Of course she fell in love with the boy who tasted like cinnamon.
Usnavi is different, and Vanessa knew it from the start. She was introduced to him when they were in eighth grade.
Vanessa had been having a horrible day - she had been catcalled and teased in the hallways, and there was this one irritating boy who just wouldn't take no as an answer. She just wanted to scream at them to leave her alone until her throat was hoarse.
No, she would tell herself whenever she was tempted. Let them whistle. Let them call. It only shows their lack of character. Ignore them.
But then Usnavi had approached her, and she had watched him carefully. She was admittedly a bit surprised when he asked, "Can I speak to you?"
She had never been asked permission like that before, and she, not showing her emotions, just replied with a shrug. "Sure."
He breathed out a small sigh of relief, "Do you know Nina Rosario?"
"Yeah," she said, interested. Nina was in her history and her science classes, which were her only honors classes. Nina was a full honors, probably straight A+ student.
"I think…I think you would like her. As a friend, I mean." He said nervously, fidgeting. "You both are a lot alike and…" he bit his lip, "You look like you need a friend right now."
He was shy, and had what seemed to be a bit of a stutter.
But when his eyes flickered downwards it was to look at the floor, not at her chest.
"Okay," she said, standing up from her lunch table, "Where is she sitting?"
He looked shocked by her willingness to humor him, and he wordlessly gestured in the direction of a Nina Rosario, sitting alone at a table, scribbling something into a notebook. She grabbed her tray, walked over, and sat right down.
Vanessa had never been shy.
"I'm Vanessa." She greeted, and then she noticed a similarity between her and the girl opposite her. "You looked like you could use a friend."
Usnavi was a mystery.
How he was so unlike nearly everyone she ever met was unexplainable. He never once disrespected at her, or objectified her in any way. He also was interested in every word that came out of her mouth.
When he whistled it was because he was impressed by what she said, not by how she looked. He asked for permission for everything - if he could talk to her at that time, if he could ask her a question, anything. He never tried to touch her in any way, and wouldn't even tap her on the shoulder.
He was polite, and seemingly uninterested in trying to flirt with her.
And, he was genuinely kind.
And that never changed, which startled Vanessa.
Boys flicked in and out of her life like fireflies, but Usnavi was a constant. He supplied her coffee for free, and it was good coffee too. He was always there whenever she needed to complain about someone or something.
And then, she realized why he was so frequently stuttering and speechless around her.
He liked her.
"The only room with a view is a room with you in it!"
And if Usnavi had been anyone else, their friendship would have been ruined beyond repair.
Except he didn't cover up his speechlessness with wolf whistles or catcalls. He would run to her rescue only when she asked. He would always meet her gaze, despite how revealing her clothing was. He'd listen when she talked. He had introduced her to Nina, one of her best friends.
And whenever she made the joke about him oweing her champagne, she could see it in his eyes that he would buy it for her if she wanted if he had the money, and not just to get her intoxicated.
So when Sonny asked her out for Usnavi, she let it happen. She accepted it. Because the fact he was so worried that he couldn't talk to her or around her showed his innocence well enough.
Then that damned blackout happened.
She had been dancing around at the club after Usnavi said she could (not that she felt like she needed his permission, of course).
She felt bad about it, but then she looked over and saw Usnavi talked to Yolanda and she had felt a bitterness and...sadness?
No, it wasn't sadness. That would mean she loved him back. And she didn't, did she? She was just humoring him…
But that didn't change that he was the first person she looked for when the blackout happened. She had been strangely relaxed when she woke up the next morning to have several texts from Usnavi, detailing how his phone had died last night and he just wanted to know if she was okay but she should feel pressured to reply.
She simply sent him back a simple text, saying she was okay and glad he was as well. She didn't want to push things with them too much. She still didn't know how she felt. But perhaps, this would be a good thing. An actual relationship.
And then he had to go and get the damned prize money from the lottery.
"Vanessa, I don't know why you're mad at me!" He said, indignant, but not yelling. She didn't know if she had ever heard him yell when he was angry. He never was that angry.
"I wish I was mad," She whispered back, before rushing up to him, taking his head in her hands, and kissing him on the lips.
He tasted like cinnamon.
Vanessa had always loved cinnamon.
She let go before he had time to react, and he stared at her, his eyes like wide doe eyes.
"I'm just too late," She murmured, before she turned and walked away.
Because of course one boy that she fell in love with was heading out of the country that day.
She took a deep breath after she turned the corner, blinking away tears.
She just hoped she would be able to forget him quickly. Move on.
But she knew deep down would never be able to forget Usnavi.
The boy who tasted like cinnamon.