Spring: Chapter 5
Hello! After a LONG time, I'm finally back!
THANK YOU so much for the reviews! Today, as I was finishing up this chapter, I opened up my mail box, and saw a review from Grrl asking me to update, and I thought it was funny because I was going to update today. THANK YOU grrrl, for reminding me! ^.^ And THANK YOU to everyone else that updated and/or read my story!
Sorry for the long wait; I took my first AP last week, and I was freaking out and hyperventilating, and I couldn't think of anything but that for the longest time. The AP was for U.S. History, and I remember having to cram a lot to remember all the details. There were so many books and dates, and I was like AHHH until the test. All the seniors said that it wasn't too bad, but I was still freaking out nonetheless. And then I got to the test, and it wasn't THAT bad, but I'm still kinda nervous. I don't know how I did yet (I hope I get a 5) so I'll keep my fingers crossed. Anyways, I realize that that's no excuse, but please try to remember that I still suffer from the 'lazy bug,' (which is, again, no excuse…) and now I'm running out of pathetic excuses so I'll just get on with it ^_^ Please r&r!
Spring: Chapter 5
"Now, students, take a deep breath, and feel your paintings. Pretend that the paints are your soul, and the disparate hues are the emotions of your mind: anger, sorrow, love, hope. Be your painting. Live your painting. Breath your..."
And blah. And blah. (Insert more blahs here).
Ms. Steinberg a.k.a Miss Havisham of Great Expectations (picture an ugly, million year old woman who wears the same thing every day, sits next to a cake with cockroaches, and corrupts little children) had been talking about paintings for the majority of the class. She had insisted on total silence, and had prohibited anyone from touching their pastels while she was on top of her soap box, preaching to the world. She had even glared at a wayward student when he sneezed.
Picture a skinny woman with wrinkled skin, tiny, shrewd eyes, short stature, static snake hair that looks like Medusa gone awry, and you've got Ms. Steinberg. It would be all grand and wonderful if she were nice, but no, that's just beyond her.
I yawned, my fingers itching to touch an art supply without Ms. Steinberg screaming or popping an apoplectic blood vessel. For some reason beyond me, my mom had persisted that I take an art class to "enrich my horizons." Considering this was the same mother who ordered me to follow a million different religions while learning how to speak a million more languages, this wasn't too surprising. Thus, without fail, every Sunday, my mom chauffeured me downtown (which took approximately 2 hours; I timed it once in fifth grade) only to listen to someone that could be ten times older than my grandmother talk for one hour and fifty minutes. She would take the last ten minutes too, but then she wouldn't have time to "compliment" us on paintings, when, "surprise, surprise," our easels are empty, and there's NOTHING on white sheets of paper.
Now she's at it.
Ms. Steinberg (which sounds like an artistic name enough; just goes to show that you can't read books by their covers) is walking around, frowning at empty paintings, with nothing but blessed whiteness over whiteness. My eyelids are getting heavy, and I'm slipping from reality, elbows falling akimbo over the desk. Then my head is against the desk, and Ms. Steinberg has picked this oh, so providential opportunity to saunter over to my "workplace."
"Melfina, dear, where's your painting? I don't think you're getting its vibes, dear. Remember what I said earlier? You have to feel the painting. I understand that at times, the beauty of paintings come from the absence of color, but for that, you have to have some color, at least. Look at Josh's painting. Watch how the lights play over the colors; what a fine phenomenon!"
I shot Josh a peculiar look. He shrugged helplessly.
This was the lousy class that my mom was spending $50 a week on.
Wearing the confused expression of a native Algerian, who only knows Algerian, in a foreign country where the people speak Spanish, Chinese, English, every language but Algerian, I leaned over to witness the so-called phenomena that Ms. Steinberg was so excited about. Josh's picture was empty, except for one single tincture of yellow, which I suspect to be a falling speck of multi-colored dust. Ms. Steinberg was right about one thing; when I looked at the dot from a different angle, the speck appeared to be red, then green. Wait...with the light to the east, I could almost swear that the fleck was booger-colored (don't ask me how I know if something is booger-colored; let's just say that I baby-sit a lot for kids who enjoy unconventional habits).
Someone was laughing. At me. It was a guy at the back of the room, with blue eyes and a sly grin. He wore black pants, a white shirt, and a black leather jacket over the ensemble. About his leather jacket, I hoped it was faux, or else he would have hell to pay for. One thing I could not stand was people skinning horses for leather. He was one of those motorcycle guys. Grudgingly, I accepted that he was slightly, ok slightly didn't do him justice. He was handsome. But so what? Ms. Steinberg's much-esteemed Heathcliff was handsome, and he ended up hitting little girls to take their property. Glaring, I stood up, knocking the book that had been on my lap to the floor. With loud clutter, the book crashed to the floor. It was one of those mega-volume books that have the complete collection of Emily Bronte's work, including Wuthering Heights and all her sonnets and poems.
I was in for it. Not only did Ms. Steinburg not enjoy people reading in her class while she was "teaching," but she hated Emily Bronte. In Wuthering Heights, the some-what antagonist Heathcliff doesn't "get the girl," and he dies an ignoble death without his tragic love Catherine, who has died earlier from grief. This would be all well and fine, if Ms. Steinburg didn't happen to be in love with Heathcliff. To quote her famous words (known among frequent visitors of her art class; heaven knows why she has so many students) "Heathcliff is a brooding virtuoso of art. (Never mind that he doesn't do art) He is a symbol of tragedy, of love, of loss...now students, channel the energy of handsome Heathcliff, and paint your heart. Your soul is that of Heathcliff's, ruminating over his love over Catherine, his heart crying as his one and only marries that Linton, leaving him in darkness (never mind that he married Isabella for revenge) and caring for Catherine's child (um...yea, by using "violent means" to force her to marry his son so that he could own all the land). So, be your painting, be Heathcliff."
