-

-

-

Tragic Hero

-

-

-

She doesn't realize it, but she's slightly bobbing her head along to the music pouring from her earphones, and knowing her, it's some sort of rock music, maybe the Goo Goo Dolls or even Puddle of Mudd. I wonder if she's humming, like I used to hear her do in eighth grade when we had to same assigned seats and she would stare out the window humming to some love song like Hanging by a Moment, and I would think, You're only inches away and I think you're pretty, yes you are.

Joey sits beside me, but he's usually in deep conversation with at least one other person. Everyone thinks I'm popular but I'm not, everyone just knows me. Joey's the friendly one, the one everyone likes, and since he's my best friend, I know a lot of people through him. Right now he's busy talking to Austin, a blond who just moved here from South Carolina and never really talks to anyone but listens to Joey.

I drop my gaze to my math notebook. All my answers are correct, all the questions completed, but if I look at her too long, I know someone's going to notice and tell her, and she won't do anything, but she might feel uncomfortable. But then, she might not be bothered at all, because Remy is the kind of girl that goes through life with earphones on and insults sliding off her. I remember the day she came to school with all her long red hair chopped off and spiky. It caused quite an uproar, because of course ever girl in school has long hair because Didn't you know, Aaron likes girls with long hair.

(It didn't take too long for everyone to realize that was a false rumor, because only one girl has ever caught my eye, and she has hair cropped just below her chin.)

But she didn't even care, just smiled and said, "I got gum stuck in it."

(And she has green eyes that are so huge and innocent and yet always gleaming with that knowledge that she is smart and witty and the day someone gets the best of her is the day Karin stops ogling me or the day Joey beats his brother Tony in chess.)

(And the kind of features that look plain at first glance, but when you watch her, when you see her throw her head back and laugh, or when she sits behind the school sometimes and cries, her hands in her lap and her gaze far away, there is no denying that she is the kind of girl that is beautiful.)

(And the kind of body that belongs to a girl, but one with muscle and strength, all toned legs and arms, ready to throw a punch or kick. She's small and speedy and always moving, so fast I can never catch her.)

--
She's not like the other girls, she lives in the clouds,
She talks to the birds, hopeless little one
She's not like the other girls I know
--Not Like The Other Girls, The Rasmus

Joey's on the school paper, he's the head journalist, because he's funny and honest and writes the way every student can relate to. His grammar sucks, but that's what best friends are for, I guess. I remember the first time he was writing a real article, he had to interview the star of all our school plays since the second grade, Remy Lawson. He was practically bouncing beside me in the auditorium, waiting for her to come on stage for rehearsal, and Josh was with us to take pictures, and I was there to provide moral support, but really I was just expecting to hate this Drama Queen, this prima donna of the first degree. I didn't know who Remy was; Joey had pointed her out to me as the girl with the red hair, and I knew she sat at the front of the class and answered the questions no one else could/wanted to, and she was best friends with the most popular girl in school. But I had never spoken to her, and wasn't expecting much, so when she came on stage in a pleated skirt and white blouse, her hair done up in childish pigtails, and began to speak, I was taken aback, because she was so talented.

After the rehearsal, during which she spoke all of her lines with stunning clarity and emotion, pranced about the stage, and tossed her hair about, laughing, crying, screaming slapping on cue, Joey led us all to greet her when she jumped off the stage, back in her regular outfit of black biker shorts and a too-big blue jersey.

"Hi, Remy!" he said – actually, more like shouted. And Josh and I were used to it, but Remy wasn't, so she started, whirling around too fast so her bag, slung over one shoulder, reached out to smack me in the face. Joey laughed outright, and Josh hid a grin while Remy gasped and hastened to apologize – repeatedly – to me.

That was five years, two months, and three days ago. It makes me sound obsessive, but I'm not, just particular. She hit me in the face with a khaki messenger bag stuffed with notebooks, papers, textbooks, and novels, and I've been attracted to her ever since.

