On Monday morning I learned that you could be the most unacknowledged person in the girl-world, and yet people’s eyes are naturally drawn to you when they see you with a boy.
This seemed to be the case for me as I hurried off to English with Griffin, our clasped hands swinging lazily between us. Something about relationships made the average teenage girl go all ga-ga, and when we passed the cliques gathered in the hallways I heard the whispers and caught the eyes of various onlookers. Apparently the students of Billiards decided that people like Griffin and I weren’t allowed to fall in love- the glares we received in the crowded corridors indicated just that.
“Do we have to be so extroverted about this?” I whispered loudly to Griffin as we took our seats in the back of Mr. Narson’s classroom.
Griffin began shuffling through his folder for the assignment Mr. Narson had informed us we’d be turning in at the start of class. I too started looking for mine, hoping it was completed. When I took it out, a glanced at the corner and then quickly scrawled the ‘proper heading’ up in the tiny box: Arielle Kemp, October 19th.
“You’re not ashamed, are you, Arielle?” Griffin teased, a playful smile curling on his lips.
“No,” I scowled. “I’m just not a big fan of attention.”
Griffin pulled out the sheet of loose-leaf. “Note to self,” he stated as he wrote out the words in his huge curling handwriting, every syllable dripping with sarcasm. “Arielle does not like attention.”
I sighed in frustration; Griffin smiled in triumph.
Just as the bell rang, Mr. Narson came storming into the room, looking as flustered as ever. He was towing a huge stack of books, which he set down carefully on the corner of his desk.
“Class has commenced!” He announced cheerfully, receiving blank stares from everyone but Griffin and I. For how much the people at this school gossiped and talked, you’d think they’d have wider vocabularies. Mr. Narson cleared his throat. “What I meant was, class has begun.”
After taking attendance and collecting our assignments, Mr. Narson took his favorite place in the room- standing on the right side of the chalkboard, his body angled to the left. I was sure the man was part chameleon and that he stood there to watch the students out of one eye and the board out of the other.
“Today we will be starting another of Shakespeare’s masterpieces,” he proclaimed happily. I groaned, along with most of the other students. Griffin, however, was practically beaming. “As well as another project,” he added with a smile of glee. More groans.
“We’ll be studying A Midsummer Night’s Dream, my personal favorite,” Mr. Narson continued. “And together with a partner, you each will have to compare and contrast the play to Romeo and Juliet, which I assume you have a pretty decent understanding of by now.”
This is just peachy, I thought resentfully. I loathed Shakespeare, and I’d almost been celebrating when we’d finished Romeo and Juliet, thinking that I’d never have to look upon that book again. A Midsummer Night’s Dream couldn’t be much better.
My mood was slightly improved when Mr. Narson informed us that we got to choose our own partners and Griffin swung his desk around to face me. I did the same. Mr. Narson came around to hand out books, and I took mine reluctantly, holding it by the corner as though it was going to bite me.
“Arielle, it’s just Shakespeare,” Griffin moaned in an exasperated tone. “The man was a genius. Besides, just think of all the extra time we can spend together reading it.” He rolled his eyes before adding, “Someone’s going to have to translate it for you.’
I bit my lip to hide the smile trying to escape- Griffin would not win again. But he had found my weakness: him.
The ring of the bell startled me, causing me to jump and Griffin to laugh. We exited the class together, and then paused in the hallway to part for second hour- I had Calculus and he had some AP Art class.
“I’ll see you at lunch,” he whispered, leaning in and kissing my cheek.
“Mr. Barrett,” Mr. Narson’s booming voice called from the entrance of his classroom. “Public Displays of Affection will result in detention. Don’t make me warn you again.”
Griffin nodded sheepishly before rushing off to the art hall.
As soon as school let out at three, Griffin and I began the twenty-block walked to Cordelia’s mansion. Any other time, twenty blocks would seem more like twenty miles, but with Griffin it hardly seemed like twenty steps.
“So what are our plans for today?” I asked offhandedly as I slid into a tight black hoodie I’d shoved carelessly into my bag.
Griffin paused to wait for me. “I thought that maybe you’d let me draw you today,” he answered. “But only if you’re up to it.”
I nodded, and we began to walk again, our steps falling in sync.
“It’s getting much colder,” I pointed out randomly.
“Arielle,” Griffin nearly cut me off. “I can tell when something’s bothering you.”
I sighed, readjusting my bag so that I could snake my arm in through Griffin’s.
“My dad’s getting remarried,” I surrendered at last. “And he wants me to fly into California to be there.”
“Arielle, that’s great,” Griffin replied, giving my hand a squeeze. I hadn’t even noticed that we’d been holding hands. “When’s the wedding?”
I shook my head. “Why should I be there for him if he was never there for me?” I repeated the same reasoning that I’d used on myself.
Griffin sighed softly. “Because,” he almost hissed, “he’s your father. You should cherish him while you can.”
I recoiled as though I’d been slapped, although Griffin was the one who should have been feeling hurt. After all, he didn’t even have a father to spend time with, and here I was complaining about seeing mine. How could I have been so insensitive?
We reached Cordelia’s house in silence, slipping off our shoes in the doorway and heading straight up to the second floor. We made a quick appearance in Cordelia’s room so that she knew we were home, and then we went on to Griffin’s room.
