Thumbnail graphic by Iliana Garner / North by Northwestern

Read this how you like, time going backwards, time going forwards (new year, new shoes…) or any other way you can think of.

Do you still like me? Her mumble barely raises above the scrape of his beat-up converse against the pavement. They walk through the old church parking lot by her house. Her eyes train on the soft brown hair sticking out of the back of his beanie and she shoves her hands deeper into her hoodie pockets. Her step falters behind his and the rhythm is lost.  

I don’t know. His hands gently swing at his sides, brushing against his oversized Levi’s. They pass the final parking spot, the one next to the playground and the garden, and turn around to start again. Her short hair is down, more blonde in the gray February light than he remembers. The wind swirls around them, pushing dead leaves, turning her cheeks a deeper shade of red.

Do you even like me? His voice is slurred from the drink. They stand on the grass outside a house party. Her arms cross over her green long sleeve, her face illuminated by the Christmas lights lining the roof. His gaze is accusing and broken and sweaty locks of hair fall into his eyes; he’s been dancing the whole night. The thumping bass of music surrounds them, mocks them.

Not the way you want me to. She tucks a strand of blonde hair behind her ear, rocking back on her heels. His breath hitches; she watches as his eyebrows knit together and his shoulders slump back. He raises the Solo cup to his lips. His body turns, facing the backyard fence. She inches forward, touching the point of her Dunks to his Converse. He walks away.

Do you like anyone? He leans against the outside of their red brick classroom, taking advantage of the shade from the overhang. She sits criss-cross on the warm ground facing him. His hair is shorter than it's ever been, buzzed in the back and slightly longer on top. She’s been growing hers out. She pulls her hand off the hot cement, placing it on top of his new Converse.

Depends, do you? He smiles, watching her play with his white laces. Her blue eyes look up at him, bright against the remnants of her summer tan. He taps his hand against his shorts, realizing how long her hair has gotten since last spring. He knows his answer in a heartbeat. The warm air swirls around them, catching in the trees and in their hair, coloring her cheeks a deep pink.