People were screaming all around me, though not in fear as one might imagine, and even so the thought of running was all too tempting for me. The Athletic Director was running wildly around the gym floor with a megaphone held to his mouth, magnifying his screams to his youth-filled audience. Despite my shy nature, the volume of the enormous room was not even close to the reason that I sat praying I could disappear. In fact, there were a few if not more that scored higher than the pep rally itself, though there would likely be no list at all if not for it.
Item number one, which was under quite a bit of scrutiny and closely followed by item number two: Jessica Mitchellson. The tall, athletic, beautiful, and most certainly intelligent and courageous Jessica Mitchellson. The one and only; The Legend. The girl that was everything I wished I was yet everything I detested all wrapped into one perfect little package; so little, in fact, that I often wondered if she even ate. Unfortunately for much of my grade school years, and thus far all of my high school years, she knew it too. She knew everything, including but not limited to the fact that the only thing I had on her was brains, and just barely, and that I, much like every other girl in the school if not the world, desperately wished they could be if only for a day. Of course, being the cheer captain, it was her civil duty to harass those such as myself who wished that the entire idea of the Pep Rally was simply never thought of, and wished harm to the cruel, cruel person who first invented it.
"Clair!" She shouted over all the voices of the crowd after easily jogging the bleachers in search of non-participants. "Why aren't you enjoying the pep rally? Is something wrong? Maybe you should come down to the floor and see what it's all about!!"
My only response was a silent glare that clearly spoke my very negative and rude response. Being who she was, she chose to ignore it in her happy-go-lucky and overly friendly manner that spoke her mockery in volumes above the cheering students.
"WHO ARE WE??" The AD screamed.
"THE TIGERS!!" Came the students' mighty roar. I felt like I was in a cereal commercial.
"Come on Clair!!" Jessica made a move to grab my arm. "Live a little!" She smirked at me, menace in her eyes.
"Let me go," I jerked my arm away from her, barely loud enough to be heard even in my own ears.
"Don't you have school spirit? Show some!"
"I'm not going anywhere," My voice shook, and my throat hurt from having to yell so loud, and I knew that students around us were watching, but I didn't care.
Her fake smile disappeared.
"Yes, you are. You're going to set an example for this school. You're a sophomore now, what will we do when the freshmen start acting like people like you?" Her voice was cold, and cut through the screams in the gym as if she and I were the room's only inhabitants.
Suddenly, Item Number Two appeared behind her, one of his massive hands on her girlish shoulder.
"Leave her alone Jessica," His voice was deeper than I remembered, and sweeter-sounding with ever word that passed his heavenly lips.
The cheer captain shriveled her little nose before turning and half-skipping down the stairs as if the event had never taken place.
Immediately I averted my gaze, a pink blush creeping across my pale cheeks. My heart beat fast in my chest, and I could almost hear its labor in my ears.
"Are you alright?" I felt lips brush against a dark lock of hair that hung over my left ear.
Startled, I popped my head up to see the most beautiful set of blue eyes to ever be gazed upon. Item Number Two was sitting barely a few short inches from me, so close I could feel his body heat, hear his calm breath, smell his sweet scent of pine and something of a spice.
"I-I… um, I…" Suddenly my tongue was fat and lazy, and my mind devoid of even an elementary vocabulary.
"We should get out of here. I hate these things," He said in my ear again, this time taking my petite hand in his much larger one as he spoke.
Everything about this massive creature before me was amazing. At this very moment, the fact that the insanely packed gymnasium suddenly seemed void of life other than ours held my mind captive. He seemed to see a previously invisible path that cut through the roaring crowd of teenagers and led directly to the exit behind the huge bleachers, hidden from faculty eyes.
We exited into silence, my hand still entangled in his.
"You shouldn't let people like her shove you around like that," He informed me, his eyes directed in front of us.
Suddenly I was embarrassed. Not the way I had been before, with my cheeks staining pink and thinking of myself as a fool, but instead to the extent that I was ashamed of my actions. I've been told for years by numerous people to take a stand, to take charge of my life, and yet I simply had never done it. Was it out of cowardice, or sloth?
"That's really cute," He spoke to me, interrupting my thoughts.
"What's cute?" I mustered up the courage to ask him.
He gave a single quiet laugh.
"Your blush," He spoke in a soft, quiet voice.
We were both silent for a moment as we walked together, hand-in-hand.
"I think that every time I see it." He said after a moment, and in the same quiet tone. "You do it a lot."
I didn't know what to say, so I thought at first that it would be better to say nothing. My mouth, however, had other plans.
"I think you're cute, too," I spoke matter-of-factly, immediately regretting both the comment and the awkward silence that followed.
"We've had a lot of classes together haven't we?" He stated more than asked as he pushed open a door leading to one of our school's massive parking lots.
"I guess we have. I hadn't really thought about it," I lied to him shamefully. I thought about it everyday. I thought about it when I walked out of the girl's locker room for PE, and when I sat down in my desk two rows over from him in English, and when I tiptoed into Pre-Calculus late everyday because my seat was closest to the door but his was farthest. I thought about it when I watched him cross the lunch room everyday when our monotone math teacher set us free for thirty minuets to eat. I thought about it when I walked to school every morning and stopped to watch him practice football with the rest of the team.
"My name is Jake, by the way. In case you didn't know, you know?" Now he was blushing. Here I stood, hand-in-hand with a boy who barely knew that I existed despite that I was practically stalking the poor lad.
"Clair…I like that name. It fits you," We shared another smile before he suddenly stopped walking and dug around in his pockets for something.
"Here we are," He pulled out a keychain and pushed a button, causing the huge blue pickup in front of us to honk. "I'll help you up."
And boy was I going to need that help. I was practically going to need a ladder to get into the vehicle otherwise.
I stepped back as he opened the passenger door, throwing his backpack into the large backseat. Well, large for a truck anyway. He reached for mine as well and placed it much more gently in the back.
"Ready?" He asked me.
I looked at the truck unsurely before placing my purse on the truck's floor, which was much more accessible to someone of my stature than the seat would ever be. I looked up at him as he placed his hands on my waist and I placed mine on his shoulders. He lifted me easily and slower than was necessary.
"Watch your head," He warned me, and I placed it on his shoulder. He chuckled, though I wasn't so sure that it was because of me exactly.
Once I was seated safely he closed the door and walked around to the other side. I watched jealously as he easily slipped into the driver's seat. He didn't even need to stand on his toes he was so tall!
"So, wanna go anywhere for lunch?" He asked while revving the engine. "I'll buy."
"You don't have to do that," I replied modestly.
"I know," He reached his arm loosely around my shoulders, "but I want to."
"That's very kind of you," I smiled at him. "But if you're paying then you should pick."
"Just this once," He glanced over at me. "What kind of food do you like?"
I narrowed my eyes at him.
"Jake…" I said dangerously.
"Don't get mad! I'm still gonna pick, I just want your input," He explained quickly.
It was my turn to sigh.
"I like sushi," He wrinkled his nose, and I laughed aloud. "Okay, no sushi. What about Mexican?"
"Ah! I know the perfect place; I bet you've never been. You'll love it," He made a quick U-turn and caught a light just in time.
I laughed as he drove; praying that this moment with him would never end.