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I try to be as tactful as sensibility will allow while executing what I deem a flawlessly crafted plan. I wholeheartedly savor this sweet moment like hard candy. Hours of pent-up energy loosen patience’s grip on me. Confined to my chair I impatiently shift my buttocks. He’ll come soon and one long-awaited answer will satisfy the multitude of questions pecking at my exhausted brain like buzzards.
In a cafeteria full of raucous, occasionally undomesticated teenagers it won’t prove a difficulty to do something slightly on the peculiar side. They will not stare and quickly lower their eyes as I meet their gaze, petty minds working furiously on a fresh scandal for next period. I’m not socially suicidal; my reputation dwells too high up in the food chain of high school to risk that humiliating pitfall. What I am doing is sufficient enough to raise some eyebrows. Also it is not anything illegal that might result in my expulsion. That would be infinitely more times embarrassing than the pitfall, however, I can’t help thinking that I might wind up dead if I’m not careful. So, I suppose that is significantly awful, mortifying even, but not in your conventional way. Truly, I could be exaggerating, but that’s me; I’m an expert at stretching the truth till it screams and snaps beyond mending.
I raise my zebra print notebook to eye level. I hold it open to the first page to expose on its blue-lined face a photo of my great-grandmother when she was the ripe age of sixteen. My taping job is quite messy since I managed to rip a corner of the photograph. I admire it quickly and find it is as handsome as it was last night in my mothers family album. My great-grandmother half-sits half-leans against a gray fence. Wild curls spill behind Lilyanna’s back and poof out to frame her heart-shaped visage.
Pretty name, right? I thought so too until I heard the story of how she vanished one moonless night. Now whenever I think of Lilyanna I have to ask myself why my mother opted to christen her only daughter with that exact name. Maybe she hoped that through the amazing science that is biology and the human DNA I might’ve inherited her lovely attributes. She’s beautiful, but despite that my eyes can’t help skimming right over her profile to rest on the boy propped lazily alongside her. In contrast to the remarkably jubilant smile stretching across her smooth complexion, he glares into the camera lens. Maybe the sun was particularly blinding that afternoon.
I steer my notebook to the right as my target comes into full view. He strolls leisurely into the cafeteria thirty minutes late. I tilt my head to the side in reflection. The people around him slow down and blur by a smidge. I wonder where he was, who he was with? From two tables down Paul, an insufferable junior who’s class schedule is a replica of mine, manages to fling a scalloped potato in my general direction using a plastic spork as the catapult. It lands on Karen’s lap. “Oh good,” I murmur under my breath. The mayonnaise smothered potato could have destroyed my operation. I am trembling from head to toe with excitement.
He eases his way into a chair two tables across and entwines his hands in front of him. Very proper, I promptly note, very graceful. The possibility becomes more likely. I won’t lie, I’m probably going insane. Curse that Twilight series. Karen was right when she told me my obsession was becoming rather unhealthy.
Evidence Number One: He doesn’t eat lunch. Ever.
Karen flings the scalloped potato back at Paul. No lunch tray awaits to be eaten before her either. If it was the fact that he doesn’t eat at school, and only that, then I would vastly explore the option of checking myself into a psychiatric ward. I’m not scatter-brained or uneducated. Believe me when I say I have thought this so thoroughly from beginning to end that sleep has not graced my weary eyes since Tuesday. Every night I search my star dotted ceiling for a revelation with no real conception of time, mentally flipping through questions and paring them up with answers. Logic, I did not discover in them. My mind could not excommunicate him of my suspicions.
At the present point in time I have found no reason to confide my qualms to Karen. She isn’t my best friend. Those two terms are highly overrated. They should be called true friends, because best friends seems competitive. The scenario in my head plays out under these stage directions: the people closest in your must be in a constant struggle to demonstrate their loyalty to you, like slaves. Only then may you grant them the honorary title of best friend forever. A true friend should be your piece of driftwood in the current. Karen is not a true friend either, but she listens. I’ve pushed my unwavering luck too many times in the past.
Evidence Number Two: I followed him to the school parking lot during classes and nobody stood as witness but me. Some imbecile parked his Toyota behind his Lexis. He placed two pale hands on the hood and pushed. The thing literally flew the whole stretch of the parking lot without a groan of resistance. It’s a big stretch.
In the event that the hairs on his nape should rise up and the hook should sink into his head pulling that sinful gaze my way, I polished a spectacularly masterful Plan B. Exaggeration, again. I thrust the notebook under Karen’s small nose and ask if I should use the picture for a short story assignment in Language Arts. Without hesitation she agrees admiring Lilyanna’s beauty. I nod and sneak a look at him. I've heard he goes by Andrew Mc-something. My sleep deprived eyes study the boy beside Lilyanna. Again back to the perfect statue posing as human. I do this dance until my eyeballs start to protest. My strained brain makes the comparison at blinding speed.
Dark eyes; check. Fair-haired; check. Slim curvature of the lips; check. High cheekbones; check. Tall yet well molded frame; check. Intense glare; check. Art class was beginning to prove its worth.
Evidence Number Three: From trustworthy sources it has come to my attention that he sleeps in every class. Every single one. Catching up on sleep in physics is passable, but every class? He might be an insomniac, but a little caffeine goes a long way. I’m sure he is aware of that.
My assessment satisfies me to a degree and I decide to bring a close to this successful mission. Slowly my eyelids rise for one last look and then they pop wide open.
Evidence Number Four: Uncanny speed. Seriously, where did he go?
Prior to the change in my situation from faultlessly calculated to atrocious, yet somewhat laughable, the chair to my left was vacant; not a bum rested on its blue plastic surface, but now a sent of fresh pine ascends up my nose. What a random smell. The rhythmic beat of my heart falls apart like a sudden stampede of wild animals.
Mission utterly failed. Abort now!
Perspiration pools in my sweat glands and mixes with the recently applied lotion on my hands. It’s called Sweet Pea. Bath
St. Louis, Missouri
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