Adagio for Strings – Samuel Barber
After lunch in the school cafeteria, Valerie found her former Pirate crew by Ricky’s locker.
“I didn’t tell you this before, but I invited Dilsey Murphy to our next confessional at the skinny-dipping pond.” She then found herself looking into two shocked and dismayed faces.
“I don’t think I can do the naked-truth thing in front of any girl but you, Val,” Ricky said with a slight shudder in his voice.
“I can’t do that in front of anybody,” reminded Billy. “And while we all need the chance to talk about what’s hurting us, I don’t think Dilsey will understand any of it.”
“Yeah, she hasn’t gone through the crap we have. She won’t get what we’re talking about,” added Ricky.
“I think anyone can understand about being depressed. And anyone can benefit by talking through it.”
“Well, maybe. But shouldn’t we cancel the naked-truth thing?” asked Ricky.
“Cancel it,” said Billy.
“We’ll see what’s possible. But if she comes, we can postpone getting naked. It may be too cold anyway.”
“Yeah. That’s a good point,” said Ricky.
“I suppose it won’t hurt to talk about Francois in front of Dilsey. She remembers him too, I’m sure.” Billy stuffed books in his locker as he was headed to P.E.
“Sure, of course she remembers him.”
“But she wasn’t with us during the blizzard. And she never met Tommy or Denny,” reminded Ricky.
“I never met them either, but I remember the stories about them,” said Billy. “But I gotta go now. I have to dress out for P.E. or risk another failing grade.”
“So, go. Have fun with the nakedness in the locker room, Billy.” Valerie grinned at him as she enjoyed his annoyed grimace.
“I gotta go too,” said Ricky as he slammed his locker shut and took off towards Berensen’s room, completely forgetting his History book in his locker.
Valerie was going to head to her class when a slamming locker door eight lockers down caught her attention.
“You had some nerve ruining the dance last week. You made yourself the center of attention and took all the joy out of the entire place.”
“You wouldn’t understand, Char. You only understand your own selfish stuff.”
“Don’t you think I can see the selfishness in you? Needing to be the focus of attention because you lost your daddy. We all pity you, but it doesn’t make everything always about you.”
They were alone in the hallway. The bell rang for fifth period. It was a good thing the hallway was so quiet. It meant neither girl was willing to yell and draw everybody out of their classrooms again.
“We are going to be walking on eggshells all week this week, and probably next week too, just so the crazy girl won’t have another hissy fit in the middle of everything.”
Valerie was instantly exhausted. Her arms and legs were now full of lead. And there was a crushing pressure in her chest. She knew this was going to happen. She just needed it to end more quickly than it was going to.
“You got your wish because of it. You’re head cheerleader now.”
“I have wanted to be that since I was little and didn’t know Valerie Elaine Clarke even existed! I worked hard for it all through junior high and high school. And when I got it, it was not because I won it for myself, not because I beat you out for it… but because you just gave it up. You got it all so easily. And you threw it away. You didn’t even give me the chance to earn it. I will never forgive you for what you took away from me.”
“Don’t forgive me, then. I ain’t asking.”
“And you get all the best boys, too. Ricky is so handsome. And he doesn’t have eyes for anybody but you. And you don’t even bother to see it.”
“Ricky’s my friend. Not my boyfriend.”
“See what I mean? You threw that away too.”
“Go ahead and hate me, Char. You are probably right to hate me.”
“I don’t hate you, Val. I always wanted to BE you. But I have to get over it now. I’m sorry your father died. But that doesn’t give you the right to act the way you do.”
Valerie no longer had the power to continue the conversation. She hung her head. She turned slowly towards class and the inevitable tardy slip. Charlotte walked off in the other direction, even though she had the same class that Val did.