This is an excerpt from a novel that I actually attempted to write last year. For some reason I got pretty insecure about it and decided to tuck it away. After looking it over again, I’ve decided that maybe it’s time to start sharing my writing again. I hope you like this section of the story and I realize that without the backstory to it, it may be a little harder to grasp, but I’m hoping this gives you a solid taste for it. Comments are more than welcome!
I walked down the dark hall leading away from the gym at a slow pace, soaking in what little I could make of my surroundings and desperately hoping I wouldn’t bump into anyone who would scold me for wandering around the school at night. Following the few remaining ceiling lights scattered along the halls I somehow made my way to the main entrance of the school where the moonlight trickled through the glass windows of each towering door and illuminated the floor beneath me in a checkered pattern. I walked up to the window closest to me, looked out at the star-laden sky, and for a moment felt an inner calm that I had not expected.
I had been so on edge with my feelings for Aiden, my taxing workload, and the pressure of my last semi-formal at Quigley High that I had had very little time to stop and catch my breath. I had become so wrapped up in what others expected me to be, that I had forgotten what it was like to simply be; to exist beyond the desires and expectations of myself and of others. For a brief moment in time as I stood alone, face pressed against the cold glass window, moonlight cascading down my form, I was able to finally breathe; to take an honest look at myself and the state of the world I knew. In that brief moment I was calm and I was oddly content, two things I hadn’t been in a while.
My moment of calm didn’t last for long, however, as a noise in the background swept me from my thoughts and plunged me back into the darkness that surrounded me. The noise was faint and only slightly audible, but with the school so hauntingly quiet at that hour, it would have been easily detected by anyone close enough. I swung around and noticed for the first time that down the hallway to my right one of the many classrooms on the left hand side was faintly lit. I wondered to myself if it had been that way since my arrival at the front of the school and if I had been too lost in my need to escape to even notice. I seemed to be living in my head quite a bit so it wouldn’t have been a surprise if I had missed something so blatantly obvious.
Against my better judgment I gathered my senses and walked slowly towards the dimly lit classroom, completely unsure of what I expected to find. As I approached the doorway I heard the same noise again: a slow and faint creaking that echoed in the silence, slowing scraping against the eerie calm surrounding me.
I stepped into the twilight of the doorway and peered around to find the source of the sound. As I surveyed the room my eyes quickly latched upon the only figure within its four walls, who from what I could tell was trying to open a very old and stubborn window. It took me a moment to realize it, but as I crossed the threshold into the room I became immediately aware of the classroom’s familiarity: the Shakespeare poster on the back wall, the stack of old books cluttering the shelves of a worn away bookcase, and the undeniable scent of perfume that assaulted my nose on a daily basis as I entered the class. The room without a doubt belonged to Ms. Tucker and was my home for an hour every morning five days a week. I was surprised that I hadn’t realized that fact sooner.
Despite this small revelation, however, I was far more interested in whoever was trying to open the creaking window and why he was trying to open it. From what I could tell in the dim light he was tall and slender with black slacks and a collared maroon shirt. Or maybe it was purple. It was difficult to know for certain; the glow of Ms. Tucker’s desk lamp extended only so far and the boy stood just beyond its radiance. From his attire there was no doubt in my mind that he was one of the school’s many students, most likely trying to escape the bustle of the dance like I had.
I took another step forward to get a better view of him and I must have made some sort of noise because the tall figure before me swung around abruptly, seemingly startled by my presence and ready to flee if the need arose. In a matter of seconds with that same crippling feeling I had experienced so many times before, I realized that the dark figure in the maroon shirt and black slacks in front of me was the same dark haired magnetic boy that haunted my waking life; the very same boy who was both nothing and everything to me.
As Aiden stood there in front of the glass with the moonlight illuminating his striking features, it seemed as if the initial alarm on his face seemed to vanish almost as quickly as it came, which was unquestionably not the same in my case. I looked at him with wide eyes and felt the weight of my feelings for him, which I hoped were not immediately apparent to his seemingly knowing eyes.
“You startled me.” He said with a slight smirk appearing on his face. “I didn’t think anyone else was around. I figured everybody would be dancing right now.”
I looked at him skeptically before quietly responding. “I needed a break,” I said before looking away to avoid the wave of emotions that his beautiful brown eyes could produce within me. I couldn’t allow myself to be swept up in him again. I couldn’t allow myself to lose my composure as I had so many times before in his presence.
He moved away from the newly opened window and made his way to his usual seat next to mine before sitting down and relaxing into the plastic and metal that we seemed to spend a great deal of our time in. “Me too,” he said. “I found my way down here and needed some air. For some reason this stupid window wouldn’t open. Is everything in this school old and rundown?” He asked.
