It should have been quiet in the class for at least the next forty minutes or so of the period, while everyone had his or her head bent down toward the stack of papers on the desk in front of them.
Some students even had their arms curled protectively around their exam papers. Some stared off into the distance as if something only seen by them would suddenly give them the answers they were so desperately seeking for. Others were scribbling fast and vigorously across the sheets of paper, lest the thoughts melted away and they forgot what it was they wanted to write down.
So it was, when Daryl, sitting at his desk, balancing his pen between his index finger and his thumb, trying to come up with an answer for question 2B (iv), saw Samantha walk into the room and it was not so quiet anymore.
All of a sudden, he could hear his own heart beating wildly in his chest.
The teacher lumbered his six-foot, heavy built frame over to the front of the class from his leaning spot against the back of the classroom, where he could watch each one of the students with a suspicious eye. When the teacher reached her, he leaned closer to her and she whispered something close to his ear. He frowned briefly as she spoke and then he moved away from her and nodded.
Daryl dragged his jumper from his body, suddenly feeling too hot in the over-warmed room. Pushing his finger in between his collar and his neck he pulled at it a little, and then, after glancing around the room while fumbling his fingers in under his tie, he undid the top button before he wiggled the tie a bit looser. Totally against the rules, but he needed to find the evading answer to this question, and he could not think if he did not feel comfortable, and now it felt as if he was overheating.
Samantha walked past his desk to get to hers, and an envelope dropped from her bag onto the floor.
Glancing down at it, he was not entirely sure why he did it, but he moved his black Van’s and hid the envelope under the sole of his shoe.
Exactly thirty-five minutes later, the bell rang and alas, the answer to that one question had still not popped into his head. He bet tonight it would flash as bright as a neon light in his mind, most probably at the most inappropriate moment.
Samantha had to walk past his desk again and he watched her until she disappeared through the doorway. She was a pretty girl with a splendid body, her long dark hair was sometimes, most times, a little untidy. Her large green eyes had shadows beneath them, he supposed from weariness, and today there was something about her that interested him more than usual.
They had known each other for some time now and they maintained a pleasant, rather cool relationship. They might, on occasion, hold a brief conversation about mainly the weather, but never showed any interest in each other.
Usually, Daryl knew when a girl liked him more than just wanting to be his friend, and so he never wasted his time going after girls he knew did not like him. He had, as some might say, an unfair advantage.
He stood up from his desk and leaned down to grab his bag from the floor. The white rectangular envelope was still laying on the floor, but now it was stencilled with greyish squares from the bottom of his shoe. Picking it up, he held it up to the light but could not really make out what was hidden on the inside and turning it around he noticed it was sealed. He did all of this without conscious thought, and when he realised, he was scrutinising the envelope closely and he had a strange need to know what was inside the envelope, it shocked him a little.
He tossed his backpack across his shoulder, folded the envelope in half while pushing it into his blazer pocket. Lifting the exam paper from his desk, he turned to walk to the front of the classroom. Then. Bam! Murphy's Law. The answer to question 2B (iv) hit him square between the eyes.
With a feeling of disappointment, because he could not think of the answer earlier when it mattered, he added his stack of papers to the pile already on the teacher's desk.
The June afternoon, although bright, was chilly and he paused at the exit from the school as his eyes scanned the street and parking area already teeming with traffic, and he knew the buses would all be full by now.
The big glass door swung open behind him and Samantha came to a stop beside him. She asked, “Are you walking?”
“Deciding if I should get the bus,” he replied without looking at her.
She touched his arm. “You never get the bus; you can walk with me. Come.”
As they started walking away from the school building, he pushed his hands deep into his pockets. His hand brushed against the edge of the envelope, but he pushed it from his mind. He did not want her to know he had picked it up, he did not want to give it back, either.
As they walked, they talked about the weather, the exams, nothing personal.
He lived not far from school, in Queen Street, and he supposed one could call it shabby civilised, with its facing rows of terraced houses, peeling paint and always drawn curtains in every window facing the street.
As they walked closer to his house, the front door flung open to allow Chris to emerge with their dog. There were no gardens in front of the houses on his street, and all the doors opened onto the sidewalk.
Chris peered at them as he crossed the street on his way to the park, two streets away. “Good afternoon, Daryl,” he called when he recognised Daryl and stopped walking. Jack, their dog, barked a brief greeting. Chris turned and came sauntering back to them.
Daryl could see him turn his charm button to high when he reached them.
Chris faced Samantha, smiling. “His brother, Chris,” he said as he pointed his finger in Daryl’s direction. He then pushed his hands deep into his trouser pockets and in the process, his biceps flexed, and the material pulled tighter around his muscled legs.
The stance made him appear more masculine than Daryl cared to admit, and he turned away from them. “See ya,” he said to Samantha.
She lifted her hand in a wave.
Goose bumps erupted all over Samantha’s arms, but she refused to shiver or admit that any of this fazed her. Her plan was to convince Daryl to go with her to the park but now he just left her here with his brother whom she did not even know, but she pretended to be friendly.
She decided she would rather stand here talking to a stranger than go home. In fact, she was too afraid to go home after this morning. Her chest burned with a feeling of trepidation.
When she left for school, late as always, her stepfather was already crazy drunk and spewing curse words from his flapping lips. She had wondered if he had ever gone to bed the night before, or if he had just drunk his way through the dark hours.
