Sometimes she felt like life enjoyed playing a joke on her. It seemed like no matter what she did, including going at lengths to take a detour, she kept running into him.
The first time, she had been running late and threw all caution into the wind. Just as she had almost reached the safety of her Chem 101 class, he suddenly stepped out of the room and she collided right into him. Upon the impact, her Chem textbook fell out of her grasp and landed with a thud. The papers that had been jammed between the pages scattered everywhere at their feet. Ignoring her racing heartbeat, she murmured a few apologies before bending down to collect her papers. Heat rose to her cheeks when she saw that he had bent down to help her gather her papers. Averting her eyes away from him, she quickly scooped up her papers, not caring that it was a mess. She grabbed the the few papers he had picked up, muttered a thank you, and darted off to class. For some inexplicable reason, she could not calm her beating heart for the rest of the day.
The second time, he was with his group of friends near her locker. He threw his head back and laughed loudly at a comment made by his friend. She ducked her head and tried to be as inconspicuous as possible, but to her dismay, he moved over to stand right in front of her locker. She contemplated on heading to class, but her arms felt empty without the comforting weight of her Calculus textbook. She sighed and took a step forward, but then balked. While her mind conjured all of the ways to get to her locker without him noticing, his friend tapped him on the shoulder and his head turned. Turned to stare to straight at her. She held eye contact with him for what felt like an eternity before she turned on her heel and proceeded to run down the hallway. Their laughter filled her ears while she ran with her embarrassment written all over her face. The only relief that she got was that they could not see her face.
The third time, she was headed to her car. She was headed into town to meet up with her friend. Unfortunately for her, her car was parked in the back and she was already running late. Much to her dismay that moment, she remembered she switched parking spots with her roommate and she was now parked in the other lane. Squeezing between two parked cars, she darted into the next lane. In her haste, she did not notice the incoming Toyota and ran to cross the lane. Only when she was halfway across, did she notice something in the corner of her eyes. She turned to look, only to see a car coming straight at her. She willed her legs to move, but she knew it was too late. She closed her eyes and accepted her fate.
After a few moments with no feeling of a slamming impact, she slowly opened eyes and saw the car had stopped merely a few feet in front of her. She thought the car looked very familiar, but figured that she just probably saw it somewhere since it was a popular model. When the driver stepped out of the car, she gasped, finally dawning on her why she thought the car was familiar. It was his car. He was muttering curses under his breath as he walked towards her. She was rooted to the spot; for the first time, her mind processed that she had almost died.
"Dammit, I'm really sorry," he said, running a hand through his hair, tousling it up even further. He looked remorseful, at least she thought he did.
"No...it was my fault. I did not look," she said softly, deliberately not meeting his gaze.
"No, no, no it was my fault. If there is anything I can do-"
"I'm late!" she blurted, suddenly recalling why she had been in such a hurry in the first place that she did not bother to check the road before crossing. Ignoring his look of confusion, she darted off in the direction of her car. She heard him calling after her, but she couldn't afford to turn around. She really could not afford to be much later than she already was.
Since the first time he laid eyes on her, he thought she was intriguing. She had been one of the few girls who didn't openly flirt with him every chance they got or make up lame excuses to talk to him. In fact, she seemed eager to get away from him which made him wonder if he ever offended her. When he voiced his thoughts to his best friend, his best friend just laughed and told him that his worries were unwarranted. His sister, he said, was her best friend and she was always painfully shy.
"That would explain the first encounter, but why did she run away when she saw us?" he questioned, genuinely puzzled. His friend noticed and grinned; for the first time, he was genuinely interested in a girl.
"We're not exactly the friendliest bunch," he answered, shrugging.
"But then she ran away when I was apologizing to her for almost hitting her."
"Whoa," his friend blurted, "You apologized to someone? That's a first." He glared at him, not liking the implications of his comment.
The fourth time he saw her was the first time it was expected. He agreed to the professor's request to give an explanation of Gibb's free energy, seeing how it was an extremely difficult and intangible concept to grasp for most undergrad students. Luckily for him, he was one of the few who had a strong grasp of the concept, which earned the professor's acknowledgement. It also happened that the day he went to the professor to discuss times and dates; he ran right into her on the way out the door. He felt guilty that her papers flew everywhere, so he bent down to help her pick them up, but she didn't give him much of a chance to help when she snatched all her papers. He caught a hint of red on her cheeks as she darted into the classroom.
