She’s excited about the lyrical class because the teacher is a totally gorgeous studio alumni and everything he dances on turns to gold and she’s never taken class from him before. She knows it’s probably going to be way above her skill level, and that she’ll likely just flounder along like she usually does in challenging classes, but she doesn’t have any other options.
The teacher greets the class. Does a short warm up. Explains he learned this combination a month ago and has been dying to teach it since. He teaches the first few eight counts, and lets the class hear the music.
The voice is vaguely familiar. She likes it. At least until someone asks who the artist is.
“Oh, it’s Mumford and Sons,” the teacher responds with a smile.
She stops. Feels a chill raise bumps on her arms. Mumford and Sons.
And suddenly, she doesn’t think she can do this.
I. Tremble for yourself my man, you know that you have seen this all before
She first noticed how cute he was one day in pre-calc near the end of junior year. Her friend that usually kept her company in that class had had to leave early, and so she talked to him once she had worked on some of her homework. They ended up continuing the conversation all the way up to their history class. She was shaky, and kept thinking about how people would react to seeing them in the hall together. Even though they weren’t together together. It was this hyperawareness that stuck with her, so much so that she almost took the crucial step of informing her friends that she had a crush.
But it was almost the end of the year. And she most certainly wouldn’t see him over the summer.
So she let it go.
II. Tremble little lion man, you’ll never settle any of your scores
Senior year. The juniors were taking the writing portion of the graduation test one day, and everyone else was inconvenienced with a nearly three-hour first period class. She did her classwork. She read for a bit. Then he started talking to her instead of doing his Latin homework, and she found herself unable to end the conversation.
He told her about how he’d led some kind of wilderness excursion over the summer, about his karate classes.
“Are you a black belt?” she asked jokingly.
“So, could you kill someone if you wanted to?”
“Well, the point isn’t really to kill people…”
“But if you had to?”
That’s hot, she thought.
“Cool,” she said.
After a while, he took an interest in her necklace. It was a cheap red plastic heart faceted to look slightly diamond-like. As he was messing with it, she noticed exactly how nice his eyes were, exactly how close his face was, exactly how little effort it would take to kiss him.
His eyes flickered up to meet hers.
“What?” he said.
He let the necklace go.
“Are you ticklish?”
“No,” she lied.
A devilish glint came into his eye.
“Are you sure?”
The next second, he tickled her, and even though she hated being touched without permission, she liked it. She let him continue. Anything to keep his hands on her.
Her friend, who had been talking to another friend, joined them with a raised eyebrow.
“What’s going on here?”
“Foreplay,” he joked.
She found herself wishing it weren’t a joke.
III. Your boldness stands alone among the wreck
The tickling became a regular thing. Honors Econ became her favorite class. She told all her friends she had a crush, and everyone freaked because she hadn’t had a crush since seventh grade. She was pretty excited, as well. It gave her something to look forward to, a reason to try and look cute each day instead of going to school looking like an ogre.
One day she and him and her friend were avoiding some workbook pages and talking about Harry Potter.
She mentioned A Very Potter Musical.
He mentioned he hadn’t seen in.
She told him he needed to watch it.
He said no.
She asked why.
He said because he knew it would annoy her.
“Well, I’m going to bother you until you watch it,” she declared. “What’s your phone number? Do you want me to text you so you remember and then I won’t have to bug the shit out of you?”
He gave her his number.
She kept her cool but on the inside she was screaming and doing cartwheels.
“Good. I’m going to text you.”
She started typing him a text right then: WATCH A VERY POTTER MUSICAL, GODDAMIT
A moment later.
“Did you send it? I didn’t get it.”
“I haven’t finished typing yet.”
It wasn’t until later that she realized he didn’t have to give her his number. That he seemed almost worried when he didn’t get her message right away.
She started to think that just for once, the person she liked might like her back.
IV. But it was not your fault but mine
Some time passed. They texted and talked on Facebook chat rather frequently, and it was usually he who messaged her first. She got to know him. Listened to his favorite song, Little Lion Man, approximately eight million times. She realized, slowly, that he would be perfect for her. He was weird, but weird like her, and she didn’t have to filter herself around him. It was perfect. And she was pretty sure that his reciprocation of her feelings was a given.
So one day, after volunteering for four exhausting hours at her old elementary school to get Beta Club hours, she texted him. She mentioned being tired. He said that sucked. She agreed. He said he would tickle her, but since he didn’t know where she was, they would have to be text tickles. She said he should find her house. He said it was up to how his car was feeling.
