Peter had noticed something different about the new girl in town that I'd failed to catch: she was a loner. Most girls in our school always walk around in small, intimidating groups, so this was refreshing. At first, when she had walked into the sweet shop with Burt, I didn't know what to make of her. Her shyness was overwhelming, and her sudden burst of anger sent a chill through me. Her blue eyes are tattooed into my memory, and whenever I see someone with similar eyes, my breath catches.
The week after I met her, I'd found her walking on her own down the beach. It was early enough that the sun was still rising and even the seagulls were just awaking. My parents had encouraged me over the years to become more self-reliant, like my father, and the only times that I can be by myself are the summer mornings. She was a lone small figure on the sandy beach, the orange rays of light reflecting off of her pale skin. She carried her old Nikes in one hand while pulling back a loose strand of blond hair behind her ear.
"Hey," I called. She turned back quickly and her long, white summer dress danced around her. "How's it going?"
She stared back at me, I could tell that she was trying to place me.
"Riley," I reminded her as I caught up beside her. "From the sweet shop."
She nodded and continued walking.
"I like your dress," I said. "Very summery, and the jean jacket? Perfect extra touch."
"Helena bought me the dress," she said without looking at me. "And she gave me her jacket."
I nodded. "How's Robbin so far?"
She shrugged and nearly dropped a shoe. "It's alright."
"It gets better," I said.
"What's your name?" I asked and she finally looked at me, one eyebrow raised. "I mean, I heard Burt call you Ter, but--"
"No," she cut me off. "Not Ter. Asteri."
"Asteri, you know, As-te-ri." Her eyes widened, challenging me.
"Gotcha," I smiled, not letting her know that she was intimidating. "Where'd that come from?"
She shrugged again and successfully dropped one of her shoes. I stopped and picked it up for her. She accepted it and continued walking, not answering my question.
"Where're you from?" I tried again, hitting a different angle.
"Florida," she answered.
"Ah, so we are not that different then." I smiled down at my feet. "But, one thing: if you're from Florida, why're you so pale?"
"I was born this way," she said before growing silent for the rest of the walk.
I see her often when I am walking with Peter and several other friends, but she never makes any eye contact with us. Instead, she continues on her path, undisturbed.
"So did you do it?" Peter asks as I leave my dad's diner. "Did you ask her out?"
"Yeah," I say and grimace. "Whoever said that 'third time's the charm' has their work cut out for them."
"Ha, and why her?" Peter says while we walk towards the beach, where tourists have already started renting beach houses. "You can have any girl you want, man."
I look at him and punch his arm.
"What?" He laughs while rubbing his arm. "Yeah, she's hot, but there are tourists here Ri, tourists."
I shrug. "I just find her interesting."
"Why? Because she came out of nowhere?" He stops and I have to step back. "Or is it because she is a new toy?"
"Peter," I warn.
"No seriously," he puts his hands up defensively. "Think about it, you dated Alice for what? Seven months before the summer started?"
"Whatever, point is: you are sick of the Robbin girls." He nods, as if understanding something only known to him. " I get it, I really do. But, you gotta keep in mind, you're not the only one that's going to want her."
"Do you have to talk like that?" I ask.
"Ri, girls in the summer are like steaks, okay?"
I stare at him. "You're comparing Asteri to meat?"
"Just go with it, okay?" he says and I shake my head. "It's always hard to get the perfectly cooked steak. Everyone has a preference. But what if, suddenly, everyone is sick of the same taste?"
"Come on," I say, once again shaking my head.
"No really, what if suddenly everyone said 'hey, I can't do this anymore, I need some kind of new steak'?" he reasons. "This always happens in the summer. Girls that are hot in the winter, aren't as hot in the summer. New flavour." He smiles, preparing himself for the finish. "And this is where Asteri comes in."
"You're sick," I say while he laughs. "You should go get checked out."
"If you want to get her before all the vacationers do," he warns me, now jabbing a finger in my face. "You better do it, now."
"I have to get to know her first," I say, partially to Peter, but mostly to myself.