The first time I met her, I was walking calmly in the High School hallway talking to a bunch of friends. She was new and punching her locker because it wouldn't open. I have to admit: I didn't even see her. Until I hit the locker door.
Damn, I remember the pain, she swung it open the second I was behind it and let me tell you, a green locker door swung by an angry girl hurts a lot. She poked her head from behind the locker, looked at me in an angry and surprised glare. She barely said a word; she mumbled a simple sorry, grabbed her notebook and walked away. As if nothing had ever happened. That was when it had all started, how this stupid thing that girls laugh about and whisper to each other in hallways: a crush.
Sounds kind of childish but there was no other way of saying things, every time I saw her, I looked away and I could not help thinking of how beautiful she looked.
Her name was Canelle and for some reason I always ended up doing something stupid in her presence. Do not ask me why. And her look when she saw me was always one of pity, like she was thinking "What is this idiot going to do next?" I have never hated a look so much.
She definitely saw no more in me then what everyone else thought I was, a basketball player that has all the cheerleaders he can ever dream of. Which was, by the way, absolutely and totally untrue but I was a careful listener and when others- the ones who did not seek me any good- thought they were out of earshot I heard what they whispered about me. I had many friends, even more people I was on good terms with and a couple enemies.
Canelle was definitely not the kind of girls who blabber and chirp around looking at boys from under their mascara-ed eyes and pouting when things didn't go their way.
I have to admit, this was once the kind of girls I was attracted to but thank God I got over the testosterone period a little early and suddenly these pink miniskirts over long fake-tanned legs didn't seem as attractive as before.
When I looked further and got to know them better I noticed there were about 3 things they talked about, shopping, going on a diet, and their weekly appointment with their spa. And why did they go out with me: because at the time, I was the only freshman that had been transferred to varsity basketball a week before the team was set. So what do you think I did, I was a normal guy and I enjoyed my glory and my all-new popularity and went out with the cheerleaders. Okay, some of them were juniors and I was a freshman and maybe I should've thought twice at it but now it's too late. If I had known that it would stick to me till I was a senior and in love with the perfect girl I would have gladly given it up. I would even have paid attention in science class and joined the brain game if that would have helped me.
Now I'm just pathetic me, trying hard to get her attention but the best I get is an angry glare. To me, she is like the goddess Athena, wise and intelligent, beautiful and fierce. The kind that is way above my C average brain. For heaven's sake, I even saw her smile at Miles Robins, a skinny geek: pale with twisted glasses that still hadn't gotten over the teenage acne. Okay I was being mean, I was JEALOUS. Way to go, Justin.
So, when I saw her running after the school bus in the afternoon and missing it, I decided that maybe I could be useful in some way. I had a car. Hurray, this was the first time in my whole life I ever thanked my brother Steven for giving me the old pickup Ford. He didn't even technically give it to me, I worked all summer to get this steel box colored with a little red paint and a lot of mud. He sold it for 900 bucks and for what the car is worth, I got tricked.
I was coming up to her waving goodbye to all the pink Britneys and Ashleys that squealed a farewell. Then came my second lucky miracle of the day, as I was about to reach her I spotted a bike coming from her left she was behind a couple bushes and the biker didn't see her, he speeded up. I called her name but she didn't hear me. How foolish of me, I should have known that she'd have her iPod on, she never went anywhere without it. So I did the only thing I could think of, I ran and shot my arm right in front of her just as she was emerging from the bushes and the bike flew by. One more step and she would have been knocked over by a bicker in a hurry.
For the first time, she looked at me with gratitude and my heart was filled with warmth and a stupid smile appeared on my face. I knew how stupid I looked that was the exact mile I made when we won our first game (after we'd lost five) and my picture was taken. I looked like my brain had been sucked out of its proper place and I was no smarter than say,… a basketball. But that night, I was happy and proud and this was the same feeling except way better.
She smiled and thanked me in her soft sweet voice and continued walking, I thought I saw her blush but that might have been my imagination. Then I remembered:
"The car, stupid idiot, you were supposed to offer her a ride!"
