Disclaimer: I don't own Chuck Taylor shoes (Converse); the books, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Graham-Smith, Cell by Stephen King; or the bands A Skylit Drive, Kill Hannah, or Breaking Benjamin.
A/N: I promise you, Eva is a guy. He just has a girly name. The reason for this is never said in the story, but his mother wanted a girl; when she gave birth to a boy instead, she gave him the name she'd picked out for her daughter. Don't question my logic.
Grey. Black. Red. Checkered. Striped. Patterned.
I have a hoodie for everyday of the week, and then some.
Day by day, I push my way through the crowds on the sidewalk, an almost vain attempt at getting to school on time, with my head bowed, the hood of my chosen sweatshirt pulled over my head, obscuring my face from the prying eye. Sometimes my hair falls from behind my ear and curtains in front of my eye.
It doesn't bother me. It never bothers me.
My hoodies hide me. They hide my face and my hair and my body. They hide all the things I don't want others to see. And that's everything.
Every morning, I stand in front of my closet and pick out a hoodie. It becomes my shield, my primary defense, the one thing that keeps me going throughout the day; knowing that I can hide from everyone, from the world... it comforts me.
But then –
"Why do you always wear those jackets?"
Anxiety flutters in the pit of my stomach; nerves cause my toes to curl in my beaten, off-white-and-faded-black Chuck Taylors. I absently pull my sleeves down to cover my hands. My mouth suddenly dries and my eyes shut and I refuse, refuse, refuse to look at the guy that addressed me.
I'm not good with people.
I keep my mouth shut, purse my lips together, open my eyes. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is sitting on the table in front of me, opened to the page I'd been on; my place is lost, and I scan the jumble of words for a familiar phrase.
'Elizabeth presently drew her Katana and cut off Lydia's head, which fell into the open hatbox.'
The last sentence I read. Even after continuing where I'd left off, I can still feel the presence of the other person, and make it a point to ignore him.
He doesn't leave until after lunch is well over. But he comes back the next day. And the next. And the next.
"You never talk. Why is that?"
He's staring at me; he's shown up at my empty little table for the past month. I've gone through fifteen books since then. I read fast. I glance at him over my current book: Cell by Stephen King.
My heart faithfully skips a beat.
It's not like the boy's drop dead gorgeous; it's not like he's the hunchback of Notre Dame. He just is, with shoulder length, platinum blonde hair, dark, hazel eyes, and sharp features. I feel I owe him an explanation.
I pull out my notebook. My pen.
I never talk because I can't.
His eyes widen; his mouth forms an 'o'. I go back to my book.
He shows up the next day holding something rectangular-shaped and wrapped in shimmery paper patterned with little stars. I raise an eyebrow; what hell is he doing?
"Uh. For you. Yeah." He thrusts the present in front of me. I blink in confusion. He flushes a deep pink. I look at the present, pick at the corner. Worrying my lip between my teeth, I hesitantly open it.
A cerulean notebook. It has adorable little white, vector-art bunnies in the corner. I flip it through it; I love it.
"Thank you," I mouth, offering a small smile. The pink darkens to red.
His name's Teagan, I finally find out. Usually he sits with me at lunch; occasionally he doesn't come to lunch at all. Sometimes he plays with my hair during lunch; sometimes he doesn't. Sometimes he gives me a warm hug after the bell has rung; sometimes he just pats my shoulder. Sometimes he walks with me after school; sometimes he stays behind.
He's walking with me today, chattering away about random things. I pull my hood down further, hide my face. He knows I'm listening.
His street is coming up soon. Mine house is farther away. I purse my lips; this happens everyday. I'm always a little sad, though. Just a little.
Today is like any other. We stop at the end of his street. I look up at him; he looks down at me. We stare at each other for a few excruciatingly long moments. And then –
Today, he presses his lips against mine. My entire body tenses; I was not expecting this.
But I like it.
We quickly fall into a rhythm, our lips sliding against each other. I grip his shoulders, fingers turning white; his hands curl on my hips, holding me in place.
My hood slips off my head; his hands skim up my sides, sit on my shoulders, pull my hood back up.
I smile into our kiss.
He doesn't show up for lunch. I'm not worried. It happens. I bury myself in my book instead. A girl who looks vaguely familiar snatches it from me before I can even read a full sentence. I stare at her, she stares at me. Then her face contorts into a hideous sneer.
"Eva Harris. Who the fuck do you think you are?" I blink, once, twice. What? I grab the notebook Teagan gave me and flip it open to a blank page.
I'm just who you said. Eva Harris.
This earns me a fierce glare; she rips the notebook from my hands and throws it back at me. It narrowly misses.
"Boys don't kiss other boys. Boys kiss girls. I repeat, Harris, who the fuck do you think you are?" Without my notebook, I cannot reply; she seems more than willing to do it for me. "You're Eva Harris, a fag. You're a boy. And boys don't kiss other boys!"
I didn't know that. Thank you for pointing it out, though, I would have died without that knowledge. She continues.
"I saw you yesterday, you fag," she spits the word out, as if it's venomous. "You were kissing Teagan Knight in the middle of the fucking street!"
I glance around.
Everyone in the cafeteria is staring.
Anxiety – fear – grips my heart and squeezes. It constricts my heart, cuts off my air supply. I gasp for breath. My fingers dig into the table. I squeeze my eyes shut. I cross my arms over my stomach, double over, forehead nearly touching the tabletop. My toes curl in my shoes and I think I'm gonna throw up.
I get up. Run.
In the bathroom, I hunch over one of the toilets and cough up nothing but stomach acid. My throat burns. I can't catch my breath. I lean against the stall door and draw my knees up to my chest.
I don't go to school the next day. Or the day after that. Or the day after that. A whole week passes. Mom doesn't care; Dad's busy with work. They're concerned in their own ways. They don't pry, though. I'm thankful for that.
Mom's home when the doorbell rings. I'm laying curled up in the corner of my bed, white earbuds in my ears as I listen to the shuffle on my iPod – A Skylit Drive, Kill Hannah, and Breaking Benjamin, among others – waiting for her to finally answer it. I hear muffled voices from downstairs and know that she got the door. I close my eyes and turn up the volume.
Please tell me that this is for real – I just might say someday, I could be better off in your mind.
The bed sinks down and someone's sitting next to me. My eyes open a bit; it's him. Teagan. He reaches out and runs his fingers through my hair. It feels really good; I close my eyes once more and move closer to him. His leg is my new pillow. He leans down and presses a soft kiss to my temple – an apology.
I smile and rest my hand on his hip. Forgiveness.
I go back to school the following week. The girl was suspended for bullying; I'm almost relieved. Almost. Teagan meets me between all our classes. It's cute, his concern for me. We agree to skip fourth period, hang out behind the school.
I use his lap as a pillow; his hand sits on the dip between my ribs and hip.
"What are we?" he asks. I open my eyes a little; my fingertips skim the tiny strip of bare skin between his jeans and the hem of his t-shirt.
I shrug. It feels awkward to do so.
"We are..." My lips form the words. His hand travels from my side to my neck; I can feel him messing with a strand of my hair.
I trace letters on his jeans: We just are.
His hand curls around my neck. He understands. He agrees.
When he walks with me that evening, he kisses me again. When my hood falls and he moves to pull it back up, I catch his hands and lace our fingers together instead.
Maybe there's nothing to hide from after all.