Everyone has that one that got away. One girl or guy who slipped by who they never managed to get the answer they wanted, or never really got to see the relationship to its full length. We've all had that, but not all of us have to see that girl in their math class every damn day.
I guess I better start with her name. Her name was Shayanne. Everybody always said it wrong, said it like shy-anne, not Shay-anne, longer a sound. It always bugged me a little but it never really seemed to bother her. Just another thing I won't quite understand. I met her in elementary school, way back when. We didn't have a lot of classes together, in fact I'm not sure if we had any classes together at first. I only ever saw her on the bus to and from school.
The bus ride for me was different than most people, our bus route was really long, went along about thirty different back rounds in our town picking up a couple dozen kids so it was a long ride. I was near the end of the route so my time on the bus in mourning wasn't much, but in the afternoon it could take over an hour for me to get home, that's a lot of time to spend to spend on a bus, so I usually spent it sleeping or reading. I talked to a few people but I was never really a social butterfly so I preferred the solitary of a book or a nap.
I can't say for sure when I really noticed her or when I even realized she was there but one day I actually took the time to look at her. We were kids, but she was beautiful, I know I noticed her hair first, really long deep brown and smooth, she didn't do much with it just let it hang down. She had a smooth and round face, curved like a ball and almost too tiny, made her seem frail. She was pretty in some way I can't quite name. She was just pretty.
After I noticed her, I couldn't not notice her. I noticed whenever she came on the bus, whenever she wasn't there, where she sat and who she sat with. I noticed a lot of things, but I never talked to her until Katie introduced us.
Katie was nice, she was a little more friendly than I was and we had talked once or twice but not very much. I'm not sure I really counted her among my friends, not at first. Her and I shared a common interest which was Pokémon. It was really big at the time, most everyone had either the cards, the games or some form of it. One of the things we all did was we would draw the Pokémon, the little creatures from the show, and give them to each other. I wasn't the best artist but I could draw alright considering I was usually doing it on a moving bus. Katie had seen me drawing before and while I usually made a point to cover what I was doing or lean against the window so no one could see it I knew she was watching and just played dumb.
After I realized it was her and Shayanne watching I made a point to do my best. I don't know when exactly we started talking but I guess they asked me about them at some point. Now, I am a geek, and a nerd and whatever else you want to call the little skinny guy who is smart and has glasses. I had a lot of people pick on me in my years so I got good at fighting back, in my case I always fought back by just being indifferent, giving no reaction, keeping people at arm's length and not really trusting much. Anyone who bugged me was either scared because of the creepy way I acted or got bored and left me alone, so sadly when they first talked to me, I treated Shay and Katie like bullies and was kinda rude.
Maybe that's the other reason I liked them, they didn't leave. Even though I was mean to them they still came back the next the day and talked to me asked about the pictures, what I was drawing, what I knew about them. Shayanne didn't ask much, she was just there, just listening. She did talk, a quiet voice hesitant to interrupt, it was cute, I wasn't used to having people be so quiet, that was usually my job.
That was how I first met her, bus rides to and from school, pictures of Pokémon and me, me always trying to be alone but her and Katie would never let me. They always talked to me, even if it seemed like I didn't want them to, but I always did. I was just too afraid to talk to them myself, too afraid what they might think.
We spent our elementary years on that bus, and later in a few classes together. Me and Shayanne talked more, on days Katie wasn't there, or after she got off, since Katie got off about ten minutes before Shayanne did, we would talk about whatever. She had two younger brothers, one was only a few years old the other was a bit of brat according to her. She liked Pokémon, thought the fact I was in karate was cool, loved to draw and sing. She was damn good at both.
I told her about my sisters, both older than me. It was fun to hear from the oldest child while I was the youngest. I told her about moving from my old home when I was kid, about karate, about my own love for drawing through I wasn't nearly as good, to honest I was bad, or maybe that's just cause I compared my drawings to hers.
You can never really tell the exact moment you become friends with someone, it's hard to narrow down exactly when someone goes from someone you know to being a friend. I can't say when it happened with me and Shayanne, but it did. We became friends. In the five years of elementary school we spent a good bit of time together. We both ended up in choir, her again being the much better singer but I wasn't too bad, I was a bass in elementary school my voice was already a deeper tone than a lot of other guys but she was high and sweet, like a bell.
