I was one of those girls in high school: the quiet ones, the ones that seem involved in their own worlds, the ones that everyone else didn't really want to talk to.
I wasn't social: I couldn't put myself in the middle of a crowd on the first day of school and start a conversation that would draw in everyone around me. I wanted to be noticed and I wanted to be part of that crowd - with the small handful of attractive and charismatic kids and the many that were brave enough to join them, or pathetic enough to happily stand in their shadows. I didn't want to pretend to be someone I wasn't. I wanted people to like me for what I knew I already was: smart, caring, relatively pretty and socially awkward.
I had gone through the 'popular with the guys but hated by girls' phase in middle school. It was a waste of time - and left you feeling like you didn't fit in right anywhere. I came to a high school where most people didn't know me and I tried to make myself a niche where I could settle for being loved by a few and not bothering to be noticed by the majority.
I found a group in that first year, six of us in our tighter group and about twenty in the more inclusive group. We spent all of our lunch periods in school and every friday night together - innocent get-togethers, usually in my basement. On the bus rides home, we would be carrying boxes of pizzas and a few rented dvds and making enough noise amongst the six of us that everyone on the bus would shoot us disapproving glances . There was something special about those days.
We each had a characteristic to represent in the group: Laura, the tall athlete with the abnormally small bladder -haha; Jonelle, the I-don't-take-shit-from-anyone-face-but-am-a-total-softie-at-heart friend; Carly, the super preppy one you could always depend on; Stefanie, the sarcastic one that everyone went to with their more private problems, and Hayad, the "herder" - she was the one to bring new people into our group or try to mesh our group with other friends of hers - it didn't always work. As far as I know, I was just the smart one who always had non-alcoholic house parties.
Three years later, in grade 12, we still hung out in the same staircase at lunch time and our group had expanded to a whopping twenty-five.
It was an early winter morning and I was sitting by our somewhat hidden staircase that led to the auditorium before classes started, studying for a chemistry quiz that afternoon.
Linear, 180 degrees; trigonal planar, 120 degrees; tetrahedral, 109.5 degrees; trigonal bipyramidal 120 and 90 degrees; and octahedral, 90 degrees.
"Alberta!" Hayad suddenly exclaimed, interrupting the dead silence of the staircase, I looked up, "-and Manitoba and Saskatchewan are the three prairie provinces." She winked at me as she continued down the hallway, "You always look. See ya!"
I grinned to myself and turned back to the chemistry worksheets that were splayed over my crossed legs and spilling onto the floor. Alberta. I loved my name - and somehow enjoyed the teasing remarks my friends would make about it.
"Al-ber-ta," I whispered under my breath, liking how it felt on my tongue.
"Hey Albie," Nathan said, tossing his backpack down beside me, "Studying for chem?"
I'd always wait to hear his smile in his voice before looking up. I didn't want him to feel like I had any particular interest in him. He was one of my closest friends - the guy who you've crushed on for years and who you know you could make happy but you'd rather not make things awkward and settle for being that awesome "girl - friend" of his whom he could be himself with.
"Naaate," I grumbled, making a frog face to show my displeasure in studying for chemistry.
I don't know what it was between us, but we could understand each other with just one glance. Our eyes met and we both snapped into our -sadly- not uncommon role playing mode:
"I'm sorry I'm late baby, you know how traffic is at this time! I tried to make it on time - I swear. You know I wouldn't lie to you!" He said, dramatically grasping my wrist and locking my eyes with his.
"No, Nate. You know what? We've been together three years! THREE YEARS! And I know exactly what it means when you look at me like that. I can't believe you're doing this again! Who is she?" I shot back in a hushed voice - previously, our role plays had gotten us many a strange glance from passers by.
"Who is WHO?" he snapped back, with the perfect facial expression.
"The girl you started seeing when you realized I wasn't good enough for you!" I covered my face with my hand for dramatic effect and then peeked at him for his response.
He looked back at me inquisitively for a second before a light smirk appeared on his face.
He tilted his head to the side and his eyelids twitched slightly as he smiled at me again. From knowing him all of this time, I had learned that his only genuine smiles were the ones where his eyes twitched a little - and otherwise, it was mostly for show.
"Naaaate!" Frog face.
"Whaaaat?" Less attractive frog face.
Did I tell you that I loved it when we both made frog faces?
"Save me!" I mumbled.
His eyes twitched again, just slightly.
"Okay, I'll teach you a trick to it. Com'ere."
He pulled me closer to him by my waist and started scribbling away on one of my chemistry worksheets.
And that's how I started grade 12- genuine, harmless and innocent.