Springtime is for Lovers
When I leave the back doors of our old brick school, no one is around. I don't mind, I feel good, the warm air brushing against my skin. I stop and close my eyes for a second just to feel it.
"Um, Adil?" I hear a voice approach. I crack one eye, and see Jonathan Macmillan.
Jonathan! What could he want from me? He's an aristocratic, self-assured kid, that one, and never looked at me twice. People say he's rich, rich, rich, and well, I believe them. He's looking awkward and uncomfortable right now.
"That's me," I say, "what's up?"
"Well, I was hoping you could… help me out…" he says, not looking directly at me. I crack a smile.
"Well. People say you're really good with words and stuff, right? Is that true?" Jonathan asks, looking up at me. He looks like he sincerely doesn't know. I snort.
"Oh, I don't know. Does the sun rise every day?"
Jonathan rolls his eyes. "So, yeah. Look, I could really use your help. I have to write something very… delicate."
"I'm not gonna tutor you, douche-face. You can get a teacher to help you or something," I say amicably, and start walking towards home.
"No, please, this is something I can't go to a teacher for. I'm trying to write," Jonathan takes a deep breath, "I'm trying to write a love letter."
I stop in my tracks. A love letter, eh? My mind is suddenly bursting with ideas. I swing around to face Jonathan.
"Mission accepted. Do you have time now to work on it?"
"Yeah," he said, obviously still processing the change in events.
"Come over to my place, we'll work there." Jonathan ambled after me.
We walk down the road for a while, before we turn to the creek. There's a path along the creek that leads straight to my house. Plus I think it's pretty. Especially now; the trees are setting out their light green buds, the birds have returned to sing again, the grasses have started to shoot up like crazy and the dandelions are in bloom. I breathe deeply to take in as much of the scent of spring as possible.
"So," I begin, while we walk, "who's the lucky girl?"
"I'm not going to tell you anything about that. I just need help saying beautiful things."
"Okay, that's cool. What do you want it to say? Do you have any ideas?"
"Uh, yeah. Like, I've been attracted to you for a long time, I really like how you look, and all the things you do, and I want to go out with you. If you want to meet up, leave a note in this hidden location." Jonathan was all wrapped up in himself while he spoke. It touched my heart, kinda. I mean, he seemed really vulnerable and stuff. I swore to do my best to help this guy.
"Okay, I can work with that," I say. Jonathan looks down the trail, in deep contemplation. "Up here," I say, motioning him to follow me up a steep path that's obviously not part of the trail. We scrabble up the almost vertical ascent until we come to a decrepit fence. The fence for my yard, actually. I swing one of the boards of the fence and walk in. "Okay, let's git 'er done."
I pass Jonathan in the halls. We nod at each other. He's a pretty cool guy, after all. I mean, we're not exactly friends now, but I get him. I understand. Since yesterday we've had a sort of a bond. I'm hurrying to make it to second block when I make a split second decision. I pop into the bathroom to use the urinal. As I'm washing my hands afterward, I become aware of a menacing presence against the wall.
"Adil," he says. He being Reilly O'Reilly, the meanest kid around. I'm not even kidding. He almost broke my nose in grade five. He was always the kid swearing and breaking rules, even in elementary school. Now I barely see him, because he takes all the easy classes and I take as many AP classes as I can. He looks like a total addict in training, pale face, sunken eyes, lean hard body comprised mostly of angles and straight lines. He's wearing a dark denim jacket and toying with a lighter, flicking it on and off.
"Yo Reilly," I say, trying to be cool. He can probably tell I'm nervous though. He wouldn't beat me up in the school bathroom, would he? But what does he want from me?
"Look kid, I need a favour. It could be your way of repaying me for not breaking your nose in fifth grade." He looks up at me, flicking his mildly greasy hair out of his eyes.
"Oh that? I totally forgot that even happened," I lie. "Sure man, whatever."
"Okay," he says. The bell rings, and I immediately start to go to class. I'm already late!
"Stop. This is more important than class, compris?" he menaces.
"Oh, sure. So what is it?" I ask. I adjust my glasses, a nervous habit of mine.
He pulls out a printed page, unfolds it, and passes it to me. My eyes boggle.
