Neil and the Girl
“Neil and the Girl” is one of the outstanding stories of the first biannual International Short Story Contest 2018 written by Derek Chau, Adrian C. Wilcox High School, USA.
Neil and the Girl
In this story, you will read the journey of Neil Avory, a teenager whose story is meant to entertain you once finished. It begins on May 13, 2050, with Avory having one last chance in high school to earn the hand of his beloved crush, Helene, before it is too late. Though it may seem obvious, it is important to know that this is a story about romance, and what a common man would do to befriend the love of his life, coveting to fulfill his dream. Besides that, I hope you learn something beneficial out of this odyssey, thanking you for your time reading this story and being entertained by it.
—— I ——
The room was illuminated, with lights beaming toward everyone below them. As students within class S113 was engaging in their own business, working on their individual assignments, discussing trifles with their peers, or making a fool out of themselves, a senior was sitting down with his own desk, undergoing a mission of his own. He wasn’t the most popular student in Safire High School, nor did he assume any pinnacle role within its student associations; however, he was special, special in a way that who he was would shape the life of another throughout his story. His physique was quite alluring though, enough to woo those who were curious about him, especially the girls of his time, ones who played sports for both competitive and recreational reasons. Further, our hero’s physiognomy was something that no man could ever purchase, recreate, nor gimmick: it was something that belonged to what others might say, a superior type of man, whose distinct features would almost immediately send a message to one during a conversation, saying, “I am very pleased to meet you, I’m glad you could make my acquaintance for today.” As our hero was diligently finishing his class work, hoping that he could spare himself the burden of doing “homework,” his Biology teacher, Mr. Rossovich, announced, “Alright, listen up class listen up!”
There was a short, quiet pause within the room.
“As you may already know, our Chapter 18 assessment is happening next week on Friday at the 20th! I strongly recommend that you study for this exam, otherwise you’ll put yourself in a bind. Now, do I make myself clear?!” Mr. Rossovich asked loudly.
“Yes Mr. Ross!” most of the students replied.
“BEEEEEEEEP!!!” the dismissal bell alarmed.
The students started to leave their desks and went for the exit door, hurrying either for the school bus or their family rides in the parking lot. As the class was emptying, Mr. Rossovich attempted to finish his important message in a loud, outreaching voice. As if he were drowning in quicksand, Mr. Rossovich attempted to say his last words to the leaving students, “Everyone, I won’t be around here for next week! If you need my help on any ‘bio’ work, be sure to email me via Loopmail! Thank you!”
Within the span of thirty seconds, only two students remained in the classroom: a delinquent named Joel, whom we don’t need to know at all, and our hero, Neil Avory, whose intentions prompted him to stay in class to talk to Mr. Rossovich. “Mr. Rossovich?” Avory asked. “Yes Neil?” Mr. Rossovich answered politely. “When you’re gone for next week, how do you think your other classes will go out to be?” Avory inquired, not in an inquisitive manner but rather a humble one. “Well,” Mr. Rossovich started, “I think all of them will be just fine, provided that your sub, Mr. Taylor, will take over for only five days. My second period of course will be fine, just like fifth period and this one actually.” Avory began to inquire in a raised but well-respected tone, “And what is second period like Mr. Rossovich? By chance, I might have friends whom I think are smart. Would you please tell me more about that class, also sharing with me some notable students whom you could deem avid?” Before answering Avory’s question, Mr. Rossovich laughed in a joking manner, not intending to mock our hero for he had never, throughout his entire career as a biology teacher, heard a student coveting to know more about a particular class of his. “Yes,” he replied in a jocular fashion, “Now… second period is a very good class of mine. It holds some of my finest students such as Sashwath, Falken, Zegarelli, Helene…”
It was the mentioning of “Helene” of which our hero felt satisfied for asking his teacher about second period. Neil wanted to know how she was doing, given that he hadn’t had a class with her in years.
