The Assignment

By Tenderness

"I know I said I wouldn't read any of these out loud. I've changed my mind." Finn listened to the groans and protests from his co-ed summer session of English class, who were scattered on the grass in their usual meeting spot. He held two pieces of paper in his hand and shook his head at his students. "You all do remember that you didn't put your names on them and that the assignment required the use of pronouns only, so you won't know who they're about?"

"Why read them at all?" Scout asked, leaning back on his elbows beside Will.

"Because while everyone's responses were good, these two captured the crux of what I was looking for by this assignment," Finn replied. "Now, to recap, since most of you forgot about the assignment as soon as you completed it." Several students chuckled. "The assignment was, to observe someone from this class for a week without their knowledge and report what you learned about this person in relation to yourself. I have to admit, it was quite amusing to see some of you hiding behind trees or peering around corners, spying on your chosen subject."

Finn perched on the edge of a weathered picnic table, surveyed his students to make sure he had their full attention, and began to read the first of the two short papers. "'I hate this assignment. Just so you know it ahead of time, Finn.'"

The class tittered. Finn read on.

"'I started this assignment watching someone else,'" Finn read, "'but my attention kept wandering to him whenever he was present. It's been like that since I met him. I tried to fight it, but finally decided that I should use this assignment to figure out why I'm drawn to him and perhaps put him out of my mind.

"'It didn't work. In fact, just the opposite happened. I'm more attracted to him now that I've learned more about him than I was before.

"'He is fascinating. He's a complete contradiction. He's a real control freak, but is also impulsive. He's quiet, but outgoing. He's non-confrontational, but highly opinionated. He's intelligent, but doesn't think before acting.

"'He also has an intense stare that sears you to the core. He's drawn things from me that I don't tell anyone. He listens, really listens, when you speak. His smile knocks you off-balance, even when you're prepared for it, and it's even worse when he laughs.

"'This assignment was supposed to help us better understand our classmates and ourselves, but all it's really done is make things more difficult. Now I know that I'm attracted to him, but that actually makes it harder to see him and pretend things are cool between us.

"'Because things are not cool, and every time I see him I remember how soft his lips are.'"

Finn finished the short essay and set the paper on the table beside him. He addressed the class. "Before you start offering advice to our anonymous author, let me read this other one. I think you'll find it interesting."

He adjusted his glasses and began to read. "'My subject was rather interesting to observe, because he spent most of his time watching someone else, whom I'll call X. Don't get me wrong, he was not being obvious about it, but whenever X was around I'd see a myriad of emotions on his face. The rest of the time, when X wasn't present, he just looked lost.

"'So, because of this phenomenon, I concentrated my efforts of observation on him when X was present. The first thing I noted was that he looked absolutely terrified of X. His body language became stiff, his features tense, and he couldn't keep his eyes on X for long.

"'When he did look at X, though -- usually when X's back was turned -- the fear transformed into confusion, with an underlying layer of longing. He must recognize the emotions he's revealing and not like them, because soon he's short-tempered and quickly leaves X.

"'His actions were confusing and it took me a week of observing to figure out why he was acting that way towards X. And if I ever find myself all at once scared, confused, angry, and lustful about some girl, I'll know what it means.


Finn set the paper aside and looked at the class. "Comments? Opinions?"

"Love isn't easy," Will supplied after a moment.

"Anything worth having never is," Finn stated. "What else?"

"The person who wrote the first essay should go for it," Scout said. "Ask him out. If there were lips involved, the attraction's bound to be mutual."

A smattering of laughter underscored Finn's next words. "Taking chances. Without risk, there is little reward." He looked at his watch. "So go, be risk takers, just don't break any laws doing so. Class dismissed."

The class dispersed rather quickly. Hamilton caught up to Jake as he headed towards the dorm. "Hey. Can I talk to you a minute? In private?"

Walking behind them, a knowing smile spread across Will's face.