Damian and Brent had just used me to get what they wanted. I had no excuse for using my extra Maths lesson money on the dumb party of a girl I didn’t even know.
I could still hear my mom calling out my name from outside the bathroom. I couldn’t confess to my mother about the money. I never knew things would end up so badly.
And then, what I had tried to push out of my mind came rushing back. Amy’s voice, bitchy, and cold: “I could never date you…”
Amy’s voice as she told her friends at break that Monday, and they giggled and pointed at me. She said it loud enough for me to hear:
“And he can’t kiss…I swear, he’s sixteen and he’s never kissed a girl! It was so bad…all wet and slobbery and you should have seen the stupid look on his face afterwards…”
I tried to push these thoughts away, but they kept coming back louder. My dad was away and I missed him. But when he came back my mom would tell him about the money. I knew she could tell I was lying. I had never lied to her before. Who was I now? I asked myself. I hadn’t even opened my friend Chloe’s letter.
And Damian and Brent had stopped calling me. In fact Damian had stopped hanging around on the pavement waiting for me to leave school. They didn’t need me now.
I had taken my mom’s sleeping pills out of the cupboard above the bathroom basin then I had gone to find my dad’s bottle of brandy. It would make the pain less. I just wanted to escape, wanted this humiliation to be over. I shook some pills out onto the table, but my hands were shaking. I rested my hands on my thighs to steady myself. That’s when I felt something in the side pocket of my trousers. A piece of paper.
I pulled it out. It was Chloe’s letter. It had dried up, and the writing was smudged and the paper fragile. I had folded it up. I struggled to get it out of its envelope and open it up. I read. I could not make out all the words, but the important ones were there.
This is really hard for me to write … I think, I know, I have strong feelings for you … you are into Amy, or you think you are. … But if you feel anything for me I will be waiting outside the school on Monday. This is really hard for me to write. If you don’t come I’ll know you don’t feel the way I do and I won’t bother you again.
That was a week ago, before the party. I had seen Chloe sitting there on the pavement and I had walked right past to go and look for Damian. I hadn’t even looked at her! How cruel she must think me.
Now I knew what I had to do. I put the pills back in the bottle. I could not allow myself to slip into darkness. No, I had to undo everything I had done wrong. I had to see Chloe…
But as I left the bathroom I heard my mom exclaiming with joy – my dad had come home early. I hung back. I heard them talking.
“How is Simon?” my dad asked. My mother hesitated, and then her voice dropped so I couldn’t hear clearly.
I couldn’t keep them waiting anymore either.
“Mom, Dad, I’m sorry for disappointing you.” I came into the living room and sat down on the couch. I told them the truth. They listened intently and, to my big surprise, they replied gently. I guess my honesty made them lenient.
Another surprise: my mother then admitted that she felt partly at fault, as she had been very busy lately and not given me much attention. As a punishment, my dad ordered that I pay back the R750. Where would I find the money? But I was flooded with relief, free of the guilt of the theft and the lie And my humiliation at the hands of Amy suddenly seemed less important too.
The next day at break I walked up to Chloe and before she could say anything I burst into confession: “Chloe, I’m so sorry for the way I’ve been treating you lately.” She turned her head away from me.
“Look,” I held the envelope in front on me. “It got wet in the rain, and I was distracted by that stupid party, but I finally read it. And I can honestly say I feel the same way. And I promise to make it up to you – if you just give me the chance!”
“I’ll think about it,” she said. “It really hurt you know. Waiting there, and you walking straight past. It took a lot of courage to write that letter. I was so humiliated!” I looked at her in painful empathy – I knew all about humiliation like that. And I had caused hers!
Over her shoulder I saw Josh staring at us. I acknowledged to myself for the first time that I knew he liked Chloe too, and wanted her as more than a friend. But she had chosen me. I knew why he was so angry at how I had treated her.
In the next school holiday I started working at Checkers, slowly earning the money for my extra Maths. And to take Chloe out. We still hang out together. But I can see it’s not the same for Josh being with us, not now that Chloe and I are together.
This afternoon when we meet up at Chloe’s house I’m going to tell him that I saw Alice looking at him in class. She’s new and kind of nerdy too. I am going to tell him to invite her over to play X-box with us. I’m going to tell him that she was smiling at him. For real!