She's cute when she's flustered, he mused.
When he walked into the Chem 101 class, he didn't miss the way her eyes swung to meet his for a few seconds before she looked down to her notebook. Her hair fell, blocking the view to her face much to his dismay. Taking it in stride though, he strolled confidently to the podium which had been vacated by the professor moments earlier. He cleared his throat and began his presentation.
All throughout his presentation, his eyes were drawn to where she was seated: in the back right corner of the room with his best friend's sister. All the times he looked her way, she never met his gaze. Most of the time, she was furiously jotting down notes. The only time she looked up from her notebook was when her friend nudged her and pointed in his general direction. Even then, she refused to look at him. When the bell rang, it was no coincidence she was the first one out of the door, leaving her friend behind. She probably predicted that he would to try to talk to her after class. He couldn't say she was wrong.
From that day, he didn't see her for the next month. For him, he became busy with playing lacrosse. The captain had taken him under his wing, hoping that he would be a co-captain next year, even if he would only be a junior. In addition, he had taken up tutoring some undergrads for some quick cash, even if he had to put up with clinging girls. Most of them, he suspected, were using the guise of needing tutoring to get close to him, but he didn't care. When they began to trail off onto trivial topics, he brought them on track with the subject he was tutoring them in. He noticed their pouts, but their facial expressions didn't have the same effect on him as her's.
Surprisingly, the fifth time, she was the one who sought him out. His professor had arranged another tutoring session with him and his supposed student, and he never stopped to ask who it was. When he showed up at the library at the scheduled time, he was taken aback to see her there, at their meeting table, with her textbook opened. She was reading diligently, only pausing to tuck a loose strand of her hair behind her ear.
When he reached the table, her head jerked upwards at the new presence. He saw her eyes widen in recognition. He took a seat down across from her, giving her enough space to make her feel comfortable.
"Hey," he greeted, setting his bag on the table. He dug out his old notes from Calculus 101 as well as a few sheets of notebook paper.
"Hi," she said, "I didn't realize you tutored."
"There's a lot of things that you don't know about me," he replied without skipping a
heartbeat, "Calculus 101, right?" She nodded, digging through her bag before pulling out a few sheets of papers. She slid them over into his direction. He took them, skimming over it, and recognizing the same problems he had to complete last year.
During the entirety of the tutoring session, they talked solely about math. Never once did it cross his mind to ask her why she ran off that day in the parking or why she always seemed to be avoiding him. He worked through all the problems that she seemed to have trouble with although it seemed that she was only confused with only parts of the problem. It was better for him since he didn't have to explain the basics to her from scratch. After the tutoring session, he concluded that he enjoyed tutoring her.
When it neared four, she claimed that she needed to go and began to pack up her things.
"Thank you," she said.
"You're welcome. If you need more tutoring, I'll be glad to help," he offered. It never crossed his mind that he was just looking for an excuse just to see her again. A hint of a smile appeared on her face before she turned to leave the library. He was left staring at her back while she grew smaller in the distance, until she turned the corner and disappeared out of his sight.
The sixth time he saw her was on his way to the gym. She had a duffel bag on the crook of her shoulder. She tossed a glance over her shoulder when she heard footsteps. A look of surprise emerged on her face as she made eye contact with him. He gave her a small smirk as he quickened his pace to walk side by side to her.
"Going to the gym?" he asked, casually taking her bag off her shoulder and onto his own. She turned sharply to look at him when she felt the weight being lifted off her shoulder.
"I can carry that you know," she said, with a hint of annoyance in her voice. He shot back a cheeky grin.
"I know," he responded nonchalantly, "But so can I." She gave him a look.
"If you want to," she conceded. The rest of the trip to the gym was in silence. When they reached the gym, he tossed her her bag which she caught deftly with one hand. He took the treadmill in the very corner of the room. Putting on headphones, he scrolled through his playlists until he found his workout one. He pressed play before sliding his phone into the pocket of his gym shorts.
Five minutes passed before he saw a person out of the corner of his eye. He subtly cocked his head in their direction to see that it was her who took the treadmill next to him. She was eyeing the speed on his treadmill at the moment, before she pressed a few buttons to speed up her own treadmill. He couldn't help but smirk at the fact that she had to make the speed a bit faster than his own.
