This is the first part to a continuous story. More parts will be added over time, so keep updated for the latest chapter!
Everyone knows about that one weird kid on class. You know, the one that comes into class, sits at their desk, and doesn’t make a peep the rest of the time unless called on by the teacher. Even then, you barely hear them, or know anything more about that person than you previously did. I am not that kind of person, in case you were wondering. I have plenty of friends in all my classes, or text them in between classes too. In actuality, I’m somewhat popular, and anyone who has even a small friend group knows how much drama pops up. It all doesn’t matter in the end, and I try to avoid it, but I always get pulled in, by some short-lived romantic interest or a crazy ex or a friend that knows too much. Some days I just look for an escape from it all.
But anyway, back to the weird kid. There’s for sure one in my biology and spanish class, and her name is Echo, but behind the scenes, people call her Gecko, because of her odd curiosity with bugs. There’s plenty of rumors of people seeing her eat bugs or talking to them or something, but for a girl who came to the school only a year ago, she gets too much hate. Personally, I think you can like what you like and shouldn’t get scolded for it. But that’s just me.
She arrived last year from who knows where. She has a dark complexion and doesn’t really speak much but whispering to teachers, or herself, so everyone assumes she’s from some foreign country. She keeps her head down and dresses in heavy layers of drab clothes, as if the ninety-degree weather doesn’t phase her. Girls say she’s dirty-looking and guys say she isn’t hot, but I really have no opinion of her. I don’t know her personally and she doesn’t seem to have an interest in me, so why bother?
That’s all that I thought until I started getting to know her. It’s taken me on an absolutely crazy, fantastic, existential journey that I can never forget. And I thought I should share it, because I really made me change for the better.
It all started in the fall, when I realized I had her in my biology and spanish class. For the first few days, classes went by slow and as the minutes dragged on, I found the drama building between my friends and pulled back, resorting to either doodling in my notebook, playing on my phone, or watching Echo. When she would look up at me from her reading or sketching she would immediately look down again, and sometimes I thought I saw a smile or blush cross her face. But my thoughts would wander on about how I would look taking interest in the ‘weird kid’ in class, how that would hurt me socially. So all I could do was watch, as my interest and questions grew.
A few weeks later, we had to pick lab partners for the year, or at least semester. I had four friends in biology, and they ended up partnering up together, just my luck. There were plenty of girls who I could tell were eyeing me to see if I would graciously pick them, but my attention was on Echo as she scribbled somewhat furiously while dusting off her paper from the erasing she had done, which made me chuckle lightly. She noticed this and turned towards me, looking a bit flustered, before composing herself to become serious again. Partners were being picked fast by everyone in class, so I took a chance and approached Echo, as nobody else was.
“Hey, um, it’s Echo, right?” I stuttered, stepping over to the side of her desk. She didn’t respond right away, leaving me to nervously glance around the room, a group of girls giggling from their lab tables. My eyes trailed around till they fell on what she was drawing; a huge, black beetle. It was surprisingly realistic, which made me flinch, and I turned red from the louder giggles coming from the farther side of the room. Echo stopped drawing and was motionless, then mumbled in a low, monotone voice,”What did you want.”
“ W-well I saw you didn’t have a lab partner, so do you wanna be mine?” I asked, bending down a little to see her face, which was masked by her long, black hair and a thick scarf around her neck. She didn’t seem to happy with my approach, but before she could refuse my offer, the teacher, Mrs. Bellmont, stood up from her computer and called,” Time’s up! Who’s partners?” She walked briskly by each lab table and set of desks as students nodded to her when she asked who was partnering with who. Mrs. Bellmont got to us and pointed back and forth before dismissing us as partners and scribbled it into her logbook. With a sheepish glance back at Echo, I could tell from the way she frowned that I would not have been her lab partner if she was given the chance to say so.
