Sitting on the sidewalk, staring at his shoes, Alexis looked up, and for a moment a smile flickered its snaky way across his face. His new next-door neighbour and surprising first friend approached.
“Hi Anna,” he said, hastily getting to his feet, “how are you?”
“Fine thanks,” she was lying. Alexis could see the redness around her eyes that told him she’d been crying. He decided not to mention it. He wanted to keep Anna as his friend, and he found explaining things like that to people tended to make them a little nervous around you. Anna, from what he could gather, was popular, as a result he’d prefer to keep her as a friend. She’d only just stopped dating Emma, who Alexis had learned by keeping his ear close to the ground, was the coolest person in the year. The fact that someone so well connected in the… pecking order, or whatever it was, was willing to spend time around Alexis, let alone talk to him, filled him with an electric feeling of belonging. He, he told himself, had friends in high places. Okay, one friend. In a sort of highish place.
“Less about me,” Anna smiled at him, “you okay? You looked like you were… having a moment there.”
“Oh yeah,” Alexis tried to sound confident and cool, “I just like to… you know… think about things. Sometimes. Not all the time. That would be weird. Heh.”
“Right,” Anna raised her eyebrow at him and put her head to one side, “so anyway, how’re things with you Alexis?”
“Oh,” a grin spread across Alexis’ face. His eyes hadn’t really picked up that the mouth was smiling yet, so the end result was a little odd, “yes. News. Good news.”
Anna narrowed her eyes and smiled patiently.
“I have met the most beautiful girl in the entire universe.”
There was a sort of squeak from Anna. Alexis looked at. It sounded as though she’d just repressed a giggle.
“What?” He said, a tiny bit hurt.
“Sorry,” Anna blinked rapidly, “it’s just… that wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. But come on, I’m interested now. What’s her name?”
Alexis’ face fell and he shrugged.
“I don’t know,” he murmured, “I kind of… messed up a little. Turns out telling someone how beautiful they are doesn’t really have the desired effect. Which is to say, she didn’t fall into my arms. Instead she… sort of ran off. Her friends got kind of angry with me.”
“Oh Alexis…” Anna shut her eyes and exhaled slowly, “I’m going to have to explain some things to you. Later though. First we’re going to track down this mystery girl.”
“Really? You’ll help me?”
“Of course,” Anna slapped him on the back, “anything for a friend. First up, what does she look like? Anything in particular about her that stood out?”
Alexis, still buzzing from the f word, thought about it hard.
“Not really,” he said after a while, “she was just so… beautiful. It’s kind of hard to describe.”
“Right,” Anna sighed. Alexis wondered whether she was slightly exasperated with him, “but you’d recognise her again?”
“Of course,” he nodded eagerly.
“Okay… what about her friends. Did you get any of their names?”
“Oh yeah!” Alexis smiled as the names surfaced from his memory, “Adelaide was one of them and the other was… Francis I think.”
“Huh,” Anna’s face clouded over, “that’ll be Adelaide Bruce. Yeah, I’ve seen her around. Can’t say I know her very well though… but the other one. Francis… he must be Francis Allen. Weird. I didn’t think he was friends with Adelaide. Or with anyone, really.”
“Why?” Alexis felt a surge of fellow feeling, “Is he not very nice?”
“Oh, no,” Anna shook her head, “it’s just he’s super-human. Not that that should stop him from having friends, it’s just…”
She trailed off. Alexis had stiffened, and was looking at her oddly. She raised her hands.
“Right, sorry. I forgot they’re a little bit of a… touchy subject with you. So, anyway… Francis and Adelaide huh? Well your mystery lady sure hangs out with some interesting people. The question, of course, is why they’re all friends and the identity of our beauty. Don’t worry Alexis, I am officially intrigued and I will help you crack this case.”
“Great,” Alexis couldn’t believe his luck. Anna, while friendly when they met on the way to school, preferred others’ company at school. The chance to get to know his first and only friend better while also finding the most beautiful girl in the world seemed almost too good to be true.
“First though,” Anna said, “I better nip home. My Dad’s expecting me back in a few minutes. I’ll change there and get back to you. Sound good?”
“Cool,” Anna nodded and headed off, “see you then!”
Alexis nodded and waved. When she had moved out of sight he sat back down on the street corner and spent a few minutes staring up at the sky, watching the clouds scudding across that perfect sea of blue, sharks moving lazily through a crystal ocean.
Wow. Some things were just wonderful. The universe. The world. Nature. Life. Everything, it seemed to Alexis, except possibly for Alexis. That was fine though. He was fine. Fine to watch the world go by, to observe. He’d decided long ago that this would be his job. Perhaps, one day in the distant future, he would write it all down.
A few days ago, for the briefest of moments, his world view had been shaken. For that moment he had suddenly been filled with a desire to change things. In that instant he’d wanted to be a part of things, just for once. That girl… she’d been stunning. The kind of beautiful that Alexis didn’t think could be actually really real. It was breathtaking, and it had made Alexis think, truly think about it. Perhaps he wasn’t fine?
He suddenly found himself wondering whether he should have told Anna that the girl had scales. Perhaps that might have narrowed it down a bit.