I'll Write You | Teen Ink

I'll Write You

February 16, 2012
By AlaskaVreeland, Landenberg, Pennsylvania
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AlaskaVreeland, Landenberg, Pennsylvania
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Favorite Quote:
"Speak now." -Taylor Swift

Author's note: This novel is based on my real life but with name changes. I figure if Little House on the Prairie is filed as fiction, this ought to be too. But this happened. It could happen to any of you too, if only the times and the places are right.

The author's comments:
This happened almost word for word.

I used to keep a diary, but that was before I wrote letters to Paul. Looking back on the year since I met Paul, I started to regret not having a record of my own for reference. It’s like I kept notes on everything in my life until everything started happening. When I heard about National Novel Writing Month, I realized it was time to catch up on everything that has happened to me since June 14. Does that make it a memoir? Maybe so. But the story of my life seems stranger than fiction and well worth writing 50,000 words about. My seventeen years have included hilarity, high adventure, a forbidden love story, swashbuckling homeschoolers, heartbreak, and even UFOs.

So read on, readers. And don’t try any of this at home.

Chapter I: Have Lots of Fun

In June, I was skinny. I was skinny because I liked to be outside, and I especially liked to run outside. Also, I am homeschooled. The following equation results: Melany + love of running+ love of being outdoors+ being homeschooled = Melany at homeschool park day.

Homeschool park day is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a bunch of homeschoolers agreeing (via an email list) to go to a local park and socialize and be outside together. On June 14, it was at my favorite park. People often compare my personality to that of my dog, so you can imagine my thought process—“Park! Outside! Run! Yay!” I jumped in the car. I bounded out of the car. I gobbled down my lunch of avocados, grapes, and sunflower seeds. I began running.

Eventually I needed water, so I returned to my lunch table.

“Ah, hello Melany! I didn’t know you’d taken up running!” said an exotically accented voice.

I gulped. I turned. “Oh yeah! Hi. Mrs. Ellery! Yep, I like to run!”

Okay, so I have a confession. I don’t only have the personality of a dog. I have a few teenage girl qualities. Hygiene, cattiness, bra-wearing, and interest in fashion may have passed me by, but I do like boys. All I do with them is talk and run around and hang out, but I do like them. So I kind of noticed a boy sitting at a table near mine. In fact, I noticed him before I started running. And now I saw he had been speaking to Mrs. Ellery before I came up and distracted her with my penchant for aerobic exercise. Wait, did she know him? Was she going to—

“Oh, Melany, do you know Paul Court?”

Bingo! Introduction attained. “Um, no. Nice to meet you! I’m Melany.”

“Hi, I’m Paul.”

“Paul goes to my church,” Mrs. Ellery offered.

“Are you homeschooled?” I asked Paul.

“No, I go to St. Francis. But my school let out for the year, and I’m watching my brothers while my parents are away, so Diane invited us here.”

He calls Mrs. Ellery Diane, I marveled. Why? “How old are you?” I demanded.

“Sixteen.” His voice was really pretty, not too deep.

“I’m seventeen.”

“I’m cold; I need to go get my jacket from the car. I’ll be right back,” said Mrs. Ellery.

“Okay,” we said.

“Have lots of fun,” she said as she walked past me. I could have sworn I saw her wink, but I brushed it off. Only my imagination.

With Diane gone, an awkward silence descended on us. He stood. I continued standing and gripping my water bottle. I took in his outward self more than I had thus far. He was…cute in a basic sort of way. It’s hard to say what I thought then knowing what I think now. I didn’t faint at the sight of him. My heart was already beating fast because I had just run two miles, so that was no indication of what meeting Paul meant. At the time, I just saw a skinny guy of about 5’8” with a huge cross around his neck, a t-shirt that read “Bill’s Plumbing,” braces, short blond hair, pink skin, and a little acne. Actually, that description does not sound all that cute. But he was! And he smelled really good. I felt like a creeper for noticing, but he really did.

Okay, well noticing all that only took a few seconds in real life. The conversation continued somewhat stiffly.

“So, uh, does your family live around here?” I asked lamely.

“Yes, we live over in Notting Hill. But I’m moving in three weeks.”

“Wha—oh. Where are y’all moving to?”

“Well, it’s only me moving. I’m going to a seminary in California. I’m becoming a priest.”

“Oh, really? Something in the climate had just changed, but I didn’t know what. “That’s really interesting.”

For some reason, the conversation flowed much more easily after that. For some reason, Mrs. Ellery never returned to us but instead walked around us to some of the homeschool moms at the playground. For some reason, Paul and I started strolling the park paths together. When my little brother Joe asked if we wanted to play a game called Zombies (AKA hide and go seek), we said yes but for some reason continued strolling and talking.