The rest of the school day was relatively boring, with some basic lessons and simple but tedious homework. The whole situation with Echo had left me feeling flustered and somewhat nervous. Word had gotten around about me approaching her, and one of my friends had even taken a video and put it on Snapchat. I stayed up later than normal texting people about what had happened and how it went, and I learned a lot about this oddball classmate. Keep in mind, these were all rumors and speculation, but it all made me more scared to approach her again, and even more nervous of how I would have to work with her in class. What’s worse, the spanish teacher, Mr. Lombardo, had assigned her to sit right behind me in class, and made it clear her wouldn’t be changing the seating unless absolutely necessary. I even went to him after class to ask him if he could move my seat because I had issues seeing the board, to which he replied,”Get some glasses, kid.”
So, at the end of the day, I ended up getting tangled into a mess with the weird girl in class, by my own fault no less. But what I didn’t know was that the real mess was just beginning.
I woke up the next morning feeling tired, but had nearly forgotten about my unlucky predicament until I had turned my phone on, getting a blast of notifications about Echo from friends who had tried texting me late. With a disgruntled sigh, I rolled out of bed and stumbled around my room to get ready for school. In the mornings it was just me awake so early, but this morning my younger brother, Timothy, must have woken up from me being a little louder than normal, since I had dropped a few things in the kitchen and had left a light on upstairs. Walking into the hallway with messy brown hair and dragging his favorite toy, he muttered,”Why are you up?” while he rubbed his eyes. I grabbed my bag and threw it over my shoulder, quickly walking over to ruffle his hair and state back,”School, Tim. Be good for mom today.” He huffed and stumbled back towards his room, while I quietly opened the front door, locked it, and went to my car.
To give you some background on my home life, I have a younger brother and sister, and both my parents live at home. It’s not the happiest marriage, from what I get of both of them ranting to me about each other, but they pull through for us, which I get.
Nellie is my twelve year old sister, and she’s way too sassy and arrogant for her age. I wouldn’t call her a troublemaker, but she doesn’t always hang with the right crowd, and my parents have been to the school numerous times for her misbehaving. She has a little bit of an identity issue, going from wearing makeup and a dress way too short to a tomboy punching other boys on the playground.
Timothy is the most well mannered of us three, even though he’s the youngest at six years old. My parents pay him the most attention for sure, but I’d rather not have all their attention anyway. Tim’s the kind of little kid that gets on covers of magazines and people in restaurants want to oogle over like some show dog. But I really don’t hate him. He rarely bothers me and in general, I enjoy the time with him.
My family is good in general, no big issues other than fighting over chores or when our parents argue. Normal stuff I guess.
I got to school just as the bell was ringing, so I made a mad dash for my locker and walked fast to my first period, slipping in just as the bell rang. A good friend of mine, who was sitting next to me, started interrogating me about Echo. I rolled my eyes and brushed him off, telling him it was too early in the morning. Now my mind had started wandering about her again, thanks to him. At least the school work helped take my mind off her, and even in my biology class I didn’t even look at her while we took notes. In a sense, I was proud of myself. I wasn’t gonna let some weirdo clog up my thoughts, so I texted my friends and chatted between classes. However, lunch came to be an issue.
As I walked through the cafeteria with my tray, I glanced around for my friend group, and casually walked to where we had been sitting for the past week or so. However, when I got there, some other group of people were sitting there, so I assumed our unspoken spot had been taken, and based on these new kid’s appearances, I wasn’t gonna argue. So that left me flustered and nervous, since I didn’t want to look like some loser who doesn’t have friends to sit with or something. I had to find someone. The only someone I spotted was Echo, hunched over a metal lunchbox looking depressed as ever. Just my luck. All I could do was take a deep breath, tell myself I would text them about it later, and marched over to sit next to her.
