7 years old
She looks like me. That was the first thing Tyler thought when he saw girl who was moving into the house next door. He wondered if she moved here straight from China or if her family had been in the U.S. for generations like his.
She was sitting on the porch steps, chin in her hands. She didn’t look very happy. For some reason, he wanted her to look up at him.
Tyler grabbed the scooter leaning against his house down his driveway then stopped at the street. He wasn’t allowed cross the line where the light cement of the driveway ended and the black pavement of the road began. But she was watching him now, and he didn’t want her to think he was a baby, so he crossed the line and let the wheels roll over the road.
He stopped when he reached the next driveway. Her driveway.
“Can I ride in your driveway?” he asked. She nodded and he scooted his way right up to her porch. He stopped in front of her.
“Did you just get here from China?” Then he remembered how every new kid at school would always ask him that and how it annoyed him, so he added, “Or has your family been here for generations? Mine has been here for four. I’ve never even been to China.”
She blinked at him. She probably wasn’t used to having people actually realize that just because she was Chinese didn’t mean she came from China.
He was sure she was impressed until she said, “I’m not Chinese.”
Now it was Tyler’s turn to blink. But she looked…Oh. “Japanese?”
She shook her head. “I’m from the Philippines.” She said words strangely. She had an accent.
To keep from feeling silly, he changed the subject. “I’m seven. How old are you?”
She brightened. “I’m seven too. That means I’ll be in your class at school right?”
“Yeah. I can show you the ropes.” He’d heard that phrase in a movie. It sounded cool.
“You will show me around?” She seemed confused. She probably didn’t know what “show you the ropes meant.”
“I’ll show you around and tell you everything you need to know,” Tyler explained, feeling important.
“Oh, good. I’ve never been to an American school before.”
Tyler remembered his fist day of school and how nervous he’d been. “We’ll make a pact,” he said, because he’d seen a boy and a girl make a pact in a movie once and always wanted to do it. “I’ll be your partner for everything that happens at school.”
“Ok,” the girl said.
“Shake on it?” Tyler asked, holding his hand out. That’s what the boy and girl did in the movie. The girl put her hand in his. He grinned, and she grinned back.
Tyler rode home on his scooter feeling very satisfied with himself.
Then he relized he didn’t know the girl’s name.
12 years old
“Marie!” Tyler called as he rushed down the hall, dodging the other kids to catch up with her. She turned around and smiled. She wore her hair differently and she wore different clothes, but that smile hadn’t changed since she was seven. Tyler was glad. It would be like changing the flavor of chocolate chip cookies. They didn’t need to be changed.
“I’m going to be in the talent show,” he said. “Want to be my partner?”
Marie’s face fell. “Amber just asked me.”
“Well, I’m sure she’ll understand. We’re always partners.” Ever since the day of their pact, they’d been partners for everything. The science projects in the third grade that got baking soda and vinegar all over Marie’s new shoes because Tyler wanted their volcano to have the biggest explosion. The fifth grade book report that was almost a disaster because Marie wanted to read Charlotte’s Web and Tyler wanted to read Bridge to Terabithia. Luckily, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe saved the day. It had animals and magic.
“I already told her I’d do it with her,” Marie said. She no longer had the accent she had when she was seven.
“But we’re always partners,” Tyler said lamely.
“We can be partners with other people sometimes.” Marie looked apologetic.
Tyler paused, hoping she’d change her mind, but she didn’t say anything. He shrugged. “I guess I’ll find someone else.”
She smiled at him. That smile that didn’t change. Somehow it hurt to look at it.
17 years old
It hurt to watch Marie talking with the guy by her side. Laughing, smiling that killer smile of hers. He’d probably asked her out to the junior prom already. It shouldn’t bother Tyler. He was already taking someone.
Still, somehow he’d imagined taking Marie, even though they’d slowly drifted apart over the years. His family moved to a different neighborhood when he was in eighth grade, then came junior high and different class schedules. They still talked, but Tyler wasn’t sure it was enough to ask her to be his date.
He’d daydreamed about asking her. He’d even thought about reminding her of the pact they made when they were kids, but he wasn’t even sure if she remembered. He would end up looking stupid. So this morning, a day before the junior prom, he asked a girl in his math class that didn’t have anyone to go with. It was safe. His friends said she’d had a crush on him all year long. It wasn’t Marie, but at least he wouldn’t make a fool of himself by asking and getting turned down.
Tyler turned away from Marie and the annoying guy by her side and opened his locker. He pulled a notebook out and a folded piece of notebook paper fluttered to the floor.
Thinking it was some stray notes, he started to put it back in the notebook. Then he saw his name written on the front.
He’d seen that handwriting nearly everyday in Elementary and Middle School. He’d watched it change from block letters to the rounded ones that spelled out his name.
He slowly unfolded it, feeling like he was unwrapping a Christmas present he’d waited all year to open.
I know it’s a bit late, but I was sort of hoping you’d get around to it first. Then I thought, “Why does it have to be the guy that does the asking?” I tried to think of a fancy way to do this, but then decided to keep it simple. You always did like to keep things simple (unless it’s a paper mache volcano).
You can probably guess what I’m about to ask you, so I’ll just go ahead and say it.
Will you go to the prom with me?
You can’t say no because you made a promise that you’d be my partner for anything school related. 😉
Anxiously waiting your response,
Tyler grinned. She remembered the pact they’d made. He could have used it to ask her.
Then his smile dropped. Could have. He’d already asked someone else. It was too late.
Maybe he could get out of it. Maybe he could explain it to the girl he’d asked.
Explain what? That they’d made a pact when they where in second grade to always be partners in everything. That they hadn’t been partners for anything since they were twelve, but now all of a sudden it was important for him to go with Marie even though it meant rudely dumping the girl he’d asked?
