“Missy and Andrew,” her teacher said as he listed off partners for their final project.
Missy stopped mid-daydream and groaned inwardly. No, not Andrew. She sneaked a look at him from across the room. He was typing away, probably computing some abstract calculation. He must’ve sensed her noticing him because he looked up and grinned. Missy gave him a closed-lip smile in return. What was she supposed to do? Give him a crossed-eye grimace?
It wasn’t as if she hated Andrew. The two had sort of been “friends” their freshman year, where he actually had taken her to Winter Formal. She could still remember how he stuttered out the question while she was walking back from studying hall. All her friends already had dates so she eventually said yes. At the dance she had more fun than she ever thought she could have, dancing to the music until the end of the night. As the night came to a close Andrew had come up to her, the blush slowly rising from the acne just above his shirt collar, apologizing for not being an attentive date. Of course what he didn’t know was that Missy had conveniently planned that, and was extremely thankful that they hadn’t even danced once. After that night they seemed to ignore each other. She had seen him one time last summer, walking past him as he was in line to see the unveiling of the new Blue Screen. But she never made eye contact with him until now.
“You will be making boats out of cardboard. Floatable and useable boats, since you will be racing them in the school’s pool. If you have any questions, see me after class,” Mr. Green said as the bell sounded for the end of seventh period and the beginning of the weekend.
Missy picked up her computer and made a quick escape towards the classroom door before Andrew could make an attempt to talk to her. She had to get home as soon as possible. Troy was waiting for her. Opening her locker, she gagged at the overpowering scent of Axe. Her books were all damp. Someone had doused her locker with Axe! A couple feet away stood a group of football players; all of them were trying to suppress a laughter that instead turned into an unattractive sort of snorting. Missy could feel her face swell into a bright red tomato.
“What’s the matter Giant? I thought every girl liked Axe,” taunted the quarterback. “Oh, that’s right! You’re not a girl. You’re just a giant!” All the football players burst out laughing.
Tears began to fill her eyes. She bit her tongue, hoping the pain would keep her from crying in front of them. Shaking, she began to take out her damp books. She would have to air her Grimm’s Fairy Tales out for a week in order to get rid of the smell.
“Here let me help,” someone said, as she turned to notice Andrew taking the books from out of her locker and setting them on the ground.
“No it’s ok. I’ve got it.”
“I’ll go search for a bucket and soap,” he said and left, making sure to walk well around the group of football players that seemed to dwarf him in comparison.
“Look you guys. The Giant found a shrimp boyfriend. How sweet.”
“He’s not my boyfriend,” Missy yelled, but it was too late; the quarterback and the rest of the team were already leaving for practice. A tear escaped her eye but she quickly wiped it away. This is about them, not me, she repeated to herself, but it didn’t help. Looking around, she was glad Andrew hadn’t heard that part. She couldn’t believe that now on top of being a freaking giant, everyone was going to believe she liked Andrew. Maybe if she left now the whole school would get the picture that she was not interesting in him.
“Here, I got some paper towels too.” Startled, Missy whirled around to face Andrew.
“Thanks. You didn’t need to,” she said and grabbed the paper towels.
Andrew took the sponge and started to wash the inside of her locker. “So when do you want to get together to work on the project. I have an assortment of cardboard leftover from my Halloween costume.”
Missy looked at him in disbelief that he could ignore everything that had just happened. “I don’t really feel like talking right now.”
They finished washing and drying the locker in silence. When they were done, Missy picked up her books and computer, knowing she had to hurry so she wouldn’t miss the 4 o’clock tram.
“I’m sorry about your books. I don’t think you’re a giant. I think you’re beautiful.”
“Uh Thanks. Um, well I have to go catch the tram,” she said and started walking toward the door. “Bye.” Stomping all the way to the tram stop, she thought of all the different ways she could punish Andrew for making this the worst day she had had in months.
Throwing open her bedroom door, she dropped all of her books and looked at the floor-to-ceiling movie screen propped up against her wall. With a flick of a switch the screen slowly glowed a vibrant blue. She picked up and put on the helmet lying on her chair and let out a contented sigh as she felt the pressure of the suction cups on the back of her head. Slowly she turned off all the hurt and frustration of the day and closed her eyes.
“A brick stone castle,” Missy thought, imagining it in her mind. “The stones are rough and uneven, worn down by centuries of time with heart-shaped green ivy idly wrapped around it. There are four turrets, one in each corner. Each turret has a window; the one facing west has a balcony for evenings where I can watch the colorful display of the sunburst orange sky turn majestic purple as the sun slowly sinks. The castle sits on a wide green hill, and below the hill is a little garden. The garden has narrow gravel paths that twist and turn throughout it. Around these paths will grow little white roses and the herbs rosemary and thyme, their sweet and minty refreshing fragrance following me as I walk through. The path leads to a flight of stairs down from which there is a forest of Jacaranda trees, making a rooftop of purple buds. And this is where I will live,” she said, still with her eyes closed but suddenly no longer in a void black space but in her own unique world.
