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Star Wars in English Class
You're standing in front of me and your hair is on fire.
It’s cliché, I know, but that’s the only way I know to describe it. It's almost scarlet and you're hurling words at me like stones. Because you think that I’m insufferable, rude, annoying. I stand there and let you, because I know that this time, at least, I did something to deserve it. And I didn’t mean to, I swear, but I couldn’t have known he was going to say that to you, because you were his best friend, and nobody says things like that to their friends. I stare at the ground because I can’t bear to see the look on your face, and there’s a crushed flower under your shoe and a papercut on your middle finger.
When you see me looking at the finger you hold it up in front of me, and I know that it's not to show me the cut.
I wonder, sometimes, if there’s any way the story could have gone differently. If it could have ended up as the routine boy meets girl, and girl dates boy. But this is me we’re talking about, and I suppose I never have had much luck with this sort of thing.
So I’m stuck with a fire-girl cursing my very existence instead, no matter how much I wish you wouldn’t.
People aren’t meant to burn, but you manage to do it anyway. You manage to fling fireballs and escape unscathed, while leaving me outside in flames.
Fire turns things to ashes, which is what I’d very much like to become, at the moment. Turn to a pile of ash to escape everything I managed to screw up even worse than it already was. Because words have power, and words are all we ever use in this twisting mess of our relationship. Words burn like flames. Flames burn paper. Paper holds words.
Ironic, isn’t it, that your very existence has the power to burn your weapon of choice?
On the last day of school, I finally manage to corner you and end up spending almost three minutes trying to tell you how sorry I am. You stare at me, then push past me saying nothing.
My friends spend the summer telling me that of course she can’t still be mad at you, it happened ages ago, and besides, how could anybody have known what he was going to say? as I stuff my face with Cheetos. But I know better, because when Layla O’Brian took the last plate of mac and cheese in the cafeteria last year, you didn’t speak to her for almost three hours (you broke during history, when the teacher told us about the Oath of the Tennis Court, and the two of you stared at each other for a moment, then broke out laughing).
I text you three times in August, asking you to please forgive me, and saying that I really would like to be friends with you, or at least be on speaking terms. You don’t respond.
And then school starts, and you’re in my English class, and the teacher is going to give us assigned seats. And before I can blink, she’s calling out “Luke Jaron and Mila Kailer,” and pointing to a desk in the middle of the second row.
So that means you have to sit next to me, and I don’t know if I can make it through the year with you silently glaring at me and refusing to listen to anything I say.
You sit down, pull out a notebook, then start digging through your bag. When the teacher starts class, you’re still looking for something, and you eventually close your backpack, stare at the blank page in front of you dejectedly and then up at the notes that are beginning to get written on the board, then back down again.
“Here,” I whisper, sliding a pencil across the desk to you.
You look at it for a second. “Thanks,” you mumble. When you return it after class, half of the eraser has been sanded off and there’s a garden blooming around the edges of your notes.
Two weeks later, you text me to ask if I know what pages we have to read for homework, and I think that there’s something wrong with me, because I’m grinning at my phone like a lunatic even though I know that you probably wouldn’t have asked me if any of your friends had known the answer.
The day before Columbus Day weekend, half of the class isn’t there, so we watch Star Wars in English. You let out a little squeal when the opening credits start to play, and then cover your mouth with your hands.
I look over at you, wondering why you’re so excited.
“Sorry,” you say, grinning. “I just really love this movie.”
“You know,” I say, trying to ignore the fact that oh my god you’re smiling at me, “I’ve never seen it.”
You look horrified.
“I’m sorry,” you say. “What was that? I don’t think I heard you correctly.”
“I’ve never seen it.”
“How? How have you never seen the wonder that is Star Wars?”
“I don’t know, it just never looked that good to me.”
“I’m trying so hard not to start yelling at you right now.” You point a pencil at me. “If after we watch this today, you tell me you don’t like it, I’m going to get you sent to a mental institution.”
“That seems a little extreme, don’t you think?”
You open your mouth to respond, then look over at the movie. “Stop talking,” you say. “It’s starting.”
I think this is my new favorite class.
My brain is currently an ocean of jumbled thoughts and half-baked theories, and I don’t know what to do. Because you and I had a decent, normal conversation, and nobody ended up yelling or screaming or storming away.
Please don’t still be mad at me. I like this new development in our relationship more than I’ll ever admit.
It’s October tenth, and time to do something incredibly stupid.
“I have a question,” I say, sitting down in my chair in English.
“Are you still mad at me about what happened last year?”
You take a sip from your water bottle, tilting your head slightly to the side, and my heart is pounding in my chest because you’re taking such a long time to respond and I can feel my hands twitching at my sides and my heartbeat won’t slow down.
You swallow. “Not anymore.”
Relief is seeping through my veins and it’s such a dizzying, amazing feeling that I almost miss you say, “I’ve sort of accepted that it wasn’t your fault, you know? Everyone keeps telling me that you didn’t think that Jackson would be able to hear you, and he probably would’ve found out about the dinner anyway. I had known that by not inviting him it was basically baiting him to do say something awful, but I did it anyway, so it’s more on me, than anything.”
My heartbeat slows back to normal. “Oh thank god,” I say, slumping backwards against the back of my chair. “And I have no idea why you think that it was your fault. The only thing you did wrong was becoming friends with him in the first place.”
“Thanks,” you say quietly, looking down at the desk and running your finger across the scratches on top.
