Amongst the Wallflowers
By Rhea Mahajan
Faelyn Wilde couldn’t take her eyes off of Rylan Maddox, who was laughing and walking at the edge of the parking lot with some of the guys on his football team (the Valley High Vikings), as she headed toward the art store on Grove Street.
None of the other girls in her tenth-grade class, including her twin sister, Faren, could take their eyes off him either, so at least she didn’t stick out. Not for that reason, anyway. Her charcoal-stained fingers and paint covered clothes (courtesy of her art scholarship)—along with the “new girl” sign she felt like she was wearing during her first few weeks at every new school- did that all by themself, which really didn’t help her crush on Rylan… and his ridiculously good looks.
Knowing there wasn’t a chance that Rylan or his friends would notice her, rather than leaving the school grounds, she closed the distance between them in as nonchalant a manner as she could, while surreptitiously watching him from beneath the veil of the bangs that had grown too long over her eyes during the summer. A few seconds later, his friends high-fived him and walked away. Rylan bent down to finish packing up a bulky black bag at his feet, which she guessed held his football gear. As he rose back to his feet, he scanned the courtyard of Valley High, as if he were looking for something…or someone. Oh, no! He’s going to see me!
Fae was on the verge of making up her mind to turn around and head back the way she came from, when she heard a squeal coming from the parking lot. In a split second she realized an out-of-control car was whipping straight toward Rylan.
There wasn’t time to plan, or to think. Faelyn sprinted across the several feet between them and threw herself at him.
Fortunately, Rylan’s natural athleticism kicked in right away. Even though she was the one trying to pull him out of the way, less than a heartbeat later he was lifting her and practically throwing her across the grass before leaping to cover her body with his.
She scrunched her eyes tightly shut as the car careened past, so close that she could feel the hairs on her arms lifting in its wake. Breathing hard, Faelyn clung to Rylan. Wetness moved across her cheeks and she belatedly realized tears must have sprung up from landing so hard on the grass.
The seconds ticked by as if in slow motion, one hard, thudding heartbeat after another from his chest to hers and then back again from hers to his. He was so strong, so warm, so beautifully real.
She wished she could stay in this moment forever. Voices were rising in pitch all around her, breaking the spell that had been cast over them both, and suddenly, the reality of what had just happened hit. Oh my God, we almost died! She was starting to feel faint when he lifted his head, where it has been nestled in the hollow of her neck and shoulder, and smiled down at her.
“Hi, I’m Ry.”
The way he said it, as if she didn’t already know who he was, pierced through her shock. He acted like it was normal to be sprawled over a person. Which, she suddenly realized, it probably was. For him. Because of football…obviously.
Rylan couldn’t believe he was on top of one of the most beautiful girls he had ever seen. With her long, silky jet black hair fanned out on the grass underneath them, silver grey eyes, a pert nose, and a set of soft-looking lips- which were currently set in a delicate frown- and a heart shaped face, she looked like a delicate fairy.
Realizing she hadn’t spoken at all, even when he had introduced himself- he was still surprised he had told her his nickname, instead of his full name-, Rylan lifted himself off of her so that he was sitting by her side. As he was about to wave his hand in front of her face, a sudden shriek pierced the air and Rylan saw a slim student, looking identical to the one immobile on the ground (except with shorter hair), barreling over to them.
“Fae! Lyni! Faelyn! ” the newcomer cried frantically, hovering over the girl on the ground. A few moments later, a hand pushed at the head of the hysterical girl.
“Get out of my face, Ren.” came the annoyed reply.
Fae shot up from where she was lying on the ground. I can’t believe I passed just out in front of Rylan…Ry!
“How long was I out?” Faelyn whispered to her twin.
“Only a few minutes. I don’t think that Mr. HotStuff-”
“Ren! Don’t call him that in public.” Fae, cutting off Faren, while shooting the boy in question a furtive look. Her sister smirked at her, while conveying a silent message. Haha, knew you liked him. Good luck with that crush going anywhere. Faelyn replied, still silently. Shut up. Like you don’t like him, too? As their silent bickering continued- still using only their facial expressions- Rylan, glancing between them, cleared his throat.
“So…I take it you’re feeling okay now?”
“Yeah, um, totally fine now. Thanks for checking.” Faelyn replied, stammering and blushing madly.
“Cool. So, I’ll see you around?”
“Mmhmm. Yeah, actually-” Fae stopped, not wanting to make more of a fool of herself as she already had. Getting to her feet, she leaned on Faren for a moment before righting herself. By this time, Rylan had travelled the distance of half the high school courtyard. It looked like he was running away.
“I really think you should go home, Fae.” Faren said, concerned.
“I’m fine! I’m not a baby anymore. And, don’t you dare call Dad! He’s already busy enough without having to worry about his kids on top of it!”
“Geez, okay, I won’t! No need to be so bossy!” As they walked towards the art store, Faelyn found herself thinking about the way Rylan…Snap out of it! I will not be the kind of girl who obsesses over the one time her crush talks to her! I won’t!
The semester passed by as normal, and as boring, as “pre-Rylan”. After the excitement of the close encounter with the out-of-control car, everything else seemed very…dull. It was also slightly depressing. Every time Fae passed him the halls, he either pretended not to her- or he actually didn’t see her. At a height of 5’ 4” compared to Ry’s seemingly towering stature of over 5’ 9”, it was rather likely that he couldn’t see her in the crowd of chattering teenagers. And, it’s not like Faelyn was going out of her way to talk to him, or even be noticed- by anyone. She would be considered as part of the introverts category (or the eccentric artists) on the ladder of high school hierarchy. But still, she would have expected to have received more attention from other students in the weeks that followed- it’s not everyday a car collision happens on campus. Not that she wanted it…
School and homework kept Faelyn busy until a few weeks before their upcoming two-week break. As the flow of work slowed down, everyone began to get caught up in the excitement of the Snowflake Ball and Winter Break. Practically all conversations were about what people were wearing and who they were going with.
