I scribbled a note into my notebook with a slight sigh. Our professor stood at the front of the room, lecturing us until our hands cramped and our brains burst at the seams. Her bright blue polo shirt somehow matched perfectly with her neon green, feathery earrings, a feat that no one else would have been able to manage. Her hair, short and spiky, only emphasized her stature. Professor Duncan was short, but she didn’t not hesitate to assign a hefty stack of homework.
“Before you leave,” she said in that shrill and yet so commanding voice, “make sure to check the list at the door. The small groups of two to three people are assigned there.”
I didn’t even look up. I hadn’t imagined doing partner projects in college—but I had learned to leave expectations at the door in Professor Klara Duncan’s class. She was known for her “new methods” and “innovative classroom procedures”.
I let out another sigh and turned to my right. Anna Klintson was sitting next to me, feverishly writing in a notebook. Her platinum-blonde hair shone in the artificial lights of the classroom, a stark difference to my own white-blonde curls. I smiled and shook my head.
“She’s a lot tougher than she looks, huh.”
Anna’s head whipped up, and she glanced at the front of the room, where Professor Duncan was writing on the whiteboard. When she looked back at me, she let out the tiniest of giggles.
“Yeah, guess so,” she said happily, turning her body to face me. “And this partner project—does she think we’re in junior high?”
I grinned and focused back on my notes. After a beat, she shifted back.
When Professor Duncan dismissed the class, I stood with the rest of the crowd and shuffled towards the sheet of paper, tacked next to the door. As people shoved and bumped me, I scanned for my name.
Willow London… Kayla MacMillard.
I was pushed out of the classroom, contemplating the name on the list. Reading it, I knew exactly who it was. She was tall—well, taller than me, but I was really too short to judge anyone’s height. I’d seen her in class and around campus, usually with a few other friends. Her grades were better than mine by a significant amount. Searching my memory for any other sign of her, I remembered that she was a musician—and apparently a good one. Her band, The Rebellion Begins, was popular around the campus. I had listened to them once, with Bri, who was a fan, and they’d played at a few school events.
I spun on my heel, catching my messenger back before it could fly off of my shoulder. “Yeah?” I said, before I even saw who it was.
Kayla. The first thing I noticed about her was her freckles. All across her nose, dipping down into her cheeks, meandering under her bangs. I met her eyes—wow, her eyelashes were gorgeous—and I tried to smile, but I couldn’t tell you if it worked or not.
It was a full minute before I realized she had asked me a question. I felt heat rise under my collar. “Sorry, um, what did you say?”
She blushed just the tiniest bit, pink creeping down her cheeks and onto her neck. “Oh, I just asked if you were free anytime to work on the project?”
I smiled, still a little shaken but determined not to let it show. “Sure! What day is best for you?” I pulled out my phone, angling my body so she could see my calendar. She did the same.
“Um, I’m free tomorrow or, um, Thursday…”
“Let's do tomorrow,” I said decisively. “Sounds good?”
She met my eyes again and I felt tingles in my fingertips. With a smile, she nodded. “Sounds perfect.”
I nodded once and shoved my hands into my pockets, hoping she hadn’t seen them trembling. “I’ll see you then.” I turned to leave, but then I felt a hand on my arm and jumped.
“Oh,” she said, pulling her hand away. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you!”
“No, it’s fine,” I stammered, trying to keep my cool. “What’s up?”
“Um, don’t you need my address?”
Her address. “Oh, right, thanks.” I reached to grab a notebook from my bag, but it caught and flung the contents of my bag across the floor. I winced and she knelt to help me pick everything up. Stuffing my notebooks back into my bag, I rolled my eyes.
“I hate lugging all of this around,” I said, grinning. “Thanks for the help."
“Oh, of course!”
Only then did I realize I had put everything back into my bag, including the notebook I had been searching for in the first place. I groaned.
“Here, let me just…” I watched as she wrote something in blue ink on my forearm. She was standing so close that I almost expected her to hear how loud my heart was pounding.
