I first met Michael Gray at the seventies themed fraternity party in September of 2008.
Being a freshman in college, I had never been to many parties before in my life. The last party I remember even attending was a Halloween party hosted by my best friend, Faith Jackson; we were in the seventh grade.
I had been in a rut for the past six years. In high school, I was the science dweeb who never was asked to any of the dances. It might have been my frizzy brown hair that had scared them off or my unstylish thick-rimmed glasses. I wasn't exactly Miss Kentucky, but I did find love. Sadly, he never knew I even liked him. Justin MacAfee had been my best friend throughout high school, and he was the king of dweebs. Something miraculous happened on the students' return from summer break though. Justin had reinvented himself from being this scrawny bookworm to being the popular guy with a cool car. He had completely changed, leaving all his nerdy friends behind - including me.
However, this story isn't about my almost high school sweetheart. No, it's a more complicated story, and it starts at where any good reinvention happens - college.
"I feel uncomfortable." I hissed to my roommate, Julia Simpson, when we walked into the fraternity house. She might be able to pull off the short dresses and sexy high heels, but I could not. I felt like the small dress that I borrowed from the petite fiery redhead was going to split in two if I took too big of breath. I quickly promised myself that I would never wear it again. I would burn it if I had to.
"You look fine, Rachel." Julia scrutinized my straightened chocolate brown hair, and then began to primp my long, glossy bangs to the side of my face, which revealed my pale blue eyes. She had prided herself in the last few weeks for giving my hair such a great makeover, but the truth was anything would have looked better than how I had worn my hair. "Alright, now you look fine. How do I look?"
I examined Julia, but she didn't need my opinion. Her silver dress could have caused mouths to drop in awe. She gave a smirk of satisfaction as she twirled. In the one month that I had known Julia, I could sum up one word to describe her - outgoing, the complete opposite of me. It didn't stop us from becoming good friends though, and she was determined to help me transform into a socialite like herself.
"Julia, I'm not sure if I'm going to fit in here. I don't know any of these people."
"They all go to the University of Ohio State; you should at least recognize some of them." Julia pointed to a large man chatting to a skinny brown-haired woman. "That guy over there is Chase Robertson. He's the captain of the football team. He's talking to the captain of the cheerleading squad, Tonya Hudson."
"The names aren't ringing a bell."
Julia rolled her eyes. "Well, just mingle then. I'm going to go find a cute guy to make out with; bye!"
Before I could beg her to wait, she was gone in a flash. I awkwardly walked in the black high heels towards the punch bowl and watched everyone dance as I stood in the background of all the fun. I attempted to be social by giving a smile here and there to a passerby; however, half of them would just politely smile back and keep walking while the other half ignored me all together. Everyone was more interested in the Farrah Fawcett look-a-like who was dancing on a table.
By the fifth song Miss Fawcett danced to on the table, I had enough of trying to lead this other life. I was like a piece of a puzzle that didn't quite fit in the big picture. There was no way that this square was going to squeeze itself in the small round empty space. I wasn't like Justin who could come to school with an expensive car and win new friends. No matter how much time Julia and I spent primping, I was never going to be like her either. I was, Rachel Costello, the high school science dweeb all over again.
As an Andy Gibb song played on the radio, I slowly walked towards the door of the frat house. However, an arm blocked the exit. My eyes moved from the man's arm, to his Led Zeppelin t-shirt, and then to his beautiful and friendly face. His eyes were a sea of green, and his messily styled blonde hair told me that he was one of them - the popular crew. His polite smile reminded me a lot of Justin's, which caused me to look away from the stranger quickly.
"Where are you going?" He yelled over the loud music. "The party just started."
"I have an early class tomorrow." I lied. "I should go home."
I glanced back up to the man, who was smiling uncontrollably. "What did you say?"
"You heard me." He challenged, raising his eyebrows.
"You did not just call me a dweeb." I smiled at his friendly teasing.
"What are you doing to do about it?"
"I don't know - hit you really hard."
His head fell back as he laughed. "What's your name, dweeb?"
"Rachel." I awkwardly shook the man's hand, as if this was a formal meeting. "Rachel Costello."
"I'm Michael Gray. It's nice to meet you. So, are you going to be cool and stay?"
I felt myself blush at his forwardness and shrugged. "I guess."
Michael and I talked a lot that evening. Mostly, it was about our majors and background. He was going to school to be a politician, and I told him how I wanted to be a veterinarian. We were undeniably opposite, yet still found each other completely fascinating. While he could make speeches in front of his fellow peers with a breeze, I had trouble talking to new people; but I didn't have that problem with Michael. Michael Gray, with his suave and wit, could keep the conversation alive by telling old stories from his high school days.
"I have a hard time believing that you broke into the school and moved all the desks on top of the roof." I questioned with a smile.
"Well, I didn't do it alone."
"Did they ever find out who did it?"
"Let's just say that the senior prank was a success. It took the faculty three hours before they found out where the desks were hidden."
I laughed as I drank more of the "special" punch that Michael had gotten for the two of us. "I never could have done that sort of stuff when I was in high school."
"Oh, because you were a dweeb."
"Shut up." I smiled, shoving his arm lightly. "I was just too nice."
"You were also afraid of getting in trouble."
He laughed as he looked at his empty cup. "Do you want some more to drink?"
My cup was almost empty so I handed it to Michael and watched him leave. I was beginning to feel very attached to this man.