So this is the new guy everyone's been talking about all day, I thought. It was him, I knew it was. I could feel the excitement of the room swell as the girls indiscreetly pointed and whispered amongst themselves while the boys sized him up. Not only that, but he matched the description that had been circulating; he was an inch or two shy of six feet, had well-toned muscles -lean not bulky- hair that was about as brown as it could get and still be considered blonde, and eyes that were the color of ice: hard and contemplative.
"Tell us something about yourself," Mrs. Phillips urged.
"My name is Jason; I don't like being called anything other than that. That means no nicknames, for those of you that didn't understand." He said this with a scowl. He looked like he'd rather be punching old ladies instead of introducing himself to the class. Great, another angst ridden teen was added to the school. Just what I needed; as if I didn't have enough to deal with already. Mrs. Phillips searched the room for a moment. Don't see me, don't see me, don't see me, I silently prayed.
"Scarlet, raise your hand, please." Dang it. Sometimes I just have the worst luck. I reluctantly raised my hand just high enough to be seen. "There's an empty seat over there, Jason. Look, now you don't have to work alone anymore, Scarlet." Oh what a relief. Not! When everyone was choosing partners and lab tables, I purposely waited until they were all partnered up so I could sit in the back by myself. Being with other people was a strain for me. I liked being alone. Solitude was . . . safe.
Jason dropped his backpack next to mine on the floor and hoisted himself up onto the stool and turned towards me.
"What are we doing?" He asked indifferently.
"Taking notes so we can dissect on Friday."
"Squid." I turned my back to him and began doodling in my notebook, hoping he would get the hint to leave me alone. He did. He didn't say a word to me all class period, which was wonderful. The last thing I needed was for someone to try to be my friend. The bell rang and I slowly packed up my stuff, ready to go home, but waiting for the initial stampede for the door to clear. I put the pencil I had been using back into the container Mrs. Phillips left on the edge of each lab table, but me being me, I knocked over the container. Pencils spilled onto the table and raced for the floor in a bizarre competition. I scrambled to catch them before they could all roll off of the table.
"Dang it," I muttered putting them back into the cup. Jason was doing the same- although judging from his earlier behavior I didn't see why he was helping- and our hands accidentally bumped. I flinched, expecting to feel the familiar wave of numbness wash over me, but instead, nothing happened. My head whipped up in his direction and I found my deer-in-headlights look of dismay mirrored on his own face.
What the heck?
"I-I'm sorry." I threw my backpack over my shoulder and all but ran for the door. I didn't understand what had gone on back there, but it wasn't normal. I didn't avoid people because I wanted to; I wasn't a loner by choice. I was only doing this out of necessity. I had a condition that couldn't be explained. When I was around people, they sapped the life out of me, literally. I was constantly giving people a sense of well-being. I know you're probably thinking that I was nice and was a good person for doing this, but I didn't want to. I couldn't care less how these people felt, but I couldn't stop myself from helping them. As a matter of fact, my body did it all on its own. If someone in the room was angry, I calmed them down; if someone was depressed I took their sadness away. In return, I was left with numbness, a feeling of having been drained. It made me tired and weak, but I could deal with it most days. Being in a room full of people was like being shocked by a bunch of little kids after they've rubbed their socked feet across the carpet; it was utterly annoying, but completely bearable. I didn't really mind it I had gotten so used to it. I could ignore people most of the time, until they touched me. When I was touched, it was like being struck by lightning; it was debilitating, hard to recover from, and possibly even deadly. When people touched me, they took the largest amount of comfort I could give. It sometimes took me days to get over. So that's why I opted to stay alone. It was too big of a risk; I had to play it safe. I never told anyone about it, not even my parents- as much as they loved me, they would probably have me locked away in an asylum if I told them. It was also the reason I wore a sweater most of the time too, to avoid any accidental skin on skin contact. It was just too big of a risk.