I don't think I've ever had a serious goal in my entire life. I wish I could say I was one of those people who worked super hard at something and was rewarded but I really wasn't. In my 26 years of life lived so far, I've learned that when you work hard, 98% of the time, it's still not enough. I spent the majority of my life searching for that 2%, that elusive little fraction that would guarantee it wasn't all for nothing. I never did find it, at least, not in the way I'd imagined to.
I found it in Emmeline.
Twelve Years Ago
High school is the bane of my existence. Social circles, drama, and the beginnings of potheads aside, homework alone is enough to finish me off for good. Well, high school isn't all bad really. For starters, I no longer have to endure being a niner. Being in grade 10 feels powerful, comforting even and sometimes I like to mention this fact to my best friend, if I'm feeling particularly verbose. One of my two best friends usually replies something along the lines of, "Emmeline, you suck."
She was kind of amazing like that.
I met Nanami Fujii in Grade nine in a somewhat awkward and embarrassing way, as all lasting friendships are made. I had somehow managed to get my locker stuck and could not for the life of me open it, Nanami was nearby and was going to offer her assistance (or so she claimed later on) until I noticed a tall, young man wearing a tie walk by. Naturally, I asked this teacher for help and to my great surprise he started laughing and kept walking away. I heard this little giggle and I turned to look at Nanami.
"He wasn't a teacher. He's the quarter back of the football team." Oh. Well then. I started to walk away in mortification. But from that moment on, Nanami and I hung out a lot. Friendship is the strangest thing; you have to make yourself a little bit vulnerable in order to actually create a friendship and you can have many friends in your lifetime but there are only a few people you can trust your life with. Nanami was definitely a person in the latter category.
I finished packing my bag with my gym clothes. Having gym first period was by no means a great start to the day but it was a good way to ease into a day filled with writing notes. I rushed to my next period class and as I walked into my second period Grade ten history I noticed that I didn't recognize a lot of people in the class. As it was only my second year of high school I shouldn't have been so surprised but he was in the group of people I didn't know and it perked my interest a little.
He was astonishingly good-looking and clearly out of my league. He was maybe a head taller than me and I was average height so that put him at average height. He had dark, straight brown-black hair that reached his ears and covered part of his eyes. He was somewhat tan indicating a visit somewhere sunny over the summer break. I should also probably mention that I am currently sitting in the far back corner of the room like a loner so I'm making these observations based on the back of his head and when I walked in.
I won't lie and say I didn't find him attractive but he was one of the guys you could enjoy from afar. I felt cheered by the fact that there was some eye candy in my second period class and I happily dug out my binder and pencil case from my backpack.
I looked up momentarily to see Courtney Manning come into the classroom and take the seat beside him, immediately establishing a popularity gradient as other "cool" kids gravitated to the same spot. I should mention here that I personally have no issues with Courtney; she has never been anything but polite when we'd previously interacted. Despite her reputation and cliche position on the cheerleading squad, she was just a normal girl. He-who-is-still-nameless grinned good-naturedly at her and somehow within 3 minutes assimilated himself into the clique of cool people around him. Luckily enough for me, my other best friend who also had this class came in and headed my way. Personally I was thankful for a friend in this class as I was beginning to feel lonely in my corner. Aya Sumbal sighed loudly as she slid into the desk beside me and dramatically put her face against the table to look up at me in misery.
"Why are we here?" She ground out in utter seriousness. I grinned suddenly grateful that after the long summer break I could see finally see Aya again. Aya had gone away this summer to visit her family in Pakistan. We'd kept contact but it was much better to see her in person. I could still recall my first impression of her in Grade nine as loud, dramatic, and alarming. Aya was the type of person who was very outgoing and fun but only after 10 in the morning. Any earlier and she'd be moody and grumpy.
"To get an education?" I replied soberly, smiling only a little as I straightened my binder on my desk and watched the teacher come in.
As the course outline was passed around noisily, Aya sat up and whistled softly in appreciation as she caught sight of he-who-is-still-nameless. She spoke quietly, or at least, as quiet as Aya can get.
"New kid in town and Courtney Manning likes." After taking a paper and passing the rest to me to pass on, she added, "Who is he?"
"No idea. I refer to him as he-who-is-still-nameless in my mind though," I whispered back. Aya sniggered and managed to turn a few heads causing me to get flustered. Luckily the teacher took that moment to begin going over the course outline. Almost immediately, the class fell into a haze as the teacher read about late assignment policies and being kind to each other.
