I’ve wandered a bit too far from my creative writing task and have entered into a dream world once again. I tend to live there when my reality isn’t as bright. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Rory. Did he really mean what he said earlier - that he wants us to be friends?
Ricky’s eyes are on me. “Class is over.”
I glance around, only to find rows of empty chairs. “Oh... sorry, I’ll get going.”
I take a few steps closer to the door and then remember my plans to ask him about a partner switch. “Sir, there’s actually something I wanted to talk to you about.”
Ricky stops sorting through the papers on his desk to look at me. “Go ahead.”
“I’m all for supporting diversity and equality and whatnot.” I hope that he’ll at least hear me out. “But please can you pair me with somebody else for the project?”
Ricky shakes his head and my stomach does that disappointed flip. “Grayson was just asking me the same question.”
That little weasel. He beat me to the punch. I wanted to be the one to ask for a partner switch first.
“And my answer hasn’t changed Skye. Nobody is switching. You two are not the only students in this class. If I were to make changes, everybody else would be wanting to swap and the whole point of this project would be for nothing.”
I clutch my folder tightly, willing myself not to cry. His tone softens. “Skye, you may not see it now, but this might be the breakthrough that you need. You’re a good writer, but I’ve always felt like you hold yourself back. You need to find your muse. You need to ask yourself, what makes you stand out from the crowd?”
My eyes are watery. I might never find my voice as a writer and if I don’t, then what hope is there?
“Maybe I’m just not cut out for this,” I say, feeling sorry for myself.
“One thing you are not, is a quitter. I’ve learned that about you over the last couple of months. Don’t be so afraid to let people get to know you. I feel like that’s your downfall. This project is all about sharing experiences. Once you can do that, you’ll truly be on your way.”
I wait for the door to close behind me, before I rush to the toilets and spend the next ten minutes crying inside a cubicle. Once I’ve managed to calm myself down, I put my ‘neutral’ mask back on and make my way out.
Nobody asks if I’m okay. Nobody suspects I’m upset. I’ve become a master of disguising my emotions, not that that’s a good thing. The crowds of people become a blurry mass of colour and I’m just tailing after them, another person that doesn’t belong – another person pretending that she does.
From opposite sides is still going ahead and I can’t see me and Grayson being able to work together on a professional level. No matter how much I’ve tried persuading Ricky for a new partner, he won’t budge. So, I’m stuck with Grayson whether I like it or not and I’ve got to make it work somehow.
I’m waiting in the library for Grayson to arrive. He said he’d be here ages ago. Any longer and I’m out of here. I’m the one that had to ask him to meet. And if he doesn’t show, then why did I even bother?
The door to the library opens and Grayson enters, turning some heads as he scopes the room. His eyes narrow as soon as he sees me and for a long moment we’re exchanging death glares between us.
Then he smirks in a way that is far from friendly and I fight the urge to roll my eyes or pull a face.
We have to answer the question sheet that Ricky gave us in the previous lesson and then summarize what we’ve learned about the other person to the front of the class on deadline day. Most of these questions are personal and totally out of my comfort zone. I’m not sure I can answer them honestly. It’s going to be my biggest challenge yet.
I roll my eyes as Grayson sits opposite, like he hasn’t just wasted my time. He doesn’t present me with an excuse for why he’s late either, which only fuels my anger.
I watch as he pulls out his iPhone, typing away on the keypad. I may as well be invisible.
I tap my nails against the table, expressing my annoyance. “Ahem.”
“What?” he grunts, from behind his illuminated screen.
“As much as I would like to sit here and watch you send messages to your girlfriend, I’ve got more important things to be doing. Are we going to get to work or what?”
Grayson sighs heavily, placing his phone on the table. “Yes Miss Trunchbull.”
I breathe heavily through my nostrils as I flip to a new page in my notebook and try softening my approach. “Look, I know this isn’t ideal for either of us. But I’m sure you want to pass as much as I do. We can’t let our own issues with each other get in the way of doing our absolute best.”
Grayson pauses for a second and then cracks a smile. “You deserve an award for that speech Clemons. It was so emotional.”
I shoot him an unamused look. “Ha, you’re hilarious!”
“Thanks. I do try.”
“It wasn’t a compliment.”
I grind my teeth together. “On a serious note, when you’re done being a child, I suggest we start answering these questions.”
“Let me see.” Grayson snatches the paper from under my hands. He reads over the small print and then he laughs. “Wow, a five-year-old could have come up with better questions than this.”
I snatch it back off him. “Well, this is what we’ve been given, so let’s not complain.” I search for a question that isn’t too personal.
“What are you most grateful for?” I ask him, realizing how lame that sounds.
He scratches his cheek, eyes to the floor. “This is stupid.”
