Rheanne was all about keeping to herself; all her thoughts and all her feelings but to God, every day, she prayed for her family to be safe from the harsh weathers of life and seldom did she pray for herself.
She didn’t like conversing and pretending like she agreed with everyone.
She hated the way people sometimes regarded her as some disposable toiletry. She didn’t like that she had to be friendly. She didn’t like smiling because it took too much energy. She was tired of the pretenses that were never broken down. She didn’t like people and that was the truth.
But she talked and held long conversations with people she couldn’t stand.
She said yes to anyone who asked for help even though they never said a word of thanks. She smiled to anyone who greeted her and talked with them even when she didn’t want to. She was tired of the pretenses that she never broke down.
She was in her last year of high school, much like one year ago. She stood at the entrance of the Kane High auditorium with pamphlets in hand, ready to distribute them.
She was one of the dorm heads for Dorm C, also known as the run-down house –well, at least before it was renovated to match the school.
She was the president of the photography club and was also the vice-president of the botanical club. She participated in events. She was a student aid and a frequent visitor of the infirmary. In other words, Rheanne was an upstanding student. Incomparable, almost. She would have been the model student if it weren’t for the hoodie under her uniform shirt and pants under her skirt. She also paints her nails a nasty black color.
She had a lot of close friends but ‘close’ was a relative word. She never shared her true feelings with this group, only the half-assed excuses that they could welcome into their lives. While on the other hand she was burdened with problems not her own. Yet, she never complained about a single thing to anyone. And every day, as she prayed, she also wrote. She wrote long letters to send to her family and stored them in a drawer in her room. Every day she wrote and every day she kept those letters to herself.
It was during a day during the autumn season when the breeze was cool, the trees danced with its yellow, orange and red colors that Rheanne’s well-woven lies began to unravel.
He only needed to pull on the loose thread she’d forgotten to tie.
It began during orientation.
The distribution of pamphlets ended without a hitch which she found she was thankful of. Most of the students were piled inside and only a few third years like her still lingered in the courtyard.
“Rheanne, Rheanne,” a friend said.
“Yes, Katie,” she answered.
“You volunteered for this year again?”
Together, they walked in and took a seat near the exit. They thought they could leave whenever it got too boring. The idea turned out not unique to them as the third years filled the back row while the bulk of the front was occupied with fresh faces.
“I wouldn’t say I volunteered. I got volunteered by the teachers.”
It was often the case for Rheanne. The teachers either recommended her, asked her or without consent, would volunteer her and being Rheanne, she would agree without arguing.
“And that’s why, I don’t want your life,” Katie laughed.
A teacher passing by warned Katie to be quiet during the announcements. He was walking down the aisles nonstop, chastising anyone who wasn’t paying attention. His name was Mr. Abbrami, the art teacher.
“So sorry, Mr. Abbrami,” Rheanne said.
Her words appeased her favorite art teacher without a problem, and soon, he left their side. She and Katie continued to whisper to each other.
The new school president was introduced. Lainey Kipling. Lainey was Rheanne’s close friend. She also had a high average in school and her participation in events, not just as a student council member, was spectacular.
She made a speech to welcome the new students and another to welcome back her classmates and old friends. She received a lot of cheers from a lot of the students, especially since it was one of the few speeches they actually listened to. Thankfully, it was short and concise.
The last speech was made by the headmaster. He had a particularly riveting speech that caught most of the student’s attention. Specifically, his regard to repeating students and students who often broke the rules was an interesting subject.
A particular student Rheanne had never paid attention to was mentioned in that said speech. His name was Landon, Landon Irving. He was on of the brothers to Miss Lane, another art teacher, who Rheanne was close to.
A year ago, they met at the front of the auditorium. He was covered in the stench of oil paint and coated in the colors of the rainbow. He always smelled of paint. He had knocked Rheanne over, who was, again, passing out pamphlets and made a mess of things.
Other than that, she knew nothing more of him.
“With that said, I hope to see the repeating students and the dorm heads later today in the meeting room.”
“Did you hear that, Miss Female Dorm Head?” Katie mocked.
Rheanne didn’t get why and how she got along well with Katie, but she was often in her company, laughing genuinely. She didn’t have a lot of people like Katie in her life.
