Wednesday, December 14, 2005

the first day of reckoning

it was my first day at a brand new school and i was being shown around by the one friend i'd made that day. her name was renee and she was everything i was not, daring and fearless and aggressive, wielding all of the confidence of a ten year old goddess. renee was shorter than me and at least 20 pounds lighter, but she commanded my respect for her fire as she blew through the halls, setting ablaze everything in her path with a combination of dry wit kindled with a quick intelligence. as an introverted, studious nine-year-old, i was immediately in awe, attaching myself to the line behind her already comprised of a bunch of girls who were also both fascinated yet fearful of her dynamic demeanor. by the time school let out for recess, i was sure she could beat up every guy in our neighborhood with one hand tied behind her back.

as we stepped into the sunshine and made our way down the steep hill towards the activity field, i kept my eyes to the ground to make sure i didn't trip over anything, as i had been known in my previous school as the girl most likely to trip over a miniscule crack in the sidewalk or an inch high blade of grass. i'd had too many embarrassing memories of falling on my face or my behind, tearing brand new outfits or old favorites in the process, and was determined to leave that all behind and establish a new identity at my new school.

when we reached the level ground of the field, i looked up to see what was going on around me.

and stopped dead still when i saw him standing across the field.

he was taller than all of the boys encircling him. his skin had been kissed golden by the sun, the emerald color of his izod shirt gleamed an even richer hue against the stark white of his shorts. his hair was cut into a short fro, coiled and shining from a liberal dose of jheri curl spray.(don't laugh! y'all know that was the shit back in the day.)

it was obvious he was holding court, as all eyes in his group were on him while he made grand gestures with his arms and hands. i wasn't sure what he was doing. all i was sure of was the fact that my heart had started beating so fast, i was sure it was going to vibrate itself right out of my body. my eyes grew wide and my mouth dropped as i continued staring at him.

one of the girls next to me noticed me staring at him.

"girl," she started in a low voice, a warning in her tone, "you betta stop staring at keith like that!"

i turned to her in surprise, embarrassed she had witnessed my open adoration of him.

"what are you talking about?" i asked, forcing indifference into my voice and stance, "i wasn't staring at anybody."

her lips twisted into a cynical smirk as she lifted one of her brows before speaking.

"i saw you staring at keith," she said in an accusing whisper, "and you better stop before you get in trouble!"

i held her censuring look, perplexion spreading across my face to invade my eyes. squinting at her, i pursed my lips.

"what are you talking about???" my voice was raising as i grew frustrated with her vague warnings. the other girls took note of our heated exchange, sensing the tension erupting between us.

her eyes were slit angrily, body stiff as she responded between clenched teeth.

"all i'm saying is that you need to watch what you're doing."

turning, she walked away from me. i stood there alone trying to figure out what she meant. none of the other girls bothered to enlighten me, instead choosing to follow her as she made her way to stand next to renee. i shrugged in defiance to hide my hurt at being suddenly deserted before turning to continue my visual worshipping of keith.

by this time he was sprinted swiftly across the field, a football tucked into the crook of his arm as he deftly dodged past the leaping bodies trying to tackle him before he reached the imaginary goal line. i came up with all kinds of silly, romantic phrases to describe him.

he has the grace of a gazelle!

his arms look so strong! they would make anybody wrapped in them feel so safe!

his hair is beautiful and shiny like onyx stones! (yeah, the nerdy girl was pulling out the vocab words...)

my eyes grew dreamy with fantasies of him running to me before sweeping me into his arms and kissing me into a giggling mass of girlish glee. i got lost in the mental image, completely oblivious to my surroundings, so i didn't notice he was no longer running across the field and was instead standing right in front of me. i was still gazing unfocusingly at some trees across from me when he spoke.


i snapped back to the present, my eyes suddenly focusing in on the coffee-colored eyes fringed with thick black lashes gazing at me intently. gasping, i took a step back, tripping over my own feet as surprise registered on my face.

"whoa!" he reached over quickly to grab my arm as i started falling backwards, pulling me back into a standing position while he continued to look at me with a smile in his eyes and a welcoming slant to his mouth. a moment went by before i had gathered my nerves to respond.

