‘This would be easier if you kept still, you know,’ Gwen said, a touch reproachfully.
She notices detachedly that the boy is blushing more than she is. Gwen has two younger brothers and doesn’t embarrass easily. The boy is fidgeting nervously, which is making her job difficult.
‘Easy for you to say,’ he replies. ‘You’re not the person with a needle pointing at a sensitive area.’
Gwen tsks. ‘No. I’m the person doing you a favor. And it’d be easier if you kept still.’
She stops sewing and gives him a stern look, the one she uses on Michael when he won’t go to bed.
‘Sorry,’ he mutters. ‘But please be careful.’
‘How did you split it anyway?’ she asks.
‘Climbing over the school fence.’
‘Why?’ Gwen asked. It was still early in homeroom and the school gates were left open for latecomers until first period.
The boy shrugs. ‘Why not?’
‘Oh I don’t know,’ Gwen says. ‘You might split your pants.’
The boy blushes fiercely.
‘Yeah, well,’ he retorts. ‘Why do you bring a needle and thread to school?’
‘Emergencies,’ Gwen says smoothly. Last year her best friend’s bra strap had snapped in the first week of freshman year and she’d spent the whole day hiding in the girl’s toilets. Since then, Gwen had always carried a mini-sewing kit, next to her make up bag, emergency paracetomol, face wipes, fold up umbrella and spare cell phone battery. Gwen is always prepared. She’s the person her friends come to if they need to borrow a tampon or copy homework that’s actually spelt right (the spelling mistakes are how they catch you). Some people think that she’s a push over. She’s not.
‘Are you complaining?’ she asks sweetly, with just a hint of steel in her voice.
‘No,’ the boy admits, grudgingly.
‘All done,’ she says, finishing off with three neat stitches and snipping the loose thread with her nail clippers. Of course Gwen Darling brings nail clippers to school. ‘If you hurry you’ll make homeroom before the bell goes.’
‘Or,’ the boy says. ‘We could not do that.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I have math first period,’ the boy explains. ‘Then World History. Then Geography.’
‘So?’ Gwen asks.
‘You could come and see my club house,’ the boy says.
‘Maybe after school.’
‘I don’t know where I’ll be after school,’ the boy says.
Gwen looks at the boy. He’s cute in a way she’s been carefully avoiding thinking about with her hands so close to his crotch. He has curly blonde hair that makes him look like a delinquent cherub and green eyes Gwen knows will make her dizzy if she looks in them too long.
‘You can have my number,’ she says, scribbling it down on a sheet of paper and handing it to him, balancing the notepad awkwardly on the dryer as she writes. She’s thought about having cards for just this occasion but she doesn’t want to look forward. Besides, not many people ask for her number. Gwen is well liked and not bad looking but no one finds organization sexy.
‘I don’t have a phone,’ the boy says.
‘Who doesn’t have a phone?’ she asks.
‘I don’t. Who has emergency thread in eight different colours?’ the boy counters.
‘I can’t skip out on school,’ Gwen says, although she could. She’s really good at forging notes when her friends need a favour. She’s never done it for herself before.
‘Your loss,’ the boy says, turning to leave. If they hurry they’ll get out of the gate before it’s closed. ‘I know this carnival where they have pirates and Indians and the waitresses are dressed as mermaids. And there’s a broken vending machine that always gives you extra candy and too much change. And they do the best candyfloss you've ever tasted.’
That sounds like fun. Now it’s Gwen’s turn to fidget.
The boy seems to read her thought. He smiles, showing pearly white teeth. ‘Last chance to change your mind.’
Gwen follows him. What else can she do?