The students were beginning to pile out of the auditorium in couples or groups, acquaintances they’d made and would soon be friends with. Her own friends were leaving, only waving and hugging as they passed.
“I’ll wait for you,” Katie reassured.
She didn’t need to tell her how she felt, Katie just knew it.
“Thanks,” Rheanne replied.
The meeting took an hour and for some reason, Rheanne was given the heavy task of looking over a few of her dormers. She and her friend and fellow dorm head Drake were both made responsible.
A bit lost in thought, she was walking the perimeter of the school in deep thought when that same odor of paint interfered. She rushed around the corner.
“Landon Irving! Don’t go painting the school walls right after getting a lecture!”
Landon stopped mid-stroke and gave a boyish grin towards the fuming Rheanne.
“Ah, dorm head,” he simply replied.
He continued to paint the wall without regard for Rheanne. He was so immersed in his own activity that he didn’t notice her closing the lids of the paint buckets around him.
“Hey, hey!” He tried to grab her by the wrist to which she dodged gracefully.
“Go back to the dorms, Landon or I’ll report you the teachers.”
“And get yourself into trouble,” he smirked.
The words, ‘fuck you’ crossed her mind a couple of times but she didn’t dare utter it. She simply held her urge to slap him upside the head and smiled as kindly as she could muster.
“For the greater good,” she said.
“Riiight…” he grumbled.
He didn’t fight her and started to clean up as well.
That was one of the many encounters Rheanne had with Landon after being assigned to him. She watched him on the sidelines while Drake was the more physically present dorm head. He was the total opposite of Rheanne, carefree. Somehow, she understood why Landon too was carefree. The boys didn’t have a good authority figure.
“Me?” Drake scoffed.
“You never actually lecture the guys who break curfew or when they break into other dorm houses. And… I hate to say this, Drake, but your grades aren’t at their best right now.”
Katie stood behind Rheanne like a crony ready to jump to her aid if need be.
“So, you’re rebuking me as a dorm head?” He looked downright pissed off. “Fuck it, Rheanne. Is it because Madison and I broke up? Get over it.”
“What? It has nothing to do with that.”
Madison was one of Rheanne’s close friends and happened to also be in the same dorm house which meant, Rheanne basically took care of her.
“And I wasn’t rebuking you. I was simply telling you not to be so lenient from now on. God, Drake.”
There was an applause coming not too far away.
“So the good kid, Rheanne can actually look angry.”
Drake snickered and draped an arm around Rheanne.
He didn’t know it but Rheanne hated being touched, especially by a guy. She was always displeased with guys touching her, but like all other times, she said nothing because it’s rude to suddenly throw off someone’s arm.
That was probably the first time Landon saw her hold her breath. Her face was blank like she was busy desperately trying to think of something else. He didn’t know why but he could just tell.
* * *
“I have a sister who’s only 10 years old back home.”
He was sitting in the art room with a half painted canvas before him while she was sitting on the window sill with a book resting on her lap.
She was told to watch over him and the classroom for Mr. Abbrami had no trust in him. She was also instructed to clean up. Basically, she was responsible for everything even when all she wanted to do was go home right after last period.
“I have a younger brother as well but only by two years,” she replied.
‘Small talk’ is a form of conversation. Everyone, who’s ever been born, is taught how to talk –make small talk or if you’re good, maintain a conversation. Rheanne was good at maintaining a conversation when she put her mind to it at least. Her family taught her how to appease people.
“I have an older brother,” Landon dropped his brush, “I hate him.”
The book on Rheanne’s lap slipped off. It fell on its pages, most likely folding them. She bent over to pick it up without looking at Landon but he was looking at her expectantly.
“Is that so…” her voice trailed.
“What, no older sibling to hate on?” He quickly retorted.
She didn’t answer and raised her eyes to meet him but was quick to regret her decision as she saw her dark brown eyes reflected in his light green eyes. Her eyes seemed murky and confused compared to his. She didn’t like that.
“Are you almost done?”
“You always do that, don’t you?”
“I’m going to clean up since you’re busy talking anyway.”
“Always,” he caught a hold of her thin wrist, “on the run.”
* * *
She found him at the side of the school painting on a large canvas sheet illegally nailed on the school wall.
“I thought this would be less against the rules.”
