Disclaimer: I do not own the characters in this story, they're Ally's.
Two Strangers and Sandbox
It's undeniable how brilliant you are
In an unreliable world you shine like a star
It's unforgettable now that we've come this far
It's unmistakable that you're undeniable
- Matt Kearney
The first time they met neither of them remembered. It was a warm day in the spring of 1999. She was four; he was five. The young girl had been playing innocently by herself in the sandbox when he'd come and purposely stepped on her sand castle, laughing as he destroyed it. He had walked over because he'd seen the girl's long golden hair and had been intrigued by it. All of the girls in his classes were weird and gross. But the girl with the blue eyes and pretty hair was sitting quietly in the sandbox. She wasn't picking her nose or scratching her butt, she was simply playing, building up a sand castle with a spade and bucket. He was only five years old, but he liked her, he wanted to speak to her, know her. But obviously, she wasn't going to come over and play with him, so he would have to get her attention.
By stomping all over the sandcastle she'd worked so hard to build. He had thought it was a good idea at the time. Boys will be boys after all.
"Hey!" she snapped, looking at him with blue eyes that were much too fierce for such a young girl. "You can't do that!"
He'd made a face and continued to jump around on the sand. "It's just sand," he replied. "Sand is boring."
She glared at him. "I like sand," she said stubbornly.
"You're a baby."
"I am not!"
"You're not?" he asked. "You look like a baby."
"Go away," she snapped at him. "I don't like you."
He'd thought she was kidding; surely you couldn't dislike someone you'd just met.
"Why don't you come play with me?" he asked.
She shook her head. "No."
"Why not?" he asked. "Then you won't be a baby."
"I am not a baby!" she said, standing up. "I am four years old!" she said, holding up four fingers for him to see. He laughed at her.
"Which makes you a baby. I'm five," he said proudly, pointing a thumb at his chest.
"I don't care," she said. "Go away, I don't want to play with you. You're a meanie."
He made a face, beginning to realize that maybe he'd made a mistake.
"I'm not a meanie," he replied.
"I just want to play in the sand," she said, sitting back down in her spot. She turned her attention away from him, and began to rebuild her sand castle.
"Okay," he said, feeling a bit confused. He wasn't use to being ignored or overlooked. Adults always told him how handsome he was, children his age were always jealous of his many talents. He had always felt like he was constantly being attended to. But clearly, the girl wanted nothing to do with him. "Sorry," he mumbled the apology so low she probably didn't even hear.
When it was clear she wouldn't respond, he took a step away from her and out of the sandbox, staring at her with a perplexed expression.
He was unsure what to think of the girl now, but he had a feeling he liked her even more than he had when he'd seen her for the first time. She was different, even at a young age. He knew better than to push it. He would go home and have dinner and forget all about the girl in the sandbox, never once wondering her name.
And likewise, she would return to her own home without so much as a thought to the mischievous boy who had ruined her sandcastle.
But even though he wouldn't remember that afternoon or the girl, his subconscious would rememberthe strange, wondeful feel she gave him. He would remember that this girl, though he didn't know it, was entirely unique and special— a rose between thorns.
And maybe that was why he would feel a strange sense of nostalgia when he met her again, many years later.
Her first concrete memory of him was not a good one. He had broken into her house with mischievous eyes and a grin the size of Texas. He hadn't been there to steal anything valuable or worry anyone. He'd been there to cause trouble, because that was his kind of thing. Remeber the sandbox?
Not soon after the incident at the playground had his parents packed their bags and moved away because of his father's new job. That was why he had never run into her again, because there simply hadn't been an opportunity to do so.
So how had they come to meet again years later in her own home?
The answer was simple, he was back in town to visit family friends.
That family happened to be the Newmans, who lived down the street from her. Grant Newman wasn't known for his intelligence or for his ability to catch on. Even at the ripe old age of twelve, he was known for his devastatingly good looks and charming smile. She would be lying if she said she hadn't had a crush on him since the second grade. But that, of course, was before she met his friend.
She'd been home alone when the boy had chosen to enter her house uninvited and unannounced. She didn't stay home alone often, but her parents had decided that eleven was a reasonable age to stop paying for a babysitter. She'd been sitting in the den watching a movie in the dark. He'd assumed no one was home.
He didn't randomly break into people's houses— he wasn't a criminal after all. But Grant had been egging him on to steal a cheap souvenir from a neighbor's house. And being the daredevil, live-in-the-moment sort of boy he was, he had accepted the challenge without a second thought.
