The boy I like has dark hair, hazel eyes, and a nice tan. His voice is deep and melodic. The sound of it sends chills racing down my spine. My heart always skips a beat when I hear his voice in the hallway outside our classroom and know that he is about to walk inside.
I hear his voice in the hallway now and toss open a book on my desk, pretending to be busy. Pretending that I don't notice him as he strides into the room and slides into the chair next to mine. His cologne is light and subtle. I enjoy smelling it. It's soothing somehow.
I murmur an incoherent greeting, silently chiding myself. He smiles at me anyway, dimples appearing on both sides of his mouth. I look up at him from the corner of my eye lashes. His eyes are kind and playful, his smile genuine.
I return my stare to my book. It's stupid really. My mind isn't bothering to process the words on the page. Yet, I continue staring at the page while the words blur together due to the lack of attention I'm actually paying to them.
The trouble is that I can't make eye contact with the boy next to me. I can't make eye contact overly well with anyone really. That's part of the reason our teacher placed me in the seat beside him. Jake's personality is so laid back and accepting that our teachers tend to assign any students who are picked on or bullied to the seat next to him. He's nice to everyone. He is known for never having said anything unkind to or about anyone.
Few other students at our school have been bullied as much as I have. I'm shy to a ridiculous degree. Ridiculous in the sense that I am often ridiculed for my shyness... which of course makes the shyness worse. Such a vicious cycle.
What I experience is much deeper than introversion. I have trouble speaking even when I'm directly spoken to. I walk around staring at my shoes to avoid accidentally making eye contact with someone else.
I haven't made any friends at school since one would actually need to have some sort of conversation for a friendship to develop. I'm easy to pick on because my behavior is, quite frankly, very odd. What makes me an even easier target is that everyone knows I'll never tell anyone what someone says or does to me.
I have become so lost in my thoughts and focused on the boy next to me that it takes a while for me to realize the room has become silent. I glance up to find that the entire class is staring at me, including the teacher. My mind blanks as heat suffuses my cheeks.
“Miss Reed?” the teacher asks.
Role call. She is taking attendance. I need to say that I am present, but the words are lodged in my throat. The more they stare at me with bewildered expressions, the harder it is to speak.
“She's present.” All of the attention shifts to Jake as he leans back in his chair and nods toward me.
The teacher opens her mouth as if she might object, but she closes it again and marks in her book. “Fine. I'll accept that. Mr. Richardson, I suppose I will go ahead and mark you present as well since you have spoken for Miss Reed.”
Jake shrugs, and the class erupts with laughter. My shoulders relax now that all of the attention is officially off of me.
My gaze slides toward Jake surreptitiously again. I wish I could tell him I'm grateful. I wish I could tell him that school has become tolerable, even enjoyable, since our teacher placed me next to him.
Even though I never talk to him, I consider him my friend. From the way he treats me and happily carries on one-sided conversations with me, I wonder whether he considers me his friend, too. The other students haven't picked on me as much since I found myself seated next to him at the beginning of the year.
He is rather popular among some of the students though his status doesn't seem to have gone to his head. He is on the track team, in the band, and occasionally in theater. Everything he does, he does quite well. He has friends from each of his extracurricular activities and from each of his classes. His sense of humor and ready smile make him quite affable and well-liked.
He has defended me in the past. I have overheard other students calling me odd or weird. Sometimes they have said much worse. He was nearby during one such occasion. Instead of ignoring what was being said as I tried to, he stepped in and asked them to stop talking about me like I wasn't standing there.
Sometimes I wish I wasn't just someone he felt compelled to defend. I wish I could tell him how handsome and kind I find him. I wish I could tell him what a blessing he is to me. I wish I could tell him that I love him.
I will never tell him any of these things. After we graduate, I will probably never even see him again. He will never know how I feel about him. He will never feel the same way toward me because I cannot give him that chance. I can't speak to him. I can't interact normally with him.
Jake notices that I am watching him, and he winks at me while flashing those gorgeous dimples. A silent “you're welcome” for saving me when I couldn't speak. My heart melts. Then it aches and it breaks.
I wish I could behave normally with him. I wish that he could love me the way that I love him. I return my gaze to my book and continue pretending to read. Continue pretending that everything is fine in my silent, broken world.