He picked up an unused brush and offered it to her. He didn’t wait too long though and placed it back on the ground.
They were quiet for a while and Rheanne was unmoving. She feigned not knowing what to do. She simply sat herself down on the low brick planter box. She watched him paint until sunset.
“Help me out?”
* * *
The days of cool breezes turned into gusts of wind threatening to tip Rheanne over. She was bundled in a green scarf a friend had given her one Christmas but she only wore a thin layer of cashmere and knee-length white skirt as she paced outside the dorm house.
“Curfew is always scary,” a freshman mumbled as he passed Rheanne.
When the clock tower of the school chimed 8 PM, Rheanne stepped out onto the grounds with her game face on.
“So scary,” Drake grinned.
“You!” Rheanne shouted past Drake.
During winter, the students followed the rules less. They would go out early and come back late despite the endless warnings from teachers and student council. Winter was Rheanne’s favorite season but she hated having to catch all the rule breakers.
“I wouldn’t be this mean if they just followed the rules in the beginning.”
“True, true,” someone grumbled.
It wasn’t Drake and neither was it Rheanne answering her own question. She spun around only to be faced by someone she didn’t want to see.
She pushed herself away from Landon and walked off into a stupor towards the gates to the dorm houses. She caught many rule breakers that night for the first time since becoming a dorm head.
Rheanne and Katie were taking a stroll around the dorm grounds. They were walking arm in arm in peaceful quietness that they basked in whenever they could. Alone, it was lonely. Together, it felt just that, peaceful.
“Are you going to write to your parents? It is nearing Christmas.”
“Are you going to write a letter to your dad?” Rheanne kicked a rock.
“I’ll think about it,” Katie said.
“I probably will,” Rheanne murmured.
* * *
They painted together in silence in the art room. She was somewhat used to his presence now but she never initiated a conversation unless it was to scold him. It seemed like he didn’t mind, He kept to himself and painted. He painted until the end of the day. Together they would clean up and walk to the dorms.
Snow was generously falling from the blue sky and coated the dorm grounds. It was officially winter break. Few people from each dorm stayed for the break.
“I’ve assigned everyone a new room.” Rheanne pasted a paper on the bulletin board of her dorm.
Dorm C was now the largest dorm house and was used as the main house in cases like winter break. It was made co-ed only during the breaks but it meant the remaining dorm heads or student council members would have more things on their plate.
She looked around the room. The ratio of girls and guys were strangely balanced. She knew some of them on a personal level while others were people she’d come to know through other means.
She stood beside the board in case anyone had any objections. Each student checked for their names and left to talk with other friends or the roommates they obtained.
“Why can’t we have co-ed roommates?”
Landon decreased the space between him and Rheanne. If she were uncomfortable, he only saw it for a fleeting moment.
“I don’t answer stupid questions,” she rowed.
A month ago, she found arguing with Landon a fun distraction. It’s a little mean to admit but she would always go looking for him to vent out even if he didn’t know she was venting.
“So, what’s the occasion this time?” He was looking at the paper for his name. “Ah here I am!”
“Occasion?” Someone asked.
“Oh you know, for the winter celebration. I heard the student council has thought of the theme.”
He always stood so close to her.
She tried to get past him when the last person looked over their name but his much larger body blocked her way. She tried to crouch down but felt a little weird doing that. She tried to push him away instead which only made things worse.
“Rheanne, did you need something?”
She glared at him and pushed through.
“Use your words, Miss Dorm Head,” he teased.
Somehow or another, he figured her out. Ever since the end of November, Landon, rather than Rheanne, was having fun. He teased her and poked at the little details no one ever noticed.
She hated him for it, of course, but said nothing.
* * *
“You asked for it.”
“Me?” Rheanne threw her hands up in the air.
“Yeah, you. You let him do this to you.”
Katie and Rheanne were helping dig out Christmas decorations.
“He did it on his own,” Rheanne defended.
“But,” Katie stopped collecting bells, “the color is good on you.”
“The lights are crooked,” she criticized loudly.
Landon grabbed her head from the back, “well, if you turn your head, it won’t be.”
“That’s some perspective you have there,” Katie laughed.
“Fuck off, Landon.” Rheanne swatted his hands away and moved on to decorate elsewhere.
