Author's Note: So chapter four is very small, and I realized my mistake after publishing it on wattpad -- and if you use wattpad you know that reads and votes are accumulated by chapter, so I didn't want to mash them together and lose the reads and votes I'd received from the fifth chapter. But I have put them together here for you.
Miraculously, Pete and I both happened to have a spare in second. We figured this out early in first period and decided that the best way to spend the hour would be to watch the basketball game in the gym. Students were invited to come and sit on the bleachers as long as it meant they weren't skipping class. Honestly, I wasn't one to enjoy sports, I just liked to think of how nice it felt to sit while they ran.
"So what do you think?" Pete asked, "Bagels or english muffins?"
"English muffins. Definitely," I replied as I grabbed a handful of cheerios from Pete's lunch kit.
A group of girls to our right, above us on the bleachers stood up and cheered as our team scored a goal. I looked over my shoulder at them just as they sat down, giggling with one another. One of them caught my eye, a brunette with blue eyes and rosy cheeks. She was pale as if made of porcelain, and her skin was so flawlessly clear, but it didn't seem as if she was wearing makeup at all. I could barely take my eyes away from her as I murmured, "Who's that?"
Pete turned to meet my gaze. "That is Eleanor Hopkins, though she seems to go by Nell."
She wasn't giggling with her friends anymore, but staring right at me. Her eyes were icy but full of life. She tucked a hair behind her ear, and turned her attention back to the game.
I faced Pete, "What?"
"What do you mean?"
"Dude," Pete pointed to the boy who was currently dribbling the ball, "See him? That's Chris Campbell."
"He's Nell's boyfriend."
Pete was staring at me expectantly.
I said, "and...?"
He quieted his voice a little and lowered his chin so he was looking at me from under his eyebrows. "Annnnd I saw you making googly eyes at her."
"Pfftt, what?" I leaned back in my seat with the balls of my palms on my thighs, "Dude, it's not even- I do not- I- I don't even know her."
"Whatever. Just don't go after her, okay? Campbell is just... not the guy you want to mess with."
"Okay," I said as I sat forward again, dropping a few cheerios into my mouth. "So what about you? Bagels or English muffins?"
"Bagels. Definitely bagels."
I chuckled and looked back at the girl I now knew as Nell. She was laughing with her friends, and met my glance. She smiled a little, and my eyes widened, and I turned back around. But really, I couldn't help but smile a little, too.
I just want to make it clear. If I would have known what was going to happen in the future, I never would have provoked her. I never would have let her provoke me. I never would have let her talk to me, I would have turned the other way until she finally realized that she was too good for me. That I didn't deserve her.
But honestly, even knowing what I know now, I still smile at the thought of the moment she asked my name.
We were in the gym. The bell for lunch had just gone and Pete and I were just making our way off the bleachers. When I turned around I noticed Eleanor Hopkins lacking behind her group of friends. She looked right at me. I turned to Pete who was still walking towards the door without a trace of the thought that I might not have been following behind him. I was debating whether or not I should abandon him for the girl named Nell. The choice was made for me as I heard a delicate voice call out, "Hey!"
I sucked my lips inward to force my grin away, turning around with a pasted slight look of confusion.
There she was. Eleanor Hopkins. She had a white straight-toothed smile. One that had depth, like she genuinely felt happy in that moment. Or maybe it was just me, trying to fill up a hole that hadn't even been dug. Well, yet.
"You're new here," the girl said very matter of factly, but with a twinge of curiosity.
"Yeah, yeah I am."
Wow. What a romantic. More, Ben! Say something.
"I..." I stumbled. I was already hitting myself for this. "I moved here a few weeks ago, but today's my first day."
"Oh, where'd you move from?"
"Just a small town," I rubbed my arm nervously, "You probably wouldn't know it."
To think at that point I actually believed that. Like she was some other worlder, that she would never stoop down to my level to understand the small town where I grew up. It wasn't like she grew up in a mansion or anything but, clearly I believed that she had been raised in a castle.
"What's your name?"
"Hmm?" My eyes have been at the floor, imagining the unicorns and gryphons she must have had as childhood pets.
"Your name?" She chuckled, grasping a notebook tightly to her chest.
"Um, Ben. Benjamin. Uh, Flenderson."
"Ben," she smiled. "What are you doing for lunch, Ben?"
I opened my mouth to speak when I felt a hand grab my shoulder. Anxiety fell on me like a bucket of ice water, then a shiver of relief. Pete.
"Benny's with me, darling. Care to join?"
Benny? Darling? Okay, maybe I'd only known Pete a couple of hours, but darling? Straight out of a bad chick flick. And his arm was slung over my shoulder. What was that about?
"Actually, I have plans. But maybe another time." She pulled her attention back to me, the awkward kid under Pete's arm. "I'll see you later?"
"Yeah, I'll see you." I watched her as she walked away and rejoined her group, whom of which were chattering away with the basketball team. She was met by a boy, one of the team players who I knew, thanks to Pete, to be Chris Campbell. He hooked his fingers into the loops of her jeans and kissed her on the mouth. A peck. But enough to wipe away the smile on my face.
"What are you doing?" Pete asked accusingly.
"What am I doing? What are you doing?"
"What do you mean?"
"The whole Benny, and oh darling, and that shoulder thing. What were you-" I paused. My eyes grew wide and my mouth turned into a large grin, "you like her."
"I do not."
"Yeah you do."
"No, I don't. I have a girlfriend." Pete crossed his arms over his chest defensively.
"Oh, yeah? Who?"
"You wouldn't know her."
We began to walk out of the gym together.
"Yeah 'cause she doesn't exist."
"She does so."
"She's from Canada."
"That's what they all say."
I threw my head back and laughed, a real laugh. A genuine laugh. One that my body had longed for after such an exhausting absence.
I wondered dazedly if the girl was watching me, maybe laughing too. Even though she had a boyfriend, this Campbell boy, I hoped she'd seen me one last time as I exited the gym, and smiled.