Ellie McQueen was ordinary—painfully so. Every one of her days passed with a dreary similarity, completely unremarkable from the one before. And then suddenly that changed.
The usual Friday spirit of the school bus swirled around Ellie, but she took no notice; she’d been one of the first on the bus and was already absorbed in her earphones, busy sketching the chaos around her.
“Um, hi,” someone said, and Ellie looked up, startled—she’d been so focused that she hadn’t noticed him approach. “Elliot, right?”
“Ellie,” she corrected quietly, tugging her earbuds out. “Hi.”
“Ellie,” he amended, and smiled suddenly, bright and blinding, brushing a hand through chestnut hair. He looked familiar; Ellie was sure she’d seen him walking through the halls before. “Can I sit here? My idiot friend gave my seat to his girlfriend.”
“Sure,” she answered, quickly stuffing her sketchbook and pencils into her backpack. Anxiety fluttered against her ribcage.
“I’m Noah,” the boy said as he sat down, holding his hand out. Ellie shook it gingerly, sure her palm was sweaty. “Probably should’ve introduced myself earlier. Sorry.”
“Don’t worry about it,” she told him, smiling slightly. Noah smiled back. Ellie couldn’t decide if his eyes were more green or more brown. He was cute—more than cute. It made her nervous.
“What were you listening to?” he asked abruptly, turning his body towards her.
She named the band, looking down at her lap shyly as she spoke, and watched Noah’s face—literally, his entire face—light up out of the corner of her eye. “No way,” he said, awed, and named a few bands for her. Ellie said she liked all of them. “Ellie,” Noah said, impossibly serious, looking at her like he’d never seen her before—like no one had ever seen her before. “You have awesome music taste.”
“Thanks,” she giggled, sure she was blushing crimson. When he smiled, she realized she would talk forever just to get him to smile at her again.
By the time they reached Ellie’s stop, they were already friends.
When Noah Hale first caught sight of her, he thought oh. Oh. Full lips, big blue eyes, button nose, hair tangled in soft curls. He was sure he’d seen her before, but never fully, never like this. He knew immediately he was screwed, so, so screwed.
But she was sitting alone in her seat, and he needed to sit down. So he started towards her.
By Monday morning, Ellie was sure that Noah would go back to his usual spot, that Friday would be but a small blip in the straight line of her life. But when she got to her seat, he was already sitting there.
“Hey,” he greeted her, smiling brightly.
Her heart swelled three sizes like the Grinch on Christmas morning; she’d forgotten how cute he was over the weekend. “Hey,” she said back, only slightly breathless.
“So, I hear you draw,” he said suddenly, and Ellie immediately froze. “Can I see?”
“I—uh—how do you know I draw?” she stammered, refusing to look at him.
“Because I saw your sketchbook,” he answered dryly, “and also because someone told me. Can I see?”
She didn’t say or do anything for a long moment. Her heart was pounding in her chest. A part of her knew that giving him her sketchbook meant taking charge of her own fate. She’d held a passive role in the story of her own life for so long that the idea of becoming an active participant scared her. But talking to Noah was enough to make her think that taking risks might not be so bad.
So she gave him the sketchbook.
Noah hoped she couldn’t tell that he’d waited nervously all weekend to see her again, that he’d barely even stopped thinking about her.
He hadn’t planned to ask for the sketchbook; it just kind of came out. He wasn’t even sure she’d give it to him anyways. But she did, and surprised him again. He didn’t know anyone could draw that well. She was amazing.
When he told her that, she flushed a pale pink and smiled shyly down at her lap. God, she was gorgeous. He wished she’d stay that way, all flushed and happy, forever.
“I think I’m going to fail this Shakespeare unit,” Noah said cheerfully as he threw himself onto the seat beside Ellie several days later.
“I’m pretty sure that I’m going to bomb my Trig test tomorrow,” she returned, sighing. “You’re doing Macbeth, right?” He nodded. “I could help you if you want. I’m not terrible at Shakespeare.”
His eyes brightened. “I’m not terrible at Math, either. Maybe you could, like, come over and we could study together.”
She nodded casually, but inside, she felt like she was flying. “Sure.”
Later that night, she went over to his house, and somewhere between sines and cosines, she started to fall in love with him.
Noah’s heart was pounding about a thousand miles per minute when he invited her over, trying to seem casual. He was sure she’d say no. But somehow—miraculously—she agreed.
When she arrived, he hoped she couldn’t tell he’d spent two hours cleaning the house.
Five days later, Ellie was at the mall with Noah and Noah was staring at her. “What?” she asked him, giggling around a cinnamon bun. She couldn’t help it; as soon as she’d seen the Cinnabon stall, she’d pulled Noah over to it excitedly.
Noah laughed. Around them, the mall bustled with life, but Ellie barely noticed. “Nothing,” he said, smiling fondly. “Nothing. It’s just you.”
Ellie had to turn away so he wouldn’t see her blush.
It was the almost childish glee in her eyes that got Noah; it was so adorable that he ended up staring at her like a creeper. God, he was so obviously in love with her.
But he’d seen her sketchbook when he’d come to pick her up, and the last six pages had been portraits of him, so maybe he wasn’t the only one with a crush.
Ha. As if. She was Ellie McQueen.
The next Saturday, at 1:52 a.m., Ellie received a text.
Noah Hale: come over later today.
It’s 2:00 in the morning, Noah she texted back, smiling despite herself.
So? Come over & watch a movie he responded.
Fine, she replied. She put her phone on her bedside table and flopped back onto the bed, smiling goofily up at the ceiling.
She was in way too deep. (But she didn’t really mind.)
Noah had spent the last three hours working up the nerve to ask, and he spent the next hour grinning to himself. Ellie was coming over tomorrow. To watch a movie.
He was going to ask her out.
Ellie rang the doorbell at 7:52 p.m. Noah answered the door, looking nervous. He was the perfect host—he’d even taken her coat.
Everything went smoothly until Noah spoke, halfway through the movie. “I want to know the things you’ve never told anyone else,” he said suddenly, turning to face her.
Ellie froze, the smile on her face falling. “Why?” she asked quietly.
“Because,” he said, unbelievably serious. “Because you’re the most interesting person I’ve ever met, and I want to get to know you. I want to know what makes you laugh and what makes you cry and what you think when you’re alone.”
Her heart pounded against the lining of her ribcage. The yes, yes, please got stuck in her throat. But she needed to tell him. She couldn’t let him slip away. So she, Ellie Jane McQueen, took the biggest risk of all: she grabbed him by the shirt and pulled him towards her.
Noah thought his brain might explode. They were kissing. Ellie freaking McQueen was kissing him. Oh my God.
When she finally pulled away, much too soon, they were both breathless. Ellie’s face was flushed, her lips swollen red. Noah felt tingly all over.
“I meant what I said before,” he told her later, as they stood on the sidewalk in front of her house. He’d walked her home, their intertwined hands swinging between them. “I like you a lot, Ellie, and I want to get to know you.”
Ellie’s answering smile was quicksilver. He had to restrain himself from kissing her right there for fear he’d never stop. “See you on Monday,” she said. In the moonlight, her eyes looked silver.
Noah kissed her goodnight with his lips curved into a smile.
On Monday, Noah was waiting for Ellie. This time, when she sat down, he pulled her to him, his arm curving around her waist.
Ellie’s favourite colour was red. She loved winter because it meant snow and drinking hot chocolate in front of the fire. She had an unhealthy obsession with cinnamon buns and kettle-corn popcorn and liked getting up early enough to see the sunrise. After high school, she wanted to take a Gap Year and travel.
And to Noah, she was remarkable.