Neither of us say anything for a few moments, and then I figure that since I’ve already had a stupid idea pay off today, I might as well do it again. So I gather up my courage and grin, sunshine bright. “So, I’ve been thinking,” I say. “We should be friends.”
You choke on your sip of water. “What?”
“We should be friends.”
“Just think about it. You hate Jackson, and Jackson hates me. So basically, becoming friends with me would be the ultimate revenge on him.”
“I wouldn’t call that revenge, exactly, but you might be onto something there.”
“Please? If you say yes I’ll finish the Star Wars movie that we started in class.”
You sigh, staring up at the ceiling, clearly debating what to do, and eventually say, “Watch all the movies in the series, and you have a deal.”
Needless to say, I don’t make any plans for the weekend. I text you at three in the morning on Sunday, telling you to say hello to your newest friend.
You text back “yay,” and I respond telling you that I’m disappointed with your lack of enthusiasm, even though I’m currently in the mental state of a preschooler at Disney World who’s about to meet their favorite Disney Princess for the first time.
I sit down next to you at lunch that Monday.
You turn to me, and say flatly, “Oh, so this friendship thing includes sitting together at lunch now?”
I grin. “I’m afraid so.
You shift in your seat to grab fries from one of your friends across the table from you, and I’m suddenly very distracted by the fact that your leg is touching mine.
“Anyway,” I say, my voice cracking a bit, “What did you get for the last question on the quiz?”
“It foreshadows his family leaving him.”
“Good, because I wrote that too and I never actually finished reading the chapter.”
You sigh. “You’re an idiot.”
“I know.” I swing my bag onto my shoulder and slide out of my seat. “See you tomorrow.”
“Unfortunately,” you mumble.
“What was that?”
You smile innocently. “Nothing. Have a great day.”
There’s a chorus of whispering behind me as I walk away, and I can hear you say, “Shut up, guys, he can probably still hear you.”
I can’t make out what you say after that, although I’d really like to know.
Here’s my problem: I might have a little bit of a massive crush on you.
And it’s not just that you’re pretty, even though you are. Pretty, I mean. But you’re also smart and funny and are so weirdly obsessed with Star Wars.
Sometimes when I’m with you, I can feel my heart trying to escape from beyond my ribs and I have to sit on my hands to prevent myself from doing something stupid.
I want to tell you, but I don’t know how. Because you’re you.
And I’m me.
And people like you don’t like people like me.
You get a boyfriend in November, and I can feel something thick and poisonous dripping down my spine and into my bones.
I pass you while you’re standing with him in the hallway, and when you see me in class, you ask, “Are you okay? You looked kind of sick in the hall.”
“Yeah, I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be?”
(I’m not, though. Not at all.)
I see him kiss you by the lockers one day, and I want to slap the grin right off of his face and onto the floor.
About a month later, you don’t show up to class, and when the teacher sends me to go look for you, I find you in the corner of the auditorium. You’re crying, and I want to throttle whoever made you this upset.
“Hey,” I whisper. “What’s wrong?”
“He broke up with me,” you hiccup. “And he didn’t even have the decency to do it in person and god, what’s wrong with me? Why did I think that anybody would actually want to date me?”
There’s a vicious surge of triumph coursing through me, which I squash down, disgusted with myself for the little voice in my head whispering yes yes yes, because what sort of person am I if I’m actually glad about something that’s making you look like you’re about to shatter into a million pieces?
“He’s an idiot, you know,” I say. “Seriously. Anybody that doesn’t want to date you has some major issues.”
I don’t think that you believe me, because you start crying harder, if anything. And for the life of me, I can’t seem to figure out why.
You look better the next day, even though I know that you’re probably still upset, and you give me a small smile when you pass me in the hallway.
“I know,” I hear you whisper, “But he’s just so-”
When you see me walking towards you, you cut off abruptly, say something to your friend too quietly for me to hear, then turn to me and say, “Ready for the quiz today?”
“Not at all. Are you?”
You grin. “Nope.”
“Good," I say. "Maybe this time I’ll actually beat you,” even though I know that's never going to happen.
“No, not really.”
“Five dollars. May the best man win.”
You pull your friend down the hall, laughing, and I’m still standing by your locker when you glance back. When you see me there, you quickly turn away.
You beat me by three points on the quiz, and you triumphantly slap it down in front of me at lunch that day.
“You owe me five dollars.”
“I never actually, agreed to that, you know,” I say.
“Well, you never disagreed either.”
My brain starts whirling and my stomach is twisting and I know that I’m going to regret whatever I say next, and-
“I’ll make you a counteroffer,” I blurt out, before I can stop myself. “Instead of giving you the money, I’ll use it to buy you a ticket to a movie.”
The moment it leaves my mouth, I can feel the heat crawling up my face, and I inwardly slap myself. Smooth. Real smooth.
I’d like to flee to a foreign country, now, please.
But after a couple seconds you say, “Okay. Text me when you’re free,” and then you walk away.
This might be the single greatest moment of my life.
I honestly think that I’m about to spontaneously combust from happiness. Because you said yes you said yes you said yes.
And it doesn’t matter that I didn’t even plan to ask you.
Because you agreed.
I think that right now, if you told me that you were the person who hung the moon in the sky every night, I would believe you.
I think I would believe anything you say.
You meet me in front of the movie theater three days later.
“Hi,” I say, grinning. “Do you want to get popcorn?”
You smile back at me. “Of course I do. What kind of person doesn’t want popcorn at the movies?”