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The day it finally hit him that Amanda really didn’t know he existed was the day after he dropped everything on the sidewalk and she helped him pick it up.
Jamie, who was tall and gawky with unimposing features, was in love with Amanda Jensen, who was beautiful and busy and who exuded confidence. She walked with her books held to her chest and her head up like a princess. That’s what she was. A princess.
In his dreams he was the handsome suitor who came to the castle and won the princess by dint of performing some miraculous feat or other. Perhaps he answered her questions, solved her riddles. Perhaps he guessed where she and her eleven sisters slipped away to every night.
But of course, there was always reality. Reality, whose favorite pastime was twisting its visage into inimitable and horrifying grimaces in poor Jamie’s direction.
It was a day in November when he was watching her come down the hall towards him and felt himself so in love that his arms mysteriously relaxed and everything went everywhere. His face burned as he stooped to pick everything up. He wished his mother would let him grow his hair out so he could hide his face at moments like these.
As he was sweeping papers into his right hand, staring at the floor, someone else knelt and began mimicking his motions. He looked up (imagining flipping his hair out of his eyes as he did so) and saw, with a pause of his heartbeat, Amanda Jensen.
Her hair, long, wavy and blonde, was falling into her face as she bent over. Her long fingers grazed the papers, pushing them neatly across the linoleum floor and into her other hand. Jamie knelt, transfixed, not believing what he saw. She tucked a strand of hair behind one ear as she looked up to hand him the sheaf of papers she had collected.
“Thank you,” he said, feeling as though he were speaking from fifty thousand miles away.
“Sure,” she said as they both rose to their feet. “No problem,” she said as they both continued walking in their original directions.
Jamie thought about the incident for the rest of the day.
The next day, at the same time and in the same place in the same hallway, he saw her again. He watched her coming down the hallway towards him. He held his breath and hoped she’d look his way, smiled quickly in case she was looking, smiled again, tried one more time…she was past him. She had not even looked at him.
Jamie went home feeling rather dejected. Not rather. Definitely dejected. Indubitably dejected. So dejected he couldn’t sleep until long after midnight.
When he woke up, creaky and cranky from lack of sleep, he had an idea. Amanda Jensen, his biggest heartthrob, cared not a whit for his existence. The entire female population of the earth cared not a whit for his existence. So he decided he would find a girlfriend who was not part of the female population of the earth. And since finding one was impossible, he decided to make one up.
He named her Laura Rose McCarthy. She had two older sisters named Katie Jo and Sadie and an older brother named Ben. She was a tomboy who ran and laughed and played football with her brother in the backyard. She had pretty red-gold hair and big gray-blue eyes, and when she smiled she wrinkled up her nose and crinkled up her eyes and looked even more beautiful. She held his arm when they walked down the hallways at school together and she smiled when she saw him. He dreamed great things for the two of them. Jamie and Laura, Laura and Jamie. He was content, and of course, so was she.
On a day in February, Jamie was walking down the hallway, tall and confident with Laura on his arm. Jamie made a joke and Laura laughed gleefully. Jamie was about to slip his hand into hers when he saw Amanda Jensen drop her things all over the hallway floor.
Jamie pulled his hand from Laura’s grasp and hurried over. Amanda knelt on the ground, trying to collect the scattered papers from under all the passing feet. Jamie swept a stack together and extended them to Amanda. She looked up and met his eyes.
“Thank you,” she said unsteadily as they rose to their feet.
“Sure,” Jamie said. Amanda gazed at him, seemingly unable to tear her eyes away. “No problem,” Jamie said as Laura tucked her hand into the crook of his arm and they went off down the hallway.
“Laura,” he thought, “aren’t you glad we’re happy?”
And Laura answered, “Yes.”