I remember the first time I ever saw Reid Thorne. It was the first day of sixth grade. He had just moved to our small town of Clearvale. The classroom erupted in a flurry of whispers and giggles as our teacher, Ms. Green, introduced the new student. I remember thinking he was the cutest boy ever. He had the biggest, brightest green eyes I had ever seen. His hair was black as night, and there was lots of it that hung into his eyes.
“Everyone, this is Reid Thorne. He just moved here from Vancouver with his family. Let’s all say hello and make him feel welcome.”
Ms. Green smiled her brightest as we all said, "Hi Reid!" in unison. All the girls sighed as he shyly raised a hand in a weak wave, his face turning scarlet.
“Hi,” he said quietly.
Taking pity on him, Ms. Green pointed to an empty desk next to me, and Reid quickly went to it as twenty pairs of eyes followed him.
“Would anyone like to show Reid around this afternoon?” Ms. Green asked, and almost all hands went up, including mine.
Ms. Green’s eyes quickly scanned the room, and her eyes landed on me.
“Hadley, would you do the honors?”
There was an audible groan of disappointment from various students, and a couple of girls complained quietly, probably upset that they were not chosen to spend time with the exciting new face.
“Yes, Ms. Green,” I squeaked, and I felt my face heat with embarrassment. I couldn't believe Ms. Green had actually chosen me.
“Alright, it’s settled then. Now class, let’s get started with today’s lessons,” she turned away from the class and started writing on the chalkboard.
As everyone turned to pay attention, I looked over at Reid and offered him a kind smile and shrug. He flashed a small, dimpled smile at me and nodded. That's when I found my very first crush.
Later, Reid and I were given leave twenty minutes before lunch hour so that I could give him a short tour of the school. I was sure that Ms. Green had chosen me because I was one of the few students in her class that did not waste time. I’d never been in trouble at school before, and I was pretty shy and generally kept to myself.
Reid was quiet and occasionally nodded as I pointed out the different classrooms around our small school that went from kindergarten to eighth grade. I asked him about his family. He told me that he had a brother in the eighth grade and a little sister in the fourth grade, but he didn’t say much else. I showed him the cafeteria, the music room, and the gym. It wasn’t a huge place, and the tour was complete just as the lunch bell rang.
“I guess I’ll see you in class,” I said to Reid when we reached the cafeteria doors, fully expecting him to be eager to be rid of me.
I usually sat with my best friend Julia, who was one grade above me.
I knew that Reid would probably get a million invites to join the cool kids at their tables. I started to walk away from Reid when I heard him.
“Hey, wait!” I stopped and turned to look at Reid, who looked slightly distressed.
“Can’t I have lunch with you? I don’t know anybody here,” he asked me.
“Um sure, of course, if you want to,” I smiled shyly at him, feeling a little gleeful.
I guessed that I should enjoy it while I could because soon enough, the popular kids would scoop him up and I’d never get to speak to him again.
We walked to the counter together and put our lunches on our trays. I was aware of the many eyes on us as we walked together to my regular table near the back of the room. We took a seat, and soon my friend Julia joined us.
“Hi, Julia! This is Reid, Reid, and this is my friend Julia. She is in the grade above us,” I made the introductions, and Julia smiled brightly. I caught her eyeing him up with appreciation.
“Hi, Reid, nice to meet you!”
“Reid is new. He just moved here,” I told her.
“Hi,” he mumbled as he took a bite of his sandwich.
His back was facing the room, and I could see a table full of my female classmates, all of them glaring in my direction, probably upset that Reid had chosen to sit with us.
Once we had hit grade six, all of a sudden everyone started to ‘go out.’ I didn’t know if I quite got it yet. Everyone who ‘went out’ just held hands at lunch and recess, and it lasted for about two weeks tops before they’d like someone else. I found it kind of funny, although this was the first time I’d actually felt like I wanted to be someone’s girlfriend too.
“So, where do you live then?” Julia asked him curiously.
“Um, thirty-first and Brown I think, we just moved here a week ago, so I’m still learning the area,” he answered politely.
“Really? Hadley lives on that block too. Maybe you’re neighbors!” Julia exclaimed almost too excitedly. Reid looked at me and smirked, seemingly amused or embarrassed by Julia’s outburst.
“Yeah? Which house is yours?” he asked me. I fidgeted nervously with my juice bottle.
“Mine is the small white one on the corner with the porch and blue shutters, and the big blue truck on the driveway,” I told him, mentally trying to remember if I had seen any moving trucks nearby lately.
“Oh yeah? Ours is the big brown house about three doors down. Guess we are neighbors,” he smiled a small smile at me. Was he happy about this?
Julia looked at me and then at Reid, then back at me again.
“Awesome! That’s great news, isn’t it Hadley?” she grinned.
I frowned at her. I knew she was trying to help me out, but did she need to be so blatant?
“Oh yeah, that’s cool,” I nodded, trying to play it cool.
I don’t know if I entirely pulled it off.
The small talk continued throughout lunch. Reid pointed out his older brother who had already been incorporated with the popular eighth graders. He was tall for his age, and his looks were very similar to Reid’s with thick black hair and dimples. You could see the relation. His little sister was on the farthest edge of the cafeteria sitting with a table full of other fourth-graders, but all I could see of her was her black hair done up into pigtail braids.
