Eyes Have Always Fascinated Me

April 2, 2008
By Taryn Albright, Snohomish, WA

Eyes have always fascinated me. That’s why I noticed him in the first place. His are the most beautiful, expressive ones I’ve ever seen. He seems to have a knowledge beyond comprehension—beyond the reaches of even my imagination. Yet it’s a hidden comprehension, unshared. He’s the boy sulking at the back of the room, glaring around the environment and undermining any authority that may sway him.
Me? I’m the conceited loner who is liked by few and hated by none. I have no idea how I manage to be envied. I suppose I am intelligent, but honestly, what insolent, impertinent, disagreeable girl do people like? I thought none.
His name is Jason Richmond. That is such a pretty-boy name. Truthfully, he’s not. His untidy hair hangs perpetually into his eyes. Those black locks draw me to those eyes. His features are angular and sharp, almost birdlike, but that’s far from the most alien thing about him. His irises are so dark that they blend with his pupils. For those glancing at him, it can be disconcerting. For those who spend the moments of their day in his presence, they are intoxicating pools of mystery.
Yes, I am well aware that I sound like some sort of bimbo with a crush. However, it’s the opposite. Sure, he has enthralling eyes, but that’s his only redeeming quality. Yes, you read that right. I hate Jason Richmond.
…at least, for now.
We are far from the typical hate-turns-to-love couple, however. Our history is a complicated set of actions, reactions, and the worst timing in the universe.
“Karissa,” someone growled, placing a hand on my shoulder. I knew who it was instantly. Nobody said my name like that—it was a fierce caress of syllables, nearly skipping the ‘R’ sound. The hand also gave it away. The heat between us was electrifying, and I flinched away immediately.
“What, Jase?” I asked, sighing.
Instinctively, I knew he was glaring at me. “Don’t call me that. We have to go.”
Once, a time ago, I was his and he was mine. There was a twist, so get that fairy tale out of your mind. We were eleven and twelve and barely glimpsed each other once a day, as we passed at the rink.
Yes, we are ice skaters. I used to skate singles, but that lasted about six months before I got sick of it. I quit for a while, but something drew me back. I used to think I was missing the sport itself, but now I know that it was only Karma, Fate, and Destiny screeching an inharmonic melody into my ear. I don’t want to want him.
Consequently, I returned to the rink, and went straight to skating pairs. We became partners. We aren’t anywhere near Olympic level, but we’re near the top of our division. Not quite high enough for people from school to know of our connection, however.
If you asked anyone at Oak Valley High whether I knew Jason Richmond, they would probably laugh. Though he ignores the entire population of our school point blank, they still consider him popular. I am simply infamous.
Jason grabs my hand and we breathe in deeply, getting ready for our skate. As every time, we meet each other’s eyes. It’s nearly become a ritual. We spend so much time avoiding one another’s gaze, so it’s ironic that, before a skate, it’s a good luck charm.
His dark eyes burn into me, and I know my icy green ones are doing the same to him. This is enough to send the nervous butterflies in my stomach into a frenzy.
“…Jason Richmond and Karissa Myers, Fire and Ice.”
We finished: our bodies, faces, and hands inches away from each other.
This routine was originally choreographed for us to end touching, but we both knew that we couldn’t handle that.
I always wonder if this is just a game in our minds—just a challenge back and forth to try to see who breaks first. I’ve broken. I know he has. We’re addicted… to each other or to winning. Our competitive spirits have brought us into compromising positions, such as a broken arm directly before Regionals (we were running together and he fell into a ditch) or tendonitis (girls cannot out-lift guys), but none of our struggles are as all encompassing and important as this mental fight for dominance.
My light blue skirt fluttered with the cool breeze inside the rink. I took the part of Ice, though we were both suited to it. My eyes traveled up to his and I nearly swooned. Here, at the end of our routines, I fall hardest. There’s something about that exhilarating exhaustion that lowers my guard and leaves me more vulnerable to him.
My gaze leaves his and drops to his broad shoulders as I attempt to look anywhere other than his beautiful eyes. He grabs my hands and together we bow.
We skate off the ice, and our coach nods to us. Jason nods back. I pretend to miss the recognition. Sometimes I wonder why I’m still in the sport. I hate my never-satisfied, never-speaking coach, and my partner and I cannot get along. I talk seriously to my mom about quitting nearly twice a week. I never do.
I see his captivating eyes and something stops me.
He has me imprisoned in an impenetrable fortress of stone. The funny thing is…he’s my prisoner as much as I am his. Both of us know it. Neither will give it up.
I twirl around and raise an eyebrow.
“Coach wants us to go eat.”
He made the mistake of looking into my eyes too long and almost tripped on the stairs. I smirked at him. “Simply genius idea. Personally, I was planning—“
He’s irritated with me. Good thing this is one of my disliking-him days. If it wasn’t, I’d be groveling and stuttering. I hate myself like that, but I can’t help it. He makes me into something I’ve never been, never felt, never known.
“Jason,” I mimic.
Oww. I just tripped. Maybe I shouldn’t have been amused at Jason’s stumble. Karma will always get you back.
He rolled his eyes at me and stalked down the stairs without stopping to help me up. So much for chivalry.
I struggled to my feet and limped after him. He’s standing in the concessions line, ordering two meals. ‘Wow, he eats a lot’ was my first thought, but then I realized he got me food too.
