I walked down the empty hallways, trying hard to get used to the fact that in less than twenty-four hours, my recently-divorced mother and father would both be teaching in these halls, ruining not only each other's' lives, but mine as well. My parents had argued all night the night before over which one I would go to school with, so in the end, I told them both that I'd drive myself. They expected me to be helping them get their classrooms set up for the upcoming school year, and I used the distance between their class rooms as an excuse to wander the halls and not help either of them.
It was weird how much more I liked my high school - when school wasn't in session. I walked absentmindedly through the science wing of the school when I heard a gasp come from somewhere behind me. "Another kid!" a male voice said with supreme excitement.
I spun on my heel, knowing that he was talking about me. I faced a boy my age, nearly a foot taller than me, with sandy blonde hair and bright green eyes. He wore an Abercrombie and Fitch shirt and a pair of jeans from American Eagle. He could not have been more my opposite.
In a fit of rebelliousness against my parents during their divorce, I'd dyed my hair purple, with a few random streaks of red throughout it. My eyes were hazel, and I wore an Amerrickan shirt, courtesy of ever-alternative, Glamour Kills, and tripp pants I'd bought from Hot Topic more than a year ago, that now sported a large hole at the bend of the left knee.
"You a teacher's kid, too?" he asked me with a grin.
I rolled my eyes, not particularly in the mood to talk, so I just answered with a nod of my head.
"I'm Shane Dansley," he introduced, holding out a hand to me.
I glanced at it and figured this guy had no way of knowing how bitter I felt, so shaking his hand would only give him the wrong impression of me. "Liv. Don't ever call me Olivia." I crossed my arms over my chest and began smacking my gum loudly, hoping it would annoy him and he'd leave me alone.
He dropped his hand, realizing I wasn't going to be shaking it any time soon. "What do your parents teach?" he asked, trying to start up a conversation. He looked so intent on talking to me that even I didn't have the heart to be a complete bitch to him. At least not for the time being.
"My mom is a freshman English teacher, and my dad is the senior class Anatomy teacher."
"Oh, both of your parents? That must suck. I can't stand having my dad work here," he grimaced, slipping his hands into his back pockets. "He teaches art, so I'm bound to have him this year, whether I like it or not. I hoped the other teacher wouldn't leave and I could get her, but no such luck."
"I'm taking art. I'm sure he won't be that bad," I sympathized.
He turned and pressed his back up against the wall and slid down until he was sitting on the floor, where I joined him. I may not have wanted to talk, but at least if either of my parents came looking for me, I'd have an excuse for not being around. "I guess not. He's just... he isn't as cool anymore since my mom passed last year. He's a lot more stressed and overworked now."
Okay, yeah. Drop a bombshell like that on me two seconds after we meet. Real cool, dude. I had no clue what to say. I wanted to tell him I was sorry his mom died, but honestly, I didn't know him, much less his deceased mother. "Oh. Um. That sucks. I'm sorry," I tried.
He ran a hand through his hair. "No big. I accepted it a long time ago, but he's no fun anymore."
I bit my lip. "I can sorta understand. In a way, anyway. My parents just got divorced recently. They make each other's' lives hell, and I'm stuck in the hellfire."
He laughed. "I think I'm glad I don't have to deal with that, at least."
"Gee, thanks. Jerk," I teased, bumping my shoulder into his. I wasn't quite sure why, but I felt really comfortable talking to this Shane character. I definitely didn't like that, so I stood up and wiped at my backside to push away any dust that might've collected. They never kept these school hallways swept. "Well. Shane. It was nice talking to you. I think I have to go help one of my parents now, so I should probably go," I told him, trying not to look at him. Something about the way his eyes smiled was beginning to make me want to stay around him.
"Liv! There you are!" I heard my father say from behind me. "Oh, and who is this?" he asked, taking the few steps that put him beside me and directed his attention to Shane.
"This is Shane, Dad. He's the kid of the new art teacher. Shane, this is the man that gave me one of my X chromosomes."
"Hi, Mr...?" Shane let his voice trail off, because I'd conveniently forgotten to give him my last name.
"Mr. Cutler. I teach Anatomy," my father shared with a smile.
"Looks like I'll have you this year, then. Liv told me you taught seniors, and I am one this year, finally."
"Oh, so my girl talked about me? I must say, I'm surprised," my dad admitted, putting his arm around me and smiling at me. I gritted my teeth and kept my eyes on the door at the far end of the hall, wanting nothing more than to run through it and never have to be there again.
"Liv, here, is only a Junior. Her birthday just barely missed the cut off date, so she's a year behind, unfortunately.
"Dad, can you go? Please? I was just about to...um, go see Saw with him. It's playing at that discount theater down the road, you know the one. So...I'll see you or Mom later, I guess?" I pulled away from my dad and went to stand next to Shane, who was more than happy to put his arm around my shoulders.
"Oh! Sure, honey. Just make sure that if you're going to be back late, you call one of us. Remember, tonight is your night with me, so if you need anything from your mom's, you need to go and pick it up before you come over."
"I know, Dad. I'm a big girl; I get how this works."
"Have fun, sweetheart," he said, coming forward and kissing my forehead.
"Ugh! Dad. Go do your work. I'll see you later," I whined.
My dad smiled at me and walked back in the direction he'd come. "Well, he doesn't seem so bad," Shane commented.
I snarled my nose and shrugged his arm away, no longer in as good a mood as I'd found myself when I'd been talking with Shane.
