Porcelain Skin

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I had nearly convinced myself that getting partnered with Trevor was a good idea...until now. Now I just feel ridiculous as I sit tapping my pen against my desk while waiting for him to saunter into class. Most likely he’s snoozing his way through blissful dreams. With each minute that ticks by, I become more frazzled. I’m to the point of getting up and walking out of class, and now would be my chance.

But my decision is made for me when Trevor strolls into the room, and his gaze penetrates the very depths of my suffocating soul. Unlike yesterday when his looks could melt steel, today he has zero expression on his face. Like the fact that we’re partners is about as exciting to him as a morning dump. In reality, I’m sure he prefers that morning ritual over spending even a fraction of a millisecond with me.

Okay, fine. I’ll admit, morning dumps are something I secretly look forward to. Let’s move on.

I force myself not to watch him as he saunters down the aisle and takes the seat directly on my left. I’m going to hyperventilate. That, or just stop breathing altogether because it suddenly feels like someone is tying rope around my chest, and I’m struggling to get air flow.

I take a deep breath before turning towards Trevor. He doesn’t look at me, so I wait. I feel far beyond uncomfortable as I sit wringing my hands together nervously. According to the note written on the board, the teacher will be late, and she wants us to grab one of the sheets of paper on her desk and begin filling it out with our partner. Trevor hasn’t taken his eyes off his phone since he arrived, so I’m guessing he’s unaware of our assignment. I’ll take that as my cue to do the honors.

I head towards the front of the room, grab a sheet, and then head back to my desk. I’m surprised to find Trevor watching me as I make my way back. With his eyes on me, I suddenly feel like an infant taking my first steps, and I have to put full concentration into not tripping.

I slide back into my seat and then, as confidently as possible, turn to face him. I will not turn away until he acknowledges me. I will not turn away. I will not turn away. I will not.... He’s looking at me. I turn away.

“What’s that?” I gulp a bit too loudly when I hear him speak to me—actually speak to me. I don’t think he’s ever even said ‘hi’ in my direction before. This is wonderful, and yet I feel a passionate desire to liquefy and melt into the floor right about now.

I clear my throat and glance at the sheet in front of me. I think I read it twice before I’m actually able to comprehend what I’m reading. If I could just pay attention it’d make this so much easier.

“We, uh.” I clear my throat again. “We have to get to know each other,” I tell him.

This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but this is psychology, which means we have to dig deep. Apparently, this project alone will account for thirty percent of our grade and will take ten weeks to complete. Hurray! I’m going to pass out! I’m sweating. I can feel dampness forming down my back. This guy scares the Shetland ponies out of me.

“Great.” He couldn’t possibly sound less enthusiastic. In fact, he sounds like he’s asleep.

I peek over at him, and sure enough, he’s resting his head on his folded arms. I watch him for far longer than is normal, and I actually jump a little when his head shoots up, and his eyes meet mine.

“Well?” he questions.

Well, what? I keep staring at him. He lifts an eyebrow making me feel like an idiot, and I don’t even know why.

“What’s the first question?” he repeats.

That’s the most I’ve heard him speak in... ever. I’m slightly in awe of the raspy quality in his voice as I try and force myself to stay focused.

“Actually,” I say as I pass the piece of paper to him. “It’s not that kind of ‘get to know you’ project.” I let him read over the assignment before I continue. “Two truths and a lie.”

“A game?” He sounds bored.

I just shrug in response.

He sighs and pulls out a notebook. “Okay, let’s do this.”

He starts scribbling down information on his paper. I sit thinking for a while. I should only include information that will make him see me in a better light, right?

I haven’t even begun writing before he announces that he’s done. Great. Now he’s going to be watching and waiting on me, which will only result in my stress level skyrocketing. I groan. He hears me and turns to see how much progress I’ve made. Obviously, I’ve made none. I give him my best evil glare.

“Stop watching me. You’re making me feel rushed.”

“You nervous?” he asks.

I expect to see a cocky smirk on his face, but he’s watching me intently. No smirk. No smile. No joking. Just serious. Intimidating. The hint of blue in his pale green eyes is so piercing that it literally makes my eyes water. I turn away and begin tapping my pen on the desk while I think. I eventually think of three things and jot them down.

“Okay,” I say. ” You go first.”

He looks at me briefly before reading. “I play piano. I can knit. I sing Katy Perry in the shower.”

“You’re supposed to have one lie,” I remind him.

“I’m aware.”

