Soulmates

by Specfiend

Part One

„Time to go to the nurse’s office. It’s eyetest time.“ It was the moment Marissa had been dreading. For weeks she had thought of nothing else but the impending eye examination that all sixth years were subjected to, and she was completely dreading it. Well, when you’ve had been trouble seeing for months, coupled with a pathological fear of having to wear glasses, it’s understandable that you would be apprehensive about an exam which will expose your secret faults and force you to do the one thing you’re terrified of. How could she get through it? She had one last ditch attempt at thinking of a plan to convince the nurse that she had perfect eyesight. But, short of memorising the chart, or dropping dead (that option was growing more and more appealing by the second) she couldn’t think of a way to pull it off. They were going in alphabetical order and Marissa listened to the girl in front of her, a girl from a different class, recite the letters from the chart. Carefully, she stored them all in her brain, proud of herself for her memory skills.

„Clare,“ the nurse said to the girl. „It looks like you need glasses. You couldn’t read any of those letters, apart from the top one.“

Great. So much for memorising!

„Marissa Rossini,“ the nurse called. Marissa stepped forward, took a deep breath . . . and fainted clean away.

When she came to, the nurse was the only person in sight. She fussed and clucked over her like a mother hen for a couple of minutes and, once it was established that she was all right, the woman smiled.

„Well, let’s get on with your test then.“

„I still feel kind of woozy,“ Marissa began.

„You may as well, since you’re here.“ The nurse was clearly onto her. „There’s no point in putting off the inevitable.“

Reluctantly, she stood in front of the chart and started to read or, more appropriately, GUESS the letters. The nurse frowned and scawled out a note for her parents.

„I’d advise you to get to an opticians as soon as possible,“ she told her. „You’re a seriously short-sighted young girl.“

She had no intention of giving her parents the note.

„What?“ her friend Gillian gasped. „You won’t get away with it.“

„I don’t see why not.“ Marissa crumpled the note up and threw it in the wastepaper basket. „My mum and dad didn’t even know I had an eyetest. It’s not like they’ll be asking me about it.“

„Just a friendly warning.“ Gillian wagged a finger at her. „Parents know these things. Especially yours. You can’t get anything past them.“

Marissa laughed. „We’ll see.“

It was only to be expected that Marissa hadn’t saw particularly well.

„So, how did your eye test go?“ the bombshell question was launched by her mum at dinner that night. Marissa choked on a potato.

„What test?“ she asked innocently when she finally recovered.

„Don’t give me that. The nurse phoned me. She was obviously right not to trust you to give me the note.“

Marissa put on her pleading, baby-face. She’d talked her parents around on many occasions using that face.

„Mum, she was imagining things. I can see just perfectly.“

Pleading Face cut no dice this time.

„You have an appointment tomorrow morning,“ her mum snapped. „I made sure to book you into one of those places with one-hour service, so you’ll have a nice new pair of glasses by the afternoon.“

„Gee, thanks,“ Marissa muttered sarcastically. „Yet another thing to look forward to.

The optician expressed surprise that Marissa had never previously owned a pair of glasses.

„Your prescription is -3.5 in each eye, that’s quite a substantial amount for a first time wearer. Well, at least you’re getting correction now.“

Her mum was waiting outside in the main shop.

„They’ve got an offer - two for the price of one,“ she announced. „And I’ve spotted some really lovely frames. Look!“

She held up a pair of mottled pink and purple plastic frames, and Marissa felt her heart sink into her stomach.

„Maybe they would be lovely for you,“ she said carefully. „But not for me. I just want something nondescript that no one will notice.“

She held out a pair of plain wire rimmed ovals. „Like these.“

„But there’s an offer on,“ her mum reminded her. „You can have both.“

„Fine,“ Marissa sighed. But when they handed the frames in at the counter, the assistant informed them apologetically that the one-hour service was temporarily a one-day service.

„You’ll have to wait until tomorrow afternoon before your glasses are ready,“ she told Marissa. „Preferably after half past three.“

Thank God, Marissa thought. Now she would get them on a Friday afternoon and would have the weekend to somehow make her eyesight better so she didn’t have to wear the glasses to school.

The following afternoon, she reluctantly went back to the opticians, alone this time. It seemed that the whole population of her town had been promised their glasses at this time, she observed, squinting around the packed shop. As she approached the counter, the assistant turned and called into the back.

„Tim! Can you come out and help me here?“

She smiled at Marissa. „Someone will be with you in just a moment.“

And what a someone. The guy who emerged from the back had tufty sandy hair and dark purpley-blue eyes, as well as the chiselled cheekbones that Marissa so loved in guys. And, she peered closer, he had a stud in his eyebrow. Wow. (Eyebrow piercings rated almost as highly as chiselled cheekbones). And he couldn’t have been more than a year or two older than her.