There was nobody sitting within at least a two seat radius of her, so I just sat across from her as to not make her more uncomfortable than I already had. Even I was uncomfortable with the situation actually. Echo’s long, slick hair draped over her face as it normally did, and she didn’t even look up at me when I sat down, setting my tray down and watching her. The friends who had texted me the night before had warned me that she was unpredictable, so I stayed on my guard while digging into my chili dog. I started to relax more as I ate, as wet and cold as the food was, and I flipped through my social media to pass the time. While doing so, I opened a picture on Snapchat from a friend, which startled me; they were apparently sitting some tables away and had taken a picture of me sitting across from Echo, with the caption,’???’. I couldn’t help but turn red and start collecting my trash, hoping I could go find the friend and give them a stern smack on the back of their head. But just as I was standing up, Echo shifted and rolled an apple over to me, watching it roll. I caught it as my face looked at her questioningly, then I asked,”For me?”. She nodded, keeping her straight face but shifting uneasily. A cold shiver made me nervous, but the reality of the situation brought me back. She was just giving me an apple. I shared food with friends all the time and they shared with me. Maybe she wasn’t hungry or was just showing some thanks for having someone like me sit by her for once. My thoughts of her intentions changed immediately as I turned the apple in my hand and realized the apple was grotesquely rotten on one side and had a wiggly worm festering around in it. In shock, I threw the apple to the ground and gasped, making a few people turn towards us from the tables nearest us. I shivered again and grunted, angry at Echo. But as I picked up the apple from the ground, I could hear a quiet giggling, and looked up to notice it was Echo, with a shy grin on her face, turning a little red. This gave me mixed emotions, as I stood up and went to throw the apple in the trash. Only a few steps from my original position, I felt something cold against my wrist. Turning, I realized it was Echo, fiercely clenching my wrist with her other hand out. There was a short pause between us, until I put together that she wanted the apple back. “Oh, sorry,” I stuttered as she snatched the apple back and carefully placed it in her lunchbox, sitting back down and turning back into a stoic girl. Thank God the bell rang only a few seconds after, and as everyone stirred and started shouting and sauntering to class, I stood paralyzed with an amalgamation of emotion, and watched Echo walk to her next class. The entire situation concluded it for me; Echo was weird.
The rest of the day was average, with a quiz and basic notes. My mind kept going over and over that wriggling worm and the apple, and Echo. What was wrong with her? Maybe she had some issues, maybe some of those rumors were true.
“Hey, dude! What’s got you spaced out man?” Jeffrey whispered, nudging my arm.
“Just some girl man,” I mumbled back, trying to focus back on my work.
“Hey, hey, now this hasn’t happened in a while. My old buddy’s got the hots for a girl? Who is it, fess up!” he spoke excitedly, as the teacher sent a harsh hush directed at him.
“Whatever dude, just-”
“Is it Gecko?” he cackled,”oh man, what are you doing? Don’t lose your self esteem man, you gotta have standards man..”
This made me a little upset, the insult directed at her. But remembering the apple situation at lunch, I was reminded of how weird the weird girl was. I just nodded back to him and got back to work, as he tsked me and laughed to himself. The rest of class I stayed on task till the bell rang and I got to my car and drove home, only to encounter Echo once again.
As I pulled out of the parking lot and started down a side road, I saw Echo walking along the sidewalk, with her hands buried in her pockets and bundled up like it was below zero. Enough had happened today to the point that all I could do was glance at her while I drove by and shrug. However, when I looked at her, she looked back at me. Her eyes seemed to pierce me, in such a way that left me turning my thoughts over her for a long while after.
“How was school sweetie?” asked my mom, perky and setting a pan of lasagna on the dinner table. I pulled out a chair and sat down heavily, feeling drained from school and the homework I had from it. “Just fine mom, just a long day..” I trailed off, as my siblings barreled down the stairs screaming at each other. Dad walked in the front door just as they ran to their seats, mom looking disapprovingly towards them both. She looked over at dad and smiled, then back towards me,”So nothing interesting going on?”
