The split began at the top of Tatiana Chianti’s mass of over-styled blond curls, continued down to cut through her thick-lashed, pouty-lipped face, tore between her far too big you-know-whats before slicing though the rest of her scantily clad body. The loud, crisp sound of the waxy magazine paper ripping in half was music to Elka Doom’s ears, bringing the first smile she’d had all morning to her lips. The smile widened as she stacked the torn halves of Ms. Chianti’s image on top of each other and repeated the process horizontally, effectively drawing and quartering the model the way they used to back in The Old Days, when such a punishment was common for criminals of that time.
“Oops,” she giggled, satisfaction derived from the petty act making her giddy. “How clumsy of me. Sorry Nils, maybe you can tape her back together?” She flung her hands out and let go of the pieces, watching gleefully as they fell into the stream she stood before. “Oh no!” she exclaimed, clapping her hands to her cheeks in mock shock. “I totally didn’t mean to do that at all!” Her eyes followed the paper scraps as they floated down the stream until they eventually disappeared from view. “Oh well.” She turned, her eyes falling upon the tree behind her, the name of her ex carved into uneven letters on the trunk. “I guess you’ll have to find some other way to be a pig,” she told it.
She grinned smugly at the tree, her back straight and her hands on her hips, feeling very much like an empowered woman. Unfortunately, her triumph did not last long, as a feeling of melancholy quickly washed away any power she had obtained from the vengeful act. Looking at the letters, the way the ‘I’ was set lower than the ‘N’ and ‘L’, at the way the ‘S’ looked more like a backward ‘Z’ than the letter it was intended to be made Elka’s heart clench painfully, and her hand flew to her chest as though that could soothe it. Her gaze drifted down to the plus sign and the lone ‘E’ below it. The rest of her name was not there, as Nils’ hand had cramped up before he could complete the inscription. “I’ll finish it later, baby,” he had promised as she massaged his aching hand between her fingers. A promise he had not kept, since they had broken up not long after.
She cut her eyes away, blinking back at the tears that had formed there against her will. There was nowhere that she could look without some memory cropping up to pluck at her heart strings. There, to the right, was where Elka had allowed him to French kiss her for the first time. Not far from that spot were the remains of a bulbless flower that Nils had hastily plucked out of the ground to give her as a present. Even the high branches of the oaks were not safe, for was that not where she had psi-blasted a rogue squirrel who had besmirched her love’s honor by hurling an acorn at that golden bowl-cut she adored so much?
Coming here, to their special spot by the creek, had been a mistake. She pulled the handkerchief her grandmother had made for her out of her pocket and dabbed delicately at her eyes. It was where her feet had taken her after she had discovered the magazine page underneath Nils’ pillow. By accident, of course- snooping had not been her intention when she had crept into the boy’s cabin while everyone else had been at breakfast. She had only wanted to deliver a letter to Nils’ mother and the safest place for it was tucked away in Nils’ bedding, where the prying eyes and sticky fingers of his bunkmates could not get to it. Finding the pin-up had been shocking; Elka had certainly not been expecting to see something so salacious this early in the morning. But the shock had not lasted long; she knew that her ex was exactly the sort of person who would enjoy ogling such material late at night.
Disposing of the lewd woman had seemed to be the correct course of action from both a moral and personal standpoint at the time. But now, as she stood by the swift stream, listening to the squirrels scurrying about in the grass and the bees in a nearby hive buzz, she wondered if she had done the right thing. Maybe he had that under his pillow because that model reminded him of me. We do kind of look alike. Elka looked down at her shoes, something that Ms. Chianti could not easily do with her generous assets. Well, maybe we’re not exactly twins, but our eye and hair color are the same...maybe he really does miss me… She shook her head, flinging those thoughts away. No, no, no! Do not fall back into this trap again! You are done with that P-I-G! Across the stream, a butterfly was taking a mid-morning meal, flitting from one flower to the next. I’ve gotten everything worth getting from Nils, she thought as she observed the butterfly feeding. And now I’ve moved on to the next flower. Er, I mean man. James’ nectar is much sweeter than Nils’ ever was.
Really, she ought to be with him right now, not standing alone at this spot that no longer meant anything to her. That’s the last time I’ll ever think about Nils, she vowed as she marched back down towards the Main Lodge, her shoes crunching on twigs and wet leaves. From now on, my focus will be on building a life with my true love, James Theodore Hoofburger.
