The Songs in Our Hearts: Chapter One

~ Chapter One ~

Send Me On My Way – Rusted Root

THIRTY. THAT’S HOW MANY MINUTES eleventh graders had for lunch. Not much, but it was all the time we needed to eat, relax for a moment, and catch our breath until the next class period.
“I can’t believe it’s chicken and waffles again,” Jennifer sighed as she picked up one of the semi-warm waffles from her plate and tossed it back down. All of us at the table noticed the way it bounced as it landed and grimaced.
Here,” Rachel, my best friend, giggled as she snapped open her lunch box to reveal her ultimate home packed lunch. Tugging a Ziploc bag of potato chips free, she pulled it open and offered some to Jen.
“Thanks,” Jennifer mumbled with a wrinkled nose as she shoved her hand into the bag and pulled out a few chips. Rachel offered me the snack bag next, but I shook my head.
“I’m good. We’d better leave the rest for Jennifer or she might be feisty for the rest of the day.”
Rachel left the bag beside Jennifer’s lunch tray. Jennifer had been a friend of mine since second grade. She was the spunky punk-girl with strawberry blonde hair—which, when I say strawberry-blonde hair, I really mean red and pink with yellow streaks.
“Did you see that anime last night, Charlie?” Jennifer asked me as she crunched down on a potato chip. I shrugged and shook my head. She was passionate about anime, and always had a different one to recommend. She carried around more fan fiction in her book bag than actual textbooks. Last month, the librarian caught her printing over a hundred pages’ worth from a website and banned her printing privileges.
            “I missed it, I guess. My brother hogged the remote last night.” I wouldn’t admit that I had forgotten. As I turned my attention back to Rachel, she grinned at me knowingly. 
Rachel stood out the most in our small group of friends, with her bright smile, infectious laugh and incredible sense of fashion. She was perfect. I always wanted to be like her, despite my tangled, thick brunette hair, tan skin and dark brown eyes. While we weren’t the most popular girls, Rachel held herself to a standard that demanded respect, and that’s what she got.
I’d met Rachel in fifth grade, in choir. Our music teacher, Mr. Jefferson, partnered us up for a random duet. Oddly enough, our voices were a perfect match. Rachel and I found we had a lot in common, including our tastes of books, sappy romance movies, and Broadway musicals. We spent many recesses drawing our married last names in our notebooks with her fancy gel-pens. She even loved A Knight’s Tale just as much as I did, which, at the time, only helped to solidify our friendship.
I had just bitten into an apple when I saw him, sitting at what Jennifer and I called the “Bro-Table.” It was between the wrestling table and ours in the cafeteria. Most of the guys at the “Bro-Table” were loudmouths and liked to party, and were simply annoying. I sat with the artsy-nerdy kids. Most everyone who sat at the “Nerd Table” knew each other from spending their free periods in the art studio.
I knew whoever he was didn’t see me staring; I made sure to keep my eyes moving to make it less obvious. The new guy had short, dark hair and appeared to be taller than the guys he sat with. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from his strong jaw, tending and flexing as he ate and laughed. His eyes…from where I was sitting, appeared to be as dark as chocolate.  
“Who is that?” I asked, inching closer to Rachel in hopes to not be overhead by the others around us. As I leaned my head toward her, I turned my gaze to Samantha, who sat at the end of the table near my friend—and her current love interest—Daan Scott. Fortunately for me, she was too busy studying the movement of his lips.
 Samantha Walters was one of the best artists in the school, next to Daan, and she knew it. She was a little too proud for my liking, and had a huge mouth when it came to secrets and crushes. I’d learned my lesson about Samantha. Before our falling out, I really believed she and I were friends. After all, we’d known each other since elementary school. I used to go over to her house all the time when we were younger and we’d watch movies, played with our dolls, and pretended we lived in a castle—Samantha was always the queen and I…her servant. When we grew out of our childhood games, Samantha turned her attention toward makeup and boys. I started to feel as though I didn’t know her anymore, and maybe it was true. My hobbies changed to painting and reading as many books as I could get my hands on. I stopped going over to Samantha’s house as much as I had before, until her invitations dwindled to none.
It wasn’t until ninth grade, when Samantha saw me talking to a boy I had liked since forever, that I suddenly appealed to her again. Maybe it was his handsome dimples that reminded me of the prince from The Little Mermaid, but I was completely mesmerized by Dane Wesley. That day, Samantha came up to the two of us with a giggle and teased me about ‘obviously liking him.’ Later that night, she called to explain she had spoken to Dane after school.
