Part I

I remember that summer as being one of the most traumatizing of my life. When you're a teenager in love, nothing else around seems to matter but the person you see every time you close your eyes. Everything you see and eat and smell reminds you of this person without warning.

An overflow of emotions would always take over me when in this person's presence. Making someone other than yourself your everything is a very dangerous thing to do at such a tender age, but I couldn't help myself. I was trapped the very first time I looked into those deep brown eyes. And I hadn't been able to free myself from her spell since.

I suppose I've always felt things more than others. As a child I would have emotional breakdowns at the smallest of things. I was easily setoff; it was like I had a very sensitive trigger in my mind, and the slightest pull would have me on edge, tense, or down spiraling out of control.

When I was five and my dog died, I cried for days and prayed to God, wishing he could come back. When I was eight and my parents left for Africa on a photography expedition, I didn't speak a single word until they came home.

Whenever I'd see tragedies on the news; car crashes, serial killings, accidental deaths or suicides, I'd always become immensely depressed, locking myself in my room until I became too hungry and forgot about my issues long enough to eat something, then I'd go right back upstairs, slamming the door behind me.

But after all of these breakdowns, no matter how hard I tried, I was never able to take my eyes away from the news on the screen every time it came on the television set.

When my parents would leave for months at a time for tours in other continents for work, I'd always be sent to stay with my uncle at his lake house. The first couple of times I was sent there, I didn't speak a word or eat or even sleep. My eyes would burn from keeping them open all night, staring at the ceiling in the darkness.

It wasn't until I was thirteen when I started talking to my uncle. He'd take me out on the lake he owned and teach me how to fish. I'd watch him silently as he explained how to hook the bait and leer the fish. My uncle owned a bait shop near the dock, and he'd always tell me the same thing before we went out on his little boat. "With the right bait, you're guaranteed to always catch the fish."

I was too curious to remain silent anymore. I didn't want my uncle to think I was stupid or incapable of speech. I doubt he had this thought about me, because he was always so accommodating, but I had too much on my mind to let this question vanish from my subconscious. "Is it because the fish have no other choice but to accept the bait since they have nowhere else to keep their food, Uncle Fred?"

I could tell my uncle was surprised to hear my voice, especially since I had never spoken before. He just stared at me for a few seconds with his mouth hanging open. He'd never even heard my voice before that day on the dock, and now that I think back, the expression on his face was pretty comical.

After processing my words, my uncle stroked his beard with a contemplative smile. "I'm sure they have somewhere to store it all."

Picking up a bail of worms, I shook my head and said matter-of-factly, "People store what they need in their pockets." I gestured to my shorts, picking up a worm to stuff it in the front pocket. Uncle Fred watched in amusement and didn't stop me as I explained, "Fish don't have pockets to store what they need, therefore they always go after the bait when they see it."

I was always a very observant child. Since I didn't talk much, I'd spend most of my time studying and watching things occur from afar. I was curious to say the least. And with the desire to understand everything, I'd ask my uncle questions about everything and anything. After giving my opinion that day, my uncle didn't argue with me, and I suppose it was because he was afraid I'd stop talking again. But instead, I talked nonstop, and that was the summer my uncle became my best friend.

Years passed and I'd help him in his bait shop. He even taught me how to make my very own fishing pole from scratch. I never had a parental figure in my life since my parents were pretty much always on the go. He'd help me with all my emotional issues such as crying whenever the news was on or shutting down when I discovered my parents weren't coming home for another three months or so.

I knew the way I felt wasn't normal. Sometimes I felt so alone I just wanted to jump off the dock and drift down into the lake, never to arise again.

Things got better as time progressed. When it wasn't summer, I went to school like every other kid. I had friends, but none of them were that close to me. Most of them were on my dance team at school and I'd only see them or talk to them when I had to. I didn't need them anyway, because my uncle was my best friend. He was all I needed in my life.

My parents would stick around for a month tops, but they'd always lock themselves in this dark room where they kept their pictures. I didn't really mind after awhile, because they were like strangers to me anyway.

I didn't even learn what their first names were until I was fifteen and had to forge their signature on a field trip permission slip to go to New York. I'd always wanted to live there, but at the time I only thought it was a silly dream. I never knew I'd end up living their with the love of my life one day.

I really thought I was getting better with controlling my emotions when the summer before I went off to college came. This was a naive thought, because instead I was blindsided by a business woman wearing a white button down shirt and a pencil skirt standing on the dock of the lake, watching the sunset with my uncle.

I had never seen her before in person, yet she looked so familiar. And that's when it hit me like a ton of bricks. She was the mystery woman whose framed picture had been sitting on my uncle's night table ever since he came back from his trip in California. He was only there to visit a long lost friend, but it seems he'd found love there as well and didn't even bother to tell me.

That was when I learned my uncle was selling his bait shop and half the lake. He was leaving me to live with this strange woman in California. When he broke the news, all I could do was hold my breath and close my eyes, willing away the nightmare I was having. Uncle Fredrick was my only friend, and he was leaving me.

As I pushed away the visions of him leaving, my uncle held me tight against his chest as he expressed his sorrow, admitting, "You do crazy things when you're in love."

Ignoring his words, I pushed off of him and closed my ears, screaming, "La la la la!" at the top of my lungs while running down the dock and all the way home which happened to be a whole mile away. But I didn't stop. I didn't stop once to catch my breath, because my tears pushed me forward.

I didn't understand what my uncle meant about doing crazy things for love until I saw her for the first time. I was at a bridal boutique with my future aunt-in-law searching for a dress. My uncle had nagged me into going with her since she didn't know the town.

I was pretty much bribed into it, because he promised he'd have the wedding in Lima if I helped his fiancé, Julie was her name, plan the wedding. All of Julie's friends were in California and they were all busy business people as well. They were unable to come out to help, but they'd be there for the wedding.

