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I took a girl named Katie to the prom. I bought her a bouquet of flowers and a card when I asked her. I left them on the table in front of the Dairy Queen where we were supposed to meet. She cried.

She was beautiful. She had red hair and a huge smile. She was kind. Truly kind, nothing fake. I’m certain that I never saw her frown. Not even secretly, in her eyes.

We met at a youth conference a couple weeks after I let myself like girls. She pulled me off of the stairs. She told me I should be dancing like everyone else. She told me I was the only person she wanted to be dancing with. She’d never heard the song Love Shack. She was wearing a navy blue dress with small flowers on it. I don’t remember meeting a single other person that night because nothing else mattered. She gave me her phone number.

We went to parties. We went to parks and sat on the swings for hours. Stayed in the jungle gym until it got too dark to see each other’s faces. We went to the dairy queen and colored in coloring books. I hung those pictures on my walls for months. We went to her house, where she showed me the dress she had picked out. She did a Cystic Fibrosis walk with my family. We hid in plain sight. When we went to the coffee shop the barista gave us free cocoa when she saw us holding hands. We held hands everywhere we went.

On prom night she wore green. Her hair was straight. She wore a full length dress that just barely brushed the floor as she walked. She smiled all night; danced with her whole heart. She was beautiful and perfect. She was stunning and fearless. We never spoke again.

She seemed really young. She was naive, smiled too much. That’s what I told myself. That’s what I spent my time trying to convince myself. She wasn’t the right person for me.

And she wasn’t. I was scared. I was young and naive and I was scared shitless. I was afraid of what it would mean if I really did lean over and kiss her as we danced like I wanted to. I could see it in my mind, I would do it, I would remember it for the rest of my life, I would cherish it. But I didn’t. Instead I walked off of the dance floor. Too tired to dance, I said, my feet hurt.

If I could go back to that moment I would. I would kiss her on that dance floor in the middle of that room during that tacky pop song. I would dance with her for hours. I would tell her that she was flawless and I would touch her dress and tell her how beautiful she looked. I would touch her face. I would not run away. I would stay there for as long as it took for me to figure it out.

Maybe she thinks I seemed a little too young. Maybe she thinks I was naive and frowned a little too much. Maybe she thinks I’m mean and maybe she thinks that I never liked her at all.

Maybe she knows.

Maybe she knows that I was scared out of my mind. Maybe she knows that I wasn’t quite that strong, and I wasn’t prepared, and I wasn’t ready. Maybe someday she could tell me what she sees, because I sure as hell haven’t been able to figure it out myself.

This is my love letter to the girl I never quite deserved. This is my love letter to the girl I’ll always wonder about.

This is my apology to that girl who will never have the chance to read it.

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