“He totally wants to go out on a date with you, Charlie!” Samantha practically purred.
I couldn’t stop the growing excitement in my stomach at the idea of actually going on a date with Dane Wesley!
Samantha came over to my house that Friday to help me pick out an outfit and get ready for my date. After lying to my mom about meeting up with friends, and coming up with a convincing reason for the eye shadow, blush, and lipstick painted on my face, she dropped me off at the mall. I waited on the wooden bench near the main entrance for an entire hour. Just as I pushed myself from the seat, feeling defeated and a little stupid, Dane strolled into the mall with his arm wrapped around Samantha’s shoulders. I barely saw through the tears that filled my eyes. All I could do was run outside and call my mom to pick me up. 
I knew I would never tell Samantha anything ever again. I’d never give her the chance to hurt me a second time.
There was only one person I could trust, and that was Rachel, hands down.
Rachel knew just about everyone in school, and she wasn’t the kind of person to make up dishonest stories about them. As a member of the student council, she was in charge of greeting and helping new students make the transition to our small, quaint high school. I darted my gaze back to the new boy, admiring the way he seemed to laugh so easily with the crowd of guys around him.
“Who?” Rachel asked softly, leaning in.
“That guy, at the Bro-Table.” I made a quick gesture as I pretended to pick up my napkin and move it. Rachel’s eyes followed the direction of my hand and made contact with the boy throwing a tater tot at a laughing classmate.   
“Oh, him? That’s Micah Jacobs. He used to live here when he was younger. I remember him from my old elementary school. He moved away just as the East and West side Elementary schools began to merge for middle school. I guess he’s back in the area now.” Rachel bumped my arm. It was an all-knowing bump and I could feel my cheeks begin to warm just as his eyes caught mine from across the room. The corners of his mouth turn into a smile, and I dashed my gaze away.
“Who are we talking about?” Jennifer piped in as she closed the distance between Rachel and me. Her gaze scattered over the faces at the Bro-Table with intrigue. 
“Don’t look now!” I hissed. I tugged on her hand, hoping he wouldn’t see. But he did. Micah Jacobs saw the three of us gawking at him like a bunch of silly school girls, and he started to laugh. I was mortified as I lifted my hand to my forehead, focusing on the apple on my tray. His eyes were definitely dark brown, darker than my own.  
“Are we talking about Micah?” Jennifer asked Rachel and me.
“Obviously,” I mumbled. I picked up a French fry but decided not to cram it into my mouth. I mean…he might still be watching.
“He was in one of my morning classes today. He’s just like the rest of them over there,” Jennifer reported, and took a sip from her milk carton. “I mean, he is sitting at the Bro-Table, Charlie.” She almost sounded apologetic.
I looked to Rachel, wondering if she had anything else to add. “He’s not that bad,” she said with a shrug. “I knew him years ago. He might have hung out with the wrong kids those days, but he was always nice to me. I’m sure he’s probably changed since then, but… He moved to Georgia or something, and that was the last my family ever heard from his. I was pretty surprised when I saw him on the roster this morning. He didn’t seem to recognize me, so I didn’t say anything other than my usual ‘Welcome to Grand Lakes High School’ and, you know…that stuff.”
“It doesn’t really matter,” I said. “I was just wondering who he was. I haven’t seen him around and I don’t remember him from before.” I was trying my best to seem indifferent. While it had been two years, I was still a little traumatized by my experience with Samantha Walters. I didn’t want anyone to jump to conclusions about my peaked curiosity in the new guy. Speak of the devil.
“Oooooo! I think Charlie has a crush,” Samantha called loudly over our crowd of friends. Daan kept his gaze to his plate while Samantha grinned at me. I could see the discomfort growing on Daan’s face. But instead of stopping her, he turned his focus to his phone. Samantha brushed her long, silken black hair over her shoulder and giggled. “It’s so cute! Charlie has a crush on the new old ‘bad boy’ in town.”
            “No, I don’t,” I muttered. I picked up another French fry. This time, I shoved it into my mouth without hesitation.
            “Look at her!” Samantha squawked. “It’s so obvious.”
            “It doesn’t really matter, Sam, does it?” Daan glanced up from his phone. There was a silent, tense moment between them. It was the first time Daan had ever confronted her.
Sam’s eyes widened as he picked up his lunch tray and walked over to the return carousel. She slid her hazel-eyed glare to me and wrinkled her nose.
As I turned my eyes away from the disaster at the other end of the table, my eyes caught Micah’s from across the cafeteria. He was watching me, and I thought I saw him wink. 


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