7th Period: Optional

Trust me, the irony that I have to choose between two girls during my optional period is not lost on me.

I’m sitting in the library now with the book I’ve been reading unopened on the table in front of me. The bell signaling the start of seventh period should ring in a few minutes. Eve isn’t here yet. I thought that looking back over everything that happened today would help clarify my thinking, but I don’t feel any less confused than I did a few minutes ago. Sally was right about the formula. I wanted an easy way out of the decision, or maybe just something else to make the decision for me, but I think I always knew it would never really work.

“Follow what you feel.” That’s what Sally told me before we left gym class. She might as well have said, “Listen to your heart.” What a stupid cliche. What if I don’t trust my heart? What if my heart isn’t well-informed? What if my heart has never made a decision before? When I was 10, my parents took me to the pet store to pick out a goldfish they were getting me for my birthday. It felt like a pretty big deal at the time as I narrowed it down to two goldfish. That was a pretty hard decision, but I’m not sure my heart was super involved then. We set Sir Smilesalot free in the ocean via the toilet three days after we got him anyway, so I don’t think that situation is super applicable here…

The other problem I have with people telling you to listen to your heart is that my heart is remarkably quiet. Maybe that’s just me, but even if I strain to hear anything from my heart, I’m almost always greeted with silence. Listen to your heart may be great advice, but my heart doesn’t speak.

As I look around at the books, I can’t help but wish my life was like these bookshelves. Orderly. Everything has its place. Each book knows exactly where it’s supposed to be and what books should be on either side of it. At least, all the books on the shelves know where they’re supposed to be. Then there’s the books on the cart, including the one book that’s fallen off the cart and is on the ground by itself. That’s me.

That book is sitting there in limbo. Not on the shelf, but not checked out either. It’s waiting for the librarian to put it in the place where it belongs. I wish I had a librarian who would put me where I belong, with who I belong with.

How am I supposed to decide between two girls? Here’s the rub: someone’s heart is going to break, right? I mean, no matter which girl I choose I’m going to hurt the other one. It’s funny that I say “choose” like I’m the only one making a decision, but I have no idea what I’m doing over here. Let’s not even get into the possibility that I may have misread everything and could end up breaking my own heart. Eve might not be interested in me at all, and Sarah might not have meant what she wrote on that note. Now, I would point out that the evidence doesn’t lead towards either of those conclusions, but I’m no Sherlock Holmes. I’ve been wrong before…once or twice.

Eve is here. She waves at me as she walks in and then sits down in the chair across from me with her usual Seventeen Magazine. The cover has several headlines surrounding a picture of some girl I’ve never seen before. They read: “Find The Perfect Jeans For Your Butt — And Your Budget,” “How To Have A Happy Haircut,” “698 Ways To Look Pretty,” and “What Turns Guys On — You’ll Be Surprised! (page 104).”

As I’m reading these and thinking of the different ways I can make fun of Eve for reading that garbage, I realize she is talking to me.

“Sorry, what?” I say, pulling my eyes away from the neon lettering to look up at Eve.

“Do you see something that interests you?” she asks, pointing back at the cover of the magazine.

“Yeah,” I respond quickly, “Couldn’t anyone think of two more ways to look pretty so they could call it an even 700? I feel like they quit a little early on that one.” She laughs, and I can’t help but think that if there really are 698 ways to look pretty, then Eve has to have most of them covered. Life would be easier if I was supposed to listen to my eyes instead of my heart because my eyes are speaking loud and clear as she flips her blonde hair off her shoulder.

“I would also love to find the perfect jeans for my butt and my budget,” I add. “Does it have any suggestions for boy butts in there?”

“I think the jeans you have on right now are perfectly suited for your butt,” she says with an exaggerated wink. I can’t tell if she’s being funny or serious, but either way I can feel my face turning red. I’ve never had a conversation about my butt before, and now I’m regretting bringing it up.

“Yeah you’re right, what about happy haircuts?” I mumble, trying to cover my embarrassment. “Is it the hair that’s happy or the person with the haircut? Can hair feel emotion? That’s really what I want to know.” She laughs again and looks down at the magazine with a smile. For the second time now, I am finding it easy to listen to my eyes. Her smile covers her whole face, starting with her mouth and shining through her eyes. I am too distracted to hear what she is saying. She’s turning the pages of the magazine and I mimic her by letting my book fall open on the table.

I’m reading The Magician’s Nephew, although reading is a loose term in this sense. Normally, I just have it in front of me while Eve and I talk during the entirety of seventh period. I’m only a few pages in to the first chapter titled The Wrong Door, and as I open the book I realize I’ve marked the page with a blank sticky note; a sticky note that I’m sure belonged to Sarah. I pull it out of the book and stick it on the table in front of me.

Suddenly, I know what it means to listen to my heart.

For the first time, I hear something. It’s not audible, but it’s loud. I look up at Eve who is looking at me with an innocent smile on her face. She seems to be waiting for me to speak, but if she has just asked me a question, I didn’t hear it.

