When he first came into my school, I didn't think too much of him. Well, that's actually a lie. I thought a lot of him. Day in and day out. He had the looks of a movie star, beautiful blonde hair, rare hazel eyes, pink lips, perfect posture, great sense of style. Yet he went unnoticed.
It isn't like I was a boy freak. I mean, I had a couple of small crushes in the last two years, but he was the first to really make an impression.
When he first arrived to Harper Duncan High, I thought he was just a new kid, transferred from a different school. It was late August-third day of the new school year-when the air was scorching hot, and the school's air conditioner wasn't working. He walked into the front door of our school wearing something completely different from all the other kids in late summer-a button-up shirt with long jeans and a satchel. His hair was just casually messy.
My heart leaped.
No one even managed a look his way; it was as if he were invisible.
I didn't realize I was staring at him until he glanced over at me, widened his eyes, and walked faster down the hall, as if he were trying to get away. Poor guy probably was. What was my problem? You don't stare at people!
I chastised myself over it for the morning classes and all the way up until lunch, when he sat across from me at the table. I didn't have the same lunch period as the rest of my friends this year, so I was forced to sit alone for the first couple of days of school.
He put his lunch tray down on the table and sat there, without saying a single word. He just looked at me. His hazel eyes were narrowed, like he was studying me. And I started to squirm.
And the idiot I was, I had to speak up. "Hi," I said, or in reality, squeaked. Then I cleared my throat and repeated myself, sounding normal this time.
He looked down at his plate, almost shyly, and replied in a small voice, "Hello."
That was all we said that first day.
I found that we had three out of the six classes together: A.P. U.S. History, Honors Algebra II, and Honors Biology. Which showed that he was smart.
That night when I went home, I kicked myself for not catching his name. What if he moved away again? What if he didn't sit across from me at lunch anymore? I had lost a precious opportunity here.
Something about him was different. A hot guy not sitting with the preppy kids? It wasn't natural. Other than that, there was something different with the way he acted. Not that I knew much about his behavior, other than the fact that he kept his head turned down most of the time. He was timid, and it was unusual.
Most good-looking guys were cocky.
Something was different. Something in his eyes. It wasn't only that he was shy. It was something more. He had a secret.
That night I vowed to myself that I would discover his secret, no matter what it was or how hard it was to find out. The New Kid was my new experiment.
Thunder boomed outside.
I stood in the same spot the next morning, the last day of August. I watched as the new kid walked in through the doors. Today he wore a white button-up, jeans again, and the same satchel. His hair still looked like he forgot to brush it, but on purpose, because it just looked so good-
Again, I forgot that I was staring at him, and he glanced over again. But this time, he didn't rush off with a terrified look in his eye. He shuffled over to where I stood, reached into his satchel, and handed me a folded up piece of paper.
Then, he walked away like nothing happened.
I really wanted to open it. Was it a note? A death threat? A letter professing his undying love for me, even though he knew nothing about me?
But I didn't want to open it here, right in the middle of the front lobby, where everyone stood. What if it was important? Maybe I should go to the bathroom to read it. But no, it was always filled with girls fixing their hair and gossiping, and the note would only trigger stories and questions.
The bell rang for first class, and I ended up just putting the note in my pocket.
Needless to say, it burned a hole in my pocket all morning as I tried to concentrate on my work. In English, as we were reading Catcher in the Rye, I was really thinking about reading Note in my Pocket.
In Latin II, we were translating the words from chapter 34 in our Latin textbook. The story was about a young girl getting married to a hero. I started daydreaming about my story with the new kid: him being a hero, saving me from crime again and again. And our story started with a note.
In Tech class, the teacher was up front talking, and I sat in the back, wondering if there was a gadget to tell the future. Maybe I could figure out what was in that note by looking into the future and seeing me read it.
But that was ridiculous. Why didn't I just read it already?
I slid it out of my pocket and started to open it when the teacher, Mrs. Brown, just happened to look at me. "What is that?" she snapped.
I opened Catcher in the Rye from English and put the note in between two pages. "My bookmark. I just found my book."
She narrowed her eyes, but continued talking.
Soon, but not soon enough, the lunch bell rang. I was the first one out the door and into the bathroom. I couldn't stand it any longer. I made sure no one was in there, then opened the piece of paper.