Yet, despite all this, she hates Emily Bronte for killing Heathcliff off. I suppose that she wanted Heathcliff to live forever like her, old and ugly, so that she could marry him.
I have one word to speak on this gloomy subject. Ew.
"Melfina, what is the meaning of this!" Ms. Steinberg was turning in interesting shade of red. "First, you're reading during my class. My class! (She has to repeat things to make sure that I understand; how sensitive) Next, you're reading Emily Bronte! You're reading Emily Bronte! You know how I feel about her! She's an unsophisticated, crude writer! Emily Bronte is an unsophisticated, crude writer! (At this point, I'm beginning to think that I'm hearing double). Look what she did to Heathcliff! Look! (Ms. Steinberg thrusts the book at me, as if it proves her point). Her mannerisms are anti-art! She destroyed my Heathcliff!"
"Heath Ledger was named after Heathcliff," I mumbled, offhand. Ms. Steinberg was not impressed.
"MTV is doing a special tribute to Wuthering Heights," I tried again. Obviously, Ms. Steinberg wasn't in on the big MTV scene, because she just stared at me like I was insane.
That guy at the back of room was laughing at me. I just knew it. I peered over Ms. Steinburg to the guy at the back of the room. Sure enough, he was wearing that grin of his. That "I-am-sooooo(notice the explicit amount of "o's)above-you look. The eye lash over his right eye was curved up, mocking me.
My face was red. I muttered something that could have been an apology, and it must have been because Ms. Steinberg stopped yelling at me and moved to the next student. I buried my head in the novel, hating the tears that welled up in my eyes. What was wrong with me? The black words merged with each other, melting into grotesque blobs.
Ms. Steinberg continued with her lecture, shooting me glares over the top of her lesson book. I was thankful that she couldn't see me, couldn't see the tears that she caused.
I was pathetic.
I couldn't stand confrontation. It was just one of my weaknesses. Whenever someone yelled at me, I always shied away. But I hated it. I felt weak, and shy, and inarticulate, like a mouse that would run at a moment's difficulty. I wasn't like that. I could deal; I just couldn't deal with people yelling at me. I could argue, I could banter, but just the fact that someone got mad enough at me to create a public debacle, that was different.
For some reason, I got the random guy in my mind. The guy who had laughed at me before because of the lack of color on my canvas. That made me mad enough to stop the ebb of tears and turn around.
He was sitting near the workspace, cradling a green pastel between his fingers. Leaning forward, he stretched the pastel over the canvas, his movements regular and practiced. He dropped the green crayon, picking up a blue one, moving his arms to the top of the picture. With a slow, careful hand, he sketched something. Then he dropped it again, moving his fingers over a brown pastel, then a silver one, and over a multitude of other colors. I found myself following his movements; for some reason, they were so graceful, so skilled...
My gaze caught his attention.
He glanced at me from the side of his painting. Our eyes locked, and he dropped a slow grin. I smiled weakly, still wiping the tears from my eyes, hating the stupid tears that insisted on falling for some dumb reason. There was probably a tear stain over my face, and red smudges everywhere.
Ms. Steinberg chose this choice moment to sidle over to the guy. She placed her hands over her cheeks, in an expression of drama and surprise.
"Oh my! Another wonderful masterpiece, Cooper! Although, I must say, I am really not shocked; after all, you are my best student." She went on this vein for a while. Josh muttered something that I wholeheartedly agreed with.
I leaned over to the girl next to me, Claudia.
"Who's Cooper?" I whispered.
Claudia shrugged. "He's one of the advanced art students at Penn State. He was a student teacher a few years ago. You know, the tall, dark, handsome type." Claudia sighed. "The only problem with him is he's so into art that he doesn't have time for girls."
I raised my eyebrows. "How do you know? Did you ask him out?"
Claudia giggled. Ms. Steinberg stopped in the middle of her tirade and shot us an evil look.
"Me, ask him out? I was a lowly freshman when he teaching. And then a year later, I was a lowly sophomore while he was teaching. There was this one girl, you know, the pompous, arrogant "ms. Popularity" who was always after him. Prom queen, student president, head cheerleader, she could have any guy she wanted, and she chose him. However, he completely shunned her."
"Maybe he's not into that type of girl."
"Maybe. Maybe not."
I hesitated. "He's not gay, is he? Because it would be such a shame..."
Claudia laughed. "Him? No. He's definitely straight. It's not the fact that he doesn't go out with girls; he just doesn't commit. I heard that he sleeps around a lot, and the next day, he's mysteriously 'gone.'"
Ms. Steinberg strode to the front of the room, lugging a massive canvas behind her. For her age, she was a tiny woman, and you could tell that she was using all of her strength to pull it. She thrust it on the wooden crate, positioning the painting so that the light slanted on the surface.
I gasped. It was brilliant.
It was a vignette of a summer's day. The sun curved in rays on the scene: a castle stood in the distance, decorated by tress that swayed in the breeze. Somehow, the painter was able sketch the trees so that it looked like a gentle wind leaped through the tresses. It was a kingdom on a hill, one that stretched over the cliffs, with the ocean below, rocks and pebbles scattered on the beach. The waves lapped at the cliffs, swirling around, rolling in to meet the shore, then backing up return to the ocean. The picture was uncanny in that it was alive with color, with real motion, and it seemed like a moment in time, instead of a one-dimensional painting.
