I had never seen Sarah smile. Not even when Mr. Roderick cracked one of his classic classroom jokes that had everyone in stitches. Instead I’d catch sight of her rolling eyes, one corner of the thin lips pulled up as though she’d heard them all; perhaps she had. So when the school lunch bell had rung and the school reverberated with cacophony of basketballs, skip ropes, laughter and chatter, I was surprised to find her tucked away in a corner next to the stairs leading up to the lockers. And she was smiling into a book. I hesitated on my way up, fighting against the High School status-quo to just let her be and do my own thing, rather than interrupt her. But there was the rarest of smiles I had ever seen on her face.
“Must be a good book.” I said to her finally as I approached cautiously. She looked up, her smile fading.
“It is.” And then just as quickly the smile was gone. Now that I had started the conversation, I didn’t know where to take it. Should I ask her what the book is about or just leave? From the blankness of her face I decided that the latter would be best, so I took note of the book and author then offered my own smile,
“Thanks.” She turned back to her book, but her eyes darted up to see if I was still there. Taking that as my cue, I ascended the stairs and left her to the book. As I ambled past the grey metal lockers, I made up my mind to see if I could get her to smile again. It seemed like such a childish ambition, typical schoolboy intentions, and yet she looked so alive when she was smiling how could I not?
I was nervous. Butterflies tingled in my gut as I sat in class, barely hearing what Mr. Roderick was saying. I probably missed another of his jokes as I tried not to stare at Sarah. Eventually we had to take our books out from the flip-up desks we each had, and I took that opportunity to pretend I couldn’t find my book. I moved the softcover notebooks around – the one I needed sitting right at the top – only taking it out would mean seeing if Sarah had found my gift. Suddenly it seemed like a stupid idea. So what if she doesn’t smile in class or around the school? Maybe she’s got issues and here I am trying to be selfish just to see her smile. Disheartened with my chest feeling heavy, I took the book out and shut my desk.
She was looking at me. Her eyebrows were knit together. I tried to smile but she rolled her eyes at me and faced forward. I felt like even more of an idiot. I don’t even remember what happened for the rest of class as I imagined her telling her friends what I’d done. What would they say? Did she even have friends now that I thought about it? Nonetheless I decided to ignore her from then on and avoid her even outside of school. If I could bash my head against my desk for my idiocy, I would have.
I stood by my locker, head placed on the top shelf lost in my thoughts. Eventually I pulled my head out and shut the locker and there she was beside me.
“Is this from you?” She held out the book. Her face was emotionless,
“Yeah I… well I saw you reading the last one and…” I felt my shoulders shrug as I dropped my eyes. Was she going to give it back to me? Slap me? Hate me? Laugh at me?
“Thank you.” She said instead. I lifted my eyes and noticed that she was smiling.
“Oh… do you like it?”
“Actually I haven’t read this one yet. It was on my to read list so you saved me buying it myself.”
“I’m glad.” And glad I was. It seemed all my doubts had been for nothing. “I’m not much of a reader though.” I added, in case I was setting her up for some disappointment. But her smile didn’t fade,
“Maybe not yet.” She whirled around and left. And although I wasn’t sure what she was thinking at that moment, she told me much later on what had been running through her mind when she walked away; she couldn’t wait to see me again.
I’ve been spending a lot of time on my Patreon projects, and finally catching up on my reading (I’m only one book behind from 3!) And I’ve been spending much of the writing in dark gloomy Fantasy/Sci-Fi realms, so I decided for something light for today. Hope you enjoyed it!