Seeing Red

"She wasn't new in school, or in town, I'd just never noticed her. How I managed that, I have absolutely no idea."
Red wasn't the type of person you forget. Colleen realized this as soon as she met her at the beginning of her Senior year at high school. Extremely ready for a change and extremely intrigued by Red, Colleen finds herself effortlessly immersed in an entirely new lifestyle brought on by this unique girl. When underlying feelings come to the surface, will Colleen address them, or run away from her own confusion?
Rated yellow for strong language and adult themes later on.

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1. New Beginnings

She wasn't new in school, or in town, I'd just never noticed her. How I managed that, I have absolutely no idea. It wasn't like her to be... well, lost in the crowd. She'd take that as an insult. Not that she was an attention seeker or anything, in fact, she'd get sort of embarrassed if too many eyes were on her at once. Something about her just stood out. In a good way.

 

Red. That's what everyone called her, but I knew that wasn't her real name. She was a grade below me but she seemed like she was my age, if not older. And that wasn't from her maturity, mind you – she was far from what I would call mature – she was just so sure of herself. The way she acted; it was as if she'd already gone through her midlife crisis and fully discovered who she was, like she had gone on countless soul-searching journeys, or at least way too many to make sense for her age.

 

Despite all that, though, she was also one of the only people I'd ever seen who actually “lived in the moment.” In fact, I'd never fully understood that concept until I met her. She just... wanted to have fun. She wanted to go on adventures, stay out late, travel places, experience anything and everything she could. Her ambitions were extravagant and exciting, and they showed behind her eyes whenever she talked.

 

She was southern, I knew that much. It wasn’t blatant, she just had a drawl lingering on her words that was hard to miss sometimes. It got more intense depending on how worked up she was, and it was one of the only ways you could clearly tell what she was feeling.

 

I didn't have any classes with her, which was irritating to say the very least. I had lunch with her only on Wednesday, and she sat with her other group of friends on practically the opposite end of the cafeteria. It was only one day, early into my Senior year that she noticed me. And I'm so indescribably glad that she did.

 

I was sitting alone because my friend Bristol was busy doing some extracurricular thing, and my only other sort-of friend Luis didn't have that lunch with me. There were other people I could've sat with without it seeming too forced, but that day I didn't particularly feel like it. So I just took an empty table and sat with a quiet sigh. I hadn't even gotten lunch, I forgot to bring money. I had my journal though, so I tugged it out – hiding it within a schoolbook so it looked like I was taking notes, or studying. Ha. Like I had ever studied once in my life. People seemed to buy it though.

 

Occasionally I'd look up and do a quick sweep of the cafeteria, just to see if anyone was staring so that I could shoot them a dirty look. Nobody was taking notice. Except for one girl. Her gaze kept casually drifting as well, but it'd linger on me. Every time it did, it stayed for longer and longer. I somehow always managed to glance up right when she was conveniently looking around again. But she wasn't blatantly staring, so I had no right to get all defensive. Plus for some reason I didn't mind her looking at me.

 

I continued to mindlessly scribble in my journal – one of my only real outlets during this pensive, difficult period of my life. I got a new one every year because I just kept filling them up. This one was fresh and I liked the crispness of the paper, the sturdiness of the hard cover and spine. On occasion I'd enter a sort of trance, where my thoughts would literally pour into it without me being fully aware. As I kept subtly letting my gaze flit to this girl, she became the subject of my writing.

 

I described her, went into bordering on excessive detail about what I could tell from the sizable distance we were at. She was a good ways away. Her hair was captivating to me. It was strikingly orange. There weren't many redheads around this town, and it was strangely refreshing to see one. It was long, draped down around her shoulders and trailing along her back. Her skin was slightly tan and incredibly smooth looking. I described it as “creamy,” to actually quote myself. Her clothing was interesting to me as well; a deep blue tank-top with some type of symbol on the front that I couldn't recognize, along with torn jean shorts and scuffed up boots. Her body seemed lithe, and she was thin but not unhealthily so. Her arms looked toned, her calves tight though they were partially concealed with white socks. What was exposed of her leg's skin sported a good few scrapes.

