Since the age of thirteen, Violet spent most waking hours, and many unconscious ones as well, thinking about what it would be like to find true love – how magical it would be when Mr. Right finally walked into her life. Though she had never fallen under the spell of the modern cheesy romance novel, the books she read and movies she watched while growing up had subtly and very gradually built up an image in her head of the dream guy, the perfect relationship. The idealized version of this dream, for Violet, eventually took the form of Mr. Darcy from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice: an intelligent, witty, physically attractive, wealthy, loyal, kind-hearted man who appreciated strong-willed, intelligent women.
Violet was in tenth grade the first time she met someone she thought might make her romantic daydream a reality; his name was Vince. On the first day of classes, as Violet went to find her seat in chemistry class, her fourth and final period of the day, she felt an aggressive shove from behind and fell to the floor, dropping all her books in the process. As papers flew and she looked up to see what had knocked her to the ground, she noticed a large, thin hand reaching out to her own. She took the hand and felt herself being lifted back up; her gaze moving up as well, her eyes landing on the face of a tall, thin, brunette boy with mischievous-looking green eyes.
“Sorry ‘bout that,” he said, and darted back to a group of boys tossing a balled-up piece of paper around for a fictional game of football.
The feeling of confusion fading, Violet finished picking up her scattered books and found a seat as the teacher walked up to begin class. No sooner had all the rest of the students found their seats and settled down when their science teacher announced that the class required partners for daily labs, and that seats had been assigned according to alphabetical first names, rather than the traditional last name order. Knowing she’d be called very close to the end, if not last, Violet waited patiently, glancing at the other students moving to their new spots, the stationary state of the boy with the green eyes not escaping her notice. Finally, her name was called, and she was placed at the desk in the back right corner of the classroom. Before Violet was fully settled in her seat, the teacher called the final student’s name.
“Vincent,” she said, “take the seat next to Violet, please.”
As he got up to move and turned to face her, their eyes met again, and sheepish grins appeared on both of their faces. With a sudden and unexpected burst of courage, Violet introduced herself to the green-eyed boy.
“Hey, I’m Violet,” she told him while awkwardly sticking her hand out for a handshake.
“Yeah, I think the teacher just said that,” he responded with either a goofy grin or a judging smirk; she couldn’t tell. But then he quickly continued, “I’m Vincent, but my friends call me Vince.”
Vince shook Violet’s outstretched hand, then shot her a wink and another mischievous smile. Though not fully able to make out her feelings for the boy with the green eyes yet, Violet knew she wanted to get to know him better.
For the next few months, that’s exactly what happened. Completing labs and assignments in class turned into after-school study sessions, which turned into spontaneous adventures they called “study breaks” to make themselves feel better about time spent away from their textbooks, which turned into weekends procrastinating homework to hang out with their other mutual friends, until they were practically inseparable, and Violet’s feelings for Vince were finally undeniable. Their first few months studying and adventuring and becoming friends seemed perfect to her; every interaction was lighthearted and fun, with the exception of a few deeper conversations which, however serious, still maintained a healthy amount of humor, and, each day, Vince became more and more like the Mr. Darcy in her mind. He called her smart and pretty and then balanced out the compliments with teasing and good-spirited jokes about her height—she was quite short compared to him—and rule-following nature, which was as contrasting to his personality as their heights were. To Violet, the friendship seemed effortless. Effortless, that is, until rumors that Vince and Violet were more than friends started circulating.
Three weeks from the end of the first semester, the first suggestion that they should be more than friends was made to the duo. While standing and chatting together in line at a McDonald’s with four of their other friends, their more recently acquainted friend George turned to interject in their conversation.
“Are you two together or just friends?”
While Vince stayed perfectly silent, Violet was quick to respond, despite her surprise at the question.
“We’re just really good friends.”
“That’s cool. But you guys would make a pretty cute couple,” George announced rather frankly, causing Vince’s already pink cheeks to turn a couple shades darker. With an awkward chuckle and head-nod, Violet brushed off the comment and took the conversation in a different direction.
Though this was the first time Violet heard this opinion, it was certain not to be the last. With every week that came closer to the end of the semester, Violet seemed to receive twice as many new comments and questions about the state of her and Vince’s relationship, and, oddly enough, the more direct questions always assumed he was the target of her affections. Did she have feelings for him? Did she think they’d start dating soon? She could only guess that similar things were being asked of him. And although they ended the semester as close of friends as ever, neither one brought up the topic of dating or others thinking they were dating or should be dating, to the other, and Violet certainly did not bring up her feelings for him. She flirted and teased, and he seemed to do the same, but she decided against making any moves for fear of losing the friendship. And it seemed to work out for the better since he never made any mention of feelings for her or about the comments made regarding their relationship.
When they returned from winter break—a break with strangely little correspondence between the two—the dynamic between Vince and Violet appeared almost instantly different, to Violet at least. After a semester with an assigned lab partner in chemistry class, their teacher had decided to let them choose their partner for the new semester. Assuming Vince would want to remain her partner, Violet walked over to their old seats, but Vince was not alone when he walked up to her desk, and there was no mischievous grin on his face.
“Hey . . . I think I’m gonna partner up with Teddy this semester. You mind?”
Though she definitely did mind, Violet squeaked out a “No, of course not,” and did her best to hide the hurt and confusion that was setting in with a smile as he walked away with his new lab partner. Though they still studied together and hung out in groups at first, interactions similar to the chemistry partner change became more and more frequent. Most plans Violet tried to make with Vince and their friends were, soon enough, met by Vince with consistent excuses for why he couldn’t make it—he had too much homework, his family was in town, he had made other plans with other friends, he was just too busy—so eventually Violet stopped planning.
About midway through the semester, a new rumor reached Violet’s ear which might have, at least partially, explained the change in their relationship: over winter break Vince had started seeing another girl from their year, and more recently they had officially started dating. Violet was hurt not only because he had been interested in someone else this whole time, but also because, as one of his closest friends (she thought), Vince had neglected to inform her of that development and practically cut her out of his life entirely. She didn’t understand why it had to be either a friendship with her or a romantic relationship with another girl. What made the two options mutually exclusive? For the rest of the year and the rest of high school, those and more questions stuck with her, resurfacing every time she saw him. Had she not been important enough to him? Had he changed his mind about how much he cared for her? Had she been too annoying as a friend, caring too much maybe? Was it something specific she did that caused him to abandon her, or was it that the girlfriend, maybe, didn’t like him having a close friendship with another girl? Violet asked these questions to herself over and over again and cried them out to her mom until her tears ran dry, but she never asked them of Vince, and he never came to her with any answers either. Because Violet never got any answers, she resorted to attempting to answer those questions herself, which she could only do now through an evaluation of her own hindsight. Looking back at her tenth-grade year over the next few years, Violet unwittingly landed on the conclusion that she was the reason things didn’t work out between Vince and her, as friends or more. Weeks and then months of wondering what could have gone wrong, with no confirmations or denials from Vince, and hours spent questioning her worth without any evidence to the contrary, led her to believe she was not good enough, not pretty enough, not witty enough. Simply not enough.