I never understood my uncle's connection to Julie. Sure, she was pretty and had long, shiny black hair, but she was the total opposite of him. My uncle was tall and lanky with a scruffy beard. He wore overalls and the same blue baseball cap all the time to cover his bald head.

Julie was fairly young, at least younger than my uncle by about ten years. She was curvy, had thin lips, and bright hazel eyes. I would never admit this aloud, but I think the first time I saw Julie was also the first time I discovered I liked girls.

Attraction aside, it was on that day in the bridal boutique I first discovered what love was like. I'd already known what lust was, because I was undeniably infatuated with Julie, but once I saw Santana Lopez for the first time, my future aunt-in-law vanished from my mind in that way forever and ever.

I suspect I'd probably seen her before that day in school or in passing on the street, but something about the way she leaned across the counter with her elbows propped up and her chin in her palm made me weak at the knees. I don't think I fell for her at the very first sight though.

No, I was just intrigued by her pouty lips, long dark hair, and caramel skin. I didn't completely fall for Santana Lopez until she looked up and saw me watching her. I didn't look away, but my ears got so hot it felt like they were on fire. Santana didn't look away either, but the expression on her face was the most haunting sight I had ever seen.

She looked so tired as her eyes scanned my body in curiosity. She wasn't checking me out, that much I could tell, because her lips remained pressed together in a straight line and her eyes lacked emotion. But those eyes, I could see right through them and into her soul.

Our staring contest continued for another few seconds before she looked away abruptly. I never felt so startled in my life as I watched her from across the shop. It surprised me how quickly she broke eye contact, but no matter how stupid I felt, I continued to watch her as she walked from behind the register and into the back of the shop.

The way she walked was tense, like she knew I was watching her every move and needed to get away from my fiery gaze as soon as possible because it was burning holes through her clothes. I wish I could've been able to see through her, because if I did, maybe that summer wouldn't have ended up being the most emotionally traumatizing of my young life.


Santana Lopez was like a disease infecting my brain more and more each day. I couldn't stop thinking about the way those bold brown eyes entrapped me for the most intense five seconds of my life. I couldn't forget the way her features seemed to relax when she gazed at me from all the way across the boutique. For days all that occupied my mind was Santana; the girl who unknowingly stole my heart with just one look.

I needed a way to get my emotions out. I was literally going insane thinking about her. She was a mystery to me. I wanted to know everything about her; what she liked to do, where she was going to college, who she spent most of her time with. I had so many questions circulating through my mind, I needed to get it out somehow.

It was the sixth day after first seeing Santana that I sat at my desk, took out a lined sheet of paper and wrote poems and poems about her. The words wouldn't stop pouring out of my pencil and onto paper. I didn't understand what I was writing at the time, but when I'd read it over, I was surprised to see the most heart wrenching and passionate poetry I had ever seen. And I was the author of this work.

I had no idea I could be so passionate. All of this time I was holding in these building emotions and feelings without knowing writing could be a liable outlet. Whenever I wrote, I could breathe again, my mind would be clear and I felt free.

I wondered what other unknown talents I possessed other than dancing. In a rush, I went through my parents draws and scanned under their bed for anything useful. I wasn't sure what I was looking for, but I knew I wouldn't get into trouble for snooping. My parents were never around anyway. Actually, if I recall, that summer they were all the way on the other side of the earth in Beijing hunting down a panda or something.

After about five minutes of searching, I finally found what I was unknowingly looking for. Before my mother became a photographer, she was a painter. Both my parents were into all types of art; sketching, sculpting, painting, photography. When I found my mother's paint supplies and easel in the closet at the beginning of that summer, I had no idea it would later turn into my greatest passion, as well as my career.

At the time I found them, all I wanted was to draw Santana Lopez. Every inch of her features was burned into my brain forever, until the end of time. I needed to see her face again, outside of my mind. I brought all of the paint supplies into the basement and stayed down there all night, creating paintings after paintings of my love, Santana Lopez. I drew her profile, her full form as she walked away, the way she stood behind the counter with her chin in her palm. I painted her with so much color and precision, it was like she was really there, watching me as I admired my work.

I didn't come back out of the basement until the next morning. My clothes were a wreck, I had sticky art supplies in my hair and the red paint on my face looked like a murder scene. As I stood in the shower to wash it all off, I stared at the red paint as it flowed down the drain. It was like all the insanity I felt about Santana Lopez was finally washing away.

Then I felt calm again.

My serenity only lasted for a few hours, because that night was my uncle's engagement party. I dreaded the idea of going, because the last thing I wanted was to see all of my relatives and learn how successful they were in their endeavors.

I wasn't an envious person, but it seemed I was the only one in this world never moving forward. Even my stagnant uncle was making a change; a vast change by moving all the way to the west coast to live with his gorgeous wife in sunny California.

Most of my relatives left me alone during the night, probably because they didn't know who I was or who I belonged to. My uncle mentioned me in a heartfelt speech about what it meant to be family, and I was touched my his words, but if he was really my family, he wouldn't have been leaving me, all alone. I wasn't even going out of state for college. The farthest I was heading was a few miles, practically around the block to Ohio State University.

I sipped on water since I was too young to drink, especially around family. Although they didn't recognize me, I suppose they were smart enough to notice I wasn't old enough to drink.

But my eyes drooped like I was drunk because of the sleepless night I'd had downstairs painting in the basement. I remember wishing I had brought a sketchpad with me right when my eyes found the object of my thoughts. Once again, she was working, but as a server this time.

She strode, her head held high with a silver tray balanced on her left hand. Somewhere deep in my mind, I had the bizarre wish to be that crooked bow tie around her neck so I could smell the fragrance she used. Unlike the last time I saw her, her hair was up in a tight bun with a long strand of hair hanging out in front of her face.