Faelyn herself didn’t see the point of becoming part of the frenzy. It’s not like anyone’s going to ask me to the dance. I’m just the shy, artsy kid who’s always covered in paint. But I wish… What made it even more dreaded, for Faelyn at least, was when Faren got asked to go to the ball by a boy in her English class. Now, not only did the influence of the upcoming dance fill her days at school, it also followed her home.
“Faelyn?” Ren asked one day, while walking home from school.
“Yeah?” Fae replied, rather moodily. She knew that her twin was about to start talking about something related to the ball. Call it twintuition.
“I was wondering…since we don’t exactly have the money to buy a new dress for me, can you make one for me?”. Faren said the last part very quickly, almost as if she was afraid to know what her twin’s answer would be. As Fae thought about what her sister had just said, she could already see the perfect dress taking shape in her mind. Taking her silence as a sign of refusal, Faren hastened to say-
“You won’t have to do it all by yourself, of course. I could help…?” trailing off, Faren watched Faelyn’s expression morph from contemplation to amusement.
“You, sew? Ren, you know that you can’t thread a needle to save your life. Making a whole dress? Impossible!” They both laughed at the ridiculous image of Faren sewing. The sisters both knew that the artistic twin was Faelyn.
“So? Will you do it?”
“Of course I will, Ren! I’ll start today.” Mentally creating a timeline, Faelyn started planning. If I can’t go to the ball, I’m going to make it the best possible experience for Faren. She deserves it.
Glancing at Faelyn, Ren fingered the notes she was hiding in her pocket. They had started coming about a week ago, addressed to Fae. Appearing everywhere- in and on Fae’s locker, her backpack-, all asking the same question. Will you go to the Snowflake Ball with me?
“Darling? I just found out about the Snowflake Ball…through the principal’s wife. Can you tell me why exactly you haven’t said anything about needing a new suit?” This question came from Rylan’s mother. It always struck Ry as ironic- in the most terrible way possible- that only a few weeks after his father died, his stock market investments skyrocketed. With the newly found money, Rylan’s mother was able to move them into a nicer neighborhood, in a completely new town.
“Um…I’m not going.”
“Why not?” his mom asked incredulously.
“There isn’t a girl I want to go with…that I can go with.”
“What do mean can’t go with? Rylan, you can have any girl you want, you know that? If this is because you don’t think you’re good enough, or something-”
“No, Mom! Nothing like that! It’s just that…I don’t think she wants to go, with me or anybody else…”
“Have you even tried asking her?”
“Yes! Well, kind of. I’ve sent her about a dozen notes, the most recent ones attached to tiny boxes of chocolates and small flower bouquets.”
“Notes? Oh, darling, that’s the cowardly way of asking someone to a dance. Not impressive at all!” Rylan’s mother chided.
“Can you help me then? I don’t want to make a fool of myself, in case she turns me down, in front of the whole school and I don’t really have a ton of time.”
“I would love to help. Now listen carefully, this is what you’ll do…”
Upon reaching home- a one-story house, with a garden in front (filled with flowers of every kind, and a multitude of herbs and vegetables), tended to by Faren, who had inherited their late mother’s green thumb- Fae went straight to her small room to get started on Faren’s dress. She took out her design notebook and started to sketch. Half an hour later, the previously blank page had been drawn over, mainly filled by a drawing of a frilly, princess-cut, light pink dress.
Walking toward Faren’s room- they shared a bathroom, connecting the two bedrooms- Fae paused, for the millionth time studying the differences between the twins. With Fae’s room decorated in tasteful, creative artwork and multiple bookshelves- giving it the feel of a nerdy artist- and Faren’s very girly room- with lavender and gold walls and canopy bed (a thrift-store find)-, the twins really couldn’t be more opposite.
“Ren? I’m done with the sketch. If you can approve it, I can go to the store to buy the fabric so I can get started right away. Oh! And, I’ll need to take your measurements.” Faelyn said, while waiting patiently by the closed bathroom door that lead to her twin’s room.
“Wait a minute!” came the reply.
“Okay!” Faren said, opening the door after a few minutes. After some time, Fae exited her sister’s room, clutching an edited version of the dress. I can’t wait to get started on this new project.
As Faelyn left the room, excited to be a part of her “ultimate” dance experience, Ren thought guiltily of the notes that she was hiding in the locked drawer of her desk. I’m only doing it for her own good. Faelyn doesn’t need her heart broken by some player jock.
The next morning, Faelyn gave a mini scream of surprise as she rounded the corner to her locker…and came face to face with Rylan.
“Hi!” Rylan said, in an overly bright voice.
“Hi….?” Fae said, very confused. Why is Rylan talking to me? Is he mixing me up with someone else? Glancing behind her, Faelyn became surprised when the movement confirmed that Rylan was indeed talking to her.
“Just wondering….have you been getting any notes? From me?”
“Um…no?” Faelyn said, becoming even more bewildered.
“Really? None, at all?” Ry asked, almost rhetorically, as if he couldn’t believe it.
“Should I have? Gotten notes from you, that is.”
“Yes, but that doesn’t matter now.” Bending down onto the floor on knee, as if he proposing to her, and producing a large bouquet of pastel colored wildflowers, Ry said-
“Faelyn Wilde, will you do my the honor of being my date to the Snowflake Ball?”
As Fae got over her shock and started to work through her nerves, she noticed that Rylan seemed to be holding his breath. She giggled. He’s just as nervous as I am! Taking a deep intake of air, Faelyn said-