Why I Smile

Amelia Lane hasn't got a perfect life but goes day-to-day with a smile on her face all because she has a gift no one knows about - she can see Shards: sad emotions in the form of coloured glass which she can remove to take the emotion away at that moment. But there's one person she can't take a Shard from so she makes it her mission to make Nathan Kirkland smile.

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3. The Problem With Nathan Kirkland

 

With a bottle of Coke in my hand and a Boost bar in my bag, Lisa and I walked down the spiral staircase, looking out of the large, ceiling-high window at the car park. There were people sat in their cars reading or smoking or eating or sleeping. Some people were sat on the bonnet talking and laughing, hands in their pockets or holding the straps of their bags. Some people were walking back from the smoking shelters and I took in a deep breath of fresh air as we passed the automatic door which opened expectantly as though we were about to go out and join these total strangers in their little bubbles.

 

I glanced at Lisa as she drank part of her own Coke – I’d got Diet, but she went for full sugar – her hands still shaking from her panic attack. I felt bad for her whenever it happened because she never really knew how to cope with anxiety. I mean, if she could then she would just run away from her problems and hide from them for as long as she could. But this was the real world so there was no running – she had to learn to deal with it head on, and if I could help her out by taking away part of her fear then I would for as long as I could.

 

When we got into the corridor again, we stopped near the door (which was locked) and looked down the hallway. Near where we had been during the panic attack, Nathan Kirkland sat on the large wooden unit with his book in his hands again. He was staring at the pages intently, ignoring everyone that walked past him and focusing solely on whatever story it was that he was reading. I watched him for a little bit, trying to figure him out.

 

I had known Nathan since I started school. We were rarely in the same classes because he was always that little bit smarter than I was in some subjects – English he had been in top set, I was in second; Maths we were both in top set; and Science I was top and he was second – but we’d never really had a proper conversation since the end of primary school… It was my fault…

 

Looking away from him, I sighed softly and looked at the time on my phone. I could feel the heavy look that Lisa was giving me – the one that always told me that she was judging me for something. Turning my attention to her, I saw that her eyebrows were raised and she was glancing between myself and Nathan.

 

                “Well?” she asked. “You gonna tell me why you were staring at the Punk?”

 

                “He’s not exactly a punk is he?” I said, avoiding the subject. “He’s not dressed with ripped clothes, there’s no piercings and his hair isn’t green.”

 

                “That’s a very specific image of punk you have,” Lisa said, giving me a deadpanned expression.

 

                “You only call him Punk cos he smokes,” I said, rolling my eyes. It was true though – Nathan did smoke. He wasn’t a chain smoker by comparison to some of the people in our class – he made a pack last for a month – and when he did smoke you wouldn’t be able to tell. It still sucked that he was throwing his life away like that though… How he got the cigarettes, I didn’t know.

 

                “He’s nearly seventeen,” Lisa whispered, though he tone was harsh. “How the fuck does he get cigarettes at sixteen when you can’t buy then till you’re eighteen?!”

 

                “Maybe one of his older brothers or sisters gives them to him?” I suggested, shrugging my shoulders.

 

                “Not the point…” Lisa sighed. “Why were you staring at him?”

 

                “I was just… thinking,” I said. “You know… That nasty guilty feeling again…”

 

                “Right…”

 

                “He hates me,” I said. “And I’m not exactly keen on him either, but we used to be close until I fucked up…”

 

                “What happened again?”

 

                “I started getting teased for hanging out with a guy so much,” I explained. “I didn’t like it so I told him to leave me alone. He wouldn’t though and they kept teasing me so I was desperate… I couldn’t tell him that they were picking on me cos I didn’t want him to do anything or feel bad… But then I made him feel awful by throwing his lunch down the toilet… I got in so much trouble and he was so mad at me… We haven’t talked much since…”

 

                “Well... Maybe now’s the time for a fresh start,” Lisa smiled. “I’ve watched you guys argue since Year Seven. We’re in college now… You’re likely gonna have to work together a lot, so burying the hatchet…”

 

                “Burying the hatchet seems like the best choice,” I said, finishing her sentence.