Looking down the hill through the garden towards the Jacaranda trees, she let her walk turn to a run, as the weight of gravity pulled her long legs down the sloping hill towards their usual meeting place. She slowed to a stop at the base of the hill, searching through the blooming Jacaranda trees for him. There he was, looking perfectly silly with the lilac colored flowers in his thick brown hair. He had that slightly crooked mocking smile she always thought was so adorable if worn in the right way. She stopped directly in front of him, looking straight at his chin. For once there was a guy her age who was taller than her, exactly 6 inches taller than her height of 5’10’’.
“Hello,” she whispered. For some reason, even though she had created him, she was always shy when she first saw him after being away for a day.
“Well it took you long enough,” he said, his lips curling into a cheeky smile. Missy loved his lips. She had created them to be a little fuller than most guys’ lips. The more there is, the more to kiss. And with that thought she kissed him on the lips.
“Sorry,” she said breaking away. “I had some trouble at school. Some guys sprayed my locker with a cologne and then made fun of me, calling me giant.” She couldn’t help the wavering of her voice. “But this guy Andrew helped me clean it out.”
“Am I not the only man in your life?” Troy teased.
Although he did have a good sense of humor, Missy wished he could be a little more sympathetic.
“I’m sorry,” he said, wrapping his arms around her, drawing her closer to him. “If I was there, I would’ve broken every single one of those guys’ noses.”
“I’m fat! Why can’t I be a size 4 instead 10!”
“You are not fat!” He said shaking her. “I think you’re beautiful. You’re perfect.”
I think you’re beautiful. That’s what Andrew had said. But which one could she believe. She looked up into Troy’s hazel eyes and frowned.
“What’s the matter?”
“Oh nothing. I was just thinking.”
“Thinking?!” He pushed her away. “There’s no thinking here,” he said putting on his mocking smile.
“You’re right. That’s what I said yesterday. No thinking, because in reality there is already too many problems, too much to think about.”
Missy woke up the next morning with ringing coming from her computer. Flashing on the computer screen was the name “Andrew McCulloch.” How did he find her number, she wondered, a little creeped out.
Sitting down and clicking the accept button, she said, “Hello?”
“Hey it’s Andrew.”
“Hey,” Missy replied, still angry with him for making a fool of her in front of the entire football team.
“I just wanted to express my regret over yesterday. It was not my intention to make you feel uncomfortable.”
Missy hated it when he talked like a textbook. But she couldn’t help but feel a little guilty. “You don’t need to apologize. You helped me.”
“But I made you uncomfortable didn’t I?” A silence filled both sides. “I know how you feel.”
Missy got up and walked over towards the Blue Screen.
“It hurts when they call me shrimp or dwarf… or midget mouse, and sometimes I wish I could just escape and never return to school. But if I do, that means they are triumphant and I am the conquered one.”
“So what do you do?”
“What do you mean?”
“How do you deal with it? How do you make it better?”
“You can’t make it better. You can’t stop them, but it helps when I…”
“When you what?”
“I like to make machines, or little contraptions.”
“Oh that’s cool, I guess,” she replied, not knowing what else to say.
“So when would you like meet to make our boat?”
“How about tomorrow around 12? We can make it at my house if you bring the cardboard.”
“Ok, sounds good. See you then,” Andrew said, hanging up.
Missy walked back over to her computer and clicked the red disconnect button, thinking about what Andrew had said. He didn’t know what he was talking about. Things were different for girls. She couldn’t just make a silly little machine and feel better. Missy thought of last summer when she had seen him waiting in line for the newer version of the Blue Screen and wondered if he had one too. Walking back over to the Blue Screen, she flipped the switch on the box and scrolled through her past imaginations until she saw “Lake” in bold letters.
The lake was more like a pond in circumference, but Missy liked to call it a lake because the word “pond” reminded her of the man-made mud hole at the park at home. This lake was instead a clear and shiny blue with lily pads floating along the top, just as she left it last week when Troy and her went fishing. Living in a big city, she rarely had the opportunity to see a real lake or go fishing, unless she paid the man at the park ten dollars to use automated fishing pole. Missy took off her socks and shoes and sat on the edge of the boating dock, letting the refreshing and cool water tickle her bare feet. Carefully leaning over, she stared at her reflection in the water. A face with bright hazel eyes soon joined her broad oval face.
“Are we going fishing again?” asked Troy.
“No, we’re going boating.” A little wooden boat tied at the dock appeared along with two oars.
“I thought you didn’t like being in boats.”
“That’s not true. I’ve actually never been in a boat.”