Claudia nudged me. "Cooper's an art genius. I've seen him do better."
My eyes were coming out of my eye sockets. "Better than that? Unless he's some Picasso, I seriously doubt that." I gasped, my eyes widening. "Cooper. Cooper Nielsen? The Cooper Nielsen! The guy with all those paintings at the Independence Art Museum, the ones of landscapes and beaches? You're kidding me! That's him! I'm breathing the same air as THE Cooper Nielsen!? He was your vague student teacher?" I was practically hyperventilating at this. "I had no idea he was so young. I though he'd be 40 or 60 or something."
"No," Claudia rolled her eyes. "He's like twenty-three or twenty-four." Claudia got a distant look in her eyes. "There was a girl he was in love with once," she said finally.
I was drawn out of my thoughts. I blinked at the change in subject. "Who?"
Claudia sighed, blowing her blond hair away from her eyes. "It's one of those hopelessly romantic stories; the kind that make you sympathize with the guy and call the girl a whore. Cooper was in love with a painter, a beautiful girl who just as talented as him, if not more so. She was the young, brilliant sophomore, and he the teacher. At first, he envied her, because she seemed to do everything just as well as he did, only he was older. They had the whole love-hate thing going for them. Maureen was her name. She was quiet and reserved, and somehow, she melted the ice of his heart.
I turned around to look at Cooper. He was leaning against the desk, his chin on his palm. I took his high cheekbones, strong complexion. Cute, talented, and mysterious. It was weird how on first glance, he just seemed like-I don't know- a motorcycle junkie (what with the leather), but he was so much more.
"They went out. It was okay for awhile; they were happy, the entire female population wasn't, but that couldn't be helped. Then one day they had a huge fight over something or another, and they separated. Maureen went one way, and he went another."
"What was their fight about?"
"Maureen wasn't what she seemed," Claudia leaned in closer, as if afraid Cooper would overhear from the other end of the room. "She was just as ambitious as Cooper, and the son of the major publishing company that deals with burgeoning artists came to down. There was a convention that the son attended at the school, and Maureen researched his identity and his interests. She knew his appearance, his favorite subjects, colors, name it. She immediate found him at the organization, and she was all over him. It was so disgusting. For days on end, she would come to his apartment, bringing her best work to him, fawn all over him, flirt, whatever. And Cooper was furious. He called her slut, said that she was selling her body to him for some lousy chances at publishing her work. He was really pissed off at her. Yelling at her, telling her to wait, that he would get her published somehow."
"Yea, well she was a bitch. She was in my class, and she was nothing but raw ambition. That's all she cared about. Ostensibly, she was all sweet and soft on the outside, but if you ever actually looked at her, she had these small, beady eyes, and she was always so nervous and fidgety. The bitch got exactly what she wanted. The guy that she sucked up to adored her work, and he talked to his father, persuaded him to sponsor her work. She lives in New York now, painting to her inflated heart's content."
"Cooper's never been the same since. I mean, he was in love with her, and she just turned around and left him by the curb like yesterday's trash. She only cares about her damn "artistic abilities." Cooper's always brooding, and he never smiles anymore."
"He smiled at me."
Claudia stared at me. "What?"
"He smiled at me. Well, actually, he was laughing at me when Ms. Steinberg was humiliating me about the Emily Bronte thing."
Claudia gave me a weird frown. "Whatever. Maybe it was just the light or something."
"No it wasn't,"I insisted. "He was laughing, which involved twitching his lips upwards in a curve, which is called smiling."
"I don't know..."
"He seems open with his emotions, and I'm sure that he doesn't tease people, or make you feel inferior, or..." Like someone I know...stupid Jared. "He just needs someone to be nice to him, and show him that there is good out there, and he just has to find it. All he needs is a friend."
Claudia scoffed. "Him? He has friends; tons of them. Girls, guys, everyone! Friends aren't his problem. He just needs to get over himself and move on. So she left him; so what? He needs to get over himself. He's young, he's youthful, he's-"
I was cracking up.
"What?" Claudia demanded. "What's so funny?"
"He's young, he's youthful...you sound like my grandmother!"
"It's true." Claudia defended. "What he needs is a life, and he needs to do something besides sit there are brood all day."
I smiled dreamily. "If he wasn't so perfect, I might think he was pathetic. But a guy like that can never be pathetic."
"For God's sake; what is he, your idol? Go talk to him!" Then she was pushing me across the room, and I was stumbling forward. Somehow, I got to the empty desk next to him. He was so emerged in his painting that he didn't see me at first. So for a few minutes, I just sat there, watching him paint. It was amazing, like watching something come to life.
Another scene was brought slowly to the surface. Colors flashed darkly over the canvas, more gloomy then his earlier painting of the ocean and the beach. Trees skewed down, hanging like humidity over the land, shadows lingering to touch upon the brink of night.
Cooper noticed me goggling at him after a few minutes. He looked up, and for a few seconds, I saw something spark in his eyes: hope and another emotion I couldn't identify. Then it extinguished as fast as it came, to be replaced by polite detachment .
I opened my mouth to say something, but only a strangled gasp escaped. I wanted to say something, but it was so weird. I mean, he was practically a celebrity, and he was so talented! I didn't know what to say. So I just stood there a few moments with my mouth open, just staring at him like fish out of water.
Yea. I'm betting that went over real well.
I guess he took pity on me, because he flashed a knee-wobbling smile at me, and stuck his hand out.
"Hey. I'm Cooper Nielsen. Are you okay?"
