Sunshine streamed through the class windows, bringing out the blonde highlights in her sandy-brown hair. She held the book open on her lap, leaning slightly toward the window as she read, her lips pursed in concentration. The hum of chattering voices from the other students in the lounge didn’t seem to bother her, for she hadn’t moved in over an hour, other than to flip the next page in the book.
He sat on the other side of the lounge, watching her as much as the textbook spread on the table in front of him. She was in his 8 am Introduction to Religion course, and he’d first noticed her there because she was the only student who appeared to be awake and paying attention. He’d been cataloguing the students by whether they were asleep or bored. She fit neither category, her pen moving like a Tasmanian devil across her lined notebook paper, her brow furrowed, her eyes darting up occasionally to watch the professor or copy something off the board. She’d never noticed him propped against the wall watching her. Just as she didn’t notice him now.
He glanced back down at the textbook and tried to focus on the differences between Christianity and Judaism, but the image of the sunlight playing on her face stayed in his mind. He’d seen it sparkling on the cross around her neck as well; a small, simple gold cross, a quiet statement of her faith. He wondered how she would react if he walked over to ask what she was reading or say he liked her cross.
He imagined he heard the quiet thump as she finally closed the book and bent over to put it into the backpack resting by her feet. When she sat up again, he was standing beside her, the religion textbook in his hands and his backpack over his shoulder. She gave him a tentative smile.
“Hey. I think you were in my religion class this morning,” he said, and mentally kicked himself for sounding lame. But the smile that flashed across her face was warm and welcoming.
“Yes, I was. What did you think of it?”
“It’s a bit basic so far, but I’m hoping the next class will be more interesting, when we get into the material a bit deeper.” He took the liberty of dropping into the chair beside her, and she didn’t protest. “You looked like you wanted to disagree with our prof this morning, though.”
“How did you know?”
“Maybe I was reading your expression more than the chalkboard. Why didn’t you say something?”
There was a slight flush on her cheeks that went prettily with her sparkling brown eyes as she shrugged in answer to his question. “I thought somebody else would say something, and then nobody did and he went on and it was too late to speak up. Did you agree with him?”
“Then why didn’t you say something?”
“I was waiting for you to say it.” He grinned at her. “Wanna say it now?”
She was laughing then, a light, spirited laugh that made a few other students in the lounge glance at her and made him chuckle along with her. He listened as she gave him the brief version of why she had disagreed with the prof. She kept her tone light, but he could tell that what she said was something that meant a lot to her. He watched her face, the way her whole expression changed as she talked and shared what was in her heart, and he knew then that he could spend the rest of his life reading her expressions.
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