I watched with my mouth agape in awe as she pursed her lips and blew the strand of hair to the side. I wanted to be that strand of hair so badly. If I could feel her breath on my skin, my life would be complete.

I didn't leave my table all night as I sat there alone and discreetly watched Santana Lopez as she served. I thought about asking her for one of the hors d'oeuvres on the platter she balanced on her favored hand, just to have a word with her. I wanted to know what voice went with the beautiful face of Santana Lopez. Was her voice smooth, rough, raspy, soft, squeaky? I didn't care how she sounded though, because I had already made up my mind that I'd love her forever unselfishly for the rest of my life if I had the chance.


If there was one thing I wasn't, it was bold. All my life I had been passive, letting people walk all over me as I watched the world with a quiet eye; as if I was just observing from far away and not really living or experiencing, just floating.

It wasn't until I saw Santana in the mall one day that I decided it was time for a new Brittany to make an appearance. I was tired of hiding in my basement, drawing pictures of the girl I loved, writing sonnets and proses and haikus about how I felt about her. If I wanted Santana Lopez in the way I had her in my private dreams, then I had to do something about it.

Throughout the weeks, Julie and I had been getting closer. I wasn't sure if it was because she wanted to get to know me better for my uncle's sake, or if she just enjoyed my company. Julie and I weren't that far apart in age.

I was eighteen that summer and Julie was twenty six, meaning we had a lot in common when it came to music and style. She was with me in the mall the day I spotted Santana Lopez selling fragrances and lotions at a stand outside of Lord & Taylor. Julie was shopping for suitcases for her honeymoon, and I was just there to get out of the house, because according to her, I was a very antisocial young lady.

Right before we entered the department store, I remember telling Julie I needed to use the bathroom, and without question, she believed me and went into the store, telling me to find her when I was finished. I wasn't going to the bathroom of course. My eyes were settled on Santana the whole time I told the lie. And as soon as Julie was in the store and out of sight, I made my way towards Santana's stand.

As I approached, it shocked me how calm I felt. It wasn't until Santana turned her head and watched as I walked that my heart began to start pumping and my lungs felt on fire from the heavy breathing I was desperately trying to control. The way her eyes found mind like it was second nature made me want to faint. I quickly fought the incredible urge to turn around, because if I would've bypassed her that day, I would have never forgiven myself. Santana Lopez was the cause of much heartache in my young life, but I would have never learned how to control my emotions if it wasn't for her.

Her eyes stayed on me as I unconvincingly studied the bottles of perfume on her stand. It only occurred to me then that Santana always seemed to be working whenever I saw her. At first, I had only assumed it was fate; one soul mindlessly seeking out the other. Like soulmates perhaps, but with Santana Lopez things were always deeper. Something even deeper than soulmates was what I found with Santana that summer.

"Is there something you're looking for in particular?"

Those were the first words I ever heard her speak. Ever since that day I was never able to get the tone and pitch of her voice out of my head. It didn't occur to me until years later that my thoughts would forever be in that voice for the rest of my life.

"You," I had whispered under my breath. I didn't say it loud enough for her to hear.

I wasn't that bold.

To Santana, I hadn't yet responded, and she stared at the side of my face as I willed myself to keep my eyes on the lotions and bottles of soap and perfume.

"Well," she sighed, contemplative. "If you're looking for a fragrance, I highly recommend Milk and Honey. It's my favorite."

She was so close at that moment; I could smell that exact fragrance on her clothing. I subtly inhaled, and for the first time since approaching, I met her eyes. This time we were so close I could see each individual eyelash, as well as the way her chest heaved up and down slowly as she breathed.

"I'll take five," was my only response, because her expression and smell and voice was so overwhelming, I felt like I was going to throw up.

"Wow, really?" she said, surprised, looking at me like I lost my mind or made a mistake. "Maybe I should've said they were all my favorite." She was teasing; I knew it, because after her response came a chuckle, but I never got to see the smile on her lips. By the time I turned my head, she was already bagging my purchase.

I wanted to say something to her. It had been weeks since I first saw her, and I'd been waiting for a moment just like this to talk to her. It didn't matter what I said at this point. I just wanted her to remember me, and that wasn't going to happen unless I made an impression.

"I-I...I think," I stuttered pathetically, and when Santana looked up at me from where she was putting my perfumes in a box, something just snapped inside me. "Do y-you...I-I was, um...I-I-I-I." Those eyes. The way they studied me with such curiosity and thought made me outwardly shudder.

My head was reeling, my heart was beating hard in my chest, and my voice was caught in my throat. I was practically sweating through my clothes, so I quickly paid for my purchase and got as far away from Santana as possible. I felt her curious eyes on me the whole time I walked away, probably wondering who is this strange girl and what the hell is her problem?

Talk about a bad first impression.


Love was an odd thought back then. To me, it didn't exist until I found the object of my affection and desire, and might I add, my hungry sex drive. Love was just an illusion, and in my mind it didn't make sense unless Santana Lopez was part of it. For years I associated the illusion of love with the way I acted around Santana; the way she made me feel, the way her presence made me look at the world in a different way.

Everything I saw reminded me of love. The clouds in the sky would form into the shape of a heart as I walked, basking in the warm summer sun. Birds would chirp love songs as I awoke each morning. The sun would rise only for Santana Lopez, and I'd yearn to see her hair shine underneath the light of day.

I finally got my wish as I walked through the park on my way to the art supply store. I'd been painting so much, I had run out of materials. From about fifty yards away, sitting on a bench, was my beloved. It was strange seeing her there that day, because whenever I'd run into her before, she was always working and had such a serious expression upon her soft features.
But today she looked different. Underneath the bright sun, Santana wore a smile as she watched a trio of kids, ranging from nine to thirteen, playing on the jungle gym. All three kids looked alike, and what was even more fascinating was that they all looked like Santana as well.

