“You’re quiet. What are you thinking about?”
Andy and I lay on the grass, holding hands, as we gazed up at this dark, vast canopy sprinkled with millions of diamond lights. So mesmerized was I by the sight of it, my voice took on a dreamy tone when I answered him.
“I was thinking back to when we first met.”
“I remember it very well,” Andy said. “We had an English class together, and I also remember you had gotten in a fight with Darcy Wellington, and I rushed over to see if you were okay.”
Caring Andy, protective from the beginning.
In the one and only class that we had together, his eyes always seemed to find mine before quickly dancing away. This unexpected locking of eyes stirred my curiosity. Was there something going on here? Or was I probing the innocent gesture for more than what it was – just two people who happened to catch each other’s direction at the same time? The third time it happened, I needed to find a way to talk to him.
I was about to get my chance.
In English class, Mrs. Yagnesh (I still remember her name) often shuffled us into groups, allowing us to pick who we wanted to work with. Of course, everyone rushed to be with their friends, so the same people were always together. Not this time. After banishing students from other groups, including Fiona, Darcy’s side-kick, her focus fell on me.
“Melanie, you will join Andy’s group.” She said something else, but by then my hearing had gone fuzzy. He welcomed me with a perfect smile and even offered me a seat. Still, I knew to proceed with caution, judging by the flaming stares that Fiona shot out when I caught her eye. I didn’t even really know for sure if he and Darcy were a thing since she was always hanging around.
Two weeks later, when Andy suggested we meet outside of class to work on our homework, I got a chance to ask him the big question – sort of. Over fruity teas and muffins, our conversation pivoted to many topics, circling back to school and our friends.
“I have my main friends that I hang out with; a couple I’ve known since middle school,” I said proudly.
He laughed. “I don’t know anyone from middle school anymore. But I have my main gang too, and they’re pretty cool.”
“I’ve noticed even Darcy sitting with you guys at lunchtime. I guess she is one of your good friends?” l looked down into my glass sipping slowly, anticipating his comeback.
He put his glass down, giving me his full attention. “If you’re asking me if Darcy is my girl, she is definitely NOT.”
Relief cloaked me like a big, fluffy comforter, and right then, I wanted to bring him to me in a thankful hug, but I think I would probably have scared him away. Instead, I simply said, “Oh, okay.”
We met more and more often, our friendship deepening beyond English homework. One morning a single red rose had been taped on the front of my locker door. When I opened it, a cotton-candy pink envelope greeted me. My heart danced as I hurriedly opened it, and pulled out a matching pink sheet of paper. I had five minutes to get to class, not a whole lot of time, but I just had to read it now. I just made it past the third sentence when a familiar voice pierced the air.
“So, who gave you that?” Darcy obviously spotted my flower that was still on the door.
“Wouldn’t you like to know,” I shot back, attempting to pry the tape off.
“I think I can guess,” she retorted, turning her grey gaze framed by those fake long lashes, on me. I suddenly felt something at my hand.
“Oh, and what is this?” Fiona chimed in snatching my letter, causing the envelope that I was still holding, to flutter to the ground like a delicate little bird. Being late for my class was suddenly not a priority, and by the attention, the three of us were drawing from other students passing by, it wasn’t theirs either.
“Hey, give it back!” I screeched, lunging towards her, but she stepped back fast. Darcy immediately at her side, now holding my precious flower, twirling it around in hands that could at any moment do something horrible. She laughed at my awkward attempt to snatch it away from her.
“I guess it’s mine now,” she taunted and held it close to her heart.
No way was I going to let her have it. Just because something found its way in your possession didn’t mean it now truly belonged to you. This time I grabbed her wrist with both hands, tightening with enhanced strength. By now several students hovered close by for the show.
“Drop it! Let it go!” I commanded forcefully.
“No, this was meant for me, not you!” she hissed, trying to pull away, then in retaliation, she shoved me to the ground. Somebody laughed. It sounded like Fiona, yet she stayed back.
Still down on the floor, I massaged my aching shoulder. Darcy appeared again, towering over me, then she crouched down getting close to my ear.
“Stay away from him,” she whispered.
“Or else what?” I challenged, standing up. “I’m not afraid of you.”
“You should be,” she warned. The flower fell away from her hand, as wild anger took control, for she suddenly grasped me by the shoulders and slammed my back up against a locker. My head jerked bringing on dizziness that felt like the room was spinning, and my back felt like a huge fist just pounded on it. Shaken, but not defeated, I yanked her hands from me and we wrestled to the ground.
“How do you like this?” she sneered, clutching my hair. I howled with every tug, the pain intensifying my already throbbing headache.
“What is going on here?!” An authoritative voice shouted in the distance. Somebody must have alerted a teacher.
I laid right there in the hallway with my eyes closed.
“Melanie, are you all right?” This was another voice, a gentle voice. Familiar…
As we continued star-gazing, I gave Andy's hand an extra squeeze. “I was definitely alright once you appeared,” I whispered.