The realization that she did not actually know where her James would be during this time of day did not dawn upon her until she was just about out of the forest. Breakfast was over and classes had not yet started, for the first few days of camp were usually spent getting everyone settled in (rumour had it that they were still waiting on the arrival of some transfer student from Russia to arrive), so he could not be with any of the counselors. The Main Lodge was a possibility, for that was where most campers congregated during the day. But James was an outdoorsy type, the sort of rugged fellow who would prefer roughing it in the great outdoors to being cooped up inside. But where in camp could he be? Elka thought, reaching up to her head to scratch it before jerking her hand away (mother always said that scratching one’s scalp was the worst thing you could do to it-”Do you want people thinking you have dandruff?”).
She paused, looking all around the surrounding forest area, hoping to catch sight of her boyfriend’s cowboy hat somewhere in the mix of brown bark and green, leafy branches. No such luck- all she saw was the voluminous afro of Melvin Sweetwind, her man’s best friend. He was sitting alone on a bench a few feet down the path, strumming out a mindless tune on that guitar of his. Elka was not an expert on music but the short ditties he played seemed too disconnected to be apart of a specific song, leading her to believe that he was only keeping his fingers busy while he waited for someone else to arrive. Her eyes narrowed, for she suspected that she knew exactly who that person was.
There was only one way to know for sure. She walked over to where Melvin sat, taking great care to school her expression into something resembling friendly. She did not try to muffle her approach, and he noticed her presence once she crossed half of the distance that separated them. His eyes also narrowed, much in the same way that her’s had moments before, but unlike her, he did not bother to replace his glare with a less irritated look when she came to a stop before him. So much for those Canadian Manners, she thought, scoffing internally at Melvin’s display of hostility.
Externally, she adopted a more cheery disposition. “Hello, Melvin,” she began, taking care to add a little sugar to sweeten her tone, “have you seen James?” She paused for half a second, then added, “he said he was going to meet me here, so that we could take a nice walk by the ‘crick.’” She sighed, wishing that it were true- imagine the look on Nils’ face if were to see her and her new beau arm-in-arm and heading towards their old make-out spot. “Isn’t that romantic?” she asked, batting her eyelashes.
“Sounds delightful,” he replied, lip curling up in distaste, “but why are you here?”
The question took Elka aback. “Um, because this was where we were going to meet?” she said sharply, her smile falling away in an instant. Her eyes met his, her own annoyance reflected back at her in his hazel eyes.
Melvin raised his eyebrows in mock surprise. “Really?” he said, a challenge in each syllable.
Elka covered up her wince with an indignant huff. “Yes really. Why on Earth would I lie?” Honestly, what was with this guy and his suspicions? He’d been side-eyeing her ever since she and James had begun dating, and for no reason at all! It’s like he thinks he should be James’ first priority instead of me! Doesn’t he know how relationships work? He’s even worse with women than Nils!
Melvin shook his head. “Never said that you were lying. But you do seem to be confused.” He looked away from her, focusing all of his attention on the tuning peg he had pinched between his fingers. “He told me that you guys were meeting at the cabins.”
Elka blinked, unsure if she’d heard Melvin right. “Wait, are you serious?” She couldn’t recall scheduling a date with James at all yesterday, and she was not one to forget details like that. But if I call him out, he’ll know that I was lying in the first place! Oh, what to do?
Her dilemma must have been playing out on her face, as Melvin appeared to be reveling in her discomfort. “Why would I lie?” he asked, giving her a smile so saccharine that Elka thought her teeth would rot just by looking at it. Because you’re a jerk who hates that James has found true love.
Outloud, Elka forced out a giggle. “Oh, I must have mixed up the meeting place! Silly me!” She rolled her eyes at her ‘mistake.’ “Sorry, James and I just make so many plans that it’s hard to keep track of them all!” She turned her head, nose pointing upward. “Well, I guess I better ‘mosey’ on over to the cabins. Won’t James find it funny when I tell him about what happened!”
“He’ll laugh so hard he might cough his lungs up,” Melvin replied dryly.
Elka wrinkled her nose as she turned. Ugh, how do boys come up with that kind of stuff? “I better not keep him waiting too long! Ta-ta!” she called as she began hurrying away. A devious idea struck her once she’d put a few feet of distance between them, and she spun on her heel. “Oh!” she said, squinting at Melvin in a scrutinizing manner.
