“I could stare into those eyes forever,” Devon mused. He half-listened to Ester talk about her day. Her toffee-colored eyes distracted him so much that he did not hear the question she asked. He only clued in when he realized she wasn’t speaking anymore.
“I’m sorry,” Devon rubbed his blond hair and gave her an apologetic look. “I kind of got distracted, what’d you say?” She rolled her eyes but he noticed a smile at the edge of her mouth.
“Got distracted? You were looking me right in the eyes,” she said but shook her head. “I asked if you wanted to walk home with me. You live the same direction and,…” she paused and looked around the school grounds. The pair stood at the edge of the property and there were only a handful of students walking in their direction. The group was too far away to hear anything. “… there’s something I want to show you,” Ester said.
“Yeah, definitely!” Devon said “What do you want to show me?” he asked. Ester glanced back at the approaching group then shook her head.
“Not here, let’s walk a bit first,” she said then started walking. They walked in silence for the first couple of blocks. Devon had no shortage of conversational topics, but Ester looked anxious about something. It was the second week of their freshman year, but Devon crushed on Ester the moment he saw her. He was ecstatic to learn they had several classes together. They became fast friends and this was not the first time they walked home together. Though it was the first time she asked.
“My birthday was yesterday,” Ester said suddenly when they reached the third block.
“Oh! Happy belated!” Devon said with a friendly pat on the back. Ester nodded.
“Thanks. But I wanted to tell you about my gift,” she said. She paused in front of an alley then turned into it. Devon followed. The alley was between two tall buildings, each one had a restaurant on the first floor. It grew darker and smelled worse the deeper they went. Finally, Ester stopped at the dead end. It was surprisingly dark considering the sun was still out.
“My dad gave me two things for my birthday,” Ester said. “The first thing he gave me was an explanation…,” she sighed. “…about everything.” Devon chuckled.
“You got the sex talk for your 14th birthday?!” he said with a broad smile. His smile disappeared when Ester shook her head sternly.
“Not that everything. THE UNIVERSE everything.”
“The universe? How so?” Devon shrugged. “No offense, but what does a tattoo artist know about the universe?” Ester nodded.
“That’s about what I thought until he proved it. Anyway, the second was this,” Ester tugged at the collar of her school uniform to show him her right shoulder. A layer of plastic protected a golden star with the number 35 freshly inked.
“That’s so cool!” Devon was genuinely impressed. “Why 35 though?” he asked.
“It’s my favorite number,” she said.
“Oh, nice. Mine’s 14,” Devon said. Ester nodded. She let go of her collar then relaxed to lower her backpack down to the ground.
“So then…,” she said as she unzipped it and reached in. “…do you have any idea why everything moves so sluggish around us sometimes?” she asked. She pulled out a purple sketchbook from her backpack and looked up at Devon. He tilted his head.
“Why what?” he asked. Ester pointed at something behind him and Devon turned around. He saw a cat floating in mid-air between two overflowing garbage cans. It flew through the air at a turtle’s pace.
“Sometimes when you’re around, time slows down,” Ester said. “Like at school when you said you were ‘distracted‘,” she giggled. “And right now when I showed you my new tattoo.” Ester opened the sketchbook and flipped through the pages. “And I know it’s you doing it,” she added.
“Whoa… what?” Devon said. He was so surprised that the cat completed the jump then ran up the alley at normal speed.
“My dad explained that I can see what people are,” she said. Devon focused on her eyes and was surprised to see golden stars glowing in the toffee-brown of her eyes.
Ester held up the notebook and Devon glanced at it. He immediately recognized himself in the colorless drawing. He was hunched over his desk resting his head on his arms. A black, ghostly cloak rested on his shoulders with its hood pulled down. A large scythe hovered at the ready next to his desk.
“This is what you are,” she said.