I went to her house a few times. We hung out there, spent time playing or harassing her brothers. I showed her some things I learned from Karate, not much just a few things she wanted to learn. It was fun to spend that time close to her.
Now I knew I liked her. Even before all that I knew that I liked her, more than just a friend. Maybe I even loved her. I don't know how she felt, but I hope, and even believe that she felt the same or similar at least.
I really felt it during my birthday party. I was having a huge party at my house, dozens of my best friends all invited from school, karate, and we were all hanging out in my basement. I had invited Katie and Shayanne to the party and Katie had shown up, but not Shayanne. I paid attention was looking for her but she didn't show up. That is until about halfway through.
I never saw her show up but my mom got me from the crowd and pulled me aside. "Shayannes here." Was all she had to say to get my full attention. She pulled me aside and there she was, standing next to her mom in the basement. She looked weak, it seemed like she was wearing pajamas clothes you normally wouldn't leave the house in, she had a gift in her hand.
"She's sick." Her mom said quietly from beside her, patting her daughter's shoulder. Somehow the quiet voice forced the rest of the screaming kids quiet. "Still wanted to bring you your present."
Shayanne smiled, but it was weak and forced. She looked like she was about to fall over but she still stepped forward and offered her present to me. I took it and tore it open quickly. It was a toy, an action figure from small soldiers, a movie we had watched at her house and I really liked. I liked it, but I liked more that she had given it to me. I set the toy down and stepped up and pulled her into a hug, squeezing her tightly, trying to convey how happy I was.
"Happy birthday." She whispered. Her voice was horse and cracked.
"Thank you." I said. I wanted to say more, a lot more but I couldn't and she pulled back.
"We need to go." Her mother said pulling on her shoulder. I watched Shayanne leave with a hung head and slow sluggish steps. That day, her coming to my birthday despite being sick just to give me my gift meant a lot to me. She wasn't in school for a few days after that but when she came back it was like nothing had changed. We were still friends, still hung out on the bus, her and Katie still would mess with me or spy on me and I would pretend not to notice.
We talked more, hung out during choir performances, I went to her house a few more times and to her birthday. I wanted to tell her how I felt, that I liked her more than just a friend but it never really came, I could never make myself say it. Maybe I was just scared she would reject me, that I would lose her and that would be it. I would lose a great friend and one of the prettiest girls I knew.
Turns out I didn't need to worry.
Fifth grade was the last I saw of Shayanne. last day of school we all were just let loose in the halls, signing senior books hanging out in our last year of elementary school. Shayanne and I had shared our pictures and signed them for each other. We moved around the school as a pair. During the graduation Ceremony, she had a choir solo that was absolutely beautiful. I told her about it, she laughed and I got to see one of her rare beat red blushes. The last day I saw her was her getting off the bus, me wishing her luck with her brothers, and hoping to see her next year.
I never did.
Middle school came but I was on a different bus route, I went to school and found some old friends but it was all different. I may have been picked on in elementary school but I stood up for myself there and people backed off. In middle school, I found new bullies and they were harsher, harder to ignore and shake. What I didn't find was Shayanne.
I didn't ride the same bus anymore, I didn't do choir anymore, and I didn't have any classes with her, I didn't even see her in the halls or at lunch. I didn't have a number or any way I could contact her, so I never saw her.
That first year in middle school changed me a lot. I met new friends, some of my best friends and I had to fight. The bullies who harassed me did it a lot, not just in school but on my new bus as well. I tried backing off, being the passive one, not picking any fights but it still happened. Sometimes you gotta hit back. I got into a few fights that year, two I think, but that's all I needed. Those two fights made people back off, made people scared of me. I liked how it worked since no one messed with me after that, so I went with it, I became the scary one. I never talked to anyone in public if I could avoid it, never smiled at anyone, didn't speak at all if I could avoid it and if I did speak then I was quiet, short and rude.
People were too scared of me to pick any more fights, a bad reputation and a few fights in my past along with how I acted, all of it came together so people gave me a wide berth. I still had friends, just not many in class. And that was middle school. I spent those three years putting on the same scary hateful face and keeping away as much as I could. I changed a lot in those years, not all for the better.