Remy is beautiful in that way you don't notice, which somehow makes it so much more real. I know I'm not being biased (or, worse, sappy) by saying it, because quite a few guys have liked her over the years, and two in particular were devoted to her. Ryan still is, but I think Joey gave up two or three years back. She smiles a lot, though it's usually a small one she seems to be trying to hide because, I think, she's secretly laughing at everyone, because her best friends are opposites, a cheerleader and the captain of the volleyball team, and Ryan falls over himself trying to tell her every day how much he worships her, and her favorite teacher is one who sometimes doesn't walk in until the last ten minutes of class. She should be the dramatic one, but no one can really top people like Joey and Ryan and Karin.

But all of this is kind of speculation, because in spite of everything, Remy and I have never really talked; I'm not really social, and Remy doesn't start up conversation, so we never really meshed, but I know her, I like to think. I mean, I know she likes watermelon bubble gum and can blow bubbles bigger than any I have ever seen, and I know she once had to tap-dance for a play and she kept messing up, even when she went to Ryan and his older brother for help, so Mr. Harvey finally cut out that part and threw a pen at her. But, of course, I was there, and I threw the pen back at him, and Remy smiled kind of sheepishly at me, and said, Thanks, but then the butterflies started in my stomach, and I couldn't keep looking at her – her, with the bright eyes and roguish smile and ankle boots and black nail polish and soft hands and bruised knees and klutziness and strong voice and that iPod, the one she never puts down, the one that holds the key to Remy.

I will never admit how deep my feelings for this girl are, because I might get laughed at or worse, someone might tell me how cute I am, and I know it's weird, for this guy who hates everything to be almost obsessed to the point where the whole town knows about my infatuation, but there you go. So I'll just keep it to myself, this secret of mine, this secret called Remy, and this thought that maybe I might love her.

--
Am I more than you bargained for yet,
I've been dying to tell you anything you want to hear
'Cause that's just who I am this week.
--Sugar, We're Goin' down, Fall Out Boy

Mr. Giles likes to make us talk in class. He doesn't give us any preparation for when we have to walk up to the front of the room and talk about a specific topic for three to five minutes, something to promote discussion. I used to think he did it because he was too lazy to make a lesson plan and wanted to use the time to read his stupid book, but when he drops a slip of paper on my desk and I see that it says, in a messy bright pink scrawl, Love, with a little heart beside it, I think that they're for more sadistic purposes. I try to trade with Joey, but Giles probably guessed I'd do that, because he says, still handing out slips, "Aaron, why don't you go first?"

"…" Is he insane?

Giles smiles over his shoulder at me, his lone visible eye crinkling. "Come now, Aaron, don't be shy." I guess so.

With a scowl, I stand up and walk up the aisle. Joey whispers a "Good luck!" and grins goofily, and Karin bats her eyelashes, and Remy, sitting at the front and pulling out her earphones, smiles up at me kind of absently. But she puts down her iPod and props her chin up with one hand and gives me her full attention, and I'm kind of nervous, but I say, "My topic is love," and she doesn't change expression, even though Ino glances at her knowingly, and Josh gives me that smirk I'm used to wearing myself. Ass.

"Love is…" I hesitate. "Love is a lot of things. Love is when you can't pay attention in class, because you're forever writing your first name with his last. Love is a song by The Plain White T's. Love is a book like Pride and Prejudice. Love is the word most guys can't say and girls look everywhere to find. Love is the feeling I outgrew – but had for my mother when she made me blueberry pancakes on snow days, or for my brother when he taught me to punch." My ears burn at the chorus of 'aww's; I didn't mean to let that slip. I clear my throat; time to get some control. "Love is a common element in most books and movies and television shows, from 'chick-lit' to fantasy to supernatural. It's almost always between a guy and a girl who get together at the end, because they apparently only need to meet once to fall in love, and in spite of the hundreds of other people each character has ever met, the main ones in the show are always soul mates, of course." Some people laugh; Remy included.

"I'm…" I pause, trying to choose my words carefully, "not cynical about love, I just don't agree with the take people have on it. Love doesn't have to be about poetry and flowery words, or over-exaggerated rescues ad song-and-dance routines. No one dictates who you fall in love with, it can be a guy like Joey or a girl like Ino; it can be with a basketball player or a bookworm or an animal-lover—"

"Or an actress?" Rachel pipes up teasingly.

