First days. Jack hated first days. On the first days of nursery, of primary school, high school and college something bad had happened. Nursery he was sick all over the teacher. Primary school he had wet himself in front of his class. High School he had called his tutor “Mum”. After the first day of college he found out his grandma had passed away. And now the first day of University. The single most terrifying thing that had ever happened in Jack’s life. He had worried about coming to university all summer, about meeting his flat mates with whom he had to live for a year, about meeting people on his course and making friends. Friends. He missed his friends the most. Jack Yates had travelled two hundred and thirty six miles to get here. He had left everything behind: friends, family, and even the family pet, Fifi. Of course there was also the worry of something bad happening as he seemed fated to have horrible first days.
Picking up a towel, he dabbed his face dry. You can do this Jack, he thought whilst staring into the mirror. He studied his reflection carefully, deep blue eyes peeked through long shaggy brown hair. I need a shave, he decided as he noticed the peppering of hair on his cheeks and chin. Letting out a sigh he turned off the bathroom light, picked up his bag and set off to the nearest refectory deciding he wanted a sweaty bacon sandwich to treat himself.
‘That will be one pound twenty please.’ said the obviously bored lady behind the till.
‘Er,’ he stammered whilst fingering through the change that littered his palm, ‘there you go.’
Picking his tray up off the counter, he turned to find a seat. It was a morbid, silent scene before him. All the students sat as far away from each other as they could, preferring to keep to themselves. The refectory had slowly filled and isolation was becoming impossible so people sat on their chairs, fear obvious on their face. Their chairs had become private sanctuaries to get away from the anxiety for but a few moments while they ate.
He spotted a table in the far corner with only one occupant, a blonde girl from what Jack could see. He started towards it sucking up his fear and thinking, if there is one thing I’m going today, it is make friends with this person.
Finally reaching the table, he put his tray down and said, ‘Mind if I sit here?’
The girl looked up from her cereal, her hair hanging down in front of her face. With a flick of her head she sent her hair to the side. ‘No…go ahead.’ She stammered, flashing an awkward smile his way.
‘Thanks.’ He muttered, sitting on the opposite side of the table but on a chair one space to her left.
His heart nearly jumped out of his chest when she had flicked her hair to the side, revealing gorgeous green eyes, which sparkled in the florescent lights above them. Oh god, she’s beautiful, how am I meant to talk to her now. Then to finish what she had started she had flashed that smile, as awkward as it was it was full of warmth. Not knowing what to say he picked up his sandwich and took a bite. Red sauce dripped out of the back of the sandwich landing all down the front of his jacket.
‘Oh for god sake,’ muttered Jack, ‘Why me?’ As he looked around for some napkins he saw the girl in front of him regarding him, a look of amusement on her face.
‘Here.’ She said, picking up her napkin with her index finger and middle finger, and flicking it to him.
‘Thanks,’ he replied, as he wiped the sauce off his jacket. ‘My name’s Jack by the way.’ He offered her his hand.
‘Becky.’ She replied taking his hand in her own and giving it a quick shake. Removing his hand he cracked his fingers really loudly, one by one. Crack, crack, crack, crack. Jack thought he saw Becky wince at this, just a natural reaction, so he apologized with a quick, embarrassed, ‘sorry’, and set too on his sandwich.
‘No, it’s fine, I do it all the time…better than you too.’ To prove this point she laced her fingers together and flexed them outwards resulting in her fingers cracking much louder than Jack’s had. ‘”You’ll get arthritis” my mum always says, I’m worried I will but it’s a habit I can’t seem to break.’
‘Me too, my friends, especially the girls don’t like it it grosses them out.’
‘Well Cracky McCrackinson, it doesn’t bother me.’ There was that smile again, this time less awkward. ‘What course you doing?’
‘Psychology,’ replied Jack.
‘Me too!’ Now there was no awkwardness in her smile, just a smile full of white straight teeth.
‘Awesome, I’m so psyched, I honestly can’t wait, I did it at A-Level and was instantly in love with the subject.’
‘Aha, me too, Freud rocks man.’ Looking at her watch she noticed the time, ‘Come on, we’re going to be late for the first lecture, that wouldn’t be a good start, would it?’
Agreeing, Jack picked up his bag and they set off to lesson. They talked all the way to class, a good five minute walk, made longer with Becky stopping to use the “ladies room”. When she emerged Jack noticed her make-up had been touched up and she smelt like freshly applied perfume. Does she like me?
Due to the delay, they arrived at class later than everyone else. Because of this they could not get seats together as most of the students arrived early, lessening the chances the tutor would talk to them. Jack’s heart sank when he saw he would not be able to sit next to Becky. He glanced sideways and saw Becky frown slightly and knew she felt the same.
They walked to two seats near each other and sat down. Jack sat next to a lad with short cut hair, fringe gelled up, quite chubby. He smelt faintly like body odour. The lad moved himself, his paper and his pen away from Jack unconsciously. A move that didn’t go unnoticed by Jack. The nervous lad looked up and ventured a slight smile and without thinking Jack frowned, not knowing why and just nodded and then looked ahead, eyes forward.
Silence reigned in the classroom as the teacher at the front cleared his throat. A quick ahem that exuded authority without being too imposing. The tutor who stood before them was short, no more than five-foot-three, dark skinned and from under spectacles with thick, black, frames peered wise green eyes. With no more than a quick, ‘Hello, my name is Lucus,’ the class was under way, all thoughts forgotten as he listened to Lucus give the introduction to the class.
All thoughts except one. The one concerning the beautiful blonde, Becky. The beautiful blonde with the beautiful smile. He didn’t know what it was about her, he had only known her for just under an hour, but he was already smitten. Thinking of her made him look over at her, sat a few tables to his left. She was already watching him out of the corner of her eye and noticed him looking over. She looked up and smiled that smile and his heart sank ever so slightly. He wanted to be sat talking to her, getting to know her, not sat next a smelly lad who was nowhere near as beautiful as she was. Embarrassed at being caught looking at her, he smiled back and sent his eyes forward again, once again paying attention to the tutor. Many times during the class this kept happening. Without realising he was doing it, his eyes would wander over to her and every time she would catch him looking.
Eventually the teacher gave them some tips on things they could read and look into during the semester and let them go. Jack left the classroom and decided to wait for Becky.
‘How did you find that then?’ she asked.
‘My mind kept wandering, but what I heard seemed really interesting, I can’t wait to start properly.’
‘More than your mind kept wandering mister, I saw you looking at me.’ Becky replied, elbowing him in his ribs gently. Jack felt his face instantly blush and realising he was blushing, got more embarrassed which made his cheeks go an even deeper shade of red. ‘Don’t be embarrassed Jack…to be honest it made me smile, I was…uhh….bullied a lot as a kid,’ she looked down at the floor, ‘so I’m happy to receive any attention that’s good.’
‘Oh…erm…’ Jack replied at a loss for anything to say, ‘I’m sorry to hear that.’
‘That was a long time ago but things like that take a while to get over.’
‘Too right, I was bullied too, not much because the bully ended up being kicked out of school but his words still cut deep at the time.’ Jack, nodding towards the exit said, ‘Wanna’ go grab a coffee?’
‘Sure thing.’ she said, flashing that angelic smile again.
Off they went to the refectory where they had first met that morning to drink coffee and continue to get to know each other. He didn’t know how he knew but he realised he was going to spend the rest of his life with this girl.