Chapter 2: A Blind Leap
“Are you sure about this?”I whispered to a good friend of mine, bending slightly so that only we would hear the conversation.
It felt kind of strange, whispering and all. But then again, this was a secret that only she knew about. But quite frankly I don’t think anyone would have noticed at all. We were inside a grand stadium in the middle of a heart-pounding ball game between two of the most prestigious schools in the city. I honestly don’t understand much about basketball but, I didn’t want to be a wet blanket for the group and also…
“Of course!” Sadie replied a little too much confidence.
“Trust me on this, I know guys and they’ll just see that as a challenge so they would make a move.”
Sadie and I have been good friends for almost two years now. And I do know that she can handle guys pretty well. Sadie... Beautiful, charming and knows how to use it a little too well. Unlike me though, to be honest I never know which way is up when it comes to guys.
Guys are always so confusing although Sadie always says, “If you’re trying to figure out what goes on inside their little heads, you’re doing it wrong already.”
I never know what is on their mind. I can never tell what they are interested in, where their attention is, or quite simply, what makes them tick.
But with all that confusion, there is one thing I am sure of…
I glanced sideways to my left and saw him. There he was, sitting there calmly like he always does, no doubt pondering whatever it is he mulls over in his head endlessly. It’s like his world is that interesting a place to be in.
“I like this one.”
Just thinking about how I felt made my cheeks flush red ever so lightly. I could feel the warmth spread over my face and tried to hide the evidence of giddiness with my hands. I held my cheeks and tried to keep my smile from being noticed. Though I guess no one would notice with all the excitement in the air.
The crowd suddenly erupted in a huge roar of cheers. I turned my attention to what was happening to the game and saw what the commotion was about. The star player of the opposing team, Chris Matthews, had just scored a dunk which I guess was all flashy and cool cause even our side was screaming their lungs out. He strutted down the court like some hero with a smug look that I’m sure made every player on our team want to punch the lights out from this guy right on the spot.
“Now you dummy! The moment’s perfect!” Sadie whispered a little too excitedly and went back to cheering.
It wasn’t really in me at all to go with it. But she’s right, if I was going to do it, this is the moment. After a discreet sigh to myself I put on an awkward smile, jumped from my seat and screamed out loud...
“Wooohoooo I love you Chris! Marry me! I want to have your children Chris!”
As soon as those words came out of my lips it was as if a lump had formed in my throat. I felt an urge to throw up on the seats. Or maybe that was just the knots in my stomach. This sort of thing is so not me. I winced and looked over at Sadie checking for approval.
All she could do was raise an eyebrow at me as if to say I went overboard with it.
Well, what’s done is done. I shot another glance at Lance. He was still seated, silent as always but this time his silence was different. I couldn’t make out what was going on in his mind. As I said, I’m no good at that. But I got the feeling that there was something wrong.
At first he was just staring at the floor. He wasn’t moving or even blinking.
Was there something wrong? Am I the cause? I thought it would work… Were we totally wrong about it? Maybe he’s sick… I should bring him to a clinic or something. He slowly turned his attention to the court, as if watching the ball game. But his expression was just blank.
Whatever was going on through his head, it couldn’t have been good.
I still don’t understand completely what had happened and how it affected him. But I still cannot forget that moment. That moment and his blank expression. The worst part was I couldn’t do anything for him. I should have sat next to him and I dunno… Talked to him? Comforted him? Held him? But no, I did nothing. I was no help. Just plain helpless.
I knew I had to do it. I decided that moment that I would silently let go of any hope. He did not deserve to settle for someone like me… Plain Jane. Useless Jane. Jane the unworthy.
A bright yellow blast shook me out of the trance. The bright yellow sparks spread out and fizzled out towards the edges. Beautiful yet I felt saddened.
“We’ve finally done it!”
Lance was stretching his arms in the air.
Apparently I had zoned out while watching the fireworks. I looked around, half-forgetting what exactly was going on and recollected the things that had happened.
Ok, so… Our team won the finals. We’re here on campus watching the celebration. This is the present, I’m here now. I’m with friends. I’m with...
Sadie had pinched me on my left arm. I guess she must’ve noticed me zoning out. That’s what I like about girl friends, we know if there’s something up with our other girl friends. Unlike guys...
“Yeah I know! It’s been a decade since this school reached this!” I said out loud trying to sound cheerful.
Again, donning the discreet grin I used all too often. Looking at our group, I could tell that everyone was in a festive mood so I had to “be” in a festive mood as well.
