Chapter 9 - For the First Time
“For the first time I am looking in your eyes / For the first time I’m seein’ who you are / I can’t believe how much I see / When you’re lookin’ back at me / Now I understand what love is, love is / For the first time” – For the First Time, Kenny Loggins
“So, I heard that you and the handsome soccer captain were having some alone time yesterday,” Diana says suggestively, before closing her locker with her books and pencil case in hand, ready for the first class of the day.
“What are you talking about?” I say, still organizing my bag contents to my locker for the day.
“The hottie James Fox that pretty much all the girls drool over,” Diana says.
“He’s the soccer captain?” I ask.
“That’s what you are taking from what I said?” Diana says. “He’s not the soccer captain yet, but it’s only a matter of time. But I take this as what I heard was true!” she says smiling and slapping me on the shoulder.
“It’s not a big deal.” I say, “We just talked after soccer tryouts yesterday. He’s nice.”
“Oh, I’m sure he was very nice to you,” Diana says. I hit her with my textbook. “Hey!”
“It’s not like that,” I say.
“Sure,” Diana says.
“Weren’t you the one that told me that James doesn’t date?” I say, continuing to grab the supplies I need from my locker.
“Yeah, but I also was the one to say that things could change,” Diana says.
“As I said, he just came up to me and we started talking, there is no reason to look into it,” I say, shutting my locker.
“James keeps to himself and his friends.” Diana says, “He doesn’t seek out to talk to girls. If he’s talking to them, it’s because they approach him. You obviously mean something to him if he came up to you.”
“No, it doesn’t,” I say, but deep inside I hope it does. I feel it in the pit of my stomach and if I could know that James feels something for me that is similar to what I feel for him, I don’t know what I would do.
“He’s come to help you out twice before,” Diana says.
“Yeah, because his friend Malcolm is a jerk,” I say.
“Ignore the signs if you want, Arya, but I know you like him as well,” Diana says and with that, she turns away from me to go to class without giving me a chance to respond, which I am grateful for. Because I don’t know what I would say; lie that I don’t have any feelings for him or tell the truth and admit that I feel something every time he’s near me. That I think about him all the time, which makes no sense because I barely know him.
“Hi, Ms. Kettleburn,” I say as I walk into the school library and approach her desk. She is my favourite staff member at this school. She is always so kind in the library to all the students and will go out of her way to help you with anything she can.
“Arya!” she greets me kindly as if I am a close friend that she hasn’t seen in a long time. “What can I help you with today?”
“Are there any books on Ancient Greece?” I ask, “I have a project that I need to do some research on.”
“Of course!” Ms. Kettleburn says and gets up from her desk to guide me to the last row in the library and pointing out a section in the middle. “Everything we have on Ancient Greece is here. I hope you find what you are looking for, but don’t hesitate to give me a shout if you need anything else.”
“Thank you so much!” I say and then she returns to her desk, leaving me with two rows worth of books on Ancient Greece. I start going through books, and as I make it to the second row, I pull out two that look interesting. While pulling out the second book, I can see through the bookshelf to the other side, and I see him. He’s sitting at a table all on his own, obviously working on something, probably homework. I see his notebook and textbook out and pencil in hand. I want to go over there, I want to talk to him, I want to see that smile again but I don’t want to seem like I’m stalking him.
With the two books in hand, I walk around the bookshelf and start walking towards the table he is sitting at, pretending to be looking for a book. As I get closer to him, I stop and start looking at the books closest to him, hoping he takes his eyes off his work for just a moment and sees me.
“Arya?” I hear his voice from behind me. Oh, thank goodness. I was ready to drop something to get his attention. I turn around slowly and see him looking up at me from his work.
“Hey!” I say, “How are you?”
“Good, thanks,” James says. “Checking out some books?”
“History project,” I say, showing him the two books in my hand.
“Mr. Lupin?” he asks.
“Yes,” I say.
“He’s great, I had him last semester,” James says.
“Yeah, he is.” I say, “What are you doing in the library at lunchtime?”
“Homework,” James says, leaning back in his chair and putting his hands to the back of his head. It gives me a chance to see his defined bicep and I mentally tell myself not to stare. “Once soccer season starts, I spend half my lunch doing homework.”
“I didn’t know you were a scholar,” I say with a smile.
He laughs at me. “Far from it,” he says, sitting back normally in his chair. “I work at my uncle’s construction company, so between soccer, work, and school I only have so much time on my hands.”
“I’m so sorry.” I say quickly, “I shouldn’t be bothering you then.” And I turn to walk away from him.
“No, no, please,” he says, and I turn back to him and see that he had started getting out of his seat. “I didn’t mean it like that. Please stay, I like talking to you.”
I walk up and sit across from him and he returns to his seat. “What are you working on anyway?” I ask.
“Math.” James says, “It’s the homework I can do the fastest so I can usually get it done before the bell.”
“And you say you’re not a scholar,” I say and smile at him.
“I do a lot of accounting for my uncle’s construction company,” he says as if it’s no big deal. I look at the pages of his open textbook next to him.
“Do you do a lot of sinusoidal transformations for your uncle’s construction company?” I ask him jokingly. He rolls his eyes and then closes his notebook and textbook. “Don’t let me be the one to stop you from finishing your homework.”
“I only have one question left anyway, it’s fine,” he says.
“You’re going to lug that big ass textbook home for one question?” I ask, raising my eyebrow.
“Good point,” James says and then opens the textbook to its original page, takes out his phone from his pocket and takes a photo of the page, and then closes the textbook and puts his phone away. “There, perfect.”