At first, I just stared at his hand like I didn't know what to do with it. I'm ashamed to say that my knees were wobbling, and that I couldn't breathe, and that butterflies were fluttering like crazy in my stomach, and that I was smiling like a fool. I was so nervous, and it was just over some guy who happened to be cute, intelligent, skilled, and oh yea, perfect. I barely dislodged my right hand from behind my back to shake his.
"I'mMelfinabutyoucanjustcallmeMelandIloveyourart," I blabbed, just like the incoherent fool that I am.
Cooper blinked. "Excuse me."
I turned around, looking for help. I was having problems standing up and breathing, and I didn't see how I could form a whole sentence that made sense, much less two words. Claudia was laughing at me, just thrilled with the way I had handled the situation. She was making peculiar hand motions, which I figured out after a few minutes to mean "turn around."
So then I turned around, trying to say something, but my stupid tongue wasn't working. Stupid malfunctioning tongue. Finally, after taking big breaths (Cooper was looking at me strangely) and swallowing a lot I managed to get a few words out. Okay, so I babbled like the idiot I am whenever I get nervous.
"Hi. I'm Melfina Meimei, but you can call me Mel. I really admire your work; its so weird how you're so young, yet your paintings aren't. I mean, not to say that you're young, like 12 or 13, but I mean you're not in your middle years, like 40 or 50. Not that it's bad to be 40 or 50, it's just that people that age are so old...not that it's a bad thing, of course. I mean, it's not a bad thing. To be old. It's just...different, from being young. Not that you're young, of course. I already said that, didn't I? (Insert hyped up laughter here) But then again, you're not old either. You're somewhere in the middle. Not middle aged, but between young and middle aged. Like 20 or so.(Oh yea, real smooth). It's nice to be 20. You can drive at 20. Actually, you can drive at 15 or 16 too, but I can't because I'm scared of driving and I don't have my license. There's this one guy, Jared, that I hate because he's mean and he never takes me anywhere unless I beg him and offer to loan him my vital organs if he ever loses his. You know, kind of like an insurance so that if he ever gets cancer or if I slam the door on his arm or something, he can use mine. My arm I mean. But he would have to get an operation done, and that would be really expensive. Unless...(dramatic pause) he has a secret stash of money somewhere. So now, he has dibs on my left arm if he should lose his for some reason. The thing is, I want him to lose his arm because he's a jerk. But the thing is, I don't want to give him mine, so that poses a problem.?"
I kind of babbled on for a while, and Cooper fixed me with a strange look. It wasn't the same "strange look" he gave me when he thought I was a buffoon when I couldn't talk (now he though I was a buffoon who could talk), but a different look, one that made your heart-pound like there was no tomorrow. Actually, my heart already pounded like there was no tomorrow, but that wasn't the point. For some obscure reason, he was leaning forward. Then his hand was on mine, warm and large.
"You remind me of someone," he whispered.
I nearly died. Cooper Nielsen, touching my hand!
"I do?" I responded meekly.
"You have her eyes, and her skin...and your hair is exactly the same color. Black." His fingers trailed over the curve of my chin, leaving tingles in their wake. "And your lips..."
I just stood there, admiring green specks in his azure eyes, completely mesmerized by the hand that traveled across my face. I felt like things were completely out of my power, enchanted by his touch and eyes, when he looked at me like that. I felt like if he snapped his fingers, I would turn some wicked somersaults, spring off a trampoline, and dive into a routine directly from the page of a gymnastics handbook. It was a daunting feeling, to be so helpless, yet I liked it. Then he removed his hand, looking sheepish. The moment was broken.
"Sorry. I though you were someone else."
I blushed. "Who?" Then I had the stupidest, why-don't-you-throw-yourself-at-the-guy thought. Can I be her?
"Some who turned out to be totally different than what I thought," he said bitterly. He turned to me. "So what's you're name? Do I know you from somewhere?"
"You know...the whole Emily Bronte vs. Ms. Steinberg debacle...you...you smiled at me," I added lamely, hoping for some reaction. Cooper was just staring at me with beautiful crystalline eyes that were just as serene as the painting that still hung at the front of the room.
"Smart decision on my part, to smile at a pretty girl."
I blushed, knowing that it was corny, but loving the flattery that rolled from his tongue.
"So, do you paint?"
"Well, uh..." How do tell an artist that I can't paint worth squat? "Actually, a little bit," I fibbed.
He laughed. "You're much too modest. I was like that at your age too." He stood up to leave. "I'll see you around, Mel."
I couldn't just let him go, not like that. "At your age too" sounded like I was five or something. I grabbed the sleeve of his jacket.
"Don't talk to me like that," I protested. "I'm not that young."
He stared at me. "How old are you?"
"17. Going on eighteen. But I'm graduating this year."
"I'm 25," he said shortly. "But I feel that age is such an elusive thing. The outside, physical age is one thing; it's the measure of one's soul that counts. "
I had to smile at that. So he was a true artist: philosophical and everything. "I'm minoring in art," I lied. "When I go to college."
He turned back to me, renewed interest his eyes. "Where?"
"U of P."
"Ivy league or state?"
Cooper nodded. "That has a good art program. I have some friends that go there. Maybe I'll introduce you sometime."
"I'd appreciate it."
I smiled, and he smiled back. Then, Cooper reached for my hand. He scrawled something on my palm, the pen strokes tickling my bare skin.
"Give me a call if you need some help. I'll be here next week." Then he was out the door before I could respond, leaving me to stare at the numbers strewn across my palm.
I turned around. The studio was empty, giving me the perfect opportunity to scream my head off. I twirled around the room, yelling at the top of my lungs. Cooper Nielson gave me his phone number!
