|Eyes Like a Stormy Sea
Author: Nanumi PM
"I'm still unsure as to whether I cajoled him into letting me make him up in my cosmetics or whether he was a willing participant; I do remember that it turned his sweet, plump face into something more feral – an innocent perversion of faux femininity – and that it struck an odd chord somewhere deep within me." Speculative fiction about feral teenagers in a plastic world.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Angst - Chapters: 2 - Words: 4,577 - Reviews: 4 - Updated: 06-15-12 - Published: 05-25-12 - id: 3025825
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Split the first chapter into two parts, as it seemed more fitting and combats the 'WALLOFTEXT' issue that I was having with proof-reading. As always, comments and critique are greatly appreciated.
He turned up in my English class that September. It was the usual back to school shtick; new stationary, new shoes, the brand-new shiny, freshly polished floors and lectures from all and sundry that this was "the most important year" of our "education", blah blah. The long marble-floored corridors of B building echoes with shouts and the squeak of rubber, the fluorescent lighting giving everyone a ghostly sheen; like jaundiced plague victims with their smallpox-like acne scars and freshly-shorn bad September haircuts. The workload, we were informed, would be "intense", but after the fall-through of the SATs the previous year, immediately after we'd sat what had been called "the most important exams" of our lives, we were sceptical at best, each of us rolling our eyes and muttering darkly to each other about "fucking exams" being "utter bullshit". I started the year with the same weather-beaten, graffitied blazer and burnt tie where I'd tried to iron it in a fit of decorum in first year; my hair was messy, poorly cut with blunt kitchen scissors, and dyed the same stark black that I had insisted on since the age of twelve. My boots, old and broken Bunker platforms, much beloved, had ever-widening holes in their soles that let the autumn rains seep in, soaking my feet to frozen lumps of marble day in, day out. When I first walked into English, everything seemed completely normal. Same brain-missing teacher with the mental power of a well-trained amoeba; same wonky desks with their lumpy underworld landscape of grey, hardened chewing gum; same ugly, pocked faces; same shit, different day. A very different day, as I would discover.
About ten minutes into the lesson, as the inane worm behind the big desk at the front tried in vain to get us to settle down, he walked in. Merrik. I did a double-take; seeing him in our school uniform was one of the most reality-challenging things that I have ever witnessed, but weirdly, it suited him to a T. I began to feel very strange; my realities were colliding in ways that I couldn't even begin to comprehend before my eyes, and all I could do was sit there gaping ('oh-so attractively') in pure bewilderment.
'How the hell has this happened?' my brain shrieked over and over in a hellish mental loop tape which bordered on sheer hysteria.
The teacher, Ms Cononley, gave him a cursory glance before imperiously and dismissively waving him to a vacant seat near the front, where no-one willingly sat due to her propensity to spit on the first three rows, due to her ugly, malformed braces. As for me, I had already taken care to take the very back far-left position in every class, as it gave me a brilliant vantage from which to avoid spitballs and keep a close eye on anyone trying to sneak up on me. This time, it came in handy for a different reason; it was a perfect spot from which to spy on Merrik sneakily. It wasn't even technically spying; he was simply in my line of vision. He was obviously waiting for and simultaneously dreading the formal, 'front of the class' introduction, and when it became clear that no such thing had a possibility of happening, he visibly relaxed a little and started to crane around surreptitiously, gauging the situation; what books to get out of his brand-new schoolbag, what to do, and of course, the sea of new faces.
At that moment, the pen I had been viciously fiddling with (smokers' habit) pinged out of my writhing fingers and onto the dank blue industrial carpet, and I dived beneath my desk to retrieve it. While I was down there, I suddenly became enormously interested in the archaic graffiti left behind my countless years of disillusioned students; their crudely carved hearts and misspelled swears, decades of pent-up boredom, apathy and teenage intensity of emotion that could only be conveyed through these cavemanesque marks. I crouched below the desk like a little goblin for longer than perhaps strictly necessary, and when I decided to re-emerge the lesson was in full swing and he was facing the front, the only student in the class apparently taking notes. Exhaling a breath which I hadn't realised that I was holding, I tore a double page out of my brand-new exercise book and began to doodle. The next thing I knew, the bell had rung, and a stampede of eager, freshly-free feet raced as a swarm for the wood and glass-panelled door, greasy fingers wrenching at the catch in their desperation for sweet escape from the child-teacher and her metallic, grating voice. Packing my books into my old purple velvet bag which I had customised with a plethora of spikes, safety-pins and chains the year before, I swung out of my chair and loped to the door with the rest of the herd.
