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Cato (Anastasia’s perception) - A Story

The day started like any other - the rising of the sun, the chirping of the morning birds, the coolness of the breeze. And as I woke up, I followed my daily routine to get ready for school. While standing beside a bus stop, I could feel Autumn’s weight seeping into my soul. The weight was reassuring, not oppressive, as if I had a warm coat on my shoulders. I waited for my bus.


The bus halted suddenly in front of me. Through the translucent windows, I could make out my own ebony black hair and icy blue eyes. I quickly got on the bus, paid the fee and went searching for my good friend Cato. It’s only been a couple of weeks that I’ve been at this school and since the first week, we’ve been friends. Her warm golden-brown eyes made contact with mine and her face lit up instantly.
“Hello Ana,” she greeted me.


“Hey Cato. Oh, I actually have news today,” I started to tell her as I sat down in the seat next to her, “Sindri commented on my outfit yesterday. It just happened at lunch, when you were off to practice. I was walking down to the library when I saw him alone in the hall. You remember that hard question in math about the sailor problem, right? I was still confused about it so I went up to him and asked him about that question. Thankfully, he helped me out. Before I could walk away, he commented on how the indigo blouse brought out my blue eyes.”


She grinned and then got a light punch on her shoulder from me.


“Stop it,” I retorted playfully.
“You know, it might be a sign.” she commented.
“Or it might not be. People do complement what other people are wearing from time to
time.”
“Some people do that because they actually mean it. Others do it as a subtle sign. It would
be a true gift if you could figure out which one it is.”


I chuckled at her. But within my laughter came a question that I had never dared to think
about. I asked her bluntly.


“Hey, who are you into? Like I’ve been telling you all about Sindri but you’ve never really
disclosed your crush. You have had crushes, right?”


“I have, Anastasia,” she replied. “My first one was a guy named Adolphus, in grade 7. He
was sweet and charismatic. That year was his first year at the school I was going to and he just came to me one day. He had recognized the book that I was reading and he came up to me, sat down next to me and started a conversation. From that point on, we were friends. I don’t even really remember when it became more than that, but halfway through the school year, I realized that I was crushing hard on him. I never said anything to him, and I kind of regret that.”


“Is that that guy that goes to Silesia High School that you talk about sometimes?” A smile appeared on her face.

“Yes, yes it is. We’re still good friends. You’re going to meet him sooner than later.”

“So you still have a crush on...” I started, hoping that it would get me somewhere.

“No, that disappeared,” Cato quickly crushed my assumption on her love life.


I tried to hide my disappointment, but it was still within me. She must have caught on to my
disappointment.


“You really want to know who my crush is, don’t you? How about we make a deal. You have
the whole school day to observe me and guess who I’m into. At the end of the day I’ll tell you what you want to know. Deal?”
I had no doubt in my mind. So I agreed.
“Deal.”
“So,” I continued on, “how does this work? Do I get to ask questions or do you give me
clues?”


She looked thoughtfully at me, wondering what conditions she could impose on me without
being too restrictive.


“I don’t know. But I will refuse to answer any questions that are too obvious. Look, Ana, I
want you to observe, to figure this out by yourself. Maybe then, you’ll realize why I’ve never dared to say anything.”
“Okay,” I accepted, intrigued by why Cato kept this a secret.


There was a pause, but a question came into my head.


“Wait, I don’t know everyone you know. Like maybe you know someone outside the school
and you’re into that person, but I’ve never met him. How the hell am I supposed to guess then?” I inquired.
“Huh. I can tell you right now that it is someone in the school. Wait,” there was a pause, in which Cato was thinking, but then she continued, “I can promise you that today you’ll meet the person. Is that fine with you?”
“Yeah, that would be perfect.” I responded.


We moved on to another topic than Cato’s crush. As we got off the bus and walked the path that led to our school, my mind was still occupied by the mystery. There were times when I felt that I still didn’t really know Cato, regardless of how close we’ve become these past few weeks. She just had this tendency to stay quiet for certain things.


Autumn coolness stopped as we crossed the main doors of the school, which led to a foyer. The space was relatively big, but it was slowly getting crowded by students, young and old alike. We moved to find our lockers, which were unfortunately separated. Seeing this the second week that we were walking together, we made a deal that if we both had to go to our lockers, we would meet up at the library afterwards, if we had time. Giving a small goodbye to my friend, fully knowing that I would see her again before class started, I started to go up the stairs. I had chosen my locker on the third floor, where my first class was located.


Going up the stairs was uneventful as I moved around people who were either going up, going down or sitting on the stairs. On the third floor hallway, or more commonly known as the social sciences and english hallway, I saw Owen. He’s a friend looked as one of the whitest grade 11 students to currently roam these halls. His hazel eyes matched the colour of his hair and he had a sturdy, solid built. He had the type of body that wasn’t necessarily buff but could do serious damage if he was in a fight. Thankfully, his personality led him to be less inclined to be in fights and more inclined to a peaceful agreement. He was talking to someone else, and it was until I approached that I recognized that it was Cassius, the Italian international student that I somehow brought into the group. Even though Cassius looked like a true bred Italian, the similarities with Owen and Cassius were uncanny. They both shared the same eyes, but Cassius hair was a darker colour than Owen’s.

 

“... basically, Canada came back into the war partly because we fought in the first World War,” Owen finished.

 

I crept up behind Owen, putting my finger lightly on my lips to give a sign to Cassius not to call me out, and tapped lightly on Owen. I could feel the surprise as he jumped, startled by my touch.


