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CHAPTER ONE

Sooo, good news,” my best friend Jackie said in her high soprano voice, stressing the first word as she sat down on my biology desk. Her full name was Jacqueline, but I had known her long enough to know that if I ever called her by her full name, I’d be a glutton for punishment. She had adopted the nickname Jackie in fourth grade when we met in Miss Heinrich’s class during an art assignment on a partnered state report.

I looked up expectantly at her from my biology notes, noticing that there were hardly any students in the classroom yet. Over half of the class habitually waited until the last minute to make it to class, refusing to leave their peers until absolutely necessary.

Jackie had tried for a new look this year, her natural long blond hair cut short to her chin in a pixie style and dyed jet black. She had claimed to me in the beginning of our junior year that she was trying to go for the whole “Chick-Goth” style, but she and I both knew that her plan hadn’t followed through, as today she was wearing her light blue sundress, complimenting her fare skin and bright cobalt eyes under thick rings of heavy eyeliner.

  “Everyone is talking about the new guy in school. All of the girls say on a chart of one-to-ten, he’s an eleven. I think he’d be perfect for you!”

Same old Jackie. She had been trying to set me up with someone since our freshmen year, almost three years ago. Claiming I never dated, I always disappointed her when I turned down one of her plans to set me up on one of her, quote, “surely-to-be-successful” blind dates. Even though it ticked her off, and her persistence and tenacious attitude were naturally provoking, I still turned down every one of her offers, assuring her that I was fine. I did not need someone to complete my life, as Jackie so often insisted that I did. I still loved her anyway, even after all of her constant nagging and childlike tantrums.

 “That’s great,” I said, my voice clearly revealing to her that I wasn’t indeed interested in the slightest. It was the same retort I always gave her, and I saw her face fall just out of my view.

“Come on, Claire. He’s absolutely perfect, and since none of the guys at this school have ever held any interest to you for whatever reason you have going on in your right mind, I thought—”

  “Thanks, but no thanks. Seriously. I’m perfectly fine on my own and I don’t need anybody,” I told her, throwing her a look that told her I was done with this ludicrous conversation. I guiltily hated to see her so disappointed, but I was acknowledged with the fact that from past experiences that she would be just fine.

  I tucked a lock of my naturally wavy dark brunette hair behind my ear and shut my textbook just a little too roughly.

“But—” Jackie was cut off from the sound of Mr. Martin’s voice echoing throughout the classroom, announcing for everyone to take their seats. Jackie reluctantly scooted off the edge of the thick charcoal table and shot me a look saying this conversation was without a doubt not even close to being over. I gave her the most innocent expression I could come up with and turned towards the front of the classroom with an exhalation of gratitude.

Mr. Martin was wearing his typical formal plaid shirt and tie as well as black slacks that I opinionated as being a tad too short for his long legs. His thick-rimmed glasses sat on the base of his nose, his thinning brown hair combed back into a style much too ancient for this era from his receding hairline.

Scribbled on the chalkboard was a portrait of some type of cell that I couldn’t identify. Biology had never been my strongest subject, but I wasn’t horrible at it either. I was just grateful I wasn’t failing completely and would have enough credits to graduate.

The fluorescent lights above cascaded shadows on the white wall parallel to where we sat, announcing the arrival of a late student. All side conversation in the classroom died down as they observed the stranger, shifting ever so slightly in their uncomfortably cheap seats to get a better view of our visitor. It was not like any of Mr. Martin’s students to be tardy to his class, and I noted with indistinct curiosity that he did not look like any standard past student that had attended Mr. Martin’s period either.

The boy idled in the doorway, his faint smile cocky as he stood with a backpack slung lazily over one shoulder. He had a built, athletic body that screamed having spent hours at the gym multiple times a week, and his short midnight hair was tousled from what looked like constantly running his hands through it. A fresh and careless “just out of bed” look.

His eyes found mine and halted there, watching me with a small glimpse of inquisitiveness and amusement, his eyes guarded of full emotion, shielding his thoughts. I looked down at my notebook and refused to let my blue eyes wander up again, the image of midnight black eyes piercing through me with danger playing prominently in front of my vision. A dark aura penetrated from his soul that stretched out and threatened to envelop me with its sinister caress, sending a chill down my spine. I could only conjure up the fact that this was the student Jackie had been babbling about earlier as she jumped for joy in her seat a few rows behind me. She was not so quietly trying to catch my attention with determined stage whispers that I “unknowingly” ignored.

