Moment Eight: Soda and Ice-cream

Once we’re settled into the twin tartan armchairs that engulf Kitty’s bedroom, I fill her in on all that has happened on and since that day. I can’t stop even if I want to: the beans spill out of me like a spliced tin, the mystical pulses of fairy tales. Had it been any other I confessed to, I doubt my words would be believed; in this case, it would probably be more trialling to label my descriptions as oneiric. I am not one prone to flights of fancy.

Before we discuss this fantastical material, we agree that it is wise to first plan an evening of normality. “Like old times” she says. Kitty needs time to digest and I need an hour to forget. Besides, her parents are out for the evening, as is her sister; these days need to be taken advantage of.

Within minutes we are slumped in front of the TV downstairs with a pint of mint ice-cream, lovingly taking the mickey out of trashy teen dramas.

Out of the blue, as the ditzy female lead finally realises that her boyfriend is a cheat, a recollection from the hazy depths of my mind swims to the forefront, gripping the edges of my thought pool with stubborn fingers. “Hey, Kitty,” I begin tentatively, causing her to turn to me with an open mien, “you know when we – we almost made up – why did you avoid me afterwards? I know I must’ve burned you but – why not talk to me about it?”

Her expression shifts to one of faint horror. The event has clearly made its home in the hell of her long-term memory. “I – I don’t know. I was just – terrified – illogically so. In my mind, you’d aimed a blowtorch at my skin and burned holes in it. I couldn’t stay touching you without screaming, it felt like. It freaked me out so much that fear clouded my memory of you every time I thought about apologising. But the further away I stayed, the more rational I became.”

“Uh.” Is all I can say. “I wish I could explain but I can’t. I don’t understand what’s up with me. It was probably because of me.” I lament.

Kitty smiles sadly and speaks consolingly. “Well, we may as well forget about it for now then; no use digging at concrete with a spade.”

I almost snort at that awful metaphor.

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Moment Four: Space Invader

Out of the corner of my eye, I notice a body to my right, where a vacant seat usually resides. Autumnal tresses glint in the sunlight. A quick, hopeful smile flashes forth. It’s her, I think, pupils widening involuntarily. It’s – that girl! The crazy skipping one! I gape, unseeing, at the vast smartboard on which our learning objectives are typed, trying to get my head around this development. I need to say something. I can’t stop myself from saying something. “Sooo…you’re Florence?”

“Yea.” she responds, unexpectedly coy, though with a rough undertone. “Or Floss. If you want.”

“OK…” I agree, working to hold my smile in place. I’m so out of practise in getting to know people it’s almost unbelievable. A muteness stretches out between us and it seems that I’m going to have to be the one to initiate conversation. “I, uh, saw you with your friend on Saturday.” I say, some part of me actually wanting to start a discussion for once. Perhaps the recent lack of social life has gone to my head. “In swimsuits.” I add, failing to keep a straight face.

Florence looks embarrassed, understandably. “Ahh…” Her response sounds like a slow-motion scream that has had its pitch lowered. “Yeah, Eva was staying at mine ‘cause she has no school today and we were bored and I suggested…yeah.” She’s blushing now. “I had to drag her out the door.” Somewhat evil grin.

“Were you drunk?” I laugh and Florence’s mouth twists impertinently.

“Maybe you could join us sometime!” She giggles at the horrified look on my face. This common memory seems to have been the ice-breaker. “Hey, what’s your name?”

“Oh, yeah, sorry – Saffron.” I don’t give her my nickname; no one gets in that easily, especially new girls.

Mr Cain ticks everyone off the online register in his own time, so we get straight on with our work, although we’re well into the lesson by now.

“You OK Addie?” Florence asks the girl in front of us, concern simmering in honey-coloured retinas.

“Addie” currently has her head clutched in her palms, elbows gripping the table, an empty Excel document open on her computer. For the first time, I notice that her hair is chopped rather roughly, with uneven ends, as if she herself has cut it. “Headache.” She mumbles without turning. I get the impression that it was Florence who decided to bring this relationship into existence.

“I have some tablets if you want.” Florence offers.

Gradually – miraculously, it seems to me, Adalyn comes to face us and Florence pulls out some paracetamol from her rucksack. I give her a weak smile as she waits silently for a strip to be detached, receiving a hesitant one that closely resembles a grimace in return. I can’t be sure if this is because of the pain or my acknowledging her; with a guilty jolt it occurs to me that the latter could well be the case. I’m not one of those that tease her – for her shabbiness, her solicitude – but I don’t stand up for her either. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve spoken to her at all in the three years we’ve been in the same form, apart from a few ‘what do you thinks’ during group projects, to which I usually receive a shrug.

Adalyn gives the brightest smile she can muster to the blonde, accompanied by a moderately loud “Thank you.”

Florence then looks, beaming, to me. I am amazed at how speedily she’s come out of her shell. I guess even the bubbliest of people appear shy in an unknown environment. “I think we should start working now.” She sighs.

“Oh. Yeah.” I agree reluctantly.

“Don’t you like I.T.?” She chuckles.

I wrinkle my forehead instinctively. “It’s OK. I prefer stuff like Science and Maths but I’m not especially good at any of those.”

“Oh, I’m sure you are. I’ll have to see”

I shake my head, disbelieving. She can’t seriously be implying that she’s going to stick around. I don’t know what I make of that, to be honest.

Moment One: Tough Love

Kitarini has been my other half since she found me sprawled out on the playground back in reception. You see, since my legs were growing faster than my feet, I was an extremely clumsy child, so much so that for a fleeting moment my parents figured dyspraxia. And there was nothing more challenging than the obstacle course of discarded balls, hoops and bats that I was flung into twice a day. The time that Kitty coincided with me was one when I’d been running, eager to consume my lunch, to the food hall. It was a cone that’d tripped me: a wide, orange pyramid – the colour of hellfire. The monster tackled my tangled legs and threw me down, leaving its mark in the form of two vast crimson grazes on my bare knees. I slumped there on my butt for a minute, stunned. Then a rich, well-oiled voice cut through.

“Are you alright?” It queried.

“Yes.” I asserted grimly, though I was shaken and pain emanated from multiple injuries.

“No you’re not.” That stubborn kid said.

At this point I’d looked up and seen a small girl with a dark bob and fringe, whom I vaguely recognised from circle time. She’d always had something awkward to ask, like the typical “where do babies come from?” She always got her answer eventually, because she never gave up.

“I am.” I said again, attempting to match her determination.

“No. You’re not. You’re not alright.”

“I’m fine.” I enunciated, wishing she’d leave off. Though, in truth, the back-and-forth was doing wonders for keeping my mind off the hurting.

But it went on. “You’re not.” She stated.

“I am.” I countered.

“You’re not”, “I am”, “you’re not”, “I am”, “you’re not”, until a teacher came over to see what all the commotion was about. Ironically, my contemporary rival was what had kept them from witnessing my plight. We’d argued all the way to the medical room, until our bickering dissolved into giggling as most Primary girls’ did. From that event on, we’d gradually become better acquainted, snatching pockets of conversation here and there, until the seed of friendship was irreversibly sown in one-another’s fields.