“Goddamnit! Oh, it’s you Anastasia. Why the hell did you do that?” Cassius was laughing in the background and I smiled to Owen. “Hey Owen, how are you?”


“Not great. Why the hell would you do that to me?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“Either way, it was really entertaining for me and Cassius, right?”


Cassius was still laughing, but managed to do a weird nod to answer my question. “Either way, I’m going to my locker and then down to the library. Want to follow me?” I asked. It was Cassius who answered, not Owen.


“Sure. Why not?”
“I actually have to find someone who asked for my help. So I’ll see you guys later,” Owen
responded.


We said our goodbyes and I continued to my locker with Cassius. We talked about trivial
stuff, going on about the weather and about the possibility of a dance at school. As soon as I put my stuff into my locker, we went down to the library.


“But seriously,” I said, interrupting our conversation on whether spring or fall was better, “how is Canada? You know, compared to Italy?”


“It’s... it’s better than what I thought it was the moment I arrived here. My town in Italy, it’s small, rural and familiar. Ottawa is huge, compared to it, and it’s more developed with packed houses in neighbourhoods. It’s overwhelming and confusing the first few times,” he paused for a second, and then continued on, “Oh, and then the difference of culture, that was harder than getting used to the feel of the city. In my town, I know the majority of the people that I need to know and I know my place and my future. Here, I still barely know half of the school, and almost no one in the city and it seems like my future could be still written and changed. Sometimes, it disorient- ing, but I’m getting used to it and I’m seeing that there is still beauty here, just a different type.”


“Are you going back to Italy, to your town, after high school?” I asked, not knowing the future of my friend.


“Probably. I might go to university here or some place else, but it won’t be long before I will be called back to my town.”


He then changed the subject to the homework from Ms Kalorkoti. It was soon that we ran into the sign of the library and that we were looking at the heavy doors that would lead us in. Pushing the heavy wooden doors open, I started to search for Cato. When we went through the doors, I immediately saw her sitting at a table with Melissianda, Hippolyte, Scarlet and Bastion. They were all friends of ours, and even though both Cassius and I joined in at the beginning of the school year, they quickly became the people that we trusted most in this school. Well, them and the rest of the group, which includes Owen, Altansarnai and Violet. We approached to sit at the table and merged into the conversation.


“What’s the meaning of life? What kind of question is that?” Scarlet asked towards Bastion.


“You wanted something other than me talking about band, so let’s talk about the meaning of life.”


“Alright, does anyone have any ideas then?”

 

“Well, isn’t it to be happy?” Cassius started off.


“But you can’t just go and say that the whole purpose of life is to be happy. What if that
happiness comes at the cost of someone else’s happiness?” Cato retorted.


“Well, that’s why you have God’s word. If you follow that, you’ll be happy and you won’t
hurt anyone,” Hippolyte meekly suggested.


That led to an explosion of arguments as everyone started to talk over each other, mostly
disagreeing how religion was implicated within this conversation. Cato, however, was trying to get close to Hippolyte to listen and consider what he was saying. I was confused as to why she would do that, she barely talked about religion and tried to keep out of conversations that contained religious tones.


After a while, everyone calmed down, exhausted from all of the arguing.


“The meaning of life is to meet people,” Melissianda interrupted, breaking the silence while she was doing her homework.


“Well you could argue that it’s for meeting the person, the one you’ll marry, have kids and grow old,” Scarlet responded towards Melissianda’s comment.


“Well yeah, but I think that there’s more than that,” I added in.


“Maybe, but love is the greatest thing and romantic love is the best of all,” Scarlet declared. “Well, it’s easy for you to say, you already have someone. For the grand majority of us, we’re still looking at cute people, trying to see if it would go anywhere,” Cato added in.


“Well, maybe you should try asking one of them out.” Scarlet responded back.


“Okay, don’t start biting each others heads off. But let’s try to tackle this logically. Who’s the
cutest guy for you, Cato? From everyone sitting here,” asked Bastion.


“You’re trying to trap me, aren’t you? There are three guys here: you, Cassius and Hippolyte.


I cannot choose Hippolyte, without Scarlet killing me, which is understandable” she said, turning to look at Scarlet. Then she went back to looking at Bastion, “So it’s between you and Cassius. However, since you asked the question, I’m not going to go for you. So, it ends up being Cassius.”

 

Cassius turned several different shades for the unwanted attention he got from Cato. Bastion however, not noticing or caring, continued on with his questions for Cato.


“Who’s the cutest girl, here? Or the best looking?”


That prompted a thoughtful look from Cato.


“Melissianda. For some reason, I have loved her beauty since I first saw her.”

 

Melissianda was at the end of the table, working on a Biology worksheet. She was naturally not listening intently to the conversation. That is, until Cato answered Bastion’s question with her name. Her pencil went across the paper from the sheer surprise of hearing her name, but she kept her eyes glued to the paper. Regardless, I could feel a whole host of feelings coming from her and I could see that her reaction closely mimicked Cassius’s.


Bastion did not react to Melissianda’s reaction as well. Instead, he kept his eyes on Cato, as if she was going to act a certain way. Then Cato asked him the same questions.


“If I was gay, I would go for Owen. I just have a weird thing for Europeans,” he answered the first question.


“Are you gay?” interrupted Hippolyte from Bastion telling the group the next answer.


“I don’t know. I’ve never had a crush on a guy, but I don’t know how I would respond if a guy asked me out,” Bastion ended, having a touch of curiosity in his voice at the end of his response, “either way, for the cutest girl, I find you, Cato, quite cute. Just because you’re the one who asked the question will not make me choose someone else.”