—— II ——
It was November 9, 2046, when Avory was simply a freshman of Safire High School. By the time he became a student in this prestigious academy, he had already fallen in love with a girl whom he considered special: Helene Dimitrievna. She was about our hero’s height, neither too tall nor short to create a sense of uneasiness. Moreover, Helene had borne herself a lovely appearance, which could be considered by many others beyond reproach; it must be known however, that Helene was well aware of how she appeared, thus she was consistently circumspective of her security concerning anyone of the opposite sex taking interest in her. Adding more to her appearance, from top to bottom, Helene possessed great physiognomy, radiant hair, gleaming eyes, and a lovely smile, all of which were things that some women of her age had but, quite coincidentally, taken to account by Avory’s reasons to love her.
Perhaps it’d be better if we go further back in time, understanding our hero’s origins as to how he developed affinities for Helene.
During the year 2045, Avory was an 8th grade student of Forsythe Middle School. Unlike his 12th grade self, our hero behaved much like a delinquent: inconsiderate of what others thought or said about him, which always took a turn for the worse; defiant toward his parents, whom Avory considered menacing; and attached to ill behaviors such as gluttony and little exercise. Upon seeing Helene for the first time in CC English 2A, humbly smiling at her homework while sitting down and working on it in class, Avory received a message from his conscience, saying, “Look at her Neil… look at her… There is something magnificent about her, as if she’s your soul mate.” Our hero tried to reason with this wild speculation, thinking, “I’m only 13 for goodness sake! I’m too young to seek one’s hand, especially when I have school to deal with. It’s school first! Not the girl!
“Oh, don’t be silly,” his mind replied in a humorous manner.
“That’s up for you to find out. Your interest for that girl will change your life… forever…” Avory’s mind concluded.
Days later, during our hero’s time in middle school, he’d noticed Helene sitting alone at her table during lunch, presumably waiting for her friends, who were most definitely seeking lunch from the cafeteria while Helene got it from home. Seeking an opportunity to speak to her for the first time, Avory, mustering a great deal of courage, decided to head toward the unknown. He stood up from the grass, saying, “Here goes!” and our hero ventured toward Helene’s direction.
Standing in front of Helene, the boy meekly said, “Hi,” struggling to yield eye contact toward his crush. “Uh… yeah?” Helene replied in a vexed tone, clearly expressing her lackadaisical self while barely glancing at the chubby, scared and strange Neil Avory for a short period of time.
On Avory’s side of thought, something came about within his mind. This sensation could be considered upsetting, or in other words, provoking toward him. It said to Avory’s conscience, “It is time to leave, leave now while you still can in a peaceful manner. Now isn’t the time to play ‘hero’. You did your best, now go…” This very message repeated itself within our hero’s mind until he leave Helene.
“How are you¬—, actually, sorry for bothering you, I’ll just go,” Avory said whilst being bogged down by his nervousness. He then headed back to his corner just outside of the cafeteria, planning to stay out of Helene’s sight.
Minutes after that awkward confrontation, Wolfe, a friend of Helene who had overseen the encounter just fifty paces away, decided to talk to Helene about the incident and learn more about it herself. “Who was that guy?” Wolfe asked to Helene. “I have no idea, he seems like a creep to me. I couldn’t care less about him anyway; he’ll go away, I’m sure of it,” Helene explained. “Well, from what I saw, I think he likes you. In fact, I’ll do you a favor by asking him as to whether he does,” Wolfe said optimistically toward Helene with an ardent smile. “Go ahead Wolfie,” as Helene would informally address her female friend, “Then tell me what he says.”
With approval from one of her closest friends, Wolfe searched for the “chubby and weird” student on campus. She found him sitting alone on the grass, eating his food like a Neanderthal by using his fingers to eat whatever junk rest in front of his mouth. “Excuse me, are you the one who talked to Helene?” Wolfe asked curiously toward the sitting boy. “Talked? More like confront and leave,” Avory imprudently replied. To this, Wolfe scoffed. “Well, I don’t wish to bother you for much longer but, kindly answer me: do you like Helene?” Wolfe asked, bearing a countenance that could best be seen as whether Wolfe wanted to be amicable or interrogating.