(Which she thought was cute, since she thought every single completely fucking weird thing he did or said was cute.)
Somehow, she steered the conversation in a direction that suggested his car should take her to the movies sometime. He said okay.
Within a few minutes, they had made plans to see Easy A the next day.
V. And it was your heart on the line
She was excited beyond all belief. She had to take a required jazz funk class from a choreographer visiting the studio, and on the way, the world looked perfect. The sky was bluer. Every blade of grass was greener. She didn’t even mind that it would be a super-challenging class. Everything was okay, because she was going to a movie with him at two-thirty and nothing could bring her down.
On her way home, her heartbeat positively galloped. She couldn’t calm down. She showered. Ate. Put on her favorite band tee and her most comfortable skinny jeans.
He picked her up. Her mom insisted on saying hi. He was poilte. (And she thought it was cute.)
In the car, it was awkward at first, mostly because she’d never been on a date before, but once they got to the theater, she got over her initial shyness.
He paid for her ticket. (She squealed on the inside.)
They chose seats somewhere in the middle. Part of her was expecting him to make some kind of move, to take advantage of the darkness. But all he did was tickle her.
The movie was good. Funny. A bit awkward at some parts, but enjoyable.
They left. When they got back to her house, he walked her to the front door, and they hugged.
She went upstairs to her room. Got on Tumblr. Started texting all her friends about how great it had been.
About thirty minutes later, he sent her a text saying he was bored.
She replied that she was as well. So he suggested that they hang out again.
He picked her up. He took her to a house he was house-sitting for some family friends.
She didn’t know what to expect. Maybe a movie, maybe some video games.
So she was completely surprised when he distracted her with tickling, and kissed her.
It was her first, so naturally, she was ecstatic. They kissed for a while—she found that she really had no idea what she was doing—and then he suggested they move from the kitchen to the living room.
They made out on the black leather couch. He pulled her on top of him, slid his hands under her jeans, put them on her ass. She warned him that she was on her period. He said okay.
Somehow her shirt came off, and then her bra. Somehow his mouth found her nipples. It didn’t really feel like anything, but it didn’t feel bad, so she let him continue. She let him lead her upstairs to where there was a bed neatly made with white sheets. Her hands were shaking; she said it happens when she’s nervous. He asked her why she was nervous. She said it was because she didn’t think he liked her.
“I’m full of surprises,” he said.
They laid down and kissed and listened to her iPod and he took his pants off and she touched him and attempted a handjob but couldn’t get the rhythm quite right and they kissed more and he put his hands down her pants and she felt a prickle of fear because she was worried he’d get blood on himself and be grossed out but he didn’t seem to care and being fingered really hurt, probably because he was being way too rough, but she liked him and wanted him to keep touching her so she just didn’t say anything.
She didn’t mind, she wasn’t bothered by his not really asking permission, because she liked him.
Because she liked him.
VI. I really fucked it up this time, didn’t I my dear?
And then it was time for her to go home so they went and washed their hands and he drove her and pulled her to him for a quick moment in the driveway and stuck his tongue down her throat and said goodbye.
The first thing she did was tell her friends. It was a big deal—she’d gone from never kissing anyone all the way to third base—and they responded accordingly. She went to bed in a better mood than she could ever remember.
In the morning, there was a new issue of Cosmopolitan in the mail. She devoured it happily, making mental notes and even cutting out sections because she knew, she just knew, that he was going to ask her out once he saw her Monday and that she’d have a chance to use the newfound knowledge sometime soon.
Eventually, she had to stop procrastinating and finish a take-home test for AP Spanish. She worked on it a bit, got frustrated, texted him.
This project is making me want to kill toddlers, she sent.
You can kill one but then it’s back to work, he sent back.
One of her friends texted to ask if he’d asked her out yet. She said she wasn’t sure if he would. Her friend told her to ask him where they stood.
Are we dating? She sent.
No idea, he sent.
You should know these things, she sent.
Nope, he sent.
Why not? xD she sent.
Because I’m an idiot, he sent.
She thought he meant that he didn’t have experience with this type of thing, which was a relief.
You’re not an idiot. I don’t know what I’m doing either.
He continued avoiding the question. Eventually he just cut to the chase.
I’m sorry. I can’t take it any further. I hope we can still be friends?