 

Her face... something about it just... drew me in. If I wasn't trying to be nonchalant in my examination, I would've taken far more time to look. She had chiseled features, and a strong jawline that she was slowly, absentmindedly tracing her thumb along while I examined her. Her fingers were long, slender and graceful, and she drummed them gently on the tabletop in a consistent, steady pattern. One of her feet was swinging back and forth beneath the table, almost like she was keeping time. She was absolutely mesmerizing.

 

It was getting harder and harder to make my observing not noticeable. Whenever I allowed myself to catch a quick glimpse of her eyes, it was like she could somehow tell, and she kept matching my gaze. It would startle me and I'd quickly look away, fighting back the color rushing to my cheeks. After that had happened for about the third time, it took me a while to work up the nerve to do it again, and when I did, she was already staring back at me. My heart climbed its way steadily into my throat. For some reason I was too enthralled to tilt my head down – break the contact.

 

It was then that she smiled. Slightly. Jesus Christ, what a fucking smile that was. Her teeth were white and straight, and she briefly acquired some vague dimples. Momentarily the pace of her dangling foot's swinging slowed – as if she was too intrigued by me to even remember what she had been doing. Our confusingly intense eye contact lasted for another few lingering seconds before it finally broke on her behalf. I watched her as she chuckled under her breath and turned away, now facing the other two at her table I hadn't even bothered to notice.

 

I let out a breath I wasn't aware I'd been holding in. That was... odd. I shuffled around a bit where I sat, as if to expel the weirdness out of my body, but it didn't work. Shocker. When I glanced back down at my still open journal, my eyes reread my documentation on the girl. After getting to the end, it felt like the mere four or so paragraphs weren't enough to put her presence to words. Becoming unexpectedly immersed and driven, I started to write frantically – as if I'd forget what was in my head if I didn't put it on paper.

 

“Hey.” Someone spoke from over my shoulder and it almost made me jump straight out of my skin. I literally dropped my pencil from surprise, wondering who the hell would be talking to me.

 

I readied my go-to persona when interacting with the majority of the people in that school: the “don't-even-try-to-talk-to-me” vibe. By that point in my educational career I had already mastered it. When I turned around to ward this person away with my teenage angst, I froze.

 

It was her. She stood behind me with her head inquisitively tilted a bit, looking at me with that same sort of curiosity she had before. My heart skipped a beat or two at the realization that she was now right next to me. I'd barely been able to function like a normal human when she was across the cafeteria. This was just a recipe for disaster. Now she was close enough for me to see the color of her eyes. They were a deep, entrancing green that immediately made me unable to look away from them.

 

It took me an embarrassing two seconds to actually understand she had greeted me and was waiting for a response, which I barely managed out, “Hi.” That sounded surprisingly put together considering the strange inner turmoil I was for some reason having.

 

I watched as she stood slightly on her tiptoes to peek over my shoulder, clearly curious about my journal, “Whatcha writin'?” Her subtle drawl showed through a bit at the question. It caught my attention, but my mind was too preoccupied with the fact that the sound of her voice made my chest feel lighter.

 

Obviously I didn't plan on telling her the truth - I’d seem like a total creep. Instead, since I was oh so clever, my first instinct was to just do my best to reign in my haste when I slammed my journal shut. It wasn’t as subtle as I’d hoped. She raised an eyebrow at me and was suppressing another smile of hers, I could tell.

 

“Uh, just... nothing.” I internally slapped myself, “Nothing really.”

 

At that point she actually did smirk a little bit, raising her hands up slightly in defense - showing respect of my weird privacy, “Mmm-hmm, that sure is a whole lotta nothin’.” She quipped lightly.

 

Ah jeez, ten seconds in and I’d already made myself seem like a total freak. Typical. But then she did something that surprised me. I’d find out in the coming months that she was extremely unpredictable and spontaneous, but since this was the first time, I was caught particularly off guard. Instead of retreating from my awkwardness and returning to who I assumed were her normal friends back at her old table, she smoothly slid into the chair across from me - resting her head on her hand as she looked at me with narrowed eyes.

 

I felt like I was on a cop drama, where the interrogator is shining a harsh light straight in your face and examining you like a lab rat. My nerves were eating me alive but again, I couldn’t seem to look away from her. Instead I just let myself bounce my leg at a ridiculously fast pace, also tapping my pen against the surface of my journal a bit.

