a collection of firsts for amy blake
The following is an excerpt from A Collection of Firsts for Amy Blake. At the bottom, you can suggest that I complete this novel next by sending me an email!
When fifth grader and spelling bee champion Aiden Claymore dropped a colored pencil beneath his desk at exactly two o’clock, his sketch partner Amy Blake knew for a fact that he wanted to kiss her. Sometimes a woman can just tell, she said to herself, in the way any woman knows that romance has found its way to her. She had just watched When Harry Met Sally with her mother last weekend on their Girls’ Night and the signs seemed so clear to her.
His colored pencil had been so strategically placed at the precise edge of his desk only moments before, just inches from his elbow and as he moved toward the purple pencil, he slid his elbow toward the edge and watched innocently with surprise in his eyes as it fell to the floor.
She thought she saw the slightest twitch of a smile on his lips as he dropped to the floor to retrieve it.
As she sunk beneath the desks to meet him for a smooch, she quickly glanced around the room to see if anyone else was watching. The classroom was a scene of sheer chaos and her teacher, Mrs. Wright, was hidden somewhere behind the flailing arms and shrieks of glee from her classmates. It was Friday afternoon and they had just been praised by Principal Morris for exceptional work on their state math examinations.
Amy had scored highest, Aiden only slightly behind.
She had smiled at him during the announcement and he had smiled back from across the desks with a massive gap where his Big Teeth should have been. Amy thought that this was by far the most adorable thing about him, though her brother – showing off his seventh grade science skills – had teased him earlier on the school bus, calling Aiden a “Neanderthal,” because most fifth graders already had their Big Teeth, he said. And later, called him an “oxymoron,” though Amy did not think the latter had anything to do with his teeth. Both were words for Wikipedia later that evening, though, as she would never dignify her brother’s teasing with questions of clarification.
Now, as she lowered herself to the ground, she caught sight first of Aiden’s long lashes that reached for everything at which he looked, then his large blue eyes, and last, a look of shock to see her joining him beneath the desks in the back corner of the classroom.
“What?” He asked.
“What do you mean, what?” Amy stared into his eyes, hoping for some trace of the softness and excitement she had expected to see before her very first kiss.
“Why are you down here?”
Amy looked at the yellow colored pencil in his hand, realizing that he very well might have been searching for that pencil, rather than love, on the classroom floor that afternoon. She whispered, “No reason…”
“Did you drop something?” He looked around for something for which she might be reaching, but there were only dust bunnies and scraps of paper and Aiden and Amy. Nothing else. He glanced at her, confused, and added, “You’re totally weird, Amy.”
“You so are.”
She asked, in response to a word often used by others to describe her, but never from Aiden, “Why would you say that?”
“Because it’s true.”
Max Ingham dropped to the floor only four desks away. With a mischievous smile after noticing Aiden and Amy beneath their own desks, he crawled along the ground toward them like an army officer in crossfire. “Ooooh, what’s going on here, love birds?” He chuckled, raising an eyebrow toward Aiden.
“Nothing,” Aiden snapped back. “I dropped a pencil.”
“That’s not what it looks like from here.” Max smiled and turned to Amy for clarification.
Amy was so confused, so completely baffled at this error in her deductive reasoning – which she thought she had so impeccably amassed from all the facts of that moment and the winks and smiles of the moments before. Without even thinking, she let something so shamefully honest slip from her lips as she stared at Aiden’s long lashes. “I thought you wanted to kiss me.”
Aiden laughed, looking only at Max as he spoke, but she heard a slight edge of nervousness in his voice as her face planted to the floor. “Why would I want to kiss you, wierdo?”
“Because you’re gross…and you’re good at math!”
Max chuckled and gave Aiden an approving twitch of his eyebrow as he rose from the floor, adding, “Math!” in a mocking sort of way.