„Can I help you?“ he asked in a pleasant, husky voice.

„Um - I’m here to pick up my glasses,“ she stumbled, blushing furiously.

„What’s your name?“ he asked.

„Marissa Rossini,“ she mumbled.

He passed two spectacle cases to her.

„Thanks.“ She turned to leave.

„Don’t you want to check they’re the right strength and, for that matter, the right glasses?“ he asked.

She glanced back at him quickly, registering the amused look on his face.

„Nah, I’m sure they’re okay.“

No way was she putting the glasses on in front of a guy that gorgeous.

„Well, if you’re sure.“ He leaned over the counter, his expression sympathetic. „Listen, it’s not the end of the world,“ he told her, as if reading her mind.

„Maybe not to you.“ Marissa turned away again. „But it is to me.“

And she hurried out of the shop, furtively clutching her new glasses to her chest and hoping that no one she knew had saw her leave the shop.

 

Part Two

Her mum was lying in wait when she entered the house.

„Well, did you get them?“ she snapped, glaring at Marissa.

„Keep your hair on!“ Marissa exclaimed. „They’re right here.“ She held up the two cases.

„They’re not much good in their case,“ Mrs Rossini said pointedly.

„I’ll put them on in a while,“ Marissa promised half-heartedly. Her mum grabbed one of the cases and pulled out the glasses inside.

„You’ll put them on now,“ she said, thrusting them onto Marissa’s face.

„And you’ll keep them on.“

She shoved the now-empty glasses case back at her daughter and stormed into the kitchen.

„Dinner in an hour!“ she called.

Marissa went into her room, the glasses still very unwillingly on her face. Her mum had opened the case which contained her choice, the uglier glasses. She stared at her reflection in the mirror from her sitting position on the end of the bed. The first thing she realised was that this was the first time she had seen her reflection clearly from this position in a long time. The second was that she looked absolutely horrid in glasses. There was no way she could ever wear glasses in public. Curling up in a ball on her bed, she began to cry her heart out. She was never going to go outside again.

When she was called downstairs for dinner, she felt unbelievably self-conscious about walking in with her glasses on. So she left the glasses in her room and picked her way down the stairs, having more trouble than usual seeing because her eyes, with the assistance of the glasses, had began to relax. But the moment she entered the room bare-eyed her mum snapped: „Glasses! Now!“

Marissa didn’t dare argue. She ran back upstairs, grabbed the ugly glasses and shoved them back over her eyes, not even daring to look at her ugly reflection again. She felt sick and humiliated as she re-entered the dining room. Her sister Luisa snickered quietly at the sight of her.

„Nice glasses, Marissa,“ she hissed in a sarcastic undertone.

„Luisa,“ Mr Rossini rebuked her. „Keep it zipped!“

He turned to Marissa, although she was positive he was barely hiding a smile.

„You look very nice in your new glasses,“ he told her. „Very hip!“

If it was this embarrassing being bespectacled in front of her family, she thought, dipping her head over her plate and concentrating on her dinner, how could she possibly be expected to wear them around her friends and classmates? She was already dreading Monday.

Only geeks wore glasses. In the case of Marissa’s school, it was true. No one wore glasses if they could remotely help it. Contact lenses were the order of the day. Unfortunately, her mother had picked the optician that made it a rule not to prescribe contact lenses to first time glasses wearers - they had to have been wearing glasses for at least a year first. The optician hadn’t explained the reasoning behind this rule, and Marissa hadn’t asked. It was pointless to protest, the woman’s mind had been firmly set against contact lenses for Marissa. In fact, there was only one person in her entire year who wore glasses and was still considered cool. His name was Dave Renshaw, he often wore glasses without shame or embarrassment. He seemed to wear them in class (she was in his French class so she knew this), sometimes taking them off between classes, sometimes not bothering. She often saw him wearing them at lunch, or walking home, as if he had forgotten to take them off. Some Saturdays she had noticed him hanging about the town centre with his mates, most of these times he had been bespectacled. In normal circumstances he would have been labelled a geek, but he had several points which worked in his favour:

1. He was drop dead gorgeous.

2. He didn’t wear them all the time, which is what the geeks all did.

3. He had been considered cool long before he had gotten glasses.

4. He wore trendy clothes and had even trendier specs

(oblong, semi-rimless, semi-wire).

