Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the authors. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
Many thanks to Not Done Baking for her incredible beta services.
Story Notes: Kim "was just a girl Jared sat next to in school every day for a year and never looked at twice. And then, after he changed, he saw her again and never looked away" (Eclipse, 125).
Invisible: Kim's Story (a companion piece to Upside Down: Jared's Story)
He announces his arrival the same way every morning, by dropping his bag casually on the desk next to mine. Then there is the traditional bumping of fists with friends, the talk of weekend plans, and the jokes. All is well in his world: the world of the beautiful and the athletic. Not the unnoticed. Though only a desk away, I am not included in his world.
Even with my face buried in a book, I can feel his gaze. But his eyes slide past me like they always do, never seeing me. He is blind to my quiet charm; he notices only glaring beauty. His head turns as his eyes roam the classroom, searching for her.
I allow myself a small sigh as she greets him. I hear his soft laugh as he flirts with her. He can see her. She is not invisible to him. I steal a glance to see his eyes wander over her face. She is laughing at his story. The wave in her silky hair catches the light and I wonder if he wants to touch it.
I look away and stare at my hands, trying to calm myself. Their whispered giggles set my teeth on edge. His happiness is torturing me. I want to scream at them to stop. But I don't. No one would hear me. No one would see me. I am invisible.
The days pass and his seat is still empty. Almost two weeks have gone without his sightless eyes next to me, yet it feels much longer. Even his ignorance is better than his absence. His unthinking flirtations with another girl are more tolerable than his vacant chair.
I miss him.
For over a year we have sat beside each other, never speaking. I doubt that he even knows my name and yet I miss him. I miss his routine, his voice, his eyes, his presence. My invisible world seems smaller without him here to ignore me. Oh, where is he?
I hear the chatter, the gossip. "Mono?" someone asks. "The kissing disease?" They laugh rudely and she laughs along, blushing.
My stomach does a flip-flop, and I try to think of something else.
At least with being invisible, no one expects me to join in the teasing.
He is back. And different. His smile is nervous. His ponytail is gone. People crowd around him, but he moves away. No fist bumps. No jokes. He doesn't want to talk. Maybe he wishes he could be invisible too.
He sits down noiselessly and sighs. Her taunting laugh cuts across the classroom and several heads turn to look at him. His eyes close and he clenches his fists. An unfamiliar tension seems to ripple through him. Is he angry?
I keep my eyes lowered to my book, but I can't read a thing. My mind is too full of questions. It's a relief to have him back, but the changes worry me. There is more going on here than a new haircut. But what?
Our instructor lumbers in and I pretend to listen to his droning. But, as usual, my attention is really on the boy next to me. I can hear him rummage through his bag and then utter a low curse.
"Psst. Hey, Kim," he whispers urgently.
The walls of my invisible world tremble. He can see me. He knows my name.
I close my eyes. I can't look. If he sees my eyes, he will know. It is better to be unknown and invisible than for him to know the truth and turn away.
I feel a tap on my arm. "Kim, do you have an extra pen that I could…"
It's too much. I can't resist both his touch and his voice. Steeling my heart for the coming pain, I open my eyes and look into his. I wait for rejection or even revulsion to cross his face. But, instead, his brown eyes widen in surprise. The corners of his mouth turn up slightly.
He knows. Of course he does. My cheeks grow warm under his gaze. Why is he staring? Has he never seen open adoration on a girl's face before?
I turn away, fighting the blur in my eyes. Trembling, I grab my pen and thrust it blindly at him. For a long moment, he doesn't take it.
Then I feel his incredibly warm hand wrap around mine. Disbelievingly, I turn to see wonder and awe in his eyes.
"Thank you…Kim," he whispers, smiling, squeezing my hand gently.
He sees…he can see me! And he didn't turn away.
"You're welcome, Jared," I breathed.