"To Reilly O'Reilly" is hand written at the top, and then printed out:
You can't know how long I've held you dear. You fill my heart with joy, you light up my life, you are the sun of my every day. I think you must be the most beautiful person alive. Your skin is as soft as the skin of an apricot. Your body is as powerful and alluring as a panther. Your hair is a fiery mane, like the burning tongues of a flame lit only for me. All I want is to meet to, once, and confess my love in person. I'm a guy, but I hope that doesn't matter to you. This is not a joke or anything, and I can prove it. If you are willing to meet me, leave a letter in reply in the nook behind the blackboard in the abandoned class 2B. You can specify a place and time in your letter and I'll be there.
I gaped at the letter for maybe a full minute. This is without a doubt the letter I just wrote with Jonathan a week ago. Jonathan has the hots for Reilly O'Reilly? Can this be? This actually turns my sense of the world upside down. Black is white. White is red. Red is up. Down is sideways. I hope I don't run into a zebra.
"So shithead," Reilly starts, "I need you to help me okay? You're good with words. You can help me make a reply. And don't breathe a word of this to anyone or you'll wake up dead. Got it?"
"Yeah, okay." I shuffle through my pack and bring out a pen and paper, with a binder for a hard surface, and sit down on the counter. "So what do you want to say?"
"Well, I want to say, yeah, I'll meet you. Let's meet at the oak tree at the edge of school property on Friday at 4:30. But make it all poetical and shit. Tell him how beautiful he is."
"Um, but do you know what he looks like? How should I describe him if you don't know?"
"Just make shit up. It's poetry, not science." I gave a little humph at that. Philistine.
"Okay, here goes…"
So I'm minding my own business, leaving school (the long way around, so the teacher from second block doesn't know I was at school and skipped her class) when Jonathan falls into step with me.
"Adil!" He chirps, giddy. "My letter! I got my reply!" He's got a spring in his step and a twinkle in his eye. Two twinkles.
"Awesome," I say, with lukewarm enthusiasm. It doesn't deter Jonathan though. He slings his arm around me in brotherly camaraderie and gives a happy sigh. "So when do you meet her?" I ask, toying with him.
"Oh, we're meeting on Friday. I'm so excited! But, I'm just not sure what I'm going to say to… her."
"Uh huh. Hence Adil, right?" I ask.
"Well, yeah, but it's not like that. I respect your way with words, but I like you too. I almost think of you as… a friend, you know?"
Aww. Actually that is pretty sweet. I won't be so hard on Jonathan anymore.
"So what did the letter say?" I ask slyly.
"Oh it was beautiful. I never knew… she … was such a poet," he sighed. I held back a snicker. Even if I hadn't known it was addressed to a guy, Jonathan isn't very good at hiding it. And Reilly O'Reilly, a poet? Maybe a poet without the 'e'.
"That's great. So, what did you want help saying?"
"Umm, that, basically, no matter what our differences are, we can make it work, that we were meant to be together. That I'll be the best boyfriend, and we can be open about our relationship or secretive, whatever… she… wants."
So I'm making my way to school this fine May morning, feeling like all this 'love' jank is behind me. I mean, barf. And bizarre. It's Friday, and the remnant snow in the deep shade is almost gone, and I'm feeling on top of the world. Then Reilly comes up behind me and taps me on the shoulder.
"Oh, hey Reilly. What's up?" With my luck he's going to want me to help him figure out what to say this afternoon too.
"Don't act like that with me Adil, I know what's been going on." In spite of the words, Reilly doesn't sound very menacing.
But I'm panicking. He knows I helped write the letter to him? Maybe he's pissed I didn't tell him that in the bathroom.
"I know it's you. You're my secret admirer. Nobody but you could have written that letter to me," he says. My jaw literally drops. "And I decided, I like you too. Let's go out, Adil." He seems really bashful saying this. It would be kind of cute if it weren't horribly, horribly wrong.
I don't even like Reilly. I'm not at all attracted to him. I mean, I guess I can see what Jonathan sees in him, but he's just too… scary. Unpredictable. See: present.
"You don't understand," I finally stammer out, "it's not me, I'm not the guy…"
"You don't have to lie to me Adil. Now pick a place for me to take you to dinner."
"No, shit man, you don't-" and then I just book it. I can't really handle this. I run the rest of the way to school.
When I arrive, I can't see Reilly behind me, so I go looking for Jonathan's locker. When I see him, he's standing a little apart from his friends, practicing the lines we worked out yesterday.