The added advantage he had was that he looked so good bespectacled that most of girls that had crushes on him preferred him that way. Including Marissa for that matter. But she was different. For, although she was not a loner, outsider or geek, and had a large circle of friends and friendly acquaintances, she would not have been considered one of the more popular girls in school. She was a pretty girl with her auburn ringlets and brown eyes, but most of the guys in school seemed to prefer the peroxide blonde tartlets who paraded around in microminis and knee-high boots, doing everything in their power to sleep with every sixth year boy.

The rest of the weekend was hellish. Marissa sat in her room most of the time, watching her TV or reading. She had to keep her glasses firmly on her face at all times because her mum had developed an annoying habit of flinging the door open and bellowing „Put them on NOW!“ Her mum was acting like a Nazi dictactor about these glasses, she thought, rolling her eyes. She wouldn’t have been surprised if she’d woken up to find her glasses glued onto her face. Sunday morning, Marissa opened her eyes to find her mum standing over her.

„Time for mass,“ she announced.

„What?“ Marissa was confused. She hadn’t been to mass since she was about twelve. Her parents usually went without her.

„But I don’t usually go.“

„You haven’t been out the house all weekend,“ her mum said firmly. „You need a chance to try out your glasses somewhere other than in your room.“

She wasn’t ready for this, but it didn’t look like she had another choice. She reluctantly put on the wire-rimmed glasses and got into the car with the rest of her family, feeling as if a death sentence had been imposed upon her. Luckily, not many people who knew her at all were at mass. A couple of neighbours, no schoolfriends from what she could see. However, as she walked back to her seat after Communion she saw the one person she really did not want to see. Dave Renshaw. She didn’t really know him, but everyone in school vaguely knew one another. It wasn’t that big a place for there to be strangers. And now he, of all people, had witnessed her in glasses. What the hell was she going to do now?

 

Part Three

She wanted to run for the car and dive for cover after mass but her parents got talking with the priest in the yard, so she had to hang about uncomfortably like a spare part.

„Marissa, right?“ Dave Renshaw was standing next to her, smiling.

He hadn’t got to be a popular guy by being an immature jerk the way most popular guys were. He was popular because he was a nice guy.

„Yeah.“ She felt her face flush bright red.

„I don’t usually see you here,“ he said.

„You come here often?“ she asked.

She could have bitten her tongue off after doing that cliche but he laughed softly.

„Yeah. My brother and I usually come at this time. It’s just me today though. My brother - he’s a student - he has a major hangover, he’ll have to go later. My mum and dad are pretty strict about the whole Catholic thing – as long as we live under their roof, all they ask of us is that we go to mass.“

That was strange, Marissa thought, she had the most traditional Italian Catholic parents in the world and they didn’t usually care if she went to mass or not. Hell, the only reason she was here was because her mum wanted her to give her glasses a trial run in public. She’d briefly forgotten the fact she was wearing glasses, but that thought immediately brought the problem back to the forefront of her mind. Probably due to the fact that here was Dave, flaunting just how great he looked in specs.

„So when did you get specs?“ he asked, as if reading her mind.

„Just last week,“ she mumbled, staring at her feet, knowing her face had to have progressed in colour from merely bright red to radioactive purple.

She felt completely embarrassed and utterly humiliated. But he seemed genuinely interested.

„Are you long or short-sighted?“ he asked.

„Short,“ she whispered.

„Same here,“ he said easily. „What’s your prescription?“

He too expressed surprise at the strength of her glasses considering they were her first pair. He’d needed glasses for two years, he told her, and these were his second pair. And his eyesight was only -2 now.

„I function quite well without specs,“ he said, „But it’s a bit of a hassle taking them on and off all the time so I just leave them on usually.“

„Well, I’m not planning to wear mine at all,“ Marissa announced, ignoring his look of surprise.

He was clearly about to question her further when her parents called to her from the car, finally ready to leave.

„I’ve got to go,“ she said quickly. „Bye Dave.“

His lips curled in his irresistible smile.

„Bye Marissa. I guess I’ll see you in school tomorrow.“

Her stomach twisted into a nervous loop as she walked over to the car, thinking about how nice Dave had just been to her. He has a girlfriend, she reminded herself harshly. But she couldn’t help the feeling he caused inside her.

She spent the rest of the day in her room, most of the time passed as she stared at her reflection in the mirror, trying out different hairstyles and make-up with her wire-rimmed glasses to see if anything made her look acceptable and non-geekish enough for her to actually wear the glasses to school. But nothing seemed to work. All the hairstyles and the different make-up colours looked great until she added the spectacles. Then the whole look screamed „Total Geek“. It looked like she would be getting by without them.

Monday morning dawned and Marissa dressed in her school uniform. Unwillingly, she added her glasses and went downstairs for breakfast.