Remy shoots her friend a sardonic look while (the majority of) the rest of the class laughs appreciatively. I clam up, glancing at the clock. I've talked enough, and now it's time to wait for discussion.

Remy raises a hand. Shit. I nod at her, not really trusting myself to speak.

"Personally, I don't think that love exists. Though I did like your points," she adds. "But what makes you so sure there is such a thing as love?"

I'm at a loss. I never really thought of that, because I am definitely not the mushy, romantic type, but I always just thought that love exists, and that's why I look through old photo albums with my mother in the evenings and look up to my father and help Joey with his homework nearly every night, and why I notice things about Remy that no one else does.

But then Joey speaks up and saves me from this question and my answer. "I believe in love. I love you, Remy!"

The class laughs, and Remy turns in her seat to blow Joey a kiss, and I can see her smiling and Joey winking playfully at her and I wish I could be like him, wish I could have told her once in the past five years, two months, and three days, rather than have Joey tell Ryan, who told Rachel, who told Ino, who told the rest of the world, including Remy, because then I wouldn't have all these eyes on me, waiting for my reaction, I wouldn't have an audience for my forced not-real confession to the girl who's heard it all.

I will not be the typical possessive lover in a badly written romance, I refuse, so I say instead, "Don't you care about your friends?"

Remy cocks her head thoughtfully and one strand of hair tickles the skin at the nape of her neck. "I suppose so," she says.

"How sweet," Rachel deadpans.

"Well, that's a kind of love," I remind her. but she shakes her head.

"Love is when you want to be with a person all the time isn't it? Well, I'd rather marry Scott then hang out with Ino or Rachel twenty-four seven," she says matter-of-factly, ignoring her friends' cries of mock-outrage and Scott groaning at her to 'Leave me out of this, woman.' She leans forward. "So tell me, Aaron, what makes you so sure love exists?"

It feels like we're the only two people in the world, and it's suffocating, because it's like Remy's trying to get me to say something, something I can't say, and I don't know why she's doing this to me, so I clear my dry throat and say, "What makes you so sure it doesn't?"

Her eyes gleam with some foreign emotion I can't pin down; I don't know if it's good or bad, but it feels like she was testing me and with that answer I either passed or failed. I want to ask her which.

"Because," she says, voice as clear as if she were on stage, as Juliet or Cinderella or Christine, "I've never been in love, or anything like it."

She seems to be waiting for my answer, so I say, "Well, I have."

And then the bell rings.

--
Feel her breath on my face, her body close to me
Can't look in her eyes, she's out of my league
Just a fool to believe she's got anything I need
--She's Like the Wind, Lumidee

Joey shoves and stumbles and yells a lot to get me out of school, to the back parking lot, and into my car, so he can turn to me with that stunned expression I'm sure I'll be seeing a lot of for a while. "What was that?!" he demands.

I turn the key in the ignition and turn up the heat. It's getting chilly. I don't answer.

"Listen, I think it's great that you like a normal girl, unlike Josh." Joey pauses to wrinkle his nose. "But do you realize how insane this is going to get? No one's gonna leave you alone now. Or ever, really. You just told Remy to her face that you love her."

"I didn't specify," I point out tonelessly, flipping on the radio. Evan and Jaron belts out that I'm Crazy for this Girl, and I want to yell, I KNOW! but I don't, I just switch to another station. Panic! At the Disco. No love songs here, just talking about whores.

"Who else would you be talking about?" Joey wants to know. "Amy?" I wince, and he snorts. "Exactly."

I always thought that girls like to be told that a guy loves them but maybe they don't. I didn't see Remy's expression, I just whirled around and walked out, without stopping for my books so I don't know if she hates me for embarrassing her or is amused by how I embarrassed myself, but I don't really want to know, so I put my hands on the steering wheel, press down on the gas, and get out of there. I should be in Biology right now, but so should Remy, and I don't think either of us wants to deal with the other, so I'll let her enjoy cutting open a frog, while I sulk, and Joey goes on berating me, not caring that he's missing Journalism.