And unlike his friend, he wasn't dumb. He wasn't going to break into a house when the lights were on and a family was sitting at the dinner table.
No, he chose the house with the lights out and the girl sitting in the den with the curtains drawn.
She heard the creaking of floorboards and scuffling of shoes against the hardwoods her mother paid boat loads to keep spotless.
She turned off the TV and crept around her own house, hoping to see him before he saw her. She'd never been the kind of child that was afraid of the dark, so it didn't really bother her. She didn't scare easily, and while she knew that it may be a thief or murder she wasn't about to let them steal her mother's jewelry. The karate classes she had taken would hopefully come in handy.
But when she saw the figure creeping back down the stairs she realized he couldn't have been any older than herself. He was thin but tall for a twelve year-old. She was annoyed now, Grant and his friends were always doing stupid things like this.
With an annoyed look on her face she flicked on her light and stared blankly at the boy caught red handed on the staircase. He looked petrified, but only for a split second, until his eyes landed on the girl by the light switch. Then his mouth curved into a smile that he knew made all the girls go goo-goo. But when he smiled she only narrowed her eyes.
"Can I help you?" she asked, the sarcasm in her eleven year-old voice strangely mature.
She didn't recognize him. She knew all of Grant's friends but she'd never seen this boy before. Well, she didn't remember seeing him, but no one would blame her for not recognizing someone she'd met once when she was five.
He was cute, very cute. But the fact that he was breaking into her house somehow made him less attractive.
"No," he replied, a bit confused at the way this girl was acting. As he'd thought when he was younger, she was different from any other girl he'd encountered. "I was just leaving."
He didn't know if he was trying to be funny but he knew that he did want to make her smile. But the words had the opposite effect as she scowled at him.
"Why are you here?" she snapped. "What do you want?"
"I didn't think anyone was home."
"So you thought you'd just break into someone's house?"
"I didn't take anything," he responded.
She rolled her eyes and took a few steps closer to the staircase.
"Really?" she asked. "Then why is my mother's underwear stuffed in your back pocket?"
For maybe the first time in his life, he blushed, his hand automatically reaching into his back pocket.
He recovered quickly "Well, how did those get there?" he asked pulling them out and looking at them.
She didn't look amused.
"Well are you going to leave?" she asked, pointing to the door.
"Can I keep these?" he asked.
"Just thought I'd ask," he said, sending her another smile.
"Just go," she said and moved to the door opening it up and motioning for him to walk out. As he came down the stairs he kept his mischievous grin that mocked her. She reminded him of some of the flowers in his mother's garden, the ones that were beautfiul to look at but pirckly to touch.
"You're cute," he said to her when he was only a few feet away. She didn't let it show, but she was extremely flattered. None of the boys at her school had enough confidence to call another girl cute unless they knew they thought he was cute. Maybe he did know she thought he was cute. Because he was really cute.
"Wonderful," she snapped back. "You can go now."
She hadn't even blinked, who was this girl? He didn't know, but he sure as hell wanted to find out. He'd have to ask Grant when he got back.
He shrugged and passed through the entrance. When he got down the front steps she cleared her throat unnecessarily loud.
He turned back to look at her. "What now?" he asked.
She cocked her head and gave him an expectant look. She held out her hand.
He sighed and pulled out the underwear he had smuggled back into his pocket. This girl was too smart for her own good. He'd never met a girl so calculating and intelligent. It was refreshing from the annoying girls he went to school with.
He handed her back her mother's underwear and she smiled as thought she'd won some sort of battle. And he felt like he had lost. Which was not a feeling he was familiar with.
"Thank you," she said, and took a step back.
Despite their strange encounter he still wanted to know her name. Despite the look of loathing on her face he wanted to see her again. She had interested him like no one ever had before.
"Hey what's your—?"
But before he could finish he was talking to the wooden face of her front door. He sighed and let his shoulders slump.
He should have seen that one coming.
As it turns out, he never found out her name. He wanted to keep their encounter all to himself, and it was likely he'd never see her again. But he'd never forget her stormy blue eyes that were so wise for an eleven year-old. Even when they passed by her house in the car and he subtly asked who lived in the house Grant said he didn't know. He just said "some chick". But that was Grant, as dumb and unreliable as ever.
He didn't know it then, but he would see the girl again. When he came to visit again, at the beach, and then when he eventually moved back.
When he turned fifteen his parents decided they wanted a second honeymoon. So they dumped his ass back at their good old friends the Newmans. When they were driving back from the airport and he passed by the house it brought a small smile to his face, because he did remember this time, and he absently-minded wondered if he'd meet her again. He wanted to meet her again.