He couldn’t do that, even if this was what he wanted. He would have to tell her that he was going with someone else.
Tyler’s stomach knotted at the thought. Never in all his daydreams did he have to turn Marie down.
He sighed and folded the note. Why hadn’t he just ask her? Why couldn’t she have asked him just a few hours earlier?
Maybe she’d waited so late because she was hoping someone else would ask her. Maybe she was only asking him because she didn’t want to go alone. What was that last line? You can’t say no because you made a promise that you’d be my partner for anything school related. What if she was only asking him because she knew he’d say yes? He was nothing but a back-up plan.
Well, he wouldn’t be a back-up plan. Hadn’t she been the one to say that they should have other partners?
Tyler shoved the note back in the locker and pretend he never saw it.
18 years old
Tyler hurried through the empty school halls. He’d left his jacket in one of the classrooms and hadn’t realized it until he’d stepped into the frided air. He was getting a ride home with one of his friends because his car hadn’t started that morning. First his car wouldn’t start, then the girl he asked to prom already had a date, then he forgot his jacket. What else could go wrong?
Tyler opened the classroom door. He froze.
Marie was sitting in one of the desks.
They hadn’t talked since last year when she’d slipped that note in his locker. Tyler felt so guilty about the whole thing, that he avoided her. It wasn’t hard to do. Tyler suspected she was avoiding him too. He wished he’d at least written a note back, explaining why he couldn’t take her. But the more time that went by, the more awkward it seemed to approach her.
As if the distance between them weren’t uncomfortable enough, Tyler could tell she’d been crying.
She quickly wiped her face and gave a weak smile. It made Tyler’s heart twist. It wasn’t her smile. It was like chocolate chip cookies without the chocolate chips.
“I forgot my jacket,” Tyler said, feeling the need to explain why he was invading her privacy.
“That one?” She pointed to the jacket hanging over the back of the desk right in front of her. Of course it would be right next to her. It couldn’t be right by the door so he could grab it and leave.
He made his way over there, keeping his eyes focused on the jacket as if it would dissapear if he lost sight of it for even a second. He felt he should say something, but didn’t know what. It was her business. Whatever he said would probably make it worse anyway.
Marie stood and scooped her backpack up from the floor, getting ready to leave. By then he was already in her row and just a couple of steps away from his jacket. She picked it up and held it out to him.
His fingers brushed the tips of hers as he took it. His stomach fluttered.
He realized that he was standing there, blocking her way, but instead of moving he said, “Are you alright?”
Marie shrugged. “I’m fine. Just a rough day.”
She wasn’t fine. She looked like she did after the goldfish he’d won at a fair for her died and her mom flushed it down the toilet. “It wasn’t such a great day for me either,” Tyler said.
“Can’t be that bad,” she said. “Unless you got dumped too.”
Dumped? She’d been with that guy since Christmas. All that time together and he broke up with her a week before prom? The jerk. She deserved better than that. “My car would start this morning.”
She laughed. The sound made Tyler grin.
“I think I’d rather take a stubborn car than a brake up right now,” she said. The smile faded and she sighed. “I guess I just don’t have luck with these things.”
“Yes you do. I mean you should. I mean he’s the unlucky one. Who wouldn’t want to go to prom with you?”
“Quite a few people actually,” she said, sharply. Then she looked down as if she hadn’t meant to say that.
Tyler couldn’t help but think she was talking about him. It’s not as if that note could have gotten lost in a little locker. He would have seen it eventually. She probably wondered why he never brought it up, even after the prom was over, to explain. It didn’t help that he’d avoided her. Of course she was mad at him.
“I should go,” Marie said, hinting that he should move. But he didn’t. He couldn’t let this opportunity go. What were the chances that he would run into her right after that jerk broke up with her, and before someone else asked her? Tyler silently thanked the girl who’d turned him down earlier.
“I have to tell you something,” he blurted. “I saw the note you left in my locker–”
“I know you did,” she said. “I was walking by you as you reached your locker. I looked back as you opened it up.”
Tyler swallowed. He remembered her walking by, but he didn’t know she’d seen him. “I’m sorry. I’d already asked someone else and didn’t know how to tell you.”
She shrugged. “It doesn’t matter. Junior Prom is over.” She smiled. Another smile that wasn’t hers.
“It does matter. I should have told you. I shouldn’t have let all this time go by without explaining.”
She shrugged again. “People get crushes on people who don’t like them back all the time. It’s just one of those things. We don’t have to make things awkward.”
He grinned on the inside. She had a crush on him. Then the feeling faded. She had a crush on him last year before he’d ruined his chance with her. What did she think of him now?
She took a step forward, as if to make Tyler get out of her way.
He didn’t move. She was standing so close. “Yes,” he said.
“What?” She looked up at him, startled.
“I’m answering your note.” Tyler’s heart beat. She’d probably slap him. “I’ll take you to prom. If you’ll go with me.”
She raised her eyebrows. “Are you trying to be funny?”
“We made a pact. We’d always be partners for anything that happened at school. So, it may have taken me awhile, but I’m making good on that pact.”
“You don’t have to ask me to prom because of a promise we made when we were kids.”
“That’s not why I’m asking you.”
“You don’t have to ask me out because you didn’t answer my silly note.”
“That’s not why–”
“I hope you aren’t asking me because you feel sorry for me because my stupid boyfriend dumped me right before prom.”
Tyler smiled. It had been a while since he’d talked with her. It was nice to hear her voice again. Even if she was a bit mad.
“What?” Marie asked.
“I’m asking you because I like you.”
Marie smiled. She smiled her smile.
Tyler smiled at god and said i will repent from not respecting maries dision and god said marie has a crash on the other pirson and tyler was jelous to be continud