For the first time in a while, my mind was empty, in silence, simply taking in the moment. It was one of those times were things simply felt, you know, nice. To be honest, those types of moments were pretty rare for me. Sometimes I compare my thoughts to a radio switching stations constantly that just wouldn't turn off.
When I was younger, I never noticed how nice all of the simple things were, how carefree I was. I found myself really missing the times when I wasn't always jittery or worried, or just plain scared. I missed the times when the future seemed so far away that I didn't really think it would ever catch up to me.
This moment felt simple. The soft breeze coming in through the open window behind us; the smell of the chalk and even the smell that the floor cleaner felt nice.
After a few seconds of swimming in my pointless thoughts, I turned to Ashton, "Why aren't you the president of the physics club?" I mean, Will was a pretty awesome guy and it was easy to see why he was a bit more popular than Ashton. But, he didn't seem nearly as dedicated at Math or Physics as Ashton was. But then again, Ashton was probably just good at that stuff because he studied way too much.
Ashton's nose was nice. I liked his nose. It was cute. The afternoon light made his dark brown eyes look a little lighter, it was, you know, delightful. I really tried not to smile.
One of my favorite things about him was how his hair sometimes fell over his forehead and just gave him a slightly messier look. Ashton's beauty was hard to see unless you were able to have enough determination to look past his attitude and sly insults pouring out of his mouth.
Ashton abruptly turned around without looking at me and walked to his things on our usual table. His walk was very poised and regal. He seemed so serious... and clean. I couldn't help but always take note of the way he smelled. Just like walking into a Bath & Body works... Some days he smelled like Cinnamon Caramel Swirl and others like Japanese Cherry Blossom...
He sat down and pulled the green physics book from his bookbag in a delicate manner as if he was afraid to hurt it. "I'm not exactly a people person..." He muttered so quietly that if I hadn't been waiting for an answer, I probably wouldn't have heard it.
I stood there for a moment in my usual silence and processed the words he had just said to me. When I reached for the chair across from him, he still had that ever-present frown on his face. "Why do you say that?" I asked while tilting my head with curiosity.
He didn't look up from his book, but I could still tell he wasn't actually reading. A scowl spread all over his face. "I'm not stupid." He flipped a page harshly. "I know everyone hates me."
At that moment, I felt a little sorry for him. I looked at the eyes behind the glasses; adorned with thick and long eyelashes.
"I... don't hate you." I could feel that my voice almost cracked because of my nervousness as I said that. "I mean, yes, sometimes you're a little... blunt."
Why am I trying to make him feel better? Why should I care?
"But I think you just need to learn to open up to people like you just did with me." I tried flashing him a smile, but the edge of my mouth quivered, and I imagined just looking creepy or like a stroke victim.
Ashton stiffened in his chair. I could tell he almost wanted to look at me, but he didn't. "Don't you have anywhere to be?" he asked with an annoyed voice as he flipped another unread page.
"No, I'm not hungry, so I figured I'd stay here and work on Mr. Peters's homework." I reached for my new calculus book and opened it to the page where the bookmark was. My body felt a little shaky and jittery. I wasn't hungry at all... I was actually starting to feel pretty anxious. Trying to disengage from the conversation I had regretted starting, I began to work on a few of the pages of my book, but I still felt his stare on me.
He stared at me curiously while I shuffled uncomfortably in my seat causing him to smirk as if he had figured something out. "Hmm." He suddenly grabbed his things and walked out of the classroom leaving me there alone with a passed-out James.
I hugged my things to my chest walking through the convolute paths of the Ludington Academy gardens. I wasn't in the mood to go back home to an empty apartment. Charles was rarely home and when he was, he was always shut in his room doing who knows what. He was never really a social person, not even with me, and Mom always told me he was just... eccentric. My friend Sierra always said I was too hard on Charles, but it was probably because she liked him even though he always called her a soulless ginger.
I let out a small giggle as I thought about that.
I knew Charles never actually meant all the mean things he called people, he just refused to take anything seriously because he was afraid of getting hurt. All because of Wendy.
The breeze had become a little cooler that afternoon.
Arriving at the double doors of the library, I sighed deeply with relief as the warm air of the building enveloped me. I pressed my book to my chest even harder while I searched for an empty table. Out of nowhere, a weird wave of sadness came over me when I realized the library was almost empty except for me and a couple of other students.
After hours, especially on Fridays, only people with no life stayed at the library. It was particularly emptier that night because there was a basketball game programmed later. James had been talking about how it was one of the bigger ones of that season because it was against Ludington's classic rival, Laguna Creek Academy.
Even though LCA was one of the few schools out there that rivaled Ludington, it was implicitly known that most of the people who went there were rejected from Ludington.
I could almost hear Charles in my head calling me a nerd and I mean, I knew that's what I was, ever since I could remember, all I knew how to do was academic. Sometimes, I would think about what would happen if I was suddenly thrust into the real world. I mean, would I even survive? I had no practical skills and it's not like you use much programming or calculus working in fast-food restaurants.