Avory felt a pang in his heart. He badly wanted to answer the girl’s question but couldn’t conceive an answer! “Ooh! I know what to say! I’ll say yes! Wait, no, that’s a terrible idea, I think I should ask her to go away, or maybe ‘I’ll think about it, it’s personal’. This girl is more gallant than I am, asking me whether I like someone or not. I didn’t even ask for something like this to happen nor did I expect it in the first place! Perhaps my conscience was right, my love for Helene will change my life forever! I must say something. Think Neil think!”
In response to this ultimatum, our hero gave an answer.
—— III ——
Two weeks after the event between Avory and Helene, the former was sitting down on his couch, watching television whilst eating Lays potato chips scrupulously, disregarding any important matters such as academics, family and even himself. “I won’t be like August, so I might as well get 800 on the SAT anyway; I won’t be like Amber, so I might as well resort to a thirty-minute mile time; and I will never be a Moore 2.0, who is phenomenally charismatic toward the girls,” Avory’s mind discontented. Minutes later, he thought, “Why did I say no to that girl? Was it the right thing to do? Was she trying to intimidate me? Oh, perish the thought! It was just a simple conversation anyway.”
In hopes of assuaging his misery, our hero decided to change the channel, looking for happiness for a change.
“As of now, dolphins are close to—”
“Burxsh!” the television sounded.
“The Russian military is taking a charge toward Georgia once more. We’ll—”
“Try it! With Moximean!” yelled a man with an English/Australian accent.
“So, tell me Mrs. President, what factors brought you to the White House during your 18-year journey?” a man invitingly asked.
Our hero’s attention was immediately caught, inclining to tune in to Channel WLCX 102 News, watching Ian Stroud interviewing the then-president of the United States: Lindsey Thatcher. “Well,” the commander-in-chief began, “There are many things and reasons as to how I became president but, if there’s one thing that led me to become who I am right now, it was my love for and of my husband, Ulysses. “And how did that bring you ‘here’ Mrs. President?” Ian inquired. Thatcher started her monologue, “You see, when I first knew Ulysses in high school, he was as charming as your typical football champion. He didn’t talk much to me, but whenever he was around, whether it’d be during ‘passing periods,’ class, lunch, or even after school, I’d always try to be within his proximity, trying to coerce him to think about me and maybe, just maybe, start a relationship between he and I.” “And how did that go?” Ian asked. “I didn’t get a single opportunity to befriend him. In fact, it was only did I work hard on my studies such the SAT, AP exams, and extracurriculars did I finally manage to get his attention, forming our relationship and living happily ever after,” President Thatcher finished. “Oh! And I almost forgot, during my time of studies, I developed an interest for political science, establishing the very foundation of which my presidency would begin from,” Thatcher added on. “Why thank you Mrs. President, now, I—including our viewers—would like to know something: what did you ultimately learn from your endeavor to be with Ulysses?”
At this point, Avory was anxious to hear what the president had to say, as if he were about to discover a secret only the curious—like him—would unveil.
“What did I learn?” the president rhetorically asked. A short, silent pause came about. “I learned that by having a burning desire to win my husband’s hand, I inadvertently did many great deeds for those around me: my would-be professor, Link, possibly wouldn’t have had the assistance he needed to organize his office if I didn’t volunteer to sort his papers at Stanford University. Moreover, Nelson, another friend of mine, wouldn’t work beside me as vice president if I didn’t encourage him to pursue his dreams ardently during high school. All of these virtuous acts were performed under the motive to impress Ulysses, in hopes of distinguishing myself from other girls, whose interests were much trifles, no offense.” With a delighted countenance, Ian, enlightened with what he had just heard, said, “Why thank you very much Mrs. President now, we will get more to our interview after the following messages but please, stay—”
Our hero turned off the TV.
“Work hard on my studies eh? Perhaps the president is right.” Avory pondered. Suddenly, a revelation sparked within his conscience, kindling an epiphany. “Goodness… it’s all so clear!” With the bottom of his palm, our hero thudded his forehead with it once, realizing that the idea he was conceiving was revolutionary. Avory continued thinking, “If I take the hardest classes in middle school (And high school), do my exercise and become ship shape, start great ambitions, and change my character to that of benevolence, Helene will soon be mine! She’ll think well of me! Wow, why didn’t I think of this much sooner? If I want to change my future-partner, especially how she thinks of me now, then I’ll have to change myself first! Change who I am! A ha! That’s it! I’m the problem!” And so, from this point, our hero promised to himself that he will do whatever it takes to win Helene’s hand, starting a journey that would forever change his life.