I snuck a glance at him. Judging from the way he was slouching in his chair he looked about as interested as the next person. Aya beside me had already put her head in her arms and seemed to be settling down for a rest. Bored already, I noticed the two windows in the room, one of the windows had been opened and I could see my reflection in the glass. While I didn't look as tired as Aya, I still looked unkempt, as though I'd rolled out of bed. My dark brown hair was in a long ponytail that curled at the ends. I looked especially pale today, almost sickly so uniform and white did my skin look. My light blue-grey eyes weren't clear in the reflection but I knew they'd be large with short eyelashes. I had thin lips that I occasionally smothered in tinted pale pink chapstick. Overall, I wasn't ugly but nothing striking either. Aya, on the other hand, was exotic with her golden skin, short, stylishly cut black hair and sparkling brown eyes. More than once had she caught the attention from boys in our grade but as a Muslim and believer of Islam, Aya merely admired from afar and did not date. My other best friend, Nanami, was also pretty in a doll-like sort of way. Her Japanese heritage was clear in her face and she had a pouty mouth and long straight black hair. Nanami unlike Aya and myself, had a boyfriend who went to a different school named Justin.
I looked up, completely startled from my thoughts. Oh. Right. I was in class and apparently we were doing the attendance. By now many heads had turned to look at me, I felt my ears colour a little in embarrassment.
"H-here!" I stammered and I raised my hand. The teacher looked up at me briefly, an unreadable expression passed across her face.
"Please do not daydream in this class, Miss Simmons. Also, wake up the girl beside you."
"Yes, Mrs. Geary." I replied, feeling more and more weirded out as people continued to stare. Fleetingly, I caught a glance of sea-green-blue eyes when I looked in the general direction of he-who-is-still-nameless. I felt mentally stunned as I realized the fact that I could see the beautiful colour meant he'd turned to see me. I hesitated shyly, looking down at my desk before looking up again to see that he'd turned around again. Disappointed, I shook Aya roughly.
"Aya Sumbal?" Not a moment too soon either.
"Here," replied Aya groggily. Samuel Chow, who was sitting near us, grinned as he watched Aya slowly and cautiously re-lower her head onto her desk.
"Here," answered he-who-is-now-Roman. His voice was deep and very baritone and I decided it fit his look perfectly. The teacher read of some more names but I kept replaying his voice in my mind. The teacher talked about some brief activity we would be doing in class in pairs to get to know each other better. I felt only a little bit nervous when she said we had 10 minutes and that we'd be presenting our activity to the class. Before I could even rotate to face Aya, the teacher announced she would be deciding the pairs. As all females at some point get, I had a sudden image of me and Roman partnering and talking and I began to feel a little hopeful.
Of course nothing would happen that conveniently in real life. I was partnered with Courtney Manning and Roman was partnered with some other popular guy. Aya meanwhile partnered Samuel Chow, a choice I was jealous of as Samuel was funny and less intimidating than Courtney.
I stood and walked over to Courtney when it became clear that she had no intention of moving. Roman had vacated his seat so I sat down and smiled at Courtney who smiled back in a friendly way. We had to write a paragraph about our view of the other person and then we'd swap and read it to the class. I thought about every positive thing I could think of about Courtney and arranged it in a paragraph. Courtney was finished much sooner than I had and walked over to Roman and his partner to socialize. After the teacher called the time, students were called up one at a time to read their paragraphs. Aya was called first.
"Aya is of Pakistani descent and is totally cool kid who rocks. She has very cool short hair and brown eyes. Aya is of the female variety and tends to enjoy horror movies. Aya's last name is Sumbal. Aya's middle name is long and not well known to the general student populace but she has forbidden me from disclosing it and has bribed me into secrecy. Aya has a cat she calls Persia despite it being a Siamese cat. In conclusion, Aya is loud, fun, and easy on the eyes." Aya was grinning by the end and winked in a dramatic fashion at Samuel who played along and pretended to swoon. The class laughed as Aya went to sit down.
Courtney was called next and I'll save you the horror of having to read my attempts at writing but by the end Courtney seemed satisfied and had managed to attract the attention of many boys who had not seen her earlier on. A few people later and Roman was called and I waited in anticipation to hear about him:
"Roman is a chill dude. He's got swag. He name is cool too, you know like, the Romans. Roman likes sleeping. He has brown hair and kind of blue eyes. He's really into Biology, which is cool. We need to hang out sometime man, party and all that." By the end, Roman was grinning and as he sat down he bumped fists with the guy. I tried to hold back my sigh and Aya raised her eyebrows at my obvious disappointment. So much for learning a lot about him.
