This was a fun one. Thanks, Oliver, for the motivation to try something a little different.
I could have kept editing this baby into oblivion, but the whole purpose of this contest is to win some editorial feedback. So at some point, I just had to set it free.
Here is proof of this story finding its footing on paper. My apologies for the blurriness. Poor lighting. No excuses for the chicken scratch though…
by Phillip McCollum
He sat patiently in the empty classroom, just as he had every morning since the beginning of the school year. And on each of those mornings, hope rose in his heart that today would be the day. She would walk in and with no one else around, make him the object of her personal attention. Unafraid, she could tell him how she really felt.
The ticking of the wall clock kept tempo while a low hum droned through the air vents. As he fell into a trance, the classroom door swung open giving way to her. It took a moment to register those green eyes falling upon his own, but the smile on her face warmed him and he found himself smiling back.
Just as quickly, his euphoria was dashed by a commotion behind her.
It was his classmate Lindsay, trailing his queen like a mindless sheep. Another perfect moment for which he had waited so long, a moment alone with her, destroyed by that stupid little girl skipping in her stupid little shoes.
Not being the first time he had met frustration in the morning, he had often stayed after school, believing his chances of being alone with his love might improve. But that never seemed to work out either. She was always too busy talking with other students after the final bell, or she was in a hurry for something else. And of course his piano teacher would scold him for being late, after which his mother would continue the criticism.
No, afternoons were no better. Besides, there was something about his beloved in the morning, a certain freshness when her flowery perfume was strongest and tugged at his insides.
Hope in ruins, he watched as she took her seat and shuffled through her book bag. There was nothing left to do but fantasize about the same thing he had fantasized about yesterday, and the uncountable days before that.
He imagined the children falling asleep during study hour, leaving him and her, awake and aware. There she would sit, behind her desk, pretending to read, pretending not to notice him. He was unconcerned for the kids or her concealment. There’s was a connection fused so tightly, it would not be so easily broken.
While the young slept, he pictured himself rising from his chair and stepping forward. She might steal a glance as he approached but then she would quickly avert her eyes.
As he would pass the sleeping children, he would think about what he used to be and what he had become. His life was full of childish things once, but she changed everything. He had evolved and she was the reason.
Finally, he would be standing in front of her, their souls separated only by a worn wooden desk covered in scratches. He could hear the children breathing deeply behind him, dreaming of someday becoming grownups too.
He looked at the long, smooth hands propping up the back of her book. They were trembling as the cover descended slowly. Her gaze met his, but briefly swept over his shoulders. He knew she had nothing to fear; the children were still sleeping, still dreaming.
She placed the book on the desk at the same time he pulled his hands from his jean pockets. He reached across the divide and clasped her right hand. She reciprocated his gentle squeeze, sending shock waves through his belly.
Her lips opened and he knew she would speak. Anticipation slammed against his chest as he stopped breathing, waiting to hear whatever sweet words might escape. Would she tell him that she had been waiting for him? That they would finally be together?
“Class, please take out last night’s homework.”
His face grew slack as his mind tried to comprehend the meaning. The sudden sound of chalk on slate penetrated his ears and he looked up to see lines and numbers being drawn on the blackboard by an invisible hand.
The desk, and his love behind it, twisted and began to fade to black. The chalk continued its tapping and squeaking. Her grip loosened and he leaned forward as her hand pulled away, unable to keep her from slipping into the endless dark. His anticipation had been replaced by a sharp ache. The overhead lights flared, dimmed, and then blinded him with a sustained brilliance.
“Lyle,” he heard clearly through the light.
“Lyle,” it came again, the voice louder and sharper. “Wake up and pay attention.”
Before he could see past his sleepy vision, his nose had already detected his love standing before him. He lifted his head and slowly, her silhouette became a defined look of reproach. He basked beneath her green eyes, unable to hold back the smile that crept across his face.