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The British Are Coming
Keely had first seen Peter in the place where she now sat, at the table in the cafeteria. It was the first time she had had lunch with her friends Joss and Blanche, and the three of them were mostly keeping quiet, focusing on their food. Suddenly Keely froze in mid-bite. A boy had emerged from the sea of tables and was running down the space between them with a tin lunchbox on his head. His voice was loud enough to be heard all across the noisy cafeteria- quite a feat to accomplish. “The British are coming!” he yelled. “The British are coming!”
Joss and Blanche stopped eating, as Keely had already done, and craned their necks around to see what all the fuss was. The boy ran past their table and into the next portion of the cafeteria. He was their problem to deal with now.
Keely and her friends all stared at one another, unsure of whether to laugh or not. Finally Joss murmured, half to herself, “He must be a new kid.”
Blanche snorted good-naturedly. “We’re freshmen. All of us are new kids.”
Keely would later hear that Peter had been dared to do it, but she wasn’t quite sure how true that was.
She didn’t think much of Peter then, but her next sight of him changed her mind. On that day, Blanche had gone to eat lunch with other friends, and Joss was out sick. So Keely, searching in vain for an open, friendly table, eventually decided to eat lunch outside in the area restricted to underclassmen. She walked past the provided picnic tables and the murals on the wall, and climbed up some steps to reach the front of the school. A few students sat scattered around the lawn and on the school’s front steps. But Peter was lying on his stomach, separated from the rest. He had his tin lunch box with him, but wasn’t eating from it.
From her far-off vantage point, Keely observed Peter in silence. He lay facing away from her beneath the spreading branches of a nearby tree. The last of the summer’s sun fell through the tree’s leaves, dappling Peter’s dark shirt with shadows. Though it was a warm day, the last one for a while, Peter wore a long-sleeved black shirt and black jeans. He reminded Keely of a panther, or maybe a black house cat, taking a sunbath. His hair was short and matched Joss’s in color, so dark brown that it too was almost black. His legs were crossed behind him, and his hands clasped a small leather-bound notebook. One hand, the right one, held a pencil, which was moving across the white paper of the notebook in perfect time.
Keely watched Peter for a long time before realizing that she should get back to the underclassmen’s courtyard. Her mind burned with wondering what was in Peter’s notebook. Was it drawings or writings? Poetry or prose?
Instead of finding out, Keely retreated back down the cement steps.
He’s beautiful, she thought.
Incidentally, it turned out that Peter also shared a class with Keely. She had never noticed him there before, but he sat in the seat directly in front of her in geometry.
Keely would never have dared venture a word to him, and so it was Peter who started their first conversation. “Hello. What’s your name?”
He had turned around in his seat and was now looking expectantly for an answer. Keely took her time in replying, mostly because she was so entranced by the sudden appearance of Peter’s blue eyes. “I’m Keely.”
“I’m Peter.” He had smiled, his face becoming so cute that Keely could hardly stand it. “Nice to meet you.”
When class began, Keely had even more trouble paying attention than usual. Her geometry teacher taught everyone how to reflect the image of a smiley face across the Y axis on a graph. Peter graphed the smiley face, and then drew a speech bubble and handed his paper to Keely. The smiley face was saying “Hi, Keely!” in the speech bubble. Keely bit down her giggle and passed it back.
Peter then graphed the reflection of the smiley face, drew another speech bubble, and wrote “Ih, Yleek!” Keely involuntarily burst out laughing.
The two were separated after that outburst, with Peter all the way across the room. Keely was disappointed. She hadn’t meant to ruin anything.
Keely didn’t talk to Peter for the longest time after the separation in geometry. She daydreamed about him now and then, and snuck glances at him during class. She imagined that his smiley face reflection had been a form of flirting.
Then one day at lunch, Blanche introduced her friend Fiona to the table. “You are going to sit here from now on,” Blanche told Fiona, pointing to a seat. “I’ll go get your boyfriend.”
When Blanche was off, Keely and Joss introduced themselves to Fiona, who mumbled “Hi” and looked as if she’d rather have been back at the popular table.
However, she perked up when Blanche came back, towing along by the arm a familiar black-clad boy. He was carrying a tin lunch box. Keely perked up too, and then she gulped.
“This is Peter,” Blanche said, letting go of him. “He’s going to be sitting here too.” Fiona jumped from the table and gave Peter a hug, and then a kiss on the lips.
“Hi, girls,” Peter said when the kiss was over, letting go of Fiona. He pointed at once to Keely. “Hey, I know you! We’re in geo together!”
Keely said nothing, staring down at Fiona’s hand as it wound its fingers into Peter’s. Her heart cracked. She would have to relive that moment every day for the rest of the school year.