“You’re a hungry boy, aren’t you?” I say playfully.
He laughs at my antics, perceiving that I knew what he was doing. “Yes, I am, so get your paws off my meal.”
I grin back. Times like these remind me of why I fell for him at first. We were 13 and 14 when the game really went off. Three years later, nothing has changed. He would like me, and at the same time, I would hate him. Then we would both become indifferent. Then I would like him and he would hate me. Repeat.
There were times when we both liked each other, but those happened whenever he or I had a girlfriend or boyfriend. The person with the significant other would break it off, but, by then, the other would have moved on.
But we never really moved on. We keep running back to get what we can’t have. It doesn’t matter. Today I’m mad at what we’ve never had. He’s still captivating, but, for now, I’m over it.
Our relationship is a lie and a game—an endless labyrinth full of unfathomable mysteries. Our weapon of choice is the human brain. Our elusive prize? The heart.
I smile at Jason through gritted teeth and hand over three dollars to pay for my meal. He stops me.
“No, my treat. We should act like partners once in a while.”
I bite my lip, knowing where this is leading. Every significant skating competition has had us in our indifferent phase, but, apparently, that’s about to change.
I sat down on the bench Jason had led me to, mulling over what he had just said. Was it true we never acted like partners? In a way, we’re closer than most pairs. I know just how to get under his skin and he under mine. We can practically read each other’s minds and rarely need to communicate with words. Our practices are nearly painful in their silence. If our coach likes something, he will nod. If he doesn’t, he will shake his head and motion to our mistake.
Jason and I both have amazing body comprehension and memory, so we need not speculate on what our coach meant. If we’re saying things like “Wait, did he say left or right?” then we’re back in like. That’s the first and most obvious hint. When we suggest that we should do more together…that’s the serious sign.
“Jason…” I said cautiously.
He wasn’t listening. “Karissa, the spin we do at the end of the long program? What if we…?”
Jason was off in a world of careful calculations and meticulous maneuvers, someplace I couldn’t bring myself to follow. The sport was his life. It wasn’t mine.
I realize he was done hypothesizing and waiting for an answer. “That’s not a good idea. We have five hours until we skate. We’re not changing anything.” He was aggravating me, and I could tell that my harsh response hurt him.
“Oh.” He said softly.
I rolled my eyes and looked away. Someone caught me eye—Lara Chastain, Jason’s number one fan. For some reason, she seems to hate me. Perhaps I am jumping to conclusions, and her superior attitude is a façade that she uses with everyone, but she manages to pull me off balance.
Here she comes.
“Hey Jason! Hi Karissa.”
I’ll admit it, I judged her before I met her, but only to save myself the disappointment. She’s the pretty student council president who has a million responsibilities, and still makes time to be a cheerleader. Straight A’s in honors classes, but no clue what life is really about. Everything is a perfectly planned out, painstaking, and detailed process of complicated tactics and facets. She met me…and got a reality check. Life will throw things at you. You can’t map it out.
I’m sure she’s better than I make her out to be, but I find it easier to lump her in that stereotype. Unfortunately, we have had a few nearly profound conversations, and it’s getting harder and harder to think of her as uptight and snobby.
“Lara! Why don’t you stay here and I’ll go—” I began to say, desperate to leave my bipolar partner.
Lara looks at me. “Actually, I came here to talk to you.”
I raise an eyebrow, mildly interested. Our last conversation enters my mind—she was annoying me so much that I went off on a tangent about doing what you want and living your own life. Maybe it touched her. We step away from Jason.
She sighed heavily, flicking her dark hair out of her eyes. “He loves you, you love him. You’re stubborn pigs who won’t admit it to anyone. Don’t you want him? Take your own advice. You may think you’re so much better than me, cuz I’m boxed in by responsibilities and superficiality, but you have the same basic choices as me.”
I look at her disbelievingly. “Lara…there’s no way you just said that to me.” I couldn’t comprehend the words of the girl in front of me. “You don’t understand the implications for me and Jason. It’s like giving up. Right now, I’m ahead. I don’t like to lose.”
She shrugged and glanced at the clock. “It’s your life. I may not have a grasp on the intricacies of life, but I know about boys.”
“You don’t understand. I would lose! Fail. Not succeed. I don’t know if you’ve ever lost…then again, you’ve never had any competition…but things are different for me.” I know Lara understands, but it’s one thing to know in your head and quite another to know in your heart.
“Difference is in your perspective.” She gave a wry laugh. We had a debate on just this topic the other day. I don’t agree with her. “Look, I have to go. See you.”
I yanked my brown hair back and glared after her. It IS my life. But she’s right. I’m too smart to let my pride blind me.
I feel his eyes in my back and turn.
A smile pulls the corners of my lips as I meet his eyes.
Maybe being with him wouldn’t be too bad.
He grins back, and I walk toward him.
Maybe I could lose, just this once.
I offer him my hand, and he takes it, a question in his eyes.

Maybe it really wouldn’t be losing.

I nod.

Maybe this time, we can both win.

“You win,” he whispers.

Maybe this will mark the end of our fights.

“No,” I answer, “you do.”

Maybe some things never will change.

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