Miles Chambers is the Prince of Algrove High School’s photography club. He’s attractive in a cute, boyish sort of way. He’s only a junior, but his fellow club members say that his level of maturity is greater than even the teacher supervising the club. Most people in the photography club don’t care too much about those aspects of him though; he takes the most beautiful pictures, and that’s what they really care about.
Miles Chambers is the prince of Algrove High School’s photography club, but he had never cared about finding a princess.
When the club president brings the new girl in, Miles forgets about the camera in his hands. His soft brown eyes grow wide as he takes in the sight of the tall blond girl with the athletic build. The club president explains that she is going to start going to her classes tomorrow, but all the words seem to go over Miles’s head as he stares at her with the same intense gaze he fixes on a subject before he snaps a photo. He brushes his black bangs away from his face to get a better look at her. He probably thinks she is the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. He’s mesmerized by her.
So mesmerized that he doesn’t even notice when I lift my camera and snap a picture of his face. I’m sitting right beside him. He doesn’t notice me. He never does. If Miles Chambers is a prince, I might as well be a peasant from a kingdom on the other side of the earth.
The club president notices me taking a photo and shoots me a disgusted glare, but Miles doesn’t notice, so I don’t let it stop me. The new girl tells Miles that her name is Tara Lane. His voice is soft as he breathes out her name, a smile coming to his lips. Tara, swept up by his charm, giggles as a blush paints her cheeks red. Two girls beside me swoon a little and start whispering about them.
“A princess is finally available for our prince,” one of the girls coos.
I’ve been available since our freshman year, but I guess I’m no princess.
I take another picture of Miles. His smile is even cuter than usual, but the sight just ties a tight knot in the center of my chest.
The club president has already stopped caring about my creepy behavior.
When the next day comes, I realize that Tara has all the same classes as me. She’s always with Miles since they have the same schedule. They make each other laugh, and they make each other blush. They share enough lovestruck glances and brief, intimate touches for everyone to be rooting for their relationship.
“They have all the same classes together,” says the girl who has become Tara’s best friend. “They must be soulmates!”
I’ve had the same exact schedule as Miles since our freshman year. We’re not soulmates. We’re not anything. I want us to be something. I want to be something. But I’m just another part of the blur in the background to him.
Winter rolls around. The entire club desperately wants Tara and Miles to be together. They say that they’re meant to be; they’re the stars of a perfect love story. There are rumors that Miles wants to ask Tara out on Christmas. Everyone is so happy for them.
I wish I could be.
The club president decides to create his own version of Secret Santa that’s related to photography. He has us pick names out of a hat, and then he instructs us to take a candid photo of them in secret so that we can reveal them in a few weeks. I get Miles. When I see his name, my heart swells for a brief moment, and then I look over at him. I see him playing with Tara’s hair, making her giggle, and my heart shrinks back into the puny, pitiful pebble it usually is.
I decide I want to take the picture as soon as possible. I don’t want to wait and end up with a picture of him with Tara. I know my heart wouldn’t be able to handle it.
I follow Miles after the club meeting as discreetly as I can. He goes all the way to the local park and sits beneath a large oak tree. As he looks up at the sky, sunlight slips between the leaves and paints his skin with a golden glow. He looks perfect. He is perfect. I want to touch him, but I know that he’s far out of reach.
My hands are shaking as I lift my camera. I adjust the settings so that he’s all that’s in focus, and the rest of the world blurs slightly around him. He’s so handsome; it feels like he jumped straight out of a painting.
I want to be a part of that painting.
I pause before taking the photo because my mind starts to run away with me and lead me into fantasies I thought I had pushed down a long time ago. I think about how he’s alone for once and that this moment might be the only chance I ever get to be the one he is focusing on—to be more than just the background. If I just approach him and talk to him, I might still have a chance. He and Tara aren’t dating yet. I have time. I could make him notice me!
I put my camera down, and I start to walk towards him. My feet are light. My heart fills with something unfamiliar—hope? A smile starts to come to my lips as I look at him, and I think for a sweet, sweet moment that maybe I can be his heroine.
And then I stop dead in my tracks.
I see Tara out of the corner of my eye. Tara runs towards Miles. Tara has a rose in one hand. Tara has a letter in the other. Tara has tears in her eyes.
Miles stands up. Miles starts to laugh. Miles has so much joy in his eyes as Tara throws herself into his arms. Miles holds Tara close. He kisses her.
My pebble of a heart shrinks down into nothingness. Even though I should’ve expected this, it hurts. Even though I knew this would happen, it’s painful. Even though those hopes were stupid to have in the first place, it’s agony to watch them be crushed right in front of my eyes.
I feel a knot in my chest that seems to grow larger and larger the longer I look at them. Miles kisses Tara. He kisses her again and again and again. My chest caves in on itself. The empty space is aching and burning. I can’t stand it.
I drop my gaze to the floor. I will my feet to move, but my body is like stone. My vision blurs. I pretend that I’m adjusting the settings in my brain for a special effect, not crying. I take a deep breath.
I tell myself the heartbreak doesn’t matter because I don’t matter.
Miles Chambers is the prince of Algrove High School’s photography club, and he finally has his princess. His love story will have a happy ending.
I simply was never meant to be a part of it.