“Are you sure?” was Cato’s question to Bastion. It was full of implication, as if it was an inside joke for them. There was the quickest change in Bastion’s expression, but it went back to nor- mal. He retorted back.


“Yes, Cato. Yes.”


The bell rang in the distance, being softened by the background noise of people talking in the library. But it rang, and I knew its significance.


“Hey, the bell rang. Class will start soon, we better go.” I warned my friends.


Those who had, like me, heard the bell, had already started to pack up to go to their first period class. Those who had not heard it quickly realized from my warning that they had to start moving, lest they would be late to their classes. Bastion, who was sitting farthest of me at the other side of the table, came up to me.


“Hey Anastasia, what do you have first period?” he asked me.


“Uh, I have... It’s a day one, right?,” I asked. He nodded back, “Okay, then I have English.” “That means I have math, since we have history afterwards. Okay, thanks.”


“See you later.” I called out as he started to leave.


When Bastion left the library, Cato had already left. Hippolyte and Scarlet had gone off to
the side, having one of their private talks before leaving to different classes. They were cute even though it was only a few months that they had gotten together. A small kiss prompted me to look the other way, to look at Melissianda. I waited until she was ready to go before leaving the library.
We left the library and went to the nearest staircase to get to the third floor. We slipped into a conversation about the assignment we were currently doing, a monologue for a character in Mac- beth. I had chosen to one on Lady Macbeth, while Melissianda went with Banquou.


Walking down the hallway, I interrupted the conversation with hellos to acquaintances that I saw walking around, but always returned to the conversation with Melissianda. Unlike me, she was quieter and shyer with people who weren’t her friends, but respected and waited for me everytime I would say hello.


We entered the class before the bell rang. Getting to our seats, we waited for the class to start. Mr Rhodes, our English teacher, wasn’t at his desk yet, despite the bell ringing to signify the start of class. People were still around the class, talking to their friends and taking advantage that Mr Rhodes wasn’t there yet. At last, he came.


“Today,” Mr Rhodes started the moment he crossed the threshold, “ you are going to be working on your monologues for tomorrow. So find a partner and practice with them for this period.”


The class became slightly chaotic with people trying to find partners. I knew that Melissian- da would be with me, since we had an unspoken agreement that we would be partners. Mr Rhodes started to organize stuff at his desk, but then stopped.


“Hey, would you guys prefer to go outside to practice your monologues? It’s a nice day and you’ll get more privacy.Those who want to go outside, raise your hands.”


The grand majority of people had their hands raised up. I was among them, since it would be hard to practice within a loud class.


“Okay, bring all your things to the school lawn. You’re only allowed to be there, in my line of sight.”
By pairs and groups, the whole English class left the room and went outside. In crossing the school, I saw random people walking around and heard teachers teaching subjects from their doors not being fully closed. When we got to the doorway separating the inside of the school with the exterior world, I braced for the coolness of the outside world. Luckily, the air had warmed up from the sunshine and it was more pleasant than this morning.


“Where do you want to go?” demanded Melissianda.


I looked around, trying to find a good place to recite our speeches.


“How about there?” I pointed to the old maple tree on the property.


Melissianda nodded and we made our way there, keeping Mr Rhodes in our peripheral view.


The rest of the class had dispersed throughout the lawn as well.


“So do you want to start?” Melissianda asked me.


“Sure.” I answered.


Melissianda sat down at the trunk of the tree while I gave myself some space. I took out the
page that had my monologue and standing, desperately hoping I didn’t look too foolish, I started to recite it from memory.


“Ha! The king is dead and Malcolm and Donalbain have fled. My husband will be crowned king, all because of me...”


When I finished my monologue, a laughter of relief left my lips. It was the first time that I had completely recited the monologue from my memory, adding actions that made it seem that I was actually Lady Macbeth. Melissianda enthusiastically clapped for me.


“Oh my God, that was incredible. You’re ready for tomorrow.”


I did an exaggerated bow and then bid Melissianda to stand up. She reluctantly did, getting her paper ready. Then she started


“Sorrow, sorrow upon the rightless king. Those men may have slit my throat, but my son survived and will be king of all...”

 

Her performance was great, but there were times where she forgot her lines and had to refer to her paper. At the end, I clapped for her.


“Stop, Ana. I fucked that up. That was painful to do and probably painful to see.”


“Well, you’re close, you only have to practice more,” then I suggested, “Why don’t you do it one more time?”


“Really?”


“Yeah,” I answered back.


With hesitance, Melissianda did her monologue again. It was better this time, which I told
her afterwards. By then we got lazy and we both sat down by the tree trunk. We talked about random stuff, catching up on each others lives.


“Melissianda, I was wondering about something. When Cato said your name, you almost ruined your Biology homework. What was that?”


She froze.


“That... That was nothing.” she managed to stutter out.


“Really?”


She tried her hardest not to show any weakness, but her face betrayed the tumultuous con-
flict within. I started to think about why such a question would be so hard to answer, and my mind landed on a surprising, but plausible answer.


“Wait, do you...”

 

“Yes, yes I do have a crush on Cato and it’s killing me.”

 

Melissianda cut me off and practically yelled at me, as if she couldn’t say the words unless
they came forcefully out of her.


“I-I have a crush on someone who has never looked at me in the same way, a crush on
someone who is a girl,” she told me as she regained her composure, her voice more controlled the second time.


“But, what’s the matter with falling in love with a girl?”


