Gloom Daniels had a problem.
She'd started the school year with the goal of being on friendly terms with everyone in class. So far, so good; she was even friends with the majority.
But there was a hold out; a problem child that was the wrench in her gears.
Lyle Loud, the boy who sat to her left near the windows. He was very pretty, with long silky hair, big blue eyes, long eyelashes, and a slim figure. With his lavender sweater and turquoise pants Gloom actually thought he was a girl until she heard his name.
So did everyone else, as Lyle was frequently mocked for his looks. Gloom didn't like that. She thought bullying someone for being different was silly; everyone should just get along, live and let live.
Lyle on his part ignored the insults. He kept to himself, worked quietly and read in his spare time. He didn't say much and seemed to have no friends at all. Gloom admitted he was also a bit of a jerk, responding to insults with sass, and brushing off any attempts to talk.
In fact, three months into the school year, Gloom had very little success in actually getting to know the anti-social boy. He was an enigma. Attempts to talk with him resulted in her being brushed off after few words at best, and flat out ignored at worst. She hadn't been able to get more then a handful out of him at a time, and she never ever saw him smile. He was so pretty that she knew his smile had to be pretty as well.
She wanted to see it more than anything.
Gloom tapped her arm and chewed on her lip as she studied the boy sitting there, reading his book. Her eyes came to rest on the book, and she tilted her head to get a peek at the title. An idea popped into her head as a smile broke out on her face. She suddenly stood up, walked over and took a seat in front of him.
"Hi, Lyle! What'cha readin?" Gloom smiled at the boy in question as he shot an irritated glance at her before returning to his book.
Understanding that she wasn't going to get an answer, she tilted her head once again and took a glance at the cover.
"The Lion, the Witch and the..." Gloom held the book in place, drawing an annoyed 'Hey!' from the boy, before she brushed his finger away "...Wardrobe?"
Gloom returned the book to its rightful owner and tilted her head "What's that about?"
Lyle groaned under his breath.
Knowing Gloom, she wouldn't leave him alone until he answered her. The girl had been a constant thorn in his side since the year started.
".. It's about some kids transported to another world."
"Are there Lions, Witches and Wardrobes? Is it about Witches and Lions dressing up?" Gloom had a hopeful smile.
Lyle had to fight his forming smile at the absurd notion "It's about a world of magic, mythical beasts, and talking animals. Its a fantasy series, there's seven books, this is the first." Lyle held his book up slightly as if to confirm his statement, before going back to reading.
Gloom let out a hmm as she processed the information, her hands secretly writing down the name of the book on a scrap of paper, an action unseen by the reading boy.
"It sounds interesting! We should talk about it later." With a smile and a wave, Gloom made her way back to her desk. Lyle sighed in relief, glad to finally be left alone.
The rest of the school day was uneventful, and before long the final bell rang out to let the kids free for the weekend.
"Bye bye, Lyle! See you on Monday!." With a repeat of her former goodbye, Gloom skipped off; Lyle lazily raised a hand dismissively.
Gloom kept her smile as she doubled back out of the boy's sight and nearly sprinted the whole way to the third floor. She had a goal, and mark her words she'd get an actual conversation out of the prickly boy.
The next Monday, Lyle returned to class with a noticeable drag in his step. He stifled a yawn as he sat down; he fd stayed up late reading again and now he was paying for it. But it was worth it, the Chronicles of Narnia was a great series so far, and he finished the first book and burned through the second just last night. He had the third in his backpack and was looking forward to starting on it today.
As Lyle got his school books ready for the day, he noticed for the first time that Gloom didn't greet him like she did every morning. He looked over at her empty desk and pursed his lips together.
It was unusual that she wasn't here, that was all. He didn't really care one way or the other. In fact, this meant he had more time to read Still...what if she was sick?
Lyle frowned and lost himself in that thought, staring at the whiteboard as his mind stuck on the annoying girl who wouldn't leave him alone. She was a pretty girl, with a bright smile, long, wavy dark hair, pale skin with a light dusting of freckles. She dressed in dark colours most of the time, and she wore a lavender hairband that stood out to him, both because of the contrast to the rest of her clothes, and because it was his favorite colour.
He was so distracted he never noticed the girl on his mind trudge into the classroom, looking like she'd barely slept. Dark circles under her eyes, her slumped shoulders, and her near-shuffle on the floor as she made for her desk gave her the look and gait of a zombie.
Lyle was still zoned out as Gloom took her seat. She looked over at him and gave a tired smile.
The boy's eyes widened slightly as his heart sped up, but he gave no other reaction as he turned to her. Years of dealing with his aunt Lucy had made him startle-resistant.
Lyle was about to return her greeting automatically before he paused, taking full note of her tired appearance "Good...morning?"
Gloom smiled a toothy grin. Lyle didn't think much of it, but that was the first time he greeted her back.
Lyle fought the urge to ask about why she was nearly late, and why she looked like she hadn't slept all weekend; it was none of his business. Besides, he didn't want to know; honest.
The rest of the morning passed by with little of note, save for Gloom nodding off constantly and Lyle stealing glances at her, his brow furrowed in concern that he would deny if asked about.
As the lunch break neared, Gloom got her second wind. She became more alert and her face held a smile of anticipation. Lyle noticed that she was looking at the clock constantly. Not that he was staring at her or anything.
When the lunch bell rang Gloom sprang to her feet. She grabbed her bag and rushed over to take a seat next to Lyle.
"Hi! Let's eat lunch together!"
From the look on her face, Lyle knew it was pointless to turn her away; she wasn't going to take no for an answer. Though, somewhere in the back of his brain, he didn't really mind. "Whatever."
Gloom devoured her lunch with a vigor that surprised Lyle. Once she was finished, she quickly cleared away the mess and sat at attention. She stared at the boy with a small smile, bordering a smirk.
"So! Let's talk about your book now."
"Oh...I..uh..I finished it, and the second book as well. I'm about to start the third one, it's called "The Voyage of-"
"'The Dawn Treader'! I'm three chapters in, it's so good!", Gloom exclaimed as she slightly swayed side to side. "I really liked the first two books too. The world is so interesting and the characters are neat. Peter is my favorite character, he's such a good king." Gloom nodded for extra emphasis.
Lyle stared at the girl in disbelief "You...read the books?"
"Mhmm! I checked them out of the library on Friday and read them this weekend."
That explained why she looked so tired "You read through two books in a weekend? Why?"
Gloom tilted her head and looked puzzled "So we could talk about them? I didn't want to make you explain everything that happens to me, it was much easier just to read it myself."
There was a swell of emotion in Lyle's chest; he turned to the side and buried his face in his book to hide his reddening cheeks.
Aside from his sister Liby, no one made this kind of effort to learn about his interests. He wasn't sure how to react, and the tight feeling in his chest was confusing.
"You didn't have to do that you know."
"I wanted to! And the books are good, I wanna read the rest of them." Gloom flashed a wide smile "We should talk about those ones too!"
"I'd...like that." Lyle's expression softened and his face lit up, he smiled and Gloom felt time slow to a crawl. It was just as pretty as she imagined it to be, she felt her cheeks flush and her heart speed up.
She got what she wanted, her goal was accomplished.
Yet she had a new one, now.
She had to see more of that smile.