The girl was ridiculously early to class the following morning. I watched her as she walked unsurely in through the door and made her way straight to the back of the room, where I sat, hard at work on another drawing. I’d had another nightmare, and every nerve in my body screamed at me to get the memories down onto paper.
The dream had been no different than any other night, and yet when I’d awoken in the dead of the night, sweaty and terrified, feeling as though Death herself had an icy grip on my shoulder, It had felt as though it had meant so much more to me.
I bent back over the paper and allowed the charcoal to move itself, the image of the black-winged angel who lay dying in the hospital bed forming slowly from the lines that I drew.
But I was also insanely aware of the girl’s presence as she slid into the desk beside me, glancing at me as she did. Her expression seemed slightly less guarded, though still untrusting. I wondered if she was as unnerved by me as I was by her.
“You’re early,” I said, if only to say something. My fingers trembled as I drew the final arch of the angel’s wing and began to shade it in. She didn’t reply. Great; I was off to such a wonderful start in the friend department.
“What are you working on?” She asked, her tone merely curious, if not a bit uncertain.
I hesitated for a moment. I rarely ever showed anyone my drawings, not even Cordelia, not that she would ever understand anyways.
But then I thought, What the hell? and I held it up for her to see. “Nothing too good,” I muttered as I watched her eyes roam over the page. For once her face seemed almost serene, and definitely raw and unprotected. Without her guard up, she looked like a child, almost, and a beautiful one at that.
“Who is she?” She asked, and I thought a shiver may have run up her spine.
“I don’t know,” I whispered truthfully. I wished I knew who she was, and why she wouldn’t leave me to rest in peace. I certainly didnt know why I was telling her any of it. “I dream, about her, though. I dream that I am crying over her, mourning her.”
She seemed to shiver again, and I quickly set the half-finished drawing back on my desk. “I’m Arielle, by the way,” she said suddenly. I looked back to her, but she had looked away.
Arielle. I felt her name tingling on my lips, screaming to burst forth. I distracted myself by returning to my drawing, although the thought of even putting the charcoal to the paper again seemed preposterous.
Arielle looked away again, and I propped my head up on my arm, openly staring at her. No, staring seemed like the wrong word. I was merely studying her, memorizing every part of her. She was so… different than what I had expected girls in New York to be like. Call me stereotypical, but I’d been thinking more along the lines of Prada or whatever. How silly of me. There was pain and shattered fragments everywhere. I had a feeling there were more than usual hidden within her.
When she looked back, I noticed her cold gray eyes, tinged with the slightest traces of green, gazing intently at the inner part of my forearm. I allowed a tiny smirk, knowing all too well that her startled gaze was transfixed on the tattoo there- that of a black cross. I’d gotten it the summer I turned fifteen, before I’d been forced to move to New York, which, so far, seemed to be my own personal hell.
“That move got me in serious trouble,” I told her, surprised at myself. I wasn’t usually much of a conversationalist.
Arielle let a full smile creep onto her lips, and the sight was unlike anything I’d ever seen. It made me feel… something. Something I’d never felt before- at least not since I’d come to New York City. Arielle seemed to hold all the hope in the world in that smile. And I was sure that she had no idea.
As was custom, when I entered the lunch room that afternoon, I glanced around at all the tables I knew I would never sit at- the Cheerleaders and football players, the precocious geeks and the comic book nerds, the wannabes, the eco-friendly freaks and the skaters. None glanced back. None even noticed my existence. Even the lowest people on the social charts were above me. At least they registered.
I got my food and made my way out to the courtyard. Only in New York would a day school have a courtyard. Of course, Billiards was supposedly one of the higher-end schools. It wasn’t like the private academies I passed sometimes when I visited Central Park, but it was loads better than the public schools. My mother would never allow me to attend a public school, or anything of the sort. Even if her income hardly funded the standard bills. But who’s complaining?
When I reached my usual spot under a friendly-looking oak, though, I very nearly dropped my tray. I settled for dropping my jaw in what I was sure was a terribly unattractive way, and my heavily made-up eyes went wide.
Griffin glanced up at me just as I managed to compose myself.
“Well, well, well,” he murmured under his breath. Then, louder, he added, “Don’t tell me you sit here, too. First the desk and now the tree?” I nodded slowly, unsure if I could stay here while he was. I doubted I would be able to eat in his presence. Or breathe. Griffin laughed a little. “We just keep running into each other. It must be fate.”
I forced a laugh along with him, but my stomach was in knots.
Somehow, Griffin seemed to be aware of this fact. I allowed myself to think that just maybe he was feeling it too. “Some lecture, huh?” He said with an eye roll, gracefully changing the subject. I assumed he was referring to Mr. Norton, since that was the only class we had together.
I nodded. “Romeo and Juliet were both insane,” I said. Griffin cocked his head to the side, silently asking me to continue. I took a deep, uneven breath. “Well,” I started, “if they would have just listened to their parents, neither of them would have wound up dead. They probably wouldn’t have even met each other, and they would have went on with their happy little lives.”
“But they weren’t happy,” Griffin interrupted.
“Paris could have made Juliet very happy if she’d have only cooperated. He was fine for her, but she was too difficult. She only wanted Romeo because she knew she couldn’t have him. And besides, where is the sense in neglecting your standards, and throwing away your lives over a silly thing like lust in hopes that it will somehow manifest into love, when anyone who pauses long enough to actually use that grey matter between their ears, would realize that love doesn’t exist at all and is merely a creation of fiction writers.” It was the most I had said since… ever, I was sure. I said all of this very fast, and for a moment, I worried that maybe Griffin hadn’t caught a word.
He had, though. He had heard every single word I’d said, and I could tell that he too had an argument prepared, and it was probably better than mine.
“I find it terribly romantic,” Griffin mumbled, to my great surprise. “They were willing to sacrifice everything to be with each other; they couldn’t have cared less what anyone else had to say about it. The fact that their love was so strong, that they were willing to die to remain together, symbolizes the feeling of acceptance that everyone longs for. Nobody wants to spend their lives with someone they don’t love, and they found that in each other.”
“There was no love in their relationship!” I insisted. “How can you meet someone one minute, fling yourself at them the next, marry them three days later, and call that love? That’s nothing more than puppy-love, lust! You can’t fall in love with someone in just a few hours. It takes time!”
“Why is that, I wonder,” Griffin murmured. “If you love someone, why must it take time to prove it? Why can’t it be immediate? The moment you feel it, you should be able to express it. Who says there’s no such thing as love at first sight?”
Whatever remark I’d been about to make died in my throat. His words were like poetry, like Romeo’s own sonnet, flowing from his lips, whispered to me. I swallowed hard, a burning in the pit of my stomach. I knew exactly what he was referring to- and I had a feeling that he wanted to be loved just as much as I did.
Griffin knew that he’d won our argument. He flashed a smug grin, and then turned to look out into the courtyard. I couldn’t help but think of the fact that my mom had fallen head over heels for Mark during an argument they’d had. I shook the thoughts away.