Finn didn’t tend to notice people very often. No one in his small third-grade classroom at a decent private school was worth noticing. Everyone was the same; all born into privileged families, not giving too much thought to anything outside of their luxurious world. He declined the invites to play soccer with the other boys and ignored the giggles and glances from groups of girls, instead staring at the grilled chicken that had been served. It probably had more personality than them anyway.
But one fateful day something interesting finally happened. There was ruckus coming from the middle of the yard. He looked up from his DS to see what was going on.
“Hey nerd, what are you reading?” a kid yelled out.
He craned his neck to see their faces. The ‘nerd’ was Ava Lou, and the person who yelled was teacher’s pet Dylan Cruz.
Ava didn’t talk very much. The only reason he remembered her name was because of the few times she raised her hand to answer a question in her quiet, monotone voice and when she was congratulated for getting the top score on a test.
Everyone mostly left her alone. He didn’t know what kind of business Dylan would have with her.
Ava didn’t respond to him. She looked blankly at his face through her bangs.
“What’s wrong? Are you mute?” he snapped. She didn’t flinch.
“I can speak just fine” she replied. He could hardly hear her from where he was. He stood up and came closer in interest, without joining the crowd.
Her response seemed to bother Dylan. “Oh really, then tell me how you got into the school spelling bee and I didn’t” he challenged. Finn rolled his eyes. Is this what this was about?
Ava shrugged. “I studied” she replied curtly. This enraged Dylan further. He snatched the book out of her hands. Her expression changed. Her eyes went wide in shock.
“Give it back,” she said. She reached her hands out in an attempt to get her book back. Dylan held the book above his head, laughing at her attempts.
He eventually threw the book the trash despite her protests. Finn clicked his tongue in annoyance. What a jerk. However, he didn’t do anything and, according to his teachers, that meant he was no better.
He returned to his bench to continue his game when he noticed Ava by the trash can she discreetly pulled out her book from the trash can. It had a banana peel stuck to it that she pushed off. She seemed sad, which was new since she usually had a poker face. Which was strange in the first place, since most girls he saw were pretty emotional.
He pushed her out of his mind until the next day.
He walked up to her at recess. She was reading the same book, in the same bad condition.
“Is it any good?” he asked, looking down to speak to her (which he usually did anyway, he was a pretty tall kid).
She glanced over the top of her book and shrugged. “It’s alright, I guess” she muttered, her eyes returning to the pages.
“Do you like reading?” he asked. Why am I trying to start a conversation? He thought to himself. But he continued anyway.
She shrugged again, but this time she lowered the book to look at him. “A little. But I mostly do it to pass time” she explained. She eyed him warily. He noticed her knuckles whitening from clutching the book so hard.
“I won’t take it” he assured her.
“Tch. I never said you would” she murmured defensively, but her grip loosened and her gaze was calmer. “Are you just gonna keep standing there, or…?”
“Oh, um… can I…?” he asked, pointing to the spot next to her.
She shrugged. “I don’t own the seat,” she says, inching over to make space. He sat down and took out his DS, but didn’t start playing.
“Did you know Mozart composed his first song at age five?” he said randomly. Ava raised an eyebrow but played along.
“Did you know that England drinks up to 165 million cups of tea a day?” she returned.
And so they spent the lunch period shooting random facts at each other, and spent every other lunch period together.