“So guys and gals, who’s up for some partying tonight?” Roy said swinging both his arms in the air.
Most of the group agreed with Roy. We did deserve a night to celebrate; it’s not every day that our school becomes the champion of anything. So sure, why not?
“Are you really going with that meat head?” asked Sadie, obviously not happy about the idea.
It was understandable, after all, Sadie and Roy had a history. Sadie doesn’t like to talk about it but from what I can tell, the break up was pretty bad. Sadie was the kind of person who never took failure of any kind too well. I love her to death and there are just some things she goes through where she needs me to be there.
“I guess so, I don’t really have any plans, so yeah.” I answered but I could see she didn’t like it.
“What about Mr. Happiness over there?” She gestured to Lance who still wore a blank expression on his face.
Although this time, I could tell it was because he was pretty tired. He’d been running around with Sadie for most of the day trying to get all of us tickets for the game. They got some but we ended up reselling them. Long story.
Okay… So here goes. I came up to him and gave him a soft pinch on the arm.
“Hey Lance?” I could feel the anxiety building up again. As soon as I saw his attention come back to us, I stepped back beside Sadie.
Clearly I wasn’t ready, I thought to myself. Why did I even come near him? Focus Jane. Moving on, right? Obviously, this is not helping.
Lance looked like he just woke up from a good nap when he came to. Roy was looking impatiently at Lance waiting for an answer if he would go or not.
“Oh no, I’m heading home in a bit. Tired as heck from the day.” Lance responded politely.
“Sure dude” Roy said. He didn’t really care much if Lance stayed or not. Roy was the kind of person who didn’t care much about things which does not directly affect him. He was a jerk that way.
Sadie gave me a soft nudge at the back. I knew what she wanted to say even though she didn’t say anything.
“Make a move dummy!” she was telling me silently.
I wore the sweet smiling mask again.
“Aw come on, don’t be a wet blanket. Stay a while? For me?” I tried to make the request as sweet as I could.
Strangely, I made an effort to do so. But making that effort felt natural, like how it had always felt like when it came to this person...
I watched as he fought back a smile, turning his beautiful brown eyes away, and with a sigh, wore a tired expression once again. I always found it interesting how he changed his facial expressions. I couldn’t figure out what he is thinking but I did have a little success with reading his expressions. And with what he just showed, I knew I could change his mind with just a little more convincing.
I clasped my hands together as if to beg him and closed my eyes trying to look cute. My first attempt appeared to have an effect so why not follow through right? If there was still a chance or any hope I could hold on to, I’d know it here. To heck with shame!
I opened one of my eyes and saw that this time though, he seemed unaffected.
“I wish I could, really Jane, just not up to it.” He said with a heavy sigh.
That was it, I didn’t know what to do next. I was out of bullets at that point. If ever I could also do his blank expression, that was the moment I would have done it.
“Everyone else is still here for the party.” I said weakly.
I wasn’t sure what the next move was. Usually at this point, Sadie would have squeezed me on the arm and mentally told me what’s next.
And right on time, Sadie came forward. I was waiting for the pinch, slap, squeeze, poke, punch or whatever she had. But it didn’t come. I was so used to her telling me what to do next, she was the master and I was her below average student.
“Yeah well except for me too. I’m beat.” She said with a big yawn.
I didn’t know how to make out what was happening. She had always supported me but now it seemed like she was leaving me to fend off for myself.
“You’re on your own. So what now Lame Jane?” I thought to myself.
I decided to give up. Okay, I was still hoping… Sorta… I really needed help here. My insides felt like bricks and butter at the same time.
“I’m heading off the south exit. How bout you Lance?” Sadie asked blankly.
“Well my place is nearer the West exit so I’ll take that way.” Lance replied about as blankly as Sadie.
I’m pretty sure that was Lance’s normal expression to most things but Sadie was another matter. Maybe she had given up on me and my hope. I knew I had said I would give up on him already but I say the same thing about my shampoo and up to now my hair smells like a strawberry farm. Is this how the characters in romantic movies feel when the world kicks them to the ground? Because I felt as though I was already neck deep in mud.
“You guys take care then!” I said struggling to sound cheerful.
Sadie leaned in with her arms open for a hug. I received her. Mind so confused…
She felt warm and somehow I sensed comfort in her. She was always so full of strength and confidence. When she got close she whispered something very softly.