I later discovered she'd sit on that same bench at the end of the day everyday. Those were her siblings she'd watch with such bright eyes as they chased each other around the playground until they couldn't chase anymore. I'd watch her from across the park with so much adoration I thought my heart would implode a few times from how much love I felt for this girl.

There was something connecting us, and although our first conversation hadn't gone well, I wasn't going to give up that easily. There was just something about her; something about those eyes and the way they told an honest story. There was something about the way she'd flutter her eyelashes and lick her lips that drove me crazy in the best of ways.


It was one of the hottest days of the summer when I found myself sitting on the dock, dangling my legs over my uncle's lake. The sun was setting and I could faintly hear crickets chirping in the distance behind the tall stalks of grass. My eyes were closed as I basked in the lingering sunshine as it vanished behind the horizon.

That was the clearest my mind had been since seeing Santana at the mall a few days prior. Later I had concluded my strange behavior was the root of the panic attack building in my chest. By the time I got home, I wanted to explode from both humiliation and love. It didn't make sense. The only thing I could understand was the pad of paper in my hand as I sketched colorless pictures of Santana. Shades of black and gray covered the fifty pages of drawings I filled with images of Santana Lopez.

Footsteps snapped me out of my thoughts and continued to approach as I stared out into the lake, admiring the reflection of the fast appearing moon in the pink sky. "There must be thousands of fish lurking below with how quiet you're being," Uncle Fred said with a chuckle as he sat beside me.

Taking a deep breath, I responded, "Not anymore. You scared them all off." There was no denying I was still upset with his decision to leave me, but my hostility wasn't as brutal as before. Once I got to know Julie that summer, I didn't blame my uncle for going after her. She was one of a kind, that woman.

"Nothing a little bait can't fix," he assured me with a pat on the shoulder.

Although I was having a conversation with my uncle, my thoughts were somewhere else entirely. "Uncle Fred, how do you leer in something that'snot a fish?" I asked, looking up at the quickly darkening sky as we ventured into the evening. It was starting to get chilly for the first time in hours as a gust of wind flew by, shaking the trees in the distance.

"Bait," my uncle said calmly, shrugging his shoulders as if it's something everyone should learn as a kid growing up. "It doesn't have to be worms or shrimp or fruit. All depends on what you wanna catch."

What my uncle said that day stuck with me for a couple of days before I was struck with an epiphany. There was only one way to talk to Santana without going through another panic attack, but I needed bait in order to pull off my plan. My writings had been getting better and more passionate as the summer wore on. I would write short stories, poems, songs, diary entries. The only thing I had yet to conquer were love letters, and that was going to be the final piece to my lovesick puzzle.

Santana was the fish.

And the love letters were the bait.


Santana,

When I was young, I didn't think love existed. It wasn't until I saw you that I learned illusions could be real. Just because we don't see it, it doesn't mean it's not out there somewhere. I see you everyday and tell myself that if something is strong enough, it could survive anything. I may be naive, but I think that something could be you and me.

All I'm asking is for you to give love a chance. Love doesn't learn from us. We learn from love.

Your admirer,

Boldness in blonde

Leaving this letter on Santana's bench in the wee hours of the morning was one of the boldest things I'd ever do in my life. I must have bitten my nails all the way to the cuticle thinking over if this was a bad idea or not. After much pacing back and forth, as well as deep contemplation, I finally decided to leave it there and hope for the best.

The rest of the day I was in limbo, imagining what Santana would say or do once she read the letter. I kept having this feeling in the pit of my stomach, nagging me that this was a very bad idea. I couldn't wait it out any longer because I was only just driving myself insane. I had to see how she reacted.

Without even realizing how I got there, I found myself on the other side of the park, waiting for Santana Lopez and her three younger siblings to arrive like they always did at the same time everyday. They were later than usual that day, which almost tore me apart. My anxiety was on an extremely high level, and I needed something to quell my nervous energy. Since I had already bitten my nails all the way to the nub, I had no other choice but to chew apprehensively on my bottom lip until I tasted blood.

The sight of Santana was what made me stop. She was always the one to make me stop and stare like there was nothing else going on in the world. This earth could've been plummeting towards the sun, but if Santana and I were in the same vicinity, I would never know until I'm dead.

From where I stood, I could see the way her perfectly sculptured eyebrows furrowed in puzzlement when she first came across the envelope with her name on it. As she took a seat, her eyes suspiciously scanned the area, and when her eyes came this close to connecting with mine, I ducked behind a bush so she couldn't see me.

Peeking though the holes in the shrub, I witnessed with my very own eyes as Santana read the letter with intrigue. Although her eyes were wide, she didn't seem shocked or terrified like I thought she would. The bashful smile on her face as she closed the letter and put it into her bag told me she was actually flattered by my poetic words in the passionate letter I wrote her.

I was over the moon, floating on air, on cloud nine, as I walked home that evening with my hands in my pockets and a shy smile adorning my features. I whistled I Wanna Be Loved By You with hooded eyes as I sidled down the sidewalk, nodding to dog walkers and joggers who passed by, probably wondering if I was high.

My whole chest was bursting with emotion, and at that moment, I wished I could play the guitar, because if I could, I'd find Santana's window and serenade her all night long until she got tired of my endless love songs. I'd leave white roses on her porch step with red petals leading a path all the way back to my house, up the stairs and into my room where we'd make hot, passionate love until we could no longer feel our toes anymore, numb to the touch. I'd pay millions of dollars to hire a sky writer and make him confess my love for her in the sky for all to see.

I didn't think I could get any happier or fall even deeper in love, but a few days later when I passed Santana's bench to pick up more art supplies, my heart literally stopped when I saw a sealed envelope with the words Boldness in blonde scrawled across it in a sharp script.