I wonder if she could hear my bewilderment in my voice. I’ve had friends openly express their likings for other people of the same gender. Even if I had never had the desire to be in a relationship with a girl, it seems natural for that to be the realities of other people.


“What’s the matter?” she started to chuckle which ended up transforming into a mad laughter. “You’re lucky. You won’t ever get the doubt of whether you like a person or not, nor how you’ll look to the world. For you, loving a guy is easy. For me, loving a girl feels like a constant dissonance that I can rarely escape.”


“But you’re gay.”


“Yes, and that’s the greatest tragedy of them all. I’m gay, and I could find love, but for most of the process, I would be miserable,” she explained to me.


“It’s not something that I really want people to know. I don’t even understand it that much. But I’ve never liked guys. The first time that I liked a girl, I wasn’t even sure what it was. She just made my hands sweaty by saying hi to me and I got quiet every time she came in close proximity to me. It was later that I learned that it was a crush. But then I started to wish that the person was a guy, because I loved her personality, but I didn’t know how I felt with her being a girl. Since then, that same conflict has followed me around.”


“I’m so sorry, I didn’t know.”

 

She took a big breath, exhaling. There was some shift, as if her words were liberating. “No, its alright. Sometimes I feel like I will never love someone else and if someone came up to tell me that they have a crush on me, I would waste the opportunity because of all of this. But then I see Cato, and I know deep within me that my heart is devoted to her. I know she will never love me, I can feel it in my bones. But I’m scared that she’ll be the last girl that I’ll love, and the rest of my years I’ll be unhappy and alone.”
I was going to say something but Mr Rhodes started to call us back to the school. I could only say something quick as we walked up to him.


“I’m sorry Melissianda, you don’t deserve that.”


“It’s alright. Just don’t say anything.”

 

“Alright class,” Mr Rhodes announced once most of the class was around him, “The bell is
about to ring. Have a good day and please practice your monologues.”

 

With that he sent us off to our next class. When Melissianda and I crossed into the school,
the bell rang. We had 5 minutes to go to our next class. “Goodbye Ana.”

 

“Goodbye Melissianda.”

 

With that, we split up to go to our next class. Melissianda went towards the English and Social Sciences hall, while I headed off to the math wing. Halfway to my class, I met up with Cato and Bastion, who were going in the same direction.


“Hey, are you ready for the math test?” Cato asked me.


I froze. I had forgotten all about the math test that was scheduled for today.


“You alright?” asked Cato. Her and Bastion had walked a couple of steps before realizing
that I wasn’t there.


“It’s the stuff about transformations, right?” I inquired.


“Yeah,” Bastion replied this time.


“Okay. Help me please...”

 


And for the rest of the way and into the math classroom, Cato and Bastion were helping
me out with a quick studying session. Violet, one of my close friends, had already chosen one of
the spaced out desks, ready to write the test, unlike me. I spotted Sindri at the class, ready to write. My heart picked up its pace, but I calmed myself down with deep breathing. I did not need that to distract me before this test. As Cato, Bastion and I entered into the classroom, Ms Chatelaine, walked in as well.
“Okay everyone, please get to an empty desk. I don’t want to see anything on your desk other than a pen or a pencil, an eraser and a calculator. Once everyone is ready, I’ll hand out the test.”


I could feel my hope slipping away from me as my mind went vacant, even though Cato and Bastion had helped me. I should have prepared more.


“Good luck,” Cato whispered softly to me.

 

“Good luck to you too,” I whispered back and went towards a desk. I nodded to Violet, greeting her. She nodded back.


Out of my pencil case I got a pencil, eraser and a calculator. I waited for Ms Chatelaine to pass out the tests, my heart sinking as each second passed. Finally observing that the class was rela- tively ready, Ms Chatelaine started to pass out tests.


Once I got mine, I started to look through the pages. It looked better than what I thought it would be, but I was already sure that I didn’t even know how to start solving some of the questions. I flipped back to the first one.


If y=3(x-4)^2+5 and x is 8, solve for y...


I made my way through the test. Once I handed it in, I saw that there were only 5 more minutes of class left. I went back to my seat and waited, unable to go to anyone or say anything to anyone because people were still writing their tests. I looked around to see that all of my friends had already handed in their tests before me. Once Violet saw that I was looking around, she did a tiny wave to me, which I then reflected. I then went back to looking in front, to the board.


The bell rang loudly to proclaim that second period was over and that lunch had started. The whole math class, to the exception of a few, stood up like a single entity. Then everyone went to do their own things, breaking the illusion. Sindri was the first to leave and my heart sank a little when his red backpack left my field of view. I continued to pack up. After packing my things up, I went towards Violet, Cato and Bastion.


“Hey, how was that?” Cato inquired, probably hoping that the help she gave me paid off somehow.


“Not too bad, but not good. There were like two questions that I didn’t know what to do, so I made up some calculations and hoped that she wouldn’t mark me so low.”


“You weren’t prepared for this?” Violet asked me.


I shook my head.


“It just completely went over my head. Either way it doesn’t matter anymore. Let’s go eat.” We left the classroom to go to the cafeteria. We started off as a group, but Cato and Bastion got ahead, talking about the answers for some of the questions on the test. Violet and I walked slower, talking about other things. After a considerable distance was left between us and them, I started to observe Cato and Bastion. They seemed to be comfortable with each other, talking, laughing and joking with each other. At some point, Bastion, who’s taller, put his arm on Cato’s shoulder, uniting two into one. I turned towards Violet.


“Are they a thing?” I asked, pointing to both Bastion and Cato.


“Oh no. That is completely platonic. Bastion still is stuck on...”


