by Cheryl White
Senior Prom. In other words, an excuse to dress up and look all-out pretty for the night. An excuse for usually uninterested seniors to fraternize with the opposite sex. An excuse to dance modestly all night without having to deal with parents complaining about going out to a wild party at a club.
A special night that has a definite spot in the yearbook. A special night that's basically the biggest social event in high school. A special night that gives seniors a chance to confess their feelings to a cherished one.
In short: a night to be prepared for, fussed over, and worried about.
Especially for the girls, who not only spend three times longer than guys do dressing up on the day itself but also spend the entire year planning their dresses, make-up, and worst of all, finding a date.
"Josh broke up with me," my best friend Camellia informed me during a free period one day.
I looked at her, bemused. "You were together?"
"No," Cam replied a bit sheepishly, "but we're not dating anymore. We just didn't... click."
I examined my friend's face. Cam didn't look sad, exactly. It was more of... disappointed. I smiled at her sadly and reached over to give her a consoling hug. "Aw, Cam. There are other guys out there. I'm sure you'll find the right one."
Cam quirked the corner of her lip. "Well, I didn't like him that much anyway," she admitted, confirming my unspoken thoughts. "It was just a thing."
I laughed lightly. "You'll get over it, Camy."
"As soon as I stop thinking about those awkward dates," Cam began dramatically. "I mean, it's no wonder we didn't click! You know..." And she went on, telling me about the disastrous experiences she had with the guy.
I couldn't help but smile and listen intently, glad that she wasn't so affected by Josh. I remembered the time when Cam first told me that she was asked out on the date. She was thrilled that she was asked out. Excited, too – after all, she's had a crush on Josh for a while now. Thing is, they didn't seem to have anything in common, and the spark died as soon as it appeared.
"Now I need to find another promspect," Cam said sulkily, her shoulders obviously slumping.
I sighed and frowned. "Don't remind me. I have no idea to ask either, Camy. We should go on a double date or something," I suggested.
She gawked at me disbelievingly. I blinked. "Oh no, you're not! I don't have a date; you do!"
Startled, I blinked again. "Since when did I have a date?"
Cam rolled her eyes. "Don't hide it; I know you're taking Kent, like you always do!"
If I were drinking, I would have spluttered the beverage all over the desk. "What? Who said?"
Another roll of the eyes from my best friend. "Oh please, Leila. Stop denying it."
I really didn't understand what she was saying. "Denying what?"
"You're kidding me," Cam deadpanned.
"Kidding you? About what? Cam, you're confusing me!" What in the world was she insinuating here?
For a second, Cam's expression was frozen. And then, she erupted into a fit of laughter, making a few heads turn their way. "Kent!" she exclaimed as if it was the answer to everything.
"What about Kent?" I snapped, feeling a pang of irritation. "Cam, spit it out already."
It took a while for Cam to finally calm down, even under my stern gaze. "C'mon, Lei, you always go with Kent to stuff like these – dances, parties, whatever. Don't tell me you're not even considering him now."
"Kent's my best friend," I stated slowly and clearly. "It's natural to go to dances together since we don't have significant others."
"You two are significant enough to each other, I know," Cam said dryly.
I raised an eyebrow but brushed it off. "Prom is supposed to be a really special night with the guy you like. Can't I have that?"
"That is why you're taking Kent."
The implications of what her best friend said finally settled in, and I exclaimed, in an incredulous tone, "Kent? Are you serious?"
Cam frowned at the tone of her voice.
"Camy, he's my best friend! We're not like that!" Seriously, how could she even think that?
Cam snorted. "That's what they all say. You just haven't thought of him that way yet."
True. "It's never even occurred to me."
"So why don't you spare it a thought?" Cam challenged slyly.
"There's a reason why it never occurred to me, Cam. I love 'im like a brotha, nothing else."
Another snort. "Really?" She crossed her arms disbelievingly.
"Mhmm." I nodded.
"Okay then. Why won't you spare a thought then? Scared you'll discover something different?"
