You're gonna fall in love with the new boy next door the second you see him, Mum said to me as we ate breakfast. I protested but she shook her head. I know, she said. She had been there, too. You’re gonna be really sad, she said. Because, and I hate to tell you this, he's not gonna love you back. In fact, to him, you might as well be dead. And you're gonna be wishing you were dead and all that. But don't tie yourself up in knots, sweetie. You can come and talk to me if u want . I'll be here. U won’t, I know, because I was a girl once, too, but you can. You know that, don’t you? Sweetie?
I found out that very afternoon that Mum wasn't lying. It hurt to look at him. My stomach flipped. Tall, tanned, toned, the whole shebang. He was sitting out on his lawn, doing nothing. I wanted him to look up and catch me spying on him. But when he did look up, I hid away behind the curtain on the landing. Why did you send him here? I asked whoever was in charge of such things. To punish me? And then he saw me, while I was lost in my thoughts. And he did something that proved Mum had been lying after all. He smiled at me. I ran away to my room.
At school the next day I saw him hanging out in the corridor by his locker, talking to Steve Lawrence, a real cool kid in blue jeans and a red vest. He never looked at me. Saw me, but didn’t look. Steve looked though. Looked and laughed. No doubt he remembered me when I gatecrashed that party, drank too much beer and puked in the gutter. Before I turned the corner, I looked back. But no reply.
That afternoon, I was in the garden when I heard a whisper. I went to the fence. He was sitting on the grass, smiling my way.
‘Well, aren’t you going to show me round the neighborhood?’
‘I’m free now, if you are.’
Sure, I was free. And I had been fantasing about this momen ever since that second I saw him. But now? Right now?
‘Come on,’ he said, ‘I’ll meet you out front.’
We wondered around. I showed him to local milk mart, the video store, the café and the restaurant. Then we came to the beach. Were we really going to walk along it? On a summer’s night, with the sky a misty pale blue and red at the seams? It seemed so. He talked non-stop. But I was glad about that. He told me about his parent’s divorce, his dreams of being a pro tennis player and his plan to travel Europe next spring. What had I to tell him? That I wanted to be a hairdresser and might visit my aunt in Surfer’s paradise next month?And then he held my hand. I screamed out in shock. He let go. Why? Why was he interested in me? I was dumpy, short, as plain as they come. I even squinted for god’s sake! And I was 15 and that was being generous. I still played with dolls, sucked my thumb and watched cartoons.He was sniggering. I stared at him. He took my hand again. I let him. Ok, I would go with it. Maybe it was a joke. Maybe Steve Lawrence was hiding somewhere, watching. So be it. Never again would a man as beautiful as this take my hand and walk me on the beach like in some cheesy movie, so joke or not, I would enjoy it. And then I started smiling too.
There were letters and late night phone calls and I started doing my hair and exercising and I even bought a dress for our date. He was gonna take me to a movie and dinner he said. But don’t tell your mum, he said. She wouldn’t like it. I said she wouldn’t believe it. But I wanted to tell her because she was curious.
‘You’re so happy lately’, she said. ‘It’s nice to see.’
I gave no reply. ‘Is there a boy Maureen?’ Her voice rose as if she would collapse in shock if I replied yes.
I shook my head. But this time the smile inside burst onto the outside.
‘Liar!’ she laughed.
I spent the days thinking about our wedding. I would wear silver if I could and a blue hat. And I named our children Jessie and Jon. I thought we would live in Aspen and I would cut hair while he played tennis and then in the evenings we would have dinner with our friends and when they were gone we would make love in the night. Was this really happening? Were my dreams coming true? Two weeks ago I was Maureen, a school joke. And now I was the secret girlfriend of the best looking guy in school.
I told Sally because I had to. But she didn’t believe me.
‘When we saw him in the hallway, he didn’t even look at you!’
That was true. But I understood. Cos deep down I knew if I wanted to make friends, I would keep me a secret too.
During the movie he put his hands down my pants. I let him. Then after he drove me to the beach and we did it in his car. It was nice in a way. At least I wasn’t a virgin anymore. And he was gentle and sweet. But silent afterwards. Just drove me home and said nothing. The next day I didn't see him at school or in the garden and when I called him there was no reply. The next day, he walked straight past me in the hallway.
I cried for days. Mum told me a broken heart would heal with time and all that. I knew she was right but I was crushed, so crushed, but I had been happy at least, right? That’s what I told myself, I had at least been happy and when Sally told me she had heard a rumor I had done it with Joel in the back of his car, well I kind of enjoyed it. I was famous at last and for something most girls envied me for. So, when I saw Joel in the hallway, I called out,
‘Thanks Joel, thanks’, in a really cheerful voice, but and if there was no reply, I was none the wiser, walking down the hallway as I was, not even thinking to look back.
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