I held my phone in front of me, trying to take a picture of a baby hedgehog in our backyard. It was Monday morning, and I knew I had to be somewhere, but I had forgotten all about it, until...
"Boy! What are you doing?!" Mom's voice interrupted me.
The baby hedgehog ran to his mom, and I sighed.
"I was trying to take a picture," I muttered and got up on my feet.
I looked around and saw my green backpack next to me on the ground. Why was it there?
"Crap!" I yelped when I remembered I was supposed to be on the school bus already.
"Are you kidding me?!" my mom yelled. "I told you to go straight to the bus stop! You are going to be late!"
"Sorry mom!" I told her and grabbed the bag, ready to run all the way to school.
"Come on! I'll take you," Mom yelled angrily at me. "You'll just end up distracted again..."
I grinned apologetically at her when I ran to her on our porch. She hurried to get her car keys and put on her jacket.
"Lucky for you I'm sick, so I couldn't go to work. But if I vomit in the car, you clean it up!" she joked - at least I hoped she was joking.
I followed her to her car and hopped in, while she sat down behind the wheel. My mom was a little pale after a sleepless night. I had heard her throwing up a few times in the bathroom during the night.
"I'm sorry, I really am," I told her, feeling bad for making her take me to school when she wasn't well.
"Don't worry, I'm feeling better already," she said. "But you've got to start paying attention. We've been living here for a month, and you've already had detention, twice!"
I nodded in misery. My teachers thought I was skipping classes on purpose, but the real reason was that I had gotten sidetracked. I liked school, and wanted to be in classes, but for someone like me it was hard. I just forgot where I was, and what I was supposed to be doing, if I found something interesting.
We had moved over a month ago from the other side of the world, or that was how it felt like. I didn't know anyone here; I had no one to talk to in our new home city. I only had my older brother, but he had found a girlfriend already, so he wasn't around much. My dad had gotten a good job offer, and he had eventually taken it, forcing us all to move to our new home.
It had been hard to start in a new school as a new kid. I was shy, so it was hard for me to make new friends. I was kind of a geek too, so I wasn't exactly the most wanted friend either. I missed my old high school. I had friends there, people I had known for all my life, but here...
I sighed and looked down at my lap. This school was different. It was filled with popular kids, who didn't pay any attention to me. They all seemed to care about fashion and trends and celebrities down here, and I was the goofy kid who crawled in mud when he saw something interesting. I liked nature, and I only talked about nature. Anything else was boring the hell out of me, but no one else seemed to care about anything else except their new smartphones and taking selfies.
I didn't even have a smartphone anymore, since I had lost it. I always lost things. I had my brother's old phone now, but I knew I would lose it soon enough.
"Here we are!" Mom said and looked at her watch. "Just in time too."
"Thanks mom. I try to be better," I told her and got out of the car. "Bye!"
"Don't forget your bag!" Mom shouted at me when I was about to slam the door shut.
I frowned at myself and grabbed the bag from the floor. "Sorry..."
Mom sighed and shook her head with an amused look in her eyes. "Try to get through the day without losing anything, all right? And don't forget to go to your classes!"
"Yeah, I'll try..." I muttered, and we both knew that wasn't going to happen.
I took a deep breath and started walking towards the school. It was a warm, sunny day, even though it was fall already. It never seemed to get too cold around here. The other students were wearing their fashionable summer clothes, and I stood out from the crowd in my saggy, blue jeans and an old, yellow T-shirt. I had a brownish-red hoodie wrapped around my waist and a green backpack that had a picture of a turtle on it hanging on my shoulder. I definitely didn't fit in.
I saw people snickering about how I looked. They eyed me out and turned to whisper something to their friends. I didn't care much, since I had gotten used to it. I just didn't care about looks. I did my best ignoring them and walked through the crowded yard. I reached the entrance just in time when the bell rang.
It was a long day for me. I tried to concentrate on my studies, but I was still feeling sad. I was always feeling a bit down, but now it was growing worse. I tried to stay focused, but when the lunch-break started, I found myself wandering around the schoolyard, picking up trash, forgetting that I was supposed to eat.