I narrowed my eyes. I knew exactly what my best friend was doing; she was challenging me. Yet my completely pride disregarded the warning. "Fine. Try me."
Cam smirked. "You know what? Let's make it a test."
I stared at the piece of paper in my hands. Cam really wasn't kidding, I thought, my eyes brushing Cam's writing.
It was a checklist with one simple title, scrawled conspicuously in bold lettering at the top: Attraction.
I sighed, recalling the conversation that landed me in this situation.
"Yup," Cam said happily. "It consists of three parts: attraction, affection, attentions."
I quirked an eyebrow.
"I'll be giving you checklists," she declared. "If you end up checking out all of the indicators for the first checklist – it's something of a cross between a crush and a 'like'. The second – a 'like-like'." I rolled my eyes at her terminology; she ignored me. "The third – the feeling is most probably returned."
She was staring at me with a determined look in her eyes. Oh, I know that stubborn gaze.
I sighed again, cutting off the memory.
Well, what the heck. I have nothing to lose anyway. And if it'll make Cam happy enough to leave me be, I'll do it.
Closing my locker, I glanced at my watch. I have a good ten minutes before my next class.
Leaning against the mass of metal, I read the checklist.
You have a strong urge to smile when you see him.
You have picked up some of his habits and made them your own.
You have no qualms with leaning towards him in a casual setting.
Your eyes seek him in a crowd.
You tend to engage in harmless bantering with him.
You feel nervous around him at times.
I couldn't help but think this is ridiculous, but it would do justice to my friend to give it a chance. Sighing once more, I was about to tuck away the checklist when it was abruptly snatched away.
Only one person would be so evil as to –
"Kent!" I snapped, whirling around the face him. "Give it back!"
I reached for it, but dammit, it was futile – he was holding it above his head, reading against the light. I scowled. Damn his height.
"What's this?" he mused, his smirk obvious in his voice. "A checklist copied from some teen girl's magazine?"
He lowered his arm just enough for me to snatch it back. "It's none of your business," I huffed, putting it away – not out of embarrassment or anything (goodness, no) but a childish urge to not let him win.
"I'm pretty sure it's my business if my best friend is undergoing some adolescent crisis. Having a hard time finding a crush?" he teased.
I rolled my eyes. "I do well enough in that department, thank you very much."
"Which explains why you haven't had a single boyfriend."
"I have high standards," I retorted haughtily. "What's your excuse, mister?"
He smirked. "Guys like me aren't meant to be exclusive."
"Right," I responded shortly. "Like that makes much sense."
"Oh c'mon, Lei. Even you wouldn't be able to deny this package of hotness standing right in front of you."
I rolled my eyes, crossing my arms. Just as the thought of his undeniably well-toned body (he's on the soccer team, you know) dared to enter my mind, I shook my head. Eyebrow raised, I gave him a quick onceover. "Yeah, I don't really see what your girls see."
His smirk became even more amused, a familiar challenging glint in his eye. "As if you wouldn't feel jealous if a girl came up to me."
"Hm," I thought aloud. "That never happened before."
"Not when you were looking," he murmured, and I wasn't sure if I wasn't meant to hear. Before I could say anything, however, he eyed me warily. "You are a girl, right?"
I hit him on the shoulder. Reflex, I tell you.
I hit him even harder.
"Abusive, I'm sure."
Rolling my eyes, I crossed my arms once more. The bell rang, and I flinched. I never liked being late.
"Chill, Lei, our next class is just down the hall." Kent rolled his eyes at me.
I glowered at him. Picking up on his subtle reminder that we take English together, I grabbed his arm and started dragging him to the next class. "Let's go, you 'package of hotness'. Can't be late for class."
Our seating arrangement for English was according to alphabetical order, meaning Kent was in front, to the very left, while I was behind him, diagonally to his right.
As much as I loved English, this particular lecture was boring me. It was just a review of grammatical rules – nothing we wouldn't know already. Or maybe I'm just weird for remembering these things. I sighed, feeling the restless stir within me.
