Wednesday, December 14, 2005

the first day of reckoning (part 2)

he said yes!


he said yes!

i sat there with the note in my hand, staring at the little box with the check written into it. i thought it was the most beautifully penciled check ever created. running my hands over it as if by doing so would confirm it was really there, i was suddenly besieged by a spin-stiffening fear. abruptly i sat straight up in my chair, immediately aware of the fact he was still sitting behind me. i glanced down at the paper i held, noting how it crumpled under the force of my shaking hands. my head remained down as i wondered frantically what this all meant.

hearing him shuffling his body in the seat behind me, my anxiety increased. every cell, every muscle, every bone in my body stilled as i felt his eyes studying me from behind. i was too afraid to even turn around to acknowledge his presence. instead i forced myself to calm down, inhaling air into my lungs with deliberate slowness while i refolded the note and placed it on the desk before me. picking up my history book, i tried to focus on the words that had now become an incoherent crush of indicipherable characters. my brows furrowed as i squinted my eyes, determined to wrap my mind into the text on the page.

it didn't work. keith's face was playing in my mind like a movie, his wide smile inviting me to share in the secret dashing like a wood nymph through the twinkle in his eyes. again i was lost in the daydream, the world now comprised only of keith wearing a green t-shirt, a grin, and golden brown skin.

"okay, children! time's up!"

the teacher's loud declaration snapped me violently from my inner thoughts. i jumped in my seat, the book tilting into my lap before falling to the floor, creating a deafening slapping sound that echoed through the room like a small explosion. every set of eyes in the room turned in my direction. i was momentarily too shocked to move. then, with a growing embarassment crawling through me like an invading virus, i quickly leaned over, stretching my hand out to pick up the book.

and slammed my hand hard into keith's cheek.

he had already gotten out of his seat to retrieve the book and was in the process of handing it to me when my hand wacked him in the face.

a look of complete horror twisted my face as my mouth fell open and a strangled squeak was emitted from my lips. quickly i closed my mouth. the room was so silent i could hear the shuffling of chairs in the classroom next door. he sat there rubbing his cheek, a look of puzzlement scattering across his features as he placed the book into my hand.

after a moment that felt more like a month, i opened my mouth.

"th-thank you," i stammered out.

the squeaky quality of my voice wasn't as high-pitched as before, but i cringed at the sound of it none the less. he just nodded, eyeing me cautiously as he backed up and slid into his seat behind me.

turning to face the blackboard as the teacher started talking, i felt as though i had just exposed to keith every single defect i'd ever had in my life. my boat-like feet, my blurry vision, my chipped front tooth now covered with a cap, my adolescent awkwardness, my painful shyness, my inability to speak coherently when i was nervous...all of these flaws and more were suddenly put on a spotlighted display for his perusal and dismissal. my heart sank as i contemplated what would happen.

it's over it's over it's over it's over!

he's going to break up with me!

the words looped over and over in my head.

a short time later the school bell rang, signalling it was time to go home. i stayed planted in my seat as the other kids gathered and walked out of the room. i was still seated when i heard keith stand up from the desk behind me. my eyes remained foward, my body taut as i anticipated what he was going to say. as he stood next to me, he leaned over to speak.

"we have to talk," he whispered into my ear, "meet me out in front of the school."

i turned to look at him, nodding in acquiescence. he walked past me and left the room. i finally got up, gathered my books, and trudged slowly out of the door. once outside in the hallway, i was overwhelmed by sadness over a loss of something i never got a chance to savor. blindly i made my way to the entrance doors of the school, not noticing the kids around me as they brushed and bumped up against me in their eagerness to get home.

soon i was outside and standing beneath the brightness of the september sun, looking around for a place in the shade. finding one, i headed to a tree and stood there beneath the low hanging branches.

and waited.

the seventh grade safety patrollers were ushering kids onto the waiting schoolbuses. chidren were dashing everywhere, the common direction being away from the school. as i stood and waited for keith, my mind kept running through the events that had taken place earlier. each detail of each excruciatingly embarrassing moment was dissected meticulously, my flaws staining every one of them like blood on a perfectly white blouse. in the end, i'd come to the conclusion i was a clumsy idiot. i was mentally berating myself when keith walked over to me.

"hi, nikki."

i looked up swiftly and made eye contact, the anxiety and self-hatred i was feeling was boiling within me and i was a rattling teapot, the spout on the verge of exploding with a loud whistle of discontent.

"hi," i whispered, afraid the squeaking would return.

i didn't say anything more. i wasn't sure anything else could be said at that point. my heart started hammering in my chest while dread was a cloak over my stiffened stance. keith silently stared into my eyes, as if he was trying to read all the secrets etched onto the walls of the caverns in my soul. i stared at him, frantically trying to remain calm as my heart continued beating so fast it had become one long beat that didn't have an ending.

there was more silence as neither one of us spoke. we just stared at each other like we were both reaching for something only found deeply embedded in the other. i was lost, incapable of blinking or thinking, only of sinking into his spirit with a nine-year-old girl's eagerness.

i felt something brushing against my hand.

looking down, i saw he was reaching for it with his own. he carefully threaded his golden brown nutmeg through my cinnamon, creating a sweet confection of adolescent affection. he clasped my fingers close so that our hands met palm to palm, and for the first time, i begin to feel the nervousness recede and the hope take seed. i glanced up. his cocoa-colored eyes fringed with thick black lashes were gazing into mine searchingly, spreading a warmth through me like a sip of 'swiss miss' on a cold winter morning. a dimple formed in his left cheek as his lips lifted and spread into a beautiful, toothy smile.

a beautiful, toothy smile just for me.


next installment: first day of reckoning, part 3.