Note: NaNoWriMo is where writers work on a 50,000 word novel during the month of November without editing their work, including checking for spelling or punctuation. Therefore, my story The Swan & the Crow for NaNoWriMo is nowhere close to perfect. Please keep this in mind when reading this chapter and the rest of the chapters that will be following it. But I am open to hearing opinions on what I have written so far and am open to any feedback given. To read Chapter 3, click here.
Current word count: 15,359
I could not get her out of my head. Steph, the girl I had met at the party. It has been a couple of days since that night. And yet, I was still thinking of her as if the whole thing had happened yesterday. I thought of her long dark hair, her beautiful eyelashes, and the way she held herself while we danced. The look of joy in her beautiful eyes as we danced as if she did not have any other care in the world.
I could not stop thinking of her. The way she looked at me, the way she talked, her voice—everything. At the party, I was immediately pulled into the vicinity of her presence. After the party, all I wanted to do was see her again. See her face, hear her voice. Talk to her, confined in her my life, everything about it. Tell her all my secrets, all my desires. What I wanted from life, how normal I wish I was. How normal I wish everyone else treated me. How all I wanted to do was have a normal teenage life without too many expectations placed on me by others.
How I wanted to meet someone. Someone like Steph. A person who would not judge my past mistakes, would not judge me as a person. Who would accept me as I am, flaws and all.
Steph is the first person I have yet to meet who was not immediately obsessed with talking about Michele’s attempt at suicide. It has been a year since that incident and people still want to talk about it as if it was yesterday’s morning news.
But I remember perfectly how Steph reacted when I talked about it. She looked at me with sympathy in her eyes, as if she were sorry about what happened to me. She did not look at me with awe and admiration but instead seemed to understand where I was coming from. She understood everything. How saving my friend made me feel. How talking about it, even now, still brought on fresh waves of pain and shame. She understood how helpless I felt and how I was still able to make a difference despite everything.
It was as if Steph understood my pain and sorrow. Almost as if she had pain and sorrow in her life herself that she was still trying to live through. Pain and sorrow similar to mine.
And that would make sense, I thought to myself. After all, I am sure she has problems of her own like I do that she has to deal with. What they are, I am not sure myself because she did not confide in me like I did with her. But I am sure in due time, that I will find out the next time I see her.
The question is, I continued thinking, when will I see her again? She mentioned us seeing each other again at school, but I have no clue what the chances are of us meeting at school. After all, I have not seen her at Rockwell High School since I have been there myself.
Wait, I think. Does that mean she does not want to see me again then?
That thought hit me like a pin stabbing my finger. And with that thought, a feeling of fear and pain hit me directly in the chest. The possibility that she might not want to see me again never crossed my mind until now. To think that I opened myself up to her to be rejected, to not want to be sought out and seen, really hurt me.
But it is something I really have to think about. Because what if she does not want to see me again? What if, maybe, she was just being friendly in saying that she would want to see me again? What if she was listening to me because she felt obliged to and in reality, she wants nothing more to do with me because I scared her off?
That is something I have to think about and accept. While the idea she might not want to see me again stings, I have to accept that she might possibly feel that way.
After all, we just had one night together. She could be thinking anything about me other than what I hope she is thinking. I just have to hope for the best and believe that everything will work out in the end.
I am at school the next time I see Steph. She is far away in the distance, almost as if I am seeing her in my dreams. It has been exactly four days since I saw her at the party. It feels almost like a lifetime ago, yet I know what happened that night is real. Proof of that is seen in her pretty face. She looks tired, almost as if she has not had a lot of sleep the past couple nights.
I see her as I am walking the halls, heading to my last class of the day. When I see her still far away, I stop in my tracks, look in her direction in the hope that she will notice and look back in my direction too. But she does not. She does not seem to notice because she looks as if she has had a rough couple days. She looks as if she wants to be alone, but also as if she needs someone to be there for her.
While my instincts say to go over to her, she is still very far away from where I am currently standing to go to class. And I know I will not get to her in time before I have to be in class.
But I am hopeful. Now that I have seen her, even if it is at a distance, I know I will see her again. I just have to wait and see what happens next.