 

Her gaze was really intense. It was as if she was seeing straight through me. It wasn’t like I considered myself some type of super intricate enigma, but I could tell that she was seriously reading me like a book and I didn’t even know her name. But I really fucking wanted to.

 

After a few uncomfortably lingering seconds (probably more uncomfortable for me than her), her position changed - instead leaning forward with her elbows up on the table, “Don’tcha get bored, then? Just sittin’ here all alone, not doing anything?”

 

The pace of my pen-tapping quickened as I responded - putting conscious effort into speaking at a normal volume and not stammering like an idiot, “No-- I mean, I’m not, um, normally alone, I-I have friends they’re just busy right now and I basically hate everyone else in my grade, so I just...” Instead of adding on a blatant detail I just vaguely gestured to our table.

 

For some reason, when I talked she seemed incredibly interested in whatever I was saying, like genuinely interested, even though it was bordering on gibberish. The more that I managed to get out, the more she started to smile. It made me self-conscious, or at least more self-conscious than I already was. What if she was making fun of me? What if this whole conversation was just like, passive aggressive bullying that I was too dense to realize because it was coming from a pretty girl?

 

But... no. No, she wasn’t that type of person. I’m not that good with people, I admit, but this girl, she just... somehow she managed to exude this air of authenticity and realness that was impossible not to sense. I’d never met anyone like this before. Even my friends occasionally seemed flimsy and iffy with their values and morals, but with her? I knew there was no question. A fair chunk of my nerves surprisingly faded away.

 

She leaned closer, intrigued, which is when I spotted a little patch of freckles across the bridge of her nose. It’s hard to explain, but they fit her perfectly, “What’s your name?” Her voice had lowered, like she was telling me some type of secret. It made me smirk just a little, which made her own smile turn into a grin.

 

My nerves were annoyingly creeping back up on me, I could feel it. Pursing my lips a bit to suppress my smile, I instead stared down at the surface of the table, “Um... Colleen.” I really hated saying my name out loud, it just felt weird to me.

 

Once her question had been answered I saw her nod in my peripheral vision, still finding myself unable to look at her. She wasn’t having any of that, though. She reached over and waved her hand slightly in front of my face, startling me. However, her attempt worked, since I stared straight at her with a raised eyebrow. Her only response was another smile and a simple, “My eyes are up here.” She pointed towards them, like I needed further guidance.

 

I just scoffed playfully at her, “Oh, shut up.” Color was coming to my cheeks, I could feel it, and I hated it, “I’m  just... bad with eye contact.” I pushed some of my hair up and off my face, running my fingers idly through it once before realizing I may’ve looked as if I was playing with my hair like some stereotypical schoolgirl. My hand went back to its previous position immediately.

 

She chuckled warmly and it was one of the enchanting sounds I’d ever heard. I found myself subconsciously playing it over and over again in my head, “How come, though?” God, she sounded so interested. Was I honestly that interesting? I legitimately doubted it.

 

Speak of the Devil, my eyes drifted again and wandered around the cafeteria as a sort of coping mechanism for my slight anxiety, “I dunno, it’s just hard. I can only do it for like five seconds without bailing.”

 

She hummed quizzically, “Is that so? Pretty sure you just held it for a solid eight.” Her words caught my attention and I glanced back at her for a second before returning to my idle scanning, “Y’know, if you avoid lookin’ at people like that, they’ll never get to see how pretty your eyes are.”

 

My heart skipped a beat at the sudden compliment, and my gaze shot back to her in confusion. She was just sitting there, not even the slightest hint of an ulterior motive on her face, smiling at me. With all this talk of eyes, I looked into hers more closely and realized just how captivating they were. The longer you stared at them, the more depth they seemed to acquire. The little specks of blue near her irises made them almost sparkle.

 

“Fifteen.” She piped up in a dragging singsong voice. It jolted me out of my sudden trance and I blinked a few times, confused.

 

“...Fifteen?”

 

“Fifteen seconds.” She stated matter-of-factly.

