Chapter 2:

Chapter One. How NOT to Keep a Secret

ChainLink


Normally, I am an excellent student. I am in my assigned seat before the bell rings, with my textbooks and homework all ready to go. The teachers may never call on me, but if they did then they would be calling on a mostly flawless student.

Except for that Monday morning.

That Monday was different from my norm in many ways, but it definitely started in first period. I was in my seat on time, as always, with my classmates chattering around me. Ignoring me. Also like always. I didn't notice anything out of the ordinary until I opened my bag and found it was completely empty.

No textbooks. No notebooks. Not even a pencil.

It was just empty.

I may have some weird social invisibility, but that doesn't mean I'm a purposefully careless person. I'm sure I've forgotten paper and pencils in the past, but whole textbooks? This was new. I looked around for help, but had no expectations. After all: No one in class ever noticed me. They would bump into my desk and not even apologize. I couldn't even get anyone to give me eye contact, so I didn't expect anyone to give me help either.

Yet, my frantic looks were the catalyst for my death. 

What derailed my day-- no, my entire LIFE,-- was the boy next to me. Who straight up ignored my social invisibility when he poked me.

I remember squeaking in surprise and swinging around to face him. It was the first time anyone had acknowledged me, and I was more than just a little bit startled.

"Ophelia? Did you not bring your textbook today?" He asked innocently enough. It actually wasn't until he spoke that I even realized he was a boy. He definitely had a boyish figure, was wearing a plain white t-shirt, and had smooth blue jeans, but he disguised all of that with his large green jacket.

It was easy to tell right away that he had personally modified the thing, since there was no way any designer would take the risk with something so… "unique." There were pink, polka dotted bows pinned non-discreetly to the dark green fabric, and the same fabric was sewn to the bottom in a cute ruffle. There were no strings for the hoodie, so he kept the jacket closed with a pink scarf and adorable pink buttons. Likewise, his relatively short blond hair had pink tips and he had noticeably smooth, pale skin. His facial features were almost annoyingly pretty. I should have known he looked too cute to be human, but alas. 

Even back then, I'll admit that I spaced out and focused on his appearance for a bit too long. He didn't seem to think my staring was weird, as he gently prompted me again. "Are you going to be okay? You'll be in a lot of trouble if the teacher calls on you."

I remember snapping out of an embarrassing daze and averting my gaze shyly. I hadn't spoken to anyone in a really long time. On top of that, my first conversation was with a boy who was ten times prettier than me.

"I-I'll be fine. The teacher doesn't really notice me anyway." I tried to sound confident, even boasting, "I could fall asleep in class and I bet she'd never care."

It must not have been a convincing effort. The boy took his own textbook off from his desk and held it out to me. His concern was unwavering, "Here, borrow mine. I don't want you to get in trouble, Ophelia."

"What? No way. Then you'll be the one to get in trouble for not having a book!" I shoved the book back with all my strength, but he was much stronger than me. At the time, I didn't think enough of it. I should have wondered more about how weird he was… Maybe I could have saved myself.

"No, it's fine. I have a photographic memory." He explained, all too nonchalantly, "I read the material last night, so I'll be fine."

I narrowed my eyes, trying to formulate an argument. That sounded really made-up. Photographic memories are both way too good to be true, and definitely cheating for high schoolers. Our grades basically depend on our ability to photocopy facts into our brains.

"I don't believe you." I said harshly. The mere idea of him having such an obnoxious hack ruffled my anger. 

He laughed lightly, sounding as if my response was common. 

"Then keep an eye on me in class, okay? Our teachers love to try to test me."

"Fine." I didn't realize until the bell rang five seconds later that he had successfully given me the textbook. Making a fuss in the middle of class was not how I wanted to be noticed, so I begrudgingly accepted.

His challenge had lit some sort of competitive spark in me. I flipped open the borrowed textbook and tracked every word as we went through in class. Just as he had said, the teacher spotted him without his book and called on him.

Also like he had said, he recited the exact wording for three required pages. I couldn't believe it. By page two, I had decided he must be cheating. I went as far as partially closing the book and then put my head on the table Squinting, I read the words that were folded out of his sight. I wanted to be sure he wasn't reading off the pages next to him like a stupid cheater. The jerk must have noticed my effort (not helped by the fact I probably looked ridiculous,) because he 'read' the last page with his eyes closed.