After minutes of constant shifting, I glanced around the classroom, desperate for some sort of inspiration to come over me. Anything to occupy me for the rest of the period. I despaired when my eyes brushed over the clock – thirty more minutes.
You've got to be kidding me.
Turning back to face the front, I rested my bored gaze on my balding teacher. It was then that a tiny movement caught my eye, and I saw Kent, twirling a pen between his fingers on one hand. For the past few years that I've been his classmate (seeing as we've been going to the same school since kindergarten) and best friend, I didn't fail to notice this habit of his. It always arose when he felt bored and restless – exactly how I'm feeling at the moment.
A few moments later, I found myself twirling my pen between my fingers. I didn't notice what I was doing until my pen accidentally hit the side of the desk with a soft thud, making it stop mid-twirl. I sighed, glancing at my watch.
Twenty-eight minutes to go.
"So how's the checklist going?" Cam asked me suggestively as she caught up with me in the hallway. It's lunch time, and we're making our way to the cafeteria.
Right. Almost forgot about that.
Cam rolled her eyes. "C'mon, Lei! You at least got to give a chance." She extended her hand, palm facing upwards, and curled her fingers in a hand-it-over motion.
Sighing, I rummaged through the small pocket in my bag and slipped out the checklist.
She took it from me and glanced at it to make sure it's the right paper. "Okay. Now think of what's happened so far today and check." She offered the paper to me as we entered the cafeteria.
"Alright, alright," I said submissively. "But can't it wait until we get to our table?"
She nodded as we lined up for our food. Almost instinctively, I looked around the cafeteria, searching for our usual table when my eyes landed on our friends – Kent, Mark, and Lewis. As if he felt my gaze, Kent looked up, and our eyes met. He winked and turned back to whatever Mark was saying.
Cam didn't miss that exchange and was looking at me smugly. "Now you can cross out number four."
Taking a pen out of nowhere, she snatched the checklist from me and ticked off 'Your eyes seek him in a crowd'.
"Oh c'mon, Cam," I complained. "That doesn't count. Don't you look for our table the moment we enter the cafeteria?"
"Yeah, but my eyes don't linger on a certain light brown-haired, blue-eyed hunk."
I scrunched my nose in distaste. "Did you just call Kent a hunk?"
Cam rolled her eyes. "You are so in denial, my dear." She took her cue and grabbed a tray, and I followed suit.
After paying for our lunch, we made our way to our table. I plopped down next to Kent, as always, with Cam sitting on my other side.
The three guys were engaged in conversation, but I felt Kent's arm go around my chair. I looked at him questioningly.
And his overly large head misread the sign. "Hey, babe. I know I'm not a grocery item, but I can tell when you're checking me out."
I rolled my eyes, and regarding him playfully, I said, "Kent, I know you can't help yourself around me, but please, at the very least, try."
He smirked. "It's hard, babe."
"Ew, you guys," Mark commented. "Stop it, Kent. You're going to freak her out one day, I swear."
"Nah," Lewis disagreed. "If there's one girl who can put up with this PMS-y freak, it'd be Leila."
"I manage," I said gallantly, giving a slight bow.
Kent snorted. "That's not fair, you guys. Leila was totally flirting back." Another wink.
Cue another roll of the eyes.
He thinks I'm attracted to him? Pshhh.
"So Cam, I heard something about you and Josh..." Lewis began, and I heard Cam groan next to me.
"Speaking of rumours," I began, raising an eyebrow at Mark. "What's this I hear about you and a certain sophomore...?"
"You mean my prom date?" Mark said cockily.
"And your crush since middle school," Kent remarked.
"Oh! That girl!" I exclaimed, remembering something Kent told me a while back. "So she's the reason why Mark here hasn't settled with a girl!"
"Not cool, man." Mark scowled at Kent.
"Can't keep secrets from this girl, dude," Kent said. "She'll eat me alive."
I smacked him.
"Don't pretend you don't want to."
