“Do you have everything?”
Mom turns down the radio as she pulls into the parking lot of Nathan Hale High School.
Her overpriced Ray Ban sunglasses shield her eyes, her perfectly manicured hands holding onto the steering wheel.
She pulls up next to the curb, pushing her sunglasses up to rest on her head.“Well?”
“Yeah.” I nod and gather my bag off of the floor.
Mid-pull, the strap gets stuck on the bottom of the chair, completely tearing away from the rest of the worn out material. I drop it on the ground and lean back in the seat.
I squeeze my eyes shut, the familiar burn of tears stinging them.
I refuse to cry.
“What?” I don’t even bother opening my eyes.
I grind my teeth and breath unsteadily through my nose. I try to calm myself, but with my heart slamming against my ribs and my hands clutched tightly into fists at my side, it seems nearly impossible.
I can hear her fishing around in the back seat, no doubt looking for her phone or wallet.
“Here. Take this. Now, come on. I can’t be late for work on my first day. And, honestly, neither can you. Is that the way you want to come off on your first day?”
I peel my eyes open and look at her. She is holding out a large bag, the Gucci symbol embedded in the front. Too gaudy and large, made of clunky metal.
“I don’t want it.” I mumble and shift my things around in my backpack so they are favoring the unripped side.
“Just take the damn bag,Wren. I don’t have time for this today.”
I look over at her. Her thin lips are pursed tightly as she holds the bag out to me. I take it from her hands and quickly move my things over, not a single word slipping past my lips. “Don’t forget to take the bus home. I’ll be late tonight. There’s twenty dollars on the counter. Order something for dinner.” She spoke as I pushed open the passenger side door.
“I have rehearsals today. The show is tonight…”
She sighs and turns off the radio.
“Wren, I am sorry, but I can’t make every silly little play you perform in. Okay? Work is really important to me. I love you, but I am not dealing with this. Got it?”
I nod and step out, slamming the door shut behind me. Flakes of chipped paint flutter towards the ground.
I listen to the fading of the engine before turning to the school.
Looking at it, the building looks boring, made of red brick and brownstone blocks . Barely holding together.. The staircase leading to the doors look worn down and sun-bleached. The windows on the building itself scratched and fogged over.
The people inside were almost as broken as the school. Only they covered their flaws with layers of makeup and designer jeans. It’s almost like the halls are infested with the cast of some MTV reality disaster. All short skirts, arrogant boys, and sneers..
By the time I had climbed the steps and pushed open the doors, the cold had already seeped through my thin jacket. The flannel a joke in regards to warmth. I shivered as the heat from AC contradicted my fallen body temperature. The lady at the desk looked up and smiled at me. Her graying hair was pulled back in a tight bun and her narrow reading glasses sat perched lowly on the bridge of her nose.
“You’re late again, Ms.Declan. “ She sighs, fingers dancing across her keyboard.
“I know, I’m sorry.” I push my hair out of my eyes. “I woke up late and my car wouldn’t start.”
“One of these days, you’re going to run out of excuses.”
She hands me a tardy slip and returns her attention back to her computer, almost as if I was never there.
Mrs. James and I have a rocky relationship to say the least.
Nearly every day I come in late, and nearly every day she is left to hear the sob story of the morning. Neither of us were particularly fond of the other, but we didn’t have much room for change.
I roll my eyes and push into the hallway.
My body feels as if it moves on its on the entire way to class. Before I know it, I’m situated in the back of Mrs. Hawks’ room, backpack hung across the back of my chair and the other students spilling in.
A familiar face saunters in, eyes immediately sticking on me.
A small smirk seemed to play on the corners of his lips.
It unnerved me.
I was never the girl boys seemed to become infatuated.
Evan Jensen should be no exception.
He looked like the kind of boy girls would go crazy over. Green eyes, short brown hair, and lips that could hypnotize anyone.
Mrs. Hawks wasted no time pointing out my seat and diving into her lesson. She flipped the lights off and switched the projector on, beginning to explain what tomorrow had in store for us.