I see Steph a couple more times whenever I am wandering the halls to my classes. Each time I see her, she seems to be looking a little better.
And I think she has seen me too. I have not gone completely unnoticed by her. Not yet. I do not know what exactly is going on between the both of us, why I feel compelled to want to talk to her again. What I do know is that I am becoming more and more hopeful that things will work out the way they are supposed to.
Because whenever I see her in the hallways, things have gone from us not acknowledging each other’s presence to giving each other a slight nod of the head or wave. Sometimes, I have even caught her giving me a smile before she heads to one of her classes. And each time I feel tempted to go after her, to call to her and ask if we can talk.
But I do not do it. I do not know why but I stop myself from going after her. I stop myself from talking to her, from asking if she wants to spend time together again.
I know part of it is fear, part nervous. I am fearful that if we talk again, I will open up again and make myself seem like a fool. At the same time though, I want to open up to her. I want to talk to her as if these past couple days never passed. As if time stood still and we did not miss any time talking to each other. But I am also nervous to do so too.
Because I like her. A lot. I know that now. I understand that is what I am feeling for her. From one night, Steph has changed me in ways I was not expecting. She has made me think, feel and act differently around people.
Since that night, I have changed. Not in a bad way, but I have become different. I know that now. My thoughts constantly gravitate to her, thinking of what she is doing, how she is feeling, and when will I see her again. My heart aches for her.
And I feel stupid. I feel stupid for feeling this way after spending one night with her. I feel silly because I have these feelings for someone I just met, someone I barely know. Yet, the feelings are there, I know for certain. And no matter how much I try, they will not go away. They will not disappear, no matter how much I ask them to.
All I can think about is her. Her and that night. Everything that happened, everything that was said, everything left unsaid. The way she looked at me, the way we danced together all through the night into the morning.
I can not get it out of my head. Any of it. I can not help but wonder what is going to happen next, how things are going to go from here.
And most importantly, when is the next time I will be seeing her again.
Because I want to see her again. I know that for certain just as certainly as I know the feelings I currently have for her. Just as deeply as I do not regret going to the party even though I have never done such things before. Because had I not gone to this party, I never would have met her. And this—none of this—would have happened.
At long last, we finally run into each other. Not in the hallway where we awkwardly acknowledge each other’s presence and do not say a word to each other. No, this time, we ran into each other in person. Literally.
It had been two weeks since the party when I saw Steph again. We were in the cafeteria, eating lunch, of all places to see each other again.
When I ran into her, it was completely unexpected. I had just finished eating lunch and was just about to throw my food away whenever Matt came over to where I was sitting. Along with him in the flesh was Steph.
It was as if my mind materialized her form in front of me. I felt as if I blinked, this would all be a dream and she would be gone, back to the hallway where we awkwardly said hello in unspoken syllables.
Instead, however, my mind took me back to the party. To the music, to the sounds. Everything, as if it all happened just yesterday.
But it did not. The party was two weeks ago, a lifetime ago. I felt as if I could finally breathe again now that Steph was so close to me.
Finally, we would talk again. After it had been so long since we had last spoken to each other. It felt as if we had left so many words left unspoken and that we needed to make up for that missing piece of time. And now we would, for certain. I would definitely make sure of that during this conversation.
But I had to play it cool in order to do so. Because I know Matt has no idea that Steph and I have already met each other.
“Hey Matt,” I said. “What brings you over to my side of the cafeteria? Do you usually sit outside to eat, especially whenever it is nice outside like it is today?”
Nice, I thought to myself. That is a good way to get things going. Let us see how this plays out and go from there.
“Well,” Matt said. “I am actually over here to introduce a friend to you.”
“She is someone I have actually been meaning to introduce to you for a while now because I think the two of you would get along,” he said with a wink, a mischievous twinkle in his eye. “But I just have not had the time. But anyway, Max, meet Steph.”
“And Steph,” he continued, pointing directly at me. “This is Max. He is a pretty cool guy, once you get to know him. Can be trouble sometimes too though so watch out for yourself around him, okay?”
