• A thin body - a female one, no less - slid into the booth across from him, murmured something James didn't really hear, and suddenly the bespectacled fifteen year old boy found himself unable to utter anything comprehensible. Eyes that normally looked people in the eye, straight in the eye, stared at the dirty counter of the table, hands that normally held pens and pencils and wrote with lightning fast speed, tapped against knees. A name faintly registered in his head - Magda. Magda. He said the name aloud in his head and watched it roll around. "Magda," he said softly, letting the "d" slowly open into his mouth and the word escape from it. "You're... Magda. Magda from... my math class."

    Magda was a name for Spanish girls with sunburned arms and crosses around their necks. Mary Magdalene, he thought, eyes barely looking up from their stead at his knees. She, however, was neither Spanish nor sunburned nor sporting a cross. He wondered if Magda was short for anything, or if she was simply Magda. He made to open his mouth, but Magda beat him to it. A smirk played up her features, stretching her mouth so he could see slightly crooked teeth, and from it came the words, "You`re good at math, right?" Another smile. Those smiles, those smiles were going to kill him one day. He teetered on the edge of speech, not sure if she was going to continue, yet she ducked down and a slender hand pulled out a battered notebook, stealing his words from him. James stiffened, one part upset and two parts intrigued that a pale, skinny girl could simply dumb him into silence, taking his words as if she was a kleptomaniac who drew twisted excitement from stealing them.

    She paged through the notebook, obviously looking for where her last entry of notes had been. "Well, anyways, I don't get this math homework. Care to help me?" James stared at the Formica table instead. Devious smile, he knew it was there but at the same time did not care to look. He nodded dimly and tried to force his face into a smile, but it wouldn't seem to come. Magda found her page of notes, and with a sigh of the very dramatic, slid it across the booth. Another smile. She kept smiling. James did not and would not understand why. Taking the notebook from her, his eyes locked on to the problems, all written in Magda's neat script. Easy homework. Easy math. He chose not to help the slightly cute girl with neat handwriting and a name that was better suited for Spanish immigrants: the smile, the crooked teeth, the fact that Magda was a girl who seemed to enjoy flirting, the fact that she was not like James` girl friends, who were down to earth and practical, the fact that she was an unknown entity who James might have seen once or twice. He chose to lie.

    Underneath the table, he linked his fingers into a knot. "I didn`t understand it." Pause. "So I can't help you, I guess." Longer pause. James avoided her eyes. "I'm... sorry." Not entirely a lie. He didn`t understand why she came to him. Desperation was the only answer his mind gave him. He looked up.

    Magda smiled again; James considered it. "I mean, isn`t math just the worst subject you've heard of?" The smile, just like the words coming from her mouth, was a sticky sweet, repeated so many times she had grown tired of it. Nod. Nod. Nod. Nod. He would agree with her, fake smile and bitter voice in turn. Guilt replaced his blood and started flowing through his veins. Eyes avoided hers, feet tapped on the floor, heart sped. "Makes no sense," she muttered. "No sense at all." Battle armor, in the form of that smile, chinked, shattered, and melted, offering James a view of an embittered girl underneath it, clinking around in too-big and overused chain mail or some such thing. Pity crossed over James` face. Yet he stood up and collected his things, silently walking out of the library cafe before Magda could ask him another question. James was not sure if he could answer, in lies or in truths.