HIS LITTLE toes curled under the impact of the fall, and tears sprung to his eyes the moment his knees connected with the rocky terrace of the sea cliff. He wailed in pain as little droplets of blood stained the gray stone, and not a single soul stopped to help him.
Little Raphael's eyes watered even more as he watched camper after camper waddle passed him, no one even acknowledging his presence.
He knew he wasn't the most likable kid at camp, and he was merely forced to go by his dad. Still, he wished someone would show him a little compassion...a little attention, at least once in his life.
Giving up, he tried to wobble to his feet with his knees still burning, but he was surprised to feel little cold hands holding onto his left arm.
His eyes widened in shock and gratitude as he turned to meet the eyes of the human who acknowledged that he indeed existed. When he did, the immense beauty was more than his little nine-year-old mind could process. The life and light that they held completely contrasted to how he felt.
She smiled warmly at him, encouraging him to stand straight. He blinked a few times, never once breaking his gaze from her admirable brown pools. Her eyes flickered to his knee for a quick second, as her smile immediately transformed into a frown. Raphael's heart sank at the absence of her beautiful smile. But it was short lived when he heard her voice instead.
"Are you okay? How did you fall?" She asked, her voice soft and sweet like any eight-year-old, but it did something to him. It took a while before he answered after recovering from the shock of hearing her speak.
"I'm-I'm okay" His voice sounded small, but she heard him clearly. She quickly perked up at his accent, realizing that he wasn't a local at all.
"Where are you from?" She questioned as she bent before him, slightly pushing up his shorts so that she could get a better look at his knee.
"I'm from Puerto Rico," he replied, slightly wincing when she ran her index finger over the base of the wound.
She paused abruptly, taking him by surprise and scaring him half to death when he thought he had just scared her off. However, his doubts were soothed when she smiled at him even wider.
"Say that again" She instructed.
"Say that again," she repeated, this time with her eyes glistening even more. For the first time in forever, Raphael felt his lips pulling up in a smile.
"Puerto Rico." He obliged, loving the way she squealed at it. He didn't understand her excitement, but he wanted to keep it alive.
He didn't even realize when she grabbed her water bottle from her bag pack to wash the dirt from his knee, he was just too invested in her.
"I know we're not allowed to say things like this..." She subconsciously looked around her as if checking to see if anyone was around, as her voice fell into as loud whisper, "But that was kinda sexy"
They both burnt red at her statement, before they erupted into childish giggles. She knew her mama would've given her a proper scolding if she heard what she had just said, but Tami had waited so long to use the word after somewhat learning what it really meant, and this stranger's accent really described the word in her head.
"There you go" She beamed proudly as she rose from her stooping position, and his eyes flickered to his knee, where he saw that she had wrapped her large ribbon that was holding up one of her curly pigtails around the wound as a substitute bandage.
His smile grew larger, feeling much better. He didn't believe it had to do with the wound being managed, but the wonderful feeling of being cared for.
"That should control the bleeding until we get back to camp to a proper caregiver. Can you walk?"
He nodded frantically with a bright smile on his face. "I can manage. Th-thank you ...uh?"
"Tami" She finished for him, introducing herself in the process. "Tami Knowles" She outstretched her hand while he took it, immediately loving how small and soft they felt against his.
"Raphael De León."
"Say that again," she teased, causing them both to laugh. He fell in line with her strides after their laughter died down, and he suddenly felt anxious now that he had finally made a friend-- and a beautiful, kind one at that.
"So Raphael," she started, and he loved the way she said his name. "What brings you to The Bahamas? And at camp too?"
He suddenly forgot everything about his life when he realized that this was her way of starting conversation. She wasn't running off to be with her friends, nor was she simply being kind. She wanted to be his friend. He got excited at the thought.
"My dad has lived here for as long as I can remember. My mom sends me here in the summers. He sent me to camp because he had to leave for a meeting. But it's not like he cares if I starve at home alone or not. He just wanted me gone for the whole summer, even after he gets back from his meeting."
Tami felt slightly uncomfortable at his now gloomy state after mentioning his dad, and she felt guilty for asking in the first place, so she tried to get rid of the dull aura.
"So I won't see you around after summer then?" She asked, but the attempts to make him feel better went downwards when his face fell even more, as if he was just realizing the fact too.
His frown grew deeper as he looked up to look at her, already missing her when he should go back to his huge, empty, lonely house back home. "I guess so. Will you be here every camp? Maybe we can see each other at camps?" A little hope sparked in him as he thought of the possibility, but her frown told him that she had no good answer to that.
"Actually, my family and I are moving to Nassau in two months. My dad suffered a great accident and my mom wants him to get special care there. So, I won’t be back at camp next year or after that" She sighed as she thought about how she'll miss camp.
She has been going since she was five, and she always enjoyed being there with the wonderful kids and great hospitality and fun.
"So this will be goodbye?" Raphael's lower lip quivered at the thought of losing the only friend he has ever gained. But before he could fall deeper in his grief, Tami laced her thin fingers through his, shooting him an encouraging smile which totally did its best on his mood.
"Come on" She beamed. “Let’s not focus on what will happen after camp. Let's just enjoy the few weeks we have together."
Raphael loved this idea, so he frantically nodded as she spun to walk backwards with an excited look on her face.
"We can make a list and have the best time at camp ever! Oh, and you can teach me Spanish! Wait, you speak Spanish, right? Oh my gosh is it rude of me to just assume to speak Spanish because you're Puerto Rican? I'm sorry if I offended you." She rambled nervously.
Raphael suddenly felt on cloud nine as he thought about spending everyday with the nicest and most beautiful girl at camp. His smile told her all the answers to her questions without even having to say a word. He quickly stabled her when she almost fell over from walking backwards, sending them both in another fit of laughter.
"I think we will be the bestest of friends Raphael De León" She laughed at how weird she sounded trying to say his name like how he said it, but he thought she said it perfectly.