I groaned. "I seriously don't know how the female population puts up with you."
"I try." He smirked.
Cam nudged me, and my eyes landed on the checklist. Right. Her gaze was heavy with implications, and I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. I really should stop that habit; one day my eyes would fall out of my sockets.
I sighed, reading the checklist again. "Nothing," I told her.
"Don't you dare lie to me, Leila Hale."
I scrunched up my nose and said, "I suppose you can check off the second to the last one then. But I'd hardly consider that romantic."
Ignoring my comment, she happily checked 'You tend to engage in harmless bantering with him'.
"What's that?" Mark asked, interested. From his seat next to Kent, he leaned forward in an attempt to see it.
I shrugged. "A checklist," I replied simply. "One of Cam's ploys to torture me."
She shot me a pointed look and quickly changed the subject. "Where are Mike and Kim?" she asked, indicating the two empty seats in front of us. The table felt unbalanced, what with Lewis being the only one on one side of the table, Mark at the head, and the other three of us at the other side. It was some sort of unspoken seating arrangement in our group.
Lewis shrugged. "No idea."
"They must be having some fun on their own," Kent answered suggestively as he looked at the empty seats of the only couple in our group.
I rolled my eyes; it was very Kent to say something like that.
"Don't change the subject!" Mark said, his curiosity peaked at Cam's blatant attempt to change the topic of conversation. "Lemme see thaaat."
Equipped with long limbs, he easily snatched the paper away from Cam and quickly read it with Lewis looking over at it.
There was a beat of silence, then laughter.
Cam flushed furiously and tried to snatch it back, exclaiming how guys would never understand such a thing. Deciding to help her out, I casually leaned over Kent and plucked the paper out of Mark's weakened-by-laughter grip. Shaking my head with a small smile on my face, I handed it over to Cam.
"What's that for, anyway?" Mark asked in between heaves of laughter.
"Cam, we didn't know you needed such a thing," Lewis teased. "We thought you did well enough, considering how many boys you have."
"For your information, I made it for Leila over here," Cam responded haughtily. "I thought it was about time she needed the objective help."
I rolled my eyes once more and was surprised to meet the gazes of Mark and Lewis – their faces glazed over in understanding.
"Oh," Mark said softly despite his usually loud demeanour.
"I see," Lewis said, a smirk forming on his lips.
"Am I missing something here?" I asked, surprised to realize that I wasn't the only one who said that.
Kent scowled. "What's this for, anyway?" He snatched the paper once more from me. "This can't be serious."
It was Cam who reacted to that. "Of course it's serious, Kent. Leila needs to have some sense knocked into her."
"Who's the guy?" Kent asked, his eyebrow raised. He pinched one of my cheeks in a really bad imitation of my great Auntie Laura and cooed, "My little baby is growing up!"
I smacked his hand away and grumbled, "It's none of your business." Rubbing my cheek, I thought to myself, See? I don't feel anything, if that's any real indication.
"Touchy touchy," Kent teased. "Are you actually shy, Lei? I never thought I'd see it in you."
I punched him lightly. "Is that an undercurrent of jealousy, I hear?"
Kent snorted. "You wish."
"Damn!" Mark exclaimed after a string of random conversations when the bell rang. He nudged Lewis and locked eyes with me. "We have gym."
Which is about a good five minutes' walk from the cafeteria. I resisted the urge to curse and jumped out of my seat, grabbing my tray as Lewis cursed and followed.
"See you guys later," I said quickly to Kent and Cam, hurrying out of the cafeteria with Lewis and Mark.
We made it right on time, and after a good fifty minutes of running in the field, Mark and Lewis caught up with me on my way to the locker rooms.
"So how's the Kent checklist going?" Lewis mused.
"Finally realized your undying love for him?" Mark teased.
I scrunched up my nose – another one of my habits, as you may have noticed – and shook my head at them. "I'm not even going to ask what you guys and Cam have been discussing behind my back."
"Funny thing though," Mark said, smirking. "We didn't need to discuss anything."