He was the only person she could curse to so openly.
“The lights are crooked.”
Rheanne lifted one side up, “how about now?”
She looked behind her, carefully turning as she was sitting on a ladder. Landon was grinning playfully at her.
“Then you do it,” she grumbled.
“No thanks.” He sat himself down on the curb to watch her attempt to attach the lights. “It’s still crooked, though.”
* * *
“It’s almost Christmas,” Katie said.
Rheanne was pulled into her as Katie jumped on without permission. They lied on the bed quietly, not saying a word to each other.
“Did you send a Christmas letter to your dad?” Rheanne asked.
“Did you send your Christmas letter to your family?” She retorted.
“Not like he cares.” Katie sat up. “Let’s talk about something else.”
* * *
“You get along with everyone so well,” he mumbled.
They were in the kitchen. She was making herself a sandwich and he happened to be passing by. He started up the conversation but didn’t expect her to reply.
“It’s part of my job,” she unconsciously answered.
The knife used to cut the sandwich in half and carelessly placed to the side fell to the ground when Rheanne moved. She jumped back in surprise.
Landon instantly laughed at her reaction but stood beside her to make sure she was alright.
“Landon, you were here?”
His mouth was agape for a moment before he shook it off. She hadn’t been listening to him this whole time. Again, he looked at her in question.
“You and Katie… you’re always off in your own world, huh?” He took the knife from the floor and placed it in the sink.
She thought about the different answers she came up with and stuck with the best answer.
“Everyone is stuck in their own world.”
He didn’t bother her all morning after that.
She saw him around the dorm house mingling with friends and lower classmen. Other times, she spotted him by the tv with other guys playing video games they brought from home the last break. She could easily distinguish him in a crowd even when she didn’t want to and it was then she realized how much time they’d been spending together.
Katie took the stool beside Rheanne’s.
Rheanne was busy writing up a schedule of some sort.
Christmas was soon coming and it was probably stressing her out or at least that’s what Katie assumed.
Rheanne, as dorm head, was in charge of the students. She was responsible for them and as of late, Rheanne hasn’t been sleeping well due to late night patrol. For some reason, they just never follow the curfew restriction.
“You should really sleep during the day.”
“During the day, I also have duties to perform.”
“He’s a brat. He’s a know-it-all. He’s persistent and pushy in a bad way. He often reeks of paint and he’s probably caused more trouble than you can handle, but you’ve been handling him pretty well.”
Rheanne scratched her forehead in slight frustration and drank from her can of cola. It must have been her second in the last hour.
“He’s not that bad of a guy, actually,” Rheanne muttered under her breath.
“And what part of him is good?”
It was the Friday before Christmas Eve. Everyone was in a riot of sorts. The students were in a rush to buy presents or baked goods. Rheanne was sat on one of the couches in the tv room watching a random show on a random channel when the door opened and in came a group of dormers.
“Hey Rheanne, can we watch here?”
Of course, the answer had been a yes.
She moved to the library but it was full of couples and those studying for the upcoming exams when school picked right back up. She turned around for the kitchen but stopped midway when a bunch of girls came giggling by with trays of muffins.
“Want one?” A girl asked.
“If you don’t mind,” she lied.
She didn’t like the taste of blueberry.
She headed towards the front room where not many hung out in because there was nothing to do there but welcome people in. It was almost empty, save for a single soul.
“Why, if it isn’t the dorm head.”
He patted the seat beside him like it was the only option but she dared not take it.
“Blueberry, so not you,” he commented as he got up.
He sat at the arm of her chair and grabbed the muffin. He munched at it as if it was his or as if she’d willingly given it to him.
“I see, you’re still rude.”
“And you’re still…” He didn’t continue.
He stared down at her for quite some time and they enjoyed the quietness together. His breathing was regulated at intervals of 5 seconds. Hers was much slower.
“How often do you need to inhale?” He suddenly examined.
“It depends,” she answered.
She was staring at a loose thread from his shirt. She was tempted to tug at it but felt a little strange reaching out.
His hand was resting on his lap. They were slender and larger than hers. The tips of his nails were freshly trimmed. They were unusually free of paint stains. His hand curled into a fist and uncurled as if engrossed in his own thoughts. They twitched and fell to his side.
