Jackie ran around the playground with her friends until someone named Eddie stepped into her path and stopped her with a raised hand. “Carl likes you,” he said. Feeling the call of maturity, she looked at her friends and suddenly felt like she was acting childish. She looked down at her foot and twisted it side to side, her thinking pose. “Well I guess you can tell him I like him too.” She started to run, then walked, back to join her friends. They fired questions at her. What did he say? What did he say? She couldn’t help but smile. “Carl likes me.”
Eddie and Carl were the most popular boys at school. They knew all the coolest music before it even became a hit. Their longish hair. Their sporty clothes. Their athletic prowess. They ruled the school without benefit of thrones, crowns or titles of distinction. They were cool.
For over a week, Eddie talked to Jackie about Carl. How much he liked her. How he talked of her all the time. Jackie felt confused; he’d never so much as talked to her or glanced in her direction. Except once. In first grade, he’d knocked over her milk as he was playing around with a friend in the cafeteria. “Sorry,” he’d said. She wondered why he liked her. Was it the way her mom curled her hair for picture day? No matter what, she felt…elated. Carl. He liked her. What could be better?
Eddie told her that Carl would be asking her out on Friday. Jackie walked on air from Tuesday through Thursday. But on Friday morning, she asked her mom if she could stay home from school. A feeling of dread enveloped her as she slung her backpack on her shoulder. At recess, Eddie approached her. He said the time was right. Then a couple friends pushed Carl toward Jackie with a look of surprise and irritation on his face. Eddie was giggling. Carl was stonefaced. Carl said, “Her? No way, dude,” and walked away.
Jackie walked home with her head down. Her stomach pitched inward. Her head spun. Carl didn’t like her, his friends had played a joke on him. A dare. To see if they could get even the shyest and quietest girl in the class to like Carl.
She put down her backpack, turned on the tv and watched the Brady Bunch. Twice.
Thanks to Itchy Quill for the idea. This story is about me, straight from my journal.
I am Jackie.