 

Smiling, Lisa looked at the clock on her phone. “Well, we have a few more minutes so go over and talk to him.”

 

                “What? Right now?!”

 

                “Yes, right now!”

 

There were time when I could strangle Lisa, but I knew that she was right. That didn’t mean that I liked it. Scowling at her as I walked past, I fiddled with the strap of my bag and stood in front of Nathan. He didn’t look up from his book. I cleared my throat a little.

 

                “Uh, hi… Nathan,” I said, picking at my thumb. He looked up a little and blinked. Clearly he hadn’t been expecting me to be stood in front of him. “Um, can I talk to you?”

               

                “I don’t see why not,” he replied, sitting up straight. His eyes were narrowed, looking me up and down apprehensively as though he was waiting for me to steal his lunch and throw it down the toilet again. “What do you want?”

 

                “I… I wanted to apologise…” I felt so awkward, my cheeks reddening from the strength of his stare. “I’ve not been the nicest person to you and… well, you haven’t been a diamond to me either… but…”

 

                “You’re serious?”

 

I blinked. “Yeah, I’m serious! We used to be good friends until…”

 

                “Until you decided to be a bitch to me.”

 

                “You know what…” I said, clicking my fingers subtly. I watched the colours seep out of the world and everything slow down, folding my arms and looking up at Nathan. He was still watching me, but he hadn’t noticed anything. I looked around him and found the Shards that were affecting him – there were five different pieces – but they were all colourless. I sighed.

 

This was the long running problem with Nathan Kirkland. Every single time I had used my power to try and help him I always found that I couldn’t. Nathan’s Shards were colourless, meaning they were stuck to him far too strongly – they were a part of him.

 

                “Come on, you son of a bitch,” I groaned, moving closer to him. I attempted for the one thousandth time to pull away one of the Shards but I couldn’t do it. “Why do you have to be so fucking difficult?!”

 

I wanted to help him – it was one of the reasons why getting along with him over the years, for me at least, had been so difficult. I wanted to him so badly but because he had shielded himself away from everyone I couldn’t get past the barrier he had created that kept the Shards in place. It was almost as though he enjoyed being miserable, but I refused to give up. Stepping back into position, I clicked my fingers again and looked up at him.

 

                “What?” he snapped.

 

                “I just want to get along with you again, Nathan…” I said. “I’m sorry I did what I did, but I had my reasons… They were stupid reasons… Ones that made sense when we were nine years old but that was years ago… But remember, we’re in this class together for the next two years… I’d rather get along with you and get a good grade then argue and possibly hinder both of us… But whatever…”

 

                “Whatever…” Nathan repeated, looking back at his book. I gripped the strap of my bag tightly and stomped back over to Lisa. She kept quiet when I stood by her again. She knew that I wasn’t in the mood to talk anymore – honestly, that boy was more trouble than he was worth but he was so unique…

 

He was the first and only person that I had come across to have a case of Shards like that. Everyone had colours! Every single person! The only person I’d seen without Shards was Aaron – I wasn’t sure whether it was because of the coma but had no Shards whatsoever. Nathan though. He was covered with them and there was nothing I could do to remove them. I’d first checked after we had argued a few weeks after my father’s funeral. I’d finally gone back into school and everyone was being delicate with me because of Aaron and my Dad, but Nathan wasn’t. He was blunt about everything as usual and upset me so I screamed at him and turned the world black and white, wanting to take away his Shards so that he would just leave me alone, but I couldn’t do it… They just wouldn’t leave him…

 

I’d been trying on and off since that day but with no success – whatever was troubling Nathan couldn’t be sorted with my powers.

 

***

 

I sat at my Mac next to Lisa’s, my legs crossed and my hands on my lap twiddling my thumbs as June went through the final part of the induction presentation. It was the most boring thing I had ever gone through but I had managed to stay awake.

 

                “Okay, so in a minute your teachers for the rest of the year are going to come in and introduce themselves. The other class will be coming in too so it will be very cramped but this bit you’ll all need an explanation of.”