Oh. I guess he didn’t catch on that I was being sarcastic, trying to lighten the mood.

“Okay? Um, the lie is that you play piano?” It comes out as a question.

“Wrong. I can’t knit worth crap,” he responds with a nearly invisible smirk on his face. “I’m more of a crocheting kinda guy.”

I nod before realizing what he’s just revealed to me. I’m not sure how he expects me to respond. Laugh? Smile like it’s the most natural thing in the world, even though inside I’m melting because I find that to be completely adorable? I go with the smile. He doesn’t return the gesture.

“Your turn,” he tells me.

I’m still stuck on the fact that he plays piano and sings in the shower. I would love to experience proof of both of these events.

Now, I’m suddenly feeling awkward because while he took the more humorous route, I stuck with serious. I wanted to prove myself. I glance at my paper and scratch the rim of my ear.

“Uh, so... I’m a really good cook. I’m honest. My brother’s name is David.”

“The honest one.” Trevor doesn’t even hesitate to respond.

“The honest one?” I question. “You think my lie is that I’m honest?”

He nods without looking at me. My heart cracks. Of course he would guess the worst one. He only sees me as evil. I suck the hurt in with a deep breath so that it doesn’t start leaking out of my eyes.

“No,” I nearly choke as I stutter, “I, uh... brother. My brother. I don’t have one. I’m an only child.”

I think he can tell that I’m flustered because he’s actually watching me now. I glance down at my hands on the table while I pick at a hangnail. I have to keep reminding myself that this guy has every right to hate me. It’s just so hard when I feel the exact opposite for him.

“Share three of your hobbies with your partner,” Trevor reads. Apparently, he’s moved on. “Music, soccer, and spending time with my family.”

And there’s the cherry on top. He’s a family guy. This would seem extremely sweet if it didn’t mean that he dearly loved his sister. The one girl whose life I had destroyed. My hope-ometer falls slightly. He would never see me as anyone other than the jerk who screwed with his sister.

“Cool,” I say as I sink into my chair. This is no longer fun for me. “Well, I have to steal one of yours because I love music too. I’ve played violin since I was nine so it’s a part of me. Um, I also love running and reading.”

I glance at him, but he doesn’t seem impressed as he looks down at our next assignment on the sheet.

“Name one thing you know about your partner,” he says as he glances up at me. “You go first this time.”

I laugh nervously while I take a second to consider what I know about Trevor. “You take your relationships seriously, and you genuinely care about people,” I tell him.

I look over to see him gripping the side of his desk. When he speaks he sounds calm in comparison to the rigidity of his shoulders.

“You’re an attention seeker,” he says. “And you easily ruin others just to make yourself feel more significant.”

I suck in a silent, yet painful, breath. I hadn’t been expecting him to throw roses and candy at me while he praised my greatness, but I also wasn’t expecting him to lace each hurtful word with venom so as to create the most damage when they penetrated my heart.

“Wow,” I breathe. A lump is forming in my throat, but I swallow it down. “I guess I should change my answer to say that you’re brutally honest.” I pause and then glance at the time. We still have twenty minutes left of class, and I just don’t know if I’m going to make it. This guy is ripping me to shreds.

In high school, I had never really known Trevor, but I guess I had just kind of fallen in ‘like’ with the man he appeared to be. He was that popular guy that all the girls drooled over, myself included, but he wasn’t arrogant. He treated everyone with kindness.

As I recall, he even had a couple friends from the “nerd” table. He didn’t judge. He didn’t make fun of people or try to make you feel bad about who you were. He dated but was never labeled a player, which I found extremely unique and admirable.

But then, to hear those words come out of his mouth just a minute ago, I almost wondered if all the things I’d heard about him were even true. Could I have been so mistaken about his character? Had he been hiding all this bitterness and resentment just waiting for a moment to unleash it on me as payback? Was he the type to hold a grudge?

Well, apparently.

“Are you even listening?” I glance up to see Trevor eyeing me. I guess I tuned him out for a bit there. Maybe as a defense mechanism - Tune him out so he can’t offend me anymore.

“Huh?” I ask.

He groans. “Last thing for today is to notice one characteristic about our partners. A habit, a nervous tick, whatever, and we have to research it and present what we’ve learned to our partners at the next class.”

“Okay,” I mutter. I’m now searching desperately for something about Trevor that I can research.

