~A Heated Encounter~
The greenhouse was unusually hot that day. Even with the side walls rolled down, the heat was intense. I sat hidden amongst the many tomato plants whose vines closed around me as if I were being encompassed in a cage. My hands were stained from picking the swollen, ripened fruits off of the overgrown green masses, and I could feel beads of sweat forming on my forehead as the sun’s rays beat down over head. I had regretted my choice of outfit from the moment I had stepped outside: my black yoga pants and mint green jacket were paired with a black spaghetti-strapped top. I had my outrageously curly blonde hair pulled into a braid that was unraveling by the second, often getting entangled with the unruly foliage that populated the school’s garden. If not for the occasional breeze, I would have surely died from heatstroke.
It was my last class of the day, Ecology 101, and my friends Jane and Beth and I were spread out in the garden harvesting the many varieties of tomatoes. Despite the unbearable heat, I became lost within my work. It was as if I were in a lush, green forest, away from all the stresses of high school and life in general; I was at peace. Suddenly, a shadow cast over me and my fantasy forest disappeared. With an exasperated sigh, I turned away from my work and looked up to see exactly what had disturbed my daydreaming.
It was a boy who looked to be somewhat older than myself, around eighteen or nineteen perhaps. He was taller than I—not a giant—but with a rather lanky build. He had pale skin, messy brown hair, a pair of wire-rimmed glasses, and a smile nearly as crooked as his teeth. At first glance he appeared to be nothing more than a harmless, awkward teenager; but appearances can be extremely deceiving. His dull, brown eyes stared directly into my blue ones with an intensity that could rival the sun. His gaze caused a wave of unease to wash over me, and I began to shift uncomfortably on the ground.
“So how do you like it here?” he said with a low, breathy voice. He stepped towards me until there was only a foot separating us; his close proximity only added to my discomfort.
“What?” I replied confusedly as I tried to lengthen the gap between us. He tilted his head to the side and let loose a low chuckle.
“I meant how you like it here at school. You’re a freshman, right?”
“No, I’m not a freshman. I’ve been here for three years now.” I shifted my eyes away and began mindlessly pruning the tomato plants.
“Then how is it that I’ve never seen you before?” he asked in a somewhat agitated tone.
“Our school has a lot of students and I doubt you know all of them,” I mumbled tautly and looked back up at him. I tended to be rather crude whenever I felt uncomfortable.
“So what’s your name?” he asked quickly to change the topic.
“Abigail. My name is Abigail Jones,” I replied curtly. The boy chuckled again and extended his hand.
“Nice to meet you, Abigail. I’m Cole, Cole Reynolds,” he said with a huge grin plastered on his face. I ignored his extended hand and instead rose to my feet while dusting off the tiny pieces of earth that decided to stick to my pants.
“Abbie!” I turned around and saw my friends Jane and Beth madly waving their arms and signaling that they needed me. I sighed in relief and turned to say goodbye to Cole.
“Hey, I have to go–” I started, but I was too shocked by what I saw in front of me to continue. Cole was clenching his teeth and was glaring in the direction of my friends. He was smiling not even a minute ago, but now he seemed to be seething with rage. “C-Cole?” I nervously stated. His head jerked back to me and his previous aggression morphed into another huge grin.
“Yeah?” he said excitedly. His sudden mood swings were giving me whiplash. I took a few steps back.
“I have to go help my friends, so bye, Cole,” I quickly explained. His smile shrank and his eyes grew cold. A chill ran up my spine despite the heat of the garden, and, without giving him time to reply, I ran out of the greenhouse. I grabbed my friends by their arms and hurried towards the school building.
“Whoa! Slow down, Abbie!” Beth gasped as she struggled to keep up with my and Jane’s pace. I silently thanked Jane for teaching me the art of the fast walk.
We made it inside the building, and I let out a shaky breath. My friends exchanged a few glances between one another before turning to look at me with worry in their eyes. “You okay, Abbie? Do you need to sit down?” Jane questioned. I looked over to her, shook my head, and smiled.
“No, I’m fine. Just a little shaken up is all,” I replied. Beth patted me on the back, and I thanked the Lord for granting me such caring friends.
“So, who was that guy?” Jane asked.
“Cole Reynolds,” I stated. I then explained to them all that had occurred between us inside the green house. They both nodded in agreement that Cole was a creep, and we all laughed at his sorry excuse for flirting. They also told me how he had been staring not-so-discreetly at my chest with a smug grin on his face whenever I looked away.
I shivered in revulsion and thanked them for rescuing me by calling out. “You guys are great, you know that, right?” I giggled.
“We know!” They both sing-songed in a cheerful voice. We all hugged and made our way to the classroom to retrieve our bags since school was about to end. We ended up running into Deshawn, the school cross-dresser, and we laughed as he griped about getting yelled at by our teacher Mrs. Landon for eating the peppers in the garden instead of picking them.
My friends and I grabbed our bags as we waited for the ding that signaled the beginning of the weekend. The bell rang and we exited the classroom, or at least tried to.