Violet stopped when her eyes came back to me. My interest perked instantly.


“Who is Bastion still stuck on, if not Cato? You know, don’t you?”


“Nope. It’s not important at all. Just forget about it.”


“Look,” I turned towards Violet, “It’s important for me to know whether Bastion has something with Cato or not. I promise you, I won’t tell anyone about anything. Not even Bastion or Cato.” She looked around, contemplating what she should tell me.

“You promise, right?” she asked one more time. I nodded. “Alright. Bastion cannot have a crush on Cato, because he has a crush on you. And Cato knows about that.”


That caught me off guard and balance, and it felt like all the air had been sucked out of my chest. Bastion? A crush on me that Cato knew but didn’t say anything about?


“Are you alright, Ana?” Violet asked.

 

I breathed in deeply and released my breath.

 

“Well, not really. Where’s the book on how to deal with figuring that your friend has a crush
on you, but is currently flirting with your other friend?”


“I’m sure there are a lot of books that are based upon similar experiences. Look, he knows
about you and Sindri and he doesn’t want to replace that.”


“But he still has a crush on me. Do you know how long that was happening?” I asked. Violet shrugged her shoulders as we went down the stairs, going to the first floor.


“I found out a couple of days ago by accident. But you can’t go and confront him or Cato. That would lead to my head on a spike.”


I said nothing, knowing that I would probably break the promise that Violet wants me to do. “Look, I’ll try my best not to implicate you. I can’t promise anything else,” I finally managed to tell her, after a few moments had passed. It was the truth. I want to confront Bastion, but Violet was my friend and didn’t deserve to be destroyed over this. I internally sighed, knowing that I was going to be playing with fire.
Violet was going to argue with me, but she must of saw the fierceness on my face and realize that it would lead nowhere. “Alright,” she mumbled.


We continued walking. On the first floor, Cato and Bastion stopped when a guy approached them. He went more towards Cato than Bastion, as if he only wanted to talk with Cato. Cato mo- tioned Bastion to continue on, standing with the person. Once Violet and I got there, I also told her that she could continue on. I stood close to Cato and the mysterious person, hoping that Cato would see me and introduced me.


“Oh. Here’s my good friend Anastasia. This is Dagon.”


“Hello, how are you?” he asked politely to me.


“Fine,” I answered, “How do you know each other?”


“He saw me alone one day, and he came up and started to talk to me. To be honest, I was
confused why you did that, but we talked. Since then, we’ve made some sort of friendship.”
“She just looked interesting. Either way, I’m happy that I did that.”


There was an awkward pause between the three of us, mostly because of my presence. I was
about to say goodbye and leave when Dagon spoke.


“I better get going. Cato, thanks for your help, once again. It was really nice meeting you,
Anastasia, was it?”


“Yeah, see you later.”


He promptly left both me and Cato. We continued on to the cafeteria.


“Huh, he’s usually more talkative. I swear, sometimes I feel like we can go on for hours. Either way, I’m hungry.”

 

“I’ve never seen him before. Is he in our grade?”


“No,” Cato answered. “He’s a grade 9.”


“Oh.”


“Yeah, it’s a little bit weird. But when we’re together, I forget that and I have a good time
with him.”


I wanted to shift the conversation to ask Cato about the Bastion thing, but I kept my mouth
closed. Instead, we talked about the math test.


We heard the cafeteria, before we got sight of the people. It was filled with students of
different grades and skills, all eat communally and conversing about their lives. I spotted most of our friends relatively close to the entrance, claiming a whole table for themselves. I could see Altansarnai, Violet, Bastion, Scarlet, Hippolyte, Cassius and Owen. As we approached the table I could hear them talk about the upcoming dance.


“I don’t know if I should go or not. It’s probably better to stay in class than to go to something like that,” Owen commented.


“Well, Scarlet is going to drag me to that. Come and keep me company,” Hippolyte beseeched Owen.
Hipppolyte jumped from the light punch that Scarlet gave him.


“Don’t listen to him. It’s going to be fun.”


“The dances here are wouldn’t be considered dances back in my hometown,” Cassius added. “How so?” I asked, my interest perking.


“Everyone here doesn’t dance. And I don’t blame them, the music is not the dancing type. In
my town, there are communal dances where people dance waltz, tarantella, saltarello or salsa. Ev- eryone knows the steps and gets involved, whether it be a 8 year old boy or an 88 year old man. The music moves them. Here, the only dance step is jumping up and down,” Cassius explained.
“Goddamnit, this is the reason why we barely have dances. Just come to it and I swear that it will be fun,” Scarlet promised.


“Are you going to buy a ticket?” I asked Cato besides me, in relative privacy. “Maybe. If I have the right person to go with.”


I then saw movement from where Bastion was sitting.


“Wait, where are you going?” I asked Bastion, as he got up with all of his stuff.


“I’m going to the library, I have to finish a French assignment before the end of the day.” “Alright, see you later.”


I waited a little before trying to catch up to him. Leaving all of my stuff behind, I stopped him before he could go up the stairs.


“Wait Bastion, I have to ask you something.”

 

“What’s up?”

 

“Look, I’ve been getting a feeling that, umm, that maybe you like me. Like a more than friendship thing,” I bluntly told him.


His expression of natural confidence faded into a more insecure and panicked one. He shifted his weight, seeming unsure of how he should respond.


“I know you don’t like me like that. I know that you’re still trying to go after Sindri, but I simply want to ask you to one date. Just to see if it would go anywhere.”


It was then my turn to be speechless. One date?

 

“I don’t know.”