I ran to catch up with her and while I was focused on catching my breath and not on her I managed to release a coherent phrase:
"Do you have to walk home?"
She looked at me, surprised and answered a little hesitant:
" Yeah, I live all the way at the end of Maple it will take me a while."
" Well here, take my cell phone, you can call someone who can give you a ride"
She was surprised again at my helpfulness (Right, of course I was so helpful. Not.). I actually was amazed with myself, I never thought I would actually to propose something as complicated as calling a ride to her. To someone else sure, no problem I was not That dumb but with her my brain usually went to mush even worse than before.
" Thank you very much but I do not know anyone free to offer me a ride now, I guess I'll have to walk."
" In this weather? It's about to rain, no way you're going down to Maple, let me take you there, it's on my way."
It was so not, I lived almost on the other side of town but she didn't need to know that.
She stared at me trying to figure out what I was thinking. I managed to take an acceptable facial appearance and she thanked me and agreed to let me drive her home.
One thing was for sure, I was so not going to go above the speed limit, my first time alone with Canelle? It could last eternity I wouldn't mind, I was seriously hit hard by love but I didn't care, it felt to good. I was exemplary, I was a careful driver, and I kept the conversation going without looking at her with my stupid smile once. I could be proud of myself. We talked about teachers and classes; since she was only a Junior I advised what classes to absolutely take and the ones to avoid for a fun senior year. She told me about Arizona, were she used to live and how she hated Indiana because it rained too much. I told her about my life as a Hoosier and there was a lot of silence. She wasn't a talker and I was way shy when I was with her. Fortunately there was the music, we had the same taste.
When it came to clubs and other activities, she told me that she was thinking of quitting Art Club because her ride had stopped going and she didn't feel like walking home every Thursday. Bingo! I thought, I had basketball practice on Thursdays and it was our free day- meaning that instead of practicing till 5.30 we finished at 4.30, just the time when she finished Art Club. I offered to be her ride on Thursdays and she said she was glad to do so.
The only low about these fifteen minutes in my car is that when she got out she asked me my name. If I knew perfectly who she was she obviously had not heard of "Justin the Magnificent" (Just kidding). I gave her my name and cell phone number all in a very professional way. That night I slapped myself because I stared at the black screen for more than two minutes begging her to call. There was no way I was becoming like a desperate freshman girl waiting for the hot senior to call her that would be really pathetic of me. Yet what did I do all evening? Yep, I checked the phone every five minutes hopping for a call that never came. Who am I kidding; did my sister pass to many girl genes to me? I guess I was way to in love to even think about it.
When Thursday came, I was showering in the gym after practice, as always: that is when she decided to call. I almost missed her and got it just on time, she was waiting for me. I was in the shower boot, with nothing more a towel around my legs and I felt completely exposed. Of course I knew that she couldn't see me but I still had the disturbing feeling she could. She was waiting for me at the first gate, that's why she called. She didn't even ask if I had forgotten or anything she just told me were she was waiting. It made me feel like I was a taxi driver and that didn't suit me to well but then again, this was Canelle we were talking about. I hurried up and got to the gate my hair still dripping.
"Hi Justin" were her only words and she gratified me with a smile. It was enough to keep me happy for the rest of the day.
When we got in the car, after a while she asked me:
"Justin, why are you taking me home if you live on the other side of town?"
Damn it! I was busted. I tried to think of something smart to say but nothing came. Then a detail that probably saved me from an embarrassing moment popped in my head:
" How do you know that?"
The Canelle I knew so far would have glared and ordered me to answer her question but this time she just blushed.
" I know a lot more than what people think I do."
What was that supposed to mean? I didn't understand. We stayed silent for a while.
She broke it first:
" One of my friends was invited to a party at your house once and she didn't want to go to a party with college guys alone so she invited me, I refused to go."