We talked about living simply, our hobbies, our schools, dances, and everything he was giving up. Okay, not everything. That would have involved marriage. A family. We said nothing of physical relationships, euphemistically speaking. He sounded most concerned about communication. He said he could call his family once a week and he could write and receive letters. I volunteered to write him. He said he’d like that, and he would send me his address once he found it out.

My 15 year old brother, also named Paul, joined our walk. I knew they would like each other, and I was proven right. The three of us walked some more. Paul Court knelt beside me and we weeded a park garden. People shook their heads and laughed at us, but it was a nice moment.

Ultimately Paul and I strolled for about two hours that day. As the Ellerys, my family, and the Court kids packed up to leave, I scribbled down my phone number and email and passed the slip to of paper to Paul.

“Thanks,” he said. “When I find out my address, I’ll send it to you.” He shook my hand. He still smelled really good. I still felt weird for noticing.

Cool, I thought. Guess I’ll have a penpal soon.

Then Paul, my mom, and Mrs. Ellery started talking. Paul talked about a youth group called Synergy. It was every Wednesday night, and he invited us to come the following evening. Mrs. Ellery offered to watch his brothers so Paul Court could go too.

Okay, cool, I thought. I guess I’ll be seeing him before he leaves.

“I really hope you guys can come. I want you to meet my friend Petey. I’ll send you an email with the details tonight, Melany.”

And with that, we Fitzgeralds left. In the car on the way home I felt giddy. I also felt embarrassed for thinking a priest was cute and smelled nice. This was nothing to how embarrassed I was when I looked down at my clothes as we drove home.

“Oh… I never got dressed today…oops…”

The author's comments:
I have greatly improved my showering habits since then. Don't worry.

Chapter II: In Which I Shower

Well, when we arrived home I took a much-needed shower. I am confident Paul did not leave the park thinking I smelled nice. I also ate a lot more than usual when I got home. I had been struggling to gain weight, so this was good. Then I checked my email.

I couldn’t believe my eyes. He had already emailed me. And it was so sweet! He said he enjoyed speaking with me, he hoped to see us at Synergy the following evening, and he gave me his two phone numbers and said to give him a call if ever needed anything or just wanted to talk. I think I had a weird, goofy grin on my face because I distinctly remember telling my face off for it. Oh my gosh, shut up heart! said my brain. And lose that retarded smile, face. He’s a priest. He’s reaching out to you as a brother. Don’t even think about it.

So I didn’t think about it. Not until Friday, June 17th. I didn’t think about it from the 14th through the 16th, just every day of my life since. And maybe a tiny bit on the 15th and 16th, only subconsciously. But I guess I’ll just keep telling the story, and then you can decide for yourself.

The next day I thought of Paul and jogged. In fact, I thought of Paul while I jogged. I ate a lot of waffles and felt kind of sick. I found out from my mom that we could go to Synergy. I dialed Paul to tell him this.

“Hello?” said Paul’s voice.
For some reason I felt embarrassed and jittery even though I had a legitimate reason for calling.
“Um, hi. This is Melany. From the park. I was calling to tell you we are able to come to Synergy tonight. You know, in case you wanted to come and needed to get Mrs. Ellery to watch your brothers.” I was pacing as I said this. “So, you know, I thought I’d call. Yeah.”
“That’s great you can come! And actually Diane already has the boys. I’m with my friend Petey right now.”
“HI MELANY!” yelled some boy in the background, presumably Petey.
“Um, hi!” I said.
Paul and I laughed. We giggled a little too long. It was awkward. It was cool. I felt guilty. Finally he broke the spell.
“Well…we’ll see you and your brothers later.”
“Bye Melany.”
We hung up. I danced around my room dorkishly.

