I watched out of the corner of my eye as he walked into study hall and casually approached the teacher. He was late. He had an easy-going manner, a suaveness that made me nervous when I was around him. Zander Bloodworth was roughly six feet tall, muscular, but not bulky. He had shoulder length dread locs, and skin the color of dark chocolate. His eyes were bright, as was his smile. He must floss religiously. His teeth were white and even. Zander leaned against Mrs. Drake’s desk and said something softly that elicited a school-girl giggle from her. He was a skilled flirt. He offered her a charming smile and a wink and turned towards the class to find a seat.
Every female student looked up, eagerly willing him to make eye contact with her. Every male in the classroom watched the Master and took notes. They wanted to be like him when they grew up. Who would be today’s arm piece? I continued to do my research, pretending not to notice him. I wasn’t concerned about him looking my way. No one looked my way. I was ‘the queen nerd.’ I was ok to talk to, seek out for tutoring, and to be pitied for being smart instead physically appealing. I wasn’t arm-candy material. I was Plain Jane in comparison to Lainey Clifton, the school diva. I didn’t have to worry about him sitting with me. I finished my trigonometry homework and leaned down to place my books in my bag. I pulled out my copy of Pride and Prejudice and prepared to ride out the rest of the period engrossed in the story. When I sat up, Zander was sitting beside me, his coco brown eyes sparkling. The boys roared with laughter and began giving each other high-fives, while the girls sucked their teeth and rolled their eyes in my direction. Mrs. Drake hollered, “Detention anyone?” She held up a pack of detention slips and the class settled down a bit. My face was hot and I could feel beads of sweat forming on my scalp and top lip.
“Hey,” he said, softly. His voice was deep.
“Hi,” I said. It sounded more like a question than a greeting. He laughed.
“I didn’t mean to startle you. There weren’t any other good seats in the class.” I looked over to the table where most of the guys in the class sat, watching our every move. There were three open seats at that table, and four other seats among the girls that were still throwing me dirty looks and quietly plotting my death. I looked back at him.
“I see,” I said and looked at him pointedly. He ignored my expression.
“Your name is Sharalyn, right?
“And your name is Zander.” He cleared his throat. Was I making him nervous? Interesting. I decided to take advantage of his vulnerable moment. “Why didn’t you sit with your friends or one of the thirsty girls?” He looked surprised by my question and stuttered his response.
“Well, I ,ummm. Wow! You’re direct! I wasn’t expecting that!”
“What were you expecting?”
“Well, you’re so to yourself, I thought you were shy. I thought you’d be easy to talk to.” He had expectations? That meant he had plans to approach me. I got angry. I don’t care how cute he was, or how many dreams I may have had of one day marrying him and having his children, I was NOT going to be his plaything! I turned back to my book and opened it. I bit my lip to keep from snapping at him.
“Oh, you needed homework help? Tutoring?”
“No,” he laughed nervously, “But if that’s what I need to do to get to know you better,” he trailed off. I put my book down and looked at him, confused.
“What are you talking about?”
Across the room, the boys began to pound on their desks and softly chanted, “Do it! Do it! Do it! Do it! Do it!” Mrs. Drake held up the detention slips and cleared her throat to get their attention. The girls were creating a list of ways to torment me.
“Well, I’ve been watching you for a while and I think you’re cool and I wanted to know if we could, umm, you know. Could we hang out and stuff.”
I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know what to say. My crush was asking me out. Did he mean it? His body language said he was really nervous about my response. I’d been watching him, too, and knew this is not how he usually acted around girls. He was pretty confident and direct in his approach. He was mister “charm their socks off.” He couldn’t be interested in me.
“How long, what,” he asked.
“How long have you been watching me…stalker.”
“Since last year,” he smiled.
“I don’t know. You have a reputation for playing with hearts. I don’t want to end up being another notch on your belt.”
“Don’t believe everything you hear. Tell you what, let’s meet after school, my treat. We can go Island Buffet and just talk. You can ask me anything and I will give you the honest truth.”
“Ok, but I’m paying my own way.”
“I see you are going to be hard-headed. You are supposed to let the man pay,” he said. The bell rang and we stood to go to our next class.
“You aren’t my man. You are in the ‘Friend Zone’ until I decide whether or not you are worthy of my time. I pay my own way,” I said it with a smile. He smiled back and shook his head.
“Ok, ‘friend,’” he said, “we’ll do it your way. See you after school.” He left with his friends yapping at his ankles like a pack of terriers, and begging for the details of our conversation. The girls ran out the room to put their dastardly plots into action and stir up the rumor mill.
I left the classroom with a silly smirk on my face. Who knew? My crush was crushing on me, too.