The familiar crack of thunder rumbled outside. My eyes immediately found themselves locked onto the windows on the other side of the room,
When I was little, I used to find peace in the rain. Whenever the sky turned gray and the playground wasn’t an option for the day, mom would pull out board games and movies. She made a day out of it. Music would be playing softly in the background as I watched the drops race down the window, competing to see who could escape the glass first. That was when things has been simple. Mom had been a stay-at-home parent. Dad worked from nine to five, and was time in home for dinner. Tommy and I would argue over whose drop was going to beat the other’s to the where the glass ended and the brick started. Through the window on the far side of the classroom, I watch as the first drops began to hit the pane.
“Now, our next project is a themed short story.”
The projector illuminates the screen.
“But, there’s a catch.”
Classic. Anyone who has ever taken one of her classes knows this is code for one of two things: one, something so easy it’s mind numbing, or two, your one way ticket to a failing grade.
It wasn’t necessarily a bad thing.
She liked to push us outside of our comfort zones and give us chances to test our limits.
“I will be partnering you guys up. Each group will have a different emotion to use as inspiration for their story. Any questions?”
No one speaks up.
“Good. Yasmine, you’re with Gracie. Kevin and Thomas you guys can partner up. Jamie and Max…”
I zone out as she continues, leaning my head in my hands.
The tree outside the window taps the glass.
The sound is almost soothing, combining with the storm raging outside and the hushed conversations bubbling up around the classroom as Mrs. Hawks continued to partner people up.
“And, Evan, you can work with Wren.”
I look back at him, the rain forgotten.
I never really understood the concept of attraction.
I had seen the way movies and media portrayed it, but it never seemed to have the happily ever after that was promised to the character from the beginning. Somewhere along, things always managed to fall apart. It seemed like fighting a battle you were sure to lose. I never got the point of willingly putting yourself through that.
The break was inevitable, just like the pain it left behind.
But, looking at Evan, I could see why people seemed to fall for him at a single glance.
He has these greens eyes that couldn’t really be considered green. They were more than that. They were forest and emerald and sage. The irises even had these little golden flecks hidden in them, only visible if you really looked at him.
He has a kind smile. While most boys seem to walk around with a cocky smirk playing on the corners of their lips, the curve of his is genuinely friendly.
His shaggy blonde curls fall across his forehead in a way that looks too planned out to be natural.
If you knew him well enough, you’d know this is one of those situations where looks can be deceiving.
It isn’t much worth to have a pretty face when what’s on the inside is ugly.
“Been awhile, Declan.”
I look up at him, watching the way his arms flex as he pulls the empty desk next to me closer before sitting down.
“A whole ten minutes since class started.”
He cracks a smile as he opens his journal, slipping the letterman jacket off of his shoulders.
Mrs. Hawks walks from desk to desk, holding out a small bucket. When she reaches us, Oliver wastes no time reaching in and pulling out a folded sticky note.
“What’d we get?” His grins grows impossibly wider, dimples indenting his cheeks. He unfolds the note and lets his eyes scan the words.
The end of my pen taps against the desk in an easy rhythm. I gaze at him expectantly.
I seize the opportunity to memorize the curves of his face. His chin and jaw are dusted with peach fuzz, as if he hasn’t shaved in a few days. His jaw line itself is sharp and defined. His cheeks have the slightest hint of freckles.
There was no denying Evan Jensen was gorgeous.
“Come on.” I huff out, slouching in my seat. “Just tell me.”
“Love.” He shakes his head, sending his curls swaying across his forehead. “We have love.”
“You’re lying.” My jaw hangs open. “Let me see.”
I snatch the little slip out of his hand to see for myself. Scrawled across it in flowery cursive is a single word: hate.
“You liar.” I shake my head and hand him the slip back.
“What can I say? There is a fine line between love and hate.” He shrugs, the smile he had worn since he sat down gone, only the forced curve of his lips left in its place.
I scribble down a few notes. Nothing much other than a few things that come to mind when I hear the word hate.