The third time they met was in a coffee shop in town. He'd been admiring the girl with golden hair down to her waist and who had long tan legs. At fourteen she'd already grown into her body nicely and had obviously attracted the attention of many teenage boys in the café. Him included. It didn't take him long to recognize her, he felt that same pull, the one he'd felt the two times before.
"Do you know who that is?" he asked Grant, making sure to keep his voice low.
Grant leaned sideways so he could get a better look at the girl he was talking about. He squinted at her, as though he couldn't place her, and then his lips bent into a quirky smile.
"Way too good for you," Grant replied with a dumb smile on his face.
"I'm serious," he said, rolling his eyes.
Grant shrugged. "So am I."
He elbowed Grant in the gut.
"I don't know her," Grant replied, giving his friend a dirty look. "She lives on my street but she goes to private school and doesn't hang out with my kind of crowd."
"And you can't be bothered to figure out her name?"
Grant shrugged. "There are other flowers in the garden, if know what I mean." Zach didn't care about the other flowers, he wanted to know about her.
He rolled his eyes at Grant's dumb remarks. Obviously Grant didn't realize how special this girl was, how smart she was, or how attracted to her he was.
"Whatever," he said, still staring at the girl. "I'm going to go and talk to her."
Grant shrugged. "Have fun. Bet you strike out."
He glared at his friend. "Just get yourself a damn coffee," he said.
He waited until the girl sat down to approach her. She was just pulling out a book when he came and stood over her table.
"Hey," he said to her.
She glanced up, her blue eyes curious. "Hi," she said. "Do I know you?"
"I'm not sure if you remember," he said. "But I broke into your house three years ago."
Her eyes immediately narrowed with the memory. "How lovely of you to remind me," her voice was dry and sarcastic.
"I just feel like we got off on the wrong foot."
She raised an eyebrow, waiting for him to continue, "and?"
"I think we should start over."
"I don't even know who you are," she said. "Besides the fact that you broke into my house and tried to steal my mother's underwear, forgive me if I don't really want to talk to you."
"But I think you do want to talk to me," he said, being the cocky teenage boy he was. "Don't you?"
She glanced around. "No," she answered honestly. "Not really."
"Come on," he said. "I'm just trying to be friendly."
"Well I'm not really looking for any friends at the moment," she replied, "so maybe you should go be friendly to someone else."
"And who could I be friendly to?" he asked.
She shrugged and tucked her book away in her bag, grabbing her coffee. She pointed behind him. "What about her?"
He glanced behind her, searching for whatever girl she was talking about.
"I don't see—" When he turned around she had already gotten up and left, he only saw the swish of her golden hair as she exited the café. He stopped mid-sentence and grimaced, wondering what it was about this girl that disliked him so much. He wanted to win her over, but clearly, that wasn't going to happen.
He sighed and sat back into his seat just as Grant walked over.
"Wow," he said. "You really blew that didn't you?"
He glared at Grant. "Like you could have done better."
"See," Grant said. "I'm smart enough not to try. Girls like that never want anything to do with guys like us."
And this time, he had to agree.
By the time he was seventeen he had stopped thinking about the girl with blonde hair and blue eyes so much. He hardly ever did, but when she did cross his mind he always wondered her name, her story, why she disliked him so much. He knew he'd probably never find out, but that didn't stop him from wondering once in a while.
He'd fallen in love with different girls, broken other's hearts, and enjoyed his life with his good looks and charming personality. He had a good life, he couldn't deny it, and thinking about that girl always made him feel like she was the one thing he couldn't have. But he didn't let it bother him, because he had everything else, and that would have to be enough.
The summer before he moved back to Roseville he saw her again. The third time around he recognized her easily, from her long tan legs to the soft features of her face.
They were at the beach. Grant had invited him on a trip down in South Carolina. He'd agreed because he always loved the beach and he knew that the beach also involved hot girls in swim suits. It had never crossed his mind that he might see another resident from Roseville down there. Apparently this beach was a destination for people who lived in Virginia.
He saw her twice that week.
The first was when he was throwing a football on the sand with Grant, showing off to girls when he saw her passing by.
But she wasn't alone, which made him slightly annoyed, but he knew he had no right to be so he squashed the feeling. She was holding hands with some guy with black curly hair and looked like a complete tool. She was laughing, and the first thing he thought was that he'd never seen her laugh before. The times they'd met before she was always annoyed with him, not that she didn't have the right to be, so he'd never seen her happy. It was a nice change.
