When the bell rang for the end of class, I rush out of that room like a bat out of hell and I don’t slow down until I reach my lunch table. I saw my, because Mara and I have eaten lunch on it for the past four years now, since we were freshman. I sit down, place my backpack on the left side of the chair, and exhale slowly. Apparently I had been holding my breath. I lay my head on the table with my hands on my head and my elbows on the table, breathing deeply to calm myself down. What happened in there? How could anyone have this sort of effect on me? All I can think about is how I hope he didn’t see how red my face was and hope he doesn’t think I’m weird or some kind of creeper for staring at him like that. Does it matter that he was staring back at me? I wish I knew, but not knowing him at all makes my nerves bounce all over the place.
“Rough day already?” Mara arrives at the table and sets her books down; I could hear the concern in her voice, especially since this was out of character for me. “Your dad said no to me coming over to your place again, didn’t he?” Nothing about this school or the people in it had ever taken such a toll on me before, not since my mom died. So, if that wasn’t enough for her, she knows me so well that she can tell when something is up. I lay my hands on our table and sit back in my chair, looking at my hands. I exhale slowly before responding to her.
“Oh, no more than usual,” I say with an exhale that was supposed to relieve some of my tension but failed miserably. “She scoffs at me, takes her seat to my right; she knows I’m not being honest with her. I sigh and make an excuse. “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. I still don’t believe it myself.”
“I don’t know, I’ve heard a lot of crazy stuff today. It’s not like I would tell anyone anyway. Try me.”
“Says the gossip queen.” I say, laughing. She smacks my arm with a smile on her face she is trying to hide, pretending to be offended. She is secretly proud of being a gossip queen, just like I’m secretly happy being a wallflower.
“That may be so, but you know I’ve never talked to anyone about you at all. I guess I just respect you too much.” She grins as she takes a bite of her peanut butter and strawberry jelly sandwich from the brown paper bag lunch she brought with her to school today.
“That I know of…” I respond under my breath, just loud enough for her to hear. I chuckle and grab my sack lunch from my bag. I had no appetite after being so freaked out over Eli, but the peanut butter and cheese sandwich inside is my favorite, I can’t let it go to waste.
“Nora, seriously,” she says after she swallows her bite. “I know something is bothering you, and YOU know I’m not going to stop bothering you until you tell me.”
“Yeah, or I could just wait until lunch is over and then it wouldn’t matter anyway.” I say nonchalantly, with a shrug.
“Please! You know very well I would just continuously text you and call you until you get fed up and spill. I’ve done it before!” She’s smiling, all proud of herself.
“Ugh, don’t remind me…” I take a bite of my sandwich so I don’t have to talk yet. She’s backed me into a corner. I guess I’m more stressed out over this new guy than I thought because I can’t even taste my sandwich. Annoyed, I set the remainder of it down and force the tasteless morsel down my tense gullet. I take a swig of my soda to help wash it down. I need to do some soul searching or have some serious alone time. I decide I’m going to my favorite spot in town after dad and I get home from his office later on tonight. It’s super nice since it isn’t far from home and has a touch of dad to it. Having to rely on him the past couple of years has made the few things he does for me very comforting.
“Well,” I take a deep breath and let it out slowly. I can’t believe I’m going to admit how completely unhinged I am. “I guess there’s a new guy at school –“
“Oh my god, I’ve seen him!” Classic Mara, interrupting me mid-sentence to fill me in on some gossip I normally wouldn’t care about. This time I’m all ears. Of course, I pretend to pick at my sandwich and not listen as I normally would. “Yeah, he’s in my Science class third period and is pretty darn cute! Well, he’s no Bryce Williams, captain of the football team, but you know, for a newbie, he’s definitely been noticed around the school. No one can figure out where he came from or what his deal is and he’s not talking to anyone. Sounds like just your type!” she states as she nudges me with her elbow. I pretend to be annoyed.
“Yeah, well, I guess he caught my eye or something, I don’t know…” I tell her. I’m such a smooth talker. I mentally scold myself for having such a difficult time talking about Eli. I sigh and continue, “We kind of made eye contact in choir and it was weird, I had to force myself to look away and he just kept looking at me with this look in his eyes I can’t place…”
“OH. MY. GOD!” She squeals, interrupting me again, half the lunch room looking at us now because of her uproar. My face turns as red as it did in Choir and I lay my head on the table again hoping I can just disappear. If I cared at all about social status, I was now doomed to being an outcast. Either way, it was still embarrassing. I tilt my head just enough so she can see me glare at her. Her excitement deflates a little. “Oh, sorry, right. Secret. I just can’t believe you are actually interested in someone at this school! I haven’t seen you like someone since…well, for a long time.” I know what she was going to say, but she knows my mom is still not a good subject to bring up. She caught herself this time, she doesn’t always though. “That’s more attention he’s given to anyone else in the school combined! I’m super excited for you!”
