Writers (in order): anonymous, Annabel Chia, Brennan Sandora, laura zhang, Luca Bernardini, Marissa Hein, Matthew Spangler, Marcus Wurts, Mirabella Villanueva, Nicole Innecco, Raisa T, Saira, Taran Tummala, and Irene Tsen. Editor: Ms. Wilson.
They clack off the wall, in front of my face. The pale wooden needles drop at my feet. Two needles have a piece of twine in between them, and the third is alone. The solitary needle has a broken tip that is nowhere to be found. I grab the needles and throw them in the compost. I walk to my English classroom, shivering even though I have my jacket on.
While my English teacher rambles about who-knows-what, my focus shifts from the literary lecture. I start to think, Wait a minute… where did those things even come from? Did someone intentionally throw the junk in my direction? That’s a bit strange. Maybe it was an accident. After all, I’m pretty much a nobody here.
Unless… What if it isn’t an accident? Perhaps after all this time of trudging through the halls alone, someone has finally noticed me? I mentally scan through the students I’ve interacted with: Alyssa and Brian. That’s where the list ends… and they both aren’t the type to fling things.
My eyes flit around the classroom and I hope to make eye contact with at least one person, it doesn’t matter who. I just want someone to confirm that they’ve noticed me and I’m not simply an invisible ghost who slinks through the halls of this school.
Utterly nothing. It’s enough to make me want to scream, the way their eyes glance over me, attention leaping to some insignificant scratch on the wall or a half-ripped poster boldly proclaiming that “You can always choose.” I stand up in a huff as the bell sounds, trying and partly failing to clamp down on the boiling pot inside my chest. Perhaps I should roar, roar long and loud until I’d have to be a figment of my imagination for them not to hear me. I retrace my steps before I am out the door, realizing that, lost in my reverie, I neglected my pencil pouch. And then, to my eternal surprise, my gaze meets another, a pair of eyes locked intensely onto mine. Eyes that glimmer and dance with liquid starlight, eyes so indigo they are nearly black, eyes of coal that burn blue. Eyes that are attached to a boy’s head, crowned with blondish locks and atop a body wearing clothes half a decade out of fashion. Taken aback, I rack my brain, but surely I would never forget someone such as this. In fact, I could not remember seeing him in this period at all.
Neither of us says anything, leaving an awkward silence, and the part of me that knows best how to eke out a non-confrontational, isolated existence firmly urges me to leave. And then there’s the other part, the one that feels the gravity of this moment, like a cliff you step off and pray that you’re not deluding yourself into thinking there’s a bottom. So I marshal my pitiful scraps of bravado, march over to him, and say “Hi.”
My face heats as he raises his eyebrows. I hope he doesn’t notice how much effort forcing out a greeting took. Yet he only gives a lazy grin, continuing to fiddle with something in between his fingers, saying, “Hi. I’m Calum.”
Ookay… I hadn’t planned out a conversation beyond this moment. He is supposed to brush past me and disappear into the swarm of people, another face to be forgotten. And that’s probably how it will end. But watching his curious, expectant look sends my heart drumming into a rhythmic beat. Badum-da, badum-da.
I’m grateful he stays.
I stick out a hand awkwardly, “Celyn.” The hallways begin to clean out, silence fluttering around. It’s almost like a scene from a movie—only really, really awkward.
Wait, do people still even do handshakes?
I almost want to quickly turn my back on him and run out the door, but I think that would make this situation worse. This moment—my hand sticking straight out in the space between us, the air surrounding us completely still and immensely uncomfortable—feels like it lasts an eternity, and that’s not an exaggeration. I’m begging him to move, to reject my hand or to laugh or to shake it, just for him to do something. And then he does.
With a small chuckle under his breath, he sets down that thing he was playing with before to reach his hand to mine. I barely notice as he shakes my hand, my gaze now transfixed on that small object lying on the desk: a tiny piece of wood carved into a point, seemingly broken off from something longer. Is it—? No, no it can’t be, I think. He lets go of my hand to reach for the item again, but—rather impulsively, in fact—I jut my hand out faster to grab it first. Oh my God! I was right! It’s the tip of the needle thrown at me earlier.
“Why do you have this?” I blurt out, my eyes locked back onto his annoyingly attractive boyish face, the needle tip digging into my tight fist. At my outburst, his face immediately contorts into an expression between fear and desire.
“I swear I have an explanation.”
I wait for a moment, and then another, but he gives no answer.
“Well?” I encourage.
“Okay, um,” he stutters. I can’t tell if his hesitation is more annoying or endearing. He takes a deep breath. “The truth is, I’ve been trying to get your attention for weeks.”