There was no writing, pictures, stickers, not even a stupid period. This was a joke, right? I raked my brain for an explanation. It was invisible ink. Right? Yeah, it made sense.
If I had no brain.
It was just a joke. I shoved it into my pocket and stormed off to the cafeteria, upset at myself for getting so worked up about a piece of blank paper. It was just a guy. What was wrong with me?
He sat with me again at lunch. Continuously glanced up from his soup to look at me. Like he was expecting something. Should I say something? I mean, he tricked me.
"What's your name?" I asked quietly, almost nervous that I'd scare him off.
He dropped his spoon and stared at me in wonder. For a while, he didn't answer. Then, "My name?"
I nodded. Was it such a big deal?
He sat up straighter, looked me in the eye, and said, "Carter. I'm Carter. Your name is...?"
"My name is Wendi."
He pursed his lips, then continued eating his soup. He didn't speak for a little while. But once he finished eating, he asked, "Have you read the paper yet?"
I glared at him. "No. I couldn't. It was blank. What was that, like a joke?"
But there was no humor in his eyes. He looked totally serious. "Not at all, Wendi. The words, they're invisible."
Yeah. This had to be a joke.
My heart crashed a little. Carter got up, threw away his trash, and came back, sat down across from me. "It isn't a joke," he said, reading me mind. "The words are invisible." He smiled at me, kind of making my heart stop a little.
The bell rang. We walked together in silence to U.S. History.
It was September 1st. A new month.
We were at lunch. I still wasn't able to understand what game Carter was playing, what with the blank note and his denying that it was a joke. I tried to push it out of my mind, to focus on eating my cheeseburger. But it didn't work.
I couldn't keep myself from wondering what was going on in Carter's mind, what made him claim that the "words" on this paper were invisible. It wasn't possible, why did he expect me to believe that?
"You know, Wendi," Carter said with a small smile, "I think we should maybe be friends."
I glanced at him. "Oh yeah?"
"Yeah. I think I can teach you some things."
I couldn't stop myself; I giggled. "Uh-huh, I'm sure you can, O Wise One." The idea seemed a little absurd, being taught by someone who was probably in my grade. But, again, there was this look on his face, in his eyes, that showed maybe there was a little something extra behind those pretty hazel eyes.
He tapped my hand. It was a simple gesture, shouldn't have caught my attention, but I didn't know what happened. There was a change. And I couldn't figure out what it was.
I wanted to ask what'd happened, but that would be awkward. "Uh, yeah. So you want to be friends, huh? What could you possibly teach me that I don't already know?"
"A bit cocky, are you?" Carter laughed. "You have so much to learn about. There's a world beyond the surface, you'll see. Soon. Very soon."
I was pretty confused. "What does that even mean?"
"You'll see, I promise."
At home that night, I pulled out the "note" again. I already knew nothing was on it, but something about it mystified me. I unfolded the paper and found...
Do what now?
I read the note. And reread it. There were two words at the top, and three at the very bottom of the page in neat handwriting. "You'll see. I'll teach you."
That was when I believed, really believed, that my new friend Carter was different.
I couldn't sleep. I couldn't figure out what was going on. How were there words on the paper? There weren't earlier. But Carter had said, "The words, they're invisible."
They weren't there the first time.
But they were now.
All I wanted to know was what exactly was going on.
The words. They're invisible. It isn't a joke. The words are invisible.
And I could see them.
What was Carter hiding? What made him so different? What was going on behind those beautiful, complicated hazel eyes? What could he teach me? What would he teach me? What secrets was he hiding?
I needed to talk to him. How could I talk to him? It was 11 P.M. I didn't have his number, either. But I had to talk to him. There was something about whatever happened today that was nagging me.
Perhaps it was the fact that there were words on the paper. Or maybe it was the fact that reality seemed to shift when Carter touched my hand.
I needed to ask.
Otherwise, I wouldn't get any sleep, or any work done in school. This wasn't something that could just wait until tomorrow. It was something I felt I had to know... now.
I picked up the paper again. "You'll see. I'll teach you."
How was I going to ask? I needed to ask. I felt hopeless right now, desperate for information.
The phone rang. I picked it up before anyone else, so no one in my family would get all upset at the fact that someone was calling an hour before midnight. "Hello?"
"Wendi?" A familiar voice said.
"Hey." I heard the smile in his voice.
