He was waiting for me outside of my 10:00 class again.
I had a sudden, strange impulse to bound up to him happily, the sooner to bask in his presence. Then the insanity of it struck me. Irrationally irritated, I banished the loony smile I suddenly
realized was on my face and took a more tried and true tack. "Don't you have anything better to do?" I groaned, out of habit more than actual annoyance.
"Better than being with you? Of course."
I let my mouth fall open in a parody of surprised anger.
He winked. "But I've got my priorities in order."
"Glad to hear it." My tone was light and mocking but my meaning was utterly serious. I was vaguely aware of being surprised at my emotions of the past ten seconds, but was unable to think on it further as we entered the auditorium and took our accustomed seats.
I stole a quick glance at him, noting the light bloom of stubble that brushed his cheek and traveled down the firm line of is jaw, the lips that curved in to a natural smile, outlet for the exuberance and energy that was so essentially Will.
"Damn," I muttered, staring straight ahead. I dredged up my earlier feeling and put it on the figurative rack of my mind, furious.
The teacher had already begun his lecture but Will looked at me curiously nonetheless. "What's wrong?" he whispered.
"Nothing," I mumbled quickly. Talk about dodging a bullet. I leaned my head against the back of the cushioned seat and closed my eyes.
I don't know when I'd crossed the line. I don't know when I'd defected from the school of self-sufficiency, straight into the one I'd scorned for so long. Sometime in the indefinable past, my subconscious had forced my self-deluded mind to accept the fact that I looked forward to seeing Will every day. No, that was an understatement. I needed to see him every day.
Understanding hit like a sledgehammer to the back of the head. Drat, I thought to myself, along with other words that seemed to give vent to my twisted emotions much better. Drat, I repeated. I hate crushes.
I thought back further, trying in vain to pin-point the exact time I'd changed so dramatically. My mind drifted back over our various encounters, dwelling on our meeting, when he first started following me belligerently, the way he'd laugh when I'd say something inane, the way his hair would fly out in every direction when he hung upside down, the way he looked like a god amongst mortals in the sun....
I frowned and abandoned that line of thinking as unproductive. Well, not entirely. That short blip in my industrious reasoning lifted up a tenuous thought, half hidden in the denial I'd immersed myself in. I tentatively touched on it, then brought it fully into the light.
I looked forward to seeing Will everyday, not because of the constant companionship, though that was certainly a bonus. No, I looked for him because I wanted, no, needed to be around his continuous and boundless energy. Yes, I sighed, the frown lines easing away. That idea was easier to believe.
...Until I tried to sound the depth of it. I was kidding myself! I didn't just look forward to seeing Will, I needed him like a new rehab patient needed a fix. I held back a groan of despair. My life before Will had been a grey blur; nothing really stood out except for the odd schoolwork and TV shows. It was like I had been piddling about in first gear, not really caring about anything, not really feeling anything in my blase haze. Then he came along and kicked me into drive, starting a long, screaming ride over uneven ground and uncharted territory.
And I was exhilarated.
In his presence, I felt as if my senses were extra sharp; I reveled in my new-found ability to feel, to feel deliriously happy and show it, to feel angry that the cafe was out of cream cheese. Not that I was anywhere near to simply adding anger on top of my previous cynical facade. Will's energy and never ending good outlook on life wouldn't let me return to the way I was before. It was physically impossible to be grumpy for extended periods of time around him. No, I realized bleakly, I was changed, permanently and devastatingly if my life took its accustomed turns for the worse.
"Eva!" Will's voice, louder than it should be in a classroom setting, broke into my thoughts. I opened my eyes, surprised to find I was gripping the armrests almost painfully tight, my body tense and pushing back in my seat. A few people from the row in front of us turned to give him a censorious look.
"Are you alright?" he asked, ignoring them all.
I looked at him then, taking in the straight line of his nose, the way his hair fell in disarray into his eyes, those glorious, cerulean blue eyes that were radiating concern for me in a manner I found to be totally disconcerting. I whipped my gaze forward to the teacher.
Man, oh man, had I been wrong. I was in much, much deeper than a simple crush.
"I'm fine," I whispered back, my voice sounding weak and pitiful even to me.
He pried my clawed hand off the armrest and gently chafed the back of it, slowly rubbing the life back into me. His touch sent a continuous shock through me; I stood it for as long as I could bear before pulling away, a brilliant crimson blush staining my cheeks. "You don't look fine," he said, still in a normal voice. He frowned at me. " Do you need to leave?"