High school was better, not much but it was better. I kept my rep so no one messed with me and I still had many of the same friends, made friends with a few others who I looked out for. It wasn't all bad, I did ok in school, kept going to karate and got pretty good. Then came junior year. The year I saw her again.
I didn't recognize her at first. I did notice her, I saw her and she caught my eye all over again. She was in my English class, sat behind me a few seats. I wasn't sure it was her until role was called. It was her, Shayanne. I kept looking back at her, catching glimpses. She had changed a lot. She was even prettier than before, developed, taller, her teeth had braces on them fixing the offset they had as a kid. She was beautiful.
She also didn't know who I was.
Actually I don't know for sure. I saw her, I knew who she was and even though I swear she saw me, she never acted like she noticed. No raised eyebrows, no nod, not even a smile. I was too scared to even say anything, too worried she wouldn't know who I was, wouldn't remember me and would just think I was creep. So I kept it to myself. I didn't talk to her at all in that class and we just ignored one another. I still stole glances back, some stupid part of me still hoping to see some recognition, some part hoping she would look my way, smile and wave and I would know she remembered me. But that never happened.
So now I get to senior year. I still had my English class with her, plus on top of that I also had math with her and this time she sat in front of me so every day I had to look forward and see her. Every day I had to be reminded that she was there, not ten feet away but still out of reach. Every day I saw her and I swear she saw me, we passed each other in and out of class but never once did I see her linger or really look at me, just glaze over like I was another face in the crowd.
I was just scared I guess, scared of hearing that she didn't remember me. That she did remember me but just didn't care. The vision in my head was safer than the reality. So I chose the vision and kept watching from afar, it's what I did anyway, it's just who I was.
The last time I would see her would be during project graduation, it's this little party they throw at the school after the graduation ceremony for seniors. All the kids are brought in, there's food, dances music, games and all kinds of stuff. It was a fun time, the whole night was.
She was there. I never talked to her, but i saw her passing by with some of her friends talking, laughing and smiling. It was nice to see. Some part of me still wanted to try and talk to her, but I never did.
The night is winding down now and I can see her over there talking with her friends, her group has been dwindling all night so now it's just a guy named Roy. I know him, he's nice. Most of my friends have bugged off as well, just Sabrina left now, listening to me talk. The first of my friends who actually knows Shayanne that I've told about it all. How I met her, how I loved her, how I watched her slip away.
"That's sad." Is all she can say.
"No. It's just the way things are." I shrug. "That's life." I finished off my drink and tossed it away into the trash can.
"So you really don't want to talk to her? This is the last time you might ever see her?" Sabrina nudged trying to push me towards her but I pushed back.
"No. Why? Why would I talk to her now? And even if I did what am I supposed to say? That I've been looking at her for three years hoping she would remember me? If she does then she doesn't care, if she doesn't then she doesn't. Neither answer changes anything." I can't help but stare sadly over at the girl I liked, the one who never was as Roy left waving, leaving her alone against the wall. "Our story is over, it doesn't matter."
Sabrina put her hand on my back. I'm not crying but I sure feel like it. Confessing all of that, it was really tough, hard, but after sharing it I feel like it's my fault. That I should have stayed in contact with her, maybe if I had spoken up when we first met we might still be friends, or more. Too many what ifs, too many maybes.
"Geez," Sabrina sighed. "I know . . . You're gonna be pissed."
` And she pushed me.
Her hand on my back went from supportive to forceful shoving my off my feet and stumbling forward before I could realize what happened. I righted myself and was turning on her when she hit me again, this time with her whole body. The blow knocked me back and I stumbled, right into Shayanne.
I hit her in the side since I couldn't stop myself, I didn't knock her over but she came awfully close. I had to grab the wall to keep from falling anymore and she righted herself before turning on me.
"Sorry." I apologized instantly out of instinct more than anything. I watched her eyes as she looked up at me and paused for just a second before she smiled again. Nothing special about it just a simple smile of forgiveness.
"It's fine." She said standing back up. She laughed a little. "Are you okay?"
My whole head shook like I had been hit. "Uh yeah I'm fine. My friend's just a klutz." I chuckled jabbing a thumb over my shoulder at Sabrina who I had every intention of beating to death as soon as I got back to her.
She smiled and turned her head a little. Her eyes seemed so bright, even in the dim light of the hall, the green somehow shined out. "Better be careful then." She said leaning back against the wall and looking away letting me go from the shining eyes.
