Hannah was a rather unique and shy young girl. Her whole life she felt that she was different from anyone else she had ever known. She had a gift, which she considered to be a blessing and a curse; she could read people just by reading their facial expressions. She could see right through the person who’s standing before her, and understand what is beyond what is being said. Because of those unique abilities, Hannah was labeled by her peers as a weird obnoxious know-it-all. She therefore had no friends.
But although she lived her life in solitude, she was eternally grateful for her gift, because it was hers and hers alone and no one can ever take it from her. Until the day Adam appeared in her life. Adam was her own personal challenge, a puzzle she was unable to solve. He was the new transfer student who instantly became the most popular boy in school. He was charming, handsome, confident and an incredible athlete. But there was something about him that she couldn’t figure out. He was the only person she had ever met that she couldn’t see right through immediately and who had never treated her like she was weird or different.
She accepted the challenge and thought “there must be something I’m overlooking. A secret he’s hiding or something behind this huge façade. He seems so genuine and yet so unreal.” Hannah rattled her brain as she mixed the paint on her palette. Little did she know that about a week later the answer to her questions would come in the unlikeliest package.
“Group projects are worth 30% of your grades, so I want you to work hard on them together. They’re due in the end of the year” said their biology teacher one day. “I will divide you into pairs and whoever your partner turns out to be, that will be the person you’ll be working with. NO SWITCHING!”
As she read out the names, Hannah waited anxiously for her to reveal the identity of her partner, all the while hoping she would not be stuck with someone she could not tolerate. “Hannah and Adam” she finally said. Upon hearing Adam’s name Hannah’s face lit up. A couple of girls shot her nasty looks when they heard the teacher’s announcement, but Adam simply smiled.
“I’m glad I’m partnered with you” declared Adam as they walked out of the classroom. “I’m clueless about biology and you seem to know all the ropes.”
Hannah simply nodded thinking “I think I’m going to enjoy this assignment.”
As the weeks went by Hannah and Adam began spending every waking minute together. Either working on the practical part of their project in the lab or researching in the library or simply hanging out. Hannah enjoyed Adam’s company. He made her laugh and never ridiculed her as many of her peers often did, but she couldn’t help but feel that there’s something he keeping from her – a part of him that he kept hidden.
“Can we work on the presentation at my house today?” asked Adam one day. “My grandmother is really sick and I can’t leave her alone in the house; there’s no one else to take care of her.”
“Sure, no problem,” replied Hannah.
“Good Afternoon, Grandma,” yelled Adam from across the hall, as they walked through the door, throwing his bag on the floor. He then pointed the living room out to Hannah and disappeared into the corridor. Hannah dropped her bag on the couch and began familiarizing herself with the room. She paced quietly until she came across a photograph, placed on the highest shelf. It was of Adam. But he wasn’t the handsome and confident seventeen year-old she knew him to be, he was rather a chubby awkward looking pre-teen with braces.
“Awww, he looked adorable” she thought.
“Would you like any juice, Hannah?” shouted Adam from across the house, his voice sounding closer with every word. Upon hearing his voice Hannah placed herself next to her bag and started flipping through a magazine she found on the coffee table.
“Would you like some juice?” repeated Adam, this time standing at the doorway.
“Yes, please,” answered Hannah politely.
Adam returned with the juice and his laptop. They worked quietly on their presentation as not to disturb his resting grandmother. Hannah couldn’t help but glance at the photo whenever Adam looked away. He however noticed her eyes move up to the photograph on the shelf, at one time, and immediately stood up. He pretended to be looking for a book on the shelf and hid the frame behind a pile of books. Hannah realized at that point that he had noticed her eyes occasionally moving towards his old photograph.
For the next couple of weeks Adam avoided Hannah, and felt an air of awkwardness whenever he was around her. Then one day on his way out of class Hannah stopped him in the hallway.
“Why are you avoiding me?” she asked.
“I’m not avoiding you, I was just busy” replied Adam.
“Busy with what?” continued Hannah
“I was hanging out with my friends. I don’t expect you to know anything about that” he answered sarcastically with a stern look on his face.
Hannah gave him a disappointed look and immediately turned around and walked away. For the rest of the day Adam felt guilty about what he had told Hannah. ‘I shouldn’t have snapped at her like that,” he thought. When the final bell rang Adam knew that he needed to apologize to Hannah and he knew exactly where to find her.
In the art room Hannah stood behind her massive canvas and allowed the paintbrush to express all the emotions she could never put into words.
“Very deep and dark,” she heard Adam’s voice say from behind her.
“It’s part contemporary, part surrealist,” she said, her eyes glued to the canvas.
“It’s very expressive,”
Adam paced around the room for a while fidgeting with whatever supplies were laying around. Hannah pretending he wasn’t even there focused on her work.
“I was twelve,” he finally said after what seemed like a life-time of awkward silence. Hannah lifted her head from behind the canvas and look at him. Adam looked away trying hard to avoid looking into her eyes. “This picture was taken at my old school,” he paused momentarily.
“About a year after that my dad moved us. His company was relocated and he couldn’t leave us behind,” he continued.
“After we traveled I started exercising and changing myself so I would never have to return to the years of being ridiculed, mocked and humiliated. When we moved back I told my parents I wanted to spend senior year at a different school; and here I am,” said Adam. Hannah was momentarily stunned and didn’t know how to react or respond. Before she could Adam continued “When I saw you looking at that old photograph I was embarrassed and afraid of how you might react. I was also afraid of other people knowing.” And with that Adam waited for Hannah’s response.
‘That’s the missing piece of the puzzle,’ thought Hannah her eyes still on Adam. “You shouldn’t allow other people’s perceptions of you define who you are or you’ll end up losing yourself, and that would be a real shame,” said Hannah finally. “So a piece of advice Adam, don’t lose yourself for anyone or anything, nothing’s worth it.”
Adam shifted his focus to the painting for a second and said “You are an exceptional and beautiful artist Hannah.” He then looked back into her eyes and smiled. Hannah, feeling her face turn into the exact shade of deep red she was using in her painting, smiled back at him. Adam took a step towards her, leaned forward slightly and gently pressed his lips against hers.