After that, I didn't see him for a while. I sat through my History and French classes in my usual disconnected haze, doing the minimum amount of work required to pass, doodling and penning poems in the margins of my books and hiding behind my hooded sweater with my earphones in, listening to Black Sabbath and The Stones while my peers talked boys, shoes and drunken nights out. It was a lacklustre time, and I was sick to the point of sheer apathy at the generic taunts and catcalls of the other students. However, I'd promised myself that this year would be different; this year I would try to rekindle my broken friendships with my old crowd; this year I would Be Something and Do Something 'worthwhile'. Unluckily for me, their sheer distaste was subtly implied by their cool greetings and awkward silences, and it was enough to get the message through loud and clear; by the second week I was back to hiding the library, getting lost in the fiction and art sections while everyone else made 'such good friends' with each other, swapping numbers, gossip and anecdotes about 'going all the way', something that was rather old hat to me by that point.
'Fuck 'em,' I thought. 'Who needs friends?'
In the confused sensory jungle of hazy back-to-school 'special' lessons, tutor periods and assemblies, I drifted through with too many days off 'sick', too many extra-curricular hangovers from vodka, pot and opium in my veins, and I didn't manage to actually attend an art lesson until we were about a month into the Autumn term. Although I'd consistently attempted to bore holes in the back of Merrik's skull with my laser-beam stare in the English lessons that I had bothered to show up for during the first week or so, the lack of any sort of response had led me to assume that he was either blissfully unaware of the fact that I went to this school, or, as I more keenly suspected, he was perfectly aware and was happy to go his own way.
'After all,' I reasoned, 'who'd want some me anywhere near them? The rules of hierarchy and camaraderie are suspended for summer; I know that. He's obviously got the social pecking order sussed pretty quickly – and it's pretty clear I'm at the bottom of it.'
Of course, rumours had been circulating, and I was partial to most of them. There were the blatantly obvious facts that simply weren't gossip-worthy at all; that he'd moved down from Scotland (duh); that he'd left his previous school under unspoken circumstances, (which added a certain frisson of mystery for most who were partial to the back-biting chatter), and then there were the crap yet predictable ones; he was gay; he was gender-queer; that he fucked dolphins. I paid more attention to them than I'd like to admit, yet with a kind of morbid fascination that seemed to fly over the heads of everyone else. It was curious; when we'd met only a few months previously, speaking to him had been as easy as breathing, but now, within the confines of the monstrous green fence topped with spikes and barbed wire which surrounded the school, I felt shy and almost afraid of daring to seek out conversation with him.
It was sometime near Halloween, a blustery, cold October that had seen the leaves wrenched cruelly from the trees and strewn haphazardly over the yawning expanse of field in one gale-wrought night, and I was skipping PE by hiding in the library again. From the long, barred windows I could see my peers shivering in their rolled-up gym skirts and jumpers running laps on the football pitch, with their legs, even from my considerable distance, turning a perceptible shade of pale blue. I counted myself lucky and went back to my book, crouched in the alcove that also fortunately housed the one working radiator, turning page after page as my stolen two hours of privacy dripped away. Glancing up at the clock and then back out of the window, I noticed that the boys' group had also joined the melee on the freezing pitch, playing their usual rugby or football, muddy arms and legs a smattering of blotchy pink on the white frostbitten grass. Merrik was not among them, and I was idly wondering whether he too had found some ingenious method of skipping that curriculum-sanctioned torture when I noticed a shadow loom over my hiding place. I speedily shuffled further back into its gloomy recesses, anticipating the kindly yet insistent remonstrations of the librarian, who had pointedly sent me back to lessons upon discovering me lurking here on many previous occasions. I flipped my hood up and drew my knees to my chest, hoping desperately that my sanctuary wouldn't be torn away from me with still an hour and a half to go until my next lesson. It was then that I noticed the shoes; crepe-soled creepers, with black and white chequered pleather.
