The gaze of two soulful black eyes, shining with the borrowed light of a thousand galaxies, meet mine. Indescribable electricity sparks every branch of every nerve in me, and I can't move. I can't even tear myself away from those starry eyes long enough to notice anything else beautiful about her. Hell, I hadn't even known of this woman's existence until I saw her eyes, despite her seating placement having been directly in front of mine for the past semester.
Unintentional rejection spares me no mercy as realization floods into me, like water into a submarine with a leak, forcing out all the hope and wonder and replacing it with the retched waters of reality. She isn't returning my awestruck gaze. Her stare somehow stops just before me, as if there's some entity unknown to me, but visible only to her.
The lecturer drones on and on, and though the urgency in his voice made it evident that he was covering an important topic, his voice falls on deaf ears. I'm still looking at the girl in front of me, who has twisted herself around in her seat so her eyes could follow whatever it was she was looking at. I look at her face, laden with acne and splotches of barely-there pink blurring together with the occasional revealed base of pale, freckled white. Light brown hair hanging just below her hips, straight and proper. She isn't wearing any makeup, but she doesn't need to. This girl is too beautiful to cover herself up with such a barrier, hiding her natural beauty away under the thick cover of various powders and creams.
Finally, the girl turns around, though still abstains from paying attention from the professor, as do I. While I am intently watching her, she glances at her notebook, opened up to a blank page, already set out on her desk as preparation for taking notes. It seems she hasn't done so, however. She picks up a pencil and touches its tip to the paper. She makes precise, light sketching motions. The motions weren't the halfhearted kind you'd expect a student to make when doodling in the corner of a hard test or a concept they couldn't wrap their mind around as a form of procrastination. They're the wide, flowing kind that move the entire arm, with such coordination it might have counted as a new type of easy-to-learn and hard-to-master dance.
I crane my neck to try and see what she is drawing. From the little I can see, in incompletion and obstruction of view of the girl's notebook, there's a messily drawn room, heavily resembling the classroom we sit in now, with rows and rows of desks. There's a black, hunched over figure with short, blunt fingers tenting as it wanders between the aforementioned objects.
I furrow my eyebrows, fixed on her and what she was drawing with such an intensity that I'm surprised she didn't turn around and slap me for staring like it was a crime. I wouldn't actually expect anything so hostile or accusatory of such a fragile, beautiful person like her, though. It occurred to me how oblivious she was being, or at least how good at ignoring people she was. Even the lecturer spotted me.
"Miss Torres, perhaps you would get better grades if you payed as much attention to the lesson as you are doing to Miss Cooper's doodles," the teacher, Mr. Kondre who I had never really cared for, snaps his fingers twice, in quick succession. To my horror, he turns his criticisms on the girl. "Well, Miss Cooper, you seem to be so invested in your drawings that they must be relating to the subject, yes? Come up here and show the page you were just drawing on to the class."
The girl turns around for just a second, her eyes full of betrayal and hurt, despite probably being unaware of my existence prior to this. It's impossible to get lost in her eyes when even that little, sad look can send my heart pitifully pounding in my chest. She's a smart one, she doesn't argue with Mr. Kondre. That would only make whatever punishment she'd have to serve worse. I can see her visibly shudder as she shuffles to the front of the room, hair swaying as she clutches the notebook to her chest.
Mr. Kondre takes the book from her and looks at the sketch. He frowns and looks at the girl for elaboration, not yet showing the rest of my classmates, some of which are still taking notes, looking at me, or looking at the teacher. The girl leans up to whisper something to him, sheepishly and shyly. Color drains from his face and he closes the notebook, handing it back to her. "You are dismissed for now, you can borrow notes from a classmate, or come see me later and I'll fill you in."
The girl trots back up to her desk, stacking up books and casting me a sideways glance. She bites her lip, clenching her fists into balls, appearing to be nearing the edge of tears. I can see her wince as the entire class lifts up their heads to look at her, as if it brought her pain. I silently mouth out, "I'm so sorry," but she looks away.
The class's eyes are still on her as she stiffly, however hurriedly, exits the classroom, staring at the floor. Mr. Kondre does his best to carry on with the lesson, and it has much effect on everyone but me. Guilt washes over me, despite not having done something worthy of it. Simply made a mistake.
The rest of class is tediously long, despite the remnants only being around ten minutes. I stuff my books into my backpack with little regard for their condition. I want to get out of here as soon as possible, in case Mister Kondre decides I need a punishment. However, always the wise one, spots me and waves me over before I can escape out the door, just as the last flush of students vanish out it without me. "Don't think you're getting out of this, Torres. I need to speak with you about Miss Cooper."
I groan, apparently loud enough for him to hear, and he raises an eyebrow. "I just wanted to see what she was drawing, I didn't mean to get her in trouble, and I-"
Mister Kondre silences me by raising a hand. "That's not what I need to talk to you about. I'm not going to punish you, nor make it required you do something I ask of you. Miss Cooper, as I doubt you're aware of, is a different student."
It's my turn to be confused. "You say that like it's a bad thing. Is she doing really poorly in class? Or really well? What do you mean by 'different'?"