I had never moved so slow in my life as I hesitantly reached to pick it up as if it were a ticking time bomb, seconds away from exploding. But the only thing that exploded that day was my heart as I read her words.

Boldness in blonde,

When I was young, I was told love was for the weak, feelings were for the disillusioned and emotions were just a distraction; a mere distraction from life. I was taught the exact opposite of what you believe now. I'm not sure if I believe in love, but I do believe in life.

Won't you prove to me love is worth giving a chance? Or should I just focus on life? Life doesn't learn from us. We learn from life.

The one you admire,

Santana

After reading that, I just had to see her again. There was no doubt about it. She was everything I ever wanted without even realizing it. Her words stuck with me for hours. I read and reread the letter so many times it became implanted in my subconscious, and I had it memorized before the sun set that day.

I was able to recite her letter in my dreams, as well as my nightmares. Her words kept me strong during the conversation I had with my parents that night. To my annoyance, they wouldn't be able to come back for the wedding since they were still on contract and hadn't yet found a certain panda they needed to photograph for a popular wildlife magazine in Beijing, China. This kind of news would've had me on the ground throwing a tantrum as a child, but as I grew older I'd learned how to control those emotions. The discovery of my new talents made dealing with the sad news even easier, because now I had something to put my pain and grief into without hurting myself or throwing my body against the ground in agony.

I wrote a letter that night to get rid of the lonely ache I felt in my gut. The next morning, I left the note on Santana's bench, but not before kissing it farewell, and then I was off to the library for books about love and poetry and dreams and flowers; anything to suck up the emotions I had until I got a response from Santana.

The letters continued this way for two weeks before I realized this was even worse than my panic attack. I would read her words and feel exhilarated for all of two minutes until it was over. I had to see her, touch her, talk to her if I was really going to make her mine once and for all. I wouldn't stop sending her my letters, but I had already caught the fish, the next step was to reel it in.

I thought about all the places I had seen Santana throughout the beginning of that summer. There was the bridal boutique where I had first fallen in love. There was the mall where she managed her own station selling fragrances and body lotions. There was the restaurant that catered my uncle's engagement party where she served. And there was the park where she'd watch her younger siblings play everyday until six o'clock.

It occurred to me that Santana had seen me in all those places except the park and the restaurant. She would undoubtably put the pieces together and discover I was Boldness in blonde if I approached her in the park. That only meant one thing.

I had to go back to the restaurant.


I can't really recall how I got Julie to accompany me to the restaurant Santana served at. Most of that night was sort of a blur because I was just so nervous about seeing Santana again from a closer distance and possibly getting the chance to speak to her again. The thing I feared the most wasn't Julie finding out about my hidden feelings; what had me shaking in my boots was the thought Santana would remember me as the abnormal girl who bought five bottles of her favorite scent, which I just so happened to be wearing that night.

The hostess of the restaurant led us to a table in the back when we first arrived, and although I wanted to find out which section Santana served, I had no other choice but to follow when Julie took my hand and began trailing after the hostess, dragging me along with her.

Even though Julie was only nine years older than me, she was like a motherly figure, or maybe a big sister would be a better description, because Julie would come over in the mornings before meeting up with the wedding planner to make me breakfast. She'd make sure I didn't spend my whole day in the basement, practically carrying me outside to get some fresh air, and she'd even ask if I was okay when I'd blankly stare out the window sometimes, lost in thought, thinking about Santana.

I never admitted to having Santana Lopez on my mind. Nobody knew about my fixation with her. Nobody knew how enamored I was from the very first glance before our eyes connected, then locked forever in my heart. Nobody knew, because I didn't tell them. This was more than a secret to me. I didn't really care if someone found out about my feelings. Actually, I wanted to shout out how I felt about her from atop the rooftops.

But instead I kept it to myself. I wasn't the most superstitious person in the world, but I didn't want to ruin my chances with Santana by discussing it with other individuals. Also, it was my business anyway.

Julie and I were halfway through our appetizers when I saw Santana waiting on the table right next to ours. Her back was turned to me when I first spotted her, but I knew it was Santana by the dip of her muscular calves, the way she held her head up high with pride, as well as her straight posture.

There was no denying my love was standing just a few feet away from me when my eyes focused on her beautiful brown hair tucked up into a bun. Again, only a single strand hung out of place in front of her face as she bowed her head to take a customer's order. After she'd finished writing the last dish down, she'd blow the strand of hair away and tuck it behind her ear when it became too unruly while walking away and disappearing into the kitchen.

There was no doubt I wanted to follow her after she went through the swinging kitchen doors, but I had to restrain myself and settle for just watching her serve other tables for the rest of the night.

Outside the restaurant, Julie had insisted she drive me back to my house, but I assured her I'd be okay walking home. Julie must've had a lot of faith in me, because she didn't question me once again and left for her car in the parking lot without a second thought. Standing innocently in front of the restaurant, I waited until Julie passed in her red convertible before heading back inside.

I sat on a stool at the bar as I waited. The place was beginning to die down as it got later and later. I pretended to ignore the reason I was sitting here, because the last thing I needed was another panic attack creeping up on me. Although I tried to trick myself, in the back of my mind I knew good and well why I was waiting here, or better yet, who I was boldly waiting for.

The dirty blonde bartender with a mop of shaggy hair asked me a few times if I wanted anything to drink, but I always declined because I'd seen on the news what alcohol can do to people, and I wasn't about to become one of the hopeless cases I'd cry about for endless hours.

"Well, if it isn't Miss Lopez."

The words had come from the bartender, but my mind was more focused on the small figure who sat right beside me that night. She was so close, we might as well have been touching. Her thigh brushed against mine as she sat on the stool and propped an elbow on the bar counter with a sigh of exhaustion. A shiver ran down my spine at the sound of her exhale.