 

                “What is it?” asked Maria, tying her long platinum hair into a scruffy ponytail.

 

                “Just your first assignment to get you used to how things will be going over the course of your time here,” June smiled. “Once the other class has returned to their room we’ll be announcing who’ll be working with who.”

 

                “We don’t get to choose?” asked Lisa, glancing at me.

 

                “No,” June said. “We figured it would be best for you to work with people you wouldn’t usually work with.”

 

                “Arrivederci, Lisa,” I chuckled. She pouted at me.

 

We all looked round when a knocking sounded on the door and June nodded when we saw one of the other teachers peering through the window. The door opened and every piled inside, some people who were separated from their friends opting to sit on their laps to save space – it was a tight squeeze and the teachers stood at the front of the room with slightly sorry expression mixed with their smiles.

 

                “Okay!” June smiled. “Well, for the benefit of the other group, I’m June and I’m your Communications lecturer.”

 

                “I’m Mike,” said a tall man with a round happy face. He was fairly young and was wearing a Spiderman t-shirt. I liked him already. “I’m your Graphic Design lecturer.”

 

                “Hello, everyone,” smiled a plump blonde lady with bright blue eyes. She looked sweet but some of the other group were muttering distastefully about her. “I’m Sally, your Industries lecturer and the tutor for Group B.”

 

Next a tall butch lady with a military style hair cut stepped forwards – I was a little scared of her. “Alright, I’m Sharon, and I’ll be your Journalistic Studies teacher.”

 

                “I’m Chris,” said a large man with spikey brown hair. “I’m your Digital Communications teacher but you won’t be starting that until next year… I’m here now because I’m your head of course, so anything problems you have that you feel you can’t talk to your tutor about can come straight to me – also if things go beyond what your tutor can do I’ll deal with it.”

 

A small lady with dark brown hair finally stepped forwards – she looked mousy and her smile was small and thin, but she seemed really nice. “I’m Lori, your Radio Studies teacher.”

 

                “Hey! I’m Ransom and I’m your Video Communications teacher!” grinned a tall man with a beard. He wore hipster glasses and a Batman t-shirt, and looked roughly the same age as Mike. I liked him too. “We’re gonna make some awesome movies together!”

 

                “Yes… Well, now you’ve met everyone,” June said, practically rolling her eyes at Ransom. Clearly she didn’t find him as cool as we all were starting to. “It’s time to explain your induction assignment. Now, there’s no pressure – you won’t be graded on this project, this is just to assess what you’re capable of at this moment in time and where you can progress to.

“You’re going to be put into pairs and given a topic at random to make a presentation about. You can do whatever you like with it – you can use PowerPoint, SlideShare, and Prezi, whatever you can think of to make everyone understand your topic. You have two weeks to complete it. Though you can start the presentation straight away – the first week starting Monday will be dedicated to researching your topic. You must, must, MUST, create a bibliography of your sources.”

 

                “Group B if you’d like to join me back in Room 975 I’ll tell you what your pairs will be,” said Sally, the other group getting up and awkwardly making their way out of the room. The rest of us remained silent, glancing at each other trying to figure out who we would prefer to work with if our first choice wasn’t available to us. I swallowed thickly. June turned her attention to us and smiled once the door was closed.

 

                “Okay…” she said. “Now, I know you guys don’t all know each other and some of you have come from the school so I’ve tried to make it as easy on you as possible whilst still having the element of a challenge…”

 

With that she started reading through the list, pairing people with others they really wouldn’t have worked with. She also kept it boy-girl as much as possible. Lisa ended up paired with Sakura, the little Japanese girl with the flower in her hair, though. Maria was working with the tanned boy I’d learnt was called Antony.

 

                “Who next…?” muttered June. “Oh right! Amelia! You’ll be working with Mr Kirkland here.”

 

I felt Lisa tense next to me and nudge my arm. I felt my heart drop. Glancing to my left to the other side of the classroom, I caught Nathan’s eye as he looked at me. Neither of us looked happy. At all.

 

I had to be working with him. I just had to be working with Nathan Freaking Kirkland.

 

Of-fucking-course!

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