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I don’t know why I even like him.
I mean, it’s absolutely obvious that he has absolutely no interest in me. I’m not what he wants, not what anyone wants. But as I sit here festering in my backless stool pushed up against the lab table, sneaking diagonal glances at him across the room, all I can think is that I unequivocally am still in love with him, and I have no idea why.
He’s smart I guess. I would never like a guy who wasn’t as smart as- or smarter than- me. But I don’t just fall head over heels for any guy with a high IQ. He’s cute, too, and he likes the same things I do. I can talk to him easily, and I want to be friends with him, at the least. But why would he ever want to be friends with me? I’m nothing, just a little speck on hiswindshield. He has plenty of girls he talks to, not just me. And I can’t help that I am so patently jealous when he leans over and speaks to the girl sitting next to him. I just simmer in my seat, wishing I didn’t like him, thinking up reasons I shouldn’t like him, but that only make me want him more.
Like, he’s a jerk. He basically told our whole math class that we were idiots, but I slightly agree with him. I think that, too. No one wants to learn as much as we do. We are the ones who go above everyone else, while they just sit staring, immobile. But we are the ones who run, who fly.
But we don’t fly together, and I wish we would. I wish he would just reach out one of these days, take my hand, and never let go.
She doesn’t even look at me.
I thought that we were starting to be friends, but now when I see her in the halls, her head just drops and she doesn’t even speak. I could open my mouth and say something, but I don’t. I’m too shy. And I have to go onto my next class, so I shouldn’t distract myself with thoughts of her. So as I sit in my science class, ignoring the teacher's daily lecture, I try to push all thoughts of her aside, and focus. But my head involuntarily turns to look at her, but her face is always tipped down, staring intently at her paper. She’s so different from other girls. Most people don’t care, but she does. I do, too. And I want to show her that we’re more alike than she even knows, and sometimes I can, but just when I’m getting close I push her away. I push everyone away. I’m mean. Things just slip out of my mouth I can’t control, things I should keep in my head. What if one day I go too far? What if one day I’m nothing to her, if I’m not already?
The bell rings and I jump from my seat, gather all my supplies and rush out to my locker. I know she’s right behind me, because she always wears a key necklace that jingles when she walks. I want to know what that key goes to. I want to know everything about her.
He’s already up out of his seat when the bell rings. He’s so fast, leaving from the classroom. I feel like I’ll never be able to catch him.
But I, too, gather my binder, various notebooks, and pencil case, and hurry up so I can follow him, maybe say something. But I know I won’t be able to catch him. By the time he’s in his next classroom, I will probably just be out the door.
I pass by his locker; watch him in his big grey sweatshirt he always wears. I tease him about it sometimes, but I actually like it. It’s his trademark. I want to reach out and hug him in his giant sweatshirt, curl up in those folds of fabric.
My mind’s frequent wandering has caused me to nearly run into someone. I back up and let them pass, but when I do, the person behind me pushes forward and I fall. Right in front of him. In his big grey sweatshirt. Lost in his dark chocolate eyes. Redness rises up my cheeks, but as a hand is lowered to my level, I feel better already. Nervously, I take it, and hold on as tight as I can.
She falls right in front of me. I hate to see her so fragile, so breakable when I know she is stronger than most. I want her to get up and brush herself off and just keep going, but when she doesn’t, a part of me automatically lowers my hand for her. But as her small hand perfectly fits inside my larger one, and her cool, smooth hand meets my warm, sweaty one, I am very thankful for that part of me. I help her up, and she stumbles into me, muttering a brief, “Sorry.” But I don’t care. I like how she fits in my arms, I like her hand on my chest. I like the key that dangles around her neck, the curly brown locks of her hair. I like how when she smiles she’s not afraid to show a mouth full of braces, and I like so many things about her that I will never end up telling her.
“Are you okay?” I ask, and help her gather up her books. She carries so many notebooks, and I finger quickly through the pages, wondering what they’re about, what goes on inside her mind. I could spend a whole day picking her brain and getting to know her. But I’m not as interesting. And I know she’s not interested.
I nod at him as he hands me the last of my books. There’s a redness remaining in my cheeks from when I stumbled into him. I feel like such a dork, running into him like that. What kind of person trips over flat ground anyway? I should be going anyway; I have to go right now.
“What does the key go to?” he asks just as I’m about to tear myself away. Automatically, my hand flies to the key that dangles right below my heart. How does he know just what to ask, I wonder. How does he know that it’s the question I’ve always wanted him to ask, the question I’ve fantasized him asking. I have it all planned out inside my head, but I know that I can’t expect that to happen. I know I have to set my expectations low, that nothing is going to happen the way I want it to. But still, without missing a beat, I answer confidently, “It goes to my heart.”
“Oh,” is all I can say. I wasn’t expecting the answer. Her heart. What lies under her confident surface? Is her heart guarded, secured, locked, and needs a key to be granted access to? Can I have that key; can I claim her heart as my own?
I step towards her and take a breath. This would be my chance, could be. But I don’t have enough guts to do anything about it. Even though the hallways have cleared, and it’s just her and me, I won’t say anything back, I’m not as bold as her. But maybe I have to be. Maybe I just need to take a chance, and leap.
A stray hair interrupts her smooth complexion. I place it behind her ear, and look her in the eyes. It feels like I’m on the edge of a rollercoaster, about to drop down and down and down. My heart's beating so wildly, I’m scared that I’m going to have a heart attack, but I know I can say it. I can. I can.
“Who’s allowed to have it?” It’s not a hard thing to say, but for some reason it has made my stomach roil in anticipation, and I’m anxious for her reply. After putting myself on the edge, I can’t know whether I’ll fall or fly.
My whole body shivers as he tucks a strand of my hair behind my ear. Everything inside me feels like a million caterpillars just crawled over it, and I don’t know whether I can say what I want to or not. He’s so perfect, saying smoothly all the things he’s supposed to. And now it’s my turn. I’m not as calm as him. I’m not confident at all, I want to tell him. I want to scream at him, “Kiss me now!” but I can’t. I’m too scared. And I want to tell him what I’m supposed to, what the movie playing inside my head would have said next, but it won’t come out.
I tell myself I have to. This is my chance. I’m never going to be this close again. This is the chance to make the dreams I envision in my sleep come true. So with a deep breath, I keep my eyes on him, and tell him, “You.”
And as soon as she says that, I can’t take it anymore. It’s like a million fireworks have been set off inside my body, all bursting with a million images of her: her laugh, her smile, her eyes. How different she is, how good it feels when Im around her. And this time I don’t hesitate. I step towards her, put my hand on her cheek, and close the distance between us. And it’s worth the wait.
He kisses me then. And as he holds me in his arms, and I curl my hard around the back of his neck, I can’t help but think that this is nothing like in my dreams. It's even better.