A/N: As for the title, don't think too hard about it. The dictionary's (as in the website) eighth definition of it is "a bit, scrap, or fragment of something." These are snatches in the character's lives, like snapshots or small moments. Except this is a story and and the snatches are not pointless. Maybe I shouldn't have told you that because you all are probably smart enough to have figured that out. Oh, well.
Jeff opens his wallet to count how much money he has left. At least, that's the excuse he gives himself and he knows it because he reaches in the pocket behind his driver's license and pulls out a picture of Michele. He likes this picture because she is laughing and her brown eyes are sparkling and her brown-black hair is shining and he thinks she looks happy and that's exactly how it should be.
He stares at the picture in his hand and scoffs because he's acting like some lovesick buffoon. He tells himself to put it away, probably forever, but he looks at the way her eyes sparkle in the picture and his resolve crumbles at his fingerprints.
Jeff frowns a little because the more he looks at the picture, the more he imagines how nice her hair would feel if he ran his fingers through it or how great her laugh would sound if he heard it every day and he doesn't like this. He doesn't like this at all. Every day, he's warming up more and more to the idea of him-and-her-holding-hands and him-and-her-falling-asleep-in-each-other's-arms and it's gotten to the point where he's convinced that maybe she wouldn't look so bad in a white gown.
Jeff tears his eyes away from the picture and slumps against his bed because they're young and immature and weddings are right now a concept left to the "maybes" and "who knows?" And anyway, he's Jeff and she's Michele and it doesn't matter that they're childhood friends because she's way, way out of his league.
So, when he feels his phone vibrate and he slides his thumb across the screen, his frown disappears because it's from her.
Hey, there. I hope this isn't too late, but could you meet me at the park in 15? It's important.
Jeff's thumbs furiously text back an affirmation because if it's Michele and it's important he will be there in ten.
Before he leaves his room, he makes sure the picture of her is back in his wallet where he got it from.
Jeff decides that the real thing will always be better than a picture because he's laughing and she's laughing and he swears he can take on the world right now. But when he asks her about the important thing she was talking about in her text, her smile never leaves her face, but the mood suddenly becomes very serious and a terrible feeling claws at his chest.
They are lying on the grass, staring at the night sky, and the air feels cold. Michele sits up and her soft smile lights up the entire park so he sits up, too. Everything seems like a movie going in slow motion and he watches her shift her body so she is facing him directly, sitting back on her heels. She is looking at the ground and Jeff fights the urge to lift her chin so he can see her deep brown eyes better. She takes a deep breath and her shoulders rise and fall.
And she starts talking.
Her voice is soft and nervous, but very sure and he gets this feeling that maybe she has been rehearsing this. And he smiles a little at the idea of her being nervous because she is adorable, incorrigibly and unadulteratedly adorable. But what comes next from her mouth wipe the smile from his face and his eyes widen and his whole body freezes because he never thought he would ever hear that.
She lifts her chin and looks straight into his eyes and repeats those same soul-shaking words. Her gaze is so warm that he could no longer feel the cold. She is anxious and doubtful, but also sincere and she is still smiling. Jeff stares at that smile, small and so so beautiful, he begins to notice other things about her like how her hair is moving in harmony with the wind and how her eyes are so bright despite being so dark. His heart clenches because she is perfect, absolutely perfect, and there is no one, no one, who could ever hope to even come close to her and – oh God, he can't, he can't, he really can't ˗.
"I'm sorry. I don't see you that way."
Michele's smile never leaves, but her eyes sparkle with moisture and her voice squeaks from her throat with an almost inaudible "oh" and she moves her body so she is sitting next to him, but not beside him and avoids his eyes.
And Jeff realizes that he's just messed up everything.
He comes to school and is greeted by a slap in the face by one of his good friends and her best friend, Vanessa.
"You're a fucking retard. And a coward," she says.
Before she walks away, she slaps him again, on the same cheek, but he is so numb, he can't feel any pain.
His best friend, Thomas, says nothing; only looks at him with sad, sad eyes. Jeff wishes his friend was the typical guy that would just punch his face in, but he never does and Jeff decides this is worse.
When fourth period rolls around, Jeff stands outside the door because he knows she is behind it. After two minutes, he sucks it up and enters the classroom. The first thing he sees is her, and like magnets, she sees him and their eyes meet and he can see her sorrow. He is about to turn around and just leave, but she smiles her usual smile even though there is pain and she goes to greet him and she talks as though nothing is wrong and he didn't just rip her heart out a few hours ago.
He looks at her pretty smile, sincere laugh, and easy conversation and wonders how someone so small could ever be so strong.
The next day, a girl named Patricia meets him after class, at the school's front gates. She is loud and dramatic and the complete opposite of Michele.
The next five minutes, he is walking her home with their fingers entwined and he feels sick, sick, sick.