Normal, sane thoughts like you're insane and you're shallow managed to elude my mind. At the moment, I didn't care that he was only paying attention to me because he saw someone else in my place. I didn't care at all that he saw Maureen in me, and not Melfina. To me, the fact that he made specific references to someone else when he was complimenting me made no difference.
When I got home, the euphoria hadn't worn off yet. I was still beaming from ear to ear, so that I had to push my cheeks together to keep the grin from spreading to the rest of my body. The grin faltered when I stepped across the threshold of my house. Everything was completely dark, and not even a tincture of light shined through. Thoughts of demented ax-murderers sporting tacky bandannas flew through my mind, coupled with my natural phobia of the dark.
My mom never showed to pick me up. Instead, it had been Mrs. Melfield who roved in her van, driving the 2 odd hours to the studio. Sometimes when my mom was indisposed or unavailable to pick me up, Mrs. Melfield would drive me to and from places. I always thanked her, but the full extent of the fact that she was always there for me when my mother was not never really hit me.
Jared was lucky. Even though she wasn't his real mom (his real mom died when he was young), at least she was always there for him...immediately, I pushed those thoughts away. My mom was busy, she was different, she tried the best she could...then the panic descended because it was dark, and I didn't see my mom anywhere.
I rushed up the stairs, running through the hallway until I reached the master chamber. Throwing open the door, I breathed a sigh of relief.
My mom was only asleep, sprawled over the couch. I sighed, pulling a sheet from the bed to cover my mother. Then I crept from the room, securing the door softly behind.
My mother scared me sometimes. At certain occasions, she was the normal mother that attended special school occasions. Other times, it was like her mind was far away from her body, and she was just floating free...
With the darkness seeping in the corners, I was alone. The house was massive for just two people, and with my mom so far away from me, it seemed like I was living in the house alone. The chandelier that hung over the kitchen table was a bird with sharp claws, readying its talons to spring forth and whack off my head. I rustled in the kitchen for some Ramen noodles, popping the packet in a bowl and shoving it in the microwave. The room was silent except for the revolving of the microwave, and dark except for the light that turned on from the spinning compartment.
I glanced at the faded phone number on my hand. I wasn't a total loss; I had written it over again numerous times on other sheets of paper. After all, I had to wash my hand sometime, and if it came down to a guy's number over sanitation, I would pick sanitation any day. What was that famous, overused line in the movies that love struck girls squealed after guys gave them their number? "I won't ever wash my hand again!"
Puh-leeze. That was totally pathetic. Of course you would have to wash your hands again, unless you wanted disgusting things embedded in your nails or smelly skin to boot.
When the microwave was done cooking the Ramen, I set it on the table. I got my Computer Science 3 book out and tried writing some code. It was impossible. Not only did I hate computer science, but every time I thought about algorithms or something equally horrendous, Cooper's portrait kept flying through my mind. The one class that I did not understand was computer science. Although it was an AP class, and technically difficult by AP standards, the class itself was relatively easy. I could guess blindly and get the answer for the most part, but I felt like I didn't really get anything from the course.
When I reached for my ridiculously big calculus book, for every ellipse and hyperbole, I kept seeing Cooper's face swim before me.
Sighing, I reached for my English textbook, flipping to the outside reading assignment. It was a reading excerpt from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, an interesting officer of the English government with equally interesting experiences. Sometimes, he would flirt too much, and his wife would chase him around the house with some kitchen utensil. Other times, he would drink too much one day, then wake up the next morning with interesting liquid spewed over himself. It was amazing how many things you could find interesting when you put your mind to it.
Despite the graphically disgusting images of puke over the Englishman's trousers, I was still floating on air. Humming a terribly out-of tune song, I flew up the stairs, thrusting open the window and leaning out on my balcony. I couldn't help it. I just had to sing the song out to the entire world, smiling at nothing and everything at once.
"...I keep thinking the times will never change..."
The line from a melody floated up through the sky, through the window that I always kept open. At first, I didn't recognize the voice. It was too soft, too changed....then I stared in the night and realized it was Melfina humming. I did a double take, staring at the slim form, singing an unfamiliar song that I didn't recognize. The light was on in her room, playing across her cheeks, so that they were rosy, and her eyes bright.
My window was only several feet from her balcony. When the two houses were created, the constructor built the buildings close to each other, and far away from the other houses in the cull-de-sac. Thus, there were yards and yards of grass and landscape to separate my house from everyone else's, and only several feet that served as a boundary between our houses.
When we were young, we would have a secret language with flashlights and signs. At one o'clock at night, Mel and I would sometimes scream at each other and wake up the entire neighborhood. I had many unfortunate images of old Mrs. Epson running in her pink pajamas, raving about little kids and their bad behaviors. Old Mr. Epson would get in the act sometimes, baring his teeth and waving his cane around to the rhythm of Mrs. Epson's screaming until he fell asleep on the front lawn.
I couldn't help it. I just stared at Melfina, a small smile hovering near my lips. I had never seen her so happy before. It was almost as if the moon shined its light exclusively on her, and a brilliant glow that trailed her whenever she went. Quickly, I shook those thoughts away. She was my sister's best friend, for god's sake!
So I cleared my throat. Melfina looked up, drawn from whatever world her mind had retreated to.
"Tell your mom thank-you, for taking me home," she said.
"I think my mom's done with that book she's writing. I told her to make you the model for the alien," she confided. "I said that you'd fit that best, but then she said that it's a fiction, so she can't have real people as inspirations for her story. Such a loss, don't you think? Especially since its almost fictional how mean you are."
I rolled my eyes, knowing that she couldn't see.
"Hahaha. Funny how you define the alien. Now I, personally, would advise you to put away the green antennae unless you want to be discovered as what you are. You know, so that you don't have to run away from Roswell and the government."
