The Songs in Our Hearts - Chapter Two

 

~Chapter Two~

          Everybody Talks - Neon Trees        

SAM MUST HAVE WORKED HER magic quickly, because within the timeframe of two class periods, almost everyone in the eleventh grade knew about my alleged crush on Micah Jacobs... I wasn’t sure why it was such a big deal. But it was a small town, and everyone lived for gossip. Walking into science class, I began to hear Micah’s name whispered around me. Awkward doesn’t even begin to cover how I felt. I tried my best to ignore it as I pulled my textbook and spiral out of my backpack and waited not-so-patiently for our teacher to begin her lecture, but I couldn’t help feeling everyone’s stares on me. It was even more embarrassing when I walked into my last class of the day and everyone just stopped talking.
As I grabbed a few books from my locker to go home, Jennifer came up beside me. “I’m really sorry about all the stupid rumors today.” She shifted the books in her arms. Jennifer was one of the few people who knew what Samantha had done to me with Dane Wesley.
“Why?” I nudged my locker door shut. “You didn’t do anything.”
I didn’t give Jennifer a chance to say anything else about it; I turned and walked in the other direction. What was the chance that Micah knew—or cared?
But he’d winked at me.
He must have heard Samantha. She was pretty loud at lunch. If he hadn’t heard then, he had to know by now, given the way my afternoon had gone. My face started to warm as I walked quickly toward the main doors. Some students were crowding the lobby, taking selfies while they waited for their friends, or to be picked up to go home. A few of us pushed through the masses to the line-up of buses outside. As I climbed on the bus and sat down, relief washed over me. I had made it to the end of the day.
I was surprised when I looked up to see Micah hovering over my seat, smirking down at me.
            “Is anyone sitting here?” His voice was smooth and rich, almost as if he were straight out of a Hollywood high school movie.
Why was Micah Jacobs speaking to me? I could feel my voice catching in my throat as I shook my head. “N-no…no one’s sitting with me.”
“Great!” He plopped down beside me, hoisting his backpack in his lap.
“I didn’t know you—” Rode the same bus as me. “I didn’t see you on the bus this morning,” I offered as one of the most humiliating conversation starters.
Micah’s smirk turned into a slow and almost sexy grin, as his dark brown eyes softened. “This is my first time, actually. My dad gave me a ride this morning.”
A few of the guys he sat with during lunch came onto the bus and gave him high-fives.
“Yo, man,” one commented, tipping his baseball cap at Micah.
Micah turned, directing his attention to his friend, who took a seat behind us. I pulled a book from my backpack, deciding to distract myself with something worthy. I opened the crinkled pages of my well-used copy of Romeo and Juliet, and tried to read the lines on the page.
“So, I heard you have a crush on me.”
His blatant statement forced me to look up from my book. As I met Micah’s face, his lips turn up into an all-knowing smile. Almost as if saying, Yup, I have you pegged, Charlie. Leave it to the entire school—or really, just Sam—to make something out of nothing. I decided I wasn’t going to indulge him. Instead, I eased back into my book.
“Look, it’s all right,” he tried again. “I mean, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about.”
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” I replied.
“This girl, uh…what’s-her-name…” Micah snapped his fingers. “Sam, I think…she told me you have a crush on me.”
Of course.
“Does it matter?” I asked, annoyed. “I mean, really? Is that why you sat down next to me?”
Bracing my hand on the seat in front of me, the bus engine revved to life and we started to move out of the school parking lot and onto the main street. Thank God I was only a few stops from home.
“So you do have a crush on me!”
“No! God, no!” I said quickly. The guy behind us apparently overheard because he started to tease me.
Oooooooooh! Micah’s got a girlfriend.”
I ignored him. Guys were so stupid.
“Micah, sounds like your girl is playing hard-to-get,” the guy continued.
“Shut up.” I turned around to glare at him. He was chubby with freckles all over the bridge of his nose. I imagined he was the kind of boy who sat in his boxers and played Xbox all day while his mom brought him peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with no crust. I couldn’t find anything nice to say about his shaggy red hair or his blue plaid shirt that screamed my mom dressed me.
Micah grabbed the book from my hands. I protested, reaching for it, but was held back by his arm and a tsk.
“What are you carrying around? Shakespeare? Really?”
 “Give it back.” I watched as he flipped open to the title page, where I had printed my name carefully in the right-hand corner.
“Caroline Blake,” Micah read aloud. “But everyone calls you Charlie.”
“They do,” I said, emphasizing my extended hand. “I’d like my book back.”
“Why do they call you Charlie? Is there a story to your nickname?” He raised an eyebrow curiously.
“No, not really,” I lied. I wasn’t about to tell him the reason why my nickname had stuck since childhood. Maybe I had been obsessed with All Dogs Go to Heaven and maybe I’d insisted on being called Charlie. Maybe.
“All right, then. How about a please?” He sported a devilish smirk. I narrowed my eyes at him.
“Please, may I have my book back, Micah?”
He squinted, giving me a teasing eye, and slowly handed the book back to me.
Thankfully, my stop had come. I hoisted myself up from the seat. Micah stood and gave me enough room to slip past him.
“Here, text me. We should talk about this crush thing.” In his hand was a piece of torn notebook paper with his cellphone number scribbled down. I had a feeling if I didn’t take it, he would follow me off the bus. Wanting to avoid any more of a scene, I took it and walked toward the front of the bus.
“Talk to you soon, Charlie!” he called after me, just before I escaped out into the fresh air. I didn’t bother turning around to watch the bus drive away. I kept my gaze straight on the road until there was nothing left but exhaust fumes.
                                                                       