„I’m glad you’re not being stupid about this,“ her mum said, smiling at her for the first time since Wednesday evening at dinner.

„Well, they help me see better,“ Marissa said truthfully.

She waited until she was at the end of the street before she slipped them off, stuck them in the case and relegated them to the bottom of her bag. For a moment, she couldn’t see at all, but then her vision cleared enough for her to make it to school in relative safety. She signed in at the office (sixth years didn’t have registration) and headed towards the languages department. A familiar figure was standing close the the noticeboard outside the French classroom, studying it thoughtfully. Was it Dave? She squinted. Yes, it was.

„Hi again,“ he smiled.

He wasn’t wearing his glasses either. He started to say something else but the bell signalling the end of registration rung and twenty pupils poured out of the classroom door, followed by their harrassed registration teacher. They entered the now deserted classroom. The desks were laid out in a semi-circle, to encourage the class to interact with one another. Their teacher also operated a school equivalent of a „Hot-desking“ property, which meant no one ever sat in the same seat. To Marissa’s surprise, Dave sat down beside her (she sat at the desk closest to the board) but she guessed he didn’t want to be rude by sitting somewhere else when there was only two of them in the room.

„So, I see you meant what you said,“ he said with a small smile. „No glasses, huh?“

She tossed her head.

„That would be correct,“ she said haughtily. Still, she felt a twinge of envy as he nonchalantly took his own specs out of his shirt pocket (because he wore them most of the time anyway he clearly didn’t feel the need for a glasses case) and slipped them on his nose. If only she was popular and cool, she would be able to get away with doing that too.

„I hope you don’t mind me asking this, but why not?“ he asked carefully.

What was she supposed to say in answer to that? She was unwilling to admit it was the fact that her vanity was at stake here.

Luckily, the teacher chose this moment to enter the room so she didn’t need to answer. To her embarrassment, she still couldn’t read the board. Dave sighed, and surreptitiously slid his exercise book along the table so she could copy his large clear handwriting instead. Marissa felt extremely grateful, but even more mortified. After the class, Dave followed her along the corridor.

„You never answered my question,“ he said to her quietly.

Luckily she’d had a chance to formulate an excuse and she muttered something along the lines of believing that wearing glasses worsened one’s eyesight, and one should try to go without whenever possible. But he just laughed and lightly punched her shoulder.

„Great excuse but it doesn’t wash with me,“ he said warmly. Then his face grew more serious.

„You won’t get away with it forever,“ he told her. „Eventually, a teacher will notice your squinting and ask you in front of the whole class if you need or have glasses. Ultimately, you’re going to end up more embarrassed then than if you just put them on and wear them.“ He shrugged. „But hey, it’s not my decision.“ He grinned at her, and pushed his glasses up. „Good luck pretending.“

And he headed off in the opposite direction. He had a point, Marissa thought, staring thoughtfully after him. How long before she had to succumb?

 

Part Four

Marissa muddled her way through her charade for a surprisingly long time. Wearing her glasses full-time at home, no time at school. Her mum was none the wiser and none of her teachers seemed to be either. It was a month before she became exposed. She’d left a form at home, one which was supposed to have been handed back that day. Her mum had very kindly decided to bring it into school for her.

She’d entered Marissa’s classroom to witness her daughter squinting bare-eyed at the board. And, even worse, she’d glanced up to see who had came into the room and it was obvious she hadn’t even recognised her. Her own mother! Her mum, thankfully and unusually, chose not to embarrass her at this point and left again quietly, before Marissa even realised she had been in the room. But when she got home, she was treated to a newer, and worse version of hell. Banished to her room, she sat curled up on her bed, crying and peering through the scratched lenses of her nicer glasses - she’d made the mistake of forgetting to take the case with her one day and had to toss the specs into her bag unprotected. When she came down to dinner and her mum noticed this, she sighed and told Marissa to put on the glasses she could actually see through. She’d told Marissa in unequivocal terms that she’d better wear the glasses full-time from then on. She was, she informed Marissa, going to tell all her teachers to make sure she was wearing them, because otherwise there was no way she was going to pass her exams.

„There is no way I’m wearing these glasses to school,“ Marissa snapped now, pointing to the pink and purple ones now on her face.

„They are disgusting. I’d rather wear scratched ones.“

Her mum sighed once more.

„Fine,“ she said wearily. „We’ll go back to the opticians tomorrow and they can put new lenses in them or whatever.“

She let Marissa get away with not wearing the glasses in school the following day, but the minute they met up in the town entre after school, she ordered her to put the ugly glasses on. Marissa sat down while her mum went up to the counter to discuss the scratched lenses. She whipped off the glasses the minute she realised that it was Tim behind the counter. Oh God, she wondered frantically, what was her mum saying to him? Mrs Rossini returned to Marissa’s side and overlooked the fact she was bare-eyed once more.

