Looking out the cafeteria windows, through the bitter snow of last winter, I saw her the first time.
Right in the middle of the quads, a girl is falling into the snow. I catch a glimpse of her, ragged mop of yellow hair, dark ringed eyes, short black miniskirt, black camisole. No coat. A rag-tag bunch of students in their winter clothes passes her, laughing. Not one stops.
My fist clenches. I know it is none of my business, but still…I get up, push my tray into the slot, head out the door. The metal door clangs behind me. The frigid air bites my nose, and I walk faster, imagining how much worse the cold must be for her.
She has made no effort to rise. She is huddled up in a little ball, face half buried in the snow, hair falling limply over one cheek. I hesitate, now that I’m here. Maybe this is just some kind of art or theater project, and I’ll look the fool for bothering her. Maybe, it will embarrass her more if I interfere. But her bare arms are beginning to look pale blue with cold, so I put out a hand and shake her gently. “Hey. Are you all right?”
She moves slowly under my hand. Without looking at me, she pulls herself up, sitting up first, then gathering her feet under her and standing slowly. “I’m fine, thanks.”
She looks at me. I am surprised by her eyes. Violet. Deep violet, tinted only slightly with an azure blue. It’s only then that I notice her heavily-smeared eyeliner flowing down her cheeks, evidence of recent tears.
She is surprised too. “Oh!”
“It’s you,” she mutters confusedly.
Do I know her? I wonder. I’m sure I would remember, if I had met her before.
“You,” she continues, looking shyly from beneath her thick, black lashes, “I’ve been watching you for awhile now.”
She nods, solemnly, but her eyes are shining. “Yes.”
We stand there for a moment. I don’t know what to do now, or say. To cover up the awkward silence, I pull off my coat and put it around her shoulders.
She smiles, suddenly, the sweetest smile I’ve ever seen. “Thank you.” Abruptly, she sticks out a hand, and, thoroughly confused, I take it. “My name is Iris.”