Forgive me if I do not relate with any definition those things that passed between Felix Terrett and I after that magical day. For reasons I don’t care to disclose, they are sacred to my moments of pleasure and to mine alone. Suffice it to say that we were very fond of one another—and are very fond still.
Anyway, what with one thing and another, I never actually heard about Sarah till I saw her.
I walked in that morning with my skirt extra-short in celebration of my return, and my classmates seemed to appreciate it—my return; not my skirt. They cheered me till I was blushing as red as a poppy, and Lalla, tiny as ever, seemed to launch herself at me in her funny Lalla-y way of greeting.
Felix I saw standing at the back of the crowd rocking his heels, but he didn’t make eye contact, and I settled contentedly to the task of answering friendly enquiries and ignoring the strange rocking motion which haunted the corner of my eye.
It took me a while to get Bridie’s locker sorted. The textbooks we shared from one half-year to the next were stacked neatly to one side, but I liked to stow my own exercise books and folders, which had been sent on in a crate courtesy of Jean’s friend Mikey the van driver, in their proper places beside their textbooks. I like my work to be ordered, though I don’t go over the top. I see no point in lending myself unnecessary anxiety.
Everyone had gone off to registration by the time I’d completed arrangements to my satisfaction—except one girl who I had not noticed till I was on the brink of departure from the social area. And when I did notice her, I didn’t know how I hadn’t before.
I have never seen such hair…a honey-gold cascade. And her ankles were tiny beneath swollen calf muscles. I don’t know what it was. But something about her, even from the back, made me want to look again and keep looking.
She turned towards. I tried to turn away.
“Do you need help finding a room or something?” she asked, her voice as syrup-lacquered as her hair.
“Um…no,” I said, confused. “Why should I?”
She looked a little nonplussed. We were both bold-spoken where we expected the other to be timid.
“I don’t know. You’re new, aren’t you?”
Realisation dawned, and I nearly laughed aloud. “I thought you were,” I confessed.
“Only since last term,” she replied, “and I haven’t seen you before.”
I paused. What could I say so as to enhance the joke but also not to prolong it to the point of embarrassment?
“I’m pretty sure I’m not new,” I said. “My name’s Sarah. And you?”
Her eyebrows ran a hurdles race. “My name’s Sarah too. Sarah Roland.”
I imitated her reaction. “That was unexpected! I’ve never actually known anyone with the same name as me before.”
“I was one of five Sarahs in my year at my last school,” Sarah Roland confessed. “But the other four were in the other half of the year. It was such a big school, you know—a hundred in A and a hundred in B, and the two school buildings were on either side of a road. I didn’t know any of them very well.”
I made an astonished face. “That’s…”
The final bell rang, and we parted ways without another word.