There were no seams between the clouds which mantled the sky above Waynesport.  They were dark and full, indicating a storm would soon arrive.  There had been talk amongst the boys at school of a snow day, although winter had not yet set in and a cold rain was more likely.  The wind was hard at work dismantling the last dead leaves from the trees that lined the gravel lane leading up to the school house.

In a flurry of leaves and gravel a bicycle burst onto the lane.  It moved swiftly down the street, weaving skillfully between the fallen branches that had yet to be removed by the school’s grounds crew.  On the bike was a schoolboy.  He was slim, taller than most of the boys in his year and not yet adjusted to his height.  His dark brown hair would have obscured his vision had he not been pedaling at such a speed.

He made a left onto the sidewalk of Pine Street, a busy road at the end of the lane.  A sharp gust threatened to push the boy off-course and into the street, but he leaned into the wind and kept pedaling.  Pumping his legs in rhythm, he forced himself up Pine until he came to the main road, where he paused to catch his breath.  He was behind schedule.  His history teacher had been slow in completing the day’s lesson plan and held the class after the bell, a practice universally loathed by schoolchildren.  As he pedaled towards his destination, he worried that he was too late.  He had standing appointment of sorts; for several weeks, he had timed his ride home so he would reach the street corner outside the convenience store at the same time as Emily Baker.

They met over the summer at a neighborhood function, and he had been fascinated by her almost at first sight.  Emily was quiet but not shy, and gave the impression that she possessed a secret that she wasn’t ready to let you in on yet.  She had jet black hair and sharp features.  Her pale skin was dotted with freckles under her eyes, and when she spoke her voice was clear and pure.

They were not in agreement to meet outside the convenience store.  In fact, to Emily it was purely a coincidence.  Usually there was a fleeting interaction, a short conversation as they crossed the street, sometimes only a greeting.  But nonetheless, the boy’s young imagination lent it significance.  If anything, it gave the illusion of a progression towards something more meaningful.

The boy took a seat on the curb and rested his back on a telephone post behind him.  His legs were tired from the haste of his ride.  He could hear a pair of voices approaching behind him.  The voices belonged to older students, three or four years ahead of the boy.

—I told you, I’ve got no time for that this weekend!  And besides, my grandmother is visiting; she would have a conniption if she saw me with a boy!

— . . . I’ll sneak you out!

— No, I mustn’t.

— Just this once! We’ll make a night of it; a—

— I wish you weren’t so persistent.  I’ve told you before….

As their conversation faded across the street, the boy felt a pang of jealousy.  His attention was not unwanted— well, at least he hoped it wasn’t.  Was it?  It was always hard to tell with girls.  Funny, he thought, how roundabout the business of boys and girls was.  Show interest, and you are judged as desperate.  But take no notice, and you may be passed over altogether.

He stared into space, absently watching the wind briefly reanimate piles of fallen leaves before it lost interest and allowed them to settle.  A single green leaf caught his eye before it quickly disappeared again, swallowed up by the swirling collage of brown and orange.

He shivered as a raindrop hit the back of his neck, pulling him out of his mind and back to actuality.  He checked the time— 3:45—far too late to see Emily.  I must be getting home, he thought, my mother will be cross if I take much longer anyway.  Disheartened, he mounted his bike and pedaled off as the rain began to fall.

Willie Fineberg is a freshman in the Design department. He was raised on soft pretzels and cheesesteaks in the suburbs of Philadelphia.