The Space Between Us(6)By: Anie Michaels
“A town about five hours from here. Bridgeport.”
“Never heard of it. I'm Celia, by the way,” the blonde girl responded.
“It's a small town,” I said quietly. The girls continued to talk amongst themselves, and every once in a while Reeve would try to involve me in the conversation. I appreciated her attempt at making me feel comfortable, but I was still the new kid and it had always been hard for me to open up to new people. Especially now. The more I talked with these girls, the more they would want to know about me, and the more I would have to tell them. No thanks. I'd rather keep it all inside if I could.
“How long have you been growing your hair out?” Celia asked at one point. I absentmindedly reached for my hair which, if left down, hung well past my hips. It was thick, long, black, and very straight.
“Besides small trims, I've never cut it. My mom would never let me.” I felt my own heart speed up at the mention of my mom, hoping the girls wouldn't ask me anything else that would make me talk about her any more. Reeve caught my eye and must have noticed my unease.
“Isn't it pretty? Rachel, weren't you going to ask your mom if you could dye yours blonde? Summer's coming and blonde would be a really good color on you. Is anyone doing anything fun for summer vacation?” And just like that, with words spilling out of her mouth, words meant to save me a little bit of discomfort, I thought maybe I had made a true friend. All the girls took turns talking about their plans for summer and I, for the first time in weeks, had a genuine smile on my face.
After we were there for a little over an hour I noticed a few boys walk in, Asher being one of them. Reeve immediately looked over to the group of four boys and turned to whisper to the girls at the table.
“Asher saved Charlie from Ryan yesterday at recess. He was bullying her and Asher made him stop.”
“Shut. Up.” Celia looked at me with interest. I shrugged.
“He didn't save me. It wasn't that big of a deal.”
“She keeps saying that,” Reeve said with a confused look on her face. “Charlie, if Asher made Ryan leave you alone, it's a big deal. He's so cute.”
I laughed - a true laugh.
“And you keep saying that. What does that mean anyway? How is he cute?” I looked over at him and he looked like any other boy.
“I don't know. It's his eyes I think. And those cute dark freckles he has. Who has freckles like that? No one.”
I took a closer look at him. Ok, Reeve was right about the freckles. They were unique anyway. Not the usual light brown color of freckles, but a dark brown. And they looked bigger than normal freckles, too. Instead of a lot of small ones, he had fewer larger ones. It was distinctive.
“Reeve, you're boy crazy,” Celia said. Reeve just smiled. Asher walked past us and nodded at the girls at the table. Then his eyes turned to me.
“Hey Asher,” I responded, desperately wanting him to walk away.
“I didn't see you on the way to school today. Should I wait for you tomorrow?”
“Yes!” Reeve practically shouted. Asher looked at her briefly, then back to me.
“Should I wait?” My earlier appreciation for Reeve having saved me from talking about my mom quickly dissolved and was replaced with irritation for putting me in this, almost worse, situation. How could I say no now?
“Uh, yeah, sorry about this morning. I was running late.” He smiled widely, a dimple appearing on his left cheek.
“No problem. I'll see you in the morning.” He walked back to where his friends waited.
“He wants to walk to school with you?” Reeve asked, eyes almost bugging out of her head.
“I'm sure his mom is making him; she made him bring over cookies yesterday afternoon.”
“Oh my gosh. He's so cute,” Reeve repeated. Luckily the conversation moved on to something else.
The next morning, like I knew he would, Asher waited for me at the bottom of my driveway.
“Hey Charlie,” he said with a smile as I approached.
“Hey,” I said, looking at the ground for a moment to gain some courage. “Listen, you don't have to walk to school with me. I know your mom is probably making you walk with me. It's fine.” I paused, waiting for him to respond. The seconds it took for him to speak were very heavy and filled with my rapid heartbeat.