"Jon," I say, breathless, "we've got a problem. Reilly thinks I'm his secret admirer!"
All the blood drains from Jon's face. Then he starts looking really pissed. Suddenly I remember he doesn't know I know that Reilly is his crush.
"What?" he asks weakly.
"Here's the truth," I blurt out, "after we wrote the letter Reilly came to me to help him write the return letter. Everything in there is what he wanted, or whatever. So I knew since yesterday that he was who the letter was for. But now he thinks I'm his secret admirer because the letter we wrote to him was in my style! I tried telling him otherwise but he won't listen!"
Jonathan just looks really defeated. He leans back against the lockers with an expressionless face.
"Jon?" I ask. I put my arm on his shoulder and his face just crumples. He's sobbing, uncontrollably. His friends are giving him weird looks, and I shoot a dirty glare at them. What kind of friends are like that? I go up to Jonathan and hug him. "It'll be okay, man, it'll be okay. I'll make sure things turn out right," I whisper to him. He just sobs harder and harder.
Finally one of his friends comes over, a girl with a concerned look on her face. "Are you okay Jon?" she asks.
"What does it look like?" I snap. "Take care of him. I've got some business to attend to." I push him into her arms and stalk out of the school.
It's still a few minutes before class starts, so I look for Reilly. I find the red-headed bastard where I expect, in the smoke pit.
"Adil!" he says, happily. Jesus, I wish I could snag the people I'm actually attracted to this easily.
"Listen, lame stain, I've got to have a word with you. There is nothing I like about you, you are literally the last person in the universe I would want to go out with. I'm not your stupid secret admirer or anything, so back off!"
He looks hurt, and shocked. I don't know why this is making me so angry. Anyways, I kick him in the shin to drive the point home. Really, in retrospect, that was a stupid idea.
"You little-" he said, pouncing on me. He tackles me to the ground and starts punching me in the gut. I have the presence of mind to recall my description of him as a panther. His smoker friends laugh at our scuffle.
Luckily, the smoker's pit is in view of the teachers' parking lot, so it's only a second before some teacher comes along, tears us apart, and pulls us into the school.
I hear the bell for first block ring as me and Reilly sit in the office. He's glaring at me pretty harsh and I'm clutching my ribs. I don't think he actually broke anything but I'm sure I'm bruising. The principal comes out, this awkward old guy.
"Mr. O'Reilly, Mr. Sharda, we are very disappointed with you. Fighting is a low and barbaric activity. There is no excuse for this behavior."
"Sorry," I groan. "It was a matter of the heart."
"Ah, a matter of the heart. I know how these things can be. After the same girl, I suppose. We were like that when we were kids too. But that is no excuse for physically assaulting each other. You will both be suspended for a week, starting Monday, and you have to see counselors to keep your emotions in check. That, and after school today we want you both to sit down with our conflict resolution professional, understood?"
"Yeah," we both murmur. He glares daggers at me, but I just keep my eyes on the principal.
"What are you doing?" Jonathan complains, as I drag him along behind me.
"Come on," I say, "this will make everything better, or my name ain't Adil the Incomparable." Jonathan still seems down. We come to the open doorway of one of our multipurpose rooms.
Inside are sitting the principal, some lady, and Reilly, looking sullen. As soon as Jonathan sees Reilly, he stops in his tracks. I give him a good yank and he stumbles forward, to the table.
"Who's this? This isn't allowed," grouches Reilly.
"Emotional support," I say. The lady nods.
"That's allowed. Now, we're here to get to the bottom of this." She looks at both of us with those big, earnest, school counselor eyes. "Why were you two fighting?"
"Matters of the heart," I reply.
"Can you be more specific?" she implores.
"Jonathan? Would you care to start at the beginning?" I turn to him. He goes very pale, and then flushes, and he stutters. "Come on Jon," I say, "just tell us how it all began."
"Okay," he whispers. He clears his throat and starts talking more loudly. "So… not too long ago I approached Adil here for help… writing a letter." He looks around at everyone except Reilly. "A love letter. There was a guy I really liked, but I didn't know what to say to him, and I heard that Adil was really good with words. So I told him what I wanted it to say and he wrote it for me."
"Who was this love letter for?" the lady asked.
