A Very Brief Love Affair – Ceren Yalçın

Charlie Roden, at the tender age of 11, was sure that he had fallen in love. Love, indeed, for his heart had stopped and his stomach had churned when he saw Mrs. Watson introduce their new classmate, Emily, with her dark hair in a neat ponytail and green dotted doe eyes sparkling under the fluorescent class lights.

That was two weeks ago, though Charlie’s heart still skipped a beat when he saw her and he had spent the last fourteen days trying to get the girl’s attention to no avail.
Because it was the only seat empty, Mrs. Watson placed her to the seat in the very back of the room, the seat normally reserved for insistent troublemakers. Charlie was sitting in the second row, and was trying to figure out how to take the seat next to her. Although not a very bright student, Charlie had a particular talent at achieving whatever he wanted to through many different means. And this time it was not a new video game, a comic book or an ultra-rare Funko collectible. This time, he had set his eyes on the beautiful girl sitting a few rows behind him and his first task was to find a way to sit next to her. For it was an obvious truth known amongst all middle schoolers, the person who takes the seat next to someone, eventually conquers their heart as well. Already forgetting his former target of admiration, Gina Wright, who sat a row behind him, Charlie spent the next twenty minutes brainstorming and occasionally glancing at the brunette with a flushed face, barely listening to the lesson. The wheels inside his head were turning quite rapidly, though not because of the lesson that was going on.

The freckled boy turned his attention to Michael Finn next to him as he faintly heard Ms. Watson inform the classroom to turn to page 201.
“Hey Michael.” He whispered, nudging the boy on the shoulder.
“What?” The other boy replied back without even bothering to look at Charlie. The two didn’t get along, and Michael would rather sit with anyone /less/ loud than Charlie Roden.
Or someone less annoying. Just. Anyone /but/ Michael.

“Look at this pen I found yesterday.” Charlie, with all his ‘cool kid’ attitude, showed the metallic mini marker with car patterns printed on it, ignoring Michael’s attitude.

“That’s nice.” Michael briefly looked at the pen and disinterested, returned to his activity book.
Charlie, not discouraged for he was an experienced trickster, continued the charade.
“I know right. I’ve never had a pen which wrote this smoothly.” He said, as if he was talking to himself, but keeping his voice loud enough for Michael to hear. Charlie wrote down his name absentmindedly on the paper then hummed to himself. “My handwriting looks much better now.”
Curious, Michael peeked at Charlie’s paper, and really saw that the other boy’s usual crooked and childish letters had turned into a significantly better looking handwriting. Michael stared down at the paper for a few seconds.

“Let me try it too.” He then whispered back to Charlie, forgetting his former stance and finally making eye contact.

“Oh, I don’t know Michael. It’s such a delicate pen, I don’t trust you with it.” Charlie said rather proudly, still scribbling lines on the paper, it was his turn to not look at the other boy in the eye now.

“I’ll be r’lly careful with it, Charlie. Please. Just for a minute.” The other boy pleaded, whispering louder.

Charlie glanced at the other boy with a fake uncertainty in his face, then shook his head.

“Please.”

“No.”

Charlie had turned his head away from the other boy to look extra dramatic but he felt Michael take the pen from his hand hastily. Just like he had anticipated. Charlie let out a loud “Hey!”, gathering the attention of everyone.

“Michael took my pen!” He accused, pointing to the metallic mini marker.

“I just wanted to look at it! Charlie wouldn’t let me, he wasn’t sharing!” Michael defended himself, dropping the pen on the table.

“It’s because you’re clumsy!”

“Am not!”

“You are!”

Ms. Watson stared at them, it was petty arguments like these that made her regret becoming a middle school teacher.

“Michael, give the pen back to your friend.” She sighed. “You two are clearly not capable of staying calm next to each other.” The teacher paused for a second, thinking her next sentence. Michael was a bright student and his mother was one of the biggest donors of the school. Charlie on the other hand, was a known troublemaker whose parents could care less about his academics.