„Your glasses will be ready tomorrow morning,“ she said.

„I’m going home. You’re staying here.“

„Why?“ Was she supposed to sit here all night.

„That young man, Timothy? - he wants to talk to you.“

Great. A lecture. Marissa watched blurrily as her mum left and Tim came towards her. He was wearing his jacket.

„Come on,“ he said. „I’m taking you for a coke.“

In the diner next door, Marissa explained her problem, her embarrassment with glasses, her fear of becoming a geek.

„No one could call you a geek,“ he said quietly when she’d finished.

„So is that your full-time job, working in there?“ Marissa asked hastily, blushing.

„Nah, I’m a student,“ he replied. „Second year of uni. My mum owns the store, so I kind of fell into the job. Not my first choice, but the pay isn’t bad, and I meet some pretty interesting people.“

Then he turned the conversation back to her.

„Don’t you feel much safer when you can actually see?“ he asked.

„Yeah, but I’m too embarrassed to wear them in front of people,“ she said quietly.

„Well, according to my brother you wore them to mass,“ he said.

„I was forced to,“ she protested, then the penny dropped.

„Dave is your brother?“ she asked.

He nodded. „And he’s a bit too damn cheerful about wearing glasses, isn’t he?“ he asked astutely.

She nodded in reply and they shared a laugh.

„Yeah, he came home that day after mass and he was telling me about this girl from his class at school who clearly needed glasses and had told him she wasn’t going to wear them. When he mentioned your name I put two and two together.“ He smiled bashfully. „Your name had kind of stuck in my head, you see.“

Cue another blushing moment, for both of them this time.

It was growing dark as he lead her into the park.

„I have a suggestion,“ he said.

„Yeah?“ she asked, stopping to face him.

„Put on your glasses.“

„No way!“

„There’s no one else around to see you,“ he pointed out calmly.

„Isn’t this a good time to get used to them?“

He had a point. But they were her UGLY glasses. Reluctantly, she slid them back on her nose and looked self-consciously at Tim. But he wasn’t laughing or sneering or anything. He was watching her as if observing an experiment.

„See how much clearer everything is,“ he said quietly.

„Isn’t it great not to be squinting for a change, for your eyes to be relaxed?“

„Yeah, but . . .“

A couple of people passed by and Marissa flinched, but didn’t pull off the glasses. They walked through the park at a leisurely pace and Marissa found herself enjoying the feeling of wearing her glasses. Until they emerged onto the main road and she quickly removed them once more.

„Still not ready for the big step,“ he stated.

„No. Too embarrassed,“ she murmured. It embarrassed her to say it but it was the truth.

„Okay. Another suggestion then. Tomorrow, go into Glasgow. Where no one knows you. And put your glasses on and walk about there.“

„What will that achieve?“ she asked.

„Wait and see,“ he said mysteriously.

„In fact,“ he said casually, „I’ll meet you there if you want.“

„Would you do that for me?“ she asked in disbelief.

„Of course,“ he said. „If you want, I’ll bring your other glasses with me, your mum says you don’t like those ones you’ve been wearing as much. I know what you mean - I mean, they look cute on you and all, but they are a little dated, so I can see where you’re coming from.“

They arranged to meet outside the St Enoch Undergroumd at 10.30 and then Tim walked off in the other direction from Marissa. She walked home in a dazed blur, thinking that Tim was full of surprises.

But Tim was really going to surprise Marissa the next day . . .

 

Part Five

On Saturday morning, Marissa walked to the train station in her usual blur.

Luckily she lived at the end of a line, and all the trains eventually went through Glasgow. All rails lead to Glasgow. Good thing, as she would have had to don her specs to see the front of the train. And had no intention of doing that at least, not until Tim gave her the better glasses back.

She was looking forward to seeing Tim. He was a good looking guy and he was sympathetic to her dilemma. Unlike Dave. He had gently harrassed her every day, although he’d continued to sit next to her in French whenever possible and help her out. As her specless days had progressed however, he’d become more and more caustic, even growing slightly snappy with her.

„I can’t help you out forever,“ he had told her after class one day. „Maybe if . . .“ He’d trailed off, blushed slightly and stalked away in the opposite direction.

His attitude had annoyed Marissa. It was none of his business, she told herself, how dare he get on his high horse about it? But she knew she was being unfair - he clearly knew she was under strain and he’d not told anybody her secret. Plus, if it hadn’t been for him, she would never have lasted as long as she had - all of her other classes were easy to bluff her way through in a blind daze, but French was definitely the subject where being able to see the blackboard was actually more important than how quickly you could learn the language.

