The next day in art class, the specifics of the new project became apparent. It was a partnered project, I found out as some dude who I had previously paid no attention to before slid into a seat across from me at the giant table I usually shared with no one. He didn't say anything right away, and as I blinked at him, I took in his appearance.
There aren't a lot of longhaired kids in my school, let alone in my grade. In fact, I had originally thought I was the only one. But here sat this guy with long, fine hair the color of wheat. It spilled loosely down to his shoulders on one side and looked like it had to be silky to the touch. My own hair was darker, thicker and more wavy. His hair had the look of some supermodel's. I couldn't believe I had never noticed him before.
He was handsome, but I couldn't decide if it was the hair that made him that way. His face was fairly average, but I decided then and there that I loved his nose. It was amazing, slightly crooked, but sculpted and fit him perfectly. His eyes looked dark and his mouth was made to order for the nose, and the combination had my tongue sticking to the roof of my own mouth. From what I could see of his body, he looked thin yet lightly defined, like the muscle came sort of natural to him. His forearms, the only bits of his body that weren't wrapped in clothing, were shaped beautifully, all softly curving muscle covered by peach-toned skin and blond arm fuzz, remnants of a fading summer tan.
"Thurston Roan," he said. I nodded, though he hadn't made a question out of it. "I'm Simon Bedford, your project partner. I say this only because I know you wouldn't have a clue otherwise." I blinked at him in surprise. I felt offended, but what he was saying WAS true, so I couldn't dispute his claim.
He slapped a single sheet of white paper on the tabletop, not bothering to slide it my way. Tentatively, I reached for it as he said, "Our project is circled in red. I took the liberty of choosing for us."
Picking up the paper, I scanned over it. The sheet had four or five other choices on it, but the bottom one was circled with red marker. It was titled, 'Yearbook Pictures.'
"'This is a four photograph assignment,"' I read aloud, flicking my gaze up to Simon as he nodded slightly. "'Take four, no more or less, photos of your subject as they represent themselves in school. One must be a mock yearbook photo, while the other three can be casual. Additional, a short 100-word, maximum, essay must be written about the subject to supplement the pictures. It should be more like 'A Day In The Life...' than a life's work essay.'" I looked back up at Simon, who had been sitting stoically, almost disdainfully, across from me. It didn't bother me because it was the same generalized attitude I got from most of the students. "Sounds okay to me."
"It wouldn't matter if it did or not, because I've already completed my half of the assignment, and I'm not redoing it just because you might not be into it."
I blinked. "You're already done? How?"
His lips parted into a slight smile, one I didn't think I liked all too well. "Did it last night after school. It was exceptionally easy."
My gaze dropped back to the sheet in confusion, rescanning the project summary. "But it says you have to take pictures of ME, how did you do that last night?" I was certain I had never seen this boy before in my life.
He made a scoffing sound with his throat. "Wanna see?" And with that, he pulled out a folded piece of photo-quality printer paper. Unfolding it, I realized that he had creased it like it were two pages of our actual yearbook. He even had the logo spot on, and I could tell it was hand-drawn.
He laid the paper flat on the table, and tentatively, I slide it toward me as well. At first I couldn't make out what I was seeing.
"The photos are of an empty chair... a locker... an empty seat on the bleachers... and an empty hallway. None of these are of me."
If anything, Simon's grin got wider. "Read the essay."
I glanced back down. That was easy enough, it only consisted of three words. I read them once, and over again, and the hot realization dawned on me. They read:
"Thurston isn't here."
to be continued