The classroom was dead silent except for the sound of someone’s obnoxious pen clicking. Everyone around me stared at the new stranger like he was going to pull a gun on them in any moment and demand cooperation. Many girls held looks of desire, while many boys held the looks of animosity. I rolled my eyes in annoyance and looked up at the boy again through long lashes, his black as night eyes scanning the biology room before once again landing on me with mischievous amusement.

 I raised my eyebrows quizzically, which the stranger seemed to take as a challenge as he threw me a playful smirk.

The biology classroom was not very big compared to most of the classrooms at Hawthorne High. The walls were plastered with various posters of human life and bone structure charts. The flooring was about as old as the school, the black and white checkered tile faded and scuffed from a plethora of footprints skidding across it in past years. There were three porcelain sinks in the back left, extra microscopes and test tubes scattered along the granite countertops. The room seated approximately thirty-five students, at most.

 I crossed my ankles and looked over to Mr. Martin, who had welcomingly started introducing our new student to the class with just a touch of wariness.

“Class, this is Aaron Safford. I advise you all make him feel welcome here, seeing that he has come at a peculiar time during the end of our school year.” Something in Mr. Martin’s voice caught at the word “peculiar” when his middle-aged eyes shifted unsteadily to the right in Aaron’s direction. “Mr. Safford, why don’t you have a seat next to—ah, Miss Allen?” he suggested, extending a hand in my direction.

My insides shifted at the sound of my last name as it was spoken from Mr. Martin’s ageing lips. Anybody but me, my thoughts murmured with desperation as I clutched my number two pencil with tight fingers.

  I unwillingly looked up as Aaron Safford casually strode over to my biology desk, one away from being caught in the front left side of the classroom. Jackie was sitting two rows back, and I knew she would have something to say about my “new biology partner” once class was finished and we entered our lunch period.

I was so looking forward to that conversation.

Aaron plopped down into the seat beside me, the hard gray chair scraping delicately against the tile floor when he scooted it out. His long legs stretched out in front of him, hanging casually underneath the table. I noticed how remarkably tall he was as he lounged back in his chair, his arms folded across his hard chest. He had to be around 6’2. By the way he sat, I could tell Aaron would not be participating in anything this class—or Mr. Martin—had to offer. Noticing my eyes had been idling on him much longer than sanely necessary, I looked away, noting that the left side of his mouth had turned up into a small smirk of what looked like hilarity—and undisputed confidence.

I sighed at the humiliation of it all.

  Mr. Martin instructed us to open our biology textbooks to the third chapter of section 5B and to place the small sheer slide he had positioned onto each desk underneath our microscopes to thoroughly examine for the class period. Aaron continued to sit with his arms folded across his fitted black t-shirt, his eyes skeptically showing Mr. Martin that it was not in his best interest to do so. Mr. Martin did not complain, but seemed faintly frightened as he turned away from Aaron’s intimidating stare to scribble something on the board.

It seemed that I was going to be working solo on this assignment, which was absolutely fine with me. I could tell by the way Aaron presented himself that if he were to help, it would not make any difference than if I were to work alone.

I reached for the microscope, Aaron examining my every move as I tried to keep a steady hand under his watchful eye and not look in his direction. I slid the glass slide under the lens and connected my eye to the hole, scribbling down a note onto the paper in front of me. This was a lab I had become familiar with from the chapter I had independently read last night, crossed legged on my bed.

Plant cell, I recalled, scratching the answer onto the line provided.

  “Animal cell,” a voice corrected, startling me as I nearly dropped my pencil with a stifled clank. I looked to my right at Aaron, who was grinning faintly at me, his eyes unsafe. He nodded his head down towards my paper, his eyes never leaving mine. “You might want to check your answer again.”

  My eyes narrowed, my face clearly showing frustration as I listened to the faint accent in his voice. An accent unrecognizable.

“And you might want to do your own assignment. You can’t possibly know that, you didn’t even check. And I doubt your knowledge on these resources can be any better than mine, seeing as you haven’t been studying with us this week.”

Aaron’s grin deepened, visibly enjoying my annoyance. I wasn’t about to give him the satisfaction.