"I mean that she doesn't... she doesn't have the same mental state as you and I. Though apparently stable, she's told me that she's been diagnosed with schizophrenia." My eyes go wide, but I say nothing, waiting for elaboration. "Which, in case you were unaware, is a condition characterized by delusions and hallucinations."
I finally get up the nerve to respond. "Why are you telling me this? I didn't know, I wasn't trying to be rude or make her uncomfortable, I swear. I just wanted to see what she was drawing..."
"I know, you've stated that before," my teacher rolls his eyes and lifts a hand to silence me. "Anyway, I'm not an expert on psychology. I'm a physics professor. But in the little that I do know, is that bad experiences may make her think badly of certain things. Negatively associate them, I mean, worse than people without her condition do. I don't want that to happen with this class, and especially not with social interaction. I want you to give her a written apology, explaining what you did and why, and saying you're sorry for getting her in trouble. It won't reflect poorly on your academic grades whether you do it or not, but it will certainly effect the way that both of us think of you. It would definitely be the most mature thing to do."
I nod. "Yeah, it would. I'll get started on it soon and give it to her tomorrow," I acknowledge that however awkward it may be, it would give me a chance just to see her face-to-face again. Maybe even talk to her. My heart flutters.
"Oh no you don't. I've read your essays written for homework, and I'm not entrusting you with something that could make or break Miss Cooper's opinion of this class, or people, for that matter. Sit down and wait for me to compose one for you."
I grin. "You have that little faith in me and my writing?"
"Fine, fine..." I sigh and drop my book bag beside some desk towards the front of the room as Mister Kondre starts writing something on a piece of paper. I could be doing my homework, but with a job lined up as a professional procrastinator, I just slump down and play with a thread that had broken loose from my shirt.
A part of me is dreading having to give an apology to the girl, but another part, one that suppresses the other when I'm not focusing on the negatives, is so excited it makes me want to cry. Maybe she'll actually look me in the eyes, or she'll smile at me- I imagine that must be dazzling- or her hand might even brush against mine as I hand her the paper.
"You've got that starry look in your eyes," Mr. Kondre doesn't even look up from what he was writing. "Like you're looking forward to something."
I'm broken out of my daze and I lift my head that was slumped to my chest. "Wha-? What makes you think that?"
"I already told you, your eyes have hazed over, yet still sparkle. And I believe I know why." He accidentally knocks his pen on the floor and leans down to get it. "You're going to attempt to court Miss Cooper, are you not?"
I practically choke on my own breath out of shock. "What the hell does that mean?! Court her?!"
It's no secret I favor women as romantic partners, despite being one myself. It's not like I've tried to play it down; and it's not like my constant blathering about girls I found quite aesthetically pleasing in... certain areas... was locking it in a bank of secrets. Just the fact that my teacher had pointed out that I found Miss Cooper attractive mortified me, made me realize that I did, in fact, want to pursue her. That is, if she doesn't run from me the moment I hand her the letter.
Mr. Kondre seems amused by my reaction. "I am quite surprised as well. Judging by your conversations with other students, I would have expected such a fragile, flat thing would be the opposite of your interests."
I rub the back of my head, uncomfortable with the feeling of his eyes on me and my cheeks flushing red. "Y-yeah..."
My teacher chuckles and turns his attention back to the letter. He sets his pen down and opens out one of the many cabinets in his desk, ruffles through various unorganized papers, and digs out an envelope. He checks inside for just a moment, and finding it to be empty, carefully folds the letter and slips it inside. He brushes a streak of salt and pepper hair from his eyes and tucks it behind his ear before handing the envelope to me.
"Do not lose this. Give it to her tomorrow, or if you see her earlier, then. Just..." He pinches the bridge of his nose, obviously very tired with having to think about my predicament again. "Just remember not to make her uncomfortable."
"I have heard I'm quite the charmer," I grin and snatch the letter from Mr. Kondre, my c***y attitude returning. "I'm out, see you!" Before he can say anything else, I've swept all of my books into my arms and practically vanished from the room, I was out the door so fast.
The hallways of the my college's pristine building are deserted, save for one or two stragglers doing homework or texting with their backs pressed against the walls while they sat comfortably on the tiled floor. I live off-campus in a tiny little home its original owners rented me for however long I wanted to stay in it and could afford it, pretty much, and have my own car, so I am in no hurry. While I walk, I shift my backpack so the actual bag is on my stomach, as opposed to my back. I dump everything in my arms in, with the exception of the letter, and zip it closed.
Some strange sixth sense alerts me to a stare from a few feet away. I look up. Miss Cooper is in the middle of the hallway, staring at me. The look in her eyes is a little bit nervous, a little bit confused. I realize that the confusion, at least, is probably because of my backpack set on the wrong side of me. I force a laugh awkwardly, and bashfully correct it.
The beautiful girl is not amused, nor disappointed with me. She scans me over, c***ing her head to the side. The confusion is no longer present, but a nervous kind of fear is now evident throughout her body, in her posture, her movements, her eyes. Every fiber of my being wants to calm that anxiousness, but I don't know how. All I do in response is manage a stupid smile and say the first thing that comes to mind, breath stolen away by the stars in her eyes.