CHAPTER ONE: Reunited and it feels just GREAT
Three hours, fifty-eight minutes, twenty-seven seconds.
According to my quartz-accurate watch, that was how long I had been in the torture chamber. All right, so maybe going to my sister-in-law's baby shower wasn't exactly my idea of a well-spent afternoon. Sue me.
I pushed the button for the elevator and waited very patiently for the metal doors to open. The longer everything on the way home took, the more I had to suffer through memories of gift-opening and fluffy pink things. I punched the button again, pressing my finger against the stupid button until the area around my nail was white with pressure. Several years passed, and the elevator doors' ring sounded to usher me on towards home sweet home. Otherwise known as a crappy apartment with two messy friends inhabiting it.
I stood back from the door, allowing the small group of people to get off at my brother and his wife's floor. I didn't know any of them—it was a mark of just how much time I spent at the fifteenth floor apartment where dear old Jakob lived. When everyone had exited, I walked in. I was a little surprised that someone was still in there. A girl, my age or maybe a little younger, was sitting in the corner of the elevator, which very admittedly struck me as...odd.
She had a book that was apparently very interesting, because she didn't even look up at me, the only person in there with her. Shrugging slightly, I pushed the button for the first floor. I leaned against the metal wall, shoving my hands in my pockets and trying to ignore the annoyingly upbeat music, I glanced at the girl in the corner. Still taking no notice of me, she casually turned a page. The brim of a hat that was pulled low over short blondish hair kept me from seeing her face, but I took in her general appearance in wake of her apparent lack of interest
She was wearing Converse, old black ones that looked pretty beat-up from the appearance of the frayed, bright green laces. Spirals had been drawn on the rubber toes in purple pen, and there were small words written along every bit of the rubber siding in many different colored inks. I was actually quite curious about what exactly this girl had chosen to write all over her shoes. I mean really, who writes on shoes?
Even as she was sitting, I could tell at a glance that she was tall. Her legs were long and trim, and from her rolled-up jeans, I could see that she could well have been a runner judging by the lean, muscled appearance of her calves.
Her build was like that of runners I knew—slender and not the least bit curvy. The jeans hung pretty low on her slim hips, even as they were held up by a studded belt. I could see a thin strip of skin between her shirt and the waistband of her pants, pale, smooth-looking skin that made me swallow a little. I always was a sucker for that area of skin girls are so able to unconsciously show off.
My investigation continued up her torso, noting her flat belly with some measure of appreciation, but I didn't really linger on her chest. Firstly, it never feels right to ogle a girl, especially when she's not a girlfriend. Secondly, she didn't have much of one. Don't get me wrong, she wasn't a twelve-year-old boy, but this was no Pam Anderson.
I was still lost in… thought, when the girl suddenly flicked her gaze up to meet mine very briefly. A strange look flashed in her eyes, but it passed quickly. She quirked her lips to the left, frowned a little, then looked back at her book. I tried to conceal the surprise and slight guilt I felt at being caught looking, and I think I did a pretty good job of it.
In that moment, though, that I could see her face, I was possessed by a strange feeling of near-recognition. I knew the girl from somewhere, and while I was sure that I'd known it for a split second, I simply couldn't place her.
I thought back to that look she gave me, noting some aspects of her face in an attempt to recognize her. Her face had been, well, almost pixie-like, delicately featured with large eyes. I'd heard one of my exes refer to Natalie Portman as "pixie-like." Remind me never to use it around my friends.
She wasn't beautiful or short like said actress, but I could see a sort of pretty friendliness that could be called attractive by some. She wasn't quite my type. I've always been one for the shorter girls, with different body types. Different fashion sense too, to be honest. Besides, "cute" is something of a deterrent. It seems to be accompanied by either a lot of innocence or the pretense of a lot of innocence. No, give me up-front looks, wild and untamed. Not "cute."
It was really starting to bug me. Where did I know that face from? Her nose was small and round-tipped. What skin I could see was pale, and her face was lightly freckled. Talk about innocence. Freckles? Her lips were shapely and pink, and she looked like one who could've had a killer smile. Providing she didn't have bad teeth. I've never been able to tolerate gross teeth.
Above all, though, her light blue eyes had held me for that moment, with a somewhat startling clarity in both color and perceptiveness. They were framed in long, dark lashes and set under dark, arched eyebrows. I could tell right away that her eyes would be what could draw attention to her.
All in all, this girl made for interesting company in the minute or so it would take to go down fifteen floors. Well, she would've just been "interesting" had everything gone so smoothly.
Damn him. Damn him a million times over. Then, just for kicks, DAMN HIM AGAIN. Why did the stupid elevator have to stop on the fifteenth floor? Okay, so it had stopped for a while at each and every floor for too long since I got on at the twenty-second, which had led to me just sitting down in the corner. That didn't have to include his floor, though. We could've foregone that specific stop, I'm sure. Why didn't he just take the stupid stairs?
Okay, me. Calm down. Truth be told, I think I knew it was him, Nathan Jameson, as soon as he walked in after everyone else walked out. Don't ask how. It's not like dark jeans or shiny brown shoes were trademark Nathan. (That's what I could see of him without looking up completely.) I just knew. It was just like I'd always known if it were him walking right behind me, opening the neighboring locker, or him answering a question. I just KNEW.
