The rest of the morning passed in about the same fashion.
Teachers came and went and it was all I could do to keep myself from staring too much at the boy sitting by my side. My biology teacher, Mr Festus, who I would have hated anyway because of the subject he taught, was the only one who made me stand in front of the whole class and introduce myself. I stammered, squirmed and tripped over my own sandals as I stumbled back to my seat amidst snickers from my classmates.
After two classes, I began to relax somewhat. I was still painfully aware of Chris seated beside me but I found I was able to concentrate more on what the teachers are saying. I especially enjoyed the literature class as literature is my favourite subject. To my delight, I found that Chris is also an art student.
By the time we had the second class, I became somewhat familiar with the way the school system runs. During the periods when science students alone have class, the arts and commercial students will leave and go to the library to catch up on the subjects taught for that day and await the next class they have. Of course, most students just see this as a time to gossip and catch up on the latest news in town. The same goes for the arts and commercial students too – which is very much unlike the system I’m used to. In my former school, we just converge at a bigger class when we have any joint subject to offer and we have smaller classes for the science, arts and commercial students.
One girl sat next to me in both history and biology, and she walked with me to the cafeteria when it was time for lunch. She was tiny, several inches shorter than my five feet eight inches, and with a big smile. You could see the entire formation of her teeth when she smiles. I couldn’t remember her name, so I smiled and nodded as she prattled on about teachers and classmates. I didn’t even try to keep up.
I returned my lunch pack to my bag when I discovered none of the students here bring lunches to school. I narrowly avoided the catastrophe of anyone spotting me bringing it out of my bag in the first place. Thank God my dad gave myself and Chime some spending money otherwise I would have had to do without lunch for today.
I filled up my lunch tray with an apple, a sandwich and a can of fanta and followed my new friend to a full table at the end of the hall. I recognized several faces at the table but maintained a stoic silence as my tiny friend introduced me to everyone around. I nodded shyly to everyone and tried to look at everything apart from the people sited at my table. I noticed my sister at a table not very far from mine and gave her a perfunctory nod. She had abided by my rules and avoided me today which was fine by me. I didn’t need her bubbly self around me. I’ll bet she already made at least a friend in school today. Most likely, I’ll hear all about it when we get home later.
It was then, sitting in the cafeteria, trying to avoid the curiosity of those around me, that I first noticed Chris looking at me. He stared at me with such overwhelming intensity that my heart virtually stopped. In that moment, I knew what people mean when they say their heart stopped.
I was so flustered I didn’t know what to do with myself for about twenty seconds. I stared at my tray, listened to the conversation around me with half an ear and finally risked a glance back in his direction. He was still sitting there but this time his face was turned away from me. I used the opportunity to study his beautiful profile.
His is the kind of face you never expect to see except maybe on the glossy pages of a fashion magazine or maybe painted by the famous Michelangelo as the face of an angel. It was beautiful, sculpted and perfect. From this distance, I could even manage to see the shadow of the tiny dimple beneath his chin. He was that exquisite. So focused was I on Chris that I failed to notice Derin, my new tiny friend, talking to me. She poked at me with her finger to get my attention. I reluctantly dragged my eyes away from Chris.
“Yes?” I asked with a bit of irritation in my voice.
“I asked if you were through with your meal. Lunchtime is almost over, you know.” She said looking at me quizzically as if to decipher what my problem was.
I looked at the forgotten apple in my hand and sighed deeply. “Yes, thank you Derin. I’m sorry I was a bit carried away there.” I smiled.
She gave me a tight smile in return. “Yeah, I noticed.”
If I were a white girl or in any way of fair complexion, I would have turned red with embarrassment. I didn’t know anyone had noticed my obvious fascination with Chris. I turned towards him and found his eyes on me once more. He gave me a knowing smile. I shudder to think what will happen when I get back to class. One of my new acquaintances, who considerately reminded me that her name was Cherie, had biology practical with me the next hour. We walked to the laboratory together in silence.
When we entered the lab, Cherie went to sit at a black-topped table at the back of the class. I was about to follow her when I realized she already had someone sitting beside her. In fact, all the tables were filled but one. Next to the centre aisle, I saw Chris sitting next to that single open sit.
As I walked down the aisle to introduce myself to the teacher, I was watching him surreptitiously. I could feel his eyes boring holes into my back as I passed by him. I wondered in dismay why he kept staring at me. There was nothing fascinating about me, I don’t consider myself a beauty so what could possibly be interesting to him? I tried as much as possible to keep from dwelling on it too much.
Mr Edward, the teacher, handed me a book with no nonsense about introductions. I could tell we were going to get along as he gave me an encouraging smile. Of course, he had no choice but to send me to the one available seat in the middle of the room. I kept my eyes down as I went to sit by him, bewildered by his continuous attention.
Unfortunately, the lecture was on cellular anatomy, something we already studied in school. I took notes carefully anyway, always looking down, trying as much as possible to avoid his gaze. During the whole class, I was startlingly aware of the boy next to me even though I took great pains to appear as though I wasn’t.
The class seemed to drag on longer than the others. Was it because the day was finally coming to a close, or because I was too aware of this boy I barely knew? I sneaked a peek at him one more time only to find him looking at me with that same knowing smile on his face, the one that hinted at a secret I badly wanted to be a part of.
The sudden peel of the closing bell dragged my attention away from him and I gathered my books in a hurry and rushed out of the class. I was too scared to linger and see if he would talk to me. I would have been crushed with disappointment if he chose not to. In order to keep from experiencing that, I gave in to my cowardice and escaped.