There was no apology nor any mention that he would miss me. He didn't even give me a return address.
"Why? Why did you leave me?" I wanted to ask him. But I could already hear the answer he'd give me just as clearly as if he were standing right next to me: "Because I felt like it."