"Liv? Do you really wanna go see a movie? I can tell my dad and we could go. Plus, it would get both of us out of having to help our parents."
I bit my lip. I liked talking with him, but I didn't want him to think anything would happen beyond a conversation today. But he made a good point; I wouldn't have to deal with my parents. "Sure, let's go," I agreed.
A month later, Shane sat across from me at the lunch table, stirring his straw around in his drink. "You caffeine addict. You're gonna turn into a can of Pepsi, or something," he teased playfully. For being so completely opposite of me, Shane and I had been getting along pretty well. We shared the class his dad taught as well as a computer literacy class, and he had my dad for Anatomy.
"Then I could drink myself. Which is like, impossible, but whatever. I don't think being a can of Pepsi sounds as bad as you think it should," I laughed.
"Whatever. So, guess what?"
"I heard back from Columbia."
"And?" I asked, hoping it was good news.
"I got accepted!" he said with a giant smile spreading across his face.
"Shane! Congrats!" I shouted, standing and leaning across the table to hug him. He wrapped his arms around me and held on tight, even when I tried to pull away. He let go a second later and I sat back down. "Shane, that's amazing. I told you they'd accept you!"
He grinned down at the smoothie he was still stirring around with the straw. "Yeah, it's pretty fucking awesome. It means that I have to leave you, though. You know, I didn't think I'd meet anyone I'd want to stay friends with when I moved, since I'd only be here for a year, then I'd be off to college, but honestly, I'm gonna miss the shit outta you when I leave."
I looked down at my lunch and hated myself. "Shane, don't do this."
"Don't do what, Liv? Don't ask you to be my girlfriend again? So that maybe things won't be so hard on our relationship when I leave? Don't ask you out, even though I think you're funny and beautiful and want to be able to walk down the hallway and shout to everyone that the girl holding my hand is mine?"
I squeezed my eyes shut. "Do you know why I always tell you no?" I asked, my tone suddenly becoming harsh.
"No, Liv, I have no fucking clue. Would you please enlighten me?"
"It's because my parents got a divorce. Their love didn't last. After twenty-three years, they stopped loving each other. It's because just after my birthday last year, I found out I was pregnant by my boyfriend of two years. He told me if I didn't get rid of it, he'd leave me. Even though he knew I didn't want to get an abortion. But I did it, because I was under the illusion that he loved me. And guess what? He ended up leaving me a month and a half later because I got rid of his baby. The baby that he'd told me he didn't want. Do you know what the combined impact of those two things had on my life? I resorted to cutting myself for almost six months before I got my head on straight and realized I needed to get on with my life. But all of that has ruined my idea of love. It doesn't exist. Dating isn't anything but a few chemicals in your head making you think there's more between you and someone else than there really is or ever will be. There is no such thing as love." I slammed my hands palm down on the table as I stood, emphasizing the point of everything I'd just told him. I'd only known Shane a month, and had really hoped I wouldn't have to share all of that so soon.
Shane looked up at me with large, surprised eyes, but I ignored them and walked out of the cafeteria with all the attitude I could muster.
I walked through the hallways until I found myself in the English hall. Tears filled my eyes and I bounded down the hall to my mom's classroom, knowing with little comfort that it would be empty except for her when I got there. "Mom," I squeaked when I stood in her doorway.
She looked up from her lunch that was spread across her desk. "Baby, what's wrong?" she asked, standing and looking worried.
I walked over to her and collapsed into her open arms. "Mom," I sobbed into her shoulder.
"You told him, didn't you?" she asked sadly. It was like she could read my mind. Maybe she made my life hell sometimes, but she knew me better than I knew myself sometimes. I nodded my head against her shoulder, and she responded by stroking my hair. "Oh, sweetie, it's okay. If he cares about you like he says he does, then everything will work out, I promise. But sweetie, I've told you before; you shouldn't let what happened between me and your father have any effect on the way you live your life or the relationships you have."
"It doesn't matter. He's off to Columbia in a year, and there's no chance of me getting into Columbia. And I wanna make sure where ever I do go has a good journalism program, which for all I know, could end up being across the country from him. And he's completely different from me, and he's too tall for me, because look at me, I barely beat five even, and he probably only likes me for my curves, and I like music and books, and he hasn't read a book that didn't have to do with school since the fifth grade, and it just couldn't work even if I did believe."
My mom smoothed my hair back, but before she said anything else to me, I heard Shane. "Liv, do you know how irrelevant all of that is to me? It doesn't matter to me that you read or that you're addicted to your music and your caffeine or that you're short, want to write, and got an abortion because you thought you were in love when the guy couldn't have cared less about you. Maybe what you need to realize is that not every guy is that guy. Whoever this guy was that did that to you, you need to know that yeah, there are people out there like that, but not all of us are like that."
"A month, Shane. I've only known you a month."
"Exactly. You've known me for a month. And for the record, I never said anything about love. Maybe I could love you, and if I do, I hope that you'd give me the chance to help you learn to love me. But why does it have to be that serious? Why can't we just date and have fun?"
His words were like a slap in the face as I stared up at him. Not because he was being mean or rude or harsh, but just because he was...right. "I don't know if I can," I whispered, looking down at my feet.
Shane stepped toward me and took my hands. "Then give me a chance. I know I can change your mind," he told me, then, even though we were standing in front of my mom and PDA so was not my thing, he kissed me. And the feeling of his lips on mine was enough reason to try to give up every notion I'd ever had that love didn't exist. I would let him change my mind, no matter how long it took.