—— IV ——
It was May 2, 2050, five years after our hero’s embarrassing moment with Helene. During those years, Avory never had a class with her, nor did he even have a chance to speak to anyone associated with her! It may have seemed difficult for Avory to live without Helene, but he persevered: our hero reformed his way of mind, changing from a selfish delinquent to a selfless role model; he exercised consistently in the gym, formulating his strength and outward appearance; and Avory took his studies very aggressively, yearning to achieve academic greatness through the SAT, AP exams and classes. Overall, Avory held good spirit, patiently waiting for the special opportune to befriend Helene—as he believed there was still a chance.
A senior in Safire High School, Avory was doing his vigorous exercise in the school gym, bench-pressing 45-pound weights. As our hero was nearing his seventeenth lift, he was politely disrupted by a great friend of his, Anisya, who interrupted, “Avory, I would like to talk to you about something,” the teenage girl informed him. “Okay!” Avory breathlessly exclaimed in a grunting voice, “Just one more second!”
Anisya had first known Avory during his sophomore year, when he was taking his studies quite rigorously, to the extent that he would half-wittedly notice his friends when they were around him in class. Our hero had three classes with Anisya, always sitting right next to her along with Nikolai, Anisya’s boyfriend. One time, in the month of December 2047, Anisya, out of her curiosity, asked, “Avory, is there anything or anyone,” emphasizing the anyone in a teasing manner “that you like other than studying?” “Yes,” our hero replied, “In fact, I have an answer on the anyone part,” he added in a jocular tone. From that point, Avory and Anisya became friends respectfully, and would occasionally—sometimes every three weeks—talk to each other about Helene and what our hero could do to arrive steps closer to winning her hand.
Completing his final stroke with the barbell (and then discarding it to its appropriate location), Avory raised himself to a sitting position on his bench, then facing Anisya. Knowing that our hero was then paying attention to her, Anisya addressed to him, “It’s about Helene,” a short pause occurred between the two friends, “As you may already know, you only have about a month to get along with her, but you have, with respect, done nothing to—” realizing she’d said something imprudent, Anisya immediately corrected herself, saying, “Wait, actually no. You’ve done a lot, but to my knowledge, you haven’t talked to Helene at all!” she exclaimed. After listening to Anisya without interjections, as he’d learned to do so from John Gray’s Men Are from Mars and Women Are from Venus, Avory gave his take on the matter, and spoke, “Do not worry my good friend, I earnestly appreciate your help on bringing me closer to Helene, which is why I will talk to her by the end of this month. Period.” “Well I hope so!” Anisya excitedly answered. “Anyway, I need to find Nikolai. If you see him, be sure to let me know so we can schedule our postprandial activities for tonight,” she finished.
“Will do,” our hero answered. As Anisya was walking away from him, looking for her sweetheart, Avory thought about Helene, thinking, “A month… Goodness! I must act before school ends, or else everything I’ve worked for will be for nothing!” Our hero could’ve wasted his time worrying if it weren’t for a man he knew, who kindly asked him, “Hey Avory, do you know where Anisya is?” Realizing it was Nikolai, Avory responded, “Yes! Follow me, we’ll look for her together.” The two gentlemen later walked throughout the gym, looking for Anisya.
—— V ——
“…Overall, I think second period will be fine. Now, is there anything you would like to ask me about?” Mr. Rossovich requested with a smile toward Avory. It took two seconds for our hero to recollect his thoughts after daydreaming about Helene, and then he replied, “Hmm? Oh, uh no, but thank you, Mr. Rossovich.” Avory then mounted his backpack, and started to leave the class. “Well alright Neil,” Mr. Rossovich happily answered, “Just remember, we have a test next Friday so be prepared…” “I got it now, Goodbye Mr. Rossovich!” Avory replied as he was reaching the door. Our hero left, closing the door behind him and started making his way to the parking lot, where many students gathered to socialize with their friends before being picked up by their parents.