She reached Glasgow and found her way to the Underground station. That was easy, she practically just had to walk in a straight line from Central Station - she could probably have gotten there with her eyes closed. Tim was already there, staring dreamily into space. Suddenly, he spotted her and smiled.

„Hey,“ he said. „I thought we’d go to the west end via the underground first,“ he said. „That seems like a good place to meet a lot of strangers.“

The Underground went around in a circle of around fourteen stations. The station Tim planned to head towards, Kelvinbridge, was several stations away. It seemed like a good plan to Marissa. They bought a return, walked down to the surprisingly empty platform and sat down on a bench to await the next train.

„Here.“ Tim handed her glasses case to her.

She held it in her hand, hesitating.

„Go on,“ he said quietly. „They’re not going to bite.“

„Okay.“ Marissa cautiously removed the glasses from the case and slipped them uneasily on her nose, looking around her in embarrassment. Was it her imagination, or were the group of girls on the opposite platform laughing at her.

„It’s the poster beside you,“ Tim murmured in her ear. „It’s for condoms. Immature little thirteen year olds can’t get over seeing a word like that in a public place.“

She turned to face him, before she remembered she was wearing the glasses. He smiled at her.

„That pair are much better,“ he said quietly. „You look gorgeous.“

„Yeah, right,“ she said scathingly. „I look awful and you know it. You just don’t know what it’s like.“

„Is that what you think?“ He looked at her with an adorably raised eyebrow for a brief moment.

„Well,“ He pulled a pair of dark-rimmed glasses out of his shirt pocket and slid them onto his nose, as she watched him with great surprise. Immediately his eyes lost the slightly unfocussed, dreamy look they’d had for the last five minutes.

„Do you still think I don’t understand?“ he asked. „No – but it’s . . . but it’s different for you.“

She was still surprised. „You’re a bloke, for one thing, and you’re gorgeous. It’s acceptable for gorgeous blokes to wear glasses. They aren’t considered nerds or - or - librarians.“

She blushed as she registered that she’d just labelled him gorgeous aloud - twice. The train pulled into the station and Tim led them into a quiet carriage, indicating for her to sit down beside him.

„I don’t understand,“ she said. „How did you - how can you .. .?“

„ I generally wear contacts,“ he said quietly. „I always had much the same feeling as you had towards wearing glasses. I was fourteen when I got them, refused to wear them, and after a year of walking about in a blur, my mum finally permitted me to get contacts, although it was against her personal rules. I didn’t wear glasses at all until last year, right after I’d started uni. I had an eye infection, couldn’t wear my contacts. My lenses are -4, so I find it pretty hard to see a few feet in front of me clearly without correction. I really had to wear glasses then. The first day I wore them was hard. I walked about with my head down, trying desperately not to draw attention to myself. Then I realised that I was still getting more attention than usual - but not for negative reasons. There were girls staring at me. Lustfully. Some of the girls on my course actually complimented me on them. The two weeks I wore my glasses full-time, I’d never had more female attention in my life than I had in that period. It was incredible, but I still preferred contacts, so I went back to them. But now I wear glasses almost as often as I wear contacts. I can’t believe it, but I actually like wearing them now.”

“And,“ he added, „I know for sure that guys will like you in specs too. Other than just me,“ he added, before blushing adorably.

God, he was sweet. And a first class babe. Just as good looking as Dave, but in a different way. Dave had brown hair and eyes, unlike Tim’s fair hair and purpley eyes. But they shared the same chiselled cheekbones and eyebrow piercings.

„Come on.“

They’d reached their destination. Tim lead them outside, they walked through the car park and into a hilly park, passing several groups of people of different ages and cultures.

„Dave’s utter contentment with wearing glasses is a little annoying, isn’t it?“ he commented suddenly.

„A little!“ Marissa laughed.

„He seems to expect everyone to adjust to wearing specs as easily as he obviously has.“

„That was irritating for me as well,“ Tim muttered, looking away from her. „He first got specs just before I had my eye infection, maybe three four months before that. And, here I am, too embarrassed to wear glasses, have forced my mum into getting me contact lenses, and still refusing to wear glasses, even around the house, when he gets prescribed glasses. And immediately starts wearing them, doesn’t moan, doesn’t hide away in his room, goes out and gets a girlfriend and thousand of adoring female fans. Like you.“ He smiled at Marissa.

„How did you know that?“ Marissa asked, embarrassed.

He shrugged, seeming almost unwilling to reveal too much.

„You just told me,“ he said finally, with a cheeky grin.

They stopped and sat down on a bench.

