They think they are being sneaky. I let the kids start sitting where they want to when I finally cleaned out the extra desks and he chose since then to sit behind her.
It was the catalyst of homecoming that finally brought it all to the surface. He had to ask someone. He joked he was going to ask me. I told him he could bring me candy, and I would accept that, but I could not go to homecoming with a ninth grader. We laughed at how funny it would be if I did. I could pick him up in the minivan.
Shortly after he brought a dozen roses to school to “officially ask” (it is a thing here, I don’t get it either). I saw him before she did and he laughed as he held out the roses to me “Mrs. Norman, I, I have something to ask you!” I enjoy the occasional running gag with my kids.
Since that week, that asking, that dance, I have noticed he sprawls across the front of his desk in a way he never did before. His arms stretched as far as they can go, making an acute angle with the desk, his shoulders and back curved forward. Even his neck stretches toward her back.
Every time we turn the page he has to re-calibrate this desk stretch, and after every page turn he does. It is so he can touch her. He maintains this quasi-casual contortion so that he can touch her. Just on the arm or elbow. She crosses her hand across her stomach and their fingers intertwine.
It was not the strange posture of him that clued me in, but rather the soft smile on her face. Like she was keeping a pleasant secret. Like she knew something special. Like she was something special.
For now I let them think they are being sneaky, just the two of them holding hands, a world where only they know. And me, and now you too.