 

Seriously? Where the hell had that time gone? It took me a moment or two before I realized; I had literally just gotten lost in her eyes. I didn’t think that was actually a thing. I thought it was some crappy pickup line used by dudes at parties. But that was undeniably what had just happened. They had somehow managed to suck me in, divert all my attention, made me forget where I was. This entire interaction was surreal.

 

“Oh! Oh, I um... huh.” My mind was having a hard time processing all of this.

 

She seemed particularly pleased with herself, now sporting an ear-to-ear grin that made her entire face light up, “Oooh, I’m special!” She noted with glee.

 

“What?” This girl was one of the most stand-out people I’d ever met. Even at that point I had this lingering sort of sensation in the air; she was gonna stick around. One way or another, I’d be seeing more of her. And I was perfectly fine with that.

 

She put both of her hands into her lap, swaying back and forth a bit, “That was more than five seconds,” She bounced up and down in her seat slightly, “So I’m special.”

 

She most definitely was special. There was no denying that. Her smile was contagious, and pretty soon I couldn’t keep myself from grinning right along with her. This time it was my turn to be incredibly curious about her, which I already had been, just not verbally, “So are you gonna tell me your name or...?”

 

My question seemed to startle her, even confuse her a bit. I think she assumed she’d already introduced herself, “Right, sorry, it’s Red.”

 

Red. I thought to myself after she’d told me. I’d never met someone whose name fit them so well. Part of me was well aware that wasn’t her real name, but I honestly didn’t care. If that’s what she went by, that’s what I’d call her, and damn did it suit her.

 

Her eyes flitted to the large clock on the other side of the cafeteria. It was basically time to go. She frowned slightly, irritated, and she sighed, “Ahh shit... we gotta go soon.” She pouted. It was cute.

 

My attention was caught by her two friends that she’d previously been sitting with. The guy was staring over at us rather intently. How long had he been watching? Oh Jeez, did we have an audience that entire time? I prevented myself from thinking about it. He gestured for me to send Red back. I gave him a weird half nod type thing.

 

“Hey uh--” I pointed over toward them and she looked, locking eyes with the dude. He mouthed something I couldn’t discern, and her response was to flip him off with a smile. He waved slightly in her direction dismissively.

 

The other person at the table, a girl, seemed to be deliberately avoiding even slightly glancing at Red and I. Her head was aimed down rather emphatically, and she looked incredibly dismayed. My brow furrowed, “What’s up with her?” I asked without thinking. I didn’t want to seem like I was prying.

Red seemed not to know who I was talking about and had to take a second look at the table to understand. Upon doing so, she just rolled her eyes, “Just bein’ sulky. She gets that way when I...” For some reason she cut that thought short, though her mouth remained open as if to finish it. It left me feeling deathly curious. Unfortunately for me, she just sighed and continued with, “It’s nothing.”

 

It was most definitely something, but I let it go. It couldn’t have mattered too much,

it was just that I’d suddenly adopted such an incredibly strong urge to know as much about Red as I possibly could. She was so different from everyone else and it was refreshing. For the first time in my entire highschool career, I found someone exceptional instead of just average, or slightly above average at best.

 

The annoyingly loud trilling of our school bell made my ears bleed (metaphorically) as per usual, and I stood up automatically without saying a word. Red quickly did the same, and reached out - almost grabbing my hand, but she seemed to restrain herself from the contact at the last second, “Whoa, speedy, hang on a sec, what class are you in right now?”

 

Crowds of students exiting the cafeteria were swarming toward the exit, going around us like flowing water, except they were much louder and more obnoxious than that. Also clumsy, “Um, it’s an online class so I just sit in the library, why?”

 

She smirked mischievously at me, clasping her hands behind her back, “No reason,” Her words were dragged out comically, and she lingered for a moment longer before startling me by blurting out, “Well, gotta go! Bye!” and seamlessly merging with the crowd.

 

She was gone before I could say anything back, so I just sort of mumbled under my breath, “Bye...?”

 

Part of me was left still questioning the previous situation’s reality. It all was just so sudden and odd. Then again, it was also sort of a welcome change of pace from my usual school routine that had remained constant for over three years. It was stale now. But I knew for sure that Red would be more than able to make things interesting.

 
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