I can’t argue, but he’s not even trying. “Whether or not the questions are to your particular taste or to the highest standard is beside the point. I care about us answering them quickly, so we can both move on with our lives.”
“What did you ask me again? I wasn’t listening.”
My eyes shoot up to the ceiling in agitation. “What are you most grateful for?”
Grayson chews on the tip of his pen and answers by saying, “My money probably.”
That is such a typical thing for him to say. I should have seen it coming. “Really? That’s it?”
“In this day and age, you need money for everything. I’m grateful that my family have enough to keep us going and that I’ve got a nice home to live in.”
I almost slip up and tell him I’ve already been to his fancy mansion and that it wasn’t all that. I’m sure it would have given him the shock of the century. I choose not to say anything though. He doesn’t need to know about that... ever.
“That’s such a shallow thing to say,” I say instead.
Grayson exhales. “You don’t wear jealousy well Skye. I need to put that on record for future reference.” He starts writing in his notebook. I lean forward, trying to catch what he’s jotting down in there but he’s blocking my view.
I’m forced to retreat. “Hey! What did you write?”
“I’m making a note of your jealous behaviour. It’s not an attractive trait. I’ve just learned something about you.”
“You think that I’m jealous of what you have?” I can’t hold back the laugh that leaves me. “Trust me, that couldn’t be further from the truth. There is more to life than riches.”
“So, money is of no interest to you? Is that what you’re saying?”
“That’s not what I’m saying at all. I just don’t see how life has to revolve around a figure, when there are more important things to be thinking about.”
“Like what?” he argues. “Almost everything we do requires money. It’s a priority. Without it, we couldn’t do anything.”
Grayson is blinded by his rich lifestyle and therefore, couldn’t possibly emphasize with a poor community such as ours. He has no idea what it’s like to worry about paying the rent, electricity bills or buying food to last the week. He’s probably never had to worry about it, because he’s got his whole life handed to him on a silver platter.
Grayson relies on money to carry him through every experience. But does it bring happiness? Does having the best clothes and the best car and the best house define a happy heart? It may bring glitz and glamour and all that comes with it, but some of the richest people are known to be miserable. They have everything, and yet it’s not enough.
“Money is important. I’ll agree with you there.” Grayson’s mouth turns up at the sides triumphantly. I don’t want him thinking I’ve backed down. “But it won’t solve your biggest problems. Wealth doesn’t last forever, not like love does.”
Grayson is staring with a newfound curiosity. “What are you most grateful for then, seeming as you are the expert?”
I don’t even have to think about it. I already know what I’m most grateful for. “My mother,” I say, watching his eyes widen momentarily. “She has her flaws. But she’s been through a lot. She had to raise me as a single parent and that’s not an easy thing to do. I appreciate everything she’s done for me and all the sacrifices she’d had to make.”
Even though there have been times where she hasn’t been the best parent and I’ve had to watch her health disintegrate, I love her more than anything. I blame my dad for a lot of it. I don’t know who he is or what happened to him, because it’s such a touchy subject.
I’ve thought about him a lot over the years though, but he’s not even worth my time. There’s no point wasting my breath on someone who missed a chunk of my life and could possibly have another family living on the other side of the world.
A tiny frown tugs at Grayson’s face and it seems he’s struggling to find the words. Eventually he comes out with, “That’s nice.”
“Wow, are you actually being pleasant for a change?”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself.”
At least we’ve gone past stage one – getting to know the basic stuff and I mean borderline basic. Simplicity can sometimes work better than jumping in at the deep end. And as long as we work up the ladder slowly, this should be achievable for the both of us.
Grayson’s eyes are suddenly flickering with amusement, as he reads some more of the questions.
“What’s your biggest fear?” he asks.
This is something I have trouble answering because I have too many fears to name. I fear losing mum every day. I have a fear of failing. I fear the unknown and not knowing what’s around the corner. But mostly, I fear getting hurt and rejected.
“Uh, I don’t like dogs,” I confirm, not wanting to share my true feelings on the matter.
“Care to elaborate?”
I place my lips firmly together. “I had an incident with one when I was younger.”
“Must’ve riled the dog up pretty bad.” Of course, he would defend the animal.
“He attacked me! I still have nightmares of him trying to bite my hand off!”
“Can you blame the fella? He probably felt threatened by you and was defending his animal rights.”
I narrow my eyes and present him with a heavy glare. “I was deeply traumatized.”
There isn’t an ounce of sympathy in his expression. “I bet the dog was too.”
I wave him away. “Your turn. What are you scared of?”
I don’t believe that for a second. “Everybody’s scared of something Grayson. You’re not a macho man, you’re a human being.”
He glances out the window. “I guess I fear losing what I have.” I beckon him to continue. “And, I’m scared of death.”
I clap my hands together. “See! It’s not so bad being honest, is it?”
“No.” He shakes his head. “It’s worse.”