I turn down the flame of the stove and remove a plate from the cabinet to my right.
“In here, honey.“, I hear her voice from upstairs. She’s been trying to get Mandy to wake up for the last half hour. My sister loves to sleep. A lot.
I have an hour before school starts and I want to get there early today. I need to get a head start on the assignment Mr. Peppin gave us yesterday and the library is usually empty in the mornings.
Serving myself from the stack of pancakes on the kitchen table, I pour out a generous amount of maple syrup all over them, stick my fork into a piece and begin eating.
The chair I’m sitting in has a direct view of the street outside and I absently watch as Mr. Herman takes his dog for his morning run.
“Hey, sweety.“, mom kisses my forehead as she enters the kitchen, beginning to pack our lunches. “Mandy is brushing her teeth. Are you leaving early today?”
I nod, my mouth full.
I go back to staring at the window. A movement across the street catches my eye and I stop eating, my gaze fixed on the figure that has just emerged.
Isabel walks around the porch of her house, heading to the garage. I’m aware of stabbing my pancakes with the fork but my appetite had suddenly fled.
She jumps into her red truck, starts it and is gone before I can blink five times. It feels like a shard has embedded itself permanently in my chest and digs into me painfully each time I am around her.
She seems to have zero tolerance for the likes of me. Yesterday, after her sudden abruptness, I’d felt like a complete idiot. Here I was, hoping that I could somehow, everyday, catch a glance of her picture perfect profile and the only chance I get to spend some time with her, I somehow manage to blow it up.
I sigh, forcing myself to finish off with the pancakes in my plate.
I wonder why she has already left for school. Was she working on the assignment too?
Finishing up with breakfast, I pack my bag and call out to mom to let her know that I’m leaving.
I reach school a good twenty minutes before the first period of class. Waving to a few of my classmates from the debate team, I make my way down the hallway and turn to the left for the library. Mrs. Hatin smiles at me from above her glasses and I return it, winding my way around the racks to get to the corner of the room where my favorite spot is.
I’m almost there when I catch sight of a mop of red hair from the corner of my eye. I halt in my tracks and look over at the table, a few feet away from where I usually sit. Isabel is there, her back hunched over as she sits in the comfortable chair, her knees brought to her chest and she’s furiously sketching in the notebook that is in her lap.
I freeze up totally, wondering if I should go up to her and say hi or just slink away to my spot and leave her alone.
Curiosity wins and I quietly walk over behind her, hoping to catch a peek at what she’s working on. I’m silent enough thankfully and she doesn’t look up.
I’m one foot away from her when she suddenly stops, raises her head and turns around.
Like a deer caught in headlights, I stand there foolishly and stare at her. She looks back at me questioningly first and then her wonderfully full lips curve into the most beautiful smile.
My name on her lips sounds like music to my ears and I shake off the nervousness that’s eating at my insides. “Hey.”
“Are you spying on me?“, she asks, a hint of amusement in her sparkling green eyes.
I blush instantly and I know I’ve been caught. But before I can speak, she tucks the hair that has slipped out of her ponytail and puts it behind her ear and she looks away and then back at me.
“I’m sorry about yesterday. I didn’t mean to snap at you like that.“, she says in a very small and soft voice and my heart thuds hard in my chest.
I could kiss her right now.
I shrug it off, “You don’t have to apologize. It’s totally cool.”
The hint of anxiety in her eyes is replaced with relief and she pats the seat next to her. “Do you want to sit here? First period isn’t for a while.”
I think about the assignment I wanted to work on. “Sure.”
Going over, I pull out the chair and sit down, ignoring the sweet smell that seems to waft from her. Like she has just gotten out of a shower. It’s the same scent of apples that I’ve come to associate with her.
I look over at her book and she holds it out.
“I was just trying something out.“, she says slowly, opening it up.
On the corner of the page is a sketch of a sunflower, which looks almost like it’s a 3D object.
“Wow.“, I murmur, tracing it with my finger.
“Do you like it?“, I’m taken aback at the uncertainty in her voice.
My eyes are wide when I look back at her, “Isabel, it is beautiful. You’re really talented.“, I smile.
The smile she gives me in return has me blushing to the tips of my ears. Damn it! Why did I have to react like this every time she looks at me?
My gaze drops to her lips and I think about how it would be if I kissed her. From the reaction of my body, I might end up scaring her and making a fool of myself.
“Here, wanna see this?“, she comes to the edge of her seat and leans over so that the top of her head is almost below my chin and if I tilt my head down, I’d be able to kiss her hair.
She’s flipping the pages over and I lean over her just slightly, letting the strands of her shiny red hair tickle my jaw. A groan threatens to erupt from my throat. Shit.
I blurt out the first thought in my head.
“Are you coming to Peter’s party tonight?”
She moves back and looks up at me, her nose scrunched up. It’s the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen.
“I don’t think so.“, she says slowly, going back to flipping pages.
“Why not?’, I frown, wondering why she’d possibly not want to go to the party that has been like a ritual for the past three years. All the kids in school are invited, the cheerleaders, the dorks like myself and all the other different groups that are inevitably formed in high school.
She doesn’t answer immediately.
“Just don’t feel like it.“, she says in a low voice.
“Oh.” Damn it.
“Are you going?“, she asks, finally opening up to a page where she has sketched out Archie and the gang.
She gifts me another smile and it’s infectious. “I was thinking about going. And that’s almost realistic.“, I comment, admiring the art. She is so good at this.
“I didn’t know you sketched till yesterday. How long have you been doing it?“, I turn the pages and see her other works. They are all stunning.
She gives a shrug, swinging her foot lightly. “For the past two years. I didn’t think I was any good at first.“, a hint of a blush steals through her cheeks and I’m fascinated by how appealing she looks right at that moment.
“Well, you’re more than just good.”
Her smile turns brighter.
I try to be casual when I continue to look at her. “You should come to the party.”
Please, please, please come!
She seems to think it over. “I don’t know. I’d rather curl up at home and read.”
I wanted her to be curled up against me.
“Let me know if you change your mind.“, I try not to sound too hopeful.
For a second she looks surprised and then grins again.