He enters fourth period the next day and he sees her face and he knows she knows. It takes her a while to greet him and he expects her not to, but she eventually does and her smile is still there and so is her laugh and their conversation is as easy as ever. He feels so ashamed that when he asks his teacher to go to the bathroom, he leaves the school instead, taking the hall pass with him.
Detention sucks because the only thing he can think about is a girl with bright eyes and a smile that can rival the sun.
Patricia's lips are soft but slightly chapped.
He comes to school with a stinging cheek and bruise on his shin and Vanessa is angrier than the Devil.
He loses heart before fourth period, leaving third, and he knows that if he keeps this up, he will flunk the school year, but he doesn't care. He really doesn't.
Patricia's hands are far too aggressive and she uses far too much lip gloss, but he closes his eyes and pretends, pretends, pretends.
Thomas tries talking to him, but Jeff won't listen because he believes he deserves this.
A month passes and he walks by a group of girls.
"I heard Michele Reyes is dating Ryan Gosnick."
Ryan's a good guy, Jeff thinks. She deserves him.
But he clenches his fist and grits his teeth and refuses to talk or look at her during fourth period. As the class ends, he sneaks a look at her face and he marvels at himself for breaking her heart twice in one month.
He hates walking down the halls of his school because, somehow, he catches them holding hands or talking or laughing or even giving each other a peck on the cheek.
This is what is happening and he is about to pass them by when Ryan tries to catch her lips in his own. Jeff halts and is about to whirl around and punch him right between the eyes, but Michele pushes Ryan away with an apologetic smile and a shake of her head.
Jeff can tell Ryan is absolutely heartbroken because Michele won't even hold hands and Jeff walks to class with swagger in his steps.
Jeff tries to make out with Patricia in his car after school, but he keeps thinking of Michele and Ryan. He feels so disgusted with himself that he pushes her off and drives her home. He walks her to her porch and promptly ends it.
He knows she's crying as he drives home, but he can't help but feel a little bit better about himself.
When he gets home, he pulls out her picture from his wallet and makes a resolution.
He calls Vanessa before school the next day and asks, "Is it okay if I talk to her?"
"Why are you asking me? I'm not her mother," she spits at him.
There is a pause between them and he is about to say something, but she beats him to it.
"She wants to talk to you, you know." Then, she promptly hangs up.
Jeff approaches her at fourth period with a shy smile and a weak "hey."
She smiles back and Jeff doesn't like it because it's not as bright as usual and a Michele without a bright-as-the-sky smile is not Michele at all. But he grits his teeth and reminds himself that this is his fault and starts a conversation that lasts the whole period and he thanks God that she is so friendly and easy to talk to. (He remembers that this one of the many reasons why he lo˗ never mind.)
He pretends Ryan doesn't exist and Michele is courteous enough not to mention Patricia.
The next day, he hears they broke up and he knows he can do somersaults right now.
On Saturday, he texts her and asks her if he could meet her at the park. The reply takes long. Too long. And Jeff wants to throw his phone out the window when it vibrates and she answers his text with an "okay." He grabs his jacket and literally runs out of the house.
They're sitting on the grass. Some kids are playing soccer in the distance. They are completely silent. She stares at him expectantly and he knows she's waiting for him. He runs a hand through his hair and takes a deep breath.
She says nothing. He wraps his arms around his knees and lays his forehead on his forearms and takes another shaky breath. "It's just…I like you, too. I like you so much that it scares the hell out of me because you're perfect in every way and I convinced myself that you deserve so much better." He stops talking because he's afraid he's going to keep rambling and never get to the point. He wonders if she wants to say something, but she doesn't so he continues.
"So when you told me you liked me, too, I panicked because…because I could see everything. I would be happy and I would give you the world and I knew I would give you forever, too, and the thought of it scared me. It scared me so bad that I just took the easy way out and said no to you and yes to…" he sighs and buries his face in his arms. "I'm a fucking coward and I'm sorry."
It takes a while for her to say something, but when she does, he looks at her and her knees are also to her chest and her arms are also wrapped around her knees and her smile is not on her face. "You're right," she says. "You are a coward."
Jeff looks away and frowns, ashamed, agreeing. "But…" she continues and he looks back. She is looking right at him and her smile is still not there. "You don't have to be brave."
She takes his hand in hers and intertwines their fingers. They stay like that until the sun sets and he takes her home.
They stand on her porch and he leans forward and his lips linger on her cheek. They stay that way for a while and he knows she is smiling.
When he goes home, he is smiling, too.
A/N: Thank you very much for reading! I'm not too sure how well I did with this one, but I hope I did alright. Anyway, Happy New Year and I hope all of you have a year that will teach you growth, hope, and wisdom and that opportunities will arise and good fortune will be showered upon you.
Thanks for your time and have a blessed day.