 

I could see then that his expression was transitioning to despair.


“Alright,” I said, trying to be confident with my decision, “One date. But don’t get your expectations high, because I am currently accepting one date, not two or four or a whole relationship.”

 

“Yeah, I know. I understand. Well, I’ll text you the information, but I really have to go to the library.”

 

“Alright, see you later.”


I returned to the library looking the same, but changed. I was going on a date with a friend, the first date I would participate. There was excitement and fear within myself. Bastion could act so cocky sometimes, but I know that there is a gentler, better side to him.


Barely anyone noticed my absence, to the exception of Violet, who looked terribly torn. “Well?” she asked, wondering if I had implicated her.


“You’re fine.”

 

There was a sigh of relief. Then I could see that she wanted to know what had happened between me and Bastion.


“Later,” I told her, not willing to speak in front of everyone about this yet.


I then turned my attention to the conversation within my group of friends.

 

After some time, Altansarnai randomly stood up and went to the line, as if she was going to
buy something. My eyes followed her and saw that she ended up standing right behind Milan, a grade 9 cross-country runner that I ran with. We talked with each other, helping with techniques and just telling stories when we’re at cross-country. Altansarnai lightly and awkwardly tapped his shoulder, try- ing to get his attention. He turned around to see her and they went into a conversation. I went back to the conversation at the table.


“Whenever I actually in a good mood, I am more open to sing out loud. But that rarely happens, so no, you’re probably not going to hear me.” Violet was telling Scarlet.


“How does Altansarnai know Milan?” I interrupted, asking Scarlet. I chose Scarlet because they’re both working together in the upcoming musical.


“I have no idea. That’s strange,” she responded. Then she turned back to Violet, continuing on. “Either way, you should consider the offer. You have a nice voice...”


I listened to their conversation, to their backs and forwards, with my eyes on Altansarnai and Milan. When they had both paid, Altansarnai came to the table, while Milan walked towards the doors of the cafeteria.


“Milan?” I called out. He stopped and looked at me. When he recognized who it was, he came this way. Altansarnai immediately looked more panicked.


“Why did you do that?” she quickly whispered under her breath to me. I couldn’t respond to her as Milan had made it next to me.

 

“Hey, what’s up?” he asked.

 

“Nothing, I just wanted to say hello.”

 

“Okay. Hello.”


“Hello,” I repeated back, “are you ready for the upcoming meet?”

 

“Yeah. Hopefully. There’s a practice tomorrow after school, right?” he inquired.

 

“Yes, but I won’t be there. I have to do another thing after school,” I explained.

 

“Oh well, I’ll see you next week then. I’m going to go so that I’ll have time to eat my lunch.
Scarlet. Altansarnai.”


Scarlet managed to say a quick hey, but Altansarnai just smiled and nodded. Milan left as quickly as he had come into the cafeteria. Altansarnai exhaled, as if she was holding her breath around Milan.


“Why the hell did you do that?”
I shrugged my shoulders.
“How do you know Milan?” I inquired.
“Biology club,” she answered as if it were the most obvious thing.
“You talk to a grade 9 in the Biology club? When did that happen?”


There was a sigh before she went into her story.

 

“The first meeting for the club, I saw him there, shy and timid, but ready to participate. He
had his red coat and I thought that he looked handsome. Then I learned that he was a grade 9, so
I dismissed him as a possibility. It was weeks before I talked to him and actually fell for him. He’s unfortunately one of the few good looking people in the school that has a decent personality. So I’m going to try to ask him out.”
“Oh.” It was the only response that I could think about in this situation. A grade 11 going for a grade 9? Things like that rarely were considered, mostly because of the age difference.


“I know. But there’s a chance and I’m going to follow through. Maybe if it doesn’t end up happening, I’ll get over him.”


I pat her back, not knowing what I would do if I was in that situation. Thank god Sindri was in the same grade as me.


“But I thought that you had a crush on Ayres,” I said, citing the cute guy in our Chemistry class.
“I do. But it’s not going anywhere, like I’ve never talked to him before. Dagon, on the other hand, I have talked to.”
“But, let’s say that for some strange reason, Ayres did come up and ask you out. Would you go for him?” I asked.
“Of course. But that’s not likely, so I’m going to try to ask Dagon.”
“Okay.”


There were five more minutes before lunch ended, when Cato started to leave. I followed
her, saying goodbye to everyone. It was until we were up the staircase to get to the second floor that we started to talk.
“Today is the debate thing, right? For both third and fourth period right?” I asked.
“Yeah. It’s in the library. We have to go to our third period classes though and then our teachers should bring us down to the library.”
She stopped at the second floor, ready to go to her third period class
“Well, I’ll see you soon.”
“Bye,” I said as she left, knowing I would be seeing her soon.

 

I looked up at the stairs that led to the third floor and where my class was. I currently had History with Ms Kalorkoti, which was also when Cassius and Owen had the class. I walked up the stairs and to my classroom, knowing that I would be going down the same way.


Ms Kalorkoti was at her desk, doing work before the bell rings. Cassius was at the back, helping out someone. I went to my usual spot, one of the desks in the front. Beside me, Owen sat down, putting all of his books on his desk. I counted 5, each had a different subject or genre.


“Aren’t those heavy to carry around?” I asked.
“A bit. These four,” he made a pile, “are for school. I have to carry them everywhere. This,” he pointed to the book who was alone, “is for me.”


I shook my head. Of course Owen would be reading his own book, on top of all of the reading he has to do for his classes.


The bell rang. Cassius had ran out of time to help and went back to his spot.