Aiden shot up and walked away as Max’s laughter carried over the shrieks and giggles in the classroom and attracted the attention of a few others in the general area. Amy knew by lunchtime the entire school would know. She knew, in the way any fifth grader knows about the rising presence of gossip in the atmosphere. She heard it buzzing over the leather seats of the school bus in the morning and between the cracks in the bathroom stalls, but this was the first time she anticipated its vicious kick to her face. And it hurt. Like a spritz of orange juice in her eye.
Amy held in her tears, knowing that it would only get worse if they saw her crying.
It will only get worse if they see you cry.
It will only get worse if they see you cry.
She repeated this to herself – partly for assurance and partly distraction – as she ran to the bathroom across the hall, swinging her hair in front of her face so no one could see her expression or the tears as she ran. She burst through the heavy wooden door marked GIRLS and darted directly into the first stall without looking around.
“Is that you, Amy?”
Through the bathroom stall walls, Amy heard the distinct voice of Michele Ingham, Max’s twin sister and a recently designated “cool girl” of the fifth grade social hierarchy. From the way her voice carried, it sounded like she was standing at the bathroom mirror at the other end, near the tinted windows that faced the school parking lot. She could hear the distant roar of a school bus and realized, with relief, the day was almost over.
Amy wiped her eyes with her sleeve and took a deep breath before answering, “It’s me.”
“Are you sick?”
“The way you ran right in there, I thought we were gonna have to run right out.”
Amy heard giggles from what sounded like two other girls at the mirror with Michele. Most likely, they were giggles belonging to Alison Waxman and Stephanie Nunez, Michele’s newest additions to the band of followers that trailed behind and beside her, up and down the hallway each and every day. Amy knew this, not only now as an onlooker from her own locker, but as a one-day participant in the Michele Ingham processional earlier in the school year.
“I’m ok, I…” Amy paused. “I just have something in my eye, that’s all.”
“Oh…” Michele laughed. “I stole my mom’s mascara too. Gets in your eye sometimes, right? Ugh…” Michele stomped her shoe to the floor and its echo revealed an impressive short heal on the bottom of her feet. Not only was she wearing mascara, which alone would have been the coolest news circulating the fifth grade, but she also wore casual heals.
Amy paused, debating if she should actually agree that she was wearing mascara. After all, it would be abundantly clear that she wasn’t wearing any as soon as she exited the bathroom stall and approached the mirror to wash her hands. Unless she didn’t wash her hands. Unless she ran right out of the bathroom right then and there. But then, she knew, entirely different rumors would start floating around the fifth grade and, who knows, maybe the upper grades as well. Her brother might even come home and tell her parents that she wasn’t washing her hands at school anymore and then who knew what would then happen.
“Yeah, I hate that.” Amy replied. “Eye makeup’s really tricky.”
After a pause, Michele continues, “Why don’t you come out from there? Maybe we can help you clean up.”
“Uh…” Amy tugged on the roll of toilet paper, which shredded and broke as she tried to get one long, strand. This allowed her to delay a response for a few seconds.
“How much toilet paper do you use, Amy?” More giggles bounced around the walls of the peachy ceramic tiles above her. She flushed with her shoe (You don’t know where that toilet’s been, her grandmother would always say), and walked slowly toward the sinks at the far end. Toward Michele Ingham and her giggling gaggle of followers. Toward three very pretty girls combing their hair in the large mirror facing them all.
Amy looked down at the sink, “I just needed a lot of toilet paper today. Not usually. I’m – well, actually, my whole family is – trying to be green, so we’re cutting down our paper consumption.” She watched the water gush from the sink and splash some of its spray onto her shirt.
They stopped combing their hair. Their faces remained still and their eyes moved toward her. Michele smiles at herself in the mirror and says to her own reflection, “Oh, that reminds me, congratulations on the math exam, Amy.”
All three girls laugh.
Weeks later, she would write her New Years Resolutions in her diary – the one with the classy bears having tea on the cover – as she had each and every New Years prior and as her Number One resolution for the year, she wrote:
Be Less Good At Math.
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