I barely had any time to feel surprise and excitement that he was calling me, because suddenly I was overcome with a creeped-out feeling. "How did you get my number, and why are you calling me at 11 at night?"
Okay, okay, so yeah. This was a bit of a horrible reaction. I had just wanted to know how to talk to him. And when I could, I freaked. But it was weird how it turned out! It was only confirming my beliefs of his hidden secrets.
He laughed. "Sorry, I should have let you know. You're in the Earth club, I'm in the Earth club. You know on your first day of being in the club, the coordinator always gives you the contact information of your fellow club mates. And I saw your name."
"That doesn't explain why you're calling me this late."
"You're not asleep, are you?"
I actually smiled at that. The excitement was starting to set in. Carter was calling me. "So," I said, "What made you call, exactly?"
He didn't answer for a while. I almost thought he'd hung up or something. But then, suddenly, he replied, "I felt I didn't give much of an explanation today."
"Actually, Carter, I understand everything."
"No, you have a lot of explaining to do, buddy."
The phone was silent again. I heard the quiet buzz of the line. I found myself wondering what he was going to say, what we would talk about. How long we'd talk. If it would be awkward tomorrow. He started talking abruptly, cutting into my thoughts, speaking pretty fast. "I have a bit of a gift but I can't really explain it. It's not exactly a gift, if you think about it, it's kind of an ability. I'm sure everyone would be able to do it if they just tried..."
I interrupted him. "Be able to do what?"
"To see beyond the surface, Wendi. Have you ever heard 'there's more to something that meets the eye?' There's a certain truth to that. You have to expect to see what others don't. There's no way to explain it, really, you just have to experience it."
What was he talking about? I sighed. "Then, could you possibly show me?"
He cleared his throat. "Shouldn't you be going to sleep soon?"
"There's no way I'm sleeping without knowing."
Carter laughed. "It isn't so hard. If you see words on the paper, then my guess is, you're looking past the surface of matter. You see now what you didn't see before."
"Why couldn't I see it before?"
"You weren't looking."
Oh, I was looking. He was still hiding something. But before I could interrogate him further, I heard a noise downstairs. I assumed it was one of my parents, which meant they were up, maybe wondering why the phone had rung, or who was talking. I turned off my desk lamp and rushed into bed, pulling the covers over my head, still clutching the phone.
Carter said, "Wendi? Are you okay?"
"Yeah," I whispered. "I think my parents are up."
"Do you have to go?"
I scoffed. "No, I'm not going so easily. You're going to tell me everything that's going on."
He chuckled. I was going to interrogate him further, but I heard footsteps coming up the stairs. I curled up in a ball, feeling safer that way, but still managed to see out of an opening in the covers so I could see if anyone came in.
The door opened. I waited for someone to walk in, but there was no hand on the doorknob. No person that could have opened the door. "Carter," I whispered even quieter.
"The door just opened," I hissed.
He was silent for a minute. Then he asked, "Who is it?"
"See, there's where it gets complicated, Carter. There's no one there. My door just opened by itself. There's no one there."
Maybe my house was haunted. Carter, whispering, too, for some reason, said, "Just look. Don't think about what you'll see, just look."
I did what he said. I squinted into the darkness of my room, where the door had opened. I blocked any wonders of what I'd be looking at. I just looked, just as he said.
To my surprise, I saw the outline of a person. This person had no gender, it seemed. It was just like a mannequin or a dummy. No hair, no certain features to identify its gender. It moved across my room, picked up something off of the floor, and left my room. My heart pounded against my ribs.
"Wendi? Are you still there?"
I realized I'd been holding my breath. I heaved a sigh. "Yes," I whispered. I was a little scared.
"What did you see?"
What had I seen? "I saw a person, Carter. Not a man, or a woman. It was... just... a person."
"Right. And did it have color?"
"No, it was just sort of transparent."
Carter surprised me by laughing. It was a happy laugh, not really with humor, just with joy. "Wendi!" He laughed. "You saw!"
I was still a little freaked out that an entity had come through my room, and I'd watched it. "Yeah," I whispered back, scared to come out from under the covers. "I saw something."
"You saw what others can't see. You saw beyond the surface."
I was so frustrated and tired suddenly that I almost cried. "I just don't know what that means, Carter."
He tried to explain as I watched the red numbers on my alarm clock.