My nickname was Mouse for a good reason. I was shy, scared and nervous. I rarely spoke up in class and when I did, I kept my voice very quiet. During my spares, I would sit in the farthest corner of the library with my nose in a book. I had no friends, but I didn't want friends. I was content to sit by myself and avoid the crowd. Nobody really knew me, and I didn't really mind at all.
On the last day of school though, I suddenly found that I was going to have to brave the masses. Everyone was ordered to clean out their lockers and while I was thankful that I had already done mine earlier in the week, I was worried about walking down that hall. I had to leave early, and that meant walking out amongst everyone else. I peeked out of the classroom and saw that everyone was laughing and talking and jostling each other as they tossed old papers and rotten sandwiches into the garbage cans against the walls. I knew that delaying it would just make it worse, so I took a deep breath and stepped out.
I wished I could become invisible, or that I was acceptable to climb out classroom windows. I timidly made my way down the hall, ducking to avoid being clocked by a rogue binder or flailing elbow. It was truly a miracle when I reached the end of the hall unscathed. But my journey was not finished. That had only been the ninth grade hall, and to reach the doors I needed to pass through grade twelve territory which was considerably more violent and large.
I took another deep breath and stepped into the hall. Almost immediately, Jesse Waller was shoved into me, knocking me into the wall. He apologized, but I had to pause and catch my breath and try not to panic. For the past four years I had managed to avoid my peers in situations like this, but today, the last day of school, I just lost my head. I glanced at the long hallway ahead of me and paled. Not only was there an impromptu wrestling match going on several feet away, but a few girls were practicing a dance routine and the football players were taking turns tossing Bobby Jameson in the garbage cans. I cringed and took out my cell phone.
Years ago, on my first day of high school, a boy noticed me hiding in the corner of homeroom. He sat down next to me and asked why I was sitting so far away from everyone else.
"I don't like people," I replied.
The boy laughed, but not cruelly. "Well then life at this high school is not going to be easy for you," he said. "The people around here are…oblivious, we'll say."
"What do you mean?"
He leaned a little closer. "The instant I walked into this classroom, I could tell that you're not from here. Did you just move to town?" I nodded. "For some reason, which I could never explain, the folks in this town are more boisterous than usual. People aren't afraid to get physical or loud, and it is especially bad in high school. My advice to you, is to just lay low. Don't get me wrong, people aren't mean, but they just don't really understand quiet people."
I must have looked terrified because he lowered his voice and said softly, "You'll make it through this alive. I promise."
I smiled. "Thanks."
"Not a problem," he smiled back. I watched as he reached into his pocket and pulled out a pen and a scrap of paper. He scribbled down what looked like a phone number and handed it to me. "If you ever need saving, just send me a text and I'll be there." He smiled again and stood. "Hopefully you won't need to use it though. Good luck!"
And then he walked to the front of the room and introduced himself as Mr. Litwin, our homeroom teacher.
Over the years, Mr. Litwin was the only teacher I ever felt comfortable talking to. Part of that may have been because he wasn't technically a teacher and just an aide, but it also may have been because he was considerably younger than any other staff member at the school. When I began grade nine, he was twenty one. It made me feel good to know that he was looking out for me. Actually, the thought of leaving school and never talking to him again made me feel a little upset.
Another of my peers came dangerously close to bashing into me again. I flipped open my phone and found Mr. Litwin's number.
That was all I needed to write, and I though I wasn't one hundred percent sure he would come, I really hoped. I stayed against the wall for about five more minutes before I decided that he wasn't going to come. After all, it was four years ago and we had never mentioned it again. With one more deep breath I summoned my courage, or what little of it I had, and began my trek down that awful hallway.
Almost instantly I was lost in the crowd. People jostled me and spoke far too loud. Someone stepped on my foot and I saw a piece of lettuce fly through the air and land on my arm. I paused to remove it and toss it in the trash can, and as I did so, I saw the door of the classroom next to me open. A hand appeared before the body attached to it and grabbed hold of my hand. My heart fluttered when I realized that it was Mr. Litwin and that he had answered my call. He pulled me through the crowd, forcing his way through effortlessly. I followed, stunned that we were able to make it past everybody so quickly. It wasn't until we reached the end of that unnaturally long hallway that I stopped to realize that we were holding hands. His grip was strong but not hard. I felt safe with my small hand enveloped in his much larger one. As we slowed our pace and approached the doors, it hit me that this was the first time a boy had ever held my hand. Though maybe this didn't count because he was a "teacher". He led me out the doors and did not let go until we were halfway across the courtyard and standing near the picnic tables.