I saw a few people pointing at me, laughing. Everyone always seemed to laugh at me. I just wanted to keep our earth clean, even if the best I could do right now, was to keep the schoolyard clean. I saw a group of jocks in front of me, and they were giggling too.
One of them was eating a candy bar, and as soon as my eyes met his, he dropped the wrapping on the ground, even though he was literally one foot away from a trashcan. He kept his eyes locked with mine when he did that, making sure I knew he did that on purpose.
I stopped to a halt, feeling miserable. I noticed a couple of others following his example, dropping their wrappers on the ground, while their friends chuckled menacingly. I was holding a lot of trash in my hands, but I was almost too scared to go dump them into the trashcan. The jocks were big and looked mean as they were surrounding the only trashcan on that side of the yard.
I knew I had no choice. If I wanted to keep at least some of my dignity, I had to walk past them to the trashcan. So, I took a few hesitant steps towards them. There was a big possibility that the jock would trip me when I walked past him, but I kept walking.
It was almost like the whole school had stopped to watch me. I was only a few feet away from them when I dropped one of the wrappings. I heard light snickering around me when I tried to grab it again. I ended up dropping more trash on the ground, and they laughed harder. I was blushing in embarrassment and trying to hold back my emotions when I hurried to pick up the junk I had dropped.
"Don't just stand there, give him a hand, will you?" someone spoke right behind me. "Here - let me help..."
The laughing stopped, and I sensed someone kneeling down next to me. I turned to look at the person. He was one of the jocks, and from what I had heard, he was the king of the school. Everybody loved him, and everybody wanted to be friends with him. I couldn't blame them.
He was tall and toned. He was great at school and even greater at sports. He was the handsome one, out of all the handsome people there were. He had kind blue eyes and a warm smile, and I always felt breathless when I saw him. I knew every girl in the school wanted to date him, and most of the guys were willing to turn gay for him.
I knew I would've been more than happy to turn gay for him.
He helped me to collect the trash, and I saw how the biggest jock picked up the wrapping he had dropped, putting in the trashcan before the guy next to me would notice. I almost started to laugh at his ashamed expression, while his friends looked around like they wanted to help.
"I think that was all of it," the guy said and gave me a warm smile. "It's great that you want to help keeping the yard clean. It looks so much nicer now, doesn't it, guys?" he was looking at his friends when he said the last part.
They all nodded rapidly and agreed. Even the ones who had dropped their candy-wraps on the ground to tease me.
"Well - I'll see you around," he turned to speak to me.
I knew that he knew his friends had tried to pick on me. He waved at me, before he started to walk towards the entrance, and all his buddies followed him, like they were his personal lackeys. It was funny, really. I knew he was a sophomore, just like me, and even the seniors tried to suck up to him. He was in the same classes with me, and he was the only person whose name I remembered, even though this was the first time he had talked to me.
I watched him walk through the huge doors of our school, and then I couldn't see him anymore. I snapped awake from my trance and noticed the trash I was still holding in my hands. I hurried to put them into the trashcan. I was still thinking about him when I started walking towards the empty tables close by. He was the first one to treat me with kindness.
I sat down at the table and took my lunch out of my bag. I nibbled the food without even noticing what I was eating. I could only think about him. I almost wished I were gay, but then again, he would never, ever consider going out with me. Even if he was gay, which he was not.
I shook my head and almost laughed at myself. What was I thinking! One kind word, and I already had weird stuff going in my head. I had never been in a relationship with anyone before, and to be honest, I had never even thought about those kinds of things. I was fifteen, and everyone else I had ever known had their boyfriends and girlfriends, but I had never thought about dating.
It just wasn't for me. I didn't need anyone, and besides, who would go out with a geek like me?
I had math after lunch. I had never been good at math. I actually sucked at math, but at least I tried. It was hard to concentrate, but this time it was because he was sitting right in front of me.
