by Doreen F.
Summer holidays were over and Celia was very excited to be back at school. She had not seen most of her class mates during summer since she had been visiting her relatives in the States. So she had not seen or heard of their new class mate, who had moved to the city during the holidays, Max. But as soon as she met some of her friends they told her about Max. And there was not much good about him to tell.
Max’s parents had divorced and he had stayed with his father, since his mother had moved to Mexico. His father found a new job in the city and he and Max moved there. Max was not at all pleased. He had to leave his friends behind and his father spent so much time at work that he hardly ever saw him. So during summer Max had tried to get in touch with the local teenagers of his age, but they had not made him feel welcome at all. Hence, Max had not treated them nicely either and now school was about to begin and the few people who might become his friends did not want to be his friends.
That was what Celia was told when she got back to school. Not that Celia had many friends, but she tried to get along with the others. And her two best friends, Marty and Angie, were always there for her. But unfortunately they were considered weird, which made Celia weird too. So Celia was very curious what Max would be like.
Max was very nervous before his first day at school. It was his final year at high school, but whatever plan he and his friends back home had made, were over because of his parents’ divorce. He was not very excited and hated to be labelled the new guy with everybody staring at him. Who knew what the others had told them about him.
Celia, Marty and Angie were already in the class room, when Max came in with their teacher. Celia was surprised that he was rather good-looking. She would have pictured him differently from what she had been told. He sat down at the only free table, but the girl next to him did not look pleased. Although Max did not do anything she raised her hand and pointed at Max saying, “I don’t want to sit next to him.”
“Let’s give it a try, Victoria, please”, the teacher replied.
But at the end of the lesson Victoria once again complained and the teacher asked, who would be willing to switch places with Victoria or Max. The boy sitting next to Celia volunteered, which was no big surprise since most knew that he had a crush on Victoria. She agreed and Max ended up sitting next to Celia, who was eyeing him curiously, but did not say anything.
During their break Celia plucked up her courage and spoke to Max.
“Hi, I’m Celia. We haven’t met because I’ve been away all summer. It’s nice to finally meet you.”
“Well, I guess you’re the only one who thinks that it’s nice. The people around are not very welcoming from what I’ve seen so far.”
“Don’t worry, give them some time and they’ll accept you.”
“I need neither your concern nor your sympathy”, he said brusquely.
“This attitude won’t make it better.”
“Sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude. I’m just having a rough time at the moment, that’s all.”
“No harm done. But if you need anything or in case you’re not familiar with the courses, call me”, Celia said writing down her number on a slip of paper. “Where do you live anyway?”
During their conversation they found out that they were living quite close to each other. Then the bell rang to announce the beginning of their next lesson, Chemistry.
Celia was quite a good student and Chemistry was one of her favourite subjects. Max seemed to be completely lost, staring into space and he couldn’t give a correct answer to any of the teacher’s questions. After school Celia and Max walked home together until they reached Celia’s house. On the way Celia said, “Chemistry is not your strong point, is it?”
“What? No, not really, but I’ll manage.”
It didn’t go further than that. So the weeks passed and Max didn’t make any friends and he didn’t make any effort either. Celia was always nice and tried to engage into some kind of conversation, but it simply didn’t go much further than small talk. Celia felt sorry for Max, but she decided to stop bothering, as he didn’t seem to appreciate any of the effort she made. Over the weeks, sitting next to each other, she noticed that Max’ eyes seemed kind of red most of the days. One day they looked particularly bad. Max didn’t go to football practice that day so they went home together. On the way Celia commented on how red his eyes were. “Are your eyes ok, they seem kind of red to me today?”
“Yeah, they’re ok.”
“Are you sure? It’s just that … I dunno…”
“I have an allergy and my contacts are bothering me a lot today, OK?” he snapped.
“Sorry for asking.”
“No, Celia, I’m sorry for snapping at you like this. It’s not your fault and I don’t want to offend the only person over here who seems to give a damn about me.”
“Gotta go now. See ya.”
Days passed and nothing happened. Then, one Saturday afternoon when Celia was at home studying, the doorbell rang. Her parents were out, so Celia had to get up from her desk to open it. She wasn’t expecting anyone and prayed that this wasn’t just some kind of sick joke the neighbour’s kids were playing on her or worse, Jehovah’s witnesses. Her dog was barking which usually meant that he didn’t know whoever was outside. Imagine her surprise when she opened the door and saw Max standing there. Quickly she told her dog to lie down.
“Hey Celia, how are you?”
“Fed up with studying. What about you?”
“I’m ok. May I come in?”
“No, please, do come in.”
They stepped inside and Celia led Max into the living room.
“Do you want anything to drink?”
“So, Max, I’m … err… it’s very nice of you to come here, but may I ask you…why?”
“Sure. I know I should have rung, but I kinda left home rather quickly and thought I’d take my chances knowing that you’re usually studying on Saturday afternoon. You told me, remember?”
“I do. So what’s up? Spit the beans.”
“Remember, when you said my eyes looked red and I told you I had contacts?”
“The thing is that I can’t really stand wearing contacts for too long. My eyes are a bit dry and the allergy keeps making it worse. I have to put eye drops into my eyes every hour and even then…it’s not that comfortable. I only started wearing contacts when I moved here because I wanted to make a new start. Apparently it didn’t work out. Now my eye doc suggested trying hard contact lenses. But they’re a lot worse and won’t stay in my eyes. So I have to get back to wearing glasses.”
“So what’s the problem? You’ve been wearing glasses before, haven’t you?”
“Yeah, but that was back home where everybody knew I had glasses and I was part of the crowd. But now, here, I’m not one of the popular guys to say the least.”
“You’ve got a point there, but there’s nothing you can do about that. And now that you’ve told me all that, what do you want me to do?”
“First of all, thanks for listening. Actually, the problem is that decided to start wearing glasses this weekend. My dad doesn’t give a damn and when I told him my problem he didn’t even pretend to be sympathetic and in the end he said, ‘You can thank your mother for your bad eyes. If you want new glasses, I’ll pay for them. Be a man now and don’t bother me with things like that.’ That’s when I left. I had nowhere else to go, so I thought I’d come here.”
“That sounds tough. I’m glad you came and confided in me.”
Max was rubbing his eyes. “Damn contacts. Excuse me a second, I gotta take them out NOW.”
“The bathroom’s is the first door to your left.”
Max got up and left the room. He came back two minutes later wearing glasses pulling a face that made Celia laugh. But beside that to her he looked very cute with his glasses on.
“Much better now. Why did I even bother with contacts in the first place?”
“I dunno. But the glasses look nice.”
“Thanks Celia, you’re a sweetie.”
“No problem.” Celia smiled.
“But the thing is that at school everybody will be staring at me, making fun of me. They don’t like me anyway, but now… I dunno.”
“Maybe you should try to make an effort. People around here are not that bad. And you have one friend you can count on.”
“You’re right. So the BIG favour I wanted to ask you is: Could we maybe go out tonight or do something together tomorrow where people might see us and get used to seeing me in glasses and all that. That way it might be easier for me on Monday.”
“Of course, I’m free tonight, well, I’m pissed off with studying anyway. Let’s do something now.”
They got up and Max hugged Celia. “Thank you for believing in me.”
Doreen F. September 2008