Everything about Alice was sleek, dark, and beautiful. Each day, she slithered or floated or crept towards me in the mornings masquerading as a different creature. Most often, she was a raven, long, black hair draped over her back and shoulders like feathers and wings. She always growled and roared, and when she wore her dark fur vest and combat boots, she looked like a panther, too. And amidst all the darkness and mystery that hung about her and her metamorphous shapes, she still managed to glow, as a bright point of light in my simple world, long before she knew that she could offer any type of warmth.

Love had encompassed my life since childhood. Thanks to the generosity of my grandparents and the resilience of my mother, I grew up in a house of overwhelming affection. The first time I saw Alice, I could see from several yards away the emptiness her mosaic eyes, the lack of love in her own family, and I knew that I could offer her something. And from the heat and the force that rushed from the floor to my brain as she passed by that first time, I knew that for her, for the first time, I could be strong.

Despite her chilling gaze, a purple-tinted beauty surrounded her—the way she moved; she didn’t walk but rather glided through the hallways at school, her thin, delicate arms swinging subtly at her sides, her long, elegant legs extending gracefully as she stepped.

I wanted her. Desire was the name of this new, exciting kind of love.

But this intense longing failed to instill in me an equally intense confidence to approach such a beautiful creature. So I watched—stared—as she moved quickly past me without a second glance.

I had no reason to be surprised by her failure to notice me in the way I noticed her. And I wasn’t. We were in high school, and I was not an athlete. I did not harness any exceptional height or apparent strength, and there was nothing taught or rugged about the way I wore my shirts.

So, I stood, watching her intently as she fraternized with her few, carefully selected friends, in my jeans, that fit awkwardly baggy in some places and awkwardly tight in others, and my traditional, black, high-top Converse laced up tightly to the top.

I longed deeply for her, all of her, the physical and the undefined, all at once. My body roared with desire that penetrated my thoughts almost painfully.