Across the Table

A/N: Yes, a tiny story on how I grew a spine. Doubtlessly very boring to everyone but me. Have fun!

***

She stared across the table, the look on her face was set in firm determination. Her eyes were locked on the person sitting in front of her, busy with acrylics and a piece of poster board.

He was beautiful.

All right, she thought, so that point was arguable. But to her biased mind there was no other like him. Such piercing eyes, such thick hair, a clever comment ready at a moment's notice. Beautiful.

Normally, Elise would not have stared as hard as she did now. The chance that he might look up and catch her was too great, or a least too agonizing even as a possibility. However, he seemed deeply immersed in his work, and if not-so-casual observation had taught her nothing else by this point, it had taught her that he was not easily distracted at this stage.

She felt the familiar pang of melancholy as she remembered how, oh yes, she didn't stand a chance with him. She liked to draw, and seemed to have a decent ability to do so, but not like him. She loved to write, and threw her passion into her words when any strong feeling gripped her, but her stories didn't flow like his. And her endless chatter about uncritical things probably drove him crazy and gave him the impression of a ditzy, immature little girl.

Not to mention she was two years his junior.

Her eyebrows tilted slightly downwards at this train of thought, and she quickly changed her thoughts to ones of more excitement. Like her idea of asking him to the Sadie Hawkins' dance.

She blushed at this, her cheeks and neck tingling and itching. She rubbed her neck discretely, hoping not to attract his attention. She really didn't see how she was going to accomplish this. It was one thing to want to go to a dance with someone, to ache to be accepted by them, but it was another entirely to actually do anything towards this goal. Elise directed her attentions instead to the poster on her desk, far from finished. She would fail the class if she didn't get her head out of the clouds and back on the paper. To fail art class would be the epitome of stodginess. She tried to focus on the fandom-induced painting, but her mind obstinately wandered back to the boy in front of her. Once again, her eyes rose with slow caution.

He was biting his lower lip, his eyes narrowed slightly in concentration. His hair formed two little sections of bangs on his forehead, curling inward to meet each other. She let a small smile curve her lips upward, when suddenly his head tilted up wards and his deep brown, nearly black, eyes met hers.

She flashed an awkward smile and tried to look as though she hadn't been looking at him, really, just staring off into space. Space that happened to be right in front of his face. Then she became interested in her poster once again, and tried to ignore the second blush that crept up from her collar bones and to her cheeks. She painted furiously and commented on something her friend had said, hoping it still sounded clever once it left her mouth. Noelle giggled. Elise smiled tensely and mixed the green and black in her pie-pan of paint.

Noelle was something to consider. What if Noelle was hurt if Elise finally asked? It was no secret that the younger girl was also enamored with the advanced student. Elise's mind grabbed at the excuse to trash the entire idea, but she mentally shook her head. She had already told Noelle, the idea seemed supported by both parties. She started to blend the green highlights in her painting's hair into the black shadows.

The five-minute bell rang.

Elise's gaze shot to the clock in the front off the room. How could an hour and a half have gone by already? She hadn't even gotten up her courage enough to attempt asking him yet! A panicked sense of now-or-never set in as she rose to pour out her rinsing water. She fumbled at the sink, dropping her paint brush as she tried to wash it out, tripping over her own feet and a nearby garbage can as she put the brush back in its proper place. This was getting ridiculous.

She walked back to her desk, took her painting back to her little portfolio on the wall. For the umpteenth time, she noticed his little cubbyhole was right above hers and marveled at the coincidence.

Stupid corset...Can't even take a deep, calming breath...

Why had she worn this outfit? While she usually wore whatever came to mind or leapt from her closet the swiftest, today she had amused herself by dressing gothic, with drooping black sleeves and an iridescent red corset around her middle. Thick black lines extended past the corners of her eyes and ended in little curls. She gave herself a glance-over, pulling at various parts of the black shirt and pants until they were arranged to her liking, and cursed her decision to have had quite so much fun with her eyeliner that morning. Good idea, Elise. Scare him away.

She put her chair on her desk, wondering if she had anywhere near the amount of courage she needed, hoisted her backpack on to her shoulders, and waited out the last few seconds of school in misery.

The bell rang, and the students rushed through the door as if a dam had been broken. Elise noticed that Adrian was still in the classroom, working on something or talking to the teacher or goodness-knew-what. She paused, then began walking forward again very slowly, hoping to seem casual but not get too far from the classroom. But the moments went by, and he did not emerge. She reached a halfway point between the art room and her bus, and paused again. Noelle stopped with her.

Amelia, seeing the two from her locker, rushed over with a huge grin and girlish excitement dripping from every gesture. "Did you do it?" she shrilled. Elise shook her head sadly, and leaned in for a hug, which Amelia obliged to.

"No. I didn't. It was horrible! I just couldn't stand to ask him, I-"

"He's right there." Amelia cut her off with a whisper. Elise glanced over her elbow to see him walking towards them. And passing them…

The panic set in again, and with an automatic word of goodbye to her friend, she took chase with quick steps. Almost. She made no real effort to catch up with him. Noelle whispered to her.

"So... You're not asking him?"

Elise made a pathetic noise of displeasure. "I want to, it's just..."

She watched as he stopped to converse with a friend. She kept walking, walking...

...And made no effort to stop as she passed by him. She couldn't ask him in front of his friends, it would be too awful.

It was awfully amazing as he began to walk again and fell in step directly beside her. Knowing this was the best chance she'd ever have, she turned her head and took a breath of air shakily.

"Adrian?"

He turned to look at her, eyebrows raising to acknowledge he was listening. Her heart beat so hard in her chest, she knew it was visible to the outside observer. Any and all of her planning was spirited away from her immediately, and the words "Will you go to Sadie's with me?" tumbled over each other on their rush to get out of her mouth. She felt her hands grasp each other in front of herself in a subconscious pleading gesture. Adrian looked slightly thoughtful.

"Sadie's, when is that?" he asked. Elise found herself replying,

"The seventh."

He thought again. "Is that a Friday or a Saturday?"

Elise managed to mumble that she didn't know. Adrian nodded.

"I'll have to make sure I haven't got anything else going on. But I will get back to you on that." he said.

"Thank you!" Elise squeaked, grinning with the sheer relief that he hadn't given her a disgusted look and walked in the opposite direction. He turned forward again and walked to wherever it was he walked after school. Elise nearly collapsed under the feeling of accomplishment that came of finally getting it over with and just asking him. She made her way quickly to the bus to sit and grin for twenty minutes while she rode home.