Her hair spirals into copper-colored corkscrews at impossible angles; it is very coarse and not a bit like silk. When the sunlight strikes it just so you will be reminded of the sacred, of burning bushes or angels painted by rennaissance masters. Her hair is lush and tangled and obeys no laws. It smells of peppermint and applewood smoke. She is careless and beautiful; her skin is coffee with cream and unmarred except where five small freckles have settled across her nose like a dash of cocoa powder. Her lips are very full and remind you of fresh plums. When she laughs, which is often, you can see the narrow gap between her two front teeth. Her teeth are very white and straight and she absent-mindedly runs her tongue over them when she daydreams, which is often. Once you have met her you will be changed. She will remain the same.

The first time I saw her, she was barefoot and wearing an ornate golden ring studded with what appeared to be emeralds on her second toe. Otherwise, she wore no jewelry or makeup. She wore a tattered, sunfaded, sleeveless Pantera concert t-shirt that was several sizes too large for her and paint-spattered jeans with a hole in one knee. She was humming in a low throaty voice, a wild song that I never could put a name to but that would come unbidden to my mind in later weeks whenever I smelled fresh-baked bread. I was at the beach, but it was cloudy and cold and I had gone there to be alone. She was a sudden splash of color in a gray day. She approached me, and smiled. Her eyes were almond-shaped and fringed by long, thick lashes, they were hazel, but in that light seemed a smoky gold. Her voice was husky but girlish and she asked, "Do you mind watching my things for a bit?"

This beautiful stranger did not wait for an answer but poised on one leg like a dancer, I was distracted by her accidental grace, the lines of her body, and was jarred by a sudden, gentle thump in my lap. I looked down and noticed that she had dropped off her toe-ring. I heard a rustling of clothes and she stood before me naked, quite un-selfconsciously. Her breasts were small, round and very high. She smiled at me and ran off towards the sea, her long legs carrying her in effortless strides through the sand. She cavorted like a sea nymph through the waves, heedless of the cold and the riptide warnings. When she collected her things I managed to mumble, "I didn't think this was a nude beach."

She smiled at me and winked conspiratorially, "It isn't". Without looking back she walked off towards the city.

The second time I saw her was in the rain. It was pouring out and I was waiting for the bus on a deserted downtown street. At eight p.m. downtown becomes a ghost-town, with food wrappers for tumbleweeds. My little black umbrella was scant protection against the downpour, so I pulled it close to my head and huddled against the cold. Through the rain I could hear a throaty voice humming a wild tune. Alone in the dark streets, unprotected from the rain. Impossibly, it was her, soaked to the skin, her hair falling in dark, tangled, soggy profusion over her forehead and about her shoulders. She smiled at me, and too eagerly I said, "Hi. I didn't think I'd see you again."

She furrowed her brow and smiled apologetically; she did not recall me. Too late I offered her the protection of my umbrella. She accepted and huddled underneath close to me. Her breath was hot on my cheek and I struggled for anything intelligent to say. Steam seemed to rise off her skin which smelled faintly of fresh lemons and sweat. I had an insane desire to kiss her there with the incessant patter of the rain falling on my umbrella, in the naked, empty streets with no one as witness. Instead I said shyly, stupidly, "I watched your stuff when you went swimming a few weeks ago."

Again, a smile and still no recognition, "Thanks for rescuing me twice, then," she teased me gently. Too soon her bus arrived, and we were not destined for the same line. Before disappearing into the night, she leaned over and kissed me briefly on the cheek. Her lips were surprisingly warm, as if she had a fever.

The last time I saw her was in the springtime, in a garden. She was wearing a thin, yellow sundress with a pattern of fuchsia blossoms on green vines. She had a large magnolia blossom behind one ear. Despite my horrible hayfever, I had relunctantly agreed to attend a party thrown by uncle, a horticulturist in his immaculately landscaped backyard. She was there, a date of one my uncle's business acquaintances, barefoot and quite lovely in the dusk. I wanted to talk to her, to charm her and spirit her away from the party. In my mind's eye, I could see us making love on my living room floor, her straight white teeth biting into the flesh of my shoulder. But I could barely meet her gaze, afraid that she wouldn't recognize me, afraid that she'd forgotten even that she'd kissed me. But she noticed me and walked over, a smile on her face. I looked behind me to make sure that she wasn't greeting a friend standing in my blind spot, but no there was only me. She moved close to me, close enough that I could see the freckles on her nose and said in a half-whisper, "So, I keep running into you at the strangest places. Almost like fate."

I smiled in response, unsure of what to say, unsure that any answer I might give would be taken the wrong way, become offensive and monstrous. She continued on blithely, "but I guess I won't be running into you much more. Unless you plan to move to Paris. You don't plan on doing that, do you?"

Dumbstruck, I shook my head. I realized that I was unlikely to ever see her again and there she was, standing before me, unaware of her beauty. She grinned at me, "You're a quiet one. Say, do you have a hankie or some napkins? I don't know how Frank talked me into coming to this thing, I have terrible allergies."

I fumbled in my pocket and found a packet of disposable tissues, half-crumpled and offered them to her. She smiled again and took one, then blew her nose. It was not dainty or ladylike, she blew her nose loudly and raucously. She moved closer and half-whispered, "thanks, you're a dear."

She leaned over and kissed me on the cheek again, and removed the magnolia from behind her ear and placed it behind mine. Then she walked away without looking back. That whole night I kept the magnolia in its place of honor, not caring how silly I looked.

I never saw her again. I doubt she remembers me. But at nights sometimes I dream of her and the smell of magnolias. I dream of her smoldering gaze and the fevered heat of her lips. I dream of her walking away without looking back. When I awake, I am touched by despair at the memory of her, my hands shake and the day seems gray and empty. She moves through lives without care, accidentally transforming everything she touches.

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