But he doesn't need to, because I'm beating myself up over the biggest mistake of my life.

Five years, two months, and three days. I couldn't go one more?

--
"She says it all without a thought in her head, she says it all as she's pressed up against me.
A little something just to take off the edge, anymore and I'll fall off the planet entirely."
--When your heart stops beating+44

I don't really want to see anyone, so I go to this spot I found when I was eight and my parents and my brother John got into a huge argument. I ran out, not wanting to see them yell at each other because I didn't know who to side with.

It's a nice place, an abandoned, open field, with a few logs and stumps scattered at the boundary line. It's the kind of place kids go when they want to run away – or maybe a teenager goes when he doesn't want gossip-mongers asking about his love life.

I sit down on a log, facing the sun. It's getting late, and the sun is just beginning to sink under the horizon, casting long shadows. I look at mine, so much taller than I am, and then I notice the other one, coming up beside it and I suck in a breath.

"Hey."

Remy and I barely speak, but I could pick out the lilting, kind of quirky tone of her voice in a crowd. She sits beside me and I stiffen, keeping my eyes on the sunset before me. So many colors that shouldn't look good together but make something so beautiful are spread out on the sky in front of me, but I can think of something even prettier.

"…Hi," I finally say. Remy sighs.

"Listen, just – just relax. I'm not going to jump you or something for what you said. I mean, it doesn't bother me. But I – how do I say this…" She rakes a hand through her short hair irritably, and exhales gustily, looking at me for help.

I keep my gaze straight ahead.

"Aaron. I like you. A lot. But not that way. My parents are divorced. My step-mom is a bitch. I don't – probably never will – believe in love or fall in love or even care to have a relationship. At least not for a long time."

I look at her, finally. "…I didn't ask you to."

Remy smiles kind of sadly, and her bright eyes grow dull. "I know," she agrees, reaching out to put a hand on my knee and turn more fully to face me. I can see the long lashes framing her eyes, the chipped nail polish on her long nails, the curve of her neck where her too-long gray hoodie slips over her shoulder.

"You know, I used to have a crush on you."

I snap out of my reverie, tear my gaze away from the skin of her knee, peeking out from the tear in her jeans and scant inches from my own. She sees the question in my eyes and continues.

"Yeah, I thought you were gorgeous. I adored you, I wanted to know you so badly. But I was too shy. And eventually I gave up.

"But then I found out you felt the same. Or rather, I heard you did. And I saw you looking at me sometimes, I knew you liked to watch my plays and rehearsals, and I don't know, you were always there. but somehow – I wasn't sure of your feelings. I mean, it should have been obvious you liked me, but I couldn't help but think it wasn't really true, I was just imagining it."

I couldn't speak. Remy reached out with her free hand and traced the fingers of my hand before taking it in her own and lacing our fingers together. I was sure my pulse was racing and I wondered if she could feel it. my heart was going about a hundred miles per minute—

"I'm leaving, Aaron."

And then it suddenly stopped.

I kept breathing, Remy kept watching me, the world kept spinning, and we kept holding hands, but it felt like time had stopped and I wished it had, because then I could just keep this moment with this pretty girl, this drama queen that had just reached out and slapped me, with one hand on my knee and the other in my hand, and a sad smile that had stolen my heart away one day one and was breaking it now.

"I'm moving," she went on in a rush. "Daddy's gotten a better job in California. Hollywood, you know? And he says it could be good for me, if I plan to go anywhere with the acting thing." She peeked up at me through her long lashes. "I don't know when I'll be back, but I will be. But I just wanted to get it all out there, I – " She stopped, looking at me with her burning emerald gaze.

I wonder what she's thinking, because I know what I am. We would've been so good together.

She takes her hand off my knee, but she doesn't leave, like I was afraid she might. Instead, she brings it to my face, pressing her fingers lightly to my jaw.

"I'm staying for the last few months of the year," she tells me. "We're leaving after graduation." She smiles shakily, and her voice drops to a whisper. "I wasn't expecting this to be so hard. But… maybe I'll see you again sometime? It's not the end of the world."