My favorite spot to sit in the library was always between the science books. I sprawled out on the rug between two large mahogany bookcases with a select few surrounding me.
My mission that afternoon was to look for ideas for my semester project.
A lepton is an elementary particle of half-integer spin that does not undergo strong interactions. Charged leptons can combine with other particles to form various composite particles such as atoms and positronium, while neutrinos rarely interact with anything, and are consequently rarely observed. The best known of all leptons is the electron...
Particle Physics... too complicated.
Before I could reach for the next book, a pair of perfectly shiny black leather shoes stopped just in front of me. My reflection was almost visible.
I nervously sat up to see Ashton the III staring down at me with his usual emotionless expression. Something I always thought about was why Ashton always looked like he was just... miserable all the time but, it's not like I thought about him a lot...
"Hi..." I said awkwardly while looking up at him from my position on the floor. I flashed him a sheepish smile. Of course, I was extremely surprised. Never had Ashton talked to me outside of G/T or Calculus class, and when he did it was usually to be mean or because Mr. Peters would pair us together because our names were next to each other on the list.
Ignoring my greeting, he continued to stare blankly. "You have an eating disorder." He whispered as he began to analyze my now contorted expression.
I felt myself go cold right down to the pit of my stomach. My eyes looked up at him as they went wide. "W-what?" My voice broke and my heart began to beat faster.
What the hell was he talking about?
He only continued to stare. Ashton really wanted to see through me. I tried to hold his stare but it was somehow so disturbingly penetrating that my vision began to tunnel.
I sat up quickly and pulled nervously on my sweater with my trembling hands. "W-What are you t-talking about?" I whispered nervously with an accentuated stutter. Ashton was trying hard not to smile at the scene of me freaking out before him.
"Show me your stomach." A smug look began to surface on his face.
"What? Why?" I stared back at him with what I could imagine as a terrible expression until I finally stood up and became taller than him. Cold drops of sweat began to form on the back of my neck.
"Show it to me." He continued to insist and took a small but intimidating step forward. His face was only a few inches away from mine. This was the first time he even said more than a few words to me, but it was not at all like I'd imagined.
"N-no." I pulled my sweater down further. "Why do you think I have an eating disorder?" I tried to lower my tone of voice and keep my breathing steady, but it was so hard with Ashton being so terrifying.
"Because you have something wrong with you.." Ashton sat down in front of me at my feet. "Why else would you never go to lunch and be all nervous looking?"
"I just don't like sitting alone," I replied quietly. Eating, especcially with so many people watching did make me sort of anxious, but I wasn't about to tell him that. I hesitated before I sat down slowly where I had my books sprawled out. Deciding to try to ignore him, I stared intently at a book before he reached out for it and took it into his lap.
"Hey, I was re..."
"You also always avoid food..."Ashton interrupted me while flipping through the book he had taken from me. "Your uniform is two sizes too big." His eyes continued scanning the book as I fidgeted in my spot. "You're always covering your stomach with books or your arms." He flipped a page. "You walk around like you're going to faint at any moment." He closed the book and looked up at me.
I avoided his gaze by looking down at my arms which were now hugging my abdomen. I swallowed and felt slightly ashamed. "That's not true."
Not entirely, anyway.
I always wore large clothes because I felt more comfortable in them. Tight clothes made me anxious... Almost everything did. And this situation was bringing it way over the top.
"When were you diagnosed?" He asked again reaching for the orange pill bottle poking out of my bookbag. This time he really looked into my soul. His ebony eyes scanned my face for some kind of clue, he wasn't trying to hide his curiosity anymore. He smiled mischievously at my reactions.
Was he enjoying this? Could he really be that vile?
"Alprazolam, huh?" He read the prescription bottle with a smile. "Xanax..."
I squeezed handfuls of my sweater. "There is nothing wrong with me." I reached for the bottle and pulled it out of his hands returning it to my backpack.
He is just trying to get a reaction out of you the way he does out of everyone else. Don't give in...
"Show me your stomach then. It shouldn't be a problem." His eyes bore into mine challengingly.
I gulped painfully past the knot in my throat. I could tell he wasn't going to drop it. I hesitated and stood up while grabbing a handful of my sweater.
Ashton looked at me trying to hide his amusement. He was trying to make me feel uncomfortable. He was trying to get me to hate him.
I released the grip on my sweater. "You know what? I don't need to prove anything to you." I quickly snatched the book out of his hand and began gathering up the rest.
Ashton smirked down at me and shook his head. He wasn't convinced.
I quickly picked up the rest of my things before turning back to look at him. "This is why nobody likes you, you make people want to hate you."
Ashton's satisfied smile contorted into a slightly appalled one. He actually looked taken aback for a slight second before opening his mouth as if to say something, but he didn't. His posture became stiff as if someone had suddenly changed the code in his programming.
I picked up all the books and began quickly putting them back on the shelves before beginning to walk out from in between the bookshelves.
"Where are you going?" Ashton took a slight step forward. His usual expression had returned.
