When I first met Jay, he was fifteen, all tortured emo with black guyliner and glitter. He was in my Maths class, one desk over from me, right near the back. I didn’t turn round, but I could hear him muttering throughout the droning lecture from the front on equations.
‘Too boring, something more unique. What’s his backstory?’
I sat there, entranced, well, more like totally bored with the lesson. I never did get algebra. But, every fourth period, there he was, like a spiky demi-god of odd, hunched over the desk, scribbling and muttering, and I just couldn’t stop staring at him.
I began to look out for him at breaks and lunch. He was never outside playing sport with the others (not that I expected him to be. I mean, you don’t get that sort of pallor spending time in the sun), nor was he in the library, or round the back of the bike sheds with the bad-influences.
It took me three weeks to track him down. I’d half given up and decided to plonk myself on a bench round the back of the sports hall, when finally, I saw him slipping out of the door from the music room and making his hasty, awkward way over to the caretaker’s shed.
He glanced left and right, never noticing the stocky girl slumped in the late summer heat watching him. I waited until he pulled the door closed behind him and slipped as silently as I could to peer in through the windows.
I felt like a proper pervert staring in at him. Like I was expecting him to start doing something kinky in that shed. All he did was to pull out that journal again, and fold himself up into human origami on a battered old metal chair. He stayed there for forty-five minutes until the bell rang for the end of lunch, and so did I.
After that, it was all fate really. Fate and my Goth best friend Esme. By Christmas she was sick of me going on about the mysterious boy in my Maths class, and refused point blank to speak to me until I spoke to him. I lasted three days with her stony silence at the end of the phone every time I called her, until I cracked and stopped him in the corridor.
‘Uh, Jay. I uh, I think we’re in the same Maths class.’
He gave me a lop-sided smile and my heart flip-flopped.
‘Yeah, I know. You’re always doodling and ignoring Mr Pearce. You sit in front of me, don’t you?’
I nodded. Why was I reduced to pathetic head-wobbling? I was never shy. I was ‘that kid’ who never shut up, ever.
‘I need to go get my books for English,’ he said, brushing his beautiful blond hair (I know, it was that good) out of his eyes. I noticed they were grey, storm grey.
‘So,’ I tried, as we walked down the corridor to his locker, ‘I find you deeply attractive.’ I squirmed slightly and avoided his eyes. Too direct Holly, too direct!
Jay laughed, it was a nice laugh.
‘I think you’re very direct,’ he said, but I could tell he was smiling when he said it.
As we lay in bed together at his parent’s house four years later, I stared at the ceiling and slowly blew out a trail of cigarette smoke. Don’t get the wrong idea, I only started smoking because I wanted to look cool. It was nothing at all to do with peer pressure. I wriggled my toes under the blanket, trying to find a cool bit of the sheet.
‘Why d’you have to meet up with him this weekend?’ Jay asked, propping himself up on his elbow. The pre-dawn light made his skin seem spectrally pale, unearthly. I shrugged and took another drag on the cigarette. The smoke burned as I pulled it into my throat.
‘I don’t have to. I want to. Look, we agreed that we’d be open-minded to make this work Jay.’
I felt rather than heard him sigh. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Jay was and is the love of my life. At least so far. But I just don’t think that you should tie yourself down to monogamy, not these days, not with Tinder. And yes, before you judge me, I am being facetious.
‘You know this works both ways, right?’ I said at last, to break the silence. ‘I mean, if there’s someone you’re interested in…’ I trailed off. The boy in bed next to me rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling too. I focused on a distant blob of blu-tack that once held a glow-in-the-dark star, left over from his I want to be an astronaut phase. ‘Give me the cigarette,’ he said, so I did.