The party? Great, now my relationship with her was over before it ever started. That was the party my sister threw for her birthday: there was alcohol and we got busted by the cops. I stayed a night in jail but they had to let me out because I was one of the only seniors you hadn't had a drop of alcohol. The others weren't so lucky. Still, dad grounded me for a whole month. But how was I to explain that.
And I had thought that maybe she liked me too, but instead she was just embarrassed to tell me about how she knew where I lived.
" Oh. My sisters' party, right, I hope you friend didn't get into trouble."
She shot me the evil/angry look and said:
" She got a huge fine to pay because she was drunk."
That was even better, her friend had gotten into problems at a party in my house and I guess Canelle was accusing me for it, how wonderful. I tensed and focused on the road.
Nothing more was said. She barely said goodbye and I thought that everything was over, I might as well play videogames and put my anger onto killing the enemy. I was very good at it; there must have been more anger in me than what I thought.
When my cell phone buzzed I hesitated, should I get up, go to the hallway and fetch it or just ignore and continue destroying people? I got up; ready to shatter the phone to pieces if one the Britneys was calling. It was Canelle.
She called and in her calm and professional voice she told me that she had found another ride next Thursday and that I needn't make this whole detour to bring her home. My mind was still returning from the "Die! Miserable soldier" and I found it hard to focus on the conversation.
"Who?" My mind finally caught on.
"Miles, he lives in my neighborhood and since he's preparing for the upcoming science fair he stays after school almost everyday. "
She was making it sound like it was more beneficial to me, I didn't have to pay extra gas and so on and so forth but she pierced my heart. I looked at the TV screen still on pause thinking if they felt the same I had when they died. I hung after a pretty dry goodbye and resumed my game. I killed enemies until two in the morning; I fell asleep on the couch.
Needless to say I was miserable the next day. Plain miserable, it was finally a nice fall day and the colorful leaves blended in the blue sky and though I was tired I still appreciated the sight, somewhat. I liked the sun better, that meant that I could probably practice outdoor table tennis with Dad when he got home.
I hated every whole bit of school today, and though I usually managed to smile to the cheerleaders and return their greetings I only felt like making them shut up by any possible manner. Teachers were annoying; everything was noisy; I fell asleep in Government; I thought my head would burst during practice and I couldn't find my car at the end of the day.
The day after that was a little better. I was in the mood to hit something though; but I successfully avoided all temptation of punching someone during the whole day. When the bell finally rang, I went to the workout center and started pouncing around the punching ball. It was very soothing. In an hour, only a couple wrestlers, who had joined for a while to train and left pretty fast when they saw my rage drawn onto the punching ball, disturbed my silence.
I left school and it was raining. Again. Usually there were always a couple people running laps on the track but no way anyone would be crazy enough to run in the rain.
Or was there? A shadow was speeding up on the track, like something was running after it. I was washed out and the rain running down on my back was strangely relaxing. I was curious. I stepped onto the track and the girl slammed right into me, I lost my balance and she caught me before I fell.
It was Canelle; she was just as surprised as me to have found me in such an awkward way. If I was wet, she was soaked and shivering with cold. I didn't even say a word I wrapped her in my jacket and held her tight. I could hear her teeth chattering. No word was said for a long while.
" Justin, it's… Miles, he told me… he would take me home and he forgot me. I was so angry… I couldn't get back in because the doors are locked from the outside… and after freezing in the cold for a while… I started running. And I couldn't stop, I just felt like running till I dropped…"
"But I stopped you."
"Justin, I should have told you long ago, but I was so scared…"
I stayed silent, I knew exactly what I had to do: shut my mouth and listen.
"I fell for you just like did all the other times, I always was disappointed, always no matter what. I tried to ignore everything but I couldn't. Why did you have to be so nice?"
"Maybe because you weren't the only one to love desperately. What else do can you think of?"
And I kissed her. The simplest thing ever really, I never thought it would be so easy, but it was. It might sound stupid but I felt like I was melting, seriously. None of the Britneys and the Ashleys had ever made me feel like that.
"How about I take you home?"
She smiled. She just did that, smile.
"With a smile like this, I'd even take you to the moon." I added.