“Charlie, go sit next to our new classmate.” She then declared, it really wasn’t a hard decision.

As Michael handed the pen back to him, Charlie tried to hide his huge smirk. His face had reddened like a rose and he barely could hold his excitement as he walked next to Emily. She barely glanced at him as he sat down but it was probably for the best. A red face and a lopsided grin wasn’t the best first impression. Charlie stayed quiet for the remainder of the lesson and stayed still when the bell rang.

He saw Gina Wright look at him expectantly as she waited for him in front of the door, but Charlie avoided all eye contact. Gina waited a bit more but getting no response, left with her head down.

It was him and Emily only now. The girl was taking out her lunchbox, Charlie took out his lunch sack in response.

“Would you want a cookie? I have one but we can share it.” The boy said, looking at her.

“No thank you.” Emily responded, briefly looking at him. Oh, how beautiful her ponytail twisted when she moved her head around!

Charlie had lost his concentration for a second, and almost couldn’t hear Emily when she started talking again.

“Is that your book?” She asked, pointing to the leather bound book placed on his table.

Charlie’s face lit up, he nodded his head. He had borrowed it from the library though had lost his interest when he noticed the lack of pictures and the small lettering of the words.

“Wow, that’s a rather thick book!” Emily remarked, reaching for it. Charlie let her look at it, as Emily flipped through the pages.

“You read all of this?” She then inquired, referring to the long, complex sentences.

Without a thought, Charlie nodded his head again.

“I want to be an astronaut when I grow up, and astronauts should read a lot to survive in space.” He declared, rather proudly.

“No way! An astronaut? That’s very interesting. I want to be a zoologist!” She beamed, turning her chest to him.

“Oh! My grandmother has the most scary looking cat I’ve seen, you should come look at it one day.”

“Scary? How so?”

“She’s missing one eye and there are blank patches all over her body. My cousin Grant says he looks like a pirate cat.”

Emily giggled. Feeling a bit more confident, Charlie changed the topic.

“Hey, Emily, have you ever had a sweetheart?”

“A sweet-what?”

“A sweetheart.”

“What is that?”

“It’s the person who you promise to love ‘till the end of life. You go to dances together, that’s a rule, you mustn’t choose anyone else over your sweetheart, and you must spend your break times together. Sometimes you hold hands, but only when you’re alone.” The boy explained matter-of-factly.

“Oh.” Emily thought for a second. “No, I’ve never had a sweetheart before.” She confessed.

“Say, would you like to have one?”

Realization dawned on her as Emily flustered quite vividly.

“Charlie–”

“Oh, please say yes Emily. It’ll be very fun don’t you think?”

“Well, I don’t know really…”

“Please Emily, I’ll swear to loving you and being your sweetheart ‘till eternity and we’ll hold hands, it’ll be really fun.”

Emily hesitated.

“Fun?” She asked, still flustered, though Charlie could see that she was warming up to the idea now.

“Oh yes! It’s really fun. Trust me, when me and Gina Wright were sweeth–” Charlie’s face paled when he realized his mistake, though the girl had realized it even quicker.

“Charlie! You’ve had a sweetheart before?” She exclaimed, pushing her seat away from him.

“No! I mean– yes! But I don’t care for her anymore!” He blurted, his face pale as a ghost.

“Yeah sure thing! And you said it lasted for eternity!” Charlie could see that the girl was on the brink of crying now and he tried to calm her by putting a hand on her shoulder though his hand was quickly pushed away.

“Emily, please, please don’t go away.” Charlie pleaded as the girl angrily got up from her seat to leave. The girl didn’t say a single word as she slammed the door behind her, her dark ponytail swaying behind her, the last glimpse of her that Charlie saw.

Now alone in the quiet classroom, Charlie sat miserably on his seat, cursing his luck, the universe and Gina Wright, wondering how on Earth such a good plan could go downhill this quickly.

 

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