If she only knew.

She leans forward, and before my eyes can widen or close or register anything that's happening, she presses her lips to mine, first lightly, and then hard, pressing herself closer and raking her hand up my cheek and through my hair, and I can do nothing but follow, bringing her even closer and wrapping my arms around her waist and pressing one hand to the small of her back and the other up her sweatshirt and t-shirt and wishing this could be a First instead of a Last.

I don't know how long we sit there, her sweatshirt slipping off somehow, and the two of us falling back onto the grass and her tears splashing down onto my cheeks and my confessions I was never ready to say, but when we break away it's dark and the stars are out and I can barely see her, but I can hear her and she's crying.

"Remy, I—"

She doesn't let me finish. "Thank you," she murmurs against my skin, bringing her lips to mine for one last scorching kiss that ends us before we began.

And then she runs off, the wind is cool on my skin, the grass underneath me is damp and soaks through my shirt and even though I know I'm going to see her tomorrow and the day after, and the day after, and every day after until she leaves, I feel the emptiness, I know it's weighing down on me.

She left her sweatshirt and in it is her iPod, and I pull it out and insert the earphones. I turn it on, this Key to Sakura, and I know what songs she likes, I know what she listens to, I've listened to them myself because of her, but then I see her Top 25 Most Played List and the songs surprise me.

--

Let Me Go – Three Doors Down
Don't Matter – Akon
Eyelash Wishes – The All-American Rejects
Bubbly – Colbie Caillat
One more Night – Cascada
1000 Miles – Vanessa Carlton
Collide – Howie Day
Hanging By a Moment – Lifehouse
24 Story Love Affair – Faber Drive
Miles Apart – Yellowcard
Here in Your Arms - Hellogoodbye
Keep Your Heart Broken – The Rasmus
Everywhere – Michelle Branch
I'll Be – Edwin McCain
Yours to Hold – Skillet
Wonderwall – Oasis
Iris – Goo Goo Dolls
You're Beautiful – James Blunt
Accidentally in Love – Counting Crows
Empty Spaces – SR-71
Stuck On You – Stacey Orrico
Over and Over – Three Days Grace
#1 Crush – Garbage
Lips of an Angel– Hinder
The Reason – Hoobastank

--

I won't tell Joey that Remy is leaving, it would crush him. I don't tell anyone, so no one knows what happened between us, everyone is expecting some sort of confrontation when I walk in to English and right up to Remy's desk, trying not to stand out. I slouch and shuffle, my hands in my pockets and head bent down, but I know everyone is watching. Remy breaks off in talking to Ino and looks up at me, not seeming too surprised, but rather guarded, and maybe even sad.

Wordlessly, I hold out my hand. I have her iPod. I have her sweater too, but it would be better to give that to her when no one is watching. I don't know what people might think and Remy seems to understand that too, because she takes it with a smile and a Thank you, and nothing else, and I leave, I walk to my seat at the back of the classroom.

I was up late last night downloading her Top 25 Most Played songs onto my own iPod, and I take it out now. It has its own playlist, so I never lose these songs, or why I kept them. It's called Reasons to Wait.

I see Remy slide her own earphones in, and she starts to bob her head, and I know she isn't listening to Green Day or Linkin Park, she's listening to Maroon 5 and she isn't humming and neither am I, we just listen. Around us, the world spins our classmates talk, and Giles is late, but inside our breaths are synchronized, my heartbeat slows, she closes her eyes, and our anthem plays on.

I don't mind spending everyday
Out on your corner in the pouring rain
Look for the girl with the broken smile
Ask her if she wants to stay awhile
And she will be loved

Please don't try so hard to say goodbye
--She Will Be Loved, Maroon 5

Remember, I didn't write this. I only changed the names and a few of the songs. The real writer wrote this on Fanfiction, and I thought that people on here would enjoy this, so if you like Naruto, or SasuSaku, PM me and I'll send you a link to the original. Happy reading!

P.S. I might write a sequel to this. Or a sort of companion.