As he was staring at her his friend obviously wasn't paying attention. Grant threw the football back.
It hit him in the face.
Later that same week he saw her again. This time she was not laughing, far from it actually. He was walking along the beach at night, by himself, unable to sleep. He noticed a girl curled up by a dune, crying softly to herself. It was dark but a nearby house light illuminated the night. Her hair looked more gold in the light and was done up into a high bun, acting a like a halo around her head. She looked like an angel— a crying angel.
He knew he probably shouldn't interfere but he couldn't help himself. This girl had intrigued him for so long; he couldn't just keep on walking. The curiosity would have killed him. So he approached her, hoping she wouldn't bite his head off.
"Hey," he said, making her look up. "Are you okay?"
At first she glared at him, but as she looked at him she recognized him. She forgot his question entirely as she thought back to the coffee shop and then further back to the night he broke in. The thought of the twelve year-old boy managed to bring a smile to her face, despite her horrible mood. She was a flower hadn't been taken care of the way she deserved, left to wither until someone saved her.
"Well if it isn't the panty-stealing jerk from the coffee shop," she said, her voice amused.
He rolled his eyes and shrugged, as if he couldn't help himself. He was the person he was.
"Guilty as charged," he said with his easy smile he'd given her before.
This time she rolled her eyes and shook her head. "How can I help you? And no, my underwear is not up for grabs."
He laughed lightly. "You just looked a little sad," he replied. "And what kind of guy would I be if I just kept walking when I saw a damsel in distress?"
"A gentleman," she replied dryly.
"Exactly," he said. "And I am most certainly not one of those."
"Good to know," she remarked quietly.
"Let me guess," he said. "It's about a boy."
She laughed, but it was slightly bitter. "How did you know?"
"I've broken a lot of hearts," he said. "I've seen what it does."
"Well aren't you just the care-giver?"
"Relax, I was only joking," he said. "Kind of."
"Anyway," he said. "What it the kid with the black hair? Cause I'll beat him up."
"How did you know he had black hair?"
"I saw you guys the other day," he replied. "Seemed like a tool if you ask me."
"Takes one to know one."
"We aren't talking about me here," he said. "We're talking about your boyfriend the douche."
"He's not a douche."
"Then why are you here crying and he's nowhere to be found?"
She narrowed her eyes. "I don't really think this is any of your business," she said in a clipped tone.
"I was just trying to help."
She glanced around and then stood up, brushing the sand off of her jean shorts. "Well thanks, but no thanks." He sighed, hating how bi-polar girl sometimes were.
She started to walk away, clearing wanting to be alone. He sighed, wishing that once when they met he would say the right thing.
"Wait!" he said. "I don't know your name."
She glanced back at him. "Does it really matter?" she asked. "It's not like we'll see each other again."
She didn't know how wrong she was.
After that night he decided to give up. This girl obviously wanted nothing to do with him. And even if she did, he lived in a different state and came back once in a while to visit family friends. She would just be a girl he'd met a long time ago.
Well that is what he thought up until he parents told him they were moving back to Roseville. When he thought about moving he thought of the place he was born, of his friend Grant, but mostly about how much it would suck to leave his friends here. He hardly thought about the girl at all.
Up until he passed her house while in the passenger seat of the moving truck, and he his eyes focused on the tall brick home. As they drove by the thought of the girl that lived there brought a smile to his face. She said they'd never see each other again, and now he could prove her wrong. The first thing he would do as a Roseville resident would be to find out her name.
But his friend Grant had other plans. "There's going to be a sick party at Bex's tonight," he said. "You need to go if you want to make some friends before school starts."
He wanted to pass up the opportunity, but he knew very well that parties were his kind of scene. He could find out about the girl tomorrow.
"Sure," he replied to his friend. "Let's go."
When they got to the party he could hardly see anything. There were colorful strobe lights pulsing and loud music bursting through huge speakers. This really was his kind of party. He walked around for a while, talking to people he didn't know, flirting with girls he'd never met. Then he felt a tap on his shoulder.
He turned around, only to come face to face with the girl he had thought about on and off for the past six years. She was grinning again.
"Are you my birthday present?" she asked. He noticed the tiara that said "it's my birthday!" in silver lettering. He was taken a bit aback by her question, he didn't friendlier words had ever come out of his mouth, at least where he was concenred.
He grinned at her. "If you want me to be."
She rolled her eyes at his teenage boy antics. "It was a joke."
"I take it this is your party then."
"Yes," she said. "My lovely friend Bex thought I needed to loosen up a bit."