The people in the row ahead turned around once more. I stared with all my might past them at the teacher standing in the front, furiously trying to get myself under control. "No," I whispered finally. "I'll live." I tried to pull my face into a smile, tried to reassure him that I didn't need immediate medical care. He didn't look convinced.
"Really," I said, smiling harder. He sat back in his chair, still watching me carefully.
I sighed and tried to pay attention to what the teacher was saying, something about Shakespeare's rebuttal of the popular misogynistic view of women using his play, A Midsummer Night's Dream. "Hermia knew who she wanted, and she pursued him doggedly," the teacher intoned. "No magic potion was needed to direct her love, unlike Demetrius, who only came to realize his after Puck's meddling."
My earlier epiphany, instead of leaving me drained, had left me on edge and antsy. My thoughts took off, leaving the class behind in the dust once more. I felt rather like my own eyes had been anointed with pansy juice, never mind that I was flip-flopping the roles of the analogy. Except that, instead of a magic potion forcing me to feel this way, I felt more like the wool had been pulled away from my eyes, exposing what had always been there.
I loved Will.
As soon as I thought the words to myself, my body finally relaxed, content in the absolute rightness the words induced. My deep breath felt like it washed away much of the doubt and uncertainty that had poisoned my innards at the beginning of class, leaving me free and unfettered. I stole a glance at Will, thrilled by the perfect beauty I saw in him. His gaze met mine, still troubled by my strange behavior earlier, quickly turning startled as he saw my wide smile. He gave me an odd look, his eyes showing wonder at my swift and no doubt inexplicable mood swing.
The rest of the class inched by at an agonizing pace. I fairly bounced in my seat, eager to be free to tell him of my epiphany. I constantly stole quick glances at him, my heart singing with delight at his familiar and beloved face. He frequently caught me peeking at him, a mystified look on his face as he tried to divine the source of my intense pleasure. I was electrically aware of him sitting just inches away from me, and eventually had to sit on my hands to keep from reaching out to him. Through several deep breaths and a considerable exertion of willpower, I finally managed to calm myself. Breathe deep, I thought. Calm. Calm. I fought off another sudden urge to leap up from my seat and shout my joy to the heavens. I closed my eyes again and thought in from the nose, out through the mouth. In the nose, out the mouth. In, out. My heart finally slowed its dangerously fast triple-time, settling slowly into a somewhat erratic yet infinitely slower tha-thump, tha-thump. I concentrated on what the teacher was saying with minimal problems for the rest of class.
The bell rang; I dashed outside, not bothering to wait for Will. My enthusiasm was too great to be trapped in an amphitoreum any longer. I bounced on the balls of my feet, watching the masses slowly trickle out of the too-small doors, waiting for the one person I wanted to see.
A thought struck me as I waited. How was I going to tell this to him? I stopped mid-bounce, perplexed. I couldn't just throw myself on him and kiss him senseless like I wanted to; he'd think I'd lost my mind. I also couldn't nonchalantly stand beside him and oh-so-casually mention that, due to the epiphany of a lifetime, I was utterly, completely, and irrevocably in love with him. Any way that I could think to break the news made me sound like I was mentally unstable, or just plain silly, or both.
By the time Will finally appeared in the flow of students, I had worked myself into a state of doubt, misery, and utter confusion. "What was that all about?" he asked congenially as he came to stand beside me. I looked up into his eyes. He stopped, seeing my crestfallen appearance, and took my hand, his tone gentle and concerned. "Eva, do you want me to take you home?"
I looked away, trying to quell the ridiculous tears that threatened to spill over. You have no reason to feel this way! the last remaining rational part of my brain berated. From euphoric to despair in the space of an instant. I was a sick, twisted individual.
"I'm fine." My voice wobbled as a few tears escaped to trickle down my cheeks. I wiped them quickly away.
Will saw and pulled me into an embrace, cradling my head on his chest. "No, you're not fine," he said gently. "Tell me what's wrong."
I wrapped my arms around him, somehow feeling guilty for taking comfort in his embrace.
"Is someone bothering you?" he asked, a hard edge underlying his gentle tone. A slightly hysterical giggle burst out of my mouth before I could contain it. "No, not really," I sighed, pulling away. "I need to get to class."
"I'll walk you there."
"No!" I surprised myself with my vehemence. My heart gave a painful twist as I saw the shock and hurt in his eyes. "I just want to be alone, for now," I explained in a more rational voice. "To think." He still looked hurt. "I'll see you after class, ok?" I could almost hear the pleading tone in my voice.
He nodded once, his expression progressing to one of sad confusion at my once-again unfathomable mood swings. I turned and quickly walked away.
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