"You can check that one off," Lewis said as I held out the checklist to him on our way to Science class from Gym. Mark was running off to the other side of the building (poor guy) to his Math class.
I read the indicator he was pointing to. You have no qualms with leaning towards him in a casual setting.
He nodded, an amused look on his face.
"I don't lean towards him," I retorted.
"You do," Lewis countered. "You just don't notice it."
I crossed my arms. "Name one time," I challenged.
"A while ago, during lunch," he said easily, "when you snatched this piece of paper from Mark."
I've always thought Lewis to be the sensible one, but I've never thought it'd be pitted against me. "That doesn't count; I was getting the paper," I replied stubbornly.
"Yes, it does," Lewis mused. "You're just that comfortable around him, Lei. You wouldn't do that to any other guy. Especially you. You, who 'doesn't like to be touched'."
I rolled my eyes at his choice of words – my words. The words I distinctly remember using that time when I complained about going on a date with this Brock guy, who wouldn't keep his heavy arm off my shoulder.
Okay, fine. "Fine," I grumbled, fishing a pen out of my pocket and checking it off the list. "Three left."
"And I'm pretty sure this one counts, too," Lewis added, pointing to 'You have picked up some of his habits and made them your own'.
I blinked. "No," I said solidly. I'm sure I haven't gotten any of his habits.
"I distinctly remember how his pen twirling would annoy the hell out of me in Mrs. Hopkins' class in middle school. I've told him off more than once for distracting my focus."
I cocked an eyebrow. "And?"
"You'll see," he replied with a mysterious grin.
Next thing I knew, he stopped my pen twirling in the middle of Science class. He did it silently, with an aggravating smirk on his face.
Fine. He glanced as I checked it off of the list with a satisfied grin on his face.
Two left. So what?
"There is seriously no way I'd ever get nervous around him. And what's this? I smile whenever I see his face? Cam, seriously. I don't think that ever happens," I stated sardonically as I turned from my position in front of my locker.
Except it wasn't Cam. My heart nearly leapt out of my chest.
"Woah," Kent exclaimed as he moved his forehead towards mine, his eyes brushing the checklist.
Rolling my eyes, I lightly pushed his head away. But that didn't stop him from slipping the piece of paper out of my grip.
"Only two left?" he said, his tone with an unfamiliar hollowness in it. "You must really like this guy then."
A bit startled, I brushed off the weird feeling in my chest. "Right. But technically, this checklist is only for the 'like' stage."
He cocked an eyebrow. "There's another checklist?"
"Two more, actually," I replied, turning away from him to fix my books in my locker. Naturally, he followed my movement and leaned against the locker, so that his face was in my view. "There's still the 'like-like' checklist, and the 'he likes you back' checklist."
I slowly went through a mental to-do list and double checked the books in my bag. That should be all I need. Zipping up my bag, I glanced at my best friend. It's actually surprising that he hasn't said anything; there was this unreadable look on his face.
He was so deep in thought that he didn't even notice the way his hair was falling over his eyes. I had a sudden urge to brush it away but then caught myself, immediately feeling heat rush up to my face. I turned away in embarrassment, feeling the pounding of my heart against my chest.
Damn, what's with me?
My hands adopted this tingly sensation, and I shortly panicked – can he sense what's going on with me? But one look at his dazed bright blue eyes told me he couldn't.
I suppressed a sigh of relief and closed my locker, the rush of air from the movement snapping Kent out of his daze.
"You alive?" I asked him with a smug look.
Instead of giving some egoistic retort (something about my checking him out, even though I wasn't), he merely looked at me with another unreadable expression in his eyes. This time, there was a determined spark in the pools of blue, and then, his usual self resurfaced. "Done looking within the depths of my eyes? Entranced, Lei? I wouldn't blame you."
I smacked the side of his head, and he chuckled.
"Let's go," he said, casually throwing his arm over my shoulders. He started babbling about something animatedly, and I hastened to listen.
I didn't even think about the added weight on my shoulders when a smile crept on my face.
