Your friend comes up to me at lunch. I’m sat on the lawn, basking in sunlight and daisies, and his words are like a bucket of icy water which disrupt the peace I adore: of the sun on my face and laughter dancing through the air.
“Liam wants your number.”
There is no mistaking his words, and I’m tossed back to a week ago.
You didn’t speak as we were sorted into our groups. I was so nervous, terrified that I wouldn’t know anyone, until my friend’s name was called and relief flooded through me. We all said our names—brief glimpses into another life—but didn’t yet learn to match them to the faces we would see each day.
I don’t understand. Is this a trick—a cruel hoax for some unrealised slight? Or is it serious? Do you really want to know me? Do I want to know you?
Four days after I heard you say your name, I knew which face went with it. There was a time when I was confused, because that’s what you set out to do. You had us so confused for a good three days of whispered debate:
“Adam? Liam? What’s he actually called?”
It took time, but we learned who you were. So much remained a mystery though. You barely spoke to us—didn’t speak to me—choosing rather to spend time with those of your own sex.
At least I know your name now! When, I wonder, did you know mine?
I’m frozen, shocked by the boldness of this proposition. I don’t know how to react.
The next day out group went paddle-boarding. I was stood up, ridiculously proud of myself—when I found myself falling. It was you, trying to dislodge me from my board. For a moment you succeeded, and paused before clambering onto the board. Your hesitation was all I needed. I grabbed on as well, and for maybe thirty seconds we struggled over possession. I won, casting you into the weedy shallows of the lake, and stood up. You didn’t push back. Instead, I thought I heard a shout from one of your friends.
“You didn’t get her off Liam!”
I think I’m angry. I don’t know how you can do this: barely speak to me, then send a messenger rather than asking me myself. It’s not fair. Not to me, not to you. How can I say yes—and I think that I would—to something that could be little more than a joke? I can’t trust. I just can’t.
The word spills out of my mouth before I can stop it.
We were eating lunch, and you turned away from your table to speak to me.
I looked behind me.
“What are those things called that the Queen eats? You know—with butter and jam.”
Your friend piped in.
“For afternoon tea”
I was confused, barely able to hear you over the bubble of voices, and the moment stretched on for what feels like an age.
Alice! Thank God! At least someone had their wits about them that lunch. You nodded, and turned back to your food.
It feels hard and cold on my tongue, but I can’t take it back. Not now. He tries to reason with my—this friend of yours—but the only thing that escapes is a harsh laugh. I turn away, refusing to listen to him delivering my message. Not that you need telling—you know my answer as soon as you see me freeze.
After dinner that night my stomach will be in knots. Already three people will have told me to say yes, but you won’t have said a word. I will feel pathetic. I don’t get boy problems. I just don’t. And I will be starting to feel guilty. Should I have said yes? If I said yes now, would you take it?
A few hours later I will receive a poem over the group chat. I will sit there and laugh at it, never stopping to consider it.
‘Rose are red,
Violets are blue.
Your skirt doesn’t impress me.
I don’t love you.’
I will read it aloud, gasping for air as I laugh, and my friends will laugh with me. That night they will support me, and my refusal of you.
They won’t the next morning.
I won’t look at you as we play the board game. Some twisted version of Truth and Dare mixed in with Snakes and Ladders. And I will know what’s going to happen. I will have seen the cards as they were being made.
The others won’t help. Not Alice, when she will name me before reading out a particularly embarrassing consequence card.
“Morgan…‘you get laid’…”
Her voice will drop to an audible whisper.
I will hit her, but I won’t be able to do anything at the next card.
“Your nudes get leaked.”
I will be named. So will you. Even the leader will join in:
“He would though!”
Later I will be dared. To do five star jumps. In a skirt.
The laughing will be good natured, but the ribbing continues.
I will decide to end it.
And end it I will.
It will happen at night.
I will tell my friends what I plan to do—making use of my meagre talents to throw your poem back in your face. I will sit there, tongue between my teeth—and wouldn’t you like it to be somewhere else—pen in hand.
But first I will call out:
“Does anyone know the rhyme scheme for a sonnet?”
I will write my poem, rhyming meticulously (ababcdcdefefgg if you’re interested) and crowing triumphantly when I am finished. My friends will encourage me to read it aloud, and I will do it, because I will be excited and jubilant and overflowing with mischief.
“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Or perhaps to the joker—he who jests?
For your fair rhymes have failed me to sway,
And my heart remains firmly in my chest.
For your honesty has forced me to laugh,
And the truth in your words—how may I reply,
Without that sweetest of phrases: fuck off
Which seems so very fitting in my eye.
These marks on the page which flow as I write,
As a message which I cannot but speak,
Have helped me to truly decide: “I don’t like”
And my answer is anything but weak.
Because roses are red.
Violets are blue.
My skirt is for me;
It wasn’t for you.”
I will be swamped with praise and admiration, and we will decide to film it, and send it that way. It will take three attempts before we have got the entire thing, and then we will send it.
Amy will post it, and all the girls will post messages underneath it in the group chat. But it won’t send. The connection in our room will be too slow, so the boys will see the messages without the video. And their curiosity will be aroused.
When it does send, Alice and I will be coming back from getting a drink. We will walk past the stairs to the boys’ rooms and hear gales of laughter. We will know what has caused them.
When we get back, there will be messages. There will even be one from you.
“That made the entire two weeks worth it.”
When I leave the next morning I do not expect to see you again.