However, Daryl did not seem interested in spending more time with her than necessary and soon she would have no choice but to go home and face whatever was waiting for her.
The sound of the traffic from Park Avenue started fading and she could not shake the feeling of being watched.
Nervously she looked around.
They only lived five streets down and even though her stepfather hardly left the dim lounge in their house, it could be him keeping an eye on her. If he saw her talking to Chris it would cause even more trouble for her mum.
Samantha was just an ordinary girl, so his sudden feelings of seeing her talking to Chris was unexplained. These feelings spindled its way around in his chest, slowly hooking its thorns into the edges of his heart, nudging into his soul.
Try as he may, to ignore these feelings, he could not, and he knew. He knew Chris fancied Samantha. He could feel it even though he could not describe the feeling exactly, but he just knew stuff, without being told. It was a knowing that went way beyond intuition or gut feelings.
He had never really felt guilty about the way he was aware of another person's feelings. Perhaps he should feel guilty because maybe people did not want him to know how they felt, but he could not help it, really. It was a curse or a blessing, whichever way he wanted to feel about it at any given time of any granted day.
He was used to the way other's feelings of happiness or sadness caused a hollow yearning sensation in his stomach when the muscles of his heart automatically contracted. Most people could do it; they just did not realise they had the ability.
It was like when a person sees someone they had not seen for a long time and even though they had changed, got older, looked different, they still recognised each other not by the way they looked but by the way they felt toward each other. It was a feeling, a feeling of familiarity, of knowing.
When a person met someone for the first time and felt an intense emotion of love, love at first sight or instantly disliked another person or just knew the other person was very dangerous and one had to be cautious in the presence of this other dodgy person, it was a connection Daryl felt with the world around him, all the time.
This was all very normal for him, and usually quite easy to ignore. However, for some reason, at this very moment, his own feelings for Samantha were stronger and it was harder to disregard.
From the window of his bedroom, he watched as Samantha ran her fingers through her hair. He watched as Chris stepped closer to Samantha on the sidewalk down below and started leaning closer to her to whisper something in her ear, to let his whispered breath brush against the curve of her neck.
Daryl fought back a grimace.
As if Chris could feel eyes burning into the top of his head, Chris glanced up to Daryl where he stood framed in his bedroom window. He met his gaze for a second and then looked back at Samantha.
Samantha looked up as well, too quickly for Daryl to step away from the window.
Their eyes locked for an instant.
Her green eyes were framed by long dark lashes and they looked up at him inquisitively.
He knew her face, knew the shape, knew every line. He had seen her many times before this moment, so why did he only realise now just how beautiful she was?
Taking a deep breath, deep enough to lift his shoulders, he let his ability to know how she was feeling bridge the gap between them. Unseen to anyone, his soul reached for hers, like invisible fingers it reached closer, not to touch her, but to feel the vibrations. It was not something he could explain. It was just something he could do.
Quickly he took a step back. He felt nothing from her. Not even a hint of a feeling. He had never been interested in gauging how much of her feelings he could perceive, and now that he wanted to, he realised he could not.
His eyes darted back to her again and he felt a little unsure. This not knowing how another person felt had never happened to him before.
She was still looking up at him and again, his gaze locked with hers.
A warm red blush spread across her cheeks before she looked back at Chris, still standing beside her, talking a mile a second.
The emotions on her face were clear as if he could read them from the pages of a book, but even though the expression in her eyes said maybe more than she wanted to reveal, he could not feel the way she felt. Nothing at all.
An uncomfortable feeling crept through Daryl.
He felt the same as he always did, so was there something wrong with him?
Usually, he had the ability to sense other people’s emotions clearly, and generally, he had the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling, and he was always right. He could immerse himself in another person’s life and know what turmoil or happiness they were experiencing
Burdened with a heightened sense of empathy, he was affected by other people’s energies, and he had an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others. Essentially, he was like a large dam-like structure, collecting all the accumulated karma, emotions and energy from others. He could feel everything, soak up every insignificant thing everyone was feeling as it passed through them.
Why did he feel nothing at all from Samantha?
Then, he felt a sudden strange impulse, one he did not clearly understand. It had something to do with the way Chris was using his charms on her, the moves he was making on her which she was unaware of and he felt an urge to rush from his bedroom and down the narrow stairs, out the front door to where they stood on the side-walk.
He wanted to step in between them, to ward off his brother’s advances on her and to protect her from the darker thoughts of Chris' mind.
Maybe he would have wanted to do this with any other girl, not just Samantha, but Samantha looked sad most of the time and he did not want Chris to hurt her.
It occurred to him that if she felt sad most of the time, her emotions would have been more profound, so why then had he never taken them on as his own?
It was starting to seriously irritate him that he could not connect with her emotions. Chris' emotions were bouncing all over the place and he could feel them as clearly as he could feel his fingernails digging into the palms of his hands.
“Coffee?” His mum asked from his bedroom door.
He pulled his absorbed glare away from Samantha and Chris and when he looked away from them to his mum standing in the doorway to his room, he felt a sense of relief.
He did not want to suddenly be interested in Samantha just because she was the only girl whose emotions and feelings he could not decipher and he was one hundred percent certain that once he managed to connect with her, it would be the same as with every other girl, and girls falling for him so effortlessly had become tiresome and boring about four years ago.
“No. I'm okay. Thanks, Mum,” he said as he stepped away from the window.Copyright © Lynette Ferreira (published by Fiction for the Soul). All rights reserved.