It He was everything. I wasn’t.His name was

It all started with, “God, he’s so pretty,” and very quickly descended into madness.It was exactly like one of those clichéd romance movies where the love interest appears practically out of nowhere and enchants everyone in the room with only a slight tilt of their lips.It was his high charm, his infinite confidence, and his gorgeous brown eyes that had unstitched me, that drew me into his trap. He was probably used to all the attention he was given. How could he not, when he was the very example of a perfect teenage student? He was born in Britain, a semi-professional writer and athlete, and talented, smart, independent, seductive, and likable… of course.It wasn’t a surprise that he fit in so very quickly and had instantly gained a pack of admirers drooling over his accent and blushing every time he greeted them.Admittedly, I was one of those admirers, but instead of openly fawning over him as if he was some sort of God (which, in a way, he kind of was), I kept it secretly encased within me and tried my hardest not to dissolve into a muddle of spontaneously combustible fangirl whenever he’d glance towards my direction. It wouldn’t really contribute anything good for my image, which I’ll have you know I do my very best to contain. The nerdy, lonely, presumably mute girl who spent most of her time reading and sitting by herself at the back of the classroom where no one could easily notice her presence.So, in conclusion, I guess it wasn’t really a shock knowing someone as plain as me could be attracted to someone as captivating as him. He was everything. I wasn’t.His name was Archie Bristol. Along with his distinguishing features, he had the most beautiful smile I’d ever seen. On occasion, when I got the courage to look a little longer, I would notice that behind all the apparent facade he plays out for everyone, he had the tendency to apply it as a shield. He smiled because it was his most powerful tool, as if he was using it for his own perfection. His smiles were secretive, small, and filled with hidden meanings. It was hard to guess whether it was genuine or sarcastic or furtively full of loath. Withdrawn and practiced to perfection, just like everything else in his very persona.The one thing I’d noticed since the beginning of his arrival was the simple act of giving his smile to everyone. For those who worshipped and despised him, for the people he couldn’t care less about, for those who claim to be his friends, even for those he didn’t know.He smiled for me, too. And the first time he did, the instant thought of God, he’s so pretty, crossed my mind. I was quite sure that I had been staring at him for a while, but after I got a hold of myself, I sheepishly smiled back and gave him a goofy wave. Before I had the courage to finally approach him, he had already turned away towards his friends.In that moment, I felt special. It was as if I was actually somebody worth noticing in his eyes, because if I weren’t, he wouldn’t have noticed me, right? Beneath all that wishful thinking, I knew I didn’t matter in the slightest to him, and that his smile, as artificial as it always was, wasn’t actually meant specifically for me.But that was what made him so perfect in my eyes. He wasn’t selfish in the least. He was insanely friendly. Too friendly, in fact, that people started viewing him as no more than a figure, an idol, an expensive toy, used only for improving their image and pleasuring themselves until they reach their contentment. And when they did, they’d leave him behind, but not before wasting his value….It was our senior year in high school and the moment the teachers distributed all the yearbooks on the final day of class, the first thing I did wasn’t look through the book as normal people usually do. I didn’t look at the pictures, didn’t check the senior superlatives, didn’t even examine the cover. I immediately searched for Archie.I never had the guts to talk to Archie. Ever. Not because I was scared of what he would say, but because I knew that once he brought his attention to me, I would be paralyzed. I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of him. I didn’t want him to view me like one of those people who has an immense crush on him just because of the way he looks. I would be lying if I said I didn’t like the way he looked, but I liked him much more than that, for much more than that.I began searching for him. I checked the rooms I thought he’d be in, but most told me that he wasn’t inside. I