"uh, hello" i spoke, my voice a squeak betraying my sudden nervousness.

his grin widened.

"my name's keith." extending his hand to me, he continued, "what's yours?"

i stared at his hand with eye widened in shock. slowly, i held out my hand as he grabbed it in a friendly handshake. i swallowed slowly to keep the butterflies from flying out of my mouth.

"i'm nikki."

he continued shaking my hand as he spoke.

"nice to meet you nikki!"

then he leaned down before me to pick up the football that had landed at my feet, turned towards the field and ran back to his boys. my eyes followed him feverishly, my hands suddenly clammy as i wiped them on my jeans. glancing to my left, i noticed the group of girls standing quietly, their faces ranging from pinched expressions of anger to purposefully vacant expressions of dismissal. i continued standing there, the discomfort of the situation making my muscles tense and my stance straighten. i broke up the staring contest by turning and walking to a group of trees lining the field. sitting down, i turned my attention to the boys on the field, making a point of keeping my gaze off of keith. i could feel the eyes of the group of girls burning into my back as i continued pretending i didn't notice them.

the school bell rang fifteen minutes later and our teachers ran out onto the field to gather us into lines before marching us back up the hill and into the school hallway. as i made my way back to the classroom, i was besieged with a strong yearning. it was a yearning that would make me brave enough to make a move i had never before made in my life.

sitting down at my desk, i pulled out a sheet of paper and started writing.

dear keith,

i know we have only just met, but i wanted to let you know i think you are really nice. i like you alot. will you be my boyfriend?
(i drew in two squares, writing 'yes' and 'no' next to them)



finishing the note, i folded it, placed it in my pocket, and opened the book we were reading during social studies period. when the bell rang signaling the end of the period, i got up and walked out into the hallway to stand anxiously next to the door.

and then i waited.

when i saw keith's head above the throng of bodies moving swiftly to their next classes, i started walking towards him slowly, my heart thundering in my chest, my breath coming in panicky bursts as i tried to get air into my suddenly constricted lungs. i planted myself right in front of him, blocking his path. his eyes, focused initially on his friends talking to him, turned to me as he noticed me before him. he stopped in his tracks.

he looked at me expectantly.

"nikki, right?"

he was smiling.

my heart stopped.

i nodded dumbly, too afraid to move any other part of my body.

there was silence in the immediate vicinity while his friends looked at me standing in their way. keith was still smiling, but he didn't say anything further. he just stood there as if he knew what was going to happen.

opening my mouth to speak, i closed it quickly, instead sticking my hand frantically into my pocket, clumsily yanking at the folded note that had suddenly grown hooks and was now stuck to my jeans. once i had the note out, i practically shoved it into his hand.

and then i turned and ran.

i ran to my next class, holding my breath until i crossed the threshold before finally exhaling in a loud cough, bending over to grab at my stomach as i desperately tried to catch my breath. as i continued gasping, i stagged exhaustedly towards the first seat right inside the door next to the wall. it was then i noticed the eyes of all of the kids already in the room were on me, staring at me. there was some mumbling, but no one said anything to me directly. i fell into the seat, breathing deeply and finally getting a grip on my wild emotions. placing my head on my desk, i closed my eyes and waited for the class to start.

three minutes later the teacher walked into the room and class began. i picked my head up off of the desk and opened my book as the teacher was turning to the blackboard to write down the day's lesson plan. ten minutes into class, we were instructed to read silently until the question and answer session towards the end of the period. sliding down into my seat to find a more comfortable position, i tilted my book towards me and started reading.

i felt a tap on my shoulder. i turned around and looked straight into coffee-colored eyes fringed with long black lashes. my eyes widened again as i almost jumped out of my skin. he didn't say a word, just slid a folded piece of paper into my hand before sitting back to pick up his book. i slowly turned forward, suddenly aware of every molecule in the air, every cell in my body, ever piece of fiber threaded in the clothes i was wearing. unfolding the paper with shaking hands, i closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

opening one eye slowly, i peeped down and recognized my handwriting on the paper.

i quickly closed the eye.

slowly opening it again, i glanced down to the the boxes i had drawn on the paper.

he had checked the box next to 'yes'.

tomorrow's installment: the second day of reckoning