Porcelain Skin

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Bright Idea

My shoes graze the sidewalk like sandpaper on wood. I watch each step I take, mesmerized by the cracks weaving themselves throughout the broken concrete. Bright, lively tufts of grass shoot from the crevices in the most significant display of hope. Beauty can grow from the most damaging circumstances; you just have to look for it. But, I’m still stuck in a season of drought, because hope is the furthest thing sprouting from my brokenness.

I appear alive, smiling like any normal person would, but only because I need people to believe that flowers are blossoming out of the mound of debris that represents my past. I’m still a mess, but my hope is that no one will ever know.

It’s only the first week of college, yet my days already feel much too long. I’m finally headed back to my dorm after a mind-numbing day of classes. Unfortunately, I’m too exhausted to stop for food along the way, and I already know that my cupboards are empty. I’m debating how to solve this dilemma when I see a familiar face coming towards me. If only I could remember why I know her.

We’re just about to pass each other when her cell phone goes off, which scares the coffee right out of her hand and onto my shirt. I yell out of surprise, the scalding liquid shocking the breath from my lungs. I jump back, pulling my shirt away from my chest as my skin screams in pain.

“I’m so sorry.” She’s nearly crying as she apologizes over, and over, and over, and over for her clumsiness.

“I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m okay,” I assure her before my brain can even register whether I’m actually okay or not.

My coffee-stained shirt cools down quickly and I look up to see a worried, guilty look on her face.

A chuckle is forced from my throat. “It’s fine,” I say, allowing laughter to fall from my lips as I look at the fear and remorse on her face. “Do I know you?” I ask.

She looks up from the stain on my shirt to inspect my face. “Uh... oh oh oh,” she says as she snaps her fingers repeatedly, trying to get whatever is on the tip of her tongue out of her mouth, “Oh!” Light bulb. She points a finger at me. “You’re Emma, right?”

I laugh at her enthusiasm. “Yeah. I can’t believe you remember me!” I’m about to apologize for forgetting her name when it suddenly clicks. “Lindsey!” She’s the sister of Trevor’s best friend, Chuck.

She nods, a smile lighting up her face. “I had no clue you went here!” she says excitedly. I’m not sure if she’s really all that excited to see me, or just to see a familiar face. “Where are you staying?”

“Samantha Hall,” I tell her.

“Oh,” she pouts. “I’m in Stevenson Hall.” She pulls out a notebook and scribbles something down. “Sorry. I’m in a bit of a rush, but here’s my number. We should hang sometime.”

I smile at her, feeling oddly comfortable with her over-friendliness. “Yeah... sure.”

I take the offered paper and we part ways. My brain is already forming ideas and I feel a bit guilty. She’s always been a likable person, so I’m sure we’ll make great friends, but I have a fantastic idea that involves using her just a little bit. She happens to have the connections I need. I just have to figure out how to convince her to go along with it.

The moment my foot passes through the threshold, fear grabs a hold of my chest with its painful talons and squeezes. I hate the first day of class, especially this one: Psychology - the study of human behavior. I have no desire to reveal why I act the way I do; why I cover up what I’m truly feeling.

Nerves are twitchy, anxiety heavy, hands sweaty. I try to keep my head down, so as to avoid any unwanted eye contact, as I make my way to an empty seat near the center of the room.

Someone laughs loudly on my right and I absentmindedly glance that way to see what the fuss is about. All it takes is this one moment of distraction for me to make a complete fool of myself. The toe of my shoe clips the edge of someone’s bag and I trip, just barely keeping myself from collapsing into a hideous heap on the tile floor. My palms grab the edge of the desk beside me, securing me from falling as they hold me in place. I hear a couple gasps around the room, and someone in the back chuckles. I’m humiliated, but I refuse to let it beat me down.

“I’m fine. I’m fine,” I say, while coercing my embarrassment to take a hike.

“I’m so sorry,” a scrawny guy next to me says as he pulls his bag out of the way. “That was my bad.”

I just smile and wave away his apology as I prepare to slide into the empty seat beside him. “No worries.”

I’m still grinning when I glance up and meet a pair of familiar green eyes across the room.

My motions slow as my heart takes off in panic. I was aware he went to this college, but I’m horrified to realize that we attend a class together. Excitement and terror sizzle through my gut. My own thoughts are fighting against me as I think about the wonderful possibilities this could produce, and yet, I know how stupid it is to think that way. I shouldn’t feel excited about spending time with the one person who despises me: Trevor Nixon.

