He was thrust into the room that felt completely foreign to him. He hovered by the door hesitantly, scanning the faces one by one, hoping that he will see someone familiar, but knowing he would not. There was indeed no one he knew. Shit. He wished then that he was invisible, or could camouflage but he already felt eyes on him and he felt the hands pulling him forward and pushing him from behind.
He stood with his arms hanging down infront of him, making his bulk look smaller than it actually was. His eyes were trained at his feet and the floral patterned carpet but they slowly wandered up, and his eyes met many other pairs that were looking expectantly at him. His mouth twitched into a nervous smile which resembled more of a gritting of his teeth with the corners of his mouth turned up slightly.
“I- I- I’m Rick.”
“Hi Rick!” came the chorus.
He was ushered into a seat beside a girl bearing a “MED RAG” tee. He thought she looked gorgeous. Naturally, he blushed.
“Hi there!” The girl turned to face him enthusiastically. “Your name is Rick right?”
He nodded, his eyes darting from the ground, to her face, then back to the ground again.
“Is Rick short for anything?”
He nodded again, this time he kept his eyes trained at the leg of the chair in front of him.
The girl looked at him expectantly and ducked her head to try to see his face, which was half hidden because he kept his head bowed and his long hair obscured her from a perfect view. Then, realizing he was not going to speak, she spoke up instead.
“Hey, you don’t have to be so shy!! My name is Elsa! Like from the movie Frozen!” She stuck out her hand.
He stopped boring the carpet with his gaze and looked at her hand. Rather, he examined it as if he was trying to decide if it was harmful to him in any way. The pair paused there uncertainly, waiting for Rick to complete the gesture. Then instead, Elsa moved and grabbed Rick’s right hand with hers, and shook it.
“There!” She let go of his hand. “So what do you study?”
“Accounting,” he mumbled.
Elsa was then feeling very grateful for the fact that she had excellent hearing because otherwise, she would never have heard his whisper over the loud din. Everyone were having great conversations around her and getting to know one another. It was the first icebreaker session they had as a group and everyone was speaking all at once and the room resembled a noisy fish market in the morning.
“Are you a freshman?”
He nodded. Then he spoke up. “You?”
As he spoke, he stopped bowing his head and looked up at her. It was the first time after he entered the room when his eyes saw something beautiful other than the carpet. His eyes unintentionally widened and a deep red flushed across his face. He immediately looked back to the florals on the ground. He hoped she did not notice.
But she did.
Elsa felt a flutter of hope when he finally raised his head, then she finally got a clear view of his face and what she saw surprised her greatly. He had an adorable nose and a pair of black spectacles framed a pair of curious, albeit shy, eyes. But the main feature she noticed was the deep red of his cheeks. Was he blushing? Her smile faltered for a second. Then she picked up the conversation once more.
“So what school were you from?”
Rick now was very careful to orientate his head such that his hair completely obscured his face now. He could feel the heat in his cheeks and wished that it would go away.
“Anderson,” He answered.
“Anderson JC? Oh okay, I’m from poly(technic).”
Rick felt a twinge of disappointment. He had a poor impression of polytechnic students. He himself went to a Junior College and he always thought polytechnic students were an academically ill-equipped bunch. But this girl seemed genuinely nice, and there was something about her that made him be able to tell that she was smart. Possibly smarter than him, but that is not very likely.
Gingerly, his mouth moved and formed words that he never imagined he would ever utter that night, if not forever.
Elsa was caught by surprise when her excellent hearing picked up his words as well.
“Elsa, I don’t like poly students.”
She felt a disgust surge through her because she always believed in kindness.
Rick waited a long pause before he plucked the courage to say the next sentence that followed.
“But that was before I met you.”