„But, anyway, I know how it is on both counts. Not wanting to wear glasses, and being annoyed at Dave because he doesn’t seem to mind wearing glasses, and expects everyone else to feel the same way.“ „You’re very like him,“ Marissa said softly.

„Different hair and eye colour, but you have the same faces. And the same kind of personalities - warm, all-encompassing . . . you know what I mean.“

She looked down at the ground for a moment before returning her gaze to his face.

„Is that a family tradition?“ she asked.

As Tim looked questioningly at her, she reached up and touched the stud in his eyebrow, her hands brushing against his glasses in the process. He shook his head.

„Nah. But we just happened to both want to get it done, so we went together.“

He seemed to realise at that moment that her hand was still on his face, and his easy smile faded. His eyes darkened until they were almost black and slowly he leaned forward to brush lips with her. Wow. Mmmmmm . . . Marissa responded eagerly, returning his kiss with excitement, feeling the soft, full lips under her own and melting away elsewhere. Maybe Tim was right, maybe she wasn’t totally unattractive with glasses.

„Shit.“ He pulled back.

„I’m sorry Marissa,“ he said softly.

„That shouldn’t have happened. Not when I know how . . .“ He let the sentence trail off.

„Just let me assure you it won’t happen again.“

He stood up. „Let’s go back to the city centre,“ he said shortly.

They went down to the Underground in silence, Marissa fuming silently. Obviously he’d changed his mind about her level of attractiveness and decided to end the kiss before it got out of hand. Angrily, she removed her glasses, glaring at them as if they were the root of all evil. He clearly felt her anger (or maybe it was her specs removal that tipped him off) because, as they sat down on the train again, he turned to face her, his expression sincere.

„It’s nothing to do with you,“ he said quietly. Then he shook his head and began again. „Actually, it IS to do with you. I didn’t mean to kiss you, I wasn’t supposed to kiss you, but I just couldn’t resist. It hadn’t occurred to me that I was going to do it until we were actually kissing. You’re probably the most beautiful girl I’ve ever met.“ He shook his head resignedly.

„I wonder if all the brothers have the same taste in girls.“

„You think I’m beautiful?“ Marissa picked up on the former point, rather than the latter.

Then it hit her.

„Wait a minute, what are you saying?“ It couldn’t be what she was thinking . . . could it?

„Dave’s in love with you.“ It was.

 

Part Six

Marissa just couldn’t get her head around Tim’s revelation. Tim shook his head.

„Maybe I don’t exactly mean in love,“ he said wryly. „I mean, you know what us guys are like. We’ll just say that he really really fancies you. Has a massive crush on you.“

„Yeah, right!“ Marissa had to laugh at this one.

Dave Renshaw? Most popular guy in school? With a crush on her? Marissa Rossini, soon to be considered geekiest girl in school. The idea was absolutely hilarious.

„Listen, it’s true.“ Tim looked at her, his beautiful eyes sincere behind the lenses of his glasses. „He told me. I mean, I’d already kind of guessed. I told you that he mentioned he’d talked to you at mass that day, the time you were wearing those.“ He pointed to the glasses, still in her hand. „And he was totally amused that you were saying you weren’t planning to wear them, especially due to the fact that you WERE in actuality wearing them when you said it. And every so often, he would mention how he’d had to help you out in French class because you couldn’t see the board, or the video, or anything. And he started to get this look on his face when he was talking about you. Like, no matter what kind of mood he was in, he’d suddenly begin to smile when he was talking about you. And one day I decided to pick him up on it?“

„And what did he say?“ Marissa asked, utterly enthralled.

„Well, I asked him if he realised just how much he talked about you. And he suddenly blushed and acted like he didn’t know what I was talking about. He said the only reason he was telling me was because he thought it was an interesting „case study“ for someone who worked in an opticians to hear about. I told him if that was the case, he should be telling it to our mum, since she is the one who has an optical interest. And then he just said that he liked you a lot, and got really embarrassed. He said he’d always noticed you before, but had never really had an excuse to talk to you, and your specs secret gave him that excuse. I said to him, why don’t you ask her out, and he shrugged and said you wouldn’t be interested, that he didn’t get any vibes off you which might indicate any sort of romantic interest.“

„I must be better at hiding my feelings than I thought,“ Marissa said softly. „But what about his girlfriend? Everyone at school says he’s got a girlfriend who goes to the non-denominational school on the other side of town.“

„He broke up with her.“ Tim shrugged and eyed her pointedly. „About a month ago.“

„Oh.“

The train screeched to a halt at St Enochs and they travelled up the escalator into the daylight. Tim checked his watch.