“About as old and rundown as Mr. Walsh; maybe even older.” I replied with a grin on my face. In an instant we found ourselves laughing uncontrollably at one of the most inconsequential jokes I had ever made to anyone. I realized then that I had never heard Aiden laugh before, which seemed like a shame at the time because he had a spectacular laugh, rife with purity and sincerity that most people lacked. He had the type of laugh that pulled you in and held you there in the wonderful embrace of pure unyielding joy at the center of his being. My guess is that anyone who had ever heard him laugh didn’t simply hear the sound, but felt it as well like I had, sharing in his love of life and the simple moments that came with it.
In that moment something struck me within; a feeling that I had never had before and one that I wouldn’t have been able to fully explain at the time. As I looked at Aiden smiling and trembling from the wave of laughter that rippled through him, I felt protective of him as if nothing in the world was allowed to hurt him in even the smallest of ways; nothing was allowed to take away that joyous laughter that emanated from the center of his being. I wouldn’t let it. I couldn’t.
As our laughter gradually died down and we regained our senses, I made my way to the seat at his left, unsure of why I was making my way closer to the boy who could send my mind into a tizzy at any moment. Despite the curious nature of my decision, I slid into my seat as I had done so many times before and fell into a silence that he and I shared. Neither of us spoke for what seemed like hours. It wasn’t an uncomfortable silence. Nor was it comfortable. It simply was. It didn’t have to be anything because we didn’t need it to be.
It didn’t take long, however, for one of us to eventually betray our silent agreement and give way to the ticking of the clock once more. I thought I would be the first to pull us from the muted moment between us, but to my surprise Aiden beat me to it with a question that caught me completely off guard: “Do you believe in soul mates?” He asked, with a note of uneasiness in his voice as if he wasn’t sure he should even be asking the question.
I paused for a moment out of surprise and to fully consider my response. I had thought about the concept before, but had never really thought about whether or not I believed in it. I had never had any reason to. Nor had I had any reason to share my thoughts with anyone before; especially a stranger that I was oddly drawn to time and time again. With an unexpected boldness that I wouldn’t have even expected from myself I turned to him and said the one thing that, looking back, changed everything: “If you had asked me that a few weeks ago I would have said no.”
The moment the words escaped my mouth I couldn’t believe I had said them aloud, and to the boy I felt so strongly about no less. An uneasy feeling crept into my chest and my mind was racing with ways to backtrack from what I had just said; to explain my way out of the situation that I had just created. Had he understood what I meant? Maybe not. Maybe I worded it so vaguely that I could spin the meaning of my words to my advantage and escape the events that were unfolding.
To my surprise, though, as Aiden turned to me and our eyes met, he didn’t seem upset or even afraid of the words I had spoken, but rather happy with the slightest spark of sadness at its center; a sadness that I understood all too well. In that moment I knew that he understood what I had meant, just as I had understood how he was feeling without him ever saying a word. We merely looked at each other then, neither one of us saying anything; only absorbing the gravity of the exchange that had just occurred.
It was like seeing him for the very first time all over again, with the only difference being that this time I saw things in him that I hadn’t seen before: fear, anguish, and an overwhelming array of other feelings that mirrored mine in a way that I had never thought possible until that moment.
I looked away from him and broke the silence once more. “We should go. They’ll probably be wondering where we are.”
“Agreed,” he said, his eyes now avoiding mine. He then rose from his seat and made his way to the door without looking back in my direction.
I followed slowly until I stood directly behind him at the front of the class, with my arm outstretched toward Ms. Tucker’s desk, ready to flip the switch on the miniscule lamp keeping the classroom aglow.
“Riley?” He said before I could reach the lamp and turning around to face me.
“Yeah,” I replied, unsure of where this was heading. And before I could say another word he leaned in, placed his hands around my waste, and kissed me. It was strange at first and my natural response was to pull away, but I didn’t. I couldn’t. As much as a part of me wanted to and as much as my mind was telling me to stop this before it was too late, my desire overrode my logic, leaving my heart in control; something that I had never done before.
It didn’t take long for my thoughts to take hold once again and bring me to that terrifying place within my chest where reason stopped and panic took hold; that place I first discovered the day Aiden walked into my life. There was something different this time, though, as his soft lips grazed mine. Instead of running from the feeling that he produced within me, I welcomed it, allowing it to flow through me like a river, filling every nook and cranny with the power of its being. And as it washed over me I felt something that I had never felt before: whole and real. And in that moment – in that fleeting slice of time that bordered on perfection – I wasn’t afraid.
Let me know what you think in the comments section below and thanks for stopping by.
Until next time…stay classy.
– C.M. Berry