She was a girl, standing in front of a boy, wanting him to notice her. See her. See her and like what he saw. There was a need that had gone unmet for so long that it had grown, become a thing all its own.
Something Brandi carried and fed with imaginative scraps of acceptance, clawed out from under the tables of girls with blemish-free faces and white, straight teeth. Girls with fathers and friends and plans for the weekend. Girls with bodies, hips that tick-tocked when they walked away and drew the eyes of boys they had been talking with. Laughing with. Chatting about those weekend plans with.
Boys like the one before her now. Silas ran with the crowd that reserved only disdain for girls like Brandi. They had fallen on her when she had arrived last year, a girl from away, and run her low. To ensure she understood her place, they worked hard to send a message. That message was from people in the know. People who carried opinions that mattered, that set things in the proper perspective.
It did not take long to break a girl, to grind to dust any esteem that she might have foolishly been directing inward. After that initial settling of things, Brandi became invisible. Not worth the effort to even ridicule.
Silas was different. He spoke little, giving weight to the words when he did. He was unafraid of what the group (THE group) might think if he conversed with the lower class. And they gave him a free pass when he did. He lead that group. Quietly, confidently, with no effort at all.
The same traits that marked Brandi as a high school loser did no such thing in Silas. He did not care for sports. He had no clue when talk turned to the latest Playstation game or the new Jay Z song. He was content to spend his lunch hours with his nose in a book, or talking idly with his history teacher.
Why? Why could Silas be who he was and be not only tolerated, but embraced?
It was looks. Silas was beautiful. He had blond hair that hung to his shoulder and looked like it had been given nothing more than a post-shower shake. It almost hid eyes that were slate gray and, when he was talking to you, never left your own. He was long and lean, with thin, almost delicate fingers that drummed against the side of his thighs when he walked. To the silent beat of music only he could hear, maybe.
Brandi was plain, ears too big, teeth too crooked. Body of a 10 year old boy. The one non-negotiable of being accepted into that group was the one thing that she could do little about.
Silas had handed her two books that he wanted to borrow. Brandi worked after school in the town library. His twice-weekly visits, always alone, were the twin peaks rising from the valley of her week. She glanced at the books, paperbacks from Peter Straub and Joe Hill.
“Have you read these guys before?” Brandi asked.
“One. Straub. Just tryin’ out the other guy.”
She watched his lips as they formed the words. Her eyes remained a beat after he had finished speaking, she blushed, looked at her computer.
She looked up, surprised. Then she remembered, and her hand fluttered to her name tag, straightening it.
He followed her hand with his eyes, “And no, I didn’t need to look at that.”
She smiled, reddened again.
“My friends don’t know.” Silas said.
“They don’t know what?”
“You. Just like I wouldn’t put any stock in someone’s view of these books if they had never read them, you shouldn’t care what people think. Especially people who know nothing about you.”
That’s easy for you to say, she thought. “It’s hard,” is what she said.
“When you want an opinion worth something, go to the two that know you best, your mama and your maker.” Silas said, and smiled.
Brandi gazed at him, returned his smile. His gray eyes were bright, and he did not drop them.
“Get off soon? Want some company on your walk home?” he asked.
“I’d love some.” Brandi replied, and thought there might soon be a third person on that list of his. The list of people with opinions that mattered, who knew of that which they spoke. Her mama and her maker, and maybe Silas too.