Her heart sank. She’d never thought that tears could fill your eyes instantly, like it did in the stories she wrote, but it happened. She asked him why.
And he went on to explain that he felt bad. He felt like he took advantage of her, like he let his lust get the better of him, and that if they let things continue, he’d just keep dwelling on the bad feeling and it would outweigh the good and he didn’t want to take that chance.
She was reduced to begging. She refused to believe that things could take such a complete one-eighty.
Would it help if we just held off on the sexual stuff for a bit? She sent.
(And now every time she thinks about it she’s disgusted by how fucking dumb and desperate that sounds)
He said nothing would help. And he stopped replying to her texts.
The Spanish project was abandoned. She cried. And cried. And cried.
Then she got the sudden and all-consuming idea that maybe she could get him back with some silly romantic gesture like they do in the movies, and so she wrote him this long, impassioned note explaining her feelings about the situation and tried calling him with the intention of reading it really fast before he could interrupt but he didn’t answer. So she waited until Monday and marched right up to him in Econ first period and gave it to him and he read for a couple of seconds and then put it into his pocket. Class went on. He ignored her.
“Are you really just not going to say anything?” she asked.
He shrugged, not meeting her eyes.
“Nothing to say.”
She spent the rest of the day trying to figure out a way to cry discreetly in class, and full-on sobbing in the bathrooms whenever she got the chance.
Her friends told her she didn’t deserve this, that she didn’t do anything wrong, it was all his fault, what an asshole, she should slash his tires, tampon his car, etc. None of it made any difference. Nothing anyone said could erase the indelible feeling she had that she’d been at fault, that maybe she had been too easy, too clingy, too something. Nothing could erase the feeling that she’d gotten exactly what she deserved.
It made sense to her, really. The happiness she’d felt following the date had been so strange, so unfamiliar, and having all her hopes and dreams crushed yet again was like coming home to family. Sadness, misery—that was where she belonged.
But of course she couldn’t tell her friends without worrying them and being a burden, so she pretended like she was over it. She said she would channel her anger into an angsty NaNoWriMo novel, and that would be the end of it.
But she kept crying.
Kept feeling, more than ever, like she wanted to die. Should die.
Tried cutting herself, realized before the blade touched skin that she didn’t think it would have any effect, and resorted to scratching her thighs and hitting her hands into walls when no one was home.
And even after six months, she still wasn’t okay.
There will come a time, you’ll see, with no more tears.
The teacher keeps teaching, and she keeps trying her best, and somewhere between rolling painfully on the floor and doing a fouette turn, she starts crying.
She’s sick to death of thinking she’s fine and thinking she’s fine and thinking she’s fine and then one day hearing a song that reminds her of him and being back to square one, like it’s the day after the storm all over again. She’s sick of trying and sick of getting nowhere and so she puts her fury into her dancing, doing a ronde de jambe so forcefully she almost falls over, but it’s okay.
And she finds that somewhere between the rolling on the floor again and another fouette turn that she stops crying.
And love will not break your heart, but dismiss your fears.
She doesn’t see the point. He doesn’t want her, hasn’t talked to her in months, ignores her whenever he gets the chance, will probably never talk to her again. She needs to move on. She needs to stop being so afraid of everything, of looking at every bad thing as proof that she’s worthless or as an excuse that she should just stay depressed. She needs to stop seeing him in the hallway and imagining him kissing her or picturing him in her mind for no apparent reason and imagining him kissing her or just plan imagining him kissing her out of nowhere. She needs to get a life.
Get over your hill and see what you find there.
And she will get a life. She’ll stop letting the memory of him leech into her every minuscule bit of happiness. She’ll stop torturing herself by playing Kingdom Hearts and Robot Unicorn Attack and listening to Mumford and Sons. Everything that bears traces of him must go. She will stop pining. She will erase him. She will be silly, she will be flirty, she will go to college a completely different person instead of one tormented by a some bad judgment in the past.
She wants to see what she can find on the other side of the hill.
With grace in your heart and flowers in your hair.
Note: The sentences in bold are lyrics by Mumford and Sons.
Tiera Greene is a first-year M.S.Ed student in Higher Education at Old Dominion University. She graduated from the University of Georgia in May 2015 with degrees in Spanish and German. When not writing strange urban fantasy or poetry, she enjoys experimenting with vegan cooking and baking and serenading her beloved vehicle Louise while she drives.