Melfina laughed. I loved it when she laughed.
"You're prodigious. A regular Einstein."
For some reason, an image of Flaurice, my airhead girlfriend, flew through my mind. The largest word I had heard her use was effervescent, when she was talking about the way her hair sparkled at prom last year and how her heart was pure like the crystal figurine that stood as the centerpiece near the waterfall. Frankly, I was inclined to disagree, and I did. Then we argued, broke up, and then she sauntered back, all apologies and tears.
I serious doubted that anyone's heart could be purer than Melfina's. Not that it was a sign of affection; I just thought she was too innocent to be anything else.
"Why are you so chipper today?" I said grudgingly.
Melfina beamed. I could almost see the sun, her smile was so bright. The weird thing about Melfina was whenever she was happy, everyone around her couldn't help but be happy as well. An aura of light, one that made me both annoyed and, strangely, lightheaded. That was one of the reasons I loved to bother her. She was so damn infuriating, with her smiles and witty words, that it was hard not to. Sometimes, I felt like if I didn't do something to distance myself from the other goons, she would forget me and smile at someone else.
"Art class," she breathed.
"Art class?" I repeated. "Isn't that the same class that you're always ranting about? Don't tell me you're getting delusional in your old age."
"I'm not delusional!"
"What are the symptoms of aging? Oh yea, loss of memory, sanity, brains...what else am I forgetting? You don't have to worry about good looks, since you don't have any to begin with..."
"Shut up! I'm younger than you are!"
"Hell, yea. And you act that way too."
I could hear stomping from across my window. She was standing at her balcony, the wind rustling her skirts around. Then she was pointing a threatening finger at me, and she said something that made absolutely no sense.
"He is so much nicer than you are!" Striding from the balcony, she stepped inside, slamming the glass shut. She pulled curtains over the windows and turned down the lights, effectively shutting me out.
Leaving me to brood on alone, I noticed the aura that was in front of me was gone, and I felt empty.
That egotistical jerk! That presumptuous, pretentious, I'm-the-almighty-and-your-my-obsequious-wench-jerk!
It was Monday, during lunch block, and I was mulling over Jared and how weird he was last night.
Sitting alone at the decorative hall of the cafeteria, desolate among the chattering students, I sighed, picking up my copy of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. It was about the danger of industrial development and cities on the physical environment, like forests. Though the book was kind of interesting (only if I pictured Jared as the forests, and fire as the city, burning down the forest...never mind), I only used it as a shield. It seemed that once again, I was out of the circle. Before, I had thought that once the whole Andrew thing blew over, my "friends" would come flocking back. Wrong. I was only kidding myself. They were only my friends to begin with because I was Andrew's girlfriend.
I didn't really know anyone with "A" lunch, so I decided to find a table at the end of the cafeteria, farthest away from the "in" crowd. One of the pitfalls of not having access to a car was that I couldn't go off campus for lunch. Another pitfall was that even if I did have a car and I could drive, I would have no one to go with. Rena had "B" lunch, not "A."
But I was okay with the situation. It was just like before I met Andrew. I was alone again. I put down Silent Spring and grabbed for my Comp Sci book, flipping to the homework I hadn't finished last night because I was so overjoyed that some famous guy paid attention to me.
It didn't make any sense. Both my homework and my feelings. I felt-I felt disappointed that Jared had treated me like an annoying little girl, offended even. Like he shouldn't have teased me. The strange part is before, I didn't mind. On the other hand, I expected him to mock me, and I wouldn't begrudge him anymore than I usually did. One tiny portion of my mind kept going over the day that he held me as I cried, and-and I was so confused, and angry at being confused. I vaguely suspected that the reason why my comp sci homework was very confusing is because I couldn't actually read the words, what with the print focusing in and out. Then a drop plopped on the book, and I couldn't deny the evidence that I was crying, over Jared, of all people.
Foolish, inane, sentimental, maudlin...why couldn't I stop crying?
My head shot up. I glared straight ahead, furiously wiping tears from my face. Too bad I was never good at hiding my true feelings. At least not from him.
"Leave me alone."
Jared stared at me, then at my book. He eyed my scribbles, then my stick figures, scattered like trees in a forest.
"So you're Wiccan now. At least have the dignity to make them decent trees." Placing his hand over my mine, which was still clutching the pen, he guided my movements, extending the branches of the trees. Going over the highlights, he helped bring out the best in the leaves. His hand was warm and big, covering mine. I bit my lip; he was even good at drawing.
I squinted at the drawings of trees on my comp sci homework. Though the page was empty of actual work, save for a few lines of random code here and there, at least it was ornate. At least I would turn in a page of trees, if nothing else.
"They're supposed to be represent you," I blurted out. "Trees yield easily to fire."
Jared hesitated. "What?"
"Are you really that mad at me?" He wouldn't look at me. "You have to sketch the flames so that they leap over the forest, but not too high or else they'll get pushed away by the wind. Plus, to give the flames depth, you have to use different shades, or else it'll seem shallow and superficial."
"What if it is. What if the fire is shallow and superficial?"
"The fire can never be shallow," he said. "Never."
He was still holding my hand. Another anomaly was it was the hand that Cooper had written his phone number on. A far more surprising phenomenon was that the phone number was still there, despite the fact that I must have washed my hand dozens of times since it was written.
Jared traced over the numbers, eyeing me pensively. "What's this? Don't tell me that you forgot your number, so you had to write it again on your hand..." Frowning, he tried to make out the fading figments that remained. "It doesn't look like your number."
"It isn't!"I exulted.
"Well, who's is it?"
