She was adorable as she was, standing on the cusp between childhood and womanhood, but to the young man she had attached her affections to, she was a burgeoning beauty. Her body had just begun to suggest the womanly shape it would attain, but the young man could fast forward in his mind what three year’s growth would do to the girl. In that future focus, his imagination proclaimed her as exquisitely constructed as any of the young women who were more his contemporaries, sharing with him the advanced age of seventeen. But to the girl he ascribed a greater beauty to come, for her face was alive with an intelligence of expression he had never seen. Lit with an amused gleam, the girl’s face seemed incapable of filtering the interior purpose of her from the world. Erupting in smiles and frowns, her thought and expression were one, translated to the world without edit by a face unschooled in defense or deceit. Dawning apprehensions glowed brighter by the moment, and the young man thought, “Here, in her, grows promise.” Yet while the young man could plainly see what she would become, he could also see what she was, and he defined his affections for her accordingly, though he would have had great difficulty explaining what those affections were. In her he saw the beginnings of someone he could love, and perhaps fear, but she was made still as a child, which he could not love beyond an adoring affection. And so he befriended her with that and was happy with it.
That he saw her at all was the result of her crush on him. Boldly she had told him, when each had been cast in their high school play, that he had the most gorgeous eyes she hoped ever to see, and he read clearly her infatuation with him.
It seemed to him strange that she should see his eyes so appealing, when hers were darkly gilded emeralds, which, unlike the rest of her, were already empowered with the full allure of womanhood. They won his heart and his devotion upon his very first encounter with them.
He discouraged her infatuation, though he kept her friendship. The days of rehearsal stretched past dusk, and he learned she had no way home, her father, her only parent, seldom present. So he offered to drive her, which he knew she wanted and which he was happy to do.
The farther he drove that first time he took her home the more incredulous he became. At least five miles passed before she pointed to her driveway, and he could not believe a young girl would have had to walk this far under darkening skies. A protective feeling tugged at his heart, and he would see from that first ride onward that she made it safely home after rehearsals.
“I think I’m in love with you,” she told him once, her eyes and face telling him she was overwhelmed with the feeling of truth about what she said.
“Jen,” he told her, smiling with the warmth she brought to his soul, “I do adore you, but, you know, you’re not ready to be falling in love with seniors.”
“If it’s you, I am.”
“Really,” he said, “you’re not. But if our paths cross someday, I don’t know, farther from today, who knows?”
After the play was over, he continued to drive her home, and then the year was over, and he went to college in another state.
He could hardly believe himself when he returned home, four years later, consumed with the need to know her again, to see the young woman the adorable girl had become.
“Do you remember a girl,” he asked a friend, wistfully, “named Jen? About three years younger than us? She was in that play I was in our senior year. She had the most beautiful eyes I ever saw, even as a kid. Do you remember her?”
“Oh, hell yes,” his friend, a young woman, told him, “Everyone did. I mean, you didn’t hear about it?”
“Hear about what?”
“Oh, God, it was horrible.”
“What was?” He felt a growing sense of panic. He wanted to know but not to know. Couldn’t he have just held on to the memory?
“Some sick bastard killed her.”
“Jesus, it was horrible. I can’t even say it.”
“Yeah, about a year ago.”
He didn’t believe it. He didn’t want to believe it. He went to the library to prove it wasn’t true. He looked through the newspapers, seeking to find the wrong name or an absence of any such event.
But he found it, and the details filled him with fury, and her color picture next to the article made him weep.
He had been right in seeing what she would become; the picture was of a beautiful young woman, her face still a transparency between her soul and the world. He saw joy, hope, love, mirth and thought. How would her eyes have looked at him today?
How beautiful. How beautiful.
Remember her eyes, his mind gasped, remember her eyes.