Lucy James was really starting to get on my last nerve.
Oh, sorry. Did I mess up the narrative?
This is Faith. Faith Lin. Well, actually my real name is Emily Faith Lin, but in elementary, there were two other Emily’s who both just happened to be Chinese just like me, so I’ve gone by Faith ever since.
I’m an artist, wear lots of black clothes, and generally don’t like other people.
I don’t like to talk about it.
There. That good enough of an intro for you?
Anyways, Lucy James was really starting to piss me off.
I didn’t know what it was, but...something about her made me want to laugh and throw her chair out the window at the same time.
It had been two weeks since I had transferred to Laken March, and I had to admit, I found it refreshing; new and kind of relaxing.
The students were so much more social here: laid-back and cheerful, and after spending about 2 years with groups of the same snobby, pretentious girls strutting down hallways like they owned the place, I kind of needed that. The teachers weren’t bad, either. At least they more or less seemed to know what they were doing.
And then I had had to run into Lucy James of all people.
Literally. That idiot ran into me as I turned the corner, and nearly knocked me flat to the ground.
And what’s worse was that she was just as gorgeous as before, if not more so, taller by a few good inches, and enviably curvy yet slim.
And she just had had to act so damn nice about the whole thing too, which made me even more confused and unsure of how to react at seeing her after all those years.
To top it all off, I was in two classes with her this semester too.
Not one, oh no. But two.
A whole 150 minutes of her chatting to me about anything and everything, not even seeming to care if I snapped at her or didn’t look at her much.
Although, in all fairness, I came to realize that the ‘not looking at her’ thing was for my own benefit. It really wasn’t fair. Why did she have to look so...so...freaking good?
I was starting to think that she was starting to do it on purpose. After the initial shock of meeting me again, she had soon regained her old confidence around me like as though I had never left in the first place.
She would nudge me when she thought I didn’t quite catch what she had said, only flashing me blindingly smug grins when I glared at her. She would push her long, shining strawberry blonde hair back from falling perfectly over her shoulders, and smile at me with this encouraging warmth in her dark long-lashed green eyes.
It was as close as I would get to Hell on Earth.
I was really starting to loathe her for it. In my opinion, no one had the right to go around beaming literal sunshine on people when they didn’t ask for it to begin with. But no matter how much I rolled my eyes or gave her dirty looks, she just continued to speak on, telling me about herself, what she had gotten up to in these past years, like handing me a damn pamphlet on the past of Lucy “I’m drop-dead irresistible” James.
I just couldn’t understand why someone like her would want to still talk to me.
I had noticed how popular she was when I first started going there, and people were constantly stopping her in the halls to joke around or hand her compliments on a silver platter. Teachers praised her work in class, her dedication and good habits.
She had so much already.
And yet she still hung around with me.
And for the life of me, I couldn’t come up with a one solid good reason why.
Worst of all, I thought I was starting to...to...like it.
“Hey,” She said one Biology class. I was busy writing down a few last notes from the whiteboard. “Hey.” She poked me in the arm, and I swatted her hand without looking up.
“Faith. Faith.” God, she was annoying. “Faith. Faiiiiiith, come on.”
I scribbled down the last sentence, and looked up. “What?” I snapped.
She held up her hand. “Whoa, chill.”
I rolled my eyes, and put down my pencil, which I may or may not have been fantasizing about jabbing her in the hand with.
“So what do you want?” I asked, less aggressively.
“Hang out with me.” She said. It was such a suddenly blunt request and so Lucy-like, I could have laughed. It was just like her, honest and straight to the point. It was on of the things I liked most about her.
“What?” I squinted at her.
“You heard me,” She replied, an infuriatingly teasing hint in her voice. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes again. I was secretly starting to think my eyeballs were going to start to involuntarily spin in their sockets at this rate.
“Are you serious?”
She looked taken aback, her green eyes slightly confused. “What do you mean?”
I sighed, and leaned back in my chair. Luckily for us our teacher was waiting on the rest of the class to finish up taking down notes, and we had both already completed them.
“You know what I mean, Lucy. Are you serious about wanting to be seen hanging around someone like me?”
“’Someone like you’?” She repeated blankly. I resisted the urge to strangle her. Was she actually this freaking clueless? It was worse than Cher Horowitz not getting with Josh till the very end of the movie.
“What are you talking about?”
