Liam was 12. Too young to know anything about love. Too young to know anything about anything. But, of course, he was twelve. And twelve-year-old boys thought they knew everything.
And Liam knew, with all of his heart, that he loved Olivia Chen.
She looked very pretty in that dress. Her party dress. It was modest, of course. It went past her knees and was a deep dreamy purplish-blue. Her hair was down and wavy from the braids she had it in before. Her smile was beatific.
She wasn't the only girl to attend his party.
But she might as well have been.
He only had eyes for her.
It was painfully obvious to everyone but her. His other guests entertained each other, understanding that Liam only wanted Vi. (The guys were used to it. To Vi outranking them in that aspect. The girls didn’t mind, they would have never approached him anyway.) Throughout the night he clung to her side and she doted on him, she didn’t even notice his behavior as odd.
Which was unlike Vi since she noticed everything. Was he always this hopeless? Did he just now notice?
Even when he hands her the first slice of cake, the one his mother cut for him, extra big, she didn’t bat an eye. She just booped his nose with her frosting-covered finger.
It hit him then, that Vi didn’t notice because they were always like this. Always this affectionate, this close. He wasn't sure if the realization excited or disappointed him.
He thought they were closer when everyone left, his parents retiring to bed, the guests leaving when their parents picked them up. He was so sure because she was bossing him around like she always does. She had him sweeping the floor while she cleared the tables and threw out the trash.
Soon his house was ‘decent’ and that is when there was this moment. When he was still sweeping and the light of the living room was off, the hallway light was illuminating enough for him to clean. A shadow cast over the floor and he knew it was Vi, because it was her scrawny bony figure that was reflected. He pretended he didn’t notice and kept at it. Determined to finish before 8 to see what surprise Vi had for him.
When he was done he faced her. Eager to hear what she had to say, what she had to give. Her eyes were soft, her smile tender.
“Hey, birthday boy.”
There was a flirtiness to her voice he wasn’t used to, a flirtiness that sent blood straight to his cheek, neck, and ears. She walked across to him and took the broom from his hands. Then she linked their fingers, her eyes brimming with the excitement of a secret about to be shared.
For a second he thought she sensed the wish he wished when he blew his candle. That she was going to kiss him.
But she didn’t, grinning wide she tugged his hand and led him outside to his backyard.
He didn’t always love Olivia, he didn’t think. There must have been a time when she was strictly a friend. When he didn’t like or notice the smell of her shampoo, which was strawberry. Or when he didn’t think she’d look good in his jacket, or when he didn’t blush when she’d hug him in her unflattering plain swimsuit.
Surely, there was a time he didn’t love her the way he did then. He could remember the time, vaguely. A time when he’d tease her about the boys she liked (which now put a sour taste in her mouth), and ask her to talk to the girls he liked on her behalf. A time where she could wear a dress and his brain wouldn’t short circuit.
Liam honestly couldn’t imagine ever going back to that way of thinking.
Especially not at that moment, with Vi by his side, her shoulder brushing his. Her eyes reflecting the stars in the Virginia night sky. Her warmth radiating off her body and seeping into his.
Liam knew he should be watching the stars. But he didn’t want to miss her expression when one shoots by. So he kept watching her as she eagerly scoped the sky, and to his satisfaction. He sees it. Her reaction.
She whirled to face him, her hand tugging at his sleeve. “Lee! Did you see?!”
He nodded excitedly, grinning at the sheer glee on her face despite not having seen what the big deal was.
“We just saw a shooting star!” She jumped to her feet and continued jumping, pumping her fist. Vi pulled him to his feet and got him jumping too. He laughed and pretended he saw the same thing as her. “Did you make a wish?!”
Her face was earnest and hopeful like she ardently hoped he didn’t miss the opportunity. So, again, he lied and excitedly said “Yeah!”
“Me too!” She leaned close, her lips close to his ear. “What did you wish for.”
He opened his mouth to say, ‘the same thing I wished for when I blew my candles’ when she backtracked hastily. Excitement making her long body vibrate. “Hmph!” he mumbled through her fingers.
She was spastic. “Don't tell me! It’s supposed to be a secret.”
As he watched her search the sky for more shooting stars he suddenly wished that he saw the same thing that she did. So that he can share that moment with her, truly. So what he saw (her) wasn’t just his, but theirs. Since him seeing her with that look on her face will forever be his alone. But that shooting star, it will never be theirs.
Still, it was hard to believe that the shooting star can outrank the look on her face.
Still, he already made his wish that night. In front of the candles.
‘I wish Vi Chen would love me.’
Looking back, Liam wished he specified how.
Since Vi- his Vi... she doesn't seem all that his anymore.