Sarah Jones by Lilian Gardner

After brushing my teeth, I capped my toothbrush, put it in the green glass and looked in the mirror. To the girl looking back at me I said, I’ll show you, Sarah Jones! You and everyone else think I’m too plain to interest a boy. Dabbing my face with the towel, I poked out my tongue at her and remarked, “You’re so goofy!” Her short, ginger braids stuck out stiffly on either side of her face, and tiny lentil-like freckles dotted her small nose. Her blue eyes widened. I turned my head to view her from a different angle. Was I imagining it or did she say, “Do something about your looks if you want to amaze Bernie.”

 

Mom’s voice startled me. “Are you coming down to breakfast?” she hollered.

“Coming”, I called back. Excitement filled me to think that Bernie would be on the bus with me. Bernie Adams is the new boy from Australia, on student exchange, who joined our class on Monday. He lives with Bob and family a few miles up street from us.

On his first day at school, the girls crowded around him, striving for his attention, but lost interest when they discovered he was shy and reserved. I remained at my desk, knowing I am no match for Vanessa, Meg, Glenda, Daisy and Amy. Nevertheless, he looked at me and smiled. I looked away, detesting that stupid blush that coloured my cheeks. Bernie greeted me every morning and winked during lessons when he caught my eye. On Friday, he asked if he could share my geography book. Some of the girls gave me piercing looks, but who cares. I was elated.

“What are you doing tomorrow?” he asked.

“Meeting Anne and Steffi in town”, I said.

“Mind if Bob and I come along?”

“It’d be fun. I’m sure the girls will be delighted”.

“How will you get there?”

“I’m catching the ten o’clock bus”.

“We’ll be at the bus stop at ten”.

Next morning, I tossed aside my jeans, pulled on a fitting mini skirt, and carefully made up my face. When I was done, I looked in the mirror, and the girl in the mirror smiled back, pleased with my looks.

Before sitting to breakfast, I gave Mom a peck on the cheek and poured milk over my bowl of cereal.

“Have you made plans for today?” She asked.

“I’m catching the ten o’clock bus to town”, I replied, “to meet Anne and Steffi”.

She looked at me suspiciously. “Oh! Look at you now, mini skirt and heels. Dressed up for someone special?”

“No Mom. I just want to look pretty, and feminine… like Ann and Steffi. Bob and Bernie are coming, too”.

“Well, stay out of trouble and be home for lunch”, she said firmly.

When I did not reply she asked, “Do you hear me, Sarah?”

“Yeah, Mom”, I said with a bothered sigh, and added; “Anne suggested we stay out and lunch at Happy Pizza”. Mom scratched behind her ear, reflecting. “Well, you get back home”, she repeated.

“Please Mom. Can I stay with the girls?” I pleaded.

She shook her head and I turned my back to hide the angry tears.

“Don’t sulk, girl”, she said. “Get to the bus else you’ll miss it”.

“I’ve decided to stay home”, I said flatly, slipping off my shoes.

She clicked her tongue and said, “Hurry up and catch the bus. I suppose you could stay out, just this once”. She patted my shoulder, adding, “And enjoy yourself”.

“Thanks, Mom”, I said, hugging her, before dashing out.

Only Bernie was at the bus stop.

“Hi”, he said, looking me over. “Sarah Jones Wow! Is it really you?”

I saw the appraisal in his eyes and my cheeks flamed.

“And I love it when you blush. Girls don’t blush nowadays. They’re too brazen”.

“Thanks!” was all I said before our bus arrived. We climbed aboard and occupied the front seats.

He took my hand and squeezed it. “Where do we get off?” He asked.

“Two more stops. The girls are at the Happy Pizza joint”.

“Supposing we branch off on our own after we’ve said hi to them”, he suggested.

My heart skipped a beat.

At the stop, he took my arm, “Which way?” he asked.

“Turn right. Fifty paces more to the snack bar”.

When we entered the joint, I scanned the crowd for my friends. They were at the bar, backs turned and a drink before them, chatting to some boys. I went up from behind and tapped them on their backs. They turned, smiled, and were surprised to see Bernie behind me.

“Hi Bernie. What y’er doing here?” Anne asked, smiling sweetly and fluttering her lashes.

“Chaperoning Sarah”, he said, unsmiling. “We’re going to the fair. You lot coming?”

They shook their heads so we walked away.

A roller coaster ride was our first choice. As the cars gathered speed, he put his arms around me and I clung to him. The roller coaster always scared and excited me. Before the ride was over, he kissed me on the lips. It was the sweetest feeling and I closed my eyes. We had a second ride, and we kissed again. These were my first real kisses.

Later, we roamed around the fair linking arms until it was time to return home. The bus journey ended too soon. I invited Bernie to visit me next day.

“I’ll bring my guitar”, he said and kissed me tenderly before we parted.

Mom was on the couch, watching TV when I entered.

“Hi,” I said, “I’m back”.

“Did you enjoy yourself Sarah?”

“I had a gorgeous time,” I replied, plonking into an armchair.

“Did Bob and Bernie join you?”

“Only Bernie did”.

“Oh! The new boy. What’s he like?”

“He’s fun to be with. I’ve asked him over tomorrow”.

“Don’t get serious over him”, she warned.

“’Course not,” I lied. Little did she know that I had already fallen for him.

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