“I have to go,” I say. She tilts her head to one side and then looks down at the sticky note. Her shoulders sag slightly and she looks back up at me. She still wears a soft smile on her face, but it stops at her mouth. Her eyes are a dull contrast to her smile. She knows.

“OK,” she says, squinting her eyes and forcing her mouth to stay in a smile. I can hear her heart breaking, and I am now wishing I could rewind to a few minutes ago where I couldn’t hear my own heart, let alone hers. She puts her head down to the magazine in front of her. I hesitate to move, but I already know what I’m going to do. It’s as if the whisper I heard when I saw the sticky note has turned itself into a loud yell inside my chest, and I pick up the sticky note from the table. I notice Eve glance briefly at the spot where the note was before putting her head back down, and I get up to leave.

When I get to the entrance of the library I look back at Eve, but all I see is the back of her head. I knew someone was going to get hurt today, but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch. I’m starting to feel guilty and part of me wants to turn back. I don’t know what I would say to her, but I need to say something don’t I? Maybe I’m acting too quickly. Maybe I need to be patient and give myself more time with Eve before I…

I look down at the sticky note in my hand and I hear it again. There’s a thump in my chest pulling me out of the library. It’s too late for my head to talk me out of listening to my heart. I walk out the door and down the hallway.

I realize now that I don’t have a plan, but I have a sticky note in my hand and I’m walking, so at least that’s a start. Sarah is in study hall, upstairs and two halls down. I know exactly where I’m going but I know nothing about what I’m doing. I’ve never been big on having a plan in most situations, but I feel very differently today. I need a plan. I’m about fifty feet from Sarah’s classroom, and before I think too hard about it, I’m pulling a pen out of my backpack. I stop and use the wall as a hard surface to write on the sticky note. I still don’t have a plan, but this is better than nothing. However, if I sit here and analyze it for too long, I’m not going to follow through, so I put the pen in my pocket and walk towards the classroom door.

Knocking gently, I open the door and see Mr. Estes sitting at the front of the class reading a book. Everyone in here is quietly studying, but now I realize they are all looking at me. Sarah is sitting in the back, and I give her a quick smile.

“Can I help you?” asks Mr. Estes.

“Yes, I have a note from…er… the counselor’s office for…um…Sarah.” I should’ve thought this through more, but Mr. Estes motions with his hand towards where Sarah is sitting. Suddenly, I’m extremely nervous, but it’s too late to turn back now. My heart is beating so loud in my chest I’m sure everyone in the room can hear it, and I realize my palms are sweating, so I hold the sticky note with the tips of my fingers to avoid dampening it. The time it’s taking me to get to the back of the room is agonizing, and I am wondering if I’m even moving forward at all.

Finally, I’m standing in front of her desk, and before I can think and convince myself to turn and run, I stick the note on her desk in front of her. She has been watching me the whole time with a curious look in her eyes, and for the first time since I’ve ever known Sarah I realize she has the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen. It’s as if I’ve always looked at her eyes but never really into them. Before she blinks and look away, I receive a sudden surge of confidence and I smile. Her eyes narrow at me, still holding me where I stand, and she looks down at the note. When she looks up her eyes are wide.

“But how…” she begins, but I put my finger to my lips. I motion with my head towards the door, hoping she takes the hint. Her face still looks shocked, and I can’t help but let out a small laugh, which she returns with a blush before touching her hand lightly to her forehead. She begins to pack up her things and glances up at me quickly while her head is down. Her eyes are still wide and look like they’re suspicious of me, but they don’t stop sparkling.

Her backpack is packed and I begin to lead her towards the door.

“My mom is here to pick me up early for a doctor’s appointment,” she says to Mr. Estes. Her lie comes off much smoother than mine did. He scans our faces curiously, and it looks as if he is about to reach out and ask to see the note. “See you tomorrow,” Sarah adds quickly, before he is able to question either of us.

“Have a good day then,” he says to our backs. Once outside the classroom, Sarah and I walk no more than a few feet before I stop and face her. I take a step closer and reach my arms around her. Our faces are inches apart.

“Tim, what…how did you…” she begins, her feet remaining where they are. I unzip the front pocket of her backpack and reach in to where I know the sticky note I found earlier is. I pull it out, bring it over her shoulder, and hold it up. I can’t help but laugh a little as her eyes look from me to the note I’m holding. The shock returns to her face and she begins to redden.

“Well…that is…obviously…what I meant was…” she stammers, but her eyes don’t leave mine. Before she is able to put together a coherent sentence, I close my eyes and put my lips briefly on hers. I pull back to see her face, and her eyes slowly open and look back at me. Both our faces now wear the same shade of red and our blushes turn to smiles which turn to laughs. I can’t take my eyes away from her.

Slowly, she puts her hand in mine and I grip it firmly, noticing her hands are slightly damp with nervousness as mine are. I continue to grin at her and she smiles wide in return. We walk down the hallway towards the front of the school, neither of us saying anything. After several moments of silence, Sarah turns and looks up at me.

“So, how was your day?”