Now this is the Kent I know.
That night, I found myself staring at the checklist before going to sleep.
I was comfortably dressed in my pajamas – nothing beats that – and cross-legged on my bed, staring at the piece of paper. Its presence was almost taunting as I stared at the four checks conspicuously ticked against the words.
I knew deep within me that there should be two more checks on that paper.
But that just couldn't be possible!
(Oh, the contradiction.)
I mean, it's Kent we're talking about here – the puny, insignificant little thing that I had to constantly defend in kindergarten; the overly active child who wouldn't rest until I agreed to be his playmate; the awkward, scrawny adolescent I grew up with who constantly teased me about needing braces when he didn't; the now all-grown up high school male who wouldn't let me have peace but made me feel happy that way...
Oh gosh. This is all so disgustingly cliché.
I can't believe I stayed up staring at that wretched little piece of paper.
It was like an onslaught of internal war. It just wouldn't stop until I was literally physically incapable of going on. And I wouldn't be surprised if anyone would go up to me and say –
"You look like shit," came Kent's oh-so-caring voice. As if I didn't have that coming.
Resisting the urge to round on him and shriek, "This is all your fault!", I decided to take the more civil approach. "Gee, thanks," I replied dryly. "Can't wait to see the others now."
"Somehow, you look like a wasted racoon."
I growled – literally, with teeth bared and all – at him, not in the mood for his comments.
"Except don't racoons have thinner and sharper teeth?"
I closed my locker with a bang and felt a pang of irritation as my heart leapt at the sight of Kent's hair being blown by the air from my locker. Grrr, what's wrong with me now?
"You look really terrible."
I merely stared at the insignificant lines on my locker, trying to stay awake.
"I didn't think you were stupid enough not to get any sleep."
Before I could snap at him, however, the back of his hand is on my palm, the gentle caress leaving a trail of fire down my cheek.
Oh gosh, I couldn't move.
His voice was like a snap out of the trance, and I sighed. "Couldn't sleep," I replied shortly.
He frowned. "Why?"
I shrugged vaguely, leaning against the locker and closing my eyes. "Where's Cam?"
I felt him shrug as he positioned himself next to me.
"Copy cat," I muttered.
"That doesn't even make sense."
"Your eyes are sleepy. Hence, sleepy eyes."
That's not what I meant – whatever happened to parallelism? He's supposed to call me something related to an animal, not a part of my body. But whatever. Nothing seems to make sense with Kent involved. His shoulder brushed against mine, and I felt the most conscious I've ever felt before around him.
I don't think this is healthy.
"K," I said, intending for it to be a sharp jibe, but it came out as a whisper. I had the vague impression of his hand pressing my head against his shoulder...
I flinched at the sound of the bell. "Crap," I muttered, tearing away from Kent. Wait, was I really that near him? I shrugged the thought off, my I'm-going-to-be-late instincts kicking in. "Gotta go. See you in English, Kent!"
With that, I left his relaxed form, unable to put push out of my thoughts the way he seemed to be beaming a few seconds ago.
Since when did Kent beam?
"Give me the next checklist," I grumbled to Cam the moment I saw her in the History classroom.
"You're supposed to finish the Attraction checklist first," she said. When I didn't reply, her eyes widened in realization. "You've realized your 'like' feelings for Kent!"
It came out as a muffle because I clamped my hand over her mouth a split second before she attempted the shriek. "Ssshh!"
Roughly pushing my hand away, Cam said, "Oh please, Lei. You shouldn't be ashamed; I'm sure more than half the female population in this building wouldn't blame you."
"Like that's any consolation," I muttered.
Before she could say anything, however, our teacher came in. Out of my peripheral vision, I saw her silently scowl, but she quickly recovered and began writing.
It wouldn't take a genius to guess what it was.
She surreptitiously slipped the piece of paper towards me, and I wasn't the least bit surprised as I read the title: Affection.
With a sigh, I began to read as inconspicuously as possible.
You have an urge to touch him at times.