“Do you –“
Rheanne shot to her feet and bowed her head. She took one good look at her reflection through his eyes and hurriedly walked out of the dorm.
She was minutes away from the greenhouse when she realized she’d forgotten to take a sweater with her. She wore a thin layer of a long sleeved shirt and light gray jeans. Thankfully, she had on arm warmers and the scarf she carries around her waist often. She wrapped the green scarf around her neck and trudged on to the greenhouse.
Her breathing was irregular thanks to the hike through the snow but mostly because she felt something she didn’t think she’d ever feel.
She pushed open the glass door and entered in. It was sort of warm but was of no comparison to the dorm house with the heater circulating.
“What is this?”
The snow piled on the roof of the greenhouse. She could see some of it fall off on the side as she lay on one of the benches. The metal was cool to the touch but her body quickly adapted to the weather. Though she was cold, she loved it.
She let herself fall into a deep nap, taking the rest she deserved.
“Dreams show us what we miss,” she mumbled.
“And what is it that you miss?”
“For crying out loud, Landon!” She sat up and turned to him.
She’d been sleeping on his lap without her knowledge and it seemed he’d been in the glasshouse for some time as the sun was now low and ready to set.
“The bench was hard, so I thought I’d lend you my lap,” he smiled.
“I didn’t need it!”
“But you looked like you were sleeping better.”
“I didn’t even know, okay. Would you stop chasing me around!” She clicked her tongue and got up.
“As a friend –“
“We’re not friends,” she spat.
She could see herself warp in his eyes. She was never beautiful but now she looked hideous. She removed his hand that had unconsciously reached out to her.
“Didn’t I say before? Fuck off.”
* * *
“Wouldn’t it be better to tell him the truth?”
Rheanne was in the kitchen with a few other girls as they prepared for the Christmas party that they’d set up for everyone who stayed behind. She flinched but the question hadn’t been directed to her. It was for another friend.
She slumped back in her seat and continued to help Madison.
“What’s our dorm head doing?” Madison whispered.
“Huh?” Rheanne was taken aback.
The two conversed in their little corner in small voices. It was one of the rare instances that Madison was confided in and she listened attentively.
“So, that’s how it is,” Katie interrupted.
She must have been listening the whole time as she smirked proudly at Rheanne. She glided around the women in the kitchen and placed herself to the empty seat left by her friend.
“So, what do you plan to do?”
“He hasn’t talked to me since…”
Even though she had come out and said it, she still felt hesitant to talk further about her problem.
“Well, I’m still glad.” Madison softly smiled and hugged Rheanne. “I’ve never seen you taken by your emotions. I’m also happy you confided in me.”
“It’s a definite improvement,” Katie agreed.
The Christmas party came and went with the snow. Soon, it was January and the students of Kane High were returning to the school with stories of their wondrous adventures during their winter break.
Lilly threw a birthday party and all of Dorm A celebrated and friends from other dorms crashed it. Rheanne had attended but wasn’t invested in having fun. Rather, she found herself searching around the room for the one head she used to not have a problem finding.
“He’s not here,” Lilly frowned.
“Who’s not here?” Rheanne pretended to be innocent.
“He’s at the school, I think –painting?”
“I wasn’t looking for him.” She took Lilly by the hand and entered the crowd to attempt to enjoy the party.
It ended quite late and Rheanne was one of the few who stayed to clean up. She must have been spacing out when Lilly tapped her on the shoulder.
“It’s okay, you should go back. It’s already 8:15.” She took the broom from Rheanne and escorted her through the front doors. “Cheer up, kay? We’re worried about you.”
* * *
Rheanne stared at the ceiling of her room, not sleeping. She could hear some rule breakers sneaking into the dorm house and others who were simply out of their beds. The latter wasn’t against the rules but it made her aware that the dorm was once again all girls.
“We’re worried about you.”
She stared at the photos on her wall. In all the pictures, she was smiling and having fun.
“Since when did I think I wasn’t happy here?”
* * *
“Did you get a letter from your dad?”
Katie took one of Rheanne’s toasts before she answered, “yeah.”
“I got my letters yesterday.”
“That’s great! Wait, you sent them a letter?”
“Just like you sent yours, I sent mine,” Rheanne said.