 “Don’t have to,” he said with a lazy, indifferent shrug of his broad shoulders.

I gripped my pencil tighter. What did he mean he didn’t have to check? There was no possible way he could know the answer off the top of his head. I knew that for a fact.

I tucked my hair behind my ear and looked sideways at him, his half-smile never leaving his boastful face. I fought against the sudden urge to check again, just to see if he was right, but I was not going to doubt my theory in front of him as a sign of weakness, for fear he might be correct.

“Believe what you want,” I said, moving towards the microscope’s eyepiece again, adjusting the dial on the side. “But I’m sticking with my answer. Unlike you, I know what I’m doing.” At least I hoped I knew.

  Aaron gave me another small shrug and turned towards the front of the classroom, his chest vibrating in a small movement that showed he was clearly laughing at me. A small strip of red colored my cheeks and I focused more adequately on the work in front of me, hiding my paper behind the left side of the microscope just out of his peripheral vision. This was going to be a long hour, I could already tell by the way Aaron watched me and refused to pitch in an answer of his own after our small dispute. He hadn’t spoken since then, and for that I was grateful. For him to tell me I was wrong was just something that I would not be dealing with. I knew there was no use in approaching Mr. Martin regarding the situation, seeing that there were no other seats available in the classroom in which he could sit, and everyone had already grown accustomed to their current partners, much to my luck and enjoyment.

This left me alone with Aaron Safford as my biology partner for the rest of the school year.

  Once I finished the worksheet, I glanced at the clock hanging above the chalkboard, the time reading 2:30. Fifteen more minutes and I would be put out of my misery and on my way to the library with Jackie. It had taken a lot of persistence on my part to drag Jackie along with me, seeing as whenever we were partnered up in English that she didn’t particularly like participating in the project—

 “Pencils down and pass your papers forward,” Mr. Martin announced, motioning his hand in a small movement as students gathered their assignments together and passed them north towards him.

I secretly looked over at Aaron’s paper and my eyes widened in visible astonishment. Instead of the blank paper I had expected to see, each line was filled with perfect script, giving a distinct answer for every question listed. It made my time and effort into my paper look very slacking and muddled. Aaron handed me his paper and I gaped at the assignment, not once ever seeing him check the microscope or so much as lift a hand to record a thorough answer.

 “How—” My question caught in my throat. I wasn’t exactly sure what to say. How did his paper get done so quickly? When did he work on it without my noticing?

  “I’ve done the lab. Could’ve done it in my sleep,” Aaron answered simply, shrugging one shoulder as he placed his assignment in my hand. I numbly gripped the paper between my fingertips, the action involuntary and mechanical. Aaron was hiding something; I could tell from the mischievous spark beneath his eternal guarded expression. I shook the thought and passed his paper forward, moving the microscope back into place.

  “I didn’t even see you work on the paper. How on earth did you get it done so quickly?” I demanded, refusing to gaze at him. If I did, I was certain whatever I had to say would cut itself short from hesitation by just a mere glance from him. All coherent thought would be at a total loss.

Mr. Martin shuffled the papers in his hands and precisely aligned the corners before placing them in the midpoint of his rectangular desk just as the final bell sounded as a jubilant release to all students.

 I let out a small moan of relief and gathered up my belongings before shoving them into my backpack and slinging it over my shoulder hurriedly. Jackie was quick to get to my side, her supplies already packed, undoubtedly having been tucked away the whole time we had been in class. It would not shock me, knowing her.

The vulnerability in Jackie’s eyes, exposing anxiety and wonder, as well as impatience, was undeniably comical. I could physically imagine her bouncing up and down in her place, beseeching her way to some form of question as to how the class went with my new biology partner. Her mouth was turned up at the corners, threatening a marathon of questions that I had no way of getting out of. I adjusted the band of my khaki schoolbag on my shoulder and started trudging towards the exit of the room.

I stole a glance back at my table, trying to figure out what was keeping Aaron so long from departing class. Wonder struck me as I rechecked my vision repeatedly and firmly focused on his vacant chair that had been left in its original position away from the charcoal biology table, seemingly untouched.

  He was already gone.