As I was walking out the door, I bumped into none other than Cole. My nose crinkled as I got a whiff of his cheap cologne and sweat. I mumbled an apology and was about to step around him when he leaned down and whispered in my ear.
“Have a nice weekend, Abigail.” He smirked and walked away, chuckling to himself.
I visibly shuddered in disgust and ran out of the classroom. I sighed, and a grimace adorned my face as I realized my idea of a nice weekend was ruined. I huffed in annoyance and made my way to the parking lot while dreading the idea of returning to school and seeing him again. Little did I know that this was only the beginning of the end of my peaceful life.
The weekend had passed by in a blur, and, before I knew it, the bell for first period had already rung. I let out a yawn as I began to unpack my violin case. I had been restless all weekend, and no amount of tea or chill-step could soothe me. As I was rosining my bow, my friend Charity came up beside me with a huge grin plastered on her pallid face.
“What’s got you all excited today, Charity?” I asked rather amused. After all, Charity never got excited, unless it had something to do with boys. She had her hands behind her back and was rocking back and forth on her feet. She only acted that way when she was hiding something.
“What are you hiding?” I asked while trying to peek behind her.
“Oh, nothing much,” she drawled out. “Just a love letter!” Charity thrust the letter in my face, and I cringed at the foul stench that coated it. I looked over to see Charity excitedly bouncing up and down as she waited for me to read the letter aloud.
“The Girl in My Dreams.” I groaned after just reading the heading of the letter, but continued to read so the ‘matchmaker’ in front of me could be appeased. “I feel overwhelmed at that moment. My heart drops, seems out of place; peering into the universe’s face.” I laughed at the absurdity of the words.
“Stop laughing, Abigail! Keep reading! I want to hear what else he says about you!” Charity ordered as she plopped down next to me.
I sighed and got back to reading before she could nag at me again. “I like the wave in your blonde hair, just within reach and gasping for air. Longing for a purpose, you’re my reason to live.” I stopped reading aloud. Something about that last line had struck a bad cord with me, so, instead, I chose to ignore Charity’s pleas and silently read the letter to myself.
...Didn’t mean to come off strong, everyone is searching for that special someone. I’ve got a certain feeling for you. All waiting to hear that word to make us belong. The heat as radiant as the big bang is produced by your pretty smile. The glow of your beauty is enough to erupt a star...
The shrill sound of a metal stand scraping against the tiled floor pulled me out of my reading, and I rushed to finish unpacking my violin. I looked around and saw that Charity was glaring at me from across the room, probably aggravated that I had ignored her. I sighed and directed my attention to the letter on top of my case that I never finished reading. Just as I was about to reach for it, the teacher switched on the tuner, indicating that class had begun.
“Oh well,” I muttered to myself. “I’ll just read it later.” I picked up my violin and began tuning along with the rest of my section. As our class moved on to our warm-ups, I kept missing the notes as my mind drifted back to the letter. I groaned in agitation at my inability to focus, and, with no other option, I stuffed the annoying paper into the pocket of my jeans, excusing myself from class by grabbing a bathroom pass. A sudden feeling of urgency overwhelmed me, and I all but sprinted to the bathroom. After reaching the bathroom, I quickly pulled out the letter and finished reading where I had left off.
...If only you had a clue, the state you put me in. Nervous sweating in my shoes, my emotions so jarred. You have the voice of an angel. I gaze into your eyes and see a luscious green forest. Your laughter brings me to a state of euphoria. My mind is racing; it seems you’re all I can think of. I’ll honor you and cherish you and give you all I can give. It’s only you, baby, please give me a chance! Do you know the word that’s spoken of? Abigail, the girl of dreams, you’re the one that’s always on my mind. At any point in time there is the word we all know, the one I’m thinking of, love. Forever yours, Cole...
I was disgusted. Most girls would have been thrilled at the idea of receiving a love letter, yet all I could feel was loathing as I read over the last lines. I had talked to this boy only a single time, and on my first day back to school, I had received a letter from him in which he professed his love for me. I felt sick to my stomach. How could Cole have known I was friends with Charity or that she had first block with me? I could feel a migraine coming on; my head was pulsing in time with my heart’s erratic pace.
“Abigail?” a soft voice called from behind me.
I whipped around, the sudden movement sending a stabbing sensation through my head, and I winced at the pain. “Ow, dammit!” I cradled my aching head and looked up to see Jane staring at me with a worried expression.
“Abbie, are you okay? What’s wrong?”
“Oh, it’s nothing, Jane. I just have a bad headache is all.”
“I have some Tylenol. Do you need some?” She started digging through her purse, then pulled out a small bottle of medicine.
“Thanks, Jane.” I gladly accepted the medicine and popped a couple pills.
“So, you’ve been out of class for quite a while. Charity and I were worried that you’d had another fainting spell.”
I pulled out my phone to check the time and, sure enough, I had been gone for over twenty minutes. “That hasn’t happened in months,” I muttered. Several months prior, I had collapsed in the middle of the hall at school and Jane had been the one to find me. I was still not sure what had happened that day, but all I knew was that my friends were constantly checking up on me. I knew they meant well, but I’d grown somewhat agitated with their overprotectiveness.