"Cut the small talk, Sam," she had teased, a lazy smile slowly spreading across her cheeks as she watched him work behind the counter. "Get me the usual."

Sam smirked, rolling his eyes as he dug underneath the counter and pulled out an empty glass. "You better be nice to me or I'll tell the boss you've been blackmailing me into giving alcohol to underaged girls."

I subtly watched from the corner of my eye as Santana bit her bottom lip and looked up at him through her eyelashes. "You're hinting at blackmail right now, doofus," she pointed out with a sly grin. "Either way it's a lose-lose situation." Santana was cleverly challenging him as she quirked an eyebrow in the bartender's direction. That night, I fell for her just a little bit harder.

Sam sighed, shaking his head. "Fine whatever," he chuckled, turning around to grab a bottle of liquor. Tipping the bottle into her empty glass, he paused and looked up at her, asking, "What's the magic word?"

"Seriously, Sam?" Santana scoffed in exasperation, chuckling to herself. When all Sam did was give her a playfully pointed look, Santana finally caved. "Please..." she whispered, poking out her bottom lip. And the expression on her face was so endearing, I never wanted to look away.

Without another word, Sam poured her drink and slid it across the counter to Santana before sending her a wink and heading off to take care of other customers. I sat rigid next to Santana, hoping she wouldn't see me, because my plan to reel her in was a lot easier in theory, but when you're going about your plan it's ten times harder to actually pull it off.

"Can you believe him?"

And I almost thought I was just hearing things, because Santana Lopez could not have been talking to me. That would've been absurd. But when I turned my head to test the realness in all of this, all I got was Santana looking at me over the rim of her glass with those dark, mysterious eyes; the eyes I had drawn so many pictures of that summer.

"College guys, they think they can do whatever the fuck they want."

Santana was smiling as she said this, so I knew she was more amused with the bartender than irritated. This was probably the most relaxed I had ever seen her, and I wasn't sure if it was because of the alcohol she was downing or the playful conversation she'd just had with Sam.

I really can't remember what I did after she addressed me, because all I could do was stare at the small beauty mark below her right eye.

Santana studied me for another second, like she was trying to figure something out. Her eyes lighting up in realization, she said, "Hey, you're the girl who bought all those perfumes a few weeks ago, right?"

I didn't know whether to be humiliated she remembered or flattered she remembered. All I could do was nod and awkwardly clear my throat, desperately holding back another panic attack.

"Who are you?" Santana asked out of the blue, setting her glass on the counter in front her. I wasn't really sure what she was asking, but I never got a chance to respond, because Santana started shaking her head with a light chuckle, saying, "Sorry, I always ask the strangest questions. What I meant was...I feel like I've seen you a lot recently, or that I've been randomly bumping into you...or maybe I'm just imagining things for some bizarre reason."

When all I did was give Santana a blank look, her lips spread into a crooked smile as she bopped herself on the forehead.

"Uh, sorry, I'm a rambler. But if you don't mind me asking, where did you go to high school?"

"I went to McKinley. I just recently graduated," I answered without a second thought. I hadn't even realized my lips were moving or that words were coming out. It felt so natural to talk to her once I cleared my mind and focused on Santana's dark, enchanting eyes.

Santana smiled even brighter when she heard this, and I wished I had my sketchpad with me so I could forever document this moment. "Oh my God, I'm so slow. Brittany Pierce, right? The dancer?"

When I'd first heard her say my name, I could have just died. It sounded so precious leaving Santana's lips. No one could ever say my name like that. I felt hot and cold at the same time. My body temperature was playing tricks on me because I was both frozen in place and sweating through my pores.

It occurred to me only milliseconds later that Santana Lopez, the love of my life, knew who I was. I'd always assumed I was just an outcast, a drifter, a wallflower, someone who blended in and kept to themselves because of my overly sensitive emotions.

I guess you could say Santana Lopez was considered an outcast at school as well. She knew lots of people in the choir and theatre arts, but when it came to actually making friends, we'd both never go the extra mile, deciding to keep our distance. I was on the WMHS dance team, but I never really thought that made me a dancer until Santana said it that night.

"That's me," I said shyly, because she was looking at me with such admiration it was really throwing me off.

"You are like...really good," she smiled, brushing a strand of hair out of her face. "I hope you're getting out of this cow town to make a name for yourself."

It wasn't like I never thought about going into a career of dance. I had, but I'd never been the competitive type. I got my feelings hurt too easily, and rejection definitely wasn't my best friend as a teenager. The people in that kind of business would've snapped me in half.

"I'm actually going to Ohio State." After I said this, Santana seemed disappointed, like I was selling myself short. To assure her it was fine, I just shrugged my shoulders. "My uncle's leaving me half of his lake anyway, so I suppose it's good I'm staying nearby."

Santana lifted a curious eyebrow, actually looking pleased with this information. And that was all I ever really wanted back then; her acceptance and approval. "A lake, huh? That's impressive."

"It's really relaxing in the evening, when the sun sets," I mentioned, wanting to further intrigue her. "And people also like fishing there, you know, for fish."

"I could use some relaxation," she sighed, shaking her head. "I've been working nonstop lately. You'd never believe me if I told you how many jobs I have."

I'd definitely believe her. I had been following her for the past five weeks, writing her love letters and dreaming about her consistently. I knew a lot of things about Santana that Santana didn't even know about herself.

"I'm saving up to go to New York," she whispered, as if it was this big secret. Santana shrugged her shoulders as she sipped her drink, saying, "Don't laugh when I tell you this, but I want to go there to make it big. You know, singing, acting...perhaps Broadway."

She seemed shy admitting this to me, but her honest admission made my heart flutter. Santana was trusting me with something she was hesitant to discuss. It made me feel like she was almost confiding in me.