Hmm... his brows are lowered and sharp like he’s pissed, his mouth is as tight as his jaw, his hand is clenched tightly to itself. There are so many things, but they all seem to mean the same thing. He’s Ticked. Off. Like, trying to control himself from punching a hole in the wall, or maybe my head. Most likely the latter.

We sit in silence for the remainder of class. I doodle on my notebook and sneak glances at the beautiful boy beside me. He’s listening to music as he scrolls through his playlist. Not once does he look my way.

I look towards the clock again and notice we only have about fifteen minutes left of class. I guess the teacher isn’t going to be late after all; she’s just not even going to show. Figuring there’s no point in waiting around, I grab my bag off the floor and leave.

The rest of the week goes by as normal, and once again it’s Thursday. I’m sitting in my psychology class tapping my pen against my thigh. I had a tough time picking out what to observe about Trevor. One, because I observed everything, and two, because I didn’t want him to know that I’d observed everything about him.

Would he be freaked out to know that I watched his jaw flex, his back stiffen, his shoulders tense, his fingers curl around the edge of his desk, and his eyes harden with hidden emotions? He’s completely easy to read, and yet, such a mystery.

“Alright, once you and your partner have both arrived, you may present your observations to one another,” Ms. Garrison announces.

We still have five minutes left before class officially starts, but most everyone is already here. Everyone except my partner that is. I tap my pen on the edge of my desk until I notice a couple glances from the girl beside me.

There are only fifteen minutes remaining when Trevor finally graces us with his presence. I had worked myself up in his absence, rehearsing exactly what I was going to say to him for making me wait so long, but the moment my eyes meet his all my frustration evaporates. Most of the rest of the class has already finished, and since Ms. Garrison gave us permission to leave once we were done, I was one of the few remaining students left.

“Hey,” I greet him as he takes his seat next to me.

He slides his bag to the floor and then turns his entire body to face me. “Well?” he says. “You’re up first.”

Straight to the point. When will I have the right to strangle him?

“Okay. I noticed your, um... eyes.” Why now did I choose eyes? This suddenly feels way too intimate, and I feel stupid.

He lifts his eyebrow, but I don’t give him a chance to comment.

“They sort of appear vacant,” I continue. “Like you’re blocking the world from seeing how you’re feeling. This usually means you’re feeling defensive or withdrawn or guarded, or you’re just really ticked. If you combine that with the fact that your jaw is clenched, your hand is fisted and you look like you want to rip my eyes out, then I’d say you’re feeling not all that thrilled about being my partner.”

Well, that was the world’s easiest assignment.

“Good observation,” he says, without sounding the least bit impressed. “You pucker your lips,” he tells me, and I nearly die thinking about the fact that he had to have been observing my lips at some point. Oh Gosh! Why? Should this be making me feel all warm and desirable? “Which indicates desire or uncertainty.”

Really? Did he think I was showing signs of desire for him? Did I appear flirtatious? How embarrassing.

“I’d go with uncertainty,” I tell him as my face warms.

“Right,” he responds, but I don’t think he believes me. He glances around the room and notices that most everyone is gone. “I guess we’re done then.”

He starts to get up, but my voice stops him. “Oh, we have another assignment to do, but it requires out of class time together.” I tell him this as I hand him a sheet of paper that Ms. Garrison handed out at the beginning of the class.

“Great,” he deadpans. “What’s your number then?”

He hands me his phone, and I type in my information. I hit send to call myself, so that I have his number now too, and hand the phone back. I should feel more excited about this moment, but I’m feeling extremely low instead.

Before I officially met Trevor I could always pretend that maybe his lack of interest in me was not personal and that once he met me he could actually like me. That somehow my charm would help erase the damage I’d done to his sister. I was very wrong. If anything, he hated me even more.

“I’ll text you later,” he says as he gets up and leaves the room.

I don’t hear from Trevor until 4 days later. It’s mid-Monday morning, and I’m in my dorm room working on some stupid statistics problem when my phone dings. I grab it from beside me on the bed and look at the screen.

“Tmrw. Matthews Hall. Rm 246. 2:00.”

No ‘please’ or ‘are you available’. He’s just straight and to the point and apparently, expects me to drop my plans and obey. Fortunately for me, I don’t have any plans or classes on Tuesdays, so it happens to be fine. I text back a simple one-word response and then do everything in my power to forget his face for the rest of the day.

It’s time to put my plan into action. I grab up my phone again while I search my bag for the piece of paper with Lindsey’s number on it. Things are about to get a lot more interesting.

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