With ten minutes left in class, Mark thought the only thing worse than trying to complete these math problems was trying to get Megan out of his mind. He had a connection with Megan for quite a while now. OK. “Connection” was too strong a word. Yet, if there was no real connection, then why was he thinking about her now?
The Plaisance family moved to Mobile from south Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Her parents spoke with an accent so thick you could cut it with a knife, but not Megan. Growing up in Mobile had separated her from the deep influence of her parents’ culture, but there were genetic traits that were stronger than hurricanes.
Megan’s short black hair was as deep as the night sky as it accented the olive complexion of her face. These both drew attention to the darkest eyes Mark had ever seen. And her smile… when she smiled, she smiled from the depths of her heart in a way that her whole face knew about it. She was the girl who lit up a room when she entered and made everyone better for knowing her.
Mark had never noticed these things about his friend before… not consciously. But today, thanks to the math, he was noticing. That made him smile and chuckle at himself… for someone who had not been paying attention, he had noticed a lot apparently.
The thirty second shuffle that precedes all class dismissals cut his chuckle short. As students shoved papers, binders, and pencils into backpacks, he looked at his own paper and was ashamed at what he didn’t finish. Was she worth the points you surrendered on this assignment, he asked himself.
He paused. He did not know the answer.
What he knew was that as he shuffled to join the pack of students leaving the room, he craned his neck out hoping to see her. When he saw he had missed her, he ambled down the hallway toward second period social studies thinking it was for the best.
As he pushed himself ahead to make it to Mr. James’s room before the tardy bell, he promised himself to work on two things: improving his math work and his “noticing.”
Lunch afforded his next opportunity. As he sat with a couple of classmates, he watched Megan enter and sit with her friends from Advanced Band. Megan had it easy because everyone she met became a quick friend. That was a skill Mark never possessed.
Every time she laughed, Mark would steal a glance her way to glimpse her smile and every time she caught him looking, it embarrassed him more. He willed himself to not look and focused on the surrounding conversation. In doing so, he missed the disappointment on her face as she kept watching him, hoping she could see his face again.
He knew their paths would not cross again as they never saw each other until the end of the day. That made it easier to focus on his other classes without distraction.
Before long, it was time to leave and, in the midst of the controlled chaos of bus dismissal, Megan stood almost as if she had been waiting for him. His heart pounded in his chest and found its way up into his throat.
“Don’t ya forget to FaceTime me tonight,” she said with a grin.
In a strange, natural smile which was absent that morning, Mark replied, “You know I will…”
Wait a minute. Did he tell her she could bank on him forgetting to make that call? Oh, man! What an idiot! He was back to kicking himself inside as he watched her smile shift into a subtle shade of confusion.
“… call you,” he recovered. “Why wouldn’t I?”
“I don’t know,” she said, “You seem kinda lost today. Are you sure you’re OK?”
“I’ve never been better,” he said as he gave her another smile and walked to his bus with a renewed spring in his step.
He was feeling goofy, but it lightened his heart. It was a welcome change from the way his day started and, at that moment, nothing else mattered. His bus ride home was a meaningless blur of time.