"Yeah, see ya around." I turned away with a nod and started to walk back to Sabrina. But something stopped me. I have no idea what happened, why I stopped, what the hell I was thinking but something in me made me stop. I turned back around and looked at her again, maybe I was hoping for a last image to hold on to but what I got instead was a look right into her face. She didn't say anything she just kept looking at me.
"Sorry," I said again out of instinct. "I know this is gonna sound weird, but . . . do you, remember me at all? Not from class the past two years, I mean, before that, years back. Do you remember?"
That had to be the worst moment of my life. Waiting for her to say something, to see anything that would tell me she remembered me that she actually knew who I was and cared. She just looked at me for a minute, so signs of recognition, no words just a slight tilt of her head as she stared at me like some strange animal she was worried might snap at her.
Then she smiled.
That same old warm smile she gave me when we were kids. "Yeah," She whispered so quiet I could barely hear her over the other kids in the background. "I remember you."
. . .
Shay and I talked for a while, I don't know where Sabrina went, but seeing as Shayanne didn't hate me I guess I can let her off the hook. Shayanne remembered me. She remembered everything just like I did. Turns out she had the same problem. When she saw me junior year she saw a guy who was so different than the one she remembered she was afraid I had changed too much, that I wasn't nice anymore or that I wouldn't remember or care about her. My reputation and attitude didn't help any to calm her fears.
She watched me and I watched her but neither of us had the guts to talk to each other, took an actual push to get me to talk to her. We talked for most of the night, stood on the wall then we ended up sitting down and talking more, catching up on all that we missed over the years, what had happened what we had missed, how things were doing for each of us. It was nice, simple, pointless but it was nice.
All nights have to end though, and we eventually had to end it. I had driven myself and my friends to the party so I stayed but she got a call and had to leave. Being a gentleman, I walked her to the door and out to her mother's car. When we got to the door it hit me. I'm about to lose her again. I didn't have her number or any way to contact her, we hadn't made plans at all we had just caught up about the past few years. Now I was about to watch her get in her car and drive away again.
Out of the doors I saw he mom's car pulled next to the curb just down the sidewalk. She stopped and look to me again.
"It was nice seeing you, and knowing you remember me." She said and stepped forward opening her arms. I reached out and tugged her close hugging her tightly once before letting go. She smiled once more at me and turned on her heel to walk away. I watched her hair, her long brown hair so much like when she was a kid blowing behind her like a curtain, like a veil that was ready to sweep over her and make her vanish again.
"Shayanne!" I yelled a lot louder than I need to and jogged to meet her as she turned. I opened my mouth but froze. What the hell was I supposed to say? I thought about it, what to say how to say it, what it would mean. Never could make up my mind. "Shayanne, do you . . . I don't want this to be it. Do you want to hang out? Get some food, see a movie something?" She looked at me again her eyes big and questioning. "I just don't want to go another four years without seeing you. I really don't."
Her head tilted again letting the light from above shine on her face and her smooth smile. "Yeah, I don't want to forget you either. Hang on a sec." She turned and bounced to her car leaning in the open window. Whatever happened in the car she came back with something gripped in her hand which she thrust to me. "Here."
Gently, I took her hand and pulled out the piece of paper. I don't know what it was on, a receipt? Maybe a piece of a book? Regardless, on it I could just make out a set of numbers scribbled in ink. Her number, at least I hoped. I looked up and found her eyes and her smile. I wanted to kiss her, I wanted to say something to tell her how I felt once before, how I felt years back.
I'm not stupid.
"Thanks." I smiled as big as I could. She returned it and ran back to the car waving back as she climbed in. I watched the car lights move around the building and vanish till they vanished. I clenched that little piece of paper in my fist before I shoved it in my pocket. The night was cold but I welcomed it. It was calming and real, the bitter cold helped me know I wasn't dreaming. I turned back and walked inside.
I wanted to go home, and I knew I had to find my friends first, so I started walking back to where I had left them. My fingers kept brushing over the piece of paper in my pocket. I might call her in a few days, let her do what she needed to do, whatever she needed for a few days. She was going off for collage, still a few months away so I had time to wait and call when I wanted to.
Where it's gonna go from here I don't know. But hell, at least I'm gonna know.