He allowed her to run faster than him for about five minutes before he increased the speed on his treadmill. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that her eyes widened before she gritted her teeth and took him up on his challenge. She had already began sweating while he looked like he hadn't broke a sweat.
The challenge continued. About thirty minutes later, she was breathing heavily, while he was sweating profusely. He could still continue, but he knew that she was at her limit, so he turned off the treadmill and stepped off. He walked to his bag, which he had dumped into the corner earlier and pulled out a towel. While he was wiping his sweat off his face, she came to to stand besides him. He gave her a questioning look, but did not bother to speak.
"Why did you let me win?" she asked as he chugged the entire bottle of water.
"What are you talking about?" he asked innocently. He ignored her piercing gaze as he shoved his empty bottle and towel back into his bag. He swung it onto his shoulder and was ready to leave the gym when she stepped in front of him, blocking his way. He stared down at her to make eye contact, seeing that he was a good foot taller than her.
"You know what I'm talking about. Don't act like you don't know," she said, meeting his dark gaze.
"If that's what you want to believe, then go for it," he said curtly, looking down at his watch, "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go." He sidestepped her and began taking long strides towards the exit, but stopped when he felt her tugging on his arm. He threw a glance over his shoulder.
"Why do I keep running into you when I try so hard to avoid you?" she said in frustration. He turned to fully face her, slightly smirking at her confession.
"Coincidence?" he offered half-heartedly.
"This is the sixth time we've met since I started avoiding you. This is not a coincidence," she retorted, huffing in frustration.
"You've been counting?" he asked cheekily, "I'm flattered."
"That's not the point! The point is-" she yelled, but stopped herself. He was glad that they were the only two in the gym at the moment otherwise they would be getting a lot of questioning stares right now.
"The point is?" he questioned, "The point is you were avoiding me for no reason. What did I ever do to you?" Her face began to turn very red.
"You did nothing," she answered, averting her gaze from his, "It's not your fault."
"Then why?" he asked, "We're friends; there's no reason for you to avoid me."
"That's exactly why!" she yelled, tears streaming down her face, "I have liked you since we were in the same Physics class. I'm way out of your league and the only thing I could ever be is a friend to you. So I thought it would be better to avoid you so I would forget about my feelings for you but no! Life really enjoys playing a cruel joke on me! And it just makes my heart hurt knowing that you and me will never happen!" He stared at her in shock, seemingly rooted to his spot. Upon the lack of his reaction, she pushed past him, still crying, and ran down the hall. When he finally came to his senses, he stepped out of the gym, calling out to her to wait, but she was already long gone. All that was left was the shadows in the long hallway and the dim lighting. He cursed under his breath, slamming his hand against the wall to let out his frustration.
What was wrong with him?
She hoped that she would never see him again. She didn't think she could stand the awkwardness and embarrassment that followed after a failed confession. He hadn't said anything to her confession, but he didn't need to: his feelings were very clear. There was no hope for her at all; he belonged with the rich, elite kids and probably would date the daughter of a wealthy businessman. As for her, she only got into this prestigious college because of scholarships. Even that wasn't enough to cover the whole cost of tuition, but she would make do.
She sighed in relief as she made it back to her dorm room without him running after her. She wasn't really in the mood to hear his half-hearted apologies about why he couldn't return her feelings; he had the right to choose how he felt without having to feel sorry for not returning her feelings. Even though it hurt, she had long accepted the fact a long time ago. She sighed and climbed into bed. The consequences, she would deal with in the morning and as for the rest, everything would return to normal, without him in her life.
Despite struggling with Calculus 101, she did not bother to ask him for help. She asked around, but all the people who actually understood the concepts were far too busy with other priorities to help her. Disappointed, she briefly remembered his offer, but quickly shook off that thought. She wouldn't talk to him again, no matter how much she needed his help.
The second time she avoided him was when she saw him walking down the hall with his two best friends. She ducked into an empty classroom the moment she saw them, hoping that none of them had noticed her. Even if they did, she doubt that any of them would care. In fact, she could bet that he told his friends about her confession and they had gotten a good laugh out of it. Their footsteps echoed loudly in the empty hallway, their laughter filling up their silence. When their footsteps and laughter began to fade away, she peaked her head out of the classroom, sighing when she saw that they were out of sight. She slipped out of the classroom quietly, shutting the door quietly behind her.