* * *
“It’s almost your birthday,” Madison beamed.
Katie and Lilly were playing a mean game of checkers in the classroom while Rheanne and a few other friends sat in a picnicked lunch at the back.
“Have you guys seen Landon lately?” Drake was playing volleyball with his best friend, Bryce.
“Art room. Aren’t you in charge of him?” Lilly said.
“Yeah, kinda –Rheanne is mostly in charge of him,” he laughed.
“He’s in the art room,” Rheanne stabbed a piece of chicken and begrudgingly ate it, “and painting as always.”
“Back to Rheanne’s birthday,” a girl in her first year was sitting beside Rheanne.
Tawnie was like a sister to Rheanne and was treated like a treasure along with same age friend, Erin who is sister to Bryce.
“Are you planning on anything?” Erin asked.
“Nothing in particular. There’s school the day after.”
“If that’s what you want,” Lilly seceded after a long argument.
Rheanne nodded and everyone was forced to drop the subject.
“How come Landon hasn’t been visiting?” Bryce plopped on an empty seat.
“Talk about insensitive,” Tawnie muttered.
“Whu?” Bryce tried speaking with his mouth filled with hot bread.
“Nothing,” Katie lied.
She looked at the still quiet Rheanne.
Katie was positioned on Rheanne’s bed again when she asked, “Do you like him?”
“What?” Rheanne fell to the ground, missing her computer chair completely.
“Do. You. Like. Him.” Katie repeated.
“You know who.”
“Landon? No, I just feel really bad.”
“But it’s been a month and you have yet to apologize. It’s unlike the good Rheanne to prolong an apology.”
“You haven’t turned in your paper, have you? It’s so unlike you, Rheanne.”
“You’re behind your artwork. The deadline is nearing and I was counting on your work to demonstrate to the others. It’s very unlike you.”
“You haven’t been visiting the infirmary, are you okay?”
“Unlike me?” Rheanne slumped on the ground as she talked to Katie.
She could feel the snow.
“Unlike the you they know… the you they think is the real one.”
“They’re all her,” someone interrupted.
Landon was passing by with a can of white paint and a roller brush, very unlike him.
“What’s that for?” Katie, curious, asked.
“Got into trouble just recently painting the outside wall of the Headmaster’s office.” He turned to Rheanne who dodged his eyes.
“Don’t worry, I told them you were chasing after me but couldn’t keep up. So you’re not in trouble.”
When she didn’t respond, Katie took the initiative to thank him.
“Are you going to ignore him from now on and forever?” She asked when Landon was far from earshot.
“No,” Rheanne grumbled.
“I don’t care if you don’t like-like him. Friends are important.”
“We’re not friends!”
“I’m the worst.”
He was there during special occasions like birthdays but made sure to not be seen. After all, she found him as a bother.
On her birthday, he left her a gift like everyone else, drank the punch and said nothing to her.
Spring arrived not at the first bloom of a bud or the first leaves of a tree but in the form of lasting romantic relationships began one year ago.
Rheanne’s close friends Jonathan and Wyatt were celebrating their anniversary with their respective girlfriends. Bryce was currently crushing on his seat neighbor.
Spring also came in heartbreaks.
Her brother-like friend was rejected. She herself had been rejected during September and the two sought each other’s company.
And spring went bringing in the June glooms. The sky was foggy and dark. Prom had come and gone. All there was to think about was graduation and the trip after.
Landon was in the art room packing his belongings when Rheanne entered to return what she had borrowed over the course of the year.
“I’ll be quick,” he muttered.
Rheanne didn’t reply and was quiet for a while.
“I really hate you,” she said monotonously.
“Same here,” he said in almost a grin.
This was a previous version of Listening to Georgiana. where it is set in high school in London. This was a special piece created for a class project where I created a sort of journal that would soon fuel the writing style I chose for the final novel. In this version, we get a glimpse of Georgiana’s or in this case, Rheanne’s life, not in her true perspective but in a third omniscient point of view. Also in this version, there is Landon, a real person who she falls in love with rather than the dream she recalls per chapter in the novel.
Paint Stains was a pleasure piece and I enjoyed putting together snippets of thoughts I had for the story. It was thrilling giving her character a vague happy ending, a possible love which she never thought she would have.