 

 

 

 

 

w

 

 

 “Aaron Safford. Quite the name, huh? I sure know there’s nothing safe about him,” Jackie giggled as we huddled over our notebooks, seated at one of the library’s back computer rooms. I swiped a few eraser shavings from my paper with the back of my hand and raised an eyebrow at Jackie as she continued, her blue eyes gleaming, completely oblivious to my physical response.

“And did you see the way his arms flexed when he adjusted his backpack on his shoulder after class?” She pulled out a compact mirror from her purse, brushing her hands over her cheeks as she closely examined her reflection and stung her tongue out at what she saw.

  “Only you would notice something as ridiculous at that,” I said, my thoughts wandering back to Aaron. What made him so different then all of the other students? There was something just out of my reach that I felt like I was not seeing—something I could hardly grasp that was over the boundary line of my vision. I sighed and gripped my number two pencil with frustration, disliking the way Jackie spoke of Aaron Safford. He was all I had heard about since we had arrived at the Hawthorne Public Library, thirty minutes ago, and all I would hear about on the way back home. I had heard more information and insights about him than I would have wanted or preferred in the short time I had been with Jackie that afternoon.

“You cannot tell me you didn’t find yourself looking over at him…just a little. Babe, its fate. Heaven has given you Aaron as your biology partner and you’re shoving him back at them like he’s a soggy sponge; dull, grubby—and just gross!” Jackie complained, clearly misunderstanding the obvious conclusion of the matter.

“More like a mistake from Hell,” I muttered from above my paper. I watched as Jackie’s face flinched, stricken with ample shock, and I hurried on. “Look, can we not talk about Aaron? We have a report to type up and, unlike you, some people can’t afford to fail this class.”

Jackie finger combed through her jet black hair, eyeing me doubtfully as if I had two heads instead of one. I justly didn’t understand what she found so compelling and extravagant about Aaron Safford. The way she spoke about him made him sound so…enthralling. The whole matter was just leaving me utterly disarrayed and agitated.

Jackie folded her hands in front of her. “You’re my best friend, and I want you to be happy. But I just don’t get you. You’re giving up Aaron Safford for…” She paused and reached for the literature book sprawled out in front of me and pointed to the title. This showed just how much she paid attention in school. “Anne Frank. Honestly—and I’m not going to deny it—there are so many things patronizingly wrong with this situation that cry plain and boring! You need to learn how to liven up a bit!” This was one of those times when I wished with everything in my being that Jackie would just drop the conversation before it could turn into—well, this.

I breathed deeply in and out, focusing on the rhythm there instead of the sensational pounding in my accelerating heart. With my seventeenth birthday tomorrow, and Jackie’s constant dazing off to numerous points of conversation topics, I had a strong feeling that this report was not going to be completed anytime soon. I let out a breath and shut my literature book, tucking the notes I had written into my backpack. Having Jackie sit down in front of a table full of homework had never been her scene, and her being there now was about as close to a true miracle as you could get.

I checked my phone and a small ringing informed me that I had two missed calls from my mother, Gwendolyn. Being the kind of foster mother that she was, having raised me since I was only a few months old, she was the type of woman who I expected a call or text message from every hour due to her apprehensive personality, give or take. She was always working and hardly ever home, so her persistent texts and phone calls were not a bit of a surprise. I just prayed in my heart that my absence of responding to her hourly check-ins would not inconvenience her to do anything irrational or melodramatic involving the local police or fire department.

“What you need is to set aside all of this work you have and stay over at my place tonight. I will not accept no for an answer. We’ll pop some popcorn, do our nails, and it will all help you to get your mind off things. This is your birthday weekend. Make it memorable,” Jackie insisted, following me to my silver Volkswagen in the parking garage, wedged between a white Miata and the curb. I pulled the keys out my pocket and jumped into the driver’s seat, hardly bothering to comprehend or listen to a word Jackie said.

And that’s when I saw him, thirty feet away, his midnight eyes and tousled black hair reflecting my imagine in the rearview mirror, sitting behind the wheel of a jet-black Sedan.

It was…Aaron.

 


Submitted: April 12, 2015

© Copyright 2023 katieeashleyy. All rights reserved.

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Cameron Thompson

OMG! I loved it! Please write more and keep me updated.

P.S. check out my stories if you have time :)

Mon, April 13th, 2015 1:27am

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Thank you so much! Of course, I'll drop by as soon as I can :) Thanks again xx

Sun, May 17th, 2015 10:33pm

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