All right, guess it's explanation time. My name is Tawni McCoherty. His name is Nathan Jameson. We both went to Oakwood Meadows Jr. High and High School. He was very popular, very athletically talented, first-chair trumpet, and second in the class. Your typical wonder boy. He'd always had a habit of dating a lot of girls, but he also had a reputation for being a "good" boyfriend. Psht, right. How can someone have eight girlfriends in two months and be a "good" boyfriend, huh? Was he just unlucky? And I'm not bitter at all about this, mind you.
I was pretty low-key popularity-wise, terrible at anything that included a ball, last-chair clarinetist, and first in the class. I had skipped fourth grade, and I was never all that comfortable with being in the midst of the older people. Plus, I have a late birthday, so I was almost two years younger than a big portion of them all. Sure, I had plenty of friends and was no wallflower, but my good girl rep had never worn off, and for good reason, all the way through secondary school. Basically, we were pretty damn different in school. So…can you see what's coming?
Yes, it's true. I was very much crushing on him for six years. Six long years I watched him from afar, learned to recognize the BACK of his head, and tried to talk to him. Not like that did much. You see, over six years, Mr. Jameson and I had precisely twelve conversations. He said just about 108 words to me. The highlight conversation?
NJ: "You're in my
English class, right?"
TM: "What-who-me-English? I mean, yes I'm in your class."
NJ: "Is the essay due today?"
TM: "N-no, I'm pretty sure it's tomorrow. Else I'm screwed, hahaha…"
NJ: " Um. Okay. Thanks."
Thirteen words on his part. Well, that's counting "um" as a word, but if it's in the dictionary…
Anyways, Mr. I-Am-Perfect walked onto the elevator and, teeny-bopper as it sounds, my heart-rate went UP! Just thinking, believing that maybe there was a sliver of a chance that this random person was my crush-to-end-all-crushes. Pathetic.
I could feel him eyeing me, and I couldn't really blame him. How many people sit on floors of elevators reading books? Well, it was just that my friend on the twenty-second floor needed help on studying for the MCATs. Not a very involved experience for the "helper" while the "studier" is working on practice tests. So I brought my book, which just so happened to be The Giver, which is my favorite book that I've read fourteen times. What with the stops on every floor, I'd had plenty of time to read it on the elevator.
I was beginning to get uncomfortable under his gaze, so I gave in and looked up at him. Really quickly. Miniscule little micro-glance. Yup, that's him! my subconscious half-admitted, half-reveled. He looked almost exactly the same, i.e. annoyingly good.
He had the same lithe frame, smooth and almost pale skin (though not quite so pale as yours truly), square jaw, straight nose, short red hair, and of course, what with my habitual fan-girl attitude when it comes to him, those eyes underneath the straight, dark eyebrows.
They were this insane hazel, with quiet, warm tones of green and brown in a swirl that reminded me of the nebulas you see in satellite photos, with those swirls and splotches of mixed colors. He had dark eyelashes that no guy should be allowed to have, or at least that's what I remembered—couldn't really tell from my position on the floor. Basically, resistance against those eyes is futile. Jerk.
I could tell even at my brief glance that Nathan hadn't changed much. His expression was the same self-assured, calculating one it had had throughout school. I stopped myself from freaking out, but couldn't help doing my little "I'm-too-cool-to-fully-smirk smirk," as my best friend Kyle always called it. It's what I do to say, "I knew it." And that was a definite "I knew it" sort of moment.
I could tell that he was embarrassed that I'd seen him seeing me, and that just made me want to laugh. Over my years of crushing him, I'd pretty much collected his looks. Twenty-seven in all. You know, the times I'd look over to him, and he'd be looking at me. Or within three feet of my general self. Hard as I'd try, though, I could never convince myself it was a look that said, "I am secretly in love with you." More like, "That girl's head is blocking the notes on Mendel…" Again, I never said I wasn't pathetic.
Well, I had just managed to swallow hard and look back to the pages of The Giver when I was very literally jolted out of Lois Lowry's genius. The elevator skidded to a halt, and I heard a loud thunk over to my left. As I stood up shakily, a loud bell rang out. The lights flicked off, plunging us into totally pitch black silence, and Nathan swore loudly. There was a moment of surreal stillness in the dark (I could've waved my hand in front of my face and not been able to see it—I stopped myself from going quite that far), but thankfully, the fluorescent white lights flared back on after just a few flickers.
I let out a breath I didn't know I'd been holding, puffing out my cheeks attractively. Steeling myself, I managed to look over to my left at Nathan to find him looking at me.
"Um, hey. You okay?" he said, rubbing the back of his head and wincing attractively.
Haha, you rhymed, Nathan! I thought ridiculously, but I didn't say that aloud. Luckily.
"Oh yeah. F-fine. How about you? Was that your head? Oh man, what the hell happened? Whate--Erm, I mean, I hope this isn't like the Tower of Terror, or..." I replied/incessantly babbled, half to myself. When I was able to look back over at me, he was staring at me with a really weird look on his face.
"I knew it. I knew I knew you! You're Tawni! Tawni…Tawni…damn…Oh right, Mc—McCoherty!" he exclaimed, looking very, very pleased.
He'd said my last name wrong, pronouncing it "mick-co-HAIR-tee" instead of "muh-CO-er-tee," but I was quite willing to forgive him. Oh well.
I sighed, nodding. "McCoherty," I corrected subconsciously, "and you're Nathan. Nathan Jameson." He looked a little surprised that I hadn't had some sort of impressive epiphany like his upon recognition.
"I knew it was you all along," I sort of admitted, adding, "to be honest."
End chapter one