“So, do you like working for your uncle’s construction company?” I ask.
“It’s good for now.” James says, “The pay is good, and everyone is nice. Construction workers can get a bit rowdy at times, but it’s all fun. I just don’t see it as something long term.”
“Are you saving up for something?” I ask.
“University.” he replies, “I’m trying to get a soccer scholarship, but even with it, I still need to save up money to pay for school.”
“I understand,” I say. I realize I am one of the fortunate people that have a family that can afford to send me to university without any financial issues. It doesn’t stop me from having my cashier job at Metro to earn a bit of cash, but I’m nowhere near making enough for tuition fees. Financing for university and college wasn’t an issue discussed at West Side, most students didn’t have to worry about it there. “What school?”
“University of British Columbia.” he says, “They have a fantastic engineering program there and I want to head out to the West Coast. You?”
“I haven’t given it a lot of thought, I say truthfully, I know my parents want me to stay close to home, or at least in Ontario, but I don’t know what I want to do. “McGill has always been on my mind; they have a great biomedical engineering program too and I love Montreal.”
“Biomedical engineering?” he asks.
“I want to help in medicine, but I can’t see myself becoming a doctor or nurse.” I say, “I think it combines a lot of the things I love in one profession. Math, science, and helping doctors help their patients.”
“I like that.” James says, “I don’t know what type yet, but I’ll have to decide in Grade 12, which is sooner than I would like!”
I laugh at him. “So, are you in the running for the captain of the soccer team?” I ask because I’m curious.
“Who told you that?” he asks me.
I hesitate for a moment, wondering what I should tell him. “My friend just mentioned it to me. I thought it was interesting that a Grade 11 would be considered captain of the senior team, so I wanted to see if it was true.”
“So, you’re talking about me with your friends?” James asks with a grin on his face and a look in his eyes that says that he hopes it’s true.
“Don’t flatter yourself,” I say, leaning back in my chair and crossing my arms.
He just smiles at me, knowing that it’s true, knowing that he did come up in a conversation between me and a friend. And I can tell that he wants to know if there was any more said, but he doesn’t ask. “It’s a long shot.” he says, “As you said, a Grade 11 as team captain is rare. I don’t need to be captain though, just playing is enough for me.”
“You must be a good soccer player then,” I say.
“I am, you would know that if you ever watched me play,” James says. “And I know you must be a great soccer player, but I’ve never watched you play either.”
“Always playing soccer at the same time, but never in the same location,” I say, sitting back up. Whenever two schools play soccer against each other, the junior and senior girls stay together, and then junior and senior boys stay together. So, if the girls are playing at home, the boys will play away and vice versa. It’s why even though James and I are the best soccer players for our schools, we never crossed paths, we’ve never met, and have never seen each other play. The thing that we have in common is what kept us apart.
“Unfortunately,” he says.
“And it’s going to continue.” I say, “We’ll always be playing at different locations at the same time.”
“I guess you guys are going to have to lose so that you can watch me in the final.” James smiles at me.
“Hilarious.” I say sarcastically, “I’d like to see you play, but it’s not worth losing the championship over.”
“Your old school beat the girls’ junior team last year,” James says.
“The last two years.” I correct him.
James laughs, “So ever since you started playing.” I nod. “I always hate playing against your school.”
“Why?” I ask, curious, “You always win.”
“There are some real jerks on your school’s soccer team,” James says.
“That always happens.” I say, “Every team has them. Take Isabella for example.”
James laughs. “I guess you’re right, still hate playing them.”
“But you like beating them?” I ask with a smile.
“Of course.” James says and just looks at me deeply, “Why did you leave that school?”
I don’t want to lie to him, but I can’t tell him the truth. “There were just some issues at West Side.” I say, “I just needed to leave to get away from it all.”
James just looks at me, knowing that I’m keeping something from him, some part of me that I don’t want him to see. His instinct is to push me to give him more information, to explain why a smart, athletic girl changed from a rich, respected school to this one when she is in Grade 11. He wants to ask, I can see it, but he can read my eyes and knows not to push me. “I know what that’s like.” is all he says. “I’m sorry it got so bad you had to leave.”
“As you said, there are some jerks at my old school,” I say and James just nods.
“But I’m glad it brought you here,” he says.
“Why?” I ask him, wanting him to spell it out to me and not hide.
“Because I wouldn’t have met you otherwise,” he says seriously, and then we just look at each other for a moment, communicating through our eyes to each other. He tells me that he’s never met a girl like me before and I tell him I can’t understand feeling this way about someone I barely know. And then the bell rings, but even with the loud blaring noise, it takes a moment for the trance to be broken. “I guess we better get out of here,” he says.
I look down at my two books. “I should check these out,” I say, standing up and pushing my chair in. James stands up, gathering his textbook and notebook.
“Ancient Greece was my favourite unit,” he says.
“I think it’s everyone’s favourite unit,” I say as we approach the librarian’s desk.
“Just the two books?” Ms. Kettleburn says as she scans the two books.
“Yes, thank you, Ms. Kettleburn, for all your help,” I say and gather the books.
“Always a pleasure.” Ms. Kettleburn gives me a suggestive look as she sees James waiting for me not too far away, distracted by his phone. “Looks like you found more than what you were looking for,” she says quietly so that only I can hear and then turns back to her computer with a grin on her face.
“So, I guess I’ll see you around then,” I say to James as we stand just outside the library before we have to take opposite directions to our lockers.
“I hope so.” is what he replies with and I can tell that he is being sincere, “See you later,” he says and turns away to go to his locker before he says or does anything more.