“Wow! You guys all look alike,” Julia commented.
“Yeah, we look like my dad. We all inherited his hair,” Reid ran a hand through his locks, and I almost swooned.
He was just so cute. He reminded me of a teen idol off of one of my magazines. Reid caught me staring at him, and I quickly looked down at my tray of food as I felt my face heat up. Oh my god! I didn’t want him to think I was some kind of staring weirdo.
The bell rang, alerting us that it was time to get back to class. Julia left us, and Reid and I made our way back to class wordlessly. We paused outside the doorway of our classroom.
“Thanks for having lunch with me,” Reid smiled at me.
“Your wel…” I got cut off as Taylor Bennett, the most popular girl in our grade, pushed by me to go into the classroom.
She stopped and flipped her long blond hair around and turned to look at Reid.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t see you standing there, Hadley,” she gushes disingenuously, “Hi Reid, I’m Taylor.”
She stepped in between us and held out her hand to Reid. So here it was: the end to my short friendship with Reid. I just crept behind Taylor and went into the classroom. I caught a peek of Reid from the corner of my eye as Taylor talked his ear off, and he looked over at me, and smiled, apologetically I think. I just shrugged and took my seat, resigned to my role as a dork.
I walked home from school every day by myself. My house was only a few blocks away from the school. My mom used to drop me off until I had finally convinced her that I was old enough to walk to school and back by myself. I stared at the ground, my hair hanging in my face, daydreaming as I usually did. I walked down the sidewalk leading off of school property when I hear an unfamiliar voice calling out to me from behind. Confused, I stopped and turned around to see who was calling me. I was surprised when I saw that it was Reid. He jogged the small distance between us until he reached me.
“Hi Reid,” I smiled weakly at him.
“Hey, Hadley. Wanna walk home together?” he asked me.
“Really?” I asked disbelievingly.
“Sure, why not? We’re neighbors, aren’t we?” he asked, looking a little confused by my reaction.
“I thought you’d be walking with Taylor and her friends or something.”
I started walking forward again, and he walked alongside me.
“Why would I be walking with them?”
“I just figured you’d rather hang out with Taylor and her friends.”
“Why?” he asks me, and I sigh.
Does he not know how the popular crowd works?
“I’m not very popular, but they are,” I stop and look at him, waiting for him to realize this and take off.
Taylor Bennett and her group of friends had been responsible for making me feel as left out as possible since third grade.
“Actually, I thought Taylor was kind of annoying and rude. I’d rather hang out with you,” he says, and I think he looked almost…hopeful?
“Really? Everyone else seems to like her a lot."
“Nah,” he said with a shrug.
“So you don’t walk with your brother and sister?” I asked him, trying to make conversation because frankly, I didn’t know what to talk about with him.
“No, my mom picks up my little sister, and I think my brother has made new friends already, so I don’t think he wants me hanging around. Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
“Nope. It's just my mom and me.” I told him.
“Your parents are split up?”
“No. My dad died when I was little," I revealed.
"Oh. I... I'm sorry," He stammered.
"It's okay. I don't really remember him. It was a long time ago."
I tried to steer the conversation towards Reid since this topic always made me a little uncomfortable.
“So what brought your family here to Alberta?” I asked.
“My dad got a better job with an oil company, so we moved here.”
“How do you like it so far?”
“It’s alright, but I miss the mountains, and my friends,” he said, glancing at me.
“Yeah, I guess it’s pretty flat here, and I’m sure you’ll meet some new friends soon.”
“Well, I hope I have at least one friend already,” he chuckled.
I hadn’t seen him really talking to anybody else, but I hoped that he meant me.
He shoved me playfully with his shoulder and shook his head.
“Oh!” I squeaked, embarrassed that I didn’t get it.
“You don’t think much of yourself, do you?”
“Well, you get used to being told you’re a dork often enough, you start to believe it.”
“I don’t think you’re a dork. I think you’re nice- and I think you’re pretty too,” Reid said quietly.
I felt my face go red. Did he really just say that to me? Nobody had ever said that to me.
“I don’t think I’m pretty, but Taylor is pretty,” I countered.
I thought of the comparison of her to me. She was tall and skinny with long blond hair and blue eyes, and she had developed boobs already. She was the classic definition of pretty. Me, on the other hand, I was still short for my age, and my boobs hadn’t come in yet. I had plain brown hair and brown eyes. Nothing was fascinating about me in my opinion, and everyone else’s for that matter…until now apparently.
“She’s okay, but I still think you’re prettier.”
He smiled so sweetly at me, and I could see in his expression that he truly meant it. I didn’t know what to say, and so I just blushed and grinned like a fool.
“Thanks, Reid, that’s really nice of you to say that,” I whispered, having trouble finding my voice. I felt a funny feeling in my belly, like butterflies, and my hands felt clammy.
“Don’t mention it,” he chuckled.
We walked forward for a couple more minutes in silence, and every so often, he’d walk close enough that I felt his hand brush against mine. I found myself wishing I could hold his hand, but I would never have felt brave enough to do that.
As if he was reading my mind, I felt Reid slip his fingers through mine, without saying a word. I stopped walking and stared at our entwined hands.
“Is this okay?” he asked me, as I just stared awkwardly at our hands.
I finally looked up and met his stare, and all I could do was smile.
“Okay then,” he gave my hand a small tug, and we headed on home.