“Okay, yeah, sure,” Steph said trying to keep herself from laughing at the look I gave her just now where I wiggled my eyebrows mischievously as if bad behavior was something I was commonly known for at Rockwell High School. “He definitely seems to be the definition of a ‘bad boy’ doesn’t he?”
“But yeah,” she continued. “I will try to keep my eyes on him. He definitely seems to smell of trouble so I am sure I will have to be careful around him.”
Matt tries to hold himself together, proud to have set the two of us up. He gives me a smug look as if he is proud that he has introduced the two of us though introductions were not necessary. Then again, Matt has no idea that we had already met at the party two weeks ago. Probably does not remember most of it anyway if he was too busy drinking while he was there.
Steph and I grin at each other back and forth, playing an invisible game with our minds that Matt does not seem to have caught on to. At least, not yet.
“Nice to meet you Steph,” I say in response, continuing the charade anyway so that Matt can have some pride in himself in setting this whole thing up.
Though truly, Jason should be the one getting all the credit. After all, it was at his party that Steph and I met to begin with. But whatever, does it really matter?
We shake hands, like what is normally done during introductions, trying my best not to giggle or say something stupid to clue the clueless Matt into what is going on here. And Steph just smiles.
And not any normal smile that I have ever seen. She lets out the most beautiful smile I have ever seen. It is a smile that makes any bad day good, any person that feels miserable happy once more. It was a ray of sunshine on my soul and made the growing fluttering of butterflies in my stomach increase tenfold.
I immediately become nervous, not really sure how she is going to respond to me pretending that I have not already met her yet. But looking at her now, she seems fine with it.
In many ways, it almost seems as if we are making a fresh start with each other. Almost like the party two weeks ago did not happen, though I would not wish that thought to cross her mind at all either.
But she is doing fine.
She shakes my hand real quick before responding.
“Hi, Max,” she says as she lets go of my hand. “It is very nice to meet you. I hope you have had a good day today and that you enjoyed your lunch. Would you mind me sitting with you? I know we just met and all, but Matt insists that we sit and each lunch together so we might as well make him happy, right?”
She winks at me to where Matt does not see it and lets out another mischievous smile to let me know that she is just playing along with Matt’s charade for now.
“So Matt,” she continues as she looks into my eyes. “Since you wanted us to eat together and talk, would you mind leaving us alone?”
Matt smiles once more and then says, “Sure that will not be a problem. I need to go find Becca anyway because I have something to ask her. Do you happen to know where she is Steph?”
“At our normal table,” she responds, pointing to one of the tables closest to the double doors leading out of the cafeteria and down the hallway to Rockwell High School.
As my eyes go to that table, I see both Allison and Becca looking over in our direction. Allison is looking at Steph and I with a smirk on her face as if she already knows we have met before and Becca’s eyes are focused on Matt with loving eyes. I see Allison quickly focus her gaze in my direction and she winks at me before her and Becca return to eating their food.
Well, I thought to myself. If I have learned anything from today, it is where Steph and her friends eat in the cafeteria. I have passed that table many times and have not noticed Steph at all. Weird, maybe she does not normally eat lunch at this time? Or maybe not very often?
“Okay, thanks,” he says as I return from my inward thoughts to focus on the conversation at hand. “I will go over there and say hi then. Have fun with Max here. I know you will.”
Before I or Steph can say anything else, Matt leaves us alone by heading over to the table where Steph normally eats with her friends.
As soon as Matt is gone with her friends, Steph lets out a sigh of relief.
“Sorry about that,” she says as I continue sitting there looking into her eyes. “I had to find a way of getting to talk to you. I did not know how else to do it other than pretending I wanted to meet you because of what you did to save your friend. Of course, Allison and Becca both know how full of shit I am with that, but it was the only thing I could think of to say that would persuade Matt to let me talk to you.”
“The reason I want to talk to you,” she continues. “Is because I want to thank you for the other night. For Jason’s party, I mean. I had a really good time and am glad I was able to meet you and get to dance with you that night. Since then, I have not been able to get that night out of my head. And the moments we see each other in the hallway were not really helping either.”
