Xander: What I Was Thinking...
Working on Saturday night sucked. I had a permanent scowl plastered on my face, one that I doubted could be shaken unless the store suddenly went up in flames. I had a bad taste for corporations and a worse one for authorities, and three days a week I wondered why the hell I was working at this condemned grocery store. If I’d gotten anything from this, I’d learned a good deal about produce. I could have given off prices in my sleep. Bananas… $0.69… Lettuce…$1.29… Potatoes…
I ran my hand absently over the back of my neck, both a nervous habit and a response to the aggravation the uniform polo caused me. Mostly the latter. I knew that Kurt and the others I called my friends were out somewhere getting plastered. Maybe even scoring something. And I was here, stocking the fruit displays. Oh, goodie. Although I very much doubted I'd have wanted to come. That same group of people I'd been running with forever did nothing for me then. They were but a constant reminder of the one oerson missing. The one I couldn't save.
I spared a glance at the doors as they opened, figuring it was just another ignorant customer that couldn’t figure out that aisle twelve was under the big sign labeled aisle twelve. I was proven wrong, as usual. It was worse. Much worse.
As far as stuck up bitches went, I’d met a few. My jock-dominated school was crawling with them. Everyone had a plan, and nine out of ten times it involved screwing everyone else. When it came to my graduating class, no one was more native to the Bitch Clan than Mallory Burke. She could devour with a single gaze and then tear you apart with a single word. With perfect blonde hair and misty grey-green eyes, she strut her shit like no one else mattered, like she was the queen of fucking Sheba. As she waltzed past, she threw me a look that said clearly, you don’t deserve to be in my presence. I so did not need her shit right now.
“Caleb was looking for that rod to change the aisle labels,” I called out, dropping a pair of kiwi onto the shelf. “But don’t worry about it. I paged him and told him it was up your ass.”
Mallory’s lips parted as a sneer took over her face, but a trace of pink had crept into her cheeks. She must have decided I wasn’t worth the response, because she turned on her three-inch heel and started away. I let a single, hollow laugh escape my mouth, echoing after her, mingling with the clicks of her shoes. At least my night seemed a little more worthwhile.
My house was mostly silent when I arrived after work. My parents were out doing whatever it was they did. My brother was probably in his room, as if it mattered to me. We were alike in nothing but looks, and even that was a stretch. He despised me for who I was, and in turn I despised him for who he would inevitably become.
I took the stairs to my room, pausing to kick off my Converse. The room itself was the model of destruction, second only to myself. The walls were plastered witb posters and photographs, many of which had been ripped down in a fit of emotional trauma. I managed to ignore it, stumbling to my desk to turn on the light there.
Resting atop that same notebook from the previous night, there was a folded sheet of paper. It’s edges were frayed and sloppily ripped. I’d found it left on my table after bowling, and even still I couldn’t deny the smile that had snaked onto my lips.
There was something about that girl. I’d watched her and her friends the entire time we’d been there. And although she laughed along and smiled as wide, I knew something was off. Something in her had been broken, and it showed in the faded glow of her pale green eyes and the down-turned angle of her chapped lips. There was a certain aura about her, one that I'd seen one too many times. Within me, something had cried out that this girl, Alessa, needed someone to save her. And I couldnt overlook that. I'd ignored that once before, and in turn I'd lost everything.
Maybe it was a moment of boldness, or maybe I just couldn’t take that damned look on her face anymore. Either way, I’d surprised myself by asking for her number, and she’d surprised me tenfold by giving it up. She’d looked me square in the eyes like few dared to do, twisted her lips up into a cynical little smirk, and said, “It depends. Are you going to call it?”
Surely she’d heard the stories people spun about the infamous Xander Ocher’s life in the fast lane. What was true and what was false mattered little. I still had to endure the stares of my classmates and the alienation they inflicted upon me.
My phone suddenly felt heavy in my pocket. I let out a small groan of defeat and picked up the paper. It wasn’t as if I had if I had anything left to lose.
Alessa: What I Was Feeling...
The cadence of the Commons was that of an unsteady drum-line, utterly erratic and often unexpected. Whenever I thought I might have managed to sync into it, it threw something completely different at me. I’d been sitting in the same place at the same table every day for the entirety of my Freshman year. The people around me came and went, but I was a constant, an unmoving rock in the stream of things.
There was but one person left whom I could count on to be by my side, and that was Ellie Gallagher. We were nothing alike, of course. Where I was all black hair and eyeliner, she was all smooth, dirty blonde layers and wide, natural eyes. Her tan offset my ghost-like pallor. Her social tendencies made up for my complete withdraw.
She was sitting across from me now, speed-texting and carrying on two different conversations with the people on either side of her. I watched this with a silent sort of discomfort, knowing at any time I might be invited into the conversation. My abilities to communicate with those around me had long since deteriorated. I kept my eyes down, focused on the untouched food on my tray.
I could feel him across the room, could almost hear his carefree laugh. I knew he was in the same spot as always. I knew he was laughing with the same friends as always. I knew he wouldn’t ever look up at me. He was too busy pretending he’d never even known of my existence. Like always. I knew well enough that he was head over heels in love, or something like that, nevermind that the two were an absolutely horrid match.
“Alessa!” Ellie’s voice and the sound of my own name brought me out of myself, back to reality. A place I so did not want to be at that moment.
“Huh?” Came my brilliant response.
“We were talking about the winter dance,” She said. I raised my eyes to meet her own. My expression was laced with exhaustion; I hadn’t slept again. Not that I’d expected to. Tuesdays were always the worst days. At least on Mondays everyone was catching up on the break ups, make ups, and hook ups. Then, on Tuesday, we were left to stare out at the rest of the week, stretching into an abyss of nothingness.
“It’s November,” I said. “Snowball is in February.”
Audrey gave me a mixture of a shrug and a scowl. “We were just getting a few ideas,” she explained in that tone of hers that told me to watch myself, because she couldn’t always be there to do it for me. “Are you thinking of asking anyone?”
She knew the answer to that. She knew the very first place my mind went, to a table not so far away and a boy who had taken advantage of a girl who didn’t know any better. She knew it, because I saw her eyes go even wider as she realized that she had just set me on a one way path to thoughts better left untouched.
What she didn’t know was the second place my mind went. And that was to Xander. After he’d texted me on Saturday night, we’d spent most of Sunday doing the same. It was mostly platonic, streaked with the occasional line of flirtation. But I couldn’t deny the shiver that danced its way up my spine whenever I looked over and saw his name up on my phone. I wanted to tell myself that I wasnt getting attached, because that would only lead to more pain. But Xander was one of those people who you sort of felt obligated to say whatever it took to make him smile. I was eager to know what his story was. Why his eyes always seemed brimmed with tears that I knew he'd never let himself cry. But then again, I thought, maybe I didnt much want to know after all.
I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting myself into. I’d always heard what bad news he was. I knew I should have been turning and running the other way, screaming bloody murder. But, just like the first time he’d met my eyes, I was captivated. I was stuck. I didn’t think I could have walked out now, even if I’d wanted to.