That was how I met my new best friend. I complain a lot, but I don't really regret a second of it. Even if I find proof that he's the one who ruined my life, I can't imagine ever truly hating him.

...

"Well? What did you think?"

When I went to return the textbook to him, the human photocopy machine was smiling shyly. It rubbed me the wrong way then. He had just won a bet with me, and if I was in his shoes then I would be smug as heck. I thought his modest expression was meant to mock me.

So I glared at him, even though he didn't deserve it. "You were… cool."

"Really?" If human beings could sparkle, that's what he did. His green eyes lit up and his smile became more energetic. He even clapped his hands together and giggled. "Great! So you believe me?"

"A little bit." I was sure to make a pinching motion with my hands, just to emphasis my disbelief. Honestly, I was already sold on the photographic memory thing. Yet I couldn't help but be a sour jerk. Maybe it's a good thing no one notices me?

"Perfect!" My awful personality had no effect on his bright smile, "Then you won't have a problem holding onto my books for the rest of the day?"

"Uh, yes. Big problem." I blurted in a huffy voice, "I don't remember agreeing to take your stupid, heavy books if you won our bet! Actually, I'm pretty sure we didn't make any terms. I don't owe you anything."

My outburst left him looking pretty flustered. I thought I had managed to stand my ground pretty competently, but then he motioned to my empty bag. "It's not like that! You don't seem to have brought any of your books today, so I thought…"

Now it was my turn to be embarrassed. I had just yelled at him for being considerate. He made me feel worse when he held out his hands to me, "I'll take the books you don't need, of course. You don't have to repeat literature class today, do you?"

"O, Of course not!" My cheeks felt hot from embarrassment. I didn't want to make things any worse, so I handed him the book for our literature class. In exchange, he handed me a small stack of books.

I checked their covers, then squinted at him suspiciously. "... How do you know what classes I have?"

"We have all of our core classes together." He answered without blinking. "Have you, uh… never noticed…?"

Nope.

Nope, I had not.

Add that to the list of reasons why I felt absolutely stupid that morning.

"I don't really notice anyone." I said quickly, as if to defend myself. It wasn't like he looked particularly bothered, but I kept going as if I had a fight to win. "No one talks to me, so I gave up. It's really tiring to be ignored all of the time, you know?"

"Then let's talk more." He answered me without hesitation, "Why don't we have lunch together? I can take back some of my books then, too. I don't want to burden you with so much weight."

It was that simple. I remember being surprised. So much so that I couldn't formulate anymore stupid arguments or verbal attacks. He took back the books that I wouldn't need until after lunch, leaving me with just one textbook. Then he went off to his separate elective class. Likewise, I wandered off to my art class.

I couldn't believe that it had been that easy. In just one class period, my world had gotten brighter. I even caught myself smiling at my reflection---

And then I suddenly came to a stop. Feet planted in the ground, almost tripping myself physically as my mind tripped over a startling realization.

"I never asked him what his name was!!!" I gasped loudly.

Fortunately, my social invisibility kicked in. No one noticed my outburst in the middle of the hallway. 

"Oh gosh… He knew my name was Ophelia." I covered my face with my palm and groaned, "Asking him now is going to be so awkward!"

I spent all of my art class obsessively trying to recall his name. My art project turned into a weird abstract of pink bows and green polka dots. It did not turn into a name. By the end of class, all I knew was that I didn't know anything about him. He was nice, had a photographic memory, and looked prettier than any girl I knew. Apparently he sat next to me. That's all I had.

Lunch came around and with it, another realization: I didn't even know where we were planning to meet up. I don't buy my lunch. I usually make it. Of course, I would have forgotten my textbooks and lunch on the same day.

"He's going to think that I'm such a mess." I groaned, leaning back against the cafeteria wall. The prickly brick was probably going to make my hair frizzy, but I had more pressing matters on mind than my beauty. I had decided to strike a medium between the cafeteria lunch line and entrance to the general seating. From where I stood, I could watch students as they filed into the cafeteria for lunch. 