“This is it stupid.” Sadie said in a disturbing monotonic voice.
“You okay?” I whispered back. I was genuinely worried about her. She had never acted this way before. I’ve been so used to the I-will-take-you-head-on-with-full-confidence approach and her You-get-in-my-way-you-are-going-to-drop-dead attitude.
“Uh, what now?” she said with a slight jolt.
“Yeah I’m peachy.”
Maybe she just needed a good night’s rest after this long day.
When I pulled away I saw a flash of anxiety on her face. It was very uncharacteristic of her. After a soft tap on my back, Sadie gave me her usual confident smile and broke off. She went over to Lance and gave him a short squeeze on the hand, her usual way of saying good bye, and went off to her exit.
I wasn’t really sure what was happening. Sadie... Maybe she wasn’t feeling okay. I mean she was able to run everywhere in high-heels!
Or maybe she had a problem. Maybe she was just reminded of her past relationships because of what I was trying with Lance. There were too many maybes and not one of them looked good. I’m pretty sure sooner or later I’d know about it.
Sadie went over to Lance and squeezed his hand lightly the way she does with guys she is close with and went on her way.
So here I am. Sadie gone. No support. No one to tell me what to do. No one to give me strength. Nothing… So… What now Loser Jane?
“This is it stupid.”
“Yo Janey! We’re moving the party to my place! Wanna tag along for the night?” said Roy a little to smoothly with a matching wink.
I knew he was just flirting. No harm in that.
Really, Roy flirted with every girl around him. So if I was like every other girl around him, I was technically safe.
A sudden thought occurred to me and I looked around.
I realized, Lance had gone already. He didn’t even say good bye… There was a sudden sharp pain to the chest. I tried to breathe deeply but the air got stuck as if there was a rock between my lungs and my neck. Pain... So... So I wasn’t really anyone special for him.
“Sure Roy, let’s go.”
I’m not sure if he had heard me. He didn’t really react or anything. He just put his arms around a girl and started leading the people out to his place. I really didn’t know what else to do so maybe spending time with people would help me get an idea what I should do.
Almost as soon as I had started walking with the crowd for the party, a small thought came to my mind.
“This is stupid…” Exactly what Sadie said. Except…
Then it hit me. She was telling me that this was IT! A chance! She was telling me that tonight was a big chance! Gosh, why did I not see it right away? If Sadie was here, she’d smack me at the back of my head for being this dense. Good ol’ Sadie, tired as she was, she still had my back.
I finally had a small spark of hope. That was enough to get me going. Just one last try.
“I’ll make this count!” I promised myself.
“Roy! I’m taking off!” I shouted over the crowd.
I didn’t wait for a reply, I ran back. I needed to catch up to Lance. I ran and ran and ran. My head was in a swirl of thoughts. What do I say? How should I act? What will he say? Has he left already? Can I still catch him? Do I have a chance? My heart was thumping wildly inside my chest, leaping up at each incomprehensible thought that enters my mind.
The marching band was making their procession around the school. The fireworks seemed to have no end at all. People still cheered happily for their school. All around the aura was of happiness. Each person I passed, from students to janitors and drivers, had smiles painted across their faces. Hopefully by the end of this day I would also wear one of those triumphant smiles.
Before I knew it, I was at the edge of the football field. The first thing I noticed was that there were people sitting on the grass. A number of lovers were there, silently holding each other beneath the stars. How romantically annoying.
“That should have been my move!” I thought but that was so hopeless now.
I could just imagine. Sitting under the stars, having your my beloved beside me, with one arm around my shoulder and the other hand clasping my own tightly. I’d see him, smiling and happy with that I wouldn’t be able to hold back my own sweet smiles. I would just stare at his eyes, the eyes I’ve always admired. So deep and full of life and sparkle. And then...
Thinking about it just made me even more frustrated at the failure. But there wasn’t any use to fantasizing about it anymore. I had to make it happen somehow
A soft breeze now swept across the grass of the field, gentle as a sweet whisper.
“Your chance...” it seemed to beckon.
As I was looking across the field, my eyes locked on to a person standing under the shade of a tree. Him...
He was just staring at the field with his trademark expression. How I loved it. Blank as it may be, I wanted to fill that expression with a huge grin planted by a soft kiss to his lips.
I walked towards him excitedly. I couldn’t help but wear a smile. I caught him! It’s not too late. But then again I realized that I was sweating and that I was still wearing the P.E. class uniform. Big turn off. Oh darn it! It doesn’t matter, I’ll just wing it!