On a warm, sunny day of the thirteenth of May 2050, our hero—along with scores of students standing beside each other—patiently waited outside on the side walk, observing vehicles pass in front of him as they had been loaded with students whose parents came to bring them home. “What a multitude of vehicles!” Avory thought, “Perhaps if I see Helene in one of them, the best I can do is simply wave at her in salutations. Or maybe not, for that would be unsettling.”
Suddenly, out of the many voices chattering around Avory, one from behind was specifically caught by our hero’s ears, instinctively sending a message to his mind, saying, “Do you hear that? That voice sounds familiar! But to whom does it belong to?” The voice Avory heard was audible, but not loud enough to get everyone else’s attention, only his. While Avory held his back from the speaker, the arcane voice was saying, “…I know Rose I get it but, if you let me go to your house tomorrow on Saturday, I’m sure we’ll both get the project done...Wait, what!? Why not…? Ugh, you know what? Fine. We’ll both do it during SSR (Otherwise known as Sustained Silent Reading Time) and hope Mrs. Stone doesn’t catch us!” The voice finished, stimulating our hero’s curiosity. Our hero was bewildered, wondering, “Hmm, I should turn around and take a quick look toward the person behind me. It wouldn’t hurt.”
Avory turned around toward the voice’s origin, and was quickly appalled to see who it was. The mysterious figure was mysterious no more: it was Helene Dimitrievna. She was still beautiful as described already, but this time even more alluring, enough to urge Avory to take action immediately. Helene was standing alone, holding her phone with one hand while the other one was used as a platform for the former’s elbow to rest on; she was gazing at her phone at a near-eye level, browsing trifles on the internet for the sake of indulgence.
“Alone at last, just like in eighth grade!” our hero excitedly thought. “I must converse with her, really, I must! If I don’t speak to her, she will go away, and I can’t let that happen! I may have made a mistake as a little man, but I certainly won’t repeat it as a gallant one.” Before approaching Helene, Avory exclaimed to himself, “Here goes!” and our hero ventured towards Helene’s direction.
—— VI ——
Avory began approaching Helene, but before he could talk within her reach, their eyes made contact with one another, forcing them to cease whatever business they were minding. In the span of three seconds, our hero stopped in his tracks, like a deer that sees headlights racing toward it. Avory was captivated by Helene’s radiant eyes, which seemed to say, “I think I know this man, I think I really do! I only need to remember his name, but what was it?” Avory didn’t know what to do: he thought about turning back, but it would’ve been to no avail, given that he had gone too far to seek comfort in the crowd. To turn back and disregard the opportunity of befriending Helene was an idea that signified betrayal not only to our hero himself, but to everyone who helped him get steps closer to win her hand, including Anisya. “I promised myself to be with her, and that means it will happen! Avory thought to himself. Our hero gallantly proceeded.
“Hi,” Helene greeted first, gazing at the salubrious, chivalrous and recognized Neil Avory whilst giving a smile. “Hello,” our hero responded, with a voice so empowering that from a broader perspective, respect would be bestowed from anyone who hears it. A moment of silence emerged, but it was not long enough to end the encounter quickly, as Avory asked, “How are you doing?” Willing to seek some entertainment for a change (before being picked up by her parents), Helene answered, “I’m doing wonderful, thanks for asking uh… Bill?” Ignoring her “Bill” mistake, Avory corrected in a playful manner, “I’m doing wonderfully you mean,” giving a smile as well. Helene giggled, realizing that she wasn’t only talking to someone whom she considered handsome but someone who was as smart as he looked.
“Perhaps you remember me, Helene. I’m Neil, the boy who tried talking to you back in the eighth grade, when I was a funny looking man at the time.”
“The one who gave up the second he showed up?”
“The guy who I sent Wolfe for?”
“Yes, him too,” Our hero answered honestly. For a split second, he thought about Wolfe and her whereabouts, for they were unknown, given that she actually attended Kagan University, not Safire High School.
“The one who wanted me to be his girlfriend?” Helene asked curiously.