Missy felt the boat sway as Troy and her climbed into it. With a couple deft rows the boat left the dock as they made their way towards the center of the lake. Looking around, Missy surveyed the beauty and noticed a lily pad with a deep fuchsia flower on top a few feet away. She reached her hand out to pick it up but it was too far away.
“Here. I’ll row us a little closer,” Troy said, chuckling at her attempts.
“No, I’ve got it,” she replied as she tipped dangerously over the side.
“Missy, you’re going to…” but it was too late. She had already fallen in headfirst.
Flailing around, Missy wildly pounded the water in search for air. Why had she never taken those swimming lessons offered at the community center, she thought to herself. Her head bobbed above the water in time to hear Troy yelling at her to grab his hand. Grabbing the lifeline, she tried to pull herself up, only to feel Troy’s firm hold be released as he fell into the water along with her. Panic filled her once more as she tried to think straight. She was going to drown! Could she really die in her imagination? Bobbing up and down furiously, she tried to gasp for air as she searched her mind, trying to remember what the Blue Screen manual had said. Of course! She was so stupid! I CAN swim, she said to herself and suddenly her legs kicked in coordination, treading water.
As she reached the surface she filled her lungs with air. Missy looked over the smooth surface. Where was Troy? She gaped at her stupidity. Of course! Troy didn’t know how to swim either. Once again she dove under and felt around blindly. Could Troy die? Missy felt something rough and pulled at it. It was Troy’s jacket and there was his arm! Using all her strength, Missy grabbed his arm and swam to the surface. Somehow she managed to drag him out of the lake and onto a grassy knoll. Missy plopped down and tried to regain her breath. A thrill of exhilaration ran through her body, leaving her arms and legs tingling with adrenaline. A fit of coughing drew her attention to Troy who was lying beside her.
“Well that was scary,” he said once his coughing stopped.
Missy took one last look around her room, making sure everything was in its place before Andrew came over.
“Honey, Andrew’s here,” she heard her mom yell.
Hearing the creaking of the stairs, she decided to make one more quick change. Grabbing the sheet folded at the end of her bed, she flung it over the Blue Screen just before there was a knock at her door.
“You can come in.”
“Um I don’t think I’m able to. Could you open the door please?”
Missy opened the door and had to keep herself from laughing out loud. Andrew had turned into what looked as if it was a cardboard monster, with a box on top of his head and his arms clutching different sizes of the brown material.
“Would you mind assisting me?”
“Oh yeah. Sorry,” she said taking the box off his head and a couple other pieces from his hands. With the box off his head, she noticed he only came to her chest.
“Thanks. I couldn’t think of any other way to carry them upstairs.”
“You should’ve told me, or asked my mom.”
“My dad taught me never to ask a lady for help. It’s not gentlemanly.”
“Well tell your dad it wouldn’t have been very gentlemanly if we had to call the ambulance because you broke your neck falling down the stairs,” she laughed setting the pieces of cardboard in a heap on the floor. “Hey, I uh… I wanted to thank you for helping me on Friday.”
“I believe you already did.”
“Yeah, but I didn’t really mean it.”
“But you mean it now?” He smiled through his thin lips.
“Yeah,” Missy said, smiling back at him.
They spent the next few hours designing their boat, cutting the pieces they need and gluing them together. While Missy was finishing up gluing the last piece, Andrew walked over to the sheet that was covering the Blue Screen.
But instead of leaving the sheet alone, he lifted and looked behind it. Trying not to show her embarrassment, Missy focused her attention on the boat.
“You have a Blue Screen?”
“I barely use it anymore.”
“I waited in line to see it when they came out with the new version last summer. It was very impressive. But I’ve heard it’s become so addicting that some people spend their whole day in it, lost in their imagination.”
“Well I don’t,” said Missy, indignant at what he was suggesting. “And there’s nothing wrong with using your imagination!”
“I know. I wasn’t inferring that there was.”
Missy believed him but hated how his voice took on a grating tone as if he was discussing a deep intellectual truth in their philosophy class.
“Um, well I guess I should probably get going,” he said.
“Ok. I’ll see you tomorrow at school.”
Just before walking out the door, Andrew stopped and turned around. “Hey I was wondering. Are you busy tonight?” His voice was so low it seemed as if he was scared someone beside himself would hear him. “It’s the grand opening of my dad’s restaurant. There’ll be all you can eat breadsticks.”
“Sorry. I have homework.”
“Ok… well let me know if you change your mind,” he said and left.
Missy closed the door behind him, walked back over to the covered Blue Screen and uncovered it. Andrew doesn’t know what he’s talking about, she thought. Turning the box on she told herself she was not addicted to it. It was a hobby, like reading. Scrolling through her past imaginations she found and clicked “Castle.”
Standing at the base of the hill, Missy let the late afternoon sun seep into her, relaxing her whole body. She wondered where Troy was. He usually never took this long to appear. Looking around, she saw him coming around the side of the castle, walking down the hill towards her.