In a few hours I, my brother Paul, and my brother Joe were on our way to Synergy. I was wearing pink. I was not wearing anything with the name of an athletic company on. (Well, not counting shoes. I live in my Adidas sandals.) I also wore my hair down and a really low cut top. I wasn’t entirely sure why I had looked in the mirror that day, and I decided to not analyze it too much. Maybe I should have.
Synergy took place in a building (a youth center called The Spot) where I went monthly for a homeschool open mic day. I was there enough that it felt familiar and like home. It was a much different atmosphere from what I usually associated with The Spot, however. It was loud, and it was crowded. The people were energetic. Open mic was relatively empty, and the kids were notorious for lack of movement.
Immediately a round, dark-haired guy with a baseball cap greeted us. He smiled. “Are you guys new to Synergy?”
“Yeah, it’s our first time! I come here for open mics though. I love The Spot,” I offered, smiling.
“Well, welcome to Synergy! Do you know anybody here? And I’m Paul, by the way. I’m the temporary youth pastor.”
Why is everyone named Paul? I wondered. “We know Paul Court. He invited us here. Do you know him?”
“Can’t say I do. Why don’t you guys take a look around and see if he’s here? And enjoy your time here!”
“Thanks, we will!” I said, then started scanning the faces for Paul Court. We spotted each other at the same time.
“Hi, I’m so glad you made it!” said Paul, smiling. “This is my friend Petey.”
A gangly blond guy waved at us. “Hey guys. Paul told me all about meeting you yesterday. I’m glad I get to meet you today!”
Handshakes ensued. We stood in silence after that, and I took in the music and the people. I like people, so I felt comfortable and occupied. Apparently Paul Court did not, however.
“I’m sorry, this is really awkward,” he blurted.
“What? I wasn’t feeling—“ I started.
“Do you guys want to come to one of the restaurants in town until the games start?” Petey offered.
“Really, it’s okay,” I said.
I don’t know why Paul felt so…awkward. It was fine. Did he want to go someplace quieter so we could talk? Was he glancing awkwardly at me? I wasn’t sure then and even now I don’t know.
Either way, we stayed put until 7:30, when the game started. It was some sort of soccer, football, and Ultimate Frisbee combination, and I barely understood a word of the rules. Luckily, I became the goalie for my team. Even I can understand the task of goalie: keep ball out of goal.
Of course just because I understood it didn’t mean I was good at it. I had fun because I jumped and cheered a lot. But I think I blocked maybe one in forty shots. Paul Court, brother Paul, Petey, and Joe were all on the opposing team, and it was brutal.
Brother Paul raced up to my goal (AKA stacks of chairs).
“Oh no you don’t—“ I said as I dove at the ball…and missed. Again and again and again.
Petey was the most embarrassing. He wouldn’t even look at me when he scored, which was fairly often. Joe scored often too, despite his 13-year-old body being almost scrawny in comparison to all the highschoolers he was competing with.
Paul Court scored more than anyone. And the look on his face was just…taunting! He had a devilish smile on his future priest face. I couldn’t help but laugh. Our eyes met many times. I was so charged up with the endorphins and the sheer fun that it didn’t occur to me this was kind of low-level flirting. And that he was doing some low-level showing off.
Well, the high-level fun and low-level flirting ended all too soon. The band played a couple of worship songs. It wasn’t the kind of music I knew, but I stood with Paul Court and Petey and listened and clapped. We sat together as Mr. Paul read the Biblical letter Philippians. I had never heard a pastor speak before, but he made me think going to a church besides my mom’s weekly reading might be nice too, someday.
About halfway through the reading, however, Paul Court and Petey seceded silently to the back of the room. A minute later, Paul came up behind me and whispered, “I have to drive Petey home. They have a family emergency. But I’ll be back before you leave, okay?”
I nodded, wide-eyed, and he ran over to Petey and left The Spot. I watched the door during the social time, after the reading. I met a couple of girls—Jan and Bridget—but I am afraid they probably found me distant and distracted. At 9:00, Paul did walk back in.
“Is everything okay? Like with his family?” I asked anxiously.
“Yes, no one’s hurt, nothing like that. It’s…some family problems. His brother came home. I can’t really say.”
“Oh, no, I understand.” I glanced at my watch. “We have to go meet my mom now, though. Outside. I’m sorry we have to go right when you got back…”
“No, that’s fine, I’ll walk you out! I’ll have to go get the boys from Diane’s soon anyway.”
“Are you sure? I mean, if you wanted to stay to talk to people…” I trailed.
“No, no, it’s no problem,” he assured us. He was so…cute. And clean. I had never seen a boy with such short, perfectly combed hair. It was like in some ways he was very mature for sixteen, but mostly he seemed like a very sweet, very adorable second grader. People just aren’t that enthusiastic and cute and nice much past 2nd grade.
We walked to the car. It turned out that he was parked right in front of our mom. He greeted her and they talked as my brothers and I piled into the Suburban. He got in his car then.