“Okay, what I am trying to say is that I like you. A lot. A lot more than I expected to. But even though I like you a lot, I think we should get to know each other a little more first before we do anything together, if you know what I am trying to say.”
She says this last part with a reddening blush growing on her face as if she has thought long and hard about this whole conversation and what she would say if this conversation were to happen.
But all I can think about is what she said. That she likes me too, just like I like her.
I can not believe it, I think to myself. She thinks the same way as me. She likes me too and even though she wants to get to know me first before we take things any further, she likes me. She likes me. She likes me. She likes me!
My thoughts are elevated to the highest level of ecstasy possible. How is it that I managed to meet a girl, a really great girl, for the first time, who likes me just as much as I do her? Yes, she does not want to be with me just yet, but there really is no rush anyway. Getting to know each other really is the best course of action right now. After all, we just met two weeks ago and we do not really know each other very well yet. I know I spilled my guts out to her at the party, but we still do not know each other very well so letting things take their course will definitely be the best decision all around for both of us.
And I am fine with this because she admitted that she too has really strong feelings for me. So even though there is no guarantee things will work out the way I hope, I am hopeful that everything will be alright.
“Yes,” I respond. “I completely understand what you are saying. And I feel the same. I like you a lot too. The party at Jason’s house two weeks ago was really amazing not because it was a party but because I got to meet you and spend my night with you. It was completely unexpected and I did not expect any of this to happen as a result. I especially did not expect to meet an incredible girl like you while I was there. You literally made my night and I hope we can continue spending time together even if it is as friends to begin with.”
“And I definitely understand why you want to be friends first before becoming more than friends,” I continue saying. “We barely know each other. I know that and you know that. We just met and we have not really said a whole lot to each other and yet, we have these feelings. And while I did open myself up to you at the party about Michele, you still do not know much else about me just like I do not know a whole lot about you either. All you know is what I have told you about myself so far and while I am okay with that, I know we need to take things slow.”
“Just know,” I continue. “That I have no idea how any of these type of things work. I have never had these type of feelings for anyone before I met you so I do not know how we can go about doing this. But I think that is something we can talk to each other about in the upcoming months as we continue exploring our feelings for each other and getting to know each other better.”
“And what we can do first,” I say. “Is sit here, right now, and talk. As long as you are okay with that Steph?”
I did not want to pressure Steph into wanting to talk to me right this minute if she did not want to. But I wanted to at least put the offer on the table since she was already here to see if she would be willing to begin getting to know each other while we were still in each other’s company. That way, we could talk in case we are unable to see each other again soon. I did not ask for the sake of rushing whatever it was we have, but to see if she was taking this conversation as serious as I was.
She nodded her head, understanding exactly where I was going with all of this.
“Yes,” she said with a smile blossoming on her face. “I completely agree. I feel as if that night was so long ago and it has been a really long time since we last talked that I think we should talk some more. I also have not felt this way about someone ever either so just getting to meet you has been an immense pleasure for me and I can not wait to see what this turns into in the next couple months.”
“Well, I am definitely glad we are on the same page then,” I say, trying my best to hold back the beaming smile I feel inside of me waiting to burst out. “But anyway, we do not have to talk about this right now. Let us enjoy lunch together and talk about whatever. Well, I will let you enjoy your lunch. I have already eaten my own lunch unfortunately so I will just be talking to you while you eat instead.”
“Anyway,” I continue. “How have you been doing these past couple weeks? How have classes been going?”
And this—this conversation—is how Steph and I started talking. We decided before taking our relationship or whatever this was to the next level that we would get to know each other better first.
And for the first three months, that is what we did. We got to know each other better and as time went on, we realized how much we liked each other and wanted to be around each other. While not dating at times was difficult, we both were okay with it. It allowed us the opportunity to talk, spend time together, and get to know each other all without the hassle of including romantic gestures and complicated feelings into the mix.
But soon enough, things were going to take an unexpected turn. A turn neither one of us were sure we wanted to take and that would change the course of both of our lives in ways neither one of us were ever expecting.
And it all started when we both started dating.