|Lark or Nightingale?
Author: jlm110108 PM
Charlie Eppes is trying to make an impression on Val Eng. This was written for the Numb3rs Writeoff Angst vs. Schmoop challenge on another website.Rated: Fiction K - English - Charlie E. & Don E. - Words: 835 - Reviews: 6 - Favs: 2 - Follows: 1 - Published: 07-03-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5187964
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Charlie Eppes stared dreamily at the text of "Romeo and Juliet" before him. It took a little work to get past the obscure Shakespearean English, but once he did, he found his imagination wandering from Verona to Pasadena. He glanced at Val Eng, sitting two rows over.
When Val glanced up at smiled at him, Charlie felt his face reddening. It never ceased to amaze Charlie when people could feel him looking at them. He wondered what in the human mind caused that. Sitting in the row just past Val, Charlie's big brother Don caught their exchange and smirked. Charlie knew Don had asked Val to go to the prom with him, and Val had accepted.
But Charlie was not ready to give up yet. Val was the only girl who had seen him as something other than an annoying little brat who could be coerced into doing her homework. And he'd been working on his friendship math project. Part of the project included observing girls and figuring out what they liked. Girls liked mushy stuff like "Romeo and Juliet," stuff most guys hated.
So when Mrs. Ramsdell asked for a volunteer to read Romeo, Charlie's hand shot up. Mrs. Ramsdell blinked in shock. She probably figured she was going to have to resort to the standard bribe and/or punishment to get a boy to volunteer. "Okay, thank you, Charlie. Who would like to read Juliet?"
Charlie could almost feel the girls moving away from him. A few giggled and shook their heads. Finally after a long, uncomfortable moment, Val raised her hand. "Yes!" Charlie thought. His plan was working.
"Thank you, Val," Mrs. Ramsdell said. "Let's begin where we left off. Scene 3, beginning with Act 5. Juliet?"
Val glanced at Charlie, then began to read:
"Wilt thou be gone? it is not yet near day:
It was the nightingale, and not the lark,
That pierced the fearful hollow of thine ear;
Nightly she sings on yon pomegranate-tree:
Believe me, love, it was the nightingale."
Charlie took a deep breath. This was his big moment. Maybe, just maybe, he could win Val away from Don. His voice shook a little as he began:
"It was the lark, the herald of the morn,
No nightingale. Look, love, what envious streaks
Do lace the severing clouds in yonder east.
Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day
Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops." Then, as he spoke the final line of that speech, the unthinkable happened. His thirteen year old voice betrayed him, and broke just as he read, "I must be gone and live, or stay and die."
The class erupted in laughter. Val tried to stop, hiding her mouth behind her hand, but a giggle escaped. A deep voice muttered, "Never send a boy to do a man's job."
Charlie slammed his book shut, picked up his backpack and stormed from the room, blinking back tears. Mrs. Ramsdell called him. He ignored her. All he wanted to do was get as far away from the class, from Shakespeare, and from Val as he possibly could. He ran into the boy's room, knowing that Mrs. Ramsdell would never follow him in there.
Just to be safe, he ran into the nearest stall, slammed and locked the door, and leaned against it, letting the tears come. Damn friendship math. To win a girl, you had to be tall, athletic, and good looking. Not a short pudgy geek with a big nose. Math could do a lot, but it couldn't change the facts.
The bathroom door opened. Charlie held his breath and wiped angrily at his eyes.
"Charlie? You in here?" Don asked. "Buddy?"
"Come on, Buddy. Mrs. Ramsdell's worried about you. We're all worried about you. Val's worried about you."
"If they were so worried, they shouldn't have laughed at me," Charlie said softly, trying not to sob.
"You gotta admit it was funny."
Charlie opened the stall door. "No. I don't have to admit it was funny. It wasn't funny at all. It was mean. I can't help that my voice cracks. I can't help that I'm a little kid stuck with all you big kids."
Don stepped forward and awkwardly put a hand on Charlie's shoulder. "I know you can't. But you don't have to take it so seriously. Lighten up."
Charlie bent to pick up his backpack, pulling away from Don's hand. "I can't lighten up. I'm going to the nurse's office. I don't feel good."
"I'll come with you."
"No. Go back to your buddies. To Val. Tell Mrs. Ramsdell I had a nosebleed or something. That'll be good for a laugh."
Charlie shouldered his backpack and headed down the familiar path to the nurse's office. Don looked after him helplessly, then turned and walked back to the classroom.