The ride home was eerie. It was…peaceful. My mom and I were up front; brother Paul, baby Will, and Brenna were in the second row; brother Joe was isolated in the third row. We talked to our mom about Synergy and especially about Paul Court.
“He’s giving up an awful lot so young…” my mom said. She sounded half admiring and half sympathetic.
“I know,” I said. “At sixteen…I just can’t imagine leaving all the people you know.”
We all fell silent, which is unusual for a group of five kids ranging from ages two to seventeen. But we did. And that was when one of the most beautiful and eerie experiences I have ever had took place.
The radio was on but turned down low. As we rode in silence I heard the opening chords to “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day. I turned it up.
In those three minutes, something in that simple, perfect masterpiece crawled inside my heart and ripped it open. I had tears rolling down my cheeks. My mom’s eyes were glistening too. No one wanted to break the silence, and so it remained.
I started crying harder until I was shaking with sobs. I grabbed tissues out of the glovebox, embarrassed. Initially everyone had politely ignored my tears, as I normally preferred, but now it was so blatantly obvious I was upset that my mom spoke.
“That was kind of eerie timing, wasn’t it?” she said gently. “For the song.”
“Yeah,” I said. I swallowed hard. “I—it’s a good song. It’s haunting. I remember when Wesley sang it at open mic last year. It was beautiful.” I continued crying.
I only stopped crying when we walked into the house, and that was only a temporary improvement. I managed to tell my dad brightly that Synergy had been wonderful, spectacular, and fun. As soon as I was out of sight, the tears kept coming. I cried while I walked my golden retriever. I cried while brother Paul and I walked the Chihuahua. I cried up the two flights of stairs to my bedroom floor, where I lay shaking and hugging my knees. I cried for Paul Court, but also I cried for myself, my younger self, my first love, and for dead relatives.
When my crying binge began in the car, it was about 9:30. When my mom discovered me crying on my floor, it was around 10:30.
My door slowly opened. I looked up guiltily, as though crying were a punishable offense.
“Wait… are you still crying over Paul? She looked a little wary. “I mean, it’s sad he’s leaving, but you barely know him.”
“No, no, that would be dumb. It’s just…all different things,” I said, shuddering.
“Like what?” she asked, kneeling beside me. “Tell me.”
“I don’t know,” I said helpfully. “People leaving. Changing.”
“I hate…changing. And…I still think about…you know…that whole Chris thing a lot. Sometimes.”
“Oh Melany…” She sighed. “You were fourteen. I know you’ve matured. Dad and I have forgiven you for all that. You just need to forgive yourself.”
I nodded.
“Anything else?” she asked.
“No, no, I’m fine really. You should go. Will needs you.” I waved her off. Will was indeed screaming down the hall. He was your classic terrible two.
“If you’re sure you’re okay…”
“I’m sure.” I smiled weakly. “Good night.”
She left then, and I burst into fresh sobs. I cried myself to sleep around 11:30. The first of many emotional days ended there, amidst a piled of tissues on my purple carpet.

The next day was Thursday, as the day after Wednesday usually happens to be. I emailed Paul rather early in the day. I said something like this.

Hi Paul,
Thanks for inviting us to Synergy. We all had a great time. Also, we’re having a party on June 29th, and we all want to invite you. (See details below.) Thanks again,
Melany Fitzgerald.

The details described the joint not-birthday party brother Paul and I were having together in lieu of actual birthday parties. We’d been planning it since Paul’s birthday, February 14th. I checked my email obsessively for Paul Court’s response.
I didn’t actually have to wait terribly long. He responded saying he could possibly make the party and that he was glad I had fun “even though I did make like every shot I took.” I shook my head and grinned at that line for several minutes until I realized what I was doing and reminded myself that it was not flirtatious teasing. Teasing, yes, but not flirtatious. I replied in a non-flirtatious manner. He responded asking what my weekend plans were. I said we were going cherry-picking, and it turned out he was too. Mrs. Ellery had invited him. We decided to meet up at the orchard.

Friday dawned bright and beautiful and with reptiles. I had an extensive and inviting vegetable garden planted at that time, and I visited it every morning. That particular morning I found a box turtle in the dewy grass. So I in my running shorts and green tank top ran for the house excitedly, turtle in hand.
I remember thinking when I found the turtle that it was going to be a good day. It got even better when my brothers captured a humongous black rat snake that had been lurking by our front porch for weeks. They trapped it in a bucket and set me as a guard over it. I swung my lightweight body up onto our weeping willow’s branches while I observed our captive.
The sound of gears and turning wheels signaled the arrival of our biking neighbor, Mr. Hagley, and his “apprentice,” Dustin. Dustin was a lawn care guy, I suppose, but it seemed more like he was a college boy in training to be a version of shirtless, street biking, womanizing Mr. Hagley. Dustin and I had never had a deep conversation, but he was always attentive to me, so I was unsurprised when he got off his bike and began showing off, picking up the snake. I just smiled and we made small talk as usual. I thought of Paul Court as we did so. After Dustin rode off, I ran inside and called Paul. We would meet at Elwood’s Cherry Orchards at noon. I felt my stomach leap excitedly. I told myself I must have hung upside down for too long.

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