The rest of the week wasn’t so bad. It was the last before term-end. I guessed everyone was looking forward to the holidays. I had mixed feelings about holidays.
I’d cleaned the clothes Mz Greggory gave me and tried to give them back, but she wouldn’t accept them saying if I didn’t take them she would just give them away to a charity shop anyway.
It made me a little angry, I didn’t like the feeling that I was relying on anyone.
I also resented being pitied; I could see it in her eyes when she spoke to me. Yes, she was trying to help but it wasn’t because she liked me, who would?
I’m serious. I’d spent the last few nights thinking and taking a long hard look at myself. I didn’t like what I saw. Why would anyone like me? I spent all my time trying to push people away. It’s no wonder I get bullied. No one else seemed to have the trouble I got. I must be doing something wrong.
But maybe I could change?
With this in mind, on the last day of term I stood in the lunch queue and tried to ready myself.
This was my last chance before we broke up. I had decided to make a real effort to actually talk to someone. The only person I knew who had made an effort with me was Beth, I didn’t know anything about her but she had started talking to me. I’d been rude to her and she didn’t go away. I hadn’t spoken to her since I think she thought I didn’t like her. I don’t blame her.
I’d decided I was going to sit next to her at lunch.
The first attempt hadn’t gone well. I just couldn’t do it. I put it off. I said I’d do it the next day.
The next day I’d come too early and she came in after me, she had sat down on the other side of the room. The third day, she was sitting talking to someone. That was too much for me so I gave up again.
Today was my last chance and she was alone, near the exit at my usual table so I was trying to build up the courage to take the seat next to her.
I kind of hoped one of the girls in front of me would go sit next to her. Then I could give up. No such luck.
My stomach was turning with nerves and I really didn’t feel like eating even though this was probably going to be the last decent meal I was going to get for a week. I took some salad without really paying attention.
Ok. I can do this.
I took my tray and, feeling very self-conscious, started walking towards her table. I avoided going anywhere near Haley and her friends but I still half expected a foot to trip me or someone to ‘accidentally’ knock my tray out of my hands. All the ways everything could go wrong ran through my head right up until I got to the table.
I hadn’t really thought about everything going as planned. I stood there for a few seconds thinking how stupid I was before sitting down.
“Hi,” I said. This was as far as I had planned ahead; everything from now on was new territory.
“Hi, Alexis-who-hates-her-name right?” she said.
“Yeah.” I didn’t know what to say. So I concentrated on my lunch. I didn’t want it but that was fine – it didn’t feel so awkward if I was doing something. I just had to nurse my food to next half an hour.
I looked up, she smiled at me. I actually looked at her properly, she kind of looked nervous. It relaxed me a little. Maybe she had trouble with this kind of thing too? Maybe she still thought I didn’t like her. I gave her a quick smile back. I honestly don’t remember the last time I smiled…
I didn’t look at her reaction, my eyes went back to my food and we ate in silence.
After about five minutes she said, “Are you doing anything over the holidays? Going anywhere?”
“No.” After another few seconds of silence I realised a single syllable answer was probably rude. Hastily I asked, “Are you?”
“I was going to go to see that new film at the cinema but I don’t really have anyone to go with…” She left the sentence hanging there, looking at me.
Was she asking if I wanted to go with her? I wondered how much a movie cost. I had some money stashed away in case I really needed it. I could probably cover it. I was saving up for a new coat though…
Also I don’t think I’d ever actually done something with someone before, let alone go see a movie.
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t want to,” she said quickly.
“No!” I said “I do. I mean, sure, I’d love to. Err…” I wasn’t sure how to proceed, what was the protocol for this kind thing?
“Oh, good.” She gave me that smile again. “Uh, how about we meet tomorrow? There are showings every hour or so. How about lunch time? Twelve?”
Anything was good for me.
“Where?” I said.