"I don't see why you feel the need to avoid me," he said quietly behind her. She jumped, dropping all of the books she held in her arms. She bent down to gather her things to avoid making eye contact with him, but much to her dismay, he bent down to help her. She tried not to think about how closely this imitiated their first run in after she decided to avoid him.
"I wasn't avoiding you," she replied unconvincingly. He gave her a wry smile.
"I didn't know that not avoiding constituted ducking into a classroom upon seeing me," he retorted, handing her the books he had gathered. Hesitantly, she took it from him, unable to meet his eyes.
"Thank you. I have to go now," she said hurriedly, turning quickly, ready to dart down the hall. She grimaced when she felt his hand wrap around her arm, pulling her to a stop. Why did this remind her so much of what happened at the gym except that they were in reverse roles?
"I'm sorry," he said, but she cut him off, not wanting to hear his excuses.
"You don't have to be sorry. Just forget that anything happened," she stated, trying to pull her wrist out his grasp, but he wasn't letting go. Instead, he held on tighter, almost cutting off the circulation to her hand.
"Please hear me out," he pleaded. She stopped struggling to get out of his grasp upon seeing the sincerity in his eyes.
"I don't know where you got the idea that I'm out of your league," he confessed, "I got here on a full ride scholarship and tutor for my living expenses. I never saw you as a friend even though I tried to convince myself that you were only a friend. I friendzoned you because I wasn't sure how you felt and didn't want to scare you away. And um-" Here he paused to take a deep breath. "You and I can happen. But only if you want it to." She stared at him, mouth agape as she processed everything he just told her. She couldn't believe that he wasn't rich like she thought he was although he had the looks and presence of one. It also didn't help all his friends were part of the rich, elite group.
"Then why do you put up that facade?" she finally asked. He stared at her in shock, of all the things that he said to her, that was what she chose to comment on.
"Because that was my comfort zone. Since I was a child, I was raised to socialize with the upper class, but I chose not to rely on my parent's money to get into college. I wasn't mentally prepared to diverge from everything I've ever known. I need time, please," he answered, his eyes pleading. She stood corrected; he did come from a rich family, but his actions did not mirror one of wealth and prestige.
"I can't wait forever," she replied softly, "I just can't."
"You won't have to," he promised sincerely, "Soon, I won't be shackled by the chains of society's norms. I know I'm asking a lot, but are you willing to trust me?" All she could do at that point was nod.
Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months. Fall semester was coming close to an end and she was currently packing up her things. A part of her was excited to see her parents and her adorable little brother again, but another part of her was disappointed that he still hadn't been able to step out of his comfort zone. She had given what he had wanted: time and space. She went at lengths to avoid him, a total of six times. Even though she had resolved to wait for him, she still couldn't help but feel a pang in her heart every time she saw him laughing rambunctiously with the other elite kids. When she saw the daughter of a prominent CEO wrap her arms around his waist, she quickly averted her eyes and tried to exit the scene as quietly and quickly as a humanly possible. What made her heart ache the most was that he didn't spare a glance her way during the whole ordeal.
She sighed, resolving to give up on him like she had done so long ago. She couldn't wait anymore; she needed to move on with her life like he clearly done with his.
"Why did he have to give me false hope to cling onto?" she asked herself in the empty hallway. Her voice bounced off the walls a few times before fading away.
"It wasn't false hope," a voice spoke behind her. She flinched, before embarrassment took over. No one was suppose to hear her talking to herself!
Without turning around, she already knew who it was. It was always him; no matter where she went or what she did to avoid him, he would keep appearing again and again. So many times that she lost count.
"You don't have to avoid me anymore," he said, "Because I'm ready. I'm sorry I took this long." Tears began to form in her eyes. Neither of them spoke after that; they just stood there with her back facing him.
"You and me can happen," she said, "Because I'm willing."
That was all it took, an answer to his question so many months ago, for a genuine smile to form on his face. The first in over fifteen years.
A/N: So as I get back into writing, I present to you an one shot. At first, this story was going to be about me and my "encounters" with someone, but then I decided to veer away from that and it became this. Needless to say, this version is much more interesting than my real life version. If you had read some of my other works, you can see that this is written in the same style as Wishing, Waiting, Watching and I intended it to be that way.
A little progress update on my profile for those of you who were following some of my stories although I doubt it because it's been so long. Either way, enjoy and thanks for reading!