“Just wanted to make sure. So why’d you run out of class all of a sudden?”
“Well I–” I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t want to overact just because some weird guy wrote me a stupid love letter, so I crumpled it up and stuffed it in back in my jeans.
“I just wasn’t feeling well, okay? I was up all night studying for this stupid Calculus test and I guess I didn’t get enough sleep.” I crossed my fingers and stared dejectedly down at the floor, praying that she would just believe my excuse and drop the conversation.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Abbie! I heard from Ryan how brutal those tests are.” Jane gently placed her hand on my back and began rubbing soothing circles. “I think you should head to the nurse and lay down for a while. I’ll go tell the teacher.”
“Thanks, Jane.” I smiled up at her then watched as she turned around and exited the bathroom. I followed soon after and made my way to the nurse’s office where I passed out on one of the many bed cots.
I was startled awake by the shrill ringing of a phone going off in the room next to mine. I quickly looked around in a panic before realising that I was still in the nurse’s office. I found my backpack on the floor beside the bed with a blue post-it note stuck on the front.
I hope you’re feeling better, Abbie! I brought you all your stuff, so you owe me big time! P.S. Your bag weighs a ton! ‒ Charity
I pulled out my cell to check the time and found that it was five minutes till lunch. I quickly scooped up my bags, grabbed a pass from the nurse while I thanked her, then headed off towards the cafeteria where I waited for my friends at our usual table.
Students began filing into the cafeteria, and I scanned the crowds for my friends. I could hear the sound of a chair being pulled out beside me and I smiled, expecting it to be either Charity or Ryan. Instead, I was met with a pair of dull brown eyes hidden behind wire-rimmed glasses.
“This seat taken?” Cole asked as he sat down before I could even answer.
“Actually, it is,” I said sternly. “You mind moving?”
“Ah, c’mon, Abigail. Don’t be like that,” he chuckled before scooting his chair even closer to mine.
I decided to ignore him; I figured that if I didn’t say anything he’d just go away. Absentmindedly, I began to pick at my purple nail polish.
“Did you like my letter?”
I froze. I could feel myself breaking out in a cold sweat. I kept my eyes focused on the table before me, but I could feel him staring at me; it was if his eyes were boring holes right through me. I felt so uncomfortable under his gaze and the rank smell of his cologne permeated the air around me making it difficult to breathe.
“Why so silent, Abbie?”
“Don’t you dare call me that!” I snapped. I felt my skin crawl as he called my nickname so affectionately. He had no right to call me that.
“So feisty, Abbie, just like how I–”
I swiftly cut him off by slamming my hands down on the table as I stood up. “I. Told. You. Not. To. Call. Me. THAT!” I seethed out. My voice had risen considerably and I failed to realize that the entire cafeteria had grown silent as everyone focused their attention to my table. I looked over at Cole who had, at first, looked shocked, but his expression quickly changed into another of his disgustingly smug side-smirks. He slowly stood up, then wrapped his arms around my waist.
“Sorry, everyone.” Cole called out to crowd that watched us, “My girlfriend and I just had a little argument is all. You can go back to eating now.”
I was mortified. I could feel my skin growing hotter as I became nervous, the warm patches turning red and splotchy like hives. My anger skyrocketed, and before I knew it, I had reached my hand back and sharply swung at Cole’s face. I knew I could rip my nails through that oily cheek of his, but I restrained myself and just grazed his skin.
As I relished the hiss of his pain, there was a collective gasp that sounded through the cafeteria. I could hear my friends calling out to me somewhere in the crowd of spectators that surrounded us, but I never once took my eyes off the boy in front of me, for I feared he would try to hurt me.
“Don’t you ever touch me again!” I screeched at him.
He reached up and stroked the side of his face before pulling his hand away. As he saw the blood that stained his hand red, he laughed. He looked up at me and gave me an eerie smile that stretched from ear to ear. “Oh, Abigail. Sweet, sweet Abigail,” he cooed. “Just because roses have thorns doesn’t mean they’re any less beautiful. I’ll never let you go, Abigail; after all, you’re the Girl in My Dreams, my reason to live.”
My vision blurred and I swayed unsteadily on my feet. My legs gave out beneath me and I could hear someone scream my name as I collapsed. “Leave me alone,” I whispered.
Then everything went black.
The weeks that followed that day were miserable. Everywhere I went, I could hear the faint whispers of people talking about the incident and how I was crazy. Cole continued to harass me, and no matter where I’d go, he would always be there waiting. Even when I couldn’t see him, I could feel his eyes watching my every move. I tried approaching the counselors about him, but they said it wasn’t considered bullying—that Cole was no threat—so they did nothing. My friends continued to stick close to my side, especially after my latest fainting episode, and serve as my personal bodyguards. The one thought that allowed me to continue living my life was that Cole was a senior and would be graduating later this year; I counted down the days until his departure.
“Just 102 more to go,” I slowly whispered to myself as I made my way through the school garden, knowing full well that he followed only a few steps behind.