“Okay class, we have the debate presentation and activity that will take up all of this period. It does continue into the next period, but you either need permission from your fourth period teach- er or your fourth period class to also participate in this for you to remain in the library. Bring your things with you and let’s go.”


The whole class left together, becoming a jumbled mess of interaction, conversation and movement. Owen went ahead, talking to one of his friends, while Cassius was one of the last people in the moving group. I realized then who he was helping, Cosette. I knew her mostly through Cassius and although she seems like a wonderful person, I don’t ever really get the chance to develop some- thing more a mutual respecting acquaintanceship. That left me in the middle, listening to conversa- tions but not being part of them.
When the library was in sight, Owen sprint ahead to be able to open and hold the doors for the whole class. I internally laughed at his gentleman ways. It was surprising that he wasn’t dating any- one, since he would be sensitive and supportive, doing small things like that. Immediately, my mind connected him and Cato as a possibility. They could be the perfect couple, the one that everyone relies on to see that there is such a thing as true love in this world.


Once in the library, Owen, Cassius and I were drawn to the same table, which already con- tained some of our friends. Cato was already there with Hippolyte and Bastion. We waited as more classes came for the whole debate thing, waiting for more friends to come or for it to start. Only Scarlet joined before the two, young speakers called for everyone’s attention.


“Good morning to all. My name is Morgane,” introduced the woman who was presenting, “And mine is Jaime,” introduced the guy.
“Today, we will be talking about debating and the importance of it. I just want to start by thanking the teachers for letting you come to this important and exciting event.”


Everyone clapped for their teachers and the Jaime continued, starting the presentation. “So, does anyone know where debating comes from...”
I listened to the debating presentation, which outlined the history of debating, how to do it properly and why it is still important. Then, they divided the student body that was there into 6 equal

groups and made each group go against another for a debate. Our friend group was divided into the six groups. I was put in group one, with Scarlet, while the rest scattered themselves into the other groups.
“Okay. At this table, group one and four will debate. At the next table, it will be group two and five. For group three and six, you’ll be at that table,” Jaime pointed at the farthest table.


“When both groups are ready, send a representative from each group to get a debate topic and a position. Don’t worry, none of these requires you to do additional research. After you get a position, each group will get seven minutes to brainstorm and get arguments. Then you can debate,” Morgane explained.


Scarlet volunteered to go and get the debate topic for our group. No one really opposed her, so she went off to where the speakers were at. For group four, Himmler, a student of German ori- gin, was chosen to go choose the topic. Small talk erupted as they went to the speakers and I talked with people that I never really approached before. It was a few minutes before Scarlet and Himmler returned.


“Okay, listen up everyone,” Scarlet declared, getting the attention from both groups, “we are going to debate if capital punishment is morally just. My group will take the position that it is morally just, Himmler’s group will take the position that it isn’t morally just. Does everyone understand?”


There were utterance of yeses or nods. Scarlet, seeing the approval, went onto the next step. Taking out her phone, she put a seven minute timer on her phone and left it in the middle of the table.


“Well then, let’s get our arguments ready and debate.”


Scarlet motioned the group away from the other so that we wouldn’t be overheard. When we were all together. Then we started.
“Okay, who has an idea for an argument...”


The next few hours, we spent debating. When the bell rang to start the last period of the school day, one third of the people in the library had to leave for their next class, classes which weren’t participating in the debating activity. Owen, Hippolyte and Bastion were among those who had to leave. Other people came, from other classes that were only participating in the debate activity this period. I saw Mr Jacques, my Chemistry teacher, come in with other people from my Chemistry class. Altansarnai followed Mr Jacques. Morgane and Jaime reconvened the all of the people, resort- ing them into new groups, and then we continued on with the debates.


It was within a passionate debate on who deserved rights that the bell rang once more, end- ing the school day. But both sides wanted to continue on, so everyone stayed, ready to defend their points of views, ideas and opinions. The library became empty quickly, but it was just as loud with our debating. Finally we got to the last words, where everyone had one more comment before the debate ended. Looking around, I saw no one there to the exception of the librarian, the people in the two groups, and Cato. She was waiting around, probably for me. I walked up to her, with all my stuff with me.


“Hey, let’s go.”
We went up to the third floor in an almost empty school. To the exception of several teachers who were still in their classrooms, prepping for their courses, we saw no one in the halls or classrooms. I quickly opened my locker, got my stuff and followed Cato down to hers. During all that time, we were talking about the debates and what we had experienced.


“Let’s go to the cafeteria. I have to wait for someone,” Cato told me.
“Alright.”


We went back to the first floor, into the cafeteria. And then, we started to wait.
In the cafeteria, I was sitting with the pillar at my back. It was hard, but not uncomfortable.
I started to scribble some names down. I saw Cato go behind me to glimpse whose names I was writing down. I currently had only Adolphus and Owen. They were currently the most solid guesses that I had for Cato’s crush. I could feel her judging the names I had down, but she didn’t say anything about them and ended up going back to her spot.


I lifted my eyes eyes to watch her for a second. Then I went back to my list, thinking of who else might possibly be Cato’s crush. A curious thought came through my head - what if Cato had a crush on me? What about Melissianda? Would she theoretically have a chance with Cato? I looked back to all the names I had on the list, all guys names. My eyes rapidly lifted back to her face.


“What?” she asked, as if she was unsure if she had done something.
“Are you gay?” I asked her.
“Am I gay?” she repeated my words, “Uhhh...”
“What I mean is are you into to girls. I know that you’re into guys, but if you’re into girls,
that changes things.”


