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The Day I Became A Stalker
I was never the girl who had a certain type. Or had a list of qualities a guy had to have before I dated them. I never used to check out guys on Facebook or call from an unknown phone, pretending it was a wrong number, just to hear their voice. All of this changed the day I spilled my coffee all over his shirt; the day I became a stalker.
The day began like any other; me ignoring my alarm, getting up late, grabbing a take-away cup from the local coffee shop and sprinting to make the bus, hoping I wouldn’t be late for school. I just made it, but Jack – my usual bus driver – was annoyed that I was late and purposely started driving before I’d found a seat. I stumbled and my coffee fell from my hands, landing on the stark white shirt of an unsuspecting boy.
“Ah!” he shouted in shock, loud enough for every passenger to look our way.
My first thought? I’m going to kill that idiot bus driver. My second was to feel extremely guilty. What if he was going to an interview for a really important job? Or maybe he was trying to make a good first impression with his girlfriend’s parents?
“Oh dear!” I cried my hand flying to my mouth, “I’m so sorry. Here let me help.” I rushed forward, took a seat next to him and grabbed some tissues from my bag. Without thinking I pathetically attempted to mop up the coffee from his stained shirt. I could feel his eyes on my head and he gently grabbed my wrist to get me to stop.
“Thank you,” he laughed amiably, “I’m okay.” And that’s when I tilted my head up to look into his eyes. A little noise of wonder burst out of my lips as our eyes locked. His blazing blue eyes met my soft dove-grey ones and I felt a surge of electricity jolt through my entire body from the tips of my toes to the individual strands of my hair. I looked away first, feeling disconcerted and extremely self-conscious. My hair, a nest of fiery red curls, was the worst it could possibly be and my baggy shirt and jeans no longer felt comfortable, but impossibly suffocating.
Looking straight ahead I said guiltily, “I’m so sorry for spilling my coffee on you. I hope you weren’t going anywhere important.”
“Nah,” he replied friendlily, “If anybody, it is the bus driver’s fault for driving off before you’d found a seat. And anyway I have a solution for the shirt.” I turned toward him but I didn’t look into his eyes, afraid they’d unravel me completely. He pulled a knitted jumper out of his duffel bag and put it over the stained shirt, artfully covering the stain.
“Very smart,” I laughed and he laughed too. It was the kind of laughter that kept getting reignited with one glance at the other, even though when I think back it really wasn’t that funny.
“So, mysterious coffee spiller,” he grinned after we’d managed to quiet down, “Do I get a name?” I pretended to be deep in thought and then smirked at him wickedly.
“I’ll strike you a deal,” I said jokingly, “You tell me your name and I’ll tell you mine.”
“Alright then, nameless coffee spiller and evidently also master at striking deals,” he smiled and I noticed that he had one dimple on his left cheek, making his smile look constantly lopsided, “My name is Simon. Simon Tate.” Simon. After he’d said it I felt like I knew all along, without really knowing, that Simon was his name.
“Lea Cavalry,” I murmured, still thinking about his name and then out of sheer curiosity I blurted out, “So where are you going so fancily dressed anyway?” As soon as it was out I wished so badly I could pick it all up and stuff it back in my mouth. His face sobered up slightly and a dejected look came about his eyes.
“I’m sorry,” I mumbled, embarrassed, “I didn’t mean to pry.”
“No, it’s okay,” Simon shook his head and raked a somewhat shaky hand through his pale mop of hair. He suddenly looked at me desperately, as if I could somehow fix his problems. Have you ever felt positively useless? That’s how I felt in that moment. He let out a puff of air and then spoke in a low voice, “It’s the one year anniversary of my mother’s death…I’m supposed to…say something. But oh god, I’ve sat for hours trying to write something meaningful and nothing. Nothing. What am I supposed to say? What am I supposed to say?” His voice faded out and I could tell he was no longer talking to me. After a long period of silence, I felt I had better say something.
“What do you want to say?” I asked and Simon looked at me with surprise.
“No one has ever asked that before,” he laughed with only a tinge of bitterness, “Its always ‘I’m so sorry for your loss’ or ‘she’s in a better place now.’ As if they know. I want to tell them all to go away; they didn’t know her, not like I did. I want to say something that will remind my family, remind them that she isn’t gone. Not really.” I’d never experienced loss like that. My Granddad died when I was a baby, but I don’t remember him. I yearned to share his pain, take a little of this burden off his shoulders.
“You’ll find something to say,” I whispered afraid to speak too loud, “Something that means something to you, not everyone else.” He tilted his head away from me and rubbed his eyes. I knew he was trying hard not to cry.
“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears…” I murmured, quietly quoting Charles Dickens.
“For they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts." Simon finished and then turned giving me a genuine smile, “Charles Dickens.”
“It isn’t often you come across someone who can quote Dickens,” I remarked, glad to have steered the conversation to less depressing thoughts.
“I can quote many things,” Simon boasted playfully, “Can you guess who said this? I bet you can’t. ‘When beetles fight these battles in a bottle with their paddles and the bottle's on a poodle and the poodle's eating noodles...they call this a muddle puddle tweetle poodle beetle noodle bottle paddle battle.’ Ha!”
“Well, it’s Dr. Seuss of course,” I grinned, raising my eyebrows, “But the fact that you memorized that whole quote…well, it’s a little sad.”
“What can I say?” he laughed good-humoredly, “I was a special child. I think I might even have…” He trailed off while he searched his bag for something.
“Tada! Dr. Seuss’s Collection of Stories for children six and up.” I took one look at the book he held triumphantly and started cracking up with laughter. Soon enough Simon was joining in with me and we had yet another fit of pointless giggles.