My hope was that I could spot that ridiculous coat of his as he walked by. Then I would pick him out of the crowd and pretend it was all a coincidence. The downside of this plan was that I was between hungry high school students and their lunch: People kept bumping into me and almost knocking me down. I'm sure they didn't mean it maliciously. I blame my social invisibility.

"It's a foolproof plan, though, and worth a bit of trouble." I had chimed to myself, "As expected of me."

"What's foolproof?"

I nearly jumped out of my skin.

Sometime between my scanning the crowd and arrogant announcement, that boy had found me. I opened my eyes and found him standing in front of me. He was leaning against the wall, propped up with his elbow and angled toward me. At the time, I thought it was flustering and forward of him. Looking back, I realize that he was guarding me from the stampede of high schoolers.

"Did you bring your lunch?" He asked politely, bringing back my focus. I was still horrible at conversations back then and had forgotten how to answer people. It's embarrassing to admit now.

"Kinda? I… sorta forgot it." I confessed. "It's fine. I'm not really hungry anyway."

He scowled at me. Even now, it's surprising how sincerely worried he was for a stranger like me. It wasn't as if I had done anything but depend on him all day. "We can split mine, then. I made a lot anyway."

"You make your own lunch?" I groaned despairingly, "Let me guess. You're a natural in the kitchen."

"Not really. I just memorize recipes as soon as I read them." His tone was somehow very modest, but I still felt like he was showing me up. "Do you mind if we eat outside, Ophelia?"

"I don't mind." I half-grumbled, still upset about how perfect he was. And then, when hearing my own name, haunted by the fact I didn't know his name yet. I had no plan for how to sneak it out of him. Could I ask to look at his homework, and read his name off the paper? Or ask him how to spell it?

While he guided me to his favorite picnic spot, I tried to come up with a tactic. I didn't pay attention to how he pulled his hoodie over his head when we went outside, then took it off once we were under the shade of a tree. Knowing what I do now, that should have been a red flag.

The spot that he had chosen was close to the our school's soccer field. We settled down in a nice grassy spot under one of the school's large trees. We were far enough away from the school itself that I could only hear a distant murmur of voices, but we were technically still on school grounds. It was surprisingly peaceful there.

He opened his lunch box and neatly split it right down the middle for me. I got the fork, while he opted to eat the meal with just a spoon. I'll admit, I was kind of looking forward to watching him struggle with his utensil choice. He distracted me very quickly.

"Thanks for joining me, Ophelia." He laughed. "To be honest, I've always thought about trying to talk to you. You just seem so scary."

"I-I'm not scary." Stuttering to my defense, I lifted my fork and waved it like a finger, "I'm just not very good at talking to people."

"Heh. I can see that." Don't agree with me!

"But you've always been so kind." He said. I forgave his rude remark, only because I was curious now. He seemed to sense my curiosity as he continued, "You probably don't remember saving my life, do you?"

"I what?" It was impossible to hide my skepticism. In that moment, I worried that there had been some confusion. He must have confused me for another brunette in our class. I may be a ditz sometimes, but I would definitely remember if I saved a cute boy's life. I'm the type who would never let him live it down.

"It's okay. It was really insignificant, so of course you'd forget." He chuckled softly, "We were at the vending machine at the same time, and you bought the last orange juice. When you saw that I couldn't get one too, you graciously gave me your juice instead."

"... I don't think that is dramatic enough to warrant a label like 'saved your life.'" I blurted, "I bet I asked you to get me a cola in return, right?"

"Yes! You did!" He gasped. "So you DO remember!"

No, I don't. I just know that I would have preferred a cola anyway. If I could pretend that I had been forced to give up the healthy alternative in the name of kindness, I would not hesitate. I have never once claimed to be a nice person.

He looked so excited about me remembering that I couldn't deny him out loud.

"You see, I hadn't been drinking enough blood that month. I really needed any form of plasma, or I bet I'd have actually died!" The strange boy laughed, "And even though you'd figured out I was a vampire, you kept my secret. I've really appreciated it."

I what?

Wicked Wasabi
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ChainLink


Beriah
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