The bell rang and Danny and I left the lunchroom. “Hey, are you gonna make it to the dance?” He asked.
“I think so,” I said. “My parents want me to go camping with them up on Pikes Peak on Friday night, but hopefully I’ll be back in time for that.”
“Awesome. That’ll be fun. See you tomorrow!” he waved, going down a side hall.
“Bye,” I waved back.
I stepped into Mr. Banks’s class and took the seat I’d had yesterday, before realizing that I may not be in it anymore having switched periods. I stood and walked to his desk. “Excuse me, Mr. Banks?”
“Yes?” he said without looking up.
“Um, I was in your first period yesterday, but I had to switch to this one. Is there a specific place you’d like me to sit?”
Finally, he looked up at me and said, “Oh yes. Maelie. Weston. Switched classes. Yes. Why don’t you take the empty seat there near Mister Houston?” He went back to his papers.
I turned around and there he was. Reclining, he even made the stupid chair-desk-hybrid look good. He smiled widely.
My heart stopped beating.
Then it started again, pushing blood back into my brain and I wondered how I would be able to date a guy so attractive without fainting all the time.
I took the seat next to him. He leaned forward, resting his elbows on the desk.
“Hi Maelie,” he said.
Oh my stars.
I cleared my throat and said, “Hi Ryan.”
“So, I saw that you made Danny pretty happy about something during lunch.”
“Yes, he did flip out a little,” I agreed.
Crap. Crap. Crap…
“Mind if I ask what it was he flipped out over?”
What could I say?
Then the bell rang.
“Um, later?” I whispered, as Mr. Banks stood and began explaining our assignment for that day.
Ryan shrugged. I knew he’d hear it from Danny after school, but it felt so weird to imagine me telling him, “Yeah, I promised him I’d make you fall madly in love with me so you can ditch your girlfriend.”
No, I wasn’t going to tell him.
“You will divide into pairs,” Mr. Banks was saying. “Each pair will receive a short dialogue scene and will be acting out the conversation between them. Now, I know you think this kind of exercise belongs in a drama class, but I promise you it will help when writing your own scenes if you have experience in speaking out loud and moving; making hand gestures and such. You will have ten minutes to practice, then you will act out your scene in front of the class. Now pair off and I will hand out your papers.”
Ryan looked at me and said, “Partners?”
I laughed through my nose, and shook my head. “Sure. Partners.”
He scooted his desk closer to mine.
“You’re not going to tell me, are you?” He asked quietly while we waited for our paper.
“Nope,” I shook my head. “You can ask Danny, but I’m not saying a word.” I held up my hands in a surrendering motion.
“Oh I will,” he said. “But I won’t worry about it either way.”
Mr. Banks placed our paper on Ryan’s desk.
I peeked over and felt blood flow into my cheeks.
Romeo and Juliet.
I mean, what were the odds?
“You ready?” Ryan said, totally un-phased.
“Um, sure,” I said timidly.
“I know this by heart, so you can use the paper.”
Did he mean this scene, or the entire play? Either way, that was impressive. His eagerness was beginning to make me nervous. No one had ever shown this much – or any – interest in me before. He handed me the paper with an uncertainty in his eyes, as though he could sense my discomfort. I took it, trying to calm myself.
He jumped right in:
“If I profane with my unworthiest hand
This holy shrine, the gentle fine is this:
My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand
To smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.”
Wait, it was THAT scene?
I cleared my throat, feeling blood rush to my cheeks, and looked down at the paper, searching for my line…
“Good pilgrim, you do wrong your hand too much,
Which mannerly devotion shows in this;
For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch,
And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss.”
Yes… Juliet was playing hard-to-get. That relieved my anxiety a bit.
Then Ryan said, “Have not saints lips, and holy palmers too?”
Dang. Romeo was quick…
But I shot back, “Aye, pilgrim, lips that they must use in prayer.
Ha! Pray, okay?
But Ryan was grinning now; he wouldn’t hear it:
“Oh then, dear saint, let lips do what hands do;
They pray, grant thou, lest faith turn to despair.”
Oh dear. He was looking at me like no one else ever had. I coughed nervously and gave my line.
“Saints do not move, though grant for prayers’ sake.”
Ryan leaned forward, less than a foot away from me now.
My breathing was picking up as he said,
“Then move not, while my prayer’s effect I take.
Thus from my lips, by yours, my sin is purged.”
Whew… it was getting warm in there…
He had me mesmerized… I shook my head and stared back at the page to say, “Then have my lips the sin that they have took.” I looked back to him, knowing that just as Juliet, I was fighting a losing battle here.
Ryan gave a small laugh and said, “Sin from thy lips? O trespass sweetly urged!
Give me my sin again.”
Our eyes were on each other… there was no one else in the room. Ryan leaned toward me; I swallowed.
I’d never been kissed.
What was I supposed to do?
“Alright then,” Mr. Banks’s voice crashed between us, breaking the moment. Ryan looked as shocked as I felt. I looked down at the paper in embarrassment. I could feel eyes on me though, and when I looked around the room there were at least five or six people staring at us. I returned to looking at the paper.
“…have a volunteer pair to read?” Mr. Banks was asking.
Ryan elbowed me. When I looked at him he nodded his head forward as if to say, “Let’s do it.”
“What?! No way!” I mouthed silently.
He leaned over to me as another pair walked to the front of the classroom and began a scene from Taming of the Shrew; part of me wished we’d gotten that one…
“Hey, I’m sorry,” Ryan whispered to me. “I… Honestly I don’t know –”
“Shh...” I said, holding up a hand to quiet him. “It’s alright… well; no it’s not, but…. Let’s just get through this. We can talk after school.”
He nodded, looking so meek and understanding that I almost couldn’t believe that we’d almost just kissed in the middle of fifth-hour-English.
We did our scene next, playing it up more silly than serious, so that it wouldn’t be awkward.
We enjoyed laughing at the other scenes for the rest of the hour. Every time he looked at me I could almost hear his voice saying, “I’m so sorry, Maelie.” When the bell rang we both stood, and I noticed again that as tall as I was, he was still a bit taller than me: the perfect height. I smiled shyly, looking at the ground as we walked out together.
“Maelie,” he said as we exited. He held my arm and pulled me off to one side of the hallway. “I’m really sorry for what happened in there.”
He didn’t need to say it again; I could see it in his face.
“I know. I’m sorry too. I can’t really say I would’ve stopped you.” Honesty is always the best policy.
He smiled, and my stomach fluttered. “Listen, um… are you going to the dance on Saturday?” He asked.
Wait, what? “Um, don’t you still have a girlfriend?” I whispered behind my hand.“Yes, he does!”