“Where were you,” she asked, hugging him possessively.
“I was checking on the horses. Didn’t you want to learn to ride today? Were you worried?”
“Oh yeah. I forgot.”
“You don’t sound too excited. Do you still want to learn?”
Of course she still wanted to learn. She had always imagined him teaching her how to ride. She thought this was the most romantic part of stories. Forget how the boy and girl met, whether it was colliding in a crowded high school hallway, the girl dropping all her textbooks and the boy picking them up for her, or at the random party where the boy whisks the shy girl onto the dance floor; the best part was in the end when the two rode off into the setting sun. “Yeah! Sorry I guess I just got confused. That sounds perfect!”
“Well then, let’s start galloping! Why don’t you call the horses?”
Missy reluctantly unwrapped her arms from around Troy and let out a sharp whistle. In response, two stunning stallions galloped down the hill out of the shimmering gold sparks of the slowly setting sun. One was a spotless, white mare named Snow Globe and the other a stunning black Arabian stallion named Black Beauty. As the horses stopped in front of them, Missy noticed their muscles as they breathed hard after galloping. Compared to these animals she felt petite.
“Here,” Troy said kneeling by Snow Globe and cupping his hand. “I’ll give you a little boost.”
Missy set her booted foot into his hand and pulled herself up, intuitively trusting that he would support her weight and not let her fall. Once she was sitting on top of her horse’s back she began to doubt herself. Did she really want to do this? What if she fell off? It certainly seemed a long way down. Missy shook herself. Of course nothing could happen to her. These horses were trained and she controlled everything that happened here. It was her imagination after all.
“Ok,” Troy said as he mounted his own horse. “So what you are going to do is gently squeeze her with your legs. This will tell her to go and she’ll start to walk. The faster you want to go the more pressure you put on her through squeezing your legs.”
She gingerly applied pressure and Snow Globe proceeded into a slow walk.
“Good! Are you ready for a trot?”
Missy gently squeezed Snow Globe a little more and the mare continued straight in a brisk trot. She began to bounce precariously up and down and her fears of falling began to resurface. “How do I get her to stop?” she shouted.
“Use the reins.”
“WHAT REINS?” The nearing of a low tree branch turned her fear into a sweating panic. Then she remembered. The smooth leather reins fell into her hands and she pulled them, reining her horse into a complete stop, inches away from a very thick and dangerous looking branch.
“Are you alright?” Troy was suddenly beside her. There was a crease between his eyebrows and look of pure concern in his hazel eyes.
“Yeah, I think so,” she said, feeling a tingle rush through her body.
“How about we stop for today? Yesterday and today have been pretty active days... I know! Why don’t read “Pride and Prejudice? It’s my favorite book!”
That’s my favorite book, Missy thought, twisting the reins in her hands.
“And we can dip Oreos into hot chocolate.”
And that’s my favorite snack.
“What do you say? Doesn’t that sound good?” He was wearing that same cheeky grin. He always had that same teasing and mischievous smile. It was something she had created in him that she thought was so endearing, but now it was just plain annoying. Looking into the pools of his gleaming eyes, she could almost see her reflection. Her reflection was in everything.
The sweet pervading honey scent of the blooming Jacarandas above them became cloying and stifling, clogging up her nose and mouth. The sun was sending out its last rays, continuing its disappearance into the west, as if it were beckoning her to follow in its search for light and warmth.
“I have to go home.”
“But I thought you liked Oreos” he said, almost pleading.
“I just have to go home,” and with that she opened her eyes. The suction cups let out little pops as she took the helmet off her head.
Walking towards her desk, she sat down in front of her computer. She noticed her jeans had reached her calf when she sat down, the effects of another recent growth spurt. Her doctor had thought she would stop growing when she reached high school, but he was wrong. Searching through recent calls, she found the number she was looking for. Missy nervously clicked send and listened as the computer’s monotone automated voice dialed out the numbers. Looking back at the glowing blue screen, she realized she had forgotten to turn it off. The dreaded rings continued to repeat themselves, stretching out in continuous long drones until an automated voice said, “718,621,5473 is not available. Leave a message after the—” she pressed the disconnect button, cutting it off.
Missy returned her attention to the floor-to-ceiling screen that covered the entire north side of her room. Its cold glow held her gaze as if daring her to blink first. Instead of giving it that satisfaction she switched her gaze to the small black electrical box, which was emitting a barely audible buzzing and hissing. With a quick click she shut the system down and the screen faded black. Walking back to her computer, she clicked redial and waited for the same pre-recorded voice.
“Hey Andrew, it’s Missy. Um, you’re probably busy right now but I just wanted to see if you still wanted to hang out tonight or something I guess. Call me back.”
Created: Jan 01, 2011Molliemarie Document Media