By Jack Wallen
“I never said you were icky!” Declared Tommy, hands in his pockets and feet scuffing the ground beneath his Converse All-Stars.
“Did too!” Cindy was adamant about what she’d heard. Her friends even stood behind her nodding their little blond heads. “You said you didn’t want to kiss me because I was icky.”
Tommy’s eyes welled up. Truth was, he did like Cindy. He was even thinking of asking her if she would go steady with him. All his friends with girlfriends were making fun of him. Even truer was that Tommy had a crush on Cindy since he first laid eyes on her etheric beauty. He remembered, so well, his seat next to hers, which he sat at all day in the small classroom. He could smell the fruity shampoo she used and liked watching her practice writing her name with big loops.
Tommy wanted to tell Cindy. And it was all so very true, but he couldn’t manage the words. Instead of telling her he liked her, the only words that would come out of his mouth regarded the most popular girl as icky.
The failure would haunt him for the rest of his life.
The doe-eyed blonde angel stood in front of him batting her eyes and pouting. Not so for Cindy’s friends standing behind her, boring holes into Tommy’s skin with their witchy eyes. Tommy wanted to run to his chair and curl up. Instead, he stood there frozen with guilt and shame.
And as the girls huffed off Tommy’s frozen state gave way to movement, which led to him running as fast as he could to the granddaddy of all trees in the back yard of the grounds. It was here that he would finally let himself cry out the tears that threatened to ruin the rest of his life.
“Tommy?” The sweet voice of Cindy was barely above a whisper behind him. “Don’t cry, Tommy.” Cindy sat next to the red-faced boy, putting her back against the oak.
“I didn’t…” Tommy tried to spit out the words of explanation. Cindy had better ideas.
“I only said the things I said because my friends were there. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings.” Cindy reached her hand across time and space and entwined her fingers within Tommy’s. “I like you.” She then leaned into him and pressed warm lips against his cheek, which immediately flushed crimson red. She then handed Tommy a Valentine’s Day card with a big red heart emblazoned on the front. On the inside, it read, “Be my secret valentine.” Cindy sat back against the tree. “But you can’t tell my friends. They know you’re poor and would never forgive me for…”
Tears welled in Tommy’s eyes at the thought of the chasm between them, a boundary that might never be crossed, a wall comprised of poverty and need. He nodded. “I understand.” He stared at the card, realizing it would now and forever be his prized possession.
Cindy gave his hand a light squeeze. “But our secret love will never fade, right?”
Tommy swallowed and answered in a whisper. “I hope not.”
Cindy stood, slapped the dirt and leaves from her perfect dress, and smiled down at Tommy. “Let’s meet here every day.” And with that, Cindy raced off to rejoin those who could best relate to her thoughts and ideas.
Tommy remained seated at the base of the tree, closed his eyes, and whispered, “I wish things could be different.”
A gust of wind picked up to send dried leaves fluttering from the ground, blanketing his legs and feet. As the chilly breeze continued, Tommy was certain he heard something say, in a rumbling deep voice, “So it shall be done.”
That day, when Tommy arrived at home, his mother greeted him at the door, as she was wont to do, with her usual loving smile and open arms. This time, however, there was news. His father had been hired by a company that wanted to pay him a lot of money. Tommy knew very little about what his dad did for work, but he knew he’d not worked for a long time.
His mother scooped Tommy into his arms and spun him around with a joyous laugh. It was then that she broke the bad news.
“We’ll be moving across the country. Won’t that be exciting?”
Tommy’s heart splashed down into his stomach. He clutched the card in his hand, feeling as though his life was about to end.
He would cherish that card, carry it with him as a reminder that nothing was forever and life’s most precious moments were as fleeting as they were wonderful. And even with the bitter ending, he loved that he’d had the opportunity to share a moment of perfectly imperfect love with the girl that stole his heart and never gave it back.
Jack Wallen is what happens when a Gen Xer mind-melds with present day snark. Jack is a seeker of truth and a writer of words with a quantum mechanical pencil and a disjointed beat of sound and soul. Although he resides in the unlikely city of Louisville, Kentucky, Jack likes to think of himself more as an interplanetary traveler, on the lookout for the Satellite of Love and a perpetual movie sign…or so he tells the reflection in the mirror (some times in 3rd person). Jack is the author of numerous tales of dark, twisty fiction including the I Zombie series, Defying Gravity, the Reapers and fEaR series (all published by Devil Dog Press), the Suicide series, the Klockwerk Movement, the Fringe Killer series, The Nameless Saga, and much more.
Check out Jack’s Amazon Author page to purchase one of his over 50 books.