"Oh really?" he asked, glancing over into her cup and seeing an amber liquid he was quite familiar with.
"Yeah, sometimes I'm a little tightly wound."
He barely knew her, but he knew that. He laughed. "No kidding."
"Oh!" she said, just as she remembered something. "I have to show you something!"
He raised an eyebrow, but allowed her to drag him through the house. But when they got outside he stopped following her.
"Where are you going?"
She rolled her eyes. "My house, come on."
"Are you trying to rape me?" he asked. "Because this sounds like a rape scenario."
"I'm not going to rape you," she replied. "And even if I was, don't pretend like you wouldn't want it."
He laughed and continued to follow her down the street. "Fair enough. So why are you taking me to your house?" he asked.
"I have this picture I want to show you."
He was surprised at her words and gave her a perplexed look. "Us? I don't recall taking a picture with you."
"Probably because you were five," she said.
"We were friends?" he asked.
"No," she replied simply, but didn't say anything other than that.
She unlocked the door to her house and stepped inside, him close behind her. It mostly looked the same.
"Give me a second," she said, racing up the stairs and quickly returning with a small white photograph in her hands. "Here," she said, handing it to him. "My mom showed it to me the other day. I almost fell on the floor laughing."
He looked at it and automatically smiled. A younger version of himself was standing on top of a mountain of sand, staring at her, confused, while she looked at him with an angry face.
"Wow," he said. "Maybe this is why you have such a grudge against me."
"You mean besides the fact that you broke into my house and tried to steal my mother's underwear?"
"Oh come on, that's old news. We should be past that by now."
"Well then now I can be mad at you for destroying my sand castle."
"You can't do that, because I have no recollection of doing such a thing."
"Pictures don't lie."
He smiled as he looked at her. Not for the first time he thought about how beautiful she was, how her eyes shined like stars and her smile was absolutely breath-taking. He suddenly had the urge to kiss her.
He glanced back at the picture in order to stop his wandering thoughts.
"Kind of unbelievable," he said. "That we've met all these times and I still don't know your name."
She grinned at him. "I say we keep it going for a few more years."
"I don't think that's going to be possible," he said. "In case you didn't know, I just moved back, I'll know your name soon enough."
She laughed. "I know," she said.
"You do?" he asked.
"Of course, Grant told me is old best friend was moving back. I had to assume it was you."
"Grant told you?" he asked. "You know Grant?"
"Of course I do, we're friends."
"I was under the impression he didn't know you at all."
"I asked him who you were that day in the coffee shop, he said he didn't know you."
"He didn't then," she said. "And then I transferred from private to public school, stopped being a weirdo, and became best friends with his girlfriend. Kind of ironic, don't you think?"
He was staring at her mouth again, wishing he could kiss her. But he knew that probably wouldn't go over well. They hardly knew each other. But he knew by this time next year he would have found out everything he needed to know about this girl.
Unable to resist any longer, he leaned in, keeping eye contact with her. Her big blues eyes grew as she realized what he was going to do. But she didn't pull away or try to stop him, in fact she offered a small smile which only gave him more confidence.
When his lips finally met hers he felt like he was getting a fresh breath of air after hours of being suffocated. He wasted no time in sliding his arms around her, one hand cupping the back of her neck, deepening the kiss. He held her delicately, like the precious flower she was. His tongue slipped inside her mouth and danced with hers, making her produce a moan in the back of her throat. He was elated, as he had dreamed of kissing this girl for a while now. He hardly knew her, but in that moment it didn't matter. Because he would know her, he would know everything about her and then he would kiss her all he wanted. They wouldn't be strangers again after this night. Her hands were twisting in his hair, bringing him closer to her. She was smiling against him, obviously as pleased with the situation as he was.
He pulled back after a moment, making sure not to push his luck. This night had already been so much better than he'd intended it to be. He had better not jinx it with trying to get laid. He had finally found his rose, alive and well, and even better: happy.
"Happy birthday," he whispered breathlessly to her.
"Wow," she said, grinning at him. He was happy he could make her so happy. "Best present so far."
"I'd have to agree."
She suddenly had a mischievous smile as she held up the photo in her hand. Much to dismay, she stepped out of his arms.
"Where are you going?"
She didn't answer him, she just kept looking him in the eye as she held out her hand.
He grinned then, realizing what she was doing.
"Hi," she said. "I'm Cammie."
He couldn't keep his smile from growing.
He shook her hand.
"I'm Zach. It's a pleasure to finally meet you."
AN: Just a cutsy, fluffly one shot. Review if it made you smile :)