The rest of lunch she is pretty much bouncing in her seat as she finishes her sandwich and the bag of chips from her brown paper bag. She’s so focused on the fact I might actually like someone and doesn’t even notice I haven’t actually touched my lunch besides the solitary bite I attempted. We sit in silence until the bell rings. We hug and wave bye as we go our separate ways. I fake a smile so that she won’t see how much having this attachment to this strange boy is eating at my conscience. She heads off to her Study Hall and I go to Science. I stop at my locker and grab the books I need for the rest of the day while leaving the ones I don’t, and I find myself thinking of Eli again. What class he has right now? Is he thinking about me? Does he think I’m crazy?
I shut the locker and lean my head against the cool metal. I tell myself I’m not obsessed and let the cold relax me and clear my head. For the moment I can center myself and focus on getting through the day. I push off my locker and make my way to class. I’m lucky enough to sit down at my desk before the tardy bell rings. The lecture begins and two minutes in I already can’t concentrate on the topic at hand, so I doodle in my sketch book instead; I’m not much of an artist, but I like to draw for fun and always keep a sketch book on me. In fact, the rest of the day is slow going and all I do is work on distracting myself. I fail miserably. My next classes, Gym and Language Arts do absolutely nothing to keep me preoccupied. Also, being the clumsy person that I am, I trip over my own feet more than usual during Gym.
Finally, we reach the last period of the day and I am lucky to have a Study Hall. I get to listen to music and do whatever I want. Well, I can’t have a party, or skip it, but I don’t have to do homework or listen to a lecture and I love it. I sit down in the back of the room and grab my iPod touch from my backpack, putting the ear buds in my ears. I grab my sketchbook and as I’m coming back up to place it on my desk, I see Eli walk into the room and sit down.
Oh. My. God.
I seriously have three classes with this guy? Hasn’t he tortured me enough? He didn’t know that’s what he’s doing to me, but it’s still his fault. Normal teenagers are happy when they have a few classes with the person they have a crush on. Here I am dreading it because it’s making me lose the little cool that I have on my life and my emotions. I am so glad it’s Friday, then I will at least have the weekend to recuperate…
I sigh and pretend I didn’t notice him come in the room, but I can see him in my peripherals to my left. He sits down in a desk in the row closest to the wall but in the middle, not near the door, but not close to the front of the room either. He seems a little overwhelmed, and who wouldn’t be after the first day at a new school. I secretly hope he’s as flustered about me as I am him so I’m not crazy. He ruffles his hair before leaning over and grabbing something out of the messenger bag he placed on the floor to the left of his desk. He opens a Math book and begins working on an assignment. I take a deep breath and just stare down at the blank page on my sketchbook. Study hall was supposed to be a relief from all the tension today, but maybe I can take advantage of the situation. Since no one in class ever takes notice of me, I feel comfortable using my peripherals to draw a realistic pencil sketch of Eli to test my skills. It’s been awhile since I’ve tried drawing from life and I also get to look at the guy I’m starting to fall for after only locking eye contact for several seconds. I figure it’s a win-win situation.
I do this the rest of the class period until the bell rings for the end of the school day. I take my time putting my things back in my backpack. I get up and take my time walking up the aisle of desks and out of the room. I stop at my locker before making my way out of the building to see my dad. I didn’t see Eli when I walked out of the room, though; I guess he couldn’t wait to get out. Must have sucked having your first day at a new school be on a Friday. I check my agenda and thank god that I wrote down all my assignments. I’ll never know how I managed it when my mind was completely distracted all day. I grab all the books I need for my homework this weekend, and shut my locker. I was so ready for the weekend. The only issue, is my weekend won’t start until I get home from hanging with my dad at his office.
I take the first step out of school and relish the fresh weekend air that fills my lungs. I’m actually going to take my time and enjoy the journey to see my dad. I make my way through the parking lot and stay on the side walk, going North. I’m walking down the street near downtown, the sky is cloudy and it looks like it might rain later. That cheers me up a little, I’ve always enjoyed thunderstorms, for as far back as I can remember. The sweet scent of autumn is in the air, I walk slower so I can enjoy it longer. I’ve walked this street a thousand times, and today feels no different. I take my flip phone out of my jeans pocket and check the time: 3:35pm. School got out over half an hour ago and I’m still walking. It would have only taken 15 minutes for me to walk home but I try not to let the thought bother me. I promised dad I would drop the subject, and that’s what I was going to do.