Back at school, the next time I spoke to K he didn’t bring up the time we spent at his grandma’s house, I hadn’t expected him to but maybe his acting as if it hadn’t happened at all unnerved me. I had assumed we’d had a nice time, sure it may be different to what most people our age would be doing but it was still fun. Surely that’s what’s important.
“You’re over complicating the situation, Tabitha.” Lola said when I told her about my anxiety, if that’s the correct word for how I felt, all twisted up inside and confused like someone had flicked a switch turning the world upside down. “Aren’t you the one who told me ‘it’s not a date’ over and over again?” she added with a sly smile.
“I know but...”
“But, what?” Lola pressed prompting me to continue.
I tried to answer, opening and closing my mouth as many times as a broken gate caught in a storm only to find I could barely keep my thoughts in order to form a correct picture of how I felt. On one side the images of the past flickered constantly reminding me of how K had once been and on the opposite side full of warmth stood K as he appears now. How can one person be frosty and gentle in equal measures? “He’s like a paradoxical nightmare, all wrapped up in mysterious intensions and dark clothes.” I said after several minutes of Lola just staring at me.
“He’s a man of mystery all right.” Lola laughed; personally I don’t get what’s so funny about that but then Lola laughs at just about anything.
“You haven’t mentioned Fi and Decon in a while.” I said raising my voice on the last word to make it into a question.
Lola looked puzzled by my comment at first before smiling broadly. “I enjoyed seeing them unite the school by giving us all something to laugh about more than what they actually did.” She said. “Lately I’ve been thinking about other things.”
“Don’t you mean other people?”
“Yeah, well, I guess having another friend is a good help.” Lola stated pretending to miss my point. “I never would have thought K would turn out to be a positive part of life.”
“You can’t turn the focus back on me forever, Lola. We will talk about Felix one day.” I chuckled. Lola blushed at that, coughed and tucked her hair up behind her ear out of habit. Out of the corner of my eye I could see Felix watching us casually; he had an amused smile on his angular face.
Valentine’s Day is almost unavoidable at school, for some reason our teachers think it’s a good idea to encourage hormone charged teenagers to make cards and send them to each other. Pale pink make shift post-boxes are put up at intervals around the school until about 1pm then they get taken down, sorted and delivered. After last year’s disaster I’m surprised they persisted with the idea.
“So, did you send Felix a card then?” I asked Lola quietly as we walked in step towards math class, along the way we passed two of the pink boxes.
“I might have done.” Lola said casually with a smile. “And I might have sent one on your behalf.”
I stopped in my tracks at that, literally stopped with one foot hovering just off the floor and stared at her in open mouthed horror. “What?”
Lola giggled, clearly amused. “Honestly Tabitha, I’m joking with you.” relieved I felt able to move again and promptly closed my still open mouth. “What kind of a friend would I be if I did?”
“Sorry Lola, you got me.” I said smiling a little at her to show that I wasn’t angry. “It would make you a great friend if you sent a card for me because I was too scared to do so myself.”
“Yes, well, let me know if you are too scared.” Lola joked. She spent the rest of the lesson winding me up, making comments and just generally poking fun. I was tempted to tease her back about Felix but Miss. Smith kept glancing at our table, I imagine she thought her eyes might shoot special beams of energy at us if she concentrated hard enough. It would make maths more fun if she could.
The excitement in the room rose to an almost incontrollable level in science class, the handing out of valentines cards was due to start at the end of the lesson. I could hear the girls on the table behind me gossiping.
“You know he won’t be sending one to any girl, don’t you?” said one, her tone light and joking.
“That’s not what I heard,” laughed another. “I heard Kitty was expecting him to send her a card.”
At this point I tuned them out, Kitty thought everyone liked her and a lot of the time she was right. I found my attention slipping to K, I wondered what he thought of everything today had thrown at us and in my mind I could just hear him complaining. This is such a farce, if you like someone you should just tell them and not worry about what day it is.
“Psst, Tab, Mystery is heading our way.” Lola whispered in warning. Looking up I could see Mrs. Able walking through the tables and handing out cards; Mr. Able the English teacher is her husband. We call her Mystery because no one can work out why the two are married.
Mrs. Able gave us a knowing look when she reached us; she then placed two envelopes down on the desk and moved on. Lola flushed a dark pink, grabbed them both then handed one to me. I took it feeling very confused, I wasn’t expecting even a joke card. “Did you send me a card Lola?” I asked raising an eyebrow at her.
“We aren’t twelve now, Tabitha, just open it and find out.” Lola said with a small laugh. When we were ten everyone else in our class had received at least one valentine’s card, at the time we felt left out so we decided that next year we’d send one to each other. No one seemed to mind this until we turned fourteen, then we got funny looks from people and decided to stop.
Part of me did want to open the pale blue envelope; it looked a little scuffed around the corners as if the person who sent it had been carrying it with them for a few days before they found the courage to post it. What if they’ve signed it from themselves...? I thought sadly, while it would be flattering to know someone had taken an interest it would be awkward too.
“Do you want me to open it?” Lola asked after I’d been sat turning it over in my hands for several minutes.
“No, no, I can manage.” I answered finally ripping the envelope open. Inside was a card of the same soft blue, in the middle was a pencil sketch of two butterflies frozen as they flapped their wings in time with each other. One was a common white butterfly, the other an intricately decorated purple specimen I couldn’t identify. Under the butterflies in a thin lacing script it read, ‘Next to you, all other beauty looks pale.’ The cheesiness of the line made me certain it was a joke so I opened it with a shrug.
The words on the front of this card describe you perfectly, looking at you for the first time felt like finally seeing the world in colour.
I like you Tabitha; I only wish I had told you sooner.
“So, who’s it off?” Lola asked.
“I don’t know. They haven’t even left a question mark or anything.” I said frowning slightly. “Who sent yours?” I added remembering Lola had received a card too.
Lola gave a little cough and handed her own card to me. “Don’t read it out loud.” I nodded in answer and glanced at the cover briefly, it was pink and covered in the usual things, hearts, cupids and roses. Inside was a poem of sorts.
You’re the Queen and I’m a fool,
Your heart is made of gold and I’m the boy who never wants to grow old.
Your kind, thoughtful and honest but honestly, I’m just a fool,
You smiled at me when I feel off my seat, would you mind if I swept you off your feet?
Would you do me the honour of going out with me?
“I told you he made a fool of himself for you,” I said handing back the card.
“Shush,” Lola hissed. “I don’t want the world to know.”
“You’re going to go out though, aren’t you?”
“Well, yes, but still.” She said. “Why don’t you ask K if he knows who your mystery man is?”
I looked at her like she had grown another head, “Why would K know?” I asked. Lola just gave me a knowing look and said nothing. She couldn’t seriously mean the card had come from K, right?