“This is IT stupid…” the thought popped up in my head.
“And I will make it count Sadie.”
He noticed me as I got closer. Blood came rushing to my cheeks again the way they do whenever he is looking at me. I felt a tingle of panic. I just couldn’t help it!
“Yo!” I said as coolly as I could with a friendly salute as a greeting.
“Hey.” He managed before turning his attention to the sky again.
Well… Round 1 failed.
Not even a smile or any hint that he was happy at the sight of me. No matter. I made a promise to myself and I intend to keep it, one way or another. I will make this happen.
“What happened to the gang?” he asked absently.
“Still there, just decided I had enough of the day as well. Thought I might catch up to you and sure enough here you are” the smile still remained on my face.
Okay, this is it. I’ll need to go all out if I want to succeed.
I crossed my legs as I stood and twined my arms around while still wearing a smile. I probably looked stupid but I kinda noticed him looking at me whenever I did this randomly. And it worked, the air suddenly felt lighter and the tension was getting thinner. I felt like I was able to get through one wall.
“Let’s get going, if you plan to stay might as well be with the gang you know.” I said as I pushed him.
He didn’t protest so I guess it was fine with him. We were now walking on the pathway near the field where there was a nice view of the field with the couples. I shot another glance at the lovers enjoying the festivities and thought, just you wait, I’ll be there soon as well.
“Just drag him there as he kicks and screams his lungs out!” Sadie would have said.
While we were walking I noticed that he seemed a bit distracted.
Next step, get up close and personal.
“Hey, you okay?” I said with a soft touch to his arm, testing the waters.
“Mm-hmm, just taking in the sights you know, first championship in a long while” He replied still not looking at me.
Is he not interested in me at all? I will not accept that! Let’s see just how long he can ignore my antics. I may have acted sweet and sunny most of the time, but this time I had a mission I simply could not afford to lose.
“You know..” I came closer and softly bumped my shoulder against his arm.
It was an effort to get this close. But somehow I knew this would work. Is it really this hard to get a guy to like you? His skin felt rough for some reason, but all the same, I never wanted to part with him. I was so close… My heart was thumping fast. I shot a quick glance at him, he looked nervous. Is that a good thing?
Oh right, he’s probably waiting for me to continue.
“Today was really fun. It was really cool of you to get us tickets and all. I mean we didn’t get to watch it live but hey! We had a great time right?”
I moved in closer pressing my shoulders against his body. He felt warm and comforting. The warmth I felt from him was nothing I had felt before… It’s like listening to a good song, while you’re in bed wrapped in your favorite blanket and it was raining outside. It felt nice and serene. Only one thing would make this better.
I tried to imagine what it would feel like if he suddenly wrapped his arms around my shoulder. I would probably turn the brightest shade of red within seconds. Just thinking of it made my cheeks rosy. If only he would. But he probably wouldn’t. I don’t even know if he likes me…
“So yeah, it’s so awesome we got the championship this year. You know, in basketball. Our players were so cool when they… ugh…” Crap, I remembered I didn’t know the first thing about basketball.
“You know, got points from the homeruns.”
I should probably stop there. I was sweating from nervousness. Another big turn off. I’m ruining my own chance. Maybe I should stop talking. But he would think I’m boring. So what do I say? I’m panicking. Panic is not good. So what now?
I shot him a few quick glances while trying to make small talk. I kept a big smile on my face which wasn’t hard. I didn’t even know what I was saying anymore. I must’ve looked like a yellow parrot saying random stuff. I looked at him again.
Oh darn, he was also looking at me now. So ugh… do something cute! Like ugh… I don’t know… I got even more nervous. Maybe I should just stop talking. Yeah. Good idea…
I stopped talking. I just focused on my thoughts. His body next to me. His warmth. His cool brown eyes. The unique scent he had on his clothes. I couldn’t figure out what it was but he always smelled nice and clean even after running around
I closed my eyes and thought back to that day. The first day he bumped into me, well, literally.
