The Meaning of Silence
I met her in Chemistry last September. We were the only new kids in the class so the teacher sat us next to each other. “Hi, I’m Melissa,” she said, lifting her right hand in a wave, a bit like a policeman stopping traffic. She was different to the other girls who sniggered and giggled in groups before class started, tongues flicking like lizards. Melissa was quiet, had a head-in-the-clouds feel to her. As she glided between classes her blonde ponytail swung across her back; the other boys watched her too.
In October, she stopped talking to me. Dad said she was just playing hard to get. “Stay on her, Son, till she surrenders,” he said, “how I got your Mum.” Mum isn’t around any longer so I can’t ask her.
Melissa still wrote me messages though, scribbled on pieces of paper she’d ball up and drop in the bin for me to collect: her address; her initials; my initials; hearts; balloons. That was her way of letting me know we had a connection; she didn’t want everyone else knowing because they’d just bug us. I was cool with that. For her birthday I left a heart-shaped balloon tied to her locker. I didn’t need to tell her it was from me; she knew.
In November, Melissa joined basketball on Thursdays. I took up karate at the same time on the mezzanine above the sports hall; you get a good view from there. In December, she gave up basketball and took up squash. I joined the table tennis club; most weeks I’d pick up a game on the table outside her court. In January, Melissa gave up squash and took up swimming; the girls only session.
In April, just before exams, they printed our year book: our pictures sat side by side. “It’s a sign, Son, go on, she’s yours for the taking!” whooped Dad, slapping me on the shoulder before turning back to the PlayStation.
She left school straight after exams: apparently she’d been invited to a summer camp for gifted and talented students. So I started walking by her house; nothing wrong with that, it was another way home for me. I never saw her, never saw anyone. Until yesterday morning when a man in jeans and a white t-shirt stepped out of the front door, fists by his sides. He stared at me as I walked past: the same almond eyes, the same thick, blonde hair. “Don’t come near here again,” he shouted. I looked up at the windows, saw a curtain swing. I thought of that heart-shaped balloon, bobbing up against the ceiling of the corridor, out of reach. If I couldn’t have her, I’d get a pin and pop her so nobody else could.
L. Beevor has worked in the arts for 20+ years. Her writing has been short-listed for the John O’Connor Short Story Award 2018, short and long-listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award and The Short Story Flash 400, has been published in Community Arts Partnership Anthologies and online as part of the 26 Armistice project in collaboration with the Imperial War Museum, London. She has zig-zagged the globe thanks to work, study and family and currently lives in Belfast.