He had his head bowed down while he was taking notes. He had quite long, brown hair, and he let them hang loose around his broad shoulders almost all the time. He tied them up only when he was in the football field. I should know since I had been watching him way too often. His voice was soft and kind, I had never heard him cussing, and he was never mean to anyone. He was funny and smart and yes; I was slowly turning gay while thinking about him.
I tried to concentrate on my schoolwork, but I stole glimpses of his strong back now and then. I was wondering if I should ask him to help me, and I had almost built up some courage to tap his shoulder, but then the bell rang, and it was the first time when I was disappointed about it.
I sighed and started to collect my stuff. I pressed the books against my chest and headed to the door, but then I remembered I had left my backpack at the desk. When I returned to get it with a faint blush on my face, I brushed past him, and for a split second, I felt the warmth of his skin against my arm, and his sweet scent filled up my nostrils.
He didn't turn to look at me. I knew that because I turned to look back at him. He hadn't even noticed that I had almost run straight into him. I was about to go after him, when I remembered my bag again. I cussed at myself and hurried to get it, before I ran out of the classroom.
I saw him walking further down the corridor with his friends, chatting about some game. I followed them a few steps behind, listening to every word he said. I liked his voice, I liked it a lot. I knew no one would find me suspicious, since I had another class with him, so it was only normal that I was walking in the same direction as him.
Once we were at the next classroom, he leaned against the wall next to the door. I tried my hardest not to look at him. Instead, I stared at my run-down shoes. Maybe I should pay more attention to what I was wearing. Maybe if I didn't look like such a dork, he would notice me. My mom had nagged for months about taking me to buy new clothes, so I was sure she would gladly get me something more fashionable than my saggy jeans.
I was well aware of my thoughts. It wasn't odd for me to think like that about other guys. Back in my old school I had a few gay friends, and my aunt was a lesbian, so I had been raised not to think about a person's gender, but more about their personality. And I liked his personality. It was sad to think that most of the students around me believed in strict rules about who they could date, and I was afraid that he was one of them. I was afraid that he would find gays disgusting.
When the bell rang, our teacher came to open the door for us. He didn't let us in just yet, and instead, he spoke, "today we will start with the projects I told you guys about. When I let you guys in, find your own seat - I have taped your names on them. The person who sits next to you will be your partner for the project. Do not try to switch the names - I already know who's paring with who." When he was done talking, he moved away from the door so we could step in.
I heard groans all around me, when my classmates were finding their places. It was quite chaotic for a few moments when we all tried to find our own seats. I managed to find my seat only after most of the other students had sat down. The seat next to mine was still empty, but I didn't have time to read the name on it before someone sat down.
I didn't have to see his face to know who it was.
"Hey - it's you," he spoke with his soft voice, and I slowly turned to look at him.
He gave me a small, encouraging smile and nodded as a hello. I nodded back at him, unable to find any words to speak. I must have been dreaming! He was my partner?!
"All right - settle down everybody!" our teacher said, and continued when the students had stopped talking and complaining about their partners. "So, like I told you last week, this project is about the environment. Our environment. Pick a subject you follow for the next two months with your partner. It can be birds, animals, insects, plants, fish - anything, but they must be from here, in our area - in the city, or forests or lakes. For the next two months you need to find out everything there is to know about your subject and follow the life of it regularly. This project affects your grades, so be thorough with it."
After that, some students tried to beg him to change their partners, but he wasn't going to budge. Someone was trying to be funny and asked if his little brother counted as an insect, and people snickered while the teacher rolled his eyes.
He took some time to pass out forms and guides about what we were expected to study while doing our project. I was thrilled while listening to his speech. This was the best possible project for me! I couldn't wait to get started with it, but then I remembered who I was supposed to do the project with.
I turned to look at my partner, who had a disbelieving look in his blue eyes while he flipped through the pages. When he looked up, he saw me staring at him, and turned his attention to me.
"I don't think I know your name," he said, and the smile returned.
I could only stare at his eyes. I had been wrong about the color of them.
"I'm Max," he said, and offered his hand for me to shake.
His left eye was blue like the midnight sky, but his right eye was brown, like a warm, sunny day. I took his hand hesitantly, finding my voice again, and I spoke,
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