You constantly think about him.
You like his presence.
You take note of little details about him, including every single thing he says.
You can't get enough of him.
"These are so generic," I muttered to her.
"I'll explain later," she whispered with a wink.
Releasing an exasperated sigh, I tucked the checklist away from the teacher's view and tried to focus.
"It has to be generic, Lei," Cam started the instant we were dismissed. "Almost everyone experiences these."
I sighed. "Alright then," I acquiesced, feeling like I'll have to take notes as she spoke. "Hit me."
She grinned. "I'm glad to see you're more open to this, Lei."
"Let's just get this over with," I grumbled ungratefully, not really sure I want to come to terms with myself just yet.
If that's really what's happening.
I don't know what's going on myself.
"Urge to touch," she read off the paper. "I think that's self-explanatory."
"The only objective one on this list."
She ignored me and read out the next one. "Think about him all the time. That is, even when you're not around him." I nodded. "Like his presence... Hm. How do I dissect this one? Ah! It's like... he just makes you happy while he's with you. Makes you laugh or pushes your buttons and stuff. Teases you and plays with you. Y'know, that kind of thing. Next... hey, the next one should be objective enough for you! You'll realize it soon enough. The last... well, it basically means you can't get enough of him."
"How's that different from thinking about him all the time?"
"Well... it's kind of related but not really."
I shook my head. "Your powers of explanation wow me."
"Oh, just deal with it," she replied light-heartedly. "It's like... thinking about him is just thinking about him. When you can't get enough of him... well, that's when you have the urges to text him, or call him, or see him. Y'know." She shrugged.
"Of course." I grinned. "Thanks, Cam."
She smirked. "You might as well check all of those off, Lei. I bet I'm not the only one who can give an instance wherein each of those happened."
"I'll just have to figure it out myself," I replied, feeling a bit more open to this adventure of self-discovery. Sighing, I glanced at the checklist and waved at my best friend. I needed to rush to my next class.
The moment I got to the teacher-less English classroom, I checked off the first one on the list. You have an urge to touch him at times. Yes, including yesterday.
The second... You constantly think about him. My thoughts landed to last night's endeavour. No, that hardly counts as "constant".
My eye bore into the paper, more specifically the word "constant" – what did that mean, really? Before I could even spare it another thought, the word disappeared from view.
He has got to stop doing that! I turned around to bark at Kent – yeah, he brings out the animal in me (cue roll eyes) – when he crashed down onto the small space on the edge of my seat. I immediately scooted over because he was practically crushing half of my body.
"Kent!" I said, reprimanding, but he didn't seem the least perturbed by it.
"You finally moved to the next one?" he asked, a vacant edge to his voice.
What's with Kent nowadays? He's starting to do that a lot now.
"Yeah," I said, snatching it back, hoping with all of me that he can't hear the erratic beating of my heart. Shiznit, my palms are starting to sweat.
"And you've already ticked off one."
"Mhmm." I avoided his eyes.
"Aren't you going a little fast with this?"
"Getting crushes and liking guys."
"It's simply a mode of realization. Not the actual crush-getting and guy-liking." I cocked an eyebrow, feeling a bit more like myself now. "Why, worried?"
"Yeah," he replied easily, and my heart warmed until, "for the guy. Poor sap."
I smacked him. "Prom's coming up, you know. It's about time I take someone I really like to a dance. I just... don't know who. Or not sure of it." I shrugged. Damn, since when was Kent's presence so suffocating? I can hardly breathe.
"Oh. Well – "
Whatever he was going to say, I didn't hear because our teacher had to choose that time to appear.
Kent has been acting weird lately. Really weird.
And I'm sure you'd have picked up on it, the whole dazed-eyes-and-weird-undertone in his behaviour. I just didn't get it.
Thing is, our friends seemed to have noticed, but they didn't seem to worry. In fact, they actually looked smug about it.
Am I missing a joke here?
I would've brought up the topic but thought better of it. If they even get the smallest inkling that I'm "constantly worried" about Kent, then I'm pretty sure I won't hear the end of it.