looked through the cafeteria, the library, the courtyard, but he was nowhere to be found. I searched for him in all seven buildings of the school, but I still couldn’t find him.I didn’t ask anyone because they wouldn’t be of any help. I could find him by myself. I knew him better than anyone else.But after walking endlessly in circles, a teacher took pity on me and asked who I was searching for. I was reluctant telling her, but what other choice did I have? I wanted to find Archie and she might’ve known where he was. She was one of his teachers after all.”Archie Bristol,” I told her. I held up my yearbook, feeling almost foolish. “I want to ask him to sign my yearbook.”She nodded. “Archie is absent, dear. His mother called this morning. He’s sick, she said.”The woman told me to have a great summer and left. I began feeling upset, and it took everything in me not to start crying right there. I had lost my opportunity to talk to him for the last time. I had three years to do something, to say anything, but I was a downright coward. Not that I was anything special, but it would have been easier knowing that I’d at least tried. Now that it was the very end, I’d lost him without knowing who he actually was….I didn’t know what urged me to visit the lake situated in the middle of the forest near the school, but it was probably the best decision of my life.Archie lay just beside the flowing stream, his right hand submerged in the water, the other under his head. Shock overwhelmed me when I saw him. It almost made me run and hide somewhere so that I could watch him from afar without him seeing me, but I wouldn’t let my fear control me this time.I swallowed, gripped my yearbook tightly, and walked towards where he was quietly reclined on the grass.I stepped on a twig. He slowly sat up and looked towards my direction. I stood still, unable to do anything but look at him.”Who are you?” he asked. Of course he didn’t know who I was. What did I expect?”Hi, Archie. Hi,” I started, cringing internally at my own awkwardness. “I’m, I’m-“”Leave me alone,” he commanded. For the first time, I heard coldness emitting from his voice. I bit my lip to keep myself from crying, and I felt my throat constrict unintentionally.I blinked a couple of times to hold back my tears. I didn’t want to cry. Not in front of him. I wasn’t a fool, nor was I weak. Crying was stupid. “I’m Lydia Collins. We go to the same school. We’ve been classmates for three years.”He glared at me, irritation evident on his features. “Fuck off,” he snapped.I sat a few feet away and placed my bag beside me, folding my legs beneath me. “Can you sign this?” I asked as politely as I could, holding out my yearbook.He was silent as he stared at me. After a long minute, he said, “You’re unbelievable. Didn’t I tell you to fuck off?””I just want you to sign this.””No! What the fuck, I’ve signed hundreds of bloody yearbooks and I don’t need to sign one more. That’s why I didn’t go to school today, so that I wouldn’t have to deal with you fuckers.”Archie never spoke like that to anyone. He was outgoing and the most sociable person I knew. I tried to keep my voice steady but it wavered considerably. “Please just one last time. I won’t bother you again.”I didn’t expect us to become friends, but I must admit that I was secretly hoping for us to, maybe even more. But honestly, who hadn’t wished for the same thing? I knew nothing like that would ever happen, so I didn’t bother hanging on to the impossible. I would be content in only seeing his handwriting in my stupid yearbook, just to preserve the memory of him as a new chapter of our lives unfolded.I wouldn’t be seeing him again after this. I needed it.But it seemed that I wouldn’t be having that bit of happiness either. Archie stood up, grabbed his bag, and began walking away from me.”Archie? Wait, Archie! Where are you-“”Why do you want to know, huh? So you can stalk me? No, I’m done with this shit!” he called back.I knew he wanted to be alone, but I still wanted to be near him, even though every second of it felt as if my heart was being prickled by needles.I silently followed him, and I knew he knew what I was doing. He picked up his pace. I started doing the same. Finally, he stopped, turning around angrily. I abruptly stopped walking as well. We were merely a few feet apart.”Okay, you know what?” he asked me, spite in his voice. “Give me that bloody yearbook. Hand it over.” He took a few steps towards me and snatched the book from my hand. He opened it to the last page, pulled