"No. I already said that it wasn't your number. Pay attention."
"Will you shut up? I'm not an alien."
"Fine. We've established that you're not an alien." Jared sighed, running his hands through his hair. "Now who's the number?"
"I'm not telling," I said in a sing-song voice. He reached for my hand again, but I danced away. "I'm not telling, I'm not telling-"
"Will you please stop humming to that Beauty and the Beast song where all the tea cups-never mind."
"No. Where they what? "I grinned, waving my hand behind my back like a flag, or a trump card. "Where the tea cups what? I didn't know that you watched Beauty and the Beast. And not only did you just watch it, but your powers of recall are startlingly acute. That must mean that not only did you just pay attention, but you also felt the emotion. I seem to recall that the teacups were only minor characters. That means that you must have a plethora of information on our favorite couple."
"You know." Exasperated, my arms crept out from behind my back. "You picked a fine time to go dumb."
But Jared just grinned at me. As my hand went out from my back, he reached out and caught it. "Ah-ha!"
"I thought you didn't understand what I was saying!" I said indignantly.
Rolling his eyes, I noticed a half-smile fly across his lips. "I always understand what you're trying to say, no matter how stupid it is."
"You sure know how to make a girl feel loved," I retorted. "In fact, I think that if you took out the last part of that sentence, the clause with the word stupid, that might have been perceived as nice."
"I'll keep that in mind." But he was done with me. His attention was focused on the number on my hand. "I think that I can make out a 2," he declared. "Or maybe that's a 5."
"No, it's a 2," I affirmed. "Although, I really do wonder how a 2 can look like a 5."
"Brilliant. Whoever wrote this can't write squat."
"Hey!" I protested. "Not only can he write, but he can paint, and draw, and sketch, and-and"
Jared's eye brows shot up. Way up. "He?"
"Yea." I smiled. "Cooper Nielson. You know, the Cooper Nielson."
"Who's Cooper Nielson?" Jared scowled.
I shut my mouth. Despite my wishes, I felt little hot humors spread on my cheeks, and I knew that I was blushing. What was it that Jared said-"I can read you like a book?" I was never good at hiding my feelings.
"Just someone that I met."
"No. I was thinking that he was a little birdie. Duh. Can you get anymore vague?"
"Actually, I can. It's really none of your business!" I said angrily.
"I'm making it my business. Why were you crying? Was it over him?"
I didn't like the way Jared was asking me the questions. "What if it was? What would you do about it?"
"I'd kick his ass."
I stared at him, thinking he was wearing some goofy grin or something. I was wrong. Instead, he was serious, and he was gazing at me intently. Whenever he was passionate about something, his eyes fluctuated between several colors. His normal hazel-brown was darker, the amber more deeper and accentuated. The dark specks lit his eyes, giving off a fierce, almost furious atmosphere. I laughed nervously. "Stop joking around! It's nothing!"
He sighed. "Do you really hate me that much?"
"I-I don't know. No. I guess not."
Jared was still cradling my hand. A bitter grin lifted the corners of his mouth. "Do you wanna know something ironic?"
"You know me. I'm all for identifying the connotation of real life events," I whispered. "You know me...Ms. Figurative language and everything...
"I 'own' your left arm. Remember-
I laughed softly. I remembered when I desperately needed a ride to a seminar that took place in a hotel 3 hours away, and my mom was away at some writer's convention and my dad-well-my dad…he was just away. No one was available to take me, so I begged Jared to drive me, and I started listing things that he could have (like my tv, my radio, my collection of books) to bribe him, but he refused. Having nothing else to offer, I started hurtling rocks at his head (real mature and very persuasive), and then he grabbed my left arm and demanded that he get "dibs" on it. Of course I agreed, and then he took me to the seminar while I tortured him by playing mad-girl rock bands and Celine Dion CDs.
I smiled at the memory. "Amazing. But it's awfully cruel to take advantage of girls when they need rides. I might actually need my left hand someday, you never know. I was wondering..."
"This is just one of my hypothetical situations...nothing too serious...
"God save me..."
I slapped his shoulder. "Shut up. Anyway, if,say, you were to lose your left hand, but not your left arm, would I have to give you my entire arm, or just the hand. Or, say-
"How about if you formulate some kind of twisted theory that doesn't involve the loss of my arm?"
"Why do you keep talking about nothing?"
"Why aren't you sitting with your cronies?"
"Why are you sitting alone?" he countered.
"Because..." and for the first time that day, I faltered.
Jared squeezed my left hand, the one that had Cooper's number strewn across it. "Maybe." Patting my hand, he wore a weird look on his face. Then he stared at me, tilting his head like he was seeing me from a different perspective. "If anything happens…tell me. If he treats you in any way…" he let the threat hang in the air. I blinked. Was it me, or did Jared sound wistful?
I stared blankly at him. "I don't understand what you-
"You're still going to homecoming with me, right?"
"I promised already."
Jared looked like he didn't believe me at all.
"You shouldn't sit alone all the time," he said finally. Before I realized it, he was pulling me forward, until I was standing beside him.
"Admit it. You're pathetic."
Surprised, I scrunched up my face. "I'm pathetic?"
"You heard me. Sitting here like the world is ending tomorrow, staring at the same book, drawing pathetic trees, crying...why were you crying?"
"I told you. It's none of your business. Why aren't you with your girlfriend, talking about whatever you talk about?"
"She talks. I ignore her."
"Hmmm. It must be about a weighty topic."
"Nah. It's usually nail polish, occasionally hair."
"Uh-huh. Sounds interesting."
"Jared-do you want my opinion?"
"Lemme think. No. Not really."