"Nami? You go to school here?" Merrik said, much too loudly, breaking the silence that had fallen over the library in the absence of the pathetically eagerly incessant squeaks and shrieks of the break and lunch-time swarm of first years.
"Shut up! You'll get us both kicked out, you idiot!" I hissed through my teeth, my stomach suddenly dropping like when you miss a step in the dark and your foot plummets into nothingness for a split second. Hastily dragging him into the alcove, I peeked out with trepidation to check that no-one had been alerted by his indiscreet exclamation. Luckily, the librarian was nowhere to be seen, and I knew that the support assistants whose offices were directly next to us always went for a 'liquid lunch' down at the local pub. The coast was clear.
"What the hell are you doing here?" I whispered, unnecessarily, "This is my spot."
"Didn't realise you owned the rights to the place," he retorted with a quick grin, speaking more quietly this time, "I'm dodging PE, that coach is a sadistic freak if I ever saw one. Have you been outside today? Doubt that lot'll have any balls left by the time they're done."
"If they had any to begin with!" I giggled delightedly, forgetting to keep quiet for a moment before clapping a hand over my mouth to stifle my mirth. Although the alcove in which we were crouched was fairly spacious, when one takes into account our tatty schoolbags, crammed with books, and allowing for ample hiding space, it had suddenly become rather cramped. The only way we could both fit resulted in us being curled up like human pretzels; a situation that we seemed to both find rather awkward, to say the least. My heart was pounding in an uneven staccato, and I was sure that my face was a lurid shade of pink; luckily, in the relative gloom, I doubted that he could tell. However, I could still dimly make out his features; two months had augmented his face a little from how I remembered it from summer. His nose had lengthened and straightened marginally, giving him a more reserved appearance; but his eyes were as I remembered them, with their indigo hue of stormy seas, and crinkling at the corners when he smiled. He was wearing his lopsided signature grin, hunched in an awkward crouch that betrayed a growth spurt – we had been the same height when we'd last met, and whereas now I could fit into the cubby-hole quite comfortably, he was clearly having a little more difficulty cramming himself into the restricted space. I saw no point in small-talk; after all, I had wasted weeks thinking that he was ignoring me purposefully, while burning with curiosity that no amount of Chinese-whisper gossip could satisfy. 'Better jump straight in' I considered, 'than to lose my nerve later on.'
"You're here! When, how and why?"
"Dad got transferred, inter-company thing, it all happened pretty quickly, too – I didn't ask too many questions to be honest. Honestly, I was just glad to get away from Elgin!"
That drew a small snort of agreement from me; I had visited that drab, miserable town the year before on a reciprocal New Years visit to the Claytons, and it had utterly failed to impress me. Touted as a city because of a combination of hosting both a Tesco supermarket and a cathedral, the washed-out, lacklustre grey tint of the buildings and inhabitants alike had been depressing beyond belief. I wasn't surprised at all that almost any teenager would rather be almost anywhere but stuck in that miserable little backwater, and said so in as many words. His response of quiet, prolonged laughter, muffled by the sleeve of our hideous regulation-uniform maroon blazer sleeve was enough to give me a twinge of the strange emotion that I had felt so keenly over the Claytons' summer visit. My fingers started to tingle a little, and I pulled out a spring which I had stolen from one of the science labs and started to untwist it querulously, concentrating on the mechanical task of manipulating the thin wire into a straight length whilst trying to breathe steadily. The urge to touch his face, hovering so close to mine, was unbearable; without realising I was doing so, I rose to flee, fast enough and with my customary disregard of spatial awareness, the result of which being that I hit my head hard on the top of the enclave, and my vision exploded into a myriad of swirling silver dots. Then everything went black, and the world before my eyes reduced to a pinprick of light like switching off a television screen.