When she was done, I turned my arm over, reading what she had written. It was an address, not too far from campus. I looked back up.
“Now I’ll see you tomorrow,” I said with a nervous laugh, wincing. What was wrong with me?
She let out a short, breathy laugh, and turned away. “Yep. See you.”
I waited until she was out of sight to turn around. I let out a long breath, tension leaking from my shoulders.
The drive back to my apartment was a blur. As soon as I opened the door, I flung my bag to the floor and flopped onto the couch, confusion making all of my thoughts run together. I found myself staring at the loopy writing on my forearm.
My head shot up, but when I saw who it was I sagged back onto the couch. “Nothing…”
Bri cocked one eyebrow. “Right. What, got a new boyfriend?” She fluttered her eyelashes, in what I think was supposed to be an imitation of me. I rolled my eyes.
“Bri, in the entire time you have known me, when have I dated anyone.”
She grinned, a mischievous grin that I knew so well. “Well, there was that guy in junior year—”
“Bee, that doesn’t count!” As she laughed, I closed my eyes, tired of keeping up appearances. “I’m sleeping. Don’t bother me.”
She snickered. “Right, your Highness.” I didn’t open my eyes. After a moment, I felt her walk away.
It was calming behind my eyelids. For a second, I thought I might actually be able to sleep, but then an image of Kayla swam into view. Her dark hair, her adorable freckles… I snapped my eyes open. No. I was not going to deal with this all over again. There was no use wishing. It wouldn’t go anywhere.
Still, no matter how I tried to distract myself, her eyes wouldn’t leave me alone.
My phone chimed as I shoved a piece of pizza into my mouth. I swallowed and picked it up. It wasn’t a number I recognized… furrowing my brow, I put the phone to my ear.
“Hello?” I swallowed and wiped my mouth with the back of my hand.
“Oh, hi! This is Kayla—from school?” I stood up from the couch, where Bri was leaning over a textbook. She looked up at me, slightly confused, but I didn’t meet her eyes.
“Kayla, hi! What—how did you get my number?” Dang it, why was my voice trembling? She laughed and tingles ran up my back. “Anna Grant, you know, who is in our class? I asked because I realized we hadn’t set a time for tomorrow.”
“Oh! Yeah, that’s probably important,” I said, looking out of a window absentmindedly. “What works for you?”
She didn’t respond for a moment—looking at a calendar, I guessed. “Well, I’m free anytime after three, so how about three-thirty?”
I nodded before I remembered that she couldn’t see me. “Right. Yes. That’s perfect!”
I could hear the smile in her voice. “And you have my address,” she laughed.
“Of course,” I said, laughing. Yikes, too loud. I stopped. “Uh, I’ll see you then…”
Neither of us said anything for a moment. “Yeah, um, bye,” she mumbled, and hung up.
Head spinning, I left the apartment without saying a word to Bri. My feet knew where they were going, even though my mind was still replaying her words, over and over.
I lowered myself to the ground, wrapping the night around me like a comfort blanket. It was cool, but my cheeks were hot. Around me, the freshly-cut grass shone in the light of the moon, rising above the skyline.
“What am I thinking,” I murmured to the stars. They winked and glinted at me. Maybe if I could hear them, they would give me all of the answers. “What is the point of this?”
In my head, a harsh voice answered me. There is no “this”. You’ve never even told anyone that you like girls—and you know you’re never going to. Imagine what Mom and Dad would think! I sighed. Right. Still, her eyes lingered in my mind for a moment, before I stood and shook my head resolutely.
“She’s my friend, and not even that quite yet. That’s all, and nothing more. No, there will never be anything more.”
With that last bit of strength, I walked back to the apartment and went to bed, letting myself fall into a restless sleep.
Collab with my wonderfully talented girlfriend, spookylaneybird! Go check her page for chapter one, written from Kayla's perspective. Cheers!