„Okay, I have to meet someone in five minutes,“ he said. „Come on, we’d better hurry.“

Tim didn’t tell her who it was they were meeting, but Marissa suspected. They entered a small cafe on a side street and, sure enough, Dave was sitting at a table. He was drinking a can of Pepsi and reading a book, his specs discarded on the table top. Of course, as Marissa hadn’t yet replaced her glasses on her nose, they were almost on top of him before she recognised him. Dave looked up and saw Tim.

„Hey,“ he greeted him. „Wearing your glasses, eh? That’s a rarity,“ he commented teasingly.

Then he saw Marissa and his face took on a strange expression, which he quickly concealed with the teasing face again.

„Like someone else I could mention,“ he added pointedly. „Ha ha.“

Marissa and Tim both pulled out chairs and sat down.

„So what are you two doing together?“ Dave asked curiously.

„Just trying to show Marissa that wearing glasses isn’t as bad as she thinks,“ Tim said quietly.

„Yeah. And that’s why she’s wearing them, rather than holding them in her hand,“ he observed sarcastically.

„That’s pretty rich coming from you,“ Marissa snapped. „Your specs aren’t doing much good sitting on the

table, are they?“

„Children!“ Tim held up a hand. „No fighting.“

He stood up again.

„I think I’m actually going to leave you two alone.“

„Tim . . .“

There was a slight note of desperation in Dave’s voice as he looked up at his brother. Tim simply grinned and glanced at Marissa.

„It’s been a pleasure, Marissa,“ he said softly, and for a brief moment their eyes met and locked together. Marissa felt a moment of sadness, but knew that she couldn’t be with Tim. And, while Tim was the one who identified with her problem, Dave was the one who was her soulmate. Tim smiled slowly.

„I’m sure I’ll see you around,“ he added and, pushing up his glasses, he headed outdoors again.

Dave and Marissa were left looking at each other.

„Well, I don’t know about you,“ Dave said finally, „But I need to get home.“

He was about to stand up when Marissa stopped him, placing a hand on his arm.

„Wait.“ She spoke quietly. „We need to talk. You can’t avoid me forever.“

She closed her eyes and blurted out,

„Just tell me, do you like me or not?“

„Yes,“ he said equally softly. „I do.“

„Well, then, that’s all I need to know.“ And, barely believing her nerve, she reached over the table and kissed him gently.

For a moment, he seemed to hesitate, then he kissed her back, more forcefully. After a moment or two, he pulled back, breathing hard and grinning.

„Well, that was easier than I thought it would be,“ he said. „And so is this.“

Without even thinking about it, Marissa picked up her glasses and put them on. Dave’s smile grew wider.

„ I don’t know what my brother did,“ he said in amazement. „But it worked.“

He must never know exactly what his brother had done. That would remain between Marissa and Tim. All that mattered now was that she was with Dave, and that she no longer minded wearing glasses quite as much. Although it would probably be a different story come Monday. But, as long as she had Dave by her side, she could probably get away from the almost inevitable geek label.

„Let me tell you something,“ he said quietly. „Tim thinks I was completely fine about wearing glasses. You clearly think so too. But I wasn’t. I knew for ages I needed them before I got them, and I hated the idea of having to wear them. But I knew that I would just have to get it over with, so I put them on and brazened it out. The first day I wore them to school, I tried to act cool about it, as if I had forgotten I was wearing them, and people commented on them, and I got embarrassed, but I dealt with it. And, by the end of the day, the whole thing was forgotten. But I do know how hard it is. That’s why I helped you out.“

He shrugged, his eyes sparkling wickedly. „Well, that, and the fact that I totally fancied you. I couldn’t leave you blind and helpless.“

„Thanks for telling me that,“ Marissa told him seriously.

„About being nervous about wearing glasses. It’s good to know you’re not quite as supercool and laidback as I thought you were.“ She stood up.

„Shall we go home now?“ He nodded, and slid his specs back on.

„Why don’t we head over to the shopping centre when we get back to town?“ he suggested, knowing that would be somewhere populated by a lot of their friends.

„That’ll make Monday morning even easier for you.“ Marissa stopped and gazed at his handsome face, pierced eyebrow and the thickly-lashed brown eyes behind his trendy specs. He casually slid an arm around her, and walked them towards the door. Outside, it was his turn to stop and he tenderly kissed her again.

„Is that idea okay with you?“ he asked.

She nodded, smiling. Dave was gorgeous, thoughtful and knew where she was coming from. He truly was her soulmate - her speccy soulmate, she giggled to herself.

„It’s the best idea I’ve heard all day,“ she said.

Together, they walked back to the station, ready for her to go home and „out“ herself in glasses. And she no longer felt nervous.

THE END

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