My hopes for using Lindsey to help bring Trevor and me together dwindle, because now that I’m actually here looking at him from across the room, I’m not so sure I want to get to know him anymore. He’s stunning, and intimidating, and it’s terrifying. I’m all kinds of confused as I struggle between wanting friendship and wanting to camouflage my way through the entire year.

This is the first time I’ve seen him since he graduated, so I was hoping all would be forgiven and forgotten. College is the beginning of something new; a fresh start, right? But, judging by the scowl painted across his face, he still holds a grudge.

Suddenly I’m wishing I hadn’t chosen such a small, private college to attend. There’s no way to hide in a class of only thirty-some people, and right now, with Trevor’s gaze slicing me apart like a lumberjack with an axe, I’m really wishing I could slink into the background and disappear with the wind.

“Nice save,” someone says.

I turn to find Scrawny Kid looking at me. He’s motioning to the offending bag that he now has stuffed under his chair.

“Oh thanks!” I laugh. “Yeah, my foot work has saved me on many occasions.” I reach out a hand to him, taking the next step in friendliness. “I’m Emma—Emma White.”

He grabs my hand and gives it a firm shake. “Lightning,” he responds simply. I quirk a brow at him in question and he laughs. “My last name is actually Lighting, but I play soccer and I’m the fastest guy on the team, so yeah... Lightning.”

I nod in understanding. “Cute.”

I turn to my bag and start pulling out my notebook and pens when I hear Lightning groan. “Did you just call it cute? Cute!” He’s rubbing a hand over his face and through his hair.

“Uh, adorable?” I suggest.

He cringes.


He starts to fake sob into the crook of his elbow.

“Lovely?” I joke. I’m aware that guys hate being called any of these things, hence why I keep going. “Charming! Delightful! Pretty!”

Now he’s banging his head against his table while I hold back laughter.

“Fine, Fine,” I finally say. “Your name sounds dreamy. That’s as good as it’s gonna get.”

“Dreamy?” His head perks up and I get a mental image of a dog with his ears tuned into the distinguished sound of his owners voice. “Hmm, dreamy. Yeah, I like it. Just don’t ever use the words cute or adorable again when discussing these matters with a man,” he tells me seriously and I can’t help but laugh.

“Man?” I ask skeptically.

He turns to me slowly and gives me an exasperated look while silently using his hands to motion down his lanky body. Laughter bubbles out of me as he shakes his head, smirking to himself. It’s then that the teacher decides to announce her arrival.

The class is almost over when our teacher, Ms. Garrison, gives us an update on our next assignment: group projects. But it’s not until she begins pairing us up that my worst nightmare comes true.

“Emma White.” She looks up to find me and I slowly wave my hand. “You’ll be partnered with Trevor Nixon.”

My first instinct is to scream in horror. My nerves are on the front lines of battle as they shoot vomit-inducing fear into my system. My heart is beating a hole into my chest at the idea of spending any time with the boy glaring at me from across the room. I’m trying to convince myself of the positive aspects of this situation when I hear a groan come from his direction. My heart stutters just a bit, and I clutch my chest in an attempt to calm it down.

I need to focus on this as an opportunity, not a curse. This could be just what I need to show Trevor who I really am. I just need to turn off my emotions while I’m with him. I know that dreaming of something more than friendship is completely unrealistic. All I’m hoping for is a chance; a chance to prove I’m better than the immature child he remembers.

It’s not so much that I actually want to be given this opportunity, but I’d promised myself that if I ever had the chance to make things right, then I’d take it. I’m petrified, but I’ve already made too many mistakes in my life. This is the one time I can make a difference. If he still chooses to hate me once I’ve given it my all, then at least I tried. I have to try and clean up the mess I caused. Regret already owns too much of me. I can’t let it have this too.

She pairs off the last groups just as the bell rings. “Tomorrow find your partner. You’ll be working with each other the remainder of the semester.”

I turn around to see Trevor’s reaction, but he has already stuffed his books in his bag and is making his way out of the classroom, all without a single glance my direction. His lack of response is like a puncture to my confidence, deflating my determination.

This might not be as easy as I’ve convinced myself it could be.

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