"Home," I said fighting back tears. I hated the way Ashton had made me feel and was so confused as to why he tried to be this awful person. I looked back at him over my shoulder for a second. His expression slowly faded into somewhat deeper dullness.
The reason why ran past me almost knocking me over.
"Ash-y!" A high-pitched voice rang from it. I almost cringed.
A girl with strawberry curls in a ponytail bounced up to Ashton, followed by a harsh shush from the librarian, completely ignoring my presence as I tried to regain my balance.
The girl had a creamy complexion with scattered freckles. She wasn't all that unfortunate looking, but she was... annoying.
She was wearing a Ludington cheerleading uniform that revealed her toned belly. Gray, white, and wine-red... She grabbed Ashton's arm and pulled him toward her a bit aggressively, almost like she was claiming her territory.
Ashton was a fair amount shorter than her, his face barely reached her neck.
"Ashy! Are you still going out with us tonight after the basketball game?" She clapped her hands together as she hopped excitedly. The librarian shushed her once more to which she only rolled her eyes and reached for Ashton's arm causing him to shake along with her as she continued to hop with excitement.
Ashton glanced at me almost helplessly and then looked at his watch. "Of course." His mouth smiled, but his eyes didn't.
The girl noticed his eyes were on me and scoffed. "Why are you still here?" Her face scrunched up in distaste.
I threw my backpack on and with one last look at Ashton, walked away from them.
"...And my mom isn't going to be home all week and I thought we could do something..." Her shrill voice faded out as I stepped out the door into the twilight.
The chilly wind blew on my face harshly as I first stepped out of the library. Ludington was a lot colder than California. I tucked my hands into the sleeves of my sweater as I started making my way down the street towards the bus stop cursing myself for not bringing a coat.
That girl back there... She seemed like she was interested in Ashton as more than a friend. I wondered if he liked her too.
I thought to myself that there would be no reason for him not to like her. They were so similar.
The bus ride felt eternal. Every stop the bus made would take longer than the last. It was almost empty except for a couple of passengers sitting sporadically. About a few stops away from Ludington Academy, a tall guy came in with a torn jacket and ripped jeans. He sat across from me while he looked ahead at the rode blankly. He looked young, maybe in his 20's. I wondered what kind of things he had to be going through to have such a lost expression. It was almost the exact same expression Ashton always had.
What is going through that mind of his?
There had to be more to him than the insults and the calculus and the bouncing redheaded girlfriend.
I leaned my head on the window. The houses began to grow smaller the further we made it from Ludington Academy. I was nearing my stop when I stood up and immediately felt my head spin. My vision began to turn white as I stumbled forward. It was starting to become hard to breathe just as a pale hand grabbed me by the arm and held me steady.
"Woah... Be careful." The guy looked at me with tired brown eyes as I sat back down on the seat for a moment. The colors began to fade back into their original place.
I nodded shyly in acknowledgment toward him. I felt so embarrassed that I couldn't look back up at him as I sat down slowly. Shortly after, I stood up again a bit more slowly.
Steady yourself, Charlotte.
There was light coming from the windows of the apartment as I walked down the sidewalk. Charles was home before midnight for once.
I let out an exhausted sigh and began making my way slowly up the stairs to the door. As soon as I opened the door and walked into the living room, laughter came down from the second floor and into my ears. It sort of freaked me out. The last time I heard laughing coming from Charles's room I ended up seeing more of Wendy than I ever needed to.
I tiptoed past a jetlagged Issac who was snoring on the couch.
With quiet steps, I slowly walked up the stairs and spotted light coming from Charles's open door. He sat there laughing on his desk chair with another girl who sat on his bed. She flipped her long brown hair behind her as she giggled at Charles with a dazzling smile. She was gorgeous. Her skin was so perfect, it hurt. It also made me wonder what she was doing with Charles.
She turned to me and smiled with her perfect teeth. What was it with Ludington and perfect people? "Oh, are you Charlee?"
"Umm..." I mumbled awkwardly from the threshold as I clutched the strap of my bookbag. I looked to Charles questioningly who had barely noticed me.
He turned from his seat at his desk with a guitar in his lap. The girl looked inquisitively at him, waiting for an answer.
"Hey, Charlee." He flashed me a huge smile. I hadn't seen him actually smile in a long time. He turned to the girl and then back to me.
"Olivia, this is indeed the infamous Charlotte."
I waved awkwardly and Olivia stood up with her hand out.
I stared at it for a little while, creating more awkwardness with every passing minute, before I finally reached out to her.
Typically, I wasn't that great around new people. I shook her hand and quickly let it go.
Olivia looked slightly confused and turned to Charles.
"Um... I have to take a shower." I pointed behind me.
Charles nodded dismissively before turning back to the girl, "Do whatever you need to do, Bud."
Olivia smiled and pointed at Charles's guitar with one hand on her hip. "Do you actually know how to play that?" The conversation didn't include me anymore.
I turned and made my way back down the stairs, threw the backpack on the floor before walking back out the front door.
I need some air...