Cool, crisp Nantucket morning air stung her frozen, flushed cheeks as she sprinted toward her nearing destination. Her warm, shallow breath left her cold lips in rhythmic pants, creating small puffs of breath. With each lengthy stride, her hair whipped carelessly in her face, leaving a slight stinging sensation, but she pushed forward. She gradually slowed her pace as she stepped into the aged, brick building. Bare hallways indicated that she was already quite late; she jogged through halls, her sneakers squeaking with each step taken and readjusted her leather bag so it hung from her shoulder. Standing in front of the door, she sighed and opened the door slowly, intending to draw the least amount of attention to herself.
Clarissa stealthily snuck into her first period seat and began to take notes on the day’s History lecture. Her long, dark tresses cascaded over her face; she wished that it would somehow make her less detectable by her teacher.
“Is there a reason you are late Ms. Pettigrove?” her teacher turned around to glare at her.
She looked up meekly and tucked her hair behind her ear. “I had car trouble this morning,” she mumbled, avoiding eye contact.
Earlier that morning, Clarissa’s foster father ‘politely requested’ that she go buy him a twelve pack of beer; in reality, he threatened to beat her if she did not submit to his orders. She was forced to drive to the liquor store and back to the house, just to find that the despicable man was unconscious, surrounded by his own vomit. His behavior repulsed her, but she knew that she was powerless to do anything about it.
“This is your third time this month, young lady. Be more careful,” her teacher said skeptically and turned back to the whiteboard.
Clarissa let out a quiet sigh of relief, turned her attention back to her notes, and began writing briskly.
“Clarissa,” a voice whispered from behind her.
“Just ignore him. In time, he’ll just leave me alone,” she reminded herself, “It works with everyone else.”
“Clarissa,” he whispered slightly louder, poking her shoulder a few times.
“Why does Vaughn insist on talking to me?” she thought, slightly irritated by his persistence.
In situations like this, normally Clarissa would continue to ignore him, but in this case, she felt somewhat guilty for not responding. Ever since school had begun a month ago, Vaughn had been so kind to her; he would walk with her to class and just chat even though she rarely responded. Clarissa had assumed that he was only being nice to her because he was a new transfer and did not know anyone else, that eventually he would understand why few people talked to her. But a month had passed and he still wanted to socialize with her. It did not sit well with her. It made her feel guilty for pushing him away.
“What?” Clarissa whispered in an exasperated tone as she turned to face him.
Vaughn, unfazed, beamed. “Good morning!”
Clarissa stared at him for a moment, sighed, and went back to taking notes. He was relentless.
“Wonderful weather we’re having,” he whispered cheerfully, “I’m thinking about having a picnic in the park after school.”
Clarissa acted as if she did not hear him, but she was intrigued by his determination to talk to her. It almost made her smile; almost, but not quite.