a black marker from his back jeans pocket, removed the cover with his teeth, and started scribbling messily on it, using big letters and filling up the page.When he was done, he said, “There, are you happy now? What else do you want? Do you want me to attend something for you? Do you want to fuck right here in the woods? Huh, is that what you want?”All this anger was thrown in my direction and I wanted to tell him how unfair this was. I wanted to ask him, Why are you so mad at me? I didn’t do anything wrong. All I wanted was your signature. But instead, I said the word, “No,” in a bare whisper.”Well that’s just great, isn’t it?” he said. “I’m going to apologize in advance for fucking up your yearbook, but that’s what you get for being a stubborn moron.” He flipped through the pages of the book. “Shame, it’s so brand new. Who else signed this for you? Shannon Foster? Gerald Schmidt? Floyd fucking Ander-” he stopped mid-sentence, flipping the pages back and forth before looking up at me in astonishment. “Why are there no other signatures in here?”I tried to look him in the eyes, but my vision was quickly getting blurry with tears. I didn’t want him to see the effect he had on me. “I only wanted yours.””Shit,” he finally said after a long pause. “I… fuck. I ruined your yearbook.”I tried to choke out a laugh but it sounded more like a sob. “That’s okay.””No, I… I didn’t mean to.” He sighed. “What’s your deal?”I tried my very best to gain back a little composure. “What do you mean?””I don’t know. It’s impossible that you only wanted my signature. What else do you want?””I…” I bit my lip, contemplating about what he said. I wanted a lot of things from him. I wanted him to be my boyfriend. I wanted to kiss him. I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. I wanted him to love me as much as I loved him. I wanted… “Can I have a hug?”He was at a loss for a moment. “A hug?””Yes.””You want a hug?””If… if it’s no trouble.””Why do you want a hug?””I j-just do.” I mentally cursed myself for stuttering. I wasn’t the type to stutter.He looked doubtful, but he still leaned forward to envelop me in an embrace. I gratefully hugged him back. I clutched him as if my life depended on it, each one of my senses overwhelmed by his mere presence. His scent, his warmth, his heartbeat, his tenderness, his sadness, his fears, his uncertainties. Everything consumed me at once.”I love you,” I whispered, the words coming out involuntarily. My mind chanted, Shit! Shit, shit, shit! You’re so stupid and pathetic. I was quite sure that he would draw away right then.But he didn’t. His stance became rigid, but he didn’t withdraw. “Don’t lie to me.”And just then, an onslaught of tears came gushing out. “I wish I did.”I knew, after this, he would have no trouble forgetting me. If he did remember me, he would surely identify me as that weird girl who admitted her love on the last day of school. While I would forever be stuck in his enchanting smile, craving for more and receiving nothing in return, he would be moving on with his life as if nothing ever happened because situations like this must surely be something ordinary for him.He was first to pull away, and though I was hesitant, I released him from my grip. I didn’t want to seem overly attached. “What’s your name again?”I must have looked horrible with my tear-streaked face and bloodshot eyes, but his question still caused me to smile. “Lydia-” I started, wiping my cheek with the back of my hand. “Lydia, Lydia Collins.”He nodded, opening up the page of the blue yearbook he still held and wrote something down. He handed it back to me. He gave me a smile and I took the book from him with a shaky hand. It was all I could do to not lean up and kiss him.”I’ll… see you around, Lydia Collins.” He hesitated and I thought he wanted to add something else, but he merely gave me a small smile and turned away.I didn’t know how long I stood in the middle of the clearing clutching my yearbook, but I eventually snapped out of my dazed state and forced myself to look down at what he wrote.At the very top, GO TO HELL YOU STUPID SLUT! was written in big letters.But at the very bottom in small writing, it said: Lydia, I realize that hell is where I’ll be, too. Sorry. Call me? – A.B. ###-####I stared at his number for a long moment before a huge grin broke out of my face. I wasn’t expecting this to be a start of something like a friendship, but… HOLY MOTHER OF JESUS I HAVE ARCHIE BRISTOL’S NUMBER!

x

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