"Reilly O'Reilly," Jonathan said, his cheeks beet-red, staring down at his lap. I put my hand on his shoulder and rubbed it.
"And what did you like about him?" asked the principal.
"I thought he was beautiful. And strong. And courageous. And funny. And I wanted to get to know him better." Jon was so embarrassed. I could see his hands under the table fidgeting like mad.
"So," I said, "I helped him write the letter, and I thought that was that. But it wasn't, was it Reilly?"
Reilly jerked a little at the mention of his name. "No," he said.
"Reilly came to me, because he'd heard the same thing Jon had, that I was good with words. So I helped him write the reply. And I, once again, thought that was that. But it wasn't, was it Reilly?"
Reilly gave me an annoyed look, as if to say that I'm enjoying this far too much. Well, if so, then he's right. Reilly coughs, and says, "after that, I was thinking about it, and I figured that Adil must have written the love letter, because it was Adil's style of writing. And I thought about all those beautiful things he said, and I thought about him, and I was all, yeah, I could go out with this guy."
"So he confronts me on the way to school this morning, okay?" I say, turning to the two adults. "And I just book it, because I have no idea what do to in this situation. Then I go to Jon, but when I tell him what happened he just can't deal with it." Jonathan looks embarrassed and averts his eyes. "So I decide to take matters into my own hands and confront Reilly in the parking lot. I'm all, no I won't go out with you, and then I kick him in the shin. So he tackles me and punches me and that teacher found us and that's where you come in."
"Yes," said the principal, "I'd been having a normal morning so far; nothing out of the ordinary. I was just dealing with my paper-work when who should come in but Mr. Hofstadter pulling along two louts who'd been caught fighting. Now, ever since my brother went to jail twenty-five years ago for brawling in bars I haven't been able to stand fighting. So I decided to call you in, Ms. LeBlanc, because I know you know how to get the job done."
"Oh," she said, "that makes a lot of sense. I had been driving to the school district office when I got a call on my cellphone. Normally no one calls me before nine, so I was very curious when I pulled over to answer. Who should it be but the Principal of Tupper High School, asking if I could come in for some conflict resolution. Ever since I got my diploma in conflict resolution it's been the best part of my job. I got here around 2:30 to get ready, and then you all came in, telling your delightful tale of deep passions and inconvenient misunderstandings. Kids, you've made me a better person today, and I thank you for that."
Us three teens had been fairly ignoring the teachers, and Reilly had his eyes trained on Jonathan. After Ms. LeBlanc's speech he leans forwards and says to Jonathan, "do you really mean that? All that stuff you said?"
Jon doesn't look up, but he does reply. "Straight from the heart," he says. He notices that Reilly has put a hand forward across the table, and, hesitantly, he sets out his own to meet it. At first awkwardly, then warmly, they grasp each other's hands.
"Well," says the principal, "I guess that's all wrapped up. You two are still suspended, mind, but I have a feeling there won't be any more fights. Okay, off you go."
Down at the back entrance, we stand for a moment. I spin around in a circle. I just love the nice weather so much. I give a nice breath and sit on the steps of the school, feeling the gritty gravelly concrete through my pants.
"Want to come over to my place?" Jon asks Reilly.
"Sure," he replies.
"I guess the moral of this story," I interject, "is that poetry will ruin your lives." They both look at me like they forgot I was there. Thanks, guys, I only brought you together.
"Thanks a lot, Adil, for everything," Jonathan says. "You put up with me at my worst."
"And you took my punches to your gut," Reilly adds.
"All for the sake of two other people falling in love. I don't know how we can thank you," Jonathan says.
"How about this. I get to write a story about this and post it on the internet. That's fair, isn't it?"
They both look uncomfortable. Jon speaks up, "yeah, I guess that's fair. Just change our names or something, okay?"
"Okay Jon. See you around, guys," I say, watching them walk off towards Jon's car, the parking lot awash in the glare of the sun. They actually make a cute couple of sweethearts. I give a little contented sigh. "Just call me Cupid Sharda."
A/N: I hope you enjoyed this cute story. This is certainly the black sheep of the seasonal stories I've written. I wanted to write something more plot driven. Also I wanted to write something a little happier than the others. I suppose it ended up being more escapist that way, but oh well. Give me your feedback! It fills me with strength and passion.