My eyes flick over to the right doors of the cafeteria and scan over the room once more. The packed cafeteria bustles with the noise of a hundred teenagers that enjoy the one period they have to relax. Lunch.
A bunch of Grade nine girls giggle, gossip and laugh hysterically as they point to a cluster of grade nine boys standing by the vending machines.
In front of me, a huddle of students play the card game Spoons. Tall guys dressed like thugs claim two rows of lunch tables at the very front.
A mural painting of the Odyssey covers an entire wall of the room. In the mural, Penelope reaches out to Odysseus, who is trapped on a ship, on the other side of the wall. I snort at the painting– could you even consider that love? – as I watch the student council members.
Members of the student council, who are selling tickets for the basketball game on Thursday, sit in front of the mural. The air smelled of fried, salt sprinkled French fries, pasta, burgers and pizza.
I sit with a group of my close friends at the back. Raye and Lita sit on either sides of me and Mina and Amy claims the seats in front.
"What do you keep looking for?" says Rei, from beside me.
"Hmm…nothing" I mumble quickly and shift my gaze to our table.
"Right…nothing" drawls Mina with a smirk on her face.
"I'm just looking around. You guys are too boring today" I say. "You keep doing homework" I say with a nod at Amy.
"Do you have a project due soon, Amy?" I call over to my friend who is punching numbers into her calculator.
"A test tomorrow" she mutters, sparing me a glance.
"Don't change the subject" says Mina. "She was looking for the guy she looks for every day. Darien Shields."
I work on keeping my face normal. I stare at them blankly; my mouth sits nonchalantly in a straight line.
"Oh right…Darien," Lita says as she grins at me. The grin seems to be contagious because now they all grin at me. Even Amy.
"You are all delusional!" I say as I roll my eyes.
"Oh really?" Amy drawls out, hidden behind her calculator. "Then why is it that you turn red every time you hear his name?"
I glare at her. "Don't you have a test to study for?"
Everyone laughs at my remark, but they seem to be even more interested now. Shit. Now they'll never get off my back.
I feign indifference as I take a bite out of my pepperoni pizza slice.
"Oh, come on, why can't you just tell us, we are your friends!" pleads Mina as she steals a French fry from Lita.
"There's nothing to tell, he's just a nice guy and I don't like him in that way."
"Really, because he just walked into the cafeteria," says Raye with a gesture to the door I wouldn't look away from.
I know I'm stupid. I fell for the oldest trick but my eyes eagerly jump to check the doors. They're empty. I look back at Raye to see her openly smirking at me. Oh great.
"That doesn't prove anything," I mutter as I stud pizza into my mouth.
Mina laughs and says "I don't know why you're being so stubborn. He's absolutely gorgeous and you're not the only one who has a crush on him. Half the female population of our school drools after him."
"Not to mention, he's really sweet to you," Lita adds with a wink.
"Oh please," I say.
I'm done my pizza. I lean back in my chair and assume my defensive position. I cross my arms over my chest and glare at them all.
It seems they've given up on making my life hell for the moment. Mina is fixing her manicure, Lita and Raye decide to play President and Amy is busy doing calculus.
I decide to keep to myself, if I made one mad move, they would all narrow in on me. And this time they wouldn't give in so easily.
Trying to distract myself, I scan the crowd again. Once again, my eyes stray to the right doors of the cafeteria.
They open and a tall figure walks in followed by two others. My heart races inside my chest and the pizza doesn't sit right in my stomach. Darien Shields. My eyes follow his tall, broad shouldered form as he makes his way into the cafeteria. He's talking to his two best friends, Andrew and Jae.
I'm in grade eleven and he's in grade twelve. He's the assistant coach to our girl's volleyball team. He laughs at something Andrew says, and his eyes light up and his dimples show. My heart melts and my mouth runs dry and a numbness sweeps over me as my stomach does flips and jumps.
Mina was right, almost every girl on our team had a crush on him and they all flirted with him at every opportunity. I'm no good at flirting. I had decided to just stay away from him. What was the point in being just another girl who swooned over his every word? But with us being a part of the same team, staying away wasn't easy. It also didn't stop the somersaults my stomach did every time I saw him.
At that moment, Darien looks up and meets my gaze. I can't read the expression on his face, but then I never could. I sit frozen under his fiery blue gaze until he starts to walk towards our table. Oh my god. He's coming this way. Why is he coming this way? I needed to calm down. Okay. Take a deep breath in and exhale slowly. I clasp my hands and hide them under the table. I count the number of scratches on the dull yellow surface of our table. One, two, three, four…
"Hey Serena," I hear a deep baritone call out in front of me.
…Five, six, seven, eight. There are eight scratches. Eight scratches are on this table. I slowly glance up at Darien.
"Oh. Hi Darien," I call out. "What's up?"
Andrew and Jae are standing behind him, talking to each other.
"Nothing, just wanted to talk to you" Darien says, his blue eyes still fixed upon my face. He glances at my table of friends.
"Oh I'm sorry. Let me introduce you," I say.
"Darien, these are my friends; Raye, Mina, Lita and Amy." I pause.
"Everyone, this is Darien, the assistant coach of our team." I smile up at Darien.
"Nice to meet you all," he smiles politely at them. Then his gaze fixes upon me with added intensity. My hands clench underneath the table.
"Umm Serena…I need to organize some of the game plans for the team after school today". His silver speckled sapphire eyes hold my cerulean blue ones.
"Okay," I say. My hands clench and unclench.
His raven black hair falls into his eyes, and he lifts his hand to move it. He tilts his head as he asks, "Well if you aren't busy, I was wondering if you could help?"
My heart thuds louder. Underneath the table, my nails dig into my palm.
I feel my face burn. I must look like a tomato right now. I practice breathing in and out. My throat feels dry so I nod my head. Darien's eyes pierce me as he waits for a real answer.
I open my mouth and force out, "S-Sure, I-I can do that."
He smiles a bright smile that does nothing to help my current disposition.
"Great, so I'll meet you in front of the gym at 3?"
I gulp, and bob my head again.
"Sounds like a plan" I squeak.
"Alright, I'll see you then. Bye!"
With one last smile, he's gone with Andrew and Jae at his side.
I try to calm my blushing face with my hands. What the hell just happened?
I look over at my friends, who are sitting far too quietly. They all have a wide-eyed, awe struck look which slowly changes into huge face spanning grins and smirks.
Raye's words break the silence. "Oh yeah, you don't like him one bit."