I remember it so very clearly... It was a chilly Monday morning, the first day of class for our sophomore year in the university. I was with Sadie as usual, we’d been classmates the previous year, and schoolmates in high school. I asked her to come with me to buy snacks in the canteen. As we were going out of the classroom, he came in. I had my hand on the door handle when it swung open outward. I was startled when he strolled in wearing headphones over his ears with the volume turned to the maximum playing some type of rock music. His hair was a huge mess, like he had just woken up from a bush outside. A tangle of dark hair going to every direction each end could point to but contrary to his messy hair style, his clothes were clean and pleasant. He wore a simple red and black plaid shirt, jeans, and combat boots. He was wearing a black leather bracelet on his left wrist with the pattern of a snake. From his upright yet laid back posture, you could see an aura of calmness and yet at the same time his style screamed disorder and rebellion. I remember the first thing that I thought of when I saw him. He was the most “Perfect Contradiction”. The second thing I thought of was “Ouch!” He strolled din, with his eyes closed, focused on his music, stepped on my foot, got startled, stumbled forward, hit me on the shoulders, and fell flat on his back. So really, not your usual love at first sight movie kind of things right? But the thing was, as he fell down, he accidentally grabbed me by the shoulders, and when he turned as he fell, managed to spin me on top instead of crushing me under his weight. So there we were, on the floor and me on top of his body. He was wincing his eyes from the pain.
“Sorry, you okay?” he asked.
“He-hell-oo-o.” I blurted out. By then what happend had still not registered in my mind.
I felt the rush of blood to my face as he opened his deep brown eyes and stared at me up close as we were.
The next thing that happend, well, I kind of am thankful for it.
Sadie bent down, slammed an open palm to Lance’s cheek so hard, his cheek looked like it had been branded by a searing hot hand pattern. She saved me from a lot of embarrassment which I probably could not deal with. We left him there wide eyed as Sadie shouted curses at him.
So there it was. I admit, totally unromantic but super romantic at the same time. A “Perfect Contradiction.” So back to the present.
I could just about feel that my heart was about to leap out of me and do a hundred meter dash and a high jump. Funny thing was, I sorta felt his heart as well.
There it was… Who could it be beating for?
I wanted to rest my head on his shoulder. I wanted to just get his arms around me, how safe and content I’ll be when he finally does. Under the starry sky of a very lovely night, I wanted to be kissed beneath the trees away from the rest of the world. To be finally invited to the world he wanders to ever so often.
Time seemed to have slowed down. We were going slower as we walked and it was like everything around had gone dark. I looked straight at him and thought how his lips would feel against mine. I longed for his kiss. Maybe I could, like, give him a friendly kiss on the cheek before we part tonight. And “accidentally” miss and hit his lips instead. I just wanted a taste of it so much. It wasn’t that I wanted to be kissed, er, okay, I did want to be kissed. But point is, what I actually wanted was this guy!
I realized now that I was staring at his face now. And that he kind of caught me. Crud. Oh what the heck! I kept my eyes on him, struggling to restrain myself. His eyes, how I loved staring at them endlessly. I loved how their deep dark brown seemed to be infinitely deep, you could just about drown in them. How I admired his strong jaw and perfectly shaped lips. Will I ever get the chance?
I couldn’t focus anymore darn it. I was determined that this is finally it. But what should I do?
Plant a kiss straight forward? How unromantic would that be… Or maybe it would be romantic! Too risky, what if he pulls away? Maybe I could hug him tight in my arms first. If he pushes me away, at least I got a feel of what it would be like. But then again that would ruin any future chance I had with him. Maybe I could like… Tell him first…
“Lance I love…”
I can’t even finish it in my thoughts! I’d be too scared of his reply. What if he considered me as a mere friend? Will it be worth the risk?
That would break me apart too much.
It was simply overwhelming. My head was spinning. My heart, beating faster and louder than ever. I could hear it loudly thumping in my chest. I couldn’t decide what to do!
I felt a cold breeze pass through my palms. They were sweating a lot. My hand… That’s it!
I felt a tingle of excitement rush through my entire body.
“Jane this is it! No more thinking, no more wondering, no more second guessing!” I thought to myself trying to build my confidence.
I glanced at his hand which was strangely twitching. I aimed for it.
There was a lump in my throat. I felt the knots in my stomach make newer more elaborate knots. But there wasn’t any time to second guess myself and my actions. I was going for it. I’ll go for his hand, squeeze it tight and whatever happens next happens.
“No more dreaming of what will be or what should have been. I will make it happen and this will decide what it will be!” I was full of courage ready to enter the next chapter in my life.
I stared deep into his brown eyes, trying to see any hint of... of... anything at all. I tried to steady my breathing. This is it Jane. At the count of 3.
I gasped as a hand took my own and held on tight with a quick pull.