I folded my hands together and looked her right in the eyes, lowering my voice to a murmur. “You’re friendly, athletic, intelligent and good-looking. I’m a quiet recluse with next to no interest whatsoever in social gatherings. Look, what I’m trying to say is...you’re very popular and have a heavy reputation here. Don’t mess that up.”
The corners of her lips turned up in a sly grin. “So you think I’m good-looking?”
I wanted to bang my head on the desk, but I face-palmed instead. “Is that all you got out of that, James?” I groaned.
She laughed, but took my hand, pulling it away from my face. I wanted to pull back, but couldn’t bring myself to. Her face was far too close, and her hauntingly jade eyes searching.
“I got exactly what you meant, Faith. I just thought you’d know me better than to think I’d care about something as dull as my reputation over you.”
She let go after one more thoughtful glance, and I slumped back in my seat, secretly relieved. And maybe a little disappointed.
She was too much.
“So what do you say?” She asked. “Wanna hang out?”
I ran my hands through my hair, resisting the urge to yank my hood over my face. “It’s a yes or no answer,” She added helpfully.
I sighed, flicking hair out of my eyes. I looked down at the desk and bit my lip.
Should I? What would happen if I did? It had been about three years since I last saw this girl, and already I knew I was in over my head.
I knew what I should say. The ‘no’ was already deeply planted in my mind. But for some reason, I desperately wanted to. I couldn’t help it.
What harm could a little time together do? Maybe she would just get tired of me outside of school and stop talking to me in class too. Well...it hadn’t stopped her before. And I knew her too well, or at least I used to. Once Lucy James had put her mind to something, there was no way in frozen Hell she would stop until she achieved it.
And unfortunately, that goal in mind seemed to be...me.
She was Lucy James. Laken March’s golden girl. Everyone’s favorite little princess.
It should have been so easy to refuse. I wanted to no part in this social butterfly’s life, no matter how much she wanted to be a part of mine.
But as much as I tried to tell myself that, it still didn’t make it true.
“What time?” I asked finally. “Where?”
A slow, hopeful smile spread across her face. “Is that a yes?”
“No, you idiot. That’s what someone asks when the other is being vague.”
“But...that’s a yes, though?”
I sighed, putting my palm to my forehead. “Yes.”
She beamed at me excitedly, and I fought to keep the butterflies inside my stomach under control.
“Great!” She thought for a moment. “How about Scott’s Diner, tomorrow, at 1:00?”
“It’s a date,” I said, before I could stop myself.
“Oh, it is?” She repeated slyly, smirking.
I groaned, and put my head on the desk, covering my face with my arms. “I hate you.”
“No, you don’t.” She said cheerily, and patted my head gently with her hand.
And despite everything, no matter how I struggled to convince myself otherwise, I really didn’t.
The next day, I went over to Lucy’s house at 12:45. I didn’t want her coming to my house, and besides. I didn’t want her to pick me up. That would make it seem too much like a...date.
Which it was definitely not.
I didn’t really care much at all about what people at school thought of my dark hoodies and ripped jeans, but the fact that I compared one pair of pants to another was likely a warning sign.
I settled with comfortable black leggings and my favorite navy sweater, which was a size too big, and fell off my shoulders more often than not. Perfect.
I looked in the mirror and sighed inwardly. I was small and short and looked like some sort of goth emo with my dark outfit and tousled black hair which was constantly falling over my eyes.
Whatever. This wasn’t a date, so I didn’t care.
I shouldn’t care.
I did care.
Lucy’s house was huge, with a white balcony and windows, and nice in the way that it still fit in smoothly with the rest of the neighborhood without standing out too much.
I had barely rang the doorbell before Lucy opened the door excitedly.
“Faith!” Her green eyes lit up and she sprung into a terrific grin. “You’re here!”
“Am I?” I quipped sarcastically, shifting from one foot to the other.
“Well, don’t stand out there, come in!” She practically dragged me inside before I could protest. “I just need to change quickly, then we can go!” She called, then disappeared up the stairs in a flash of movement. I sighed, running my hand through my hair. Of course she did.
Lucky for me, she really did change fast, and soon enough she was walking back down the stairs, brushing her hair over one shoulder. She was wearing a long sleeved cream shirt which emphasized her figure, and a short scarlet skirt over thin gray stockings.
She wore lip gloss and pale green eyeshadow which just added to the already stunning color of her long-lashed eyes. I did my best not to stare.
I hated how she looked so good without trying. There really was no justice in the world.
She grinned at me, probably reading my thoughts.
“Well?” She put her hand on her hip and mock-posed. “What do you think?”