When they cancel good TV shows.
Authors who write sequels way too slow; or that don’t live up to the first book.
I set my pencil back down and eye the list, considering our options.
I think break-ups are too common. Everyone could use any logical emotion to describe a relationship.
Love. Confusion. Hatred.
Although a unique topic, getting your TV show canceled isn’t a problem everyone has. Most people seem to follow the trend in what’s popular, and shows that get as much views as those will be running for years- whether they’re actually good or not.
Cold food is pretty bad, but-
“You know this is a partner project, right?” Evan’s voice snaps me out of my thoughts.
I look over at him.
He looks amused.
“Yeah, I mean, of course I do. Just brainstorming.”
“What does the mysterious Wren Declan hate?”
“You don’t know me. I shouldn’t be a mystery.” I shrug off his words.
I can feel the wall coming back up. I was wrong. I had been vulnerable.
“I’d like to believe I know you pretty well. We’ve been in the same school since 7th grade.” He looks almost proud of himself.
“Oh, yeah? So you’re some kind of expert on me?”
He leans back in his seat, folding his hands at the back of his neck. His lips transform to a cocky smirk.
People like him were all the same.
They cared about how many notches they had in their bedpost, what kind of car they drove, and how many friends they had.
I don’t know why I had thought he was different. That stupid smirk told me all I needed to know: I was wrong.
Bile rises up in my throat. A wave of nausea washes over me, drowning me in the sick feeling pooling in my stomach.
The sound of the bell echoing from the hall fills the classroom. I stand and smooth down the front of my jeans, hoping to dry off my sweaty palms.
Evan grabs onto my upper arm and pulls me back. His eyebrows are drawn and his jaw clenched, making it seem more defined. I never really noticed he had freckles, but standing this close, I could see them dusted across his nose and cheeks.
“Hey, look. I’m sorry. I was just kidding, you know?”
His eyes seem soft as they search my face.
I can feel the heat of his palm seeping through my shirt, warming my skin.
“Yeah.” I nod and look around the classroom, focusing on anything but him.
The room was empty. Even Mrs. Hawks seemed to have slipped off.
We were the only two left, standing in the middle of the sea of desks under the harsh glow of the fluorescent lights.
If this were a movie, he would take me in his arms, and beg me to stay. He would say that though the time we have known each other has been short, he knows I am the one for him. He would promise to get to know the real me. He would plead for a chance.
But this isn’t a movie or some cheap romance novel.
Happily ever after wasn’t that easy.
“Seriously,W. Don’t take things so personally. It was a joke. Fucking lighten up every now and then.” He scoffs.
“What?” I snap, rage igniting a fire in my veins. “Why don’t you learn to grow up, Evan? God, you’re so...so…”
“Annoying! Frustrating! You get under my skin!”
He takes in a harsh breath, mouth hanging agape. His eyes search my face as if he’s looking for something. Some kind of sign.
I shrug off his hand on my arm. “Just leave me alone, okay?”
“I can’t do that.”
“Why does it matter? You have girls drooling over you! Can’t you just get one of them to fawn over you? Listen, I’m really not in the mood ri-”
“Shut up, Declan.”
“If you don’t shut up, I swear to God, I’m going to kiss you.”
He had to be messing with me. Waiting for me to lean in or close my eyes before laughing at me for being so gullible. Guys like him didn’t go with girls like me. I was a drizzle, and he was a downpour.
The determined look in his eyes, though, told me otherwise.
His hands grab at my waist, pulling me flush against him. He smells like mint and something fresh, like freshly mown grass. It was hard to imagine that combination working on anyone else, but when it came to Evan, it did. It worked.
“Evan, what are yo-”
He cuts me off, his lips pressing against mine.
I feel limp in his arms, unmoving and frozen where I stand.
Too soon, he pulls back.
“Why did you do that?”
He takes a step back and rubs the back of his neck, a shy smile transforming his face. I had seen many sides of him before, but shy was new.
“I told you...if you didn’t shut up, I was going to kiss you.”