“Oh, god,” I said, wiping some tears from the corner of my eyes, “You make me laugh.” When I looked at him next, he was staring at me with an intense look to his eyes and I couldn’t help but feel I’d overstepped in some way. He opened his mouth as if to say something, but then he glanced out of the window and stood up in alarm.
“This is my stop. Wait hold the door!” He cried and then started to run, calling over his shoulder, “See you soon, Lea Cavalry!” Before I had even realized he was leaving, he was gone. Suddenly, I felt very alone even though I’d taken the bus countless times before by myself. See you seen? It’s unlikely we will ever meet again. I thought bitterly to myself and wished he’d given me his number or email or…something. I glanced at his chair in the hopes to see his pale, lean form still sitting next to me, but instead I saw his Dr. Seuss book fallen down the side of the seat, forgotten. I picked it up and flicked through the pages. On the first page there was a short message.
Happy 6th Birthday, Si! Always remember you are never too old. Dr. Seuss was, and always will be, my favourite writer of all time. Enjoy!
Love Mummy xx
I suddenly realized why he’d brought this book along. It wasn’t because he was a little quirky or peculiar; it was because he hoped it would remind him of his mother. When I flipped through the book, I noticed all sorts of little notes like ‘Mum’s favourite story’ and ‘Hilarious – break tension.’ My thoughts were racing. What if he couldn’t make his speech without it? What if the whole thing was dependent on the book?
I was up and out of the bus at the next stop, who cared about school? First stop, the local church. I sprinted down the path, crossed roads recklessly and finally, out of breath, arrived at the only church nearby. I banged the doors open and the few people praying snapped their heads towards me. The priest glided towards me with raised eyebrows.
“Hi,” I whispered, afraid to be too loud in case it was disrespectful, “I’m looking for a memorial service for a…Mrs. Tate?” I gazed at him hopefully, but he looked puzzled.
“I’m sorry,” he shook his head, “I don’t know of that memorial service. But I do know of a few centres within a 3 mile radius that often hold services.” He rattled of the names of a few streets, which I committed to memory and then was out the door with a call of ‘thank you’ over my shoulder.
The first two were a no. I managed to not feel embarrassed when I barged into a senior bingo class and an intense yoga session. I was more hopeful when I came to the third, and final, hall the priest had listed. There was a board up outside with a picture of a woman who looked to be about 6o, a little old, but how was I supposed to know what age his mother was? I tiptoed in and searched the small crowd of people for a white blonde head.
“…Although this is the 5th year anniversary of our dear Lisa’s death, I think we can all agree she is still here with us…” My eyes flitted to the man speaking and slowly made my way out. Simon’s mother had only been dead a year so this Lisa wasn’t her. I trudged down the road, feeling disappointed and frustrated. I checked my phone, noted I had about six hours to kill before I could go home, and headed to the park where I often go and watch the world race by.
After settling on a park bench, I took out Simon’s book, planning on reading some of Dr. Seuss’s hilariously witty stories. I was in the middle of reading the first sentence of ‘Fox in Socks’, when I heard a familiar voice in the distance. Simon. I figured I was just imagining it but I followed the voice anyway.
Around the corner from where I’d been sitting, chairs had been set up in a clearing surrounded by trees. Many people were there, some held handkerchiefs to their tearstained faces, and others drank out of little plastic cups but all of them focused on something straight ahead. Standing in front of all those people was Simon. His jumper didn’t fully cover the coffee stain and I bit my lip to hide an inappropriate smile. My heart soared when I saw him, I’d found him! Somehow. Part of me wanted to run up to him and give him the book, but the other part held back realizing I couldn’t interrupt this. I recalled how he said he didn’t want strangers at his mother’s memorial, so I stayed back and listened.
“…She was a great mother,” he said, although I missed what he said before, “No, great is an understatement. Words can’t accurately describe how much she meant to me. To all of us. I came here completely unprepared. For months now I’ve been writing and rewriting what I was going to say. I wanted it to be perfect. I wanted it to remind you all of her. Even today on the bus ride over I was panicking still unsure of what I was going to say.”
“Then, a girl sat down next to me,” he smiled at this, “Or more correctly she spilt coffee all over shirt.” This got a few laughs and I blushed slightly even though no one knew me.
“Well,” he continued after everyone had settled down, “She made me realize that it’s not about saying the perfect thing or even the right thing, it’s about remembering her the way I knew her. Not how all of you knew her. I’m to here to remember Clare Tate, my mother.”
“There is a certain stereotype that boys can’t cry without being weak. For a long time I went along with it, saving my tears for my pillow. But Charles Dickens has told us the truth. ‘Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.’” I smiled at his use of the quote we’d spoken about on the bus. He continued talking but his words were memories of his mother and I couldn’t listen without feeling like an intruder.
I walked quietly over to the nearest person, an old woman with white hair and a silky handkerchief. I tapped her gently on the shoulder and she turned to stare at me with a disapproving look at my appearance.
“So sorry to interrupt,” I whispered hurriedly, “Can you give this to Simon? Tell him the girl on the bus thought he might need it.” I handed her the book and saw her eyebrows rise when I told her who I was, but she nodded and I stealthily took my exit. I walked away from him. Maybe we’d meet again, maybe we wouldn’t, I thought to myself. I tried to tell myself I wouldn’t look him up as soon as I got home, but I knew I would. I was exiting the park when someone called my name.
“Lea! Lea!” I turned to see Simon running towards me his blonde hair flying into his vivid sapphire eyes. My face broke into a smile because I knew. What did I know? I think that’s a secret only those who meet the right one can tell. That was the day I became a stalker. That was the day I fell in love with Simon Tate.