I had always kind of known. Known that there was something, I don't know, different about me? All of my friends were talking about how cute this guy was or how they wish this guy would ask them out. I never felt any of that. I looked at these guys wondering what the hell girls as lovely as my friends could possible see in them. Naturally, I kept these thoughts to myself and simply smiled and agreed with my friends' assessments over various members of the opposite sex. When I got asked out to a homecoming dance by a “handsome” guy named Jimmy I reluctantly accepted at my friends’ insistence. We coordinated my dress to his tux and my friends claimed we were an “adorable match”, but I didn’t see it. I just felt as if I was floundering and completely out of place. I spent the entire night awkwardly dancing and hoping he didn’t try to kiss me. He did. I turned my cheek and thus ended the evening. Immediately following that disaster of an evening, rumours about me began to fly amok, surely straight from the vocal cords of Jimmy. I continued to hold my head high at school, however, because I could not deny the rumours nor would I let anyone have the satisfaction of shaming me for being who I am.
Some of my friends stopped talking to me altogether and some only texted me discreetly and avoided me at school. They asked me to deny the rumours, but when I wouldn’t confirm nor deny that sealed my fate. Damned if I was going to lie to appease others. If that meant I was to spend my high school years completely alone, then so be it.
When my mother told me we were going to be moving at the end of the school year, she expected me to be sad. She expected me to tell her I would miss my friends, my school, my life. I smiled at her and said new adventures were always great. I didn’t tell her the reasons why it didn’t bother me in the slightest to move away. Sure, I was certainly nervous to be moving from the city to a small town. How could I not be? If I’d experienced such rough treatment in the large city for being myself (although I hadn't actually done a damn thing) what could it possibly be like in a small town? Small towns had a reputation, after all. Although, I reasoned with myself, perhaps it wouldn’t be so hard. I only had one year of school left. I didn’t need to hide who I am if I never advertised it at all, right? If I was able to keep my head down and my feet firmly planted on the ground I could survive ten months at a small town school. Then I would be off to university and high school would seem like a distant bad dream.
The school year ended and within two weeks we were packed up and headed away. My mother questioned why none of my “friends” came to say goodbye to me. I lied and told her they were mad at me for moving away before our senior year. I didn’t consider it would make her feel bad. I had never been a good liar, and this lie hurt her feelings. I was upset with myself but I couldn’t take it back. I smiled at her, trying to reassure her that I was perfectly okay with this move. After all, if friends get angry with you for something that is out of your control then they weren't that great to begin with. We closed the red door to our former house and we were on to a new adventure.
Our new house was on a lake. I spent a lot of hours over the summer floating by myself on the lake contemplating how I was going to make sure my final school year didn’t end up like the last. I was determined that I was going to be happy, I wouldn’t let people get me down. I would be friendly but I wouldn’t get too close to anyone. After all, they would be in my rear view mirror in ten short months. Ten short months. My mantra. I didn’t expect her.
I had my headphones in on my first day hoping it would deter people from coming up and talking to me. It wasn’t that I was trying to be anti-social or unfriendly. It’s just that I was already drawing so much attention considering I was new in a school where most of the students had been classmates since kindergarten. After a short trip to the office, I was assigned a locker and my class schedule. I made my way to my locker, thankfully avoiding anyone wanting to say hello, and began putting my things away. Unfortunately, this included my iPod and the all-protective sanctuary of my headphones. I had one headphone out when I heard a crash a bit down the hallway. I turned my head to see a girl holding far too many books, that is until she dropped half of them and they collided violently into the row of lockers. I closed my locker quickly and walked purposefully in her direction to help her out. I knelt down, helping her collect her books. When they were safely off the floor, I looked up and saw the girl who had so clumsily dropped them. She was smiling at me and, damn, if it wasn’t the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen. I, very eloquently, mumbled, “Uh….here you go.” Although I didn’t think it possible, her smile spread even wider and I was just left staring at her dumbfounded for words--my usual confidence fleeing me in my time of need. I shook my head a little to knock myself out of the stare and smiled a half-smile back at her.
“Thank you! That was really nice of you to come help me. I can be so clumsy sometimes.”
This girl was brighter than sunshine and I couldn't help but be drawn to her warmth.
“Yeah, sure, of course. My pleasure.”
I tried to seem nonchalant in my response, like it was no big deal, but it was becoming clear to me that meeting her was a big deal to me.
“I’m Waverly Earp.”
“Nicole, Nicole Haught.”
She extended her right hand, shifting her books into her left arm, to shake my hand. I took her hand with a firm grip. When her hand slipped out of mine, after what was probably too long to be a proper handshake of greeting, my hand keenly felt the loss of contact.
“Hot? As in “Damn, it’s HOT in here?”
My half-smile became a full blown grin.
“Uh, no. Haught as in H-A-U-G-H-T.”
“Oh! Yeah that makes more sense….”
The laughter spilling from her lips was like music to my ears. Her mirth was addicting.
“I bet you get a lot of jokes with that last name, huh?”
“Oh, just a bit.”
I replied, winking at her, desperately trying to regain some of my composure. How had she effectively rendered me so unhinged in such a short amount of time?
“Uh, hey so you’re new. Obviously. I mean...you know you’re new. So why am I telling you that you’re new here? Uh. yep! So, what class do you have now? Do you need any help finding it?”
“Advanced Placement English.”
“Oh! I’m in that class, too. Mrs. Martin, right?”
“Cool. Good, because English is good. Right? It’s a good language. That we both speak. You and I...we...speak...English. One of us more than the other it seems.”
I bowed my head slightly trying to contain the smile that was threatening to spread across my lips. How cute was her nervous babbling? I couldn’t help but wonder if she was so nervous because of me in particular or if she was just this way with all new people. What I wouldn’t give to be able to read her mind at this moment. I looked up, the smile overtaking my features. She sheepishly smiled back at me and in that moment I decided there was no way this place could be bad after all.
“Well, come on then, don’t want to be late on your first day, right? ‘Cause that would be...you know..embarrassing. Plus, Martin would probably call you out on it. I hear she’s kind of the devil so the class might be hell. Which is funny because we live in Purgatory.”
I highly doubted any class I shared with this girl could be hell for me.
“Yes, yes we do. Lead the way, Waverly Earp.”
She let out a low chuckle, smirked, grabbed my wrist and tugged me down the hallway to our class.
Shit. I'm in trouble.