C H A P T E R O N E .
It started with a note.
A small, pink post-it note that Eli Perry slipped into my backpack after health class. I remember the exact day too, a Thursday afternoon. It was only the beginning of summer, but the weather was already hot and sticky. The fan had broken down and Mr. Fisher the caretaker had gone home with a sore back which meant he wasn’t there to fix it. The room was pretty much a sauna, a pungent concoction of sweat and b.o lingering in the air. Not that anyone noticed, they were too busy eyeing up the guy candy at the front of the class.
Eli was the principal’s eighteen year old son, who taught our Health and Physical education classes as part of a course requirement at the polytechnic he was studying at. Why his mother let him teach at a girl’s school was totally foreign to me, because Eli was hot.
She was pretty dumb to think that our class was going to learn with a sex god as the teacher. I remember doing warm ups one morning for p.e, calf stretches to be precise. Eli was saying something about the angle of your feet, but do you think anyone was bothering to look down there? No, because when I looked around, every pair of eyes were affixed ohis voluptuous buttocks.
Eli wasn’t discrete with the note, oh no. He specifically asked me to wait behind to help pick up the health textbooks. I wanted to be as quick as possible; I had an interview at the new theme park called the ‘Purple Palace’ for a summer job posing as Belle, the Disney princess. To be honest, I didn’t think my lack of female assets and bland hair would cut it, but Jeddah was persistent in convincing me to audition, so I thought I might as well give it a shot. I didn't need the money, it was more just an activity to fill in time in the summer holidays that were coming up. But it sounded fun, I mean, it's not every day you get to dress up in a poufy ball dress and tiara, right?
To be sure I wasn't late for my interview, I quickly darted around the classroom piling textbooks in my arms. I could feel Eli watching me from the front desk as I did it, his beady eyes observing my every move. It wasn’t his freakishly good looks or his tight jean shorts that made me feel uncomfortable, it was the way I couldn’t force myself to make eye contact with him. Something wasn’t right, and I as weird as it seemed, I wanted out.
The squeaking of the wheels on his chair sent my stomach spiralling, twisting into knots. I hugged the books tightly to my chest, only a few more left and I was free. But I couldn’t move. My feet were glued to the floor, the carpet fibres snaking up my legs like vines, holding me in place. My hands began to sweat and the books began slipping from my grasp. They were heavy, weighing me down like a tonne of bricks. I heard the scuffing of Eli’s Jandals on the carpet, he was coming.
“I-I I’m nearly done,” I choked, stuttering like an idiot. What’s wrong with you? I thought to myself, do you know how many girls in your class would kill to be you right now? –All of them.
Eli cleared his throat, “No need to rush,” He said gently. I could feel him standing behind me, but I was too scared to look anywhere but at my feet.
“Um, I-I actually have somewhere to be right now,” I said quickly, swallowing hard.
“It’s okay, Grace,” He said. I loved the way he said my name, but at the same time I hated it. His voice emphasised the s, and I swore I could feel his breath on my ear, “I understand if you have somewhere better to be.”
I felt my cheeks flush red, burning like they were pressed up against hot concrete.
“I do,” I said quickly, but my voice was just a whisper. My heart skipped a beat, my breathing becoming out of pace.
“Grace,” He repeated my name, slowly, “You can go,”
And then I felt it. His hand made contact with my skin, gently moving up my arm towards my hand. I shivered, Goosebumps pricking my skin.
This is wrong, this is wrong, oh God this is so wrong.
His hand brushed mine, his olive skin contrasting with my pale skin. His hands were perfect, and I suddenly felt ugly, with bleeding cuticles and chewed nails. Eli didn’t seem to mind though, his hand cupped mine, but not for long. I watched them move to the stack of books I was clutching, gripping the edges with his sleek fingers. I didn’t want to move my hands; I knew they’d leave sweat patches.
“You can let go,” Eli said, and I obeyed him, releasing the books. He took them from me, and when I turned around he was walking over to his desk, the books stacked in his arms.
I couldn’t work out if what I was feeling was relief or disappointment. Did he act like that around everyone in class? Or was I special?
No, I couldn’t possibly be special. I was a plank, a boring plank who blended into the background. I didn’t even deserve to be painted, and I was definitely not someone Eli would possibly be into… Was I?
“Grace,” He said, repeating my name for the third time, “Your bag.”
I stepped forward to get it, but Eli was faster, scooping it up effortlessly. But he didn’t just hand it over; he slipped in a pink post-it note, into the front pocket which I hadn’t quite zipped up.
"Good luck at the interview,” He said, his lips curling in a smile, dimples forming in both his cheeks.
“Thanks,” I replied, as I took my bag from him.
Wait, how did he know I had an interview afterschool?
My breathing had returned to normal, and my heart had recovered from its skipped beat. If course, it was still beating fast enough to easily burst through my chest.
I turned around, suddenly becoming aware of what just happened. As I walked swiftly in the direction of the exit, I felt my hand unintentionally drift towards the pocket with the pink note.
No, I told myself, wait.
I couldn’t work out if I ran home or flew home, either way I swear I got to my house in record speed.
I walked up the front steps with only one intention.
I have to talk to Jeddah.