It was rare for Emma to feel this way. After all, how could she? She hasn’t said a single word, nor made eye contact with the stranger, yet her palms are moist and drops of sweat drop from her forehead. Something about this guy is unshakable; it was as if his personality was magnetic. She did not know what it was- it could be nature, or fate, or even luck, but all she knew was that she had to be with him. There he was, sitting four seats in front of her, talking to Shane.
“Shane,” she thought to herself, “Shane could help me.”
So days went by and she thought that her little infatuation would disappear. Perhaps it was a crush. How could she blame herself? Aaron is a transfer student from Australia. He was built just like the Australian surfers she has seen on fashion magazines, with eyes as blue as the waters of the Great Barrier Reef and hair as blonde as the Great Victorian Desert. He somehow dressed like he was about to pose for the cover of a Tilly’s or Billabong catalogue, and his teeth were almost blindingly white. All the girls probably felt the same way. And there she was, the daughter of two teachers from little Hercules, California, dressed like she just rolled out of bed and blindly plucked some clothes from Goodwill. Emma was never the popular kind of girl, but she definitely had a natural beauty behind the plaid she adores.
And more days pass, but nothing. She watches him from afar, every day, mostly with her best friend Shane. She wants to bring it up to Shane, but she feels that he would feel like she was using their friendship to meet a boy. Shane’s girlfriend, Riley, already hates her. He is constantly forced to balance between hanging out with his childhood best friend and his girlfriend. If she were to ask a favor like this, she would probably lose Shane. But she had to act on it.
On a cold November night, four weeks after Aaron had moved to Hercules from Sydney, she decided to march her way to Shane’s house, dressed in a green overcoat with her hair in a high ponytail. She walks up to the door, takes a breath, and hopes that Riley wasn’t at Shane’s house. But just as she was about to knock, the door swings open, and she is trapped in a gaze with the Great Barrier Reef’s waters.
“Oh,” Aaron says, with a surprised look on his face, “hi,” he continues as he looks behind him and shuts the door. Shane had the same facial expression as her Australian dreamboat, and they quickly make eye contact before the door slams behind him.
“You’re Emma, right?”
Emma tries to collect her words, but she is unable to make anything out of the syllables that bounced around in her head. Seconds pass. She has yet to say a single syllable. And then ten, and then twenty, until she was finally able to mouth a word.
“I’m Aaron.” He introduces himself. Emma had only heard his voice from a far, she had no idea how it sounded like and how thick his accent was until the words were flowing from his mouth right into her face. His words come crisp, complete with a burst of breath that takes shape as a cloud from the cold, coming towards her. But still, she is unable to mouth a word.
“Aren’t you cold? You should let your hair down” Aaron says as he reaches for her ponytail to unravel it. Emma’s hair falls flat on her shoulders, and she is blushing even harder than she was from the cold. He looks at her for another moment, “I like green on you. It brings out your eyes.”
“Thanks” Emma says, and Aaron nods politely and walks to his car. Once Aaron was gone, the door swings open, and out comes Shane, still with the surprised expression.
“What was that?” He asks.
“It’s exactly what I wanted to talk to you about, actually. Is Riley home?”
“No, thank god. Come in.” Shane says, as he makes room for Emma to walk into his home.
Emma tells Shane about how she has had the most unshakable feeling about Aaron for the last few weeks. This whole time, Shane makes beats with a pencil on a notebook, and takes a sip of his eggnog every few minutes. He looks tense. Emma stops telling her story.
“What’s wrong?” she asks.
Shane doesn’t fight it. He knows his best friend know when he is upset. But he lies.
“Riley and I haven’t been working out. I think she wants to break up with me.”
Shane tells Emma about how Riley thinks that Shane has been spending too much time volunteering at the pet shelter, and when he is free, he always spends time with his friends, namely Aaron, who Riley seems to not like.
“Seriously, Riley is about the only girl in this school who hates Aaron. How could I not hang out with him? He’s new to this town- to this country. He doesn’t have a lot of friends. His parents both work at the BioRad lab, so he’s always home alone. All I do is keep him company, you know? Like a friend”
Emma nods and sips her tea.
“But anyway, about Aaron, I can’t help Emma. He hasn’t been here enough to even date anyone. I think we should give him time.”
Emma accepts Shane’s words, and they spend the rest of the night watching House on Netflix. Shane falls asleep, and Emma slithers away from the couch. But before she was able to get up, his phone vibrates to the sound of Hotline Bling by Drake. AARON, it read, with the Koala and Australian flag emoji. She doesn’t think for a moment, and she swipes to answer the call, and mouths out a single word.
“Emma?” Aaron says over the phone.
“Shane is asleep. I’ve been over his place watching Netflix. I didn’t mean to pick his call up, force of habit. Sorry.”
“No, it’s alright. It’s perfect actually. Do you think we could hang out, maybe on Saturday at The Powder Keg?” Aaron asks. Emma freezes. The whole room was in darkness, aside from the red glow of the Netflix logo. Shane begins to snore. She takes a breath.
“Sounds good, I’ll meet you around eight.” She manages to say confidently.
“Perfect. Tuck Shane in for me. Goodnight, Emma.” Aaron says before hanging up the phone. She lets out a soft whimper of victory.
Emma was ecstatic. She was bouncing up and down from happiness, and she slips on her coat, tosses a blanket over Shane, and kisses him on the cheek to thank him. He did, after all, and unknowingly, finally brought her together with Aaron.
Thursday passes, then Friday, and then it was Saturday. Emma looks at herself in the mirror, gazing at her reflection. Who was this girl in the mirror? Gone was the flannel and high pony tail. She knows that it was beyond cold outside, but she manages to find a nice dress to put on. She would have to hide it under a coat, just as she has to hide the butterflies that were in a flurry in her stomach. At least it was too cold to sweat.
She waits for Arron patiently. It is 8:40, and she begins to panic, tapping on her glass of root beer with her finger and on the wooden floor with her foot at the same beat. And then, the door swings open, and a burst of cold comes in the restaurant. There Aaron was, dressed in a leather jacket, smiling at her. He looked excited.
He motions a hug, an offer she did not dare resist, before sitting across from her.
“You’re late” she says, almost flirtingly.
“I know, I’m sorry. I was on the phone with Shane about something.”
“Shane is cool. I’ve known him forever. He’s the best” she says.
“I know” he replies with a laugh.
Emma was usually shy, but her heart was pounding, and she was honestly a wildcard at this moment. She instinctively puts her hand over Aaron's. He smiles gently.
“I’m grateful that I know Shane. I finally get to meet you.”
“I am too!” He says excitedly, as he puts his other hand on top of hers. “In fact, that’s the reason that I wanted to come see you, something about Shane is odd, whenever we meet, he’s always texting someone, but the number isn’t saved on his phone. He deletes their texts too. This one time I heard him talking on the phone, and she sounded pissed. I thought you’d know about it and help me understand, you being his best friend and all.”
“That’s just Riley, she’s not the nicest.” Emma responds. She was too caught up in the moment to think about Shane, instead her eyes are locked with the fluorescent blue, and her hand was tucked between his. She finally got what she want.
And then her heart sank with the next sentence that came from Aaron’s mouth.
“Is Shane single? Because he’s cute.”