Still irate, I plopped down onto Griffin’s bed, burying my head in his mound of pillows. Less than thirty seconds later- I was counting in my head- I felt Griffin’s warm hand on my back, rubbing in small, circular motions.
“I shouldn’t have snapped at you like that,” he murmured. “It was uncalled for.”
I rolled over so that I could look up into Griffin’s inhumanly beautiful face, staring at him with pleading eyes. As though he could read my mind, he bent down and planted a soft kiss upon my pale, bare lips. I put my arms around his shoulders, pulling him down beside me.
“He did say that I could bring a friend,” I hinted quietly, keeping my slender arms around him. Griffin smiled a lazy half-smile.
“I am going to draw you now, and we will discuss this later.” Griffin spoke to me in such a tone, I felt like I was a young child being reprimanded. I kissed him again before he rose from the bed and went to go sit at his desk.
I bolted up, smoothing out my disheveled hair. “What am I supposed to do?” I asked nervously.
“Just lay there,” Griffin said distractedly, taking a knife from a cup and sharpening several pieces of charcoal.
While he did this, I laid back down and tried several positions until I found one the I liked- not to posed, but not entirely careless either.
Griffin pulled his desk away from the wall and turned it so that he could see his king-sized bed.
“Now, just. Don’t. Move.” Each word came out as an individual sentence as Griffin lowered himself onto his three-legged wooden stool.
I tried not to breathe or blink as I watched Griffin make light, even strokes across the bleach white cardstock. After every few repetitions of the same line, he would smear the gray-black charcoal with his fingers. He seldom touched the eraser- he seldom made mistakes.
“You can breathe, Arielle,” Griffin laughed as he picked up a new, sharper piece of charcoal. I flashed a smile before quickly composing myself.
Like every other time I’d ever seen him drawing, Griffin threw himself completely into his work. I was sure that if I called out his name, he’d be totally oblivious to the interruption.
It was rather mesmerizing, watching Griffin at work. After a while I found that I was hypnotized to the backwards-forwards motions of his graceful hands, the determined look in his eyes, the tiny satisfied smile present on his lips- the overall essence of him intoxicated me. I knew that I could never be as passionate about anything as Griffin was about his art.
My gray-blue eyes followed him as he sketched. Every movement seemed vital to the outcome of the portrait, even the tiniest shifting of weight.
The glow of the candles around us was very peaceful, and a wave of exhaustion swept over me, I wasn’t sure if closing my eyes counted as moving, and I was too afraid to ask.
But whatever the answer was, it made no difference, because sleep soon overtook me.
I was much too focused on Arielle’s portrait; I didn’t even notice when she suddenly fell into sleep. Laughing quietly to myself, I pushed the drawing aside, rose, and went to go lay beside her.
. Maybe everything was shot to hell. Maybe my parents were dead and I was probably next in line. But holding Arielle, everything seemed okay. I felt…hopeful.
The false sense of security scared me the most. Contentment was nothing more than a sign that everything was about to fall apart.
I’d die if anything happened to her. Even if I had to kill myself. I’d half-way done it before, and I could do t again with ease, and without a backward glance. Not a force on this Earth could make me live a day without her.
I closed my eyes and pulled her limp body closer. I wondered what she dreamed of behind her fluttering eyelids. Did it bring her peace, or terrorize her in the night, when she was helpless and truly, truly alone?
Did she dream of me?
I gave her a slight kiss on the cheek, standing up to leave her in peace.
I stepped out into the hallway and was instantly plagued with a desire to visit my Grandmother. To apologize to her for how I’d behaved last time I’d visited her. I ‘d been upset, but that was hardly an excuse for my rash behavior.
I knew she’d been in her sitting room, where she always was. I crept down the hall to see her perched upon her chair. To my immense surprise the heavy shades were open, and she was staring blankly out at the world beyond that was New York City. This town was a kingdom, and Cordelia was a queen.
Without making a sound I went and sat in the chair parallel hers.
“It’s a beautiful city,” I murmured. Cordelia nodded slowly.
“There’s nothing else like it in the entire world,” she replied. “You should have seen it when I was a child. All around us was terror and war and destruction, and yet something about the city made it all seem bearable. “
“I don’t think it will ever truly be home,” I told her.
Cordelia turned her head ever so slightly, and a faint smile crept onto her lips. “I think it already is.”
I slinked back into silence, hating Cordelia for her insight, hating myself for being so damn stubborn.
When our green eyes locked again, I suddenly blurted, “I think I love her.”
“I know you love her,” my Grandmother snapped. “And we both know she loves you. The question is what to do with this wondrous knowledge.”
Cordelia’s biting tone did not faze me.
“Tell her,” she said quietly. “Tell her you love her before it’s too late.”
I narrowed my eyes, rapidly transforming the knot of terror in my chest to fury. “You say it like she’ll die tomorrow.”
“She might,” Cordelia retorted icily. “Or you might. You never know what tomorrow may hold. Cherish today while it is yours. Live your life so that when you close your eyes to sleep, you can do so without regret.”
“I think it’s a little late for that,” I muttered under my breath.
“And I think that you are a foolish boy who knows nothing of the world. Tell her you love her.”
I stood up, fighting with all my might to conceal the smile trying to creep onto my lips. “You know, Cordelia, I don’t think I really have to. I think she already knows.”