“That we’re going to be late,” I muttered, trying to cover up my insecurity. “Let’s go.”
I turned my back and ignored the burning feeling her smirk was giving me from behind.
Scott’s Diner was an older restaurant, themed after the 80’s, but still popular, and usually crowded. It had been one of my favorite places to eat out at when I was younger. That day, however, they didn’t seem like they were having as much business as usual, which was good news. We were able to find a good seat next to the window in a roomy red cushioned booth.
“So.” Lucy leaned in across the table, eyes sparkling. I swallowed and tried not to think about it. “How are you liking school so far?”
“It’s OK.” I answered neutrally. “It’s...good, I guess.” To be honest, I still wasn’t quite sure yet. All I knew for certain was that I hated Math class already.
“Good.” The smile on her face looked so genuine, like she was honestly pleased that I was having an alright time at Laken March. “I’m glad.”
I wanted to run away really badly.
We skirted around a bit, random conversation topics before we ordered our food, avoiding subjects like sports (which I wasn’t really interested in), and art (which I knew Lucy wasn’t so well-versed in). So we chatted about nothing, really, movies, TV shows, favorite characters, favorite music, basic stuff. It was almost like getting to meet someone again. I was glad either way to let her steer the conversation, letting her go on about what she thought about each topic. It wasn’t irritating, like I thought it might be. It was...nice, really, even just listening to her voice, being there with her.
In spite of everything, I found myself having fun. That hadn’t happened in a long time, and yet Lucy had managed it.
She really was something.
When it came to order, she beamed at our waiter and told him what she wanted with polite enthusiasm. I noted the way she looked when she did, eyes crinkling as she smiled and laughed at a joke the waiter made.
She was pretty much glowing.
...I really needed to get my shit together.
“I’ve always liked this place,” Lucy confessed. “Me too,” I said. “I used to come here a lot, before--” I cut myself off, looking down at the table. A hand closed over mine.
I looked up. “What do you think you’re--”
“You always clam up whenever we talk about you,” Lucy said softly, flipping my hand over palm-up.
“Don’t try to kid me, Faith. You know perfectly well that it’s true.”
She stroked a gentle line down my palm once then released my hand.
I pulled it back into my lap, trying not to flush. Why did the smallest contact make me burn up inside?
“I...I’m just not used to talking about myself.” I admitted slowly. “It’s been a while since anyone’s--” I blinked hard. “--Since anyone’s asked.”
“Not even your family?”
I didn’t want to talk about them. “Not really.”
Lucy’s gaze was far too sympathetic, and I ducked my head.
“I’ve missed you, you know.” She said. “It’s been too long.”
I said nothing.
She poked my arm from across the table, raising her eyebrows. “Here’s the part where you say you missed me too.”
“Is it?” I snarked.
She sighed dramatically. “Yes.”
I crossed my arms. She crossed hers, copying me. I huffed, and sat back. We had a silent stand-off for a couple minutes.
“I missed you too,” I murmured at last.
She looked surprised, but immensely pleased. “There now. Wasn’t so hard, was it?”
I rolled my eyes. “You have no idea.”
“I wanted to talk to you for such a long time.” She said earnestly, and I could feel my defenses rising. She was going to breach the topic we’d been skirting around since we reunited. She took a deep breath, looked me right in the eyes, and began, “Faith, the last time we talked, I--”
And at that blessed moment, our food arrived.
I had never been happier to have an excuse not to listen further.
Lucy looked oddly disappointed as the waiter began to lay down the plates in front of us, but didn’t continue what she was saying.
Lunch was really a specialty of Scott’s Diner. Both Lucy and I ordered hamburgers and fries, and I ordered a Sprite while she got a Coke to drink.
Everything looked delicious, and I was three bites into my burger before--
Aren’t you getting a little heavy? It happens when you sit around in your room all the time.
I froze, and put the burger back on its plate, wiping my fingers nervously on the napkin.
“You OK?” Lucy looked at me curiously over her burger.
“Nothing.” I said, maybe a little too quickly. Damn. I forced a smile. “It’s good.”
She surveyed me for a moment, her eyes narrowed slightly. I was beginning to squirm under her scrutiny, when she shrugged and leaned back in her seat.
“If you say so.” She took a sip of her pop. “As long as everything’s OK.”
I looked down quietly at my burger, which I wouldn’t touch anymore for the rest of lunch.
Because it wasn’t. Everything wasn’t OK.
But I couldn’t let her know that. Couldn’t let anyone know that.
It was just how it was.