Transistor Radios and First Loves
During recess, I sat against the warm brick wall with my book held high, knees drawn up and shoulders rounded. I glanced furtively from under my unkempt bangs when he ran past, playing tag with his friends.
Afternoon sunlight spilled around his golden hair like a halo. His cheeks flushed with high-spirited exertion. He looked like Mark Lester. I saw him glance at me more than once, and I knew he liked me. My friends had told me so.
He was in Mrs. Smith's class, and I was in Mr. Baum's. We never spoke directly to each other, but I often dreamed that I actually said Hi to him in the school stairwell. The thought of speaking to him sent my heart slamming in my chest until I felt it would leap out, slopping on the floor as I shrank with embarrassment.
As the spring progressed, tokens were exchanged – a bag of chips, a chocolate bar, a lollipop. One day in the last weeks of school, my girlfriend handed me a little paper bag, and inside was a golden box. A cardboard box, about two inches square. I opened it and saw through tear-blurred eyes a little gilt salamander nestled in a bed of synthetic cotton. Its eyes were red glass, like rubies. It was more beautiful than anything I'd ever seen – more beautiful than the alexandrite ring my father had given me on my ninth birthday.
"He obviously stole it from his mother's jewellery box," she declared. "You have to return it."
I didn't want to. I cried and sobbed and begged and argued, but there was no changing her mind. With a heavy heart, I sent it back via my friend, with a little note explaining that I wasn't allowed to keep it.
We still stole looks at each other until school ended. All I had was a name: Andrew Gabland. Friends told me he was from Czechoslovakia. I didn't know where he lived, and promised myself when summer was over, I'd march right up to him and say hello.
I played the scene over and over in my head throughout the summer. As the weather heated up, I hung out at the apartment pool with the other kids, wearing my new 'wet look' bathing suit.
I lay on my stomach and listened to my transistor radio with the black and white checked pattern on its side and the yellow plastic dials. Tinny notes from Cinnamon Girl played in one ear while I rested my cheek on my arm, inhaling the odour of chlorine and warm skin. I closed my eyes and dreamed of the day I'd talk to Andrew, perhaps even hold his hand once. Maybe we'd go to the movies.
The agonizing summer passed, slow as molasses in… well, you know what I mean. Grade Six approached, and I rushed back to school in anticipation. Darn, he wasn't in my class. Again. I looked for him on the recess tarmac, but he was nowhere to be seen.
As we lined up for afternoon recess, I asked a friend if she'd seen Andrew.
She looked at me blankly, and said, "Oh. Didn't you know? He died during the summer. Some kind of heart problem."
Chattering, my classmates filed out of the room, and I stood still, my throat thick with misery. No. It's not true. They just heard a rumour. He moved away. Tears coursed down my cheeks and dripped from my chin.
My teacher looked at me quizzically and said, "Sandra, why are you crying? Smarten up and get outside for some fresh air and stop that nonsense."
I wish I'd kept that damn pin.
Sandra Cormier is better known in the writers' blogosphere circuit as Chumplet. No, not the poker player — the romance novelist. She’s also one of the CWC’s faithful readers. Sandra lives north of Toronto with her husband and two teenagers. The Wild Rose Press has slated her first novel, The Space Between, for release. You can read and share her thoughts on writing, painting and other stuff on www.chumpletwrites.blogspot.com