                                                                        ****

A sigh escaped out of my mouth as I fell back onto my bed. I glanced down at my cellphone in my hand and noticed it was only 3:45 P.M. In no way, shape, or form was I going to text that boy. I wasn’t even sure if I had a crush on him anymore. He was cute—nothing more.
I heard my brother, Josh, open the front door, laughing with his friends. He was a senior and did everything he could to avoid me at school, which meant subjecting me to the yellow bus. I was not “cool” enough to catch a ride with him and his buddies.
“Charlie? You home?” Josh called. A splay of other voices echoed my name. Indeed, my brother’s posse was visiting for the afternoon.
“Charlie,” he shouted out again. I rolled off of my bed.
“What do you want?” I made my way out of my room and into the hallway. The familiar faces of my brother’s friends—David, Ben and J—greeted me as I approached the kitchen. Ben and J were on the football team and, in my opinion, were pretty lousy. David was Daan’s older brother and shared a similar passion for art. David was probably the quieter of the two. And then there was my brother. Josh was into football, basketball, baseball—really, anything that entailed a ball.
“Do we still have pizza rolls in the freezer?” Josh jabbed his thumb toward the kitchen.
Needy. Go check for yourself!”
“I didn’t know if you and your girlfriends ate them all the other night,” he huffed. Ben and J followed and helped themselves to the cans of coke stacked in the fridge. David lingered in the hallway and waved at me with a small, shy smile.
“Hey, Charlie, did you have a good day?”
My cheeks burned slightly and I became a little tongue-tied as I tried to manage a reply. David was handsome, in a boyish way. He had dimples when he smiled and was always so polite to my parents and me.
            “It was all right.” I shrugged.
David grinned. “Want me to save you some pizza rolls?”
            “Nah, that’s okay. Josh might kill you if you share any with me.”
David laughed and made his way into the kitchen. I stood there in the empty hallway, glancing down at my phone again. Maybe I should text Micah; see what he wants, get it over with. I turned and headed back into my room, pausing only to close my door. Carefully, I pulled the piece of notebook paper from my pocket and started to type the phone number into the text box.
***
                        Hey, Micah. It’s Charlie.
***
I stared at the glowing screen and then hit the SEND button. I sat down on my bed.
Here went nothing.
***
            MICAH: Sup?
            CHARLIE: Nothing much, I’m just…texting you!
            MICAH: So…I was really surprised to hear from Sam today that u like me…
            CHARLIE: It’s not true.
            MICAH: Uh-huh…
            MICAH: I think it’s cute, you know.
            MICAH: So, how long have u been going to Grand Lakes HS?
            CHARLIE: Since…forever, honestly.
            MICAH: Really?
            CHARLIE: Why did your parents move back here?
            MICAH: Jobs.
            CHARLIE: You must miss Georgia.
            MICAH: A bit, yeah. I liked going to the beach all the time.
            CHARLIE: If you remember, we have some nice lakes and rivers.
            MICAH: Right. I loved going to the lake when I was a kid.
            CHARLIE: Yeah? I like going there too.
            MICAH: Cool.
            MICAH: So u were asking about me? J
            CHARLIE: I wouldn’t say that. I was just asking who you were.
            MICAH: U could have asked me, u know.
            CHARLIE: That would have been even more embarrassing than this is.
            MICAH: Aw! Don’t be embarrassed.
            MICAH: I know u think I’m hott ;)
            CHARLIE: I never said that...?
            MICAH: U didn’t have to.
            CHARLIE: Are you always this way with girls?
            MICAH: What way?
            CHARLIE: Nothing, never mind.
            MICAH: Ur the one with a crush. ;)
            CHARLIE: I’m not really sure why Sam told you that.
            MICAH: Probably b/c it’s true, right?
            MICAH: It’s all right to have a crush on me, C. Most girls do!
            MICAH: So, how old r u anyway?
            CHARLIE: 16
            CHARLIE: You?
            MICAH: 17.
            CHARLIE: What bus stop do you get off at?
            MICAH: Just 2 after u. I live pretty close to u.
            CHARLIE: Really? Where?
            MICAH: Can’t tell u that. I might find u at my front door.
            CHARLIE: That’s not going to happen. -__-
            MICAH: U sure? ;) Not even tempted?
            CHARLIE: Not really.
            MICAH: Weird. A girl who has a crush on me doesn’t want to come visit?
            CHARLIE: I’m not a stalker, thank you very much.
            MICAH: Oh, phew! I was worried there for a second.
            MICAH: In that case, I live in the Greenboro Trax.
            CHARLIE: Oh.
            MICAH: Well C, g2g. Chores need to get done.
            MICAH: Good chattin with u.
            MICAH: C u on the bus 2morrow. J
            CHARLIE: Alrighty then, have a good night! See you tomorrow!
            MICAH: ttyl
***

My fingers scrolled through the texts between us, as I read and reread every word again. I wasn’t sure what to make of it all. Micah knew the truth, despite me not wanting to admit it.
This was all Sam’s fault.
And yet, it felt strangely thrilling to know he lived close by. I would see him every day on the bus. I wondered if that was something I’d come to look forward to.
“Hey, Charlie!” Josh opened my bedroom door, peeking his nose in. I jolted in surprise. I hadn’t heard him coming. “We’re headed down to the creek to hang out. David and I were wondering if you’d like to tag along.”
            “Is that an open invitation?” Micah and all my thoughts about him could wait until later.
            “Take it while you have it.” He tapped his smartphone, lifting the screen to show me the time. “Come on, we’re leaving now!”
            “I’m coming.” I pushed myself up from the bed and shoved my phone into my back jeans pocket.
                                                                    

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