Disclaimer: All Final Fantasy X-2 characters copyright Square.

I first beheld her months ago.

I immediately knew her type: the kind of girl young boys dread being forced to play with, and remember with a shudder afterward. She was not particularly feminine-looking: wearing black leather, hair in an upsweep instead of loose and flowing, shorts rather than a skirt, had curves but nothing to draw attention to them.

She was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen.

Her hair was an odd hue – a shiny gray. When the light struck it just right, it shone white and silver – like moonstone. Her eyes were even more strange – deep red, like two drops of blood.

Paine spoke rarely, deferring to her two friends to do the talking. Her voice was low for a girl's, but it was always a joy to hear. When she spoke, she belied her incredible wit. Every word stabbing poniards, like her sword.

I never saw her smile. I saw her satisfied, like when she turned fiends into puffs of pyreflies, but her lips seemed incapable of curling upwards. I wanted to make her smile, or offer her my smile.

One day in Luca, I resolved to tell her how I felt. I went straight to the flower shop and bought a dozen orange tiger lilies. Then I ran to the Rosebud Cafe, where I knew Paine would be having lunch with Yuna and Rikku.

I went in and spotted their table. Paine was delicately eating her steak. I stepped forward, then stopped.

How did I think she'd react? "I like you too"? "I think you're cute"? Yeah, right. She'd stab me with her fork. I'm not a charmer. At the rate I'm going, Brother will get laid before me. I tossed the flowers on the floor and ground them under my foot until they were unrecognizable.

What do I know about girls? I'm just a kid.