The Hallway

by Ben Grube

Preface

A coward and a beauty walk into a school....


He set down his lunch in the locker, then looked up and down. The binders were unnecessary, he would get them later. When you had an hour before class everyday, you didn't need to worry about binders. He walked over to the display case, it always had art form the younger kids in it, though he could tell he wouldn't be able to do much better. He turned his back to the wall, and slid down it, coming to a comfortable rest on the ground. Looking both ways down the empty stretch of school, teachers would come in the doors to his right, or students would head down the hallway to his left to the elementary school. Either way, here he sat, everyday. He looked at his phone, 7:12 A.M. He sighed, these first 20 minutes were always the worst, sitting here, doing nothing. He heard footsteps from him left.

"Zak?" He called out. Zak was a good friend, the only reason they had a friendship was that they were so close to each other's lockers, and they sat next to each other every morning, of everyday of the year.

"You know it" He called back. Turning the corner and setting down his bag and drink before sliding down the wall to the same position.

Then, silence. There was only ever dialogue when something significant happened, whether it was in the world, or to themselves. This was almost always something to talk about though, a major event, shoes, Zak liked to talk about shoes. Sometimes though, in the rare cases where he was feeling an extreme, either sadness or courage, they'd talk about her.

He had met her in 8th grade, they shared a Spanish class. He never spoke to her, they were jut aware of each other, and that was it, nothing more, nothing less. The same went on through 9th grade. He rarely said her name, and they rarely even spoke to one another. Then, in 10th grade, something changed.

"Come sit by me!" He looked over to Alannah. One of his closest friends since they were kids. It made sense she wanted him to sit be her, the previous resident of the seat had dropped out of the class, it was only the second day. He shrugged, rose from his chair and walked over. He sat down in the chair, it was weird being this close to the teacher's desk, but he knew the teacher, so it wasn't too bad. He looked around the room, observing his orientation from his new position. He turned to look behind him, and unknowingly, he started one of the greatest friendships he would ever have.

Slowly, more students entered the hallway, preliminary groups were always the same, a few of the students who got there early would always talk in a big group, but once higher students on their priorities got there, it would break off into pieces. For him, this was her.

She always came in from the hallway door. Everytime he heard it open, even in the earliest he arrived, he shot a look over, checking to see if she had entered. Finally, everyday like clockwork, at 7:28, she would arrive in the door, and all of his courage and confidence would become a figment of the past.

He stood up, there were many students here by this point, so he was never too obvious. He walked over, summoned all the courage he could muster and spoke the most terrifying words he could ever manage to spit out.

"Hey there" He said. Those two words were how he started every day with her, and her response could change the course of his day into a million different paths.

"Hi" She said, slightly cheerfully. He swallowed in relief, she was often tired in the morning, and this was the only time he got to see her, so he enjoyed it when she was in a good mood.

"Wait you listen to 107.7?" He said, turning in his chair. He and the girl were friends by this point, but only from this class.

"Yeah, you do too?" She asked, smiling at him. He nodded.

"Yeah, since they started back in '13" He said back, intrigued by this new discovery of her. "Are you going to the Robert DeLong concert?" He asked, he wasn't planning on going, but if some of his friends were, he would be.

"I was going to, but I didn't think anyone would want to go" She said, slightly discouraged.

"Why don't we go?" He said looking around at the small group of four, "It'll be fun" He said.

"Ready to go?" He said as she shut her locker. He looked around, only a few people remained in the hall.

"Yep" She said. They started down the hallway, dodging people turning corners and couples being far too intimate. They walked past the large sprawl of windows in the courtyard. No talking, there hardly ever was. Though with him and her, there wasn't much to talk about. He had no idea why they were friends, he wasn't athletic, overly attractive, he was himself. They entered the first class, talked about random things for a minute or two, then sat through the droning teacher. When class ended, they exited the classroom, rarely exchanged goodbyes, and went their separate ways.

"Ask her to prom." He looked down at his phone, the screen making him squint in the darkness. He rolled his eyes.

"Alannah, you know I can't do that" He tapped back to her. He was already thinking about it, but it had been over a year and a half since they had first said hello to one another, and there was too much at risk if he said no.

"Tomorrow" She said, and would not respond to any arguments he made after. He sighed, and prepared himself for the next day. He walked up to her locker at the end of the day, a time and place where she rarely was to be found. He summoned all his courage, shaking, and spoke the words.

"Hey, quick question" He said, looking down, this was to be the most awkward promposal to ever have been spoken.

"Yeah?" She said looking at her bag and then pulling books out of her locker.

Again, he swallowed his nervousness and sighed, taking a deep breath. Every inch of him screaming not to do it.

"Would you maybe want to go to prom with me?" He said. She looked over at Emily. Did she not hear him? He couldn't do it again if she didn't, seconds turned into hours as she turned back to him.

"Sure that sounds like fun."

Everyday, the same routine. Everyday, the same regret for circumstances out of his control. Everyday, the regret of not taking every chance at the dance. Everyday, the same walk down the hall, the gamble of his courage. Everyday, the few minutes he had with her plagued his mind forever.

And he wouldn't change it if he could.

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