We all know that there's two sides to every love story. In the new short story collection Girl Meets Boy, 12 of our favorite YA authors pair up to give us the he said/she said behind six tales of love, dating, and attraction. For each of the pairings, one author tells the story from the guy's point of view and the other tells it from the girl's perspective. The below story, "Sean + Raffina," is from the guy's point of view. Click here to read the story from the girl's perspective!
SEAN + RAFFINA
By Terry Trueman
Her name is Raffina, pronounced “ruff-eena.” I’m not even sure I’m spelling it right. Maybe it’s spelled Ruffina, but I don’t think so. I glanced at a homework assignment she turned in for Human Relations 2, and I’m pretty sure it was an 'a,' not a 'u.' Whatever, it doesn’t matter what her name is, or how she spells it anyway -- what matters is that I wanna hit on her, and I’m not sure if I should or how to even start.
She’ll be the first girl I’ve tried to ask on a date since I got TKO’d in the seventh grade. That’s if I ask her. I’m not sure about that yet. If you’d been coldcocked by a petite blonde when you were 13, you might hesitate to think of yourself as God’s great-red-hot-lover-boy gift to girls, too. I owe my nondating history to Debra Quarantino.
Girls think I’m shy. I know that. I’m not all that shy, really -- I just don’t like making a fool of myself. Again, this is mostly thanks to Debra. It’s amazing how quickly a thing can happen and change a person. One minute I was walking down the hall, full of myself and confident and feeling, in all my mostly pubescent glory, like a quasi-dude of a stud muffin, and the next thing I knew, I was sitting on my ass wondering how a Mack truck had made it into Nicholas Murray Butler Junior High.
What had happened? All I’d done was run my finger down the middle of Debra’s back. That was all. I remember she had on a white blouse and I could see her bra strap, and I’d seen other guys do the same little flirty trick with girls they’d liked. So I came up behind Debra and let my left index finger slide down the length of her little cute spine. Pretty funny, huh? Pretty James-Bond-hitting-on-Miss-Moneypenny cool, right? Not quite.
I never saw Debra’s right hook coming. It caught me next to my left eye, which in a nanosecond was seeing stars. I honest-to-God had no idea why I was sitting on the hallway floor or how I’d gotten there.
I think I jumped up pretty quickly. I’m sure it was before a standing eight count would have been finished. Debra, maybe a little surprised by her own strength, just looked at me and said, “Knock it off!”
I said, “Okay.”
It’s not like everybody in school knew what had happened. I’m not sure anybody even saw. But when you’re 13 and this is how your first foray into the world of flirtation goes -- well, most people would tend to be slightly careful afterward. “Slightly careful?” I could have joined a monastery for all the female action I’ve had these last three years.
The Debra knockdown punch is the excuse I’ve given myself for not asking anyone out until now, for not flirting with anyone until now.
So there’s the Debra deal, but there’s one other thing too.
I know this shouldn’t be anything, shouldn’t matter, but for some reason it does matter to me; Raffina is black, and I’m white. Of course, she’s not really black any more than I’m really white. She’s kind of dark brown, no, kind of medium brownish. I’m definitely sort of beige or something, light beige, tinted pink or red depending on how much time I spend in the sun (I don’t tan; I just burn). Maybe a better way to put this is that Raffina’s ancestors came from Africa, and my ancestors came from... I don’t know... not Africa. Someplace like England or Germany or Canada or something.
Our school is mostly white kids. Make that beige kids. Has anyone anywhere ever been pure white? “Pure white,” what the hell does that even mean? Like who? Queen Elizabeth of England? Eminem of Detroit? Debra Quarantino, flyweight champion of Butler Junior High? To even to say the words pure white together related to race is stupid, like I’m some kind of [...] Aryan nation idiot. But think about it: Debra was a white girl, somebody whose culture and stuff I knew, and look at how terribly things went with her.