"I would never laugh at something like that," I murmured softly, looking at her from out the corner of my eye. "That kinda drive takes hard work and dedication." Santana nodded her head in agreement, stifling a yawn at the very idea of hard work. "You know, if you ever have a day off or just want to relax, you should come by my uncle's lake. I work at the bait shop sometimes, so, you know..."

I winced at the end of my offer. I didn't want to come off sounding too desperate or eager. I was already far out of my comfort zone, the last thing I needed was for Santana Lopez of all people to laug in my face. If something like that happened, I would probably be so mortified, I'd bury myself alive.

But my beloved just nodded, smiling kindly at the nervous twitch at the corner of my lips. "Hmm, I just may take you up on that offer," she said smoothly, never breaking eye contact with me as she pushed her empty glass away and grabbed her bag. "Well, I'm beat. Long day, you know?"

"Totally." I nodded like I understood what she meant, but technically I had no idea. I had no job or responsibilities or younger siblings to look after. It was just me, myself and I.

"Maybe I'll see you around," Santana said, but it came out as more of a question. I really tried to, but I couldn't tear my eyes away from her as she got up from her stool, leaving a tip on the counter for the bartender. "Thanks for the company, Brittany Pierce. It was nice meeting you."

And with a wink she was gone.


I planned on going to the lake every evening until Santana Lopez showed up. I would just sit on the dock and wait for the sound of her flip-flops approaching from behind. I knew I was naive to think she'd actually show up. She barely knew me. All I was to her was Brittany Pierce the dancer. We weren't even friends and she still had no idea I was Boldness in blonde.

It was a Saturday, two days after I had first extended an invitation to Santana to visit my uncle's lake, when I heard those flip-flops flapping behind me. It really threw me off at first, because I wasn't expecting her to show up so soon. I wasn't expecting her to show up at all.

When I turned around to make sure it was really her, and that I wasn't just imagining things, I almost drooled at the sight of Santana. Her hair was in a single French braid that flowed over her left shoulder. She was wearing sunglasses, so I couldn't see the eyes I loved so much, but I knew they were somewhere behind her dark lenses. As she sat next to me, her warm bare shoulder grazed mine, making goosebumps arise on my tanned skin.

"Told you I'd take you up on that offer," Santana said teasingly, skipping a rock out onto the lake.

Looking down, I noticed she had a handful of them sitting on the other side of her. I watched quietly as she threw another one into the lake. "You did," I whispered, rubbing the back of my neck nervously as a deep blush appeared on my rosy cheeks.

It was silent between us for most of the evening. The silence wasn't uncomfortable, at least for me it wasn't. Santana actually seemed content as she watched the sunset. It was the calmest I had ever seen her. Her features were finally relaxed, her perfect posture was slumped back, and her eyes were clear and soft as she admired the ripples in the lake as a breeze drifted by.

It wasn't until the moon was out that Santana spoke again. "This all seems so surreal compared to how hectic my life is," she whispered, pursing her lips. It looked like she had more on her mind, so I remained silent, settling for just watching her think. "With three siblings and a single mom at home, I never get the chance to just breathe." Raising her face toward the sky, Santana took a deep breath and closed her eyes.

"Breathing is important," I murmured, trying to make a joke, because I didn't want Santana to be sad. She was always so serious and tense, but I liked it when she smiled. It made me smile.

Amused, Santana shook her head and chuckled. "You go that right," she agreed, looking down at the water below us. "It's a mystery how fish can live down there. You know, without being able to breathe."

"Sometimes I wish I was a fish," I admitted thoughtfully, shrugging my shoulders. "Their world seems so much less complicated juxtapose to ours..."

Santana nodded, skipping another rock across the lake with a quick flick of her wrist. We both watched as ripples in the water appeared, highlighted by the glow of the moon against the surface of the lake. "If that's the truth, then I wish I was a fish, too. My life is the definition of complicated," she sighed, biting her bottom lip in thought. "Can I tell you a secret?"

Santana sounded both shy and serious as she turned her head to look at me. "Anything," I breathed out, licking my lips as she gazed back at the lake with a faraway look in her eyes.

"The real reason I want to make it big so bad is to get back at my father," Santana confessed, releasing a heavy sigh. "He left my family when I was only twelve. I keep hoping that one day he'll see my name in bright lights and feel guilty for walking out on us." Santana paused for a second, lifting her hand to play with the end of her braid. "I'm sorry...I don't know why I'm telling you this. You're just easy to talk to, I guess."

The smile she gave me was so genuine I thought I was going to float away, my heart swollen with love. "I'm a good listener," I agreed with a curt nod, hoping she'd continue talking, because her voice was nice to listen to.

Santana nudged me in the side with her elbow, letting out a soft chuckle. "If only my mom would listen to me half as good as you do. But she's never around," she explained with a defeated huff. "It's hard to believe she even loves my siblings and I. It's like my dad took every loving emotion out of her when he left." Santana laughed dryly at this, but it was more of a bitter chuckle filled with sarcasm. "Shit, why am I complaining so much? This lake must have some type of truth serum in it that radiates some sort of chemical or something," she joked, trying to relieve some of the tension she created.

"I doubt that's true," I assured her, shaking my head in disagreement. When Santana gave me a confused expression, her eyebrows knitted with a frown, I elaborated, "I'm sure your mom loves you." When all I got was a look of disbelief, I quickly continued, hesitantly saying, "But either way, someone else's love will make up for it."

Santana smiled doubtfully, bowing her head. "Someone else's love?" She seemed unconvinced as she lifted a coy eyebrow.

"Totally," I answered easily, smiling reassuringly at her so she'd know I wasn't teasing.

"I'd find that easier to believe if you told me who," she joked, pushing her sunglasses to the top of her head since now it was fully dark out, the stars quickly making an appearance.

