Perhaps it was Kate’s new hairstyle, or the jade-colored bead bracelet he had never noticed before, wrapped around her smooth, skinny arm — whatever it was, something about her caught Sami’s attention that day. It was Valentine’s Day and he knew he was in love.
The first person he told was his mom who ruffled his hair, and kissed his forehead. “It’s just a crush, my boy,” she said. “You’ll change and meet many other girls, I’m sure. You’re only 10 years old after all.”
Sami looked up at his mom with his big, round eyes and said, “No, mom. I won’t. She’s the one.”
His mom just shook her head and smiled.
Sami was extremely shy. He stuttered when he talked and was often teased by his classmates, which led him to become even more shy. He would rarely talk to people, except for one or two friends (who were equally shunned by the rest of the class because of their shyness). This drove Sami crazy. Every day, he would wake up thinking, “I’m going to talk to her, I’m going to talk to her,” and when he got to class he would stare at her back from where he sat 3 seats behind her, imagining how he would start a conversation with her. Would he take the direct approach? Would he bump her accidentally? Would he ask to copy the homework, pretending that he forgot to take it down before the next teacher erased it? Each scenario would play out in his mind until the last bell rang. Kate would pack up her things into her blue bag and Sami would watch her saunter out the door, kicking himself inside for being such a wimp.
The days came and went. They both grew a little older, were now in high school. By this time, Sami knew who Kate’s best friends were — skinny Adeline and pimply Jane. He knew her favorite hangout was at the bench just outside the cafeteria. He knew that she liked soft-rock music, that she hated anything with onions, and that she had a crush on Ronnie, who was in the school soccer team.
He still had not talked to her.
They were now in their senior year. Sami had learned many more things about Kate, not the least was the fact that she was already dating Ronnie for a few months.
It was Valentine’s Day again, which also happened to be the birthday of one of their classmates whose family owned a posh restaurant. He invited the whole class for his last high school birthday party and they all went.
The party was loud and lively. Dance music blared through giant speakers as the carefree teens swayed to the beat, while others ate and drank and laughed.
Sami never liked loud music. After a while of sitting quietly in a corner, sipping his cola, he decided to step outside for a while to clear his head. He had barely stepped out of the large double doors when he saw Kate a few feet away, pushing Ronnie and yelling, “I don’t care what your excuse is. I saw you kiss her. We’re through.”
Ronnie tried to grab her arm but Kate batted it away and said, “Don’t touch me. Don’t come near me or I’ll scream.”
Ronnie glared at her for a few seconds, then shrugged and walked out to the street.
Kate turned and saw Sami staring. She wiped her eyes and said, “I’m sorry you had to see that. You’re Sam, right?”
Sami nodded, “Uh, y-y-yeah. B-b-but my friends call me Sami.”
Kate smiled, “Yes, Super Silent Stuttering Shy-boy Sami,” using the nickname many of his classmates teased him with.
Sami turned his head and looked down at his shoes.
Kate went to a nearby bench and sat down. “You know Sami, I could really use a good listener right now. Are you good at listening?”
Sami could not believe his ears. He nodded slowly.
“Come walk with me then,” said Kate.
They walked together as Kate talked and poured out her heart. For some reason, she felt as if she had known Sami all her life. His presence felt comforting. She told him about how she fell for Ronnie when she was a freshman, how he had asked her out the first time, how they fought over inconsequential things, and how she had caught Ronnie kissing another girl that afternoon at school when they thought nobody was looking.
“Why would he do that to me? I thought he cared about me. I must be so boring and ugly that he really doesn’t want me anymore,” she said.
Sami had gradually started to loosen up as she talked. They had walked all the way to a deserted park. He stared briefly at the night sky and saw the winking lights of a plane in the distance. He realized that he now had the perfect opportunity and wasn’t going to waste it. “Y-y-y-you know, K-k-kate. I d-don’t think you’re b-b-boring at all. A-a-and you know wh-what? I th-th-think, I th-th-think, I th-think you’re the m-m-most b-b-beautiful girl in the world.”
Sami could feel his cheeks getting hot as he said this and he stared hard at his shoes, but he continued speaking, knowing that this was probably his only chance at releasing all those pent-up emotions seething inside him for so many years. “A-a-a-actually, K-k-kate, I’ve had a c-c-cr-crush on you ever s-s-since we were in fourth grade.”
Kate stared at him as he blurted out his confession, her right hand pressed at her chest. Then she said, “Sami, would you like a kiss?”
“Wh-wh-wh-what?” said Sami as his eyes darted back and forth and his breath caught in his throat.
“Sami, I’m sad and confused right now. But I do want someone to hold me and kiss me and tell me everything will be all right. I’m not thinking straight and I might change my mind soon. So do you want a kiss or not?” Kate said.
Sami did not need any more prompting. He pulled her in a tight embrace and kissed her. They closed their eyes as their lips met. Suddenly there was a loud roar in the heavens. It rang in their ears like a thousand drums beating in frenzied cadence. The roar grew louder and louder but they held each other tight and in that brief moment, those precious few seconds stripped away all the heartache and pain in their hearts and filled it with the joy of knowing that they were not alone, that there was another who cared. Time stopped and they were locked in the briefest moment of eternity. Then there was a sharp jolt of light and heat, a sharp pain, then nothing.
The headlines next day read, “Plane Crashes In Park, 57 Passengers And 2 Teenagers Killed.”