“Nope, nothing.” I mumbled, scooping myself a helping of dinner and helping my sister scoop out a piece too. My dad stomped over to me and gave me a firm pat on the back and a hearty laugh before going over to mom and giving her a peck on the cheek. “Yucky,” squeaked Nellie, and Tim giggled and reached for mom. My heavy sigh must have indicated to my parents that something was in face wrong, so my dad pulled out his usual chair and sat across from me with a curious expression. “Well, my day was tiring too son, but I’m sure high school is more interesting than my job, eh?” he chuckled , taking a bite of lasagna. Nellie seemed to be antsy in her chair, darting her eyes back and forth from me to dad. Mom was distracted with Tim, who had dropped his fork on the floor. There was relative silence for a minute or two while we all ate, till Nellie blurted out something with her mouth full, making it unintelligible. “Swallow first,” I insisted, as she did and glared at me angrily until her expression changed to a smirk. “ I’ve heard he’s been hanging out with a girl lately,” she snickered, glancing at both my parents to insight a reaction. My mom was still busy with Tim but looked up at me and smiled, as did my dad. “That’s nothing new, is it?” my mom spoke, as dad nodded and shrugged,”your brother has had a few girls over before. He’s allowed to have friends, Nellie.”
“But mom!” shouted Nellie, sitting up on her knees,”She’s a weirdo! He only makes friends with pretty girls!”
Dad hushed Nellie and motioned for her to sit properly, grumbling,”Nell, that’s not a very nice thing to say. And so what? It means my boy has good taste.” He leaned in a little and winked at me, but I was still confused who she was talking about. Then it hit me. Echo. I couldn’t help but shift in my seat slightly, and my mom’s keen eye caught my movement and smiled sweetly from by the sink. “Well, invite her over sometime! I’m sure she’s nice,” she nodded at me.
“Oh mommy, you don’t understand…” Nellie started, letting her arrogance show,”everyone knows that nobody with any smarts would wanna hang out with a weirdo!”
“All the more reason to invite her,” chimed my dad, looking at me with an eager grin,”Son, is it true she’s considered so poorly by your friends? Why don’t you tell us about her.”
Now everyone was quiet and watching me. Nellie looking smug and my parents looking somewhat excited, and even little Tim seemed curious why everyone cared so much. I explained Echo’s reputation and weird, quirky habits, the nickname everyone gave her, and even what had happened at lunch that day, and they listened and never interrupted the whole time. When I finished, Nellie had already gotten up and was cleaning her dish, and my mom was cleaning up Tim and the table, and my dad was still sitting across from me. All I could do was sit silently and finish the last bite on my plate, and watch my dad ponder over what I had said. He was the kind of man that would think for a while before speaking on most occasions, so when he did speak, it was well-thought out and meaningful. He stood up from the table and I followed suit, and he helped mom out by picking up the rest of the items on the table. I grabbed my phone from the couch and checked my messages while everyone cleaned up. Someone slapped my arm really hard and pulled me into a tight squeeze, which made me jump. I looked up from my phone to see my dad chuckle and lean down to talk to me. “Listen son, your mom was a weird one too, and I know that where you are now, those kinds of things matter. One thing about my work and your school is that in the real world, popularity means nothing if you’ve got a good, high-paying job and a great family. I won’t tell you what to do or what not to do, because I know you’re smart enough. Just remember that a little kindness can go a long way, especially for lost souls like her. Just think about it,” he spoke didactically. With another quick squeeze and a ruffle of my hair, he marched up the stairs towards Tim’s room.
The whole day had been a big confusing mess, all about this one girl who has for the past year of my life been a nobody. I was tired of her now, but I still kept thinking of what my dad had said. Maybe she was the way she was because she had never been shown any form of kindness or even friendship. It made me feel bad for her. Here I was, calling her a creep like everyone else, when I had a great family, so many friends, and she had, well, nobody. I’m not the good samaritan type or a saint by any means, but the least I could do was not be a bully to her. Echo was just quirky like anyone else, and maybe, just maybe, if I looked past her weird behavior, we could be friends. And how would I look, being friends with her? Maybe a little weird at first, sure. But then it would turn out that she’s this crazy cool person, and she would suddenly become funny and cute and popular, and who could say they were her friend first, and rub it in all their faces? Me, of course.
So I might be a little delusional. But hey, a guy can dream. Because if I put in all this effort to befriend her and not shame her for being weird, and it turns out she’s a psycho and kills me or something, it will all be for nothing.