I looked up into his kind grey eyes. "Thank you." I wanted to elaborate, but somehow just using those simple little words seemed like the best thing to say.
Mr. Litwin flashed me that smile of his and I felt my heart flutter once more. "Congratulations Annie "Mouse" Bedloe, you made it through high school alive."
I couldn't stop the grin from spreading across my face. I really had made it through unscathed. "You kept your promise," I said.
"Of course I did. I'm not one to go back on my word." We began walking toward the parking lot and I wondered why he didn't go back inside yet. "I'm glad you didn't need saving until now."
"I wouldn't have wanted to bother you," I replied. "And I really wanted to try this on my own."
"It wouldn't have been a bother at all, you know that." We arrived at the parking lot and stopped. "So where's your car?" he asked.
I began to laugh. "I don't have one."
"Then why'd we walk all the way over here?" Mr. Litwin asked, chuckling as well.
"I'm not sure," I shrugged. "I guess we were just…walking."
A silence fell upon us that wasn't altogether comfortable. I had the feeling that something should be said, but words failed me. After all, I couldn't just tell this man that I was going to miss him. That would surely be too awkward. I was just getting ready to say good bye and begin my walk home when he spoke.
"I'm going to miss you Annie," he said quietly. I started to ask why but he shook his head, stopping me. "When I saw you on that first day, sitting by yourself and looking bewildered, I felt an incredible urge to help you out. So I did, and it made me feel good and I'm certain it really did help you." Mr. Litwin was smiling as he spoke, the skin around his eyes crinkling a little bit in a friendly and frankly adorable way. More than one girl at my school had harboured a crush on this man, and I was not to be excluded from that group. He was incredibly good looking and I had gotten to know him a bit over the years which just added to the appeal. "Sometime last semester I realized that we were friends. Whenever we chatted in the library, or came across each other in the hall, it made my day a little brighter. I've really enjoyed getting to know you, Annie."
My pulse quickened and I know that my palms were becoming sweaty. He had never spoken like this to me before, and if romance novels had taught me anything, something I had never dared hope for was about to happen. I wasn't a fool though, and so tried instead to prepare myself for the worst. "I've enjoyed getting to know you too," I responded.
"Would you mind if we sat down for a few minutes?" he asked me, gesturing toward a nearby bench. I nodded and we sat, probably closer than was strictly necessary but I didn't mind. "Annie, I've been thinking really hard this week about many things. First of all, I've been thinking about the fact that school is almost done and I'm proud of you for not panicking once during these four years. Second, I've been thinking about the fact that you'll be leaving and I won't see you nearly so often, if at all. And third, I've been thinking about the fact that I am not okay with that."
My breath hitched in my throat and I didn't know what to say. I simply looked up into those wonderful eyes of his and nodded, not really knowing what else to do. I felt my cheeks turn crimson at the way he was looking back at me, and then Mr. Litwin did something that caught me completely off guard; he picked up my hand from the bench and pressed it between the two of his. "I like you a lot," he said. "And for the past few weeks I've been realizing that I want to get to know you even better. I want to spend a day with you just talking. I want to hold your hand like this and make you smile. I want to be able to tell you how pretty you look when you blush like this, without it being awkward."
I smiled and could feel tears starting to form in my eyes. "You've graduated now and my job contract is up. I know that you're going to be away for a few weeks but I want to ask you something." I nodded and he squeezed my hand. "When you come back, will you let me take you out?"
"Yes," I answered, and I could see his entire face light up. I had never imagined that one little word could make someone so happy.
We stood up and hugged and felt overjoyed. I hadn't realized how much I liked him until now, and now that I was realizing it I was almost overwhelmed. "Then I'll see you when you get back Annie," he said, kissing my hand. "Just text me, and I'll come to you."
"I know you will," I replied. "Ian." I blushed at saying his first name, but the grin on his face clearly showed that he appreciated it so I wasn't too embarrassed.
With a final hug good bye, I walked off across the courtyard. When I reached the street I stopped to look behind me and saw Ian Litwin watching me. He waved, I waved back, and then I left high school for the last time.
I was almost a block home when my phone vibrated.
See you soon. xo
AN: Thanks for reading this short little piece of romantic fluff. I may write more about Ian and Annie in the future, but I make no promises. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed reading this!