My name was called next and I walked to the front of the class nervously. Had I looked more carefully I might have noticed that Roman did in fact give me the once over which is obligatory for almost all guys but it would have been exciting to know. I cleared my throat and looked down at Courtney's neat writing.
"This girl is Emmeline Simmons. She has brown hair and grey eyes. She is very quiet."
The entire class was dead silent as I looked up at Courtney, who was looking at her nails. I was stunned and a little hurt that that's all she cared to write about me. I knew I wasn't exactly social but I'd expected something, anything more than this. Awkwardly and feeling humiliated, I turned to walk back to my seat but Mrs. Geary stopped me.
"Emmeline, who was your partner?" she asked as she took the paper from me and frowned at it. I hesitated for a second and glanced at Courtney who was now looking up; I didn't mean to get her into trouble but it wasn't as though I could avoid saying her name.
"Courtney," I replied stiffly. Courtney shrugged when Mrs. Geary raised her eyebrows at her, silently asking for an explanation.
"I didn't know what to write." She said slowly. The unspoken sentence was heard by everyone. There's nothing to write about.
I felt uncomfortable and just wanted to disappear into the floor when Aya spoke up loudly.
"Emmeline is a pro at internet solitaire." She said fiercely. I felt a swell of gratefulness well up inside me as the class laughed and the tension was diffused. Aya however, continued to look at Courtney as though she was lower than a bug.
At that moment Samuel chipped in.
"Emmeline is secretly rebellious and not shy at all once you get to know her." I felt my ears turn red and I could feel the heat spreading along my cheeks.
"Emmeline's hair is naturally like that with the curls at the bottom," spoke a girl who I occasionally talked to in another class. I was surprised that she knew my hair was natural as no one had ever asked me before.
"Emmeline tends to sit in the far back corners of every class. But she'll make an exception to that if there's a window seat." Completely shocked that anyone had noticed such a small characteristic of mine I turned to see who had spoken; it was Jace Gibbs, the guy everyone liked and got on well with who I had never seriously talked to or looked at before. By now I could feel my blush growing warmer and I tried not to focus on how good-looking Jace was and instead wondered why I'd never noticed it before.
And then one voice spoke up that probably caused me to internally combust. Roman looked directly at me and smirked in an "I'm-better-than-you" kind of way, which was, of course, unfairly attractive.
"Emmeline turns red really easily," he said smoothly. I felt a jolt pass through me as he said my name. I didn't fail to notice the insinuation in that comment and I felt myself burn proving his observation correct. He continued to smirk while everyone else laughed. Throughout all of this I noticed Courtney did not laugh or even look upset that people who I had just met this year knew more about me than she did in the two years she'd known me.
Mrs. Geary addressed the class.
"Good. Wonderful. I'm glad I got a good bunch this year. Okay, that's it for class. I hope you all try and learn a thing or two about each other in this course." Once she finished, the class filed out, talking about their paragraphs or class in general. My face had finally cooled off although my ears still felt a little warm. Aya and I made our way to the door, Samuel tagging behind us. I reached the door the same time as Jace Gibbs and I stopped to let him pass first. He smiled in a relaxed sort of way and I immediately understood the possible appeal he undoubtedly held over many girls. His golden blonde hair and warm brown eyes were certainly a part of the appeal.
"Ladies first," he stated as he gestured for us to go ahead. I jerkily nodded my head and gave him a small smile as Aya said "thanks!" in that loud way of hers. I could hear Jace as I left the room.
"Yeah yeah Chow, you can be a lady and go first too," Samuel's indignant reply was lost as Aya and I milled through the crowded hallways. I'd always thought hallways should have some kind of traffic laws apply during the intersession time between classes. Aya and I went our separate ways. Although I didn't say anything about what had just happened, I could tell Aya knew how grateful I was for her help in class as she replied to my unspoken gratitude, "Don't worry about it, you know I hate that bitch."
As I headed for my third period class (math, gross) I thought back to Roman.
Emmeline blushes really easily. I blushed.
Author's Note: I hate myself for starting this. I really, really do. I'm already horrified by what little I've written so far. The main reason I'm posting this is because I have recently got myself a ton of free time and I figured I've read so many stories on this website, I might as well contribute one no matter how badly it comes out, lol. Updates will be sporadic sadly and also as a warning, this story will not be light-hearted and it will get more (hopefully, if I have the writing skills) intense as we progress; I chose the title for a reason.