Facing another ultimatum, Avory knew he had to respond quickly, but the conflict wasn’t getting an answer, it was getting the answer. Our hero was shrouded with thoughts, thinking, “I suppose I can be even more honest and tell her, ‘yes, that guy too,’ but what would I gain exactly? She would feel uncomfortable and think that I am only starting this conversation to undermine her in a demeaning way! And what happens if I don’t give an honest answer? Perhaps she will believe me, but it would only suffice for the short term, not to mention that I’ll have to remember that very lie, which would be a pain in the neck. What if I don’t win her hand? What if she doesn’t like me anyway? What if I’m still the problem?”
On Helene’s perspective, she was bewildered as well! By the time she asked our hero the ultimate question, she had begun recollecting any known memories of him, figuring out what relevance they might have for her convenience. The questions arose. “Does he like me? Do I have a class with him? Is he part of a sports team that I’m familiar with? Does he actually want to be my girlfriend?” The desire to know grew stronger, yet Helene just couldn’t understand who Neil Avory was, or at least not profoundly.
Then, just in the nick of time, our hero’s conscience conceived of an idea, announcing in a heavenly manner, “Be present-minded my lad. Do not think about the product or the outcome of your undertaking, but instead, think about the process. By passing the challenges of the present, your results of the future will serve as a reflection of what you’ve done, since you would only focus on prevalent matters, not speculative ones. And so, the time has come for me, your conscience, to tell you this: ‘What are you waiting for Neil? Focus on what is happening between you and Helene and not on what can happen!’”
Four seconds passed since Avory was asked Helene’s question, and after being enlightened by such an epiphany, our hero gave his answer, etching one of the greatest memories Helene and Avory will hold for the rest of their lives.
“Helene,” our Avory started, “I’ve come to say that I am deeply in love with you. I know it’s difficult to understand but, please, take my word Helene, I really am in love with you,” he continued humbly. Helene, who was whelmed with this revelation, could not speak nor interject for she could only stay prudent with her manners, letting Avory carry out his monologue. “Ever since I saw you for the first time in middle school, I knew there was something special about you. I didn’t understand it at first, but now, it is all so clear: I am in love with you. You inspired me to change who I was, you inspired me to work hard for my goals, and you inspired me to discover and use my finest qualities for others in life. Strangely, if it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have done most—if not all—of the great things that perhaps you and your friends might already know: on my SAT score of 1600, you gave me reason to work for it! I was getting back into ship shape, you too were the reason why I wanted to be healthy!” Avory was about to continue his speech after taking a breath but meanwhile, Helene was staring at him, appalled with what she was hearing but firmly held her being to stay silent. “Of course, Helene,” our hero carried on, “I didn’t come here talking to you about myself. Instead, I came here to talk about you, and how my love for you inspired me to be the man I am today.
“Beep beep!” blared a car behind Avory. Our hero turned around for two seconds and saw that it was his mother’s car, waiting for his arrival. The driver inside was Mrs. Avory, whose vexed countenance clearly sent a message to her son’s mind, angrily saying, “I’ve been waiting for five minutes on this sunny day and you hadn’t noticed me! Come child, come!”
Realizing his time with Helene was running out, Avory decided to finish his romantic confession, concluding, “Helene, forgive me if I made the air much harder to breath now, but ultimately, I would love it if you become my girlfriend. I wish I can talk to you much longer so we can set ourselves on the same page but unfortunately, I must go now. Good bye.” Neil Avory turned around, and made his way to his mother’s car.
Two seconds later, Avory heard something of utmost amazement: “Good bye Neil,” Helene gracefully said.
Hearing this farewell, our hero turned around halfway, looking at Helene with a curious smile.
Helene stepped closer to Avory, and happily whispered, “I’ll be waiting very much for you. Now go Neil.”
These prosaic words, said with the smiling expression and lightheartedness of Helene Dimitrievna, constituted within Neil Avory a remembrance of all of the hard work, devotion, persistence, desire, love, sadness, madness, and happiness he’d developed for Helene. He thought about what he heard, thinking, “’I’ll be waiting very much for you…’ Yes, yes! Helene, you said it so perfectly! How did it happen? My goodness, ‘I’ll be waiting very much for you.’ She’s made my finest day! She said—oh whatever, I feel euphoric! Thank you!