"Me," I said matter-of-factly, trying to catch her eye. It was impossible for me to let Santana live her life with the thought nobody cared for her, or loved her. I thought I had made it perfectly clear in my letters how taken I was with her; how her smile made me swoon, or how the way she walked made me forget my own name. "Me, I love you," I repeated with more confidence.

Santana didn't seemed phased by my declaration of love. Her eyes were searching as she stared at me with a quirked eyebrow. I wasn't sure if she thought I was teasing or just saying so to make her feel better. Her expression was reluctant as she threw another rock into the lake. But this one didn't skip across the water, it downright plopped and splashed. "I'm sure you do," she mumbled under her breath with a small smile, obviously unconvinced.

"I do, honestly," I quickly reassured her, nodding furiously. I could no longer hold it in anymore. All the poems, love letters, and paintings in the world couldn't suppress the feelings I had for Santana.

Santana smiled awkwardly, searching my eyes to make sure I was serious. Her eyes narrowed on me suspiciously, the same way they did that day I panicked in the mall. "Brittany, I don't understand," she responded, looking back and forth between my eyes. "Tell me you're just joking."

Ever since the first day our eyes locked, I'd been waiting for the perfect moment to tell her how much I loved her, and that day on the dock felt like the perfect moment. "I love you," I whispered sincerely, biting my upper lip nervously. I needed her to know how serious I was, so with more confidence, I confessed, "I'm in love with you, Santana."

Those were the longest ten seconds of my life as Santana just stared at me, her eyes slowly widening in shock. Both our cheeks were beet red after my confession, but Santana did nothing but shake her head. "Brittany, I-I...are you serious?" she asked hesitantly, gulping so hard I could see her throat move.

All I could do was nod silently, hoping her shock was just an initial reaction. I had so much hope in my chest, I even thought she'd hug me or kiss me or tell me she loved me back.

Santana didn't do any of those things.

Scooting away from the edge of the dock, Santana pulled her legs into her chest and slowly stood up. "Brittany, listen to me," she said seriously, looking down at me, and the way she hovered above me was frightening and exhilarating at the same time. "You don't love me. You can't. We barely know each other. We've had like...two conversations," she rambled in exasperation, brushing multiple strands of hair behind her ear uncomfortably.

My heart was slowly breaking as she continued to speak, but I didn't want to listen. She was wrong about how I felt. How could she tell me I didn't love her? I had never felt this way about anyone before, and I had never been in love, meaning this had to be more than lust, infatuation, attraction, and fascination.

This had to be love.

I quickly stood up and found my footing, taking a determined step toward Santana. "But I do love you. I know I do," I cried hopelessly, wiping away a tear so she couldn't see how weak she made me. But If I thought I was weak before, it absolutely tore me apart as Santana raised her hands in defense and took an equal step away from me.

"Stop," she practically yelled, taking more steps back, and I couldn't follow. I loved her, so if she wanted me to stop following her, I would without argument. "Look, I'm sorry for raising my voice," she apologized after seeing the crushed look on my face. "I'm flattered, Brittany, really. I'm touched you see something in me that I obviously don't, but it's not love."

I hated the way she tried to manipulate my feelings into meaning something else. I knew how I felt about Santana. Not even Santana herself was going to dissuade me from my beliefs of love. My heart filled with anger for the first time in my life at the look on Santana's face. Yes, I was crushed, but you always feel something a million times worse when it's the one you love rejecting you, or hurting you.

Half passionate anger and half unrelenting love was an odd mixture that messed with my brain. Before I could even stop myself, I was yelling at Santana; yelling at the girl I promised myself I'd never hurt no matter what because I cared so much about her and it'd literally break me apart to see her saddened because of something I said. But I had momentarily lost focus and forgot those promises.

Holding back the tears, I steeled myself and locked eyes with her. "Because love is for the weak and disillusioned, right? A mere distraction from life, right?" I challenged, raising an eyebrow, but I felt bad for snapping at her after seeing the mortified look on her face.

Santana looked like she wanted to run and hide, but surprisingly she stood her ground as she gazed at me with wide, knowing eyes. I watched with a broken heart as she hissed, "Shit, shit, shit," over and over and over again under her breath.

I could just barely see her under the night sky, but the moon was bright enough to highlight the dismayed look in her eyes.

"You...y-you're Boldness in blonde. It was you," she sighed, rolling her eyes in frustration at herself. "I-I thought it was Sam the whole fucking time." She covered her face with her hands, shaking her head while silently berating herself. Santana's voice was muffled as she groaned, "Dammit, I'm such an idiot."

I couldn't believe my ears. The whole time I poured my heart out to her through those letters, Santana was under the impression it was that blonde bartender. I couldn't hold back the tears as Santana eyed me up and down with disgust, shaking her head. This wasn't the way I had expected things to go.

My heart couldn't take the pain and suffering Santana was causing with just one look. Thinking back now, I still don't know how I managed to survive the sinking feeling in my gut, her heart wrenching words, and the horrified expression on her face as I begged, "Please, Santana, just give me a chance. Give love a cha-"

"No," she said sternly, cutting me off mid-sentence. "I'm sorry, Brittany, but no. I don't feel the same way at all. You're just confused. You're the one who's disillusioned."

Her words cut through me like knives. I felt so numb all I could do was watch as she left me on the dock, drowning in my tears. I had to stop myself from jumping in the lake multiple times that night as I pathetically cried to myself, wishing Santana loved me back. I wasn't upset with myself for confessing my love for her because I had been needing to get that out. It was consuming me and strangling me to the point of death.

But at that moment, more than anything, I wished I could've been either brave or dumb enough to jump into the lake, because I wanted nothing more than to die. There was nothing else in this world for me now that Santana was gone.

Because when she left my world, I left the world as well.