The Note - part 1
I love you.
That was what he wrote. He folded it up – a piece of textured, peach-coloured paper – and slid it into my locker. It fell out when I opened the locker and I almost missed it. He was standing down the hall, in the shelter of a doorway, looking down, but looking furtively across to me as well. I don't know why I put the note in my pocket, or why I looked over at him for that long second, knowing I should probably turn away. Maybe I would have gone over there – though he'd probably have bolted like a hare – if my friends hadn't been coming down the hallway at that moment, hadn't waved and called out to me.
I waved back, I flung my bag over my shoulder and ran to meet them.
The note in my pocket half forgotten about.
We raced each other along the hallway – a montage of primary colours. Ginny in red, her shoes twinkling with gold buckles; Mandy in blue; Stephanie wearing yellow – in light shades and gold shades, a white skirt beneath it – a daffodil in bud; me in a spring-green sweatshirt that hung loose on skinny shoulders, with my hair in pigtails and stickers all over my bag.
Ginny won by a hair. And she turned around and offered a huge smile to the teacher who frowned at us for running in the hallway. “Won't happen again, Miss Cole.” And we tumbled on out into the courtyard.
We headed out over the park, giggling like the schoolgirls we were. Ginny had just heard a rumour about the chemistry teacher, Mr Forley, and now she wanted to tell everyone. “His first wife left him for another man. It's true! I swear it!”
“How would you know, Ginny?”
“Janice Pothcott told me. Her mother's his cousin, the whole family knows about it.” And now, the whole school.
Mandy tossed her lovely toffee hair. “Serves him right.”
“Oh, don't:” from Stephanie, “it's sad.”
Mandy said “I'd leave him.”
And Ginny: “Ugh. Then you'd have to be married to him first.”
Mandy and Forley up... but we considered ourselves too old for that sort of thing
We got to the dairy on the corner and trailed on in to buy lollies. We could take ages to choose. Two for one cent, two-cent lollies, five cents. We pooled our money and split it four ways. That was ninety cents each, and we wanted to get the best value out of it. The lady behind the counter just waited; she was used to us, and others like us.
We had our spot. In the park, just behind a low wall, where a grove of birches of hid us from attention. The little wall was old and dying, some of its stones fallen out leaving empty, blind sockets, and moss – green, red, rust – growing in the cracks and expanding onto the faces of stones. A year ago I'd written my initials and Greg Yamley's, inside a heart, on one of the stones. I felt guilty now, and sorry for the wall. What'd it ever done to deserve being defaced?
Lying on the ground, in our uniforms, in the dirt and loose twigs, we got out our scrap-book-diaries and wrote in them, flicked through them, showed each other our new finds. We didn't write about real life: we wrote about the lives we were going to live, the future we could hardly wait to have.
Ginny was going to be an actress. She sat cross-legged and read out to us when she'd written. “Today was a good day. I'm totally sure that I aced that audition. I was only a little bit nervous by the time I got there, but then I got completely into the part. I was auditioning for Emily, who's the heroine in the story – she kicks ass and throws knives and stuff. I can do all that because of my lessons in karate and gymnastics, and knife throwing. And I was auditioning in front of this total spunk. He was so hot. And he was making eyes at me the whole time we were auditioning. I hope he gets the part of Angelo.”
She'd pasted a picture of some little-known actress a couple of pages back – a sultry beauty she was convinced she could be like, even though they looked nothing alike.
We all shared. But I sometimes left things out. I sometimes wrote about my brother: We all went up to see Cameron today. He's just bought a new house and he wanted to show it to us. Him and his wife, they looked really happy. And the house: it was big, it had six bedrooms, two bathrooms, two lounges, a swimming pool, a big dusty attic. We had a family picnic on the lawn, eating bacon-and-egg pie, with doughnuts, and apples. Cameron told us all about his new job.
I wasn't allowed to see Cameron. Not until he got himself straightened out.
They'd catch the five-forty bus, Ginny, Mandy, Stephanie; I'd catch the six o'clock, which went in the other direction. We were playing a game we'd invented, a kind of cross between the can-can and a Mexican wave performed with legs. I noticed Logan Wellford sitting on a see-saw in the park behind us, and I felt his note burning in my pocket.
I love you.
I hadn't told my friends, and I wasn't sure if I would. Not just the teasing... it seemed a bit shitty, like a betrayal or something.
Logan looked over at us, then he went back to looking at the road.
When the bus had come and gone, when it was out of sight, I went over there.
“Hi.” He was looking down at his shoes.
I wasn't sure whether or not to be shy. I took the note out of my pocket. “Did you write this?”
“Do you mean it?”
Now what? It wasn't like I even really knew Logan. I had a few classes with him, and I'd seen him in the playground or walking around the halls or something. We might say a few words here and there. So what did he love about me exactly? He didn't know anything about me. But he was looking down again now, his cheeks a little bit red. I tried: “It was sweet.”
“Don't tell anybody.”
“Sure, okay, I won't.”
“You catch that next bus?”
“Nah, just waiting on Dad.”
The bus came early. So I had to run, I waved to Logan as I went. I looked out the back window as the bus drove away. Him. Stilling sitting there. Waiting on his Dad. There was something about him, something sad and messed up. A strange, weird, prickly thing that somehow reminded me of me.