I took a deep breath, taking in his slightly spiky, messy hair, khaki jeans, blue and yellow polo shirt. For some elliptic reason, I had a yearning to touch his hair, the tips of it. So I reached up, brushing aside a wisp of hair. It wasn't really spiky, not rough like some guy's hair. There wasn't tons of gel or anything. The spikiness was natural, like he woke up one morning and it was just the way that it was.
"You said that we're friends, right? That means that I get to tell you what I think, and confess that I think you're acting like an inane baka. If you go out with someone, then you should treat her well, and you shouldn't go out with someone that you don't respect. Frankly, I think that you're love life sucks. "
"Okay...translation for baka?"
"Idiot in Japanese."
"How do you know these things in different languages?"
"My mom and the side effect of one too many "educational lifetime introduction to languages" videos."
"I'll think about it."
"You'll have to do more than just think about it. And by 'I'll think about it,' I assume that it actually means that you'll think about it, and not just pretend to."
"Since when did you start giving me advice?"
"Since you started giving me advice." I shook my head. "Why should I listen to you if you don't listen to me? You better be careful, or someone might think that you're a hypocrite."
"Fine. I'll break up with Flaurice if you stop sulking alone at lunch."
My eyes got wide. "You'll b-b-reak up with Flaurice? I never said to break up with her, I just-
"Yes, you did," he insisted. "You said I shouldn't go out with someone that I don't respect. I don't respect Flaurice."
"I don't understand. How can you be so cold?"
"Stop stalling." Jared grabbed my stuff, hauling it across the cafeteria while dragging me behind him. With Jared leading me to an empty seat, I could feel icy glares directed at my back. I had no doubt that they were glaring at me, and not him. Nonetheless, it was just a tiny bit daunting.
"You have quite a crowed of admirers," I whispered dryly.
He plopped me down in one of the circle tables.
"They're just jealous." Jared introduced me to everyone around the table. "Most of us go off-campus for lunch. This is Rachel, Seth, Chris, and Josephine."
I recognized Chris from the guy I was tutoring in math, and I waved at him, and he grinned in return.
"Hey Mel!" He flashed me a grin. "Glad to see you."
I smiled back. "Me too."
Josephine eyed me curiously, looking between Jared and me, making a shrewd connection. I hated to make generalizations based on appearances, but in this case, I couldn't help it. If life was a Barbie doll house, with a Ken, Barbie, and Skipper, she would fit right in. Golden brown hair with blond highlights, bright blue eyes, and a mouth full of perfect white teeth. That would be all fine and dandy, but it was her eyes, which were full of clandestine malice and trickery that I first noticed. Despite her ingenuous appearance, she was a deadly as poison.
"It's nice to meet you, Melfina," she exclaimed cheerfully. "We've heard so much about you from Jared, about how smart you are! I love your hair! What shampoo do you use?"
I had to bite back a particularly caustic remark. Instead, I replied, "Herbal Essence."
The bell rang, and it when then that I realized I hadn't finished my comp sci homework. When I stood up to leave, my backpack was strangely light. I placed it down on the table to dig through it, and my comp sci book was gone. I started panicking, rummaging around in the bottom of my backpack, thinking that it had to be at the bottom, or that an evil fairy had decided to charm it so that it seemed smaller.
I looked up. Jared was getting ready to leave, clutching something in his arms.
A book slid across the table. I caught it with deft hands, flipping it so that I could see the front. Frowning, I turned to the page that cradled my assignment, taking out the notebook paper. I glanced over pen marks of trees and branches, my eyes roving to the bottom of the page. There, between the drawings and scribbles stood a paragraph of code, full of call methods, classes, and constructors. It was seamless work, not a syntax error or any mistakes. I stared dully at it a few minutes, then I glanced up. Jared was gone.
What I didn't understand was that Jared wasn't even in computer science. Then how did he end up doing my homework for me? Don't get me wrong. I appreciated his help, but I felt-I felt a little inferior, as well as angry. I just wasn't used to people being better than me at certain things. It wasn't vanity or arrogance, just a feeling of indignation. I suppose that everyone has their own thing they specialize in. My area of expertise was now whooshing out from beneath my nose. Old feelings of resentment crept to the surface, but I fought them down. But only for the most part.
I would never accept help from him.
So I took the assignment that Jared had helped me on from the book and tore it in half, perfect code and everything. Before I dunked the combination of sketches and code in the trash, my eyes glanced over the bottom slip. I didn't have time to read it before I threw it in the bin, but I caught the words "sorry" before the scrap of paper twiddled away. Instantly, I recognized Jared's handwriting. I gasped and tried to lean over to find the paper, but when I saw the mess of identical scraps at the bottom, I knew that I would never find it.
A/N: So, what do you think? Please review and tell me what you think! As always, reviews are a major motivation for me ^_^
About Mrs. Steinburg's hate of Emily Bronte: I happen to just adore Emily Bronte, and my feelings towards her and nothing like that of Mrs. Steinburg's. Emily Bronte is brilliant (or was) and she was soooooo young when she wrote Wuthering Heights. I think it's so cool how Heath Ledger is named after Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. I read it in one of those teen magazine things (hey…I was waiting for the dentist, and there was nothing to read save for "National Geographic" and some Wall Street business magazine).
Oh, and there was a big paragraph in this where Melfina just rambled and rambled, and that was on purpose ^-^
Please review with any comments and/or questions! I would really appreciate it! I hope that reading this wasn't too painful.
*Update* Made corrections. Much thanks goes out to Saethiel, who pointed out my mistakes!
Btw, Melfina isn't Algerian. ^_^ Her mom is American, her dad Japanese. It was 'posed to be an expression ^.^