Human Relations 2. That’s the class Raffina and I are in together. Could there be any worse place in the universe to be sitting right next to someone you’d really like to hook up with than Human Relations 2? I mean, come on, we sit here every day from 9:30 a.m. until 10:25 a.m., and we hear about human reproduction. We sit about a foot apart, her arm next to my arm, her leg next to my leg, and in the front of the room is our teacher, Mr. Adams, talking. We’re hearing all these words -- sperm, vagina, scrotum, penis, ovum -- I mean, damn. DAMN! How can you be cool and hit on a girl you like while you’ve got all that s*** ringing in your ears?
I want to get to Human Relations 2 a little early. I’m wearing a very cool North Carolina, light blue basketball jersey. I’ve never been to North Carolina. I’ve never even seen them play. But I like this shirt, the color and the way it fits me. I’m hurrying to get to class so that I can watch Raffina walk in, watch her body as she weaves her way through the desks and moves slowly toward me and sits down. I have this whole scenario planned out, where she’ll look up and make eye contact with me and then I’ll be sorta James Bond cool and hit her with the perfect line about going out.
Only when I get to class, she’s already sitting there, and this turns my entire plan upside down. I smile through my nervousness, worried that I probably look like some moron with my gigantic, phony grin. She smiles back.
I drop my backpack onto the floor next to my seat and slide in. She looks really great, more beautiful than usual. But somehow all my brilliant lines, my grand plans disappear. I’m like some kind of mute.
We sit through the whole stupid class, and all I recall hearing are the phrases “coital motion” and “fetal nutrition.” It amazes me that school can wreck anything... I mean ANYTHING! Finally the bell rings, and before I can even move, Raffina is out of her chair, heading for the door.
I feel [...] so cowardly, that I can’t stand myself. For half a second, I wish I was a little kindergarten kid in that Birmingham Sunday School and that I’d been blown up. Then I feel guilty and totally stupid for even thinking that way, so I gather my stuff up as quick as I can and hurry after Raffina. I see her in the hallway and manage to catch up, but just as I’m ready to reach out and touch her shoulder, I notice her beautiful dark skin under the white blouse she’s wearing. I can see her bra strap too. I freeze like I’m in some kind of weird, drug-induced flashback. And suddenly, as if she’s just sensed me standing there, Raffina turns around and walks toward me. I don’t know what to say, so I force a smile again.
“You look pretty happy today,” she says.
I feel the tiniest rush of confidence, and so I answer, “I am. It’s a pretty great day.” I think about finally getting up the nerve to ask her out, to hook up with her, to lie around in the afterglow, putting the ghosts of Debra Quarantino behind me forever...
Raffina laughs and says, “I know.”
I hesitate. She knows? How does she know? What does she know? Does she know about Alabama? About Debra?!
I barely squeak out, “You know?”
“Sure, no sixth period today, early dismissal?”
I’d forgotten all about that. It’s not important, but again, all my planned words just evaporate. I had my lines down perfectly, having practiced them over and over last night before I went to sleep. Now I’m all messed up again.
I mutter back a lame, “Oh, yeah, that too.”
Now she looks confused for just a second, then asks, “What else?”
I try to find my place in my practiced speech; I try to figure how to start, where to start. I can’t do it, can’t remember anything.
She’s staring at me, waiting.
I must look pathetic. I just say, “Nothing, really.”
I think I see a flicker of disappointment in her expression. We’re standing in the hallway with a thousand kids brushing past us, just like that day with Debra and the punch. But at this moment, I can only see Raffina. I really like her a lot.
It’s now or never. “Wanna go out?” I ask, not too loudly, but not too softly either.
She’s looking in my eyes, and I’m waiting. At least this time I’m braced and ready for a punch to land.
Softly, so low that no one else can hear her, she says simply, “Sure.” And smiles again.
Suddenly everything I’ve been worried about seems ridiculous. She’s a girl. I’m a guy. I like her and she -- I feel one last flash of doubt. “I mean like on . . . like on a date-type thing?”
She smiles again and gives a little laugh. “Yeah, I got that,” she says.
In spite of myself, I can’t stop from thinking, Take that, Debra. But in another few seconds, looking into Raffina’s eyes as she looks back into mine, I realize that Debra Quarantino is the last person in the world I’ll ever think about again.