I could see her reflecting within herself. My question had left with both of us in a silence
that I knew Cato had to break.


“When I think about me being in a relationship, I don’t think if they’re a guy or a girl, I think
about whether we’re happy or not. I don’t really care what their gender is, I only care that we’re ha py.” I explained to her.


“So you would be fine whether you’re kissing a girl or a boy. You would be fine if tomorrow, some girl asked you out. You wouldn’t be weirded out?”


I let her take her time to answer it truthfully. After a while, I saw that she had her answer. “No. I would be fine whether I was kissing a girl or a boy.”


“So you’re pan.” It was a clear statement, not a question.
“Pan?” she asked back.
“Yeah. Being pan, or pansexual, is someone who is romantically or sexually into someone regardless of their gender.”
“Sure?” There was hesitation, but truth in her answer.
“Alright, thanks.”


I went back to my list with the intent of filling it up with more names. Who was gay that Cato knew? I looked straight at her, trying to figure out that question. Only one name can into mind, which I jotted down. Cato tried to go back to what she was doing before, but couldn’t concentrate on her book. She gave up with a sigh and looked directly at me.


“I don’t know when I started to like girls. I think my first real crush on a girl was in grade
9. She was called Eska. It was english class and the class was divided into groups to create a short movie. She was in my group, along with other people, which included Owen, even though we weren’t

friends at that time. Her personality naturally led her to be one of the people in charge, but she was considerate of everyone’s ideas and opinions. But the weirdest thing happened to me one day as we were working on the project. After school, she came up to me and talked to me. She asked the most mundane questions, but the fact that she came up to me and talked to me still perplexes me to this day. I only realized that I had a crush on her when I could barely look at her without being nervous. The thing that I remember about her the most was that the sound of her voice sent butterflies throughout my body. I never managed to talk to her afterwards, even if she was in one of my classes during second semester. I didn’t see her these few beginning weeks and soon learned that she had transferred to another school. That was that.”
We let the story sink into our souls. But my curiosity got the better of me and I was soon asking questions.


“Okay. But since then, have you liked any other girls? Like in the school?”
A sly smile and a nod got me the answer.
“Goddamnit, Cato. You should have told me,” I added.
“So that you could tease me this way?” she retorted, “No, I’m just kidding. I just don’t necessarily talk about those stuff, like how I don’t talk about my crushes. I don’t even really think about it either. Like I know that I had feelings for girls, but it never clicked for me that I might be gay. I seriously don’t know why it didn’t cross my mind.”


“Well, you don’t look gay.” I commented to her. That got a raised eyebrow.
“How so?”
“I don’t really know. It’s your aura. Like, gay people seem to be so open and so extravagant
in some sort of way, but you’re not. You simply don’t put off that feeling.”
“Huh. Well, if someone asks me out, then good for them. If not, it’s fine. I just won’t really
care if it’s a guy or a girl.”
“Is your crush a girl?” I asked.
“Too close. You’ll now won’t be getting the gender of my crush. Also, on the topic of my crush, you should really broaden your list.”
“Why?”
“Well,” she started, “I think you’ll do better if you start with a complete list of people that I talked to. Then you can start crossing out the names.”
“But...”
“The names you have are good. However, do you remember what I said in the morning? I want you to figure out who it was by yourself because them you’ll realize why I haven’t said anything. Maybe I mean that it’s one of these guys and I simply don’t want anyone to know about them. Maybe I mean that it’s tabooed or that I know it wouldn’t work out.”
She came over to me and turned the page around. Asking for a pen and the binder I had been using to write, she started to scribble down names. At the end, she gave it back to me.


Adolphus

Melissianda

Bastion
Cassius

Scarlet

Hippolyte

Violet

Owen

Atlansarnai

Dagon

Anastasia

 

My heart skipped a beat when I saw my name there, the last one on the list. Even though I did the hypothetical situation of if Cato loved me or not, I did it out of curiosity, not actual consid- eration. Could it be true? Could I have been so blind? But these were all possibilities and only one would end up being Cato’s crush. I had a one in eleven chance. I look back at her wondering if she knew the bombshell that she had dropped upon me. She must have.


We went back to our work. I now had the complete list of possible people, trying to knock out names that wouldn’t make sense. There were the obvious, or at least the seemingly obvious, candidates that should be crossed out. That included Hippolyte and Scarlet, since they were currently in a relationship; or Bastion, since he currently has a crush on me, so on and so forth. But for each, there was a voice in my head which told me to reconsider the names. They were the clear names to cross out, but maybe that’s why I should keep them, since Cato implied that her crush wasn’t the obvious choice. I kept going through the list again and again, desperately trying to make it shorter.


There was a melodic flute notification and for a moment, I went searching for my phone. “That’s from my phone, Anastasia.”


I look up to see that she already had her phone out.


“Okay.” I replied.


I went back to my list, again. Out of the corner of my vision I saw Cato texting to the un- known person. After awhile, she let out a sigh. She put her phone back into her backpack and stood up, grabbing her backpack, as to leave.


“Okay, we can leave now. Let’s go to the bus stop.”
“Who were we waiting for?”
“Owen,” Cato answered me, “he was supposed to come here, but he’s already at home, so it’s
not worth it to wait.”
“Oh. Okay. Then let’s go.”


Our walk to the bus stop and the wait for our bus was in relative silence. My mind kept going through the list, not getting anywhere. It was only when we got on the bus and our seats that Cato broke the silence.


“So, do you know who it is?” Cato finally asked me. I gave up.
“No, no I don’t. Who is it?”
“You.”