“Oh.” She laughed. “The cinema downtown, by Highgate Mall. I gotta go, I’ll see you tomorrow.” She stood, grabbed her tray and left.
* * *
I got there at about twenty past 11 and sat in the foyer of the cinema counting the money I had again hoping I’d made some awful mistake and missed a few ten dollar coins. I separated out the $60 ticket cost and had less than that left over. Cinemas are expensive.
I shouldn’t have arrived early. I was getting more nervous as I waited.
Before I expected, considering she said twelve, Beth stomped through the door. She was talking quietly and angrily to an older woman, her Mom maybe? I caught the tail end of their conversation as they got near.
“I’m old enough to go to the damn cinema without you Mom” Beth said.
“Don’t curse. Until you are 16 I’m not letting you wander round this city alone, I don’t care what your friends think,” she replied
“But it’s so embarrassing! Shut-up anyway, she’s here.” She stopped glaring at her mom and said a cheerful “Hi” to me.
“Hello, Alexis right? I’m Beth’s mother, call me Kim.” She held her hand out, I shook it while her daughter rolled her eyes at me. “Is it just the two of you? Hey, I’ll cover it.”
She got out a little clip purse and handed a whole $200 bill to Beth. I could eat for two weeks for that!
“If you want to come over for tea afterwards we’d be happy to have you. It’s nice to see Beth making friends; you haven’t had anyone over for years have you?”
She was addressing her daughter, who was blushing furiously.
“Mom, just go would you?” she said.
“Ok, I’ll leave you two alone – I’ll be back to pick you up at 2. Don’t leave the cinema!” She turned to go.
“I’m sorry about her, I really wish she would leave me alone and GOD she is embarrassing.” She glared angrily at the back of her mom as she walked off.
“She seems nice to me.” I’d love a mom like that.
“Yeah, but you know what parents are like.” She rolled her eyes again. I don’t think I did know what parents were like… Not that I was going to say anything.
We went the ticket desk and handed over our $120 dollars. I felt so much happier already, I didn’t have to spend any of my own money. I felt guilty too, taking her mom’s like that.
The cinema was how I expected; I’d seen them in films online and read about them. I let Beth take the lead and she led us to one of the back rows. We took two seats in the corner and watched as people filtered in and sat down. I noticed there were mostly couples, a few groups of people laughing together. No one came in on their own – I could see why I’d never come and why Beth didn’t want to go without anyone.
We talked about nothing in particular while we waited for the film to start. It was nice; I’d never really talked for the sake of it before. I found out she wanted to become a pilot like me and we started talking about our various plans for getting into the right college courses.
When the lights dimmed and the film started up I was actually annoyed it interrupted us. I felt kind of light as the starting credits played though, and I was smiling again – this time without even trying to.
As the film progressed I got really into it. I forgot I was sitting in a cinema at all. By the end of it my heart was racing and I was really disappointed it was over. I wanted it to go on all day. I looked over at Beth a few times, she seemed to like it but I caught her looking at me and giggling at my reactions to the film more than watching it. I was also kind of nervous about what was going to happen afterwards…
As we left she was laughing at me. “You got so into that, the way you grabbed my arm at the end…” I didn’t remember that.
“I’ve never been before. It’s just so different to watching movies off the internet at school.”
“What? You’ve never been to the cinema before?” She looked shocked.
“No.” I was embarrassed now. I didn’t want her to know how weird I was.
We were quiet then. The light feeling I’d had was gone. We sat in silence as we waited for her mom.
“I’m sorry I said the wrong thing,” she said. “Do you still want to come back to my place?”
She’d said the wrong thing? I was happy she still wanted to talk to me.
“Of course I do,” I said. She seemed to brighten up a bit then, and I felt the tension lifting.
We talked a little about the film, sharing which parts we thought were best until the car swung around to the pick-up-point with an electric hum of the motor.
We got into the back of her car and I peered out of the window as we drove home. No one said much, I felt shy in front of her mom.