I had my first encounter with love at the age of 15. I was walking to school when I suddenly got the sense that I was being followed. I turned around and saw a boy who used to live near my house. He was tall, dark, and handsome, with big eyes. He was dressed beautifully. He wasn’t like any of the other guys I had seen around.

It took him a while to gather the courage to approach me, but one day he came up to me at school and asked if he might have five minutes of my time. He told me he liked me and wanted to be friends. I wanted to get to know him, too, but in that moment I got shy and said no. He looked crestfallen, but accepted my answer.

That night, in bed, I couldn’t believe what I’d done. Why did I say that? Why did my shyness make me act so absurdly? I wondered if I’d lost my chance forever, or if he’d try to talk to me again. Next time I wouldn’t be so nervous. If he asked for my friendship, I would give it.

The very next day, that boy called me on my cell. I’m not sure who gave him my number, but I was glad they did, because we talked for over an hour. That’s when our friendship began. After that, we talked on the phone often, but in school, we ignored each other. We didn’t want people to realize what we were beginning to: that our friendship was becoming our first love.

When Syria’s war began three years ago, the boy decided to fight with the opposition. Before he left our city, he asked me to meet him at the library. There, he told me he’d be gone for two months of training. I cried a lot. His hand reached for my face and settled on my cheek. Our first physical contact! I blushed.

I didn’t hear from him for two months. I was a teenager in love in a time of conflict; I was scared for him and yearned for him. Then he returned and we met once again at the library. We ran to each other and grabbed hands. He wanted to hug me, but I refused—I am from a conservative family and was brought up with strong religious values that prevented me from being physically affectionate with him in public.

We sat in the library for a long time, talking about our present and our future. He said he was going to fight on the front lines in the morning. I begged him not to go, but he had made up his mind.

I got the news the next day that he had been killed. At first, I couldn’t believe it. I cried so much I thought I would die. My mother, who knew nothing of our romance, could tell something was wrong. I finally told her the whole story, regardless of how she would react. (She was not angry with me.) I couldn’t forgive myself for refusing to hug him the day before. I wished a thousand times that I had hugged him. I really did! My sadness was unbearable. That night I had a dream that he and I were together, walking in the rain.

It’s now been two years since my first love died. Don’t mock me, but my broken heart tells me that I will meet him again. ♦

Marah’s diary is produced in collaboration with Syria Deeply, a digital news outlet covering the Syrian crisis. It was translated from the Arabic by Mais Istanbelli.