Then again... he is my best friend, right? Do I not have the right to inquire about his emotional status? Do I not have the right to inquire as to my friends' reactions to his behaviour? Do I not have the right to worry, just a bit?
Yeah. That makes sense.
Which is why I did bring it up during lunch.
It was actually a perfect circumstance – as if fate wanted me to do it. Mike and Kim were at our table today, and Kent was somewhere else, doing some group project.
"What's up with Kent lately?" I asked casually.
As I feared, everyone looked at me meaningfully. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes when they shot not-so-surreptitious glances at each other.
"You guys, it's just a question," I snapped. "Can't I worry about my best friend?"
"Defensive," Mark remarked with a whistle.
Lewis shot him a look. "What do you mean, what's up with him?"
"Yeah," Mike agreed. "He's acting pretty normally if you ask me." Implications, implications.
"I'm not surprised either," Kim said as well. Insinuations, insinuations.
"It's natural for him to act the way he is," Cam spoke up. Allegations, allegations.
I narrowed my eyes at them. "What are you hiding from me?"
A second's silence before they all laughed. I scrunched up my nose at them, a sign of displeasure. But they wouldn't stop.
"Whaaat?" I exclaimed, feeling heat rising up to my cheeks in embarrassment. "I don't get you guys!"
"You'll understand soon enough." Cam patted my hand. "How's the checklist going?"
I turned to my head huffily, reaching in the small pocket of my bag to bring out the checklist. "Only one," I announced, assuming that they all knew what was going on. Which they most probably did.
Some eyebrows rose; there was a snort and a slight shake of the head.
"Need help with that?" Cam offered.
"Isn't this supposed to be a self-realization thing?"
"Doesn't mean we can't help," Mike mused, sliding the piece of paper towards him. I noticed how Kim leaned into him to read Cam's writing.
An image of me and Kent doing that popped in my head.
"If your eye bags and that look on your face is any indication, I'd say the second criterion is done."
"Wha – "
"People in love are terribly easy to read," Kim mused.
I scrunched up my nose, deciding it best not to argue. I swiftly checked the second one and sighed.
"Scared?" Cam whispered just for me to hear.
"A bit," I admitted in a small voice.
I turned to the others, who were passing around the list and having their own discussion.
"It'll be okay," Cam promised.
I merely nodded.
"By the way," Mark spoke up, grabbing all of our attention, "are you guys free next Friday? Jessica's holding a party. Wanna go?"
"I'm game." Cam raised a hand excitedly. "Hellooo, promspect!"
Kim and I laughed.
"Me too," Lewis said.
Mike and Kim looked at each other for a moment, a silent exchange passed between them. They turned to us. "Sure."
"How 'bout you, Ms. Discovery? You game?" Mark asked me.
"It's movie night," I told them, and an understanding dawned on their faces.
You see, movie night is this once-a-month tradition – for a lack of a better word – that Kent and I have. We've been neighbours for as long as I've known him (which is almost my whole life, mind you), and this tradition... sort of happened. But it's like a golden code in our friendship. It means a lot – a promise of some sort. That no matter what happens, we'll always stay friends. We even agreed: best friends before dates or significant others. Whoever becomes my boyfriend or his girlfriend will just have to deal with this custom. We're simply that close. It's harmless.
And Cam knew better than to turn to me pleadingly like she usually would for any other excuse. Yes, movie night is that important.
"Hey guys," came a familiar voice that just recently triggered my heart into overdrive. Damn this self-discovery thing. It makes me too conscious!
All the same, I found myself beaming. Kim shot me a look, and I knew that the third criterion was covered. You like his presence.
"Hey, man," Mark greeted Kent, and the others followed in greeting. I smiled at him.
He plopped down on his usual seat next to mine and said, "What's up?"
"We were talking about Jessica's party," Lewis explained.
"The one this Friday?" Kent asked. When Mark and Lewis nodded, he added, "I'm going with Stacey."