The Girl Next Door

Of all the women in the world, the most beautiful are the women of the isle of Melita. And in all the land of Melita there are none like the women of my own village. And in my village there are none that can be compared with the girl next door.

The girl next door would be too tall if a centimeter was added to her height, and too short if one was taken away. A snip of her hair would make it too short, letting it grow would make it too long. A single one of her smiles would perturb the whole city of Valletta and derange the suburb of Floriana. For three years, I’ve been climbing the garden wall and peeping at her, and yet she has never noticed my existence.

Until today.

Today is the day I ventured to make a noise to attract her attention. And attract it I did.

Perhaps it was not so intentional–falling over a wall and landing awkwardly on your shoulder–but it served its purpose.

As I landed–if only I had landed, more like crashed–onto my shoulder, a pain hotter than the August sun and more intense than the January rains, flared up my arm, and I screeched, like a baby.

The girl next door, being as perfect as she is, did not cry out or scream. She did not even bat an eyelid. She lifted her hand to her lips–what exquisite fingers, what shining nails!–and gasped a perfect gasp.

I rolled onto my back, clutching my shoulder, and tried to explain. But I did not have to explain, there was nothing to explain. I was a peeping-tom who had lost his grip and somehow tumbled across the other side of the fence. If only the ground could swallow me whole. The grass would probably wither brown from embarrassment.

She stood up and walked towards me. “Are you ok?” she asked in her perfect voice.

I nodded. “Fine, just fine. Need a moment to catch my breath.”

She waited patiently while ideas ran through my head chasing each other ineffectually and crying out, “Nah nah, you can’t catch me!”

I managed to stand without fainting and smiled weakly. “I was trying to catch… a butterfly. It landed on the creepers over there…” I let my voice fade lamely.

“A butterfly?”

I turned around. “I better go.”

“Wait!” She reached out and grabbed my elbow–the good arm of course, she would never make a mistake like grabbing my bad arm. Not only was she beautiful, she was perceptive, and intelligent, and gracious, and… you understand, yes?

“Would you like to come in, for a drink? It is a hot day.”

I tried to hide the smile that was threatening to overwhelm my face. In the calmest voice I could manage, I said, “Oh. Ok. Yes. That would be most welcome.”

She led me inside and told me her name.

Of course, it was perfect.