Melvin stiffened. “What?”
“Nothing!” Elka said, gesturing at his hair. “I thought I saw something moving in there, but maybe that’s just the way your hair looks. Bye!” She rushed off before he could retort, proud of herself for getting the last word in.
There was no way for her to know if Melvin had told her the truth regarding James’ whereabouts. She actually doubted that he would be upfront with that kind of information if he did know. Her feet carried her off towards the cabin area anyway, for she had an inkling Melvin had pointed her in the right direction, albeit unintentionally. James was madly in love with her- this she knew from the way he got all nervous whenever she was near and by how he agreed with everything she said. Maybe they had not planned any sort of excursion for the day, but it certainly wouldn’t be out of the question for James to be waiting for her, pining alone on the steps of the ladies’ cabin with his head in his hands. What a sweet man, she thought as she passed by the Main Lodge. If only Nils could take a page out of James’ book...well, he’s probably lurking around the cabins like a weirdo again. He’ll see what happens when a guy treats a girl right!
She broke into a jog, a giddy anticipation bubbling within her at the notion of making her old flame envious of how much brighter her new flamed burned. By the time she made it to the bridge, her jog had become a run (which subsequently turned back into a jog when it began to sway worryingly as she crossed it). She hustled across the yard, her arms swinging at her sides, the exertion turning her face a pretty shade of pink. With one leap she cleared the first two steps that led up to the girl’s cabin and burst through the door, nearly breathless. “I’m here!”
As she’d been rushing to her destination, she’d had an image in her mind of a young man sighing forlornly as he sat upon the bunk of his beloved. That man, of course, was James Theodore Hoofburger and nobody else, even if a malfunctioning part of her brain tried to replace him with a certain someone. Events after her arrival would proceed as follows: the young man would spring up exuberantly from the bunk and catch her up in his arms before she crossed the threshold. He would then reign himself in and kiss her chastely on the cheek (because James was not the sort of man who would grab her by the waist and try to shove his tongue down her throat; something she definitely did not have fond memories of someone else doing!).
Reality, however, had little interest in complying with Elka’s imagination. Although there was somebody in the cabin, they were not on her bunk, nor were they her man (or any man at all for that manner) and they certainly weren’t waiting for her. Far from it, actually. The tiny girl didn’t even say hello or wave; a quick glance in her direction was about as much acknowledgment as she bothered to give.
Confusion prevented disappointment and indignation from slamming into her. The girl was one of the new Tender Brains (Carrie? Cleo?) and she was kneeling on what Elka presumed to be her own bed, that weird helmet she always wore positioned on her lap so that the side with the screen faced out. One hand was holding the helmet in place while the other scrubbed the back furiously with what had to be one of Janitor Cruller’s rags.
Mother always said that openly staring at even a very strange person was rude, but Elka could not stop herself from doing so in this case. She had never seen this girl without the space helmet on her head- Nils had said something about her needing it because of asthma, but Elka did not like it when he talked about other girls and had forced him to change the subject. What she saw now though made her wince. The color was pretty enough- a blond a shade darker than her own- but it was such a mess that it made Elka’s fingers comb through her own hair in sympathy. The length was about right for a pixie cut, which would have looked quite cute, but there was no bounce to it at all, the strands laying flat when they were not tangled. The ends were already beginning to split and the one adornment- a cute pink bow at the back of her head- seemed likely to fall off with any sudden movement. Well, she must certainly need that helmet to live, if she’s willing to put up with that disaster!
Elka shook her head, pitying the poor girl for the state of her hair as she looked around for evidence of her beau’s prior presence in the cabin. She could not find any- her bunk was as neatly made as it had been when she let, with no evidence that anyone had recently sat on it. It seemed likely that Melvin had lied to her about James, and right to her face no less. Anger flared up within her but she bit her lip and smothered it down. Her tendency to jump to conclusions had gotten her into trouble more than once; had in fact been one of the reasons that Nils had broken their relationship off (not that she was upset about that! Best thing to have ever happened to her!) Perhaps her James had not wanted to wait inside the girl’s cabin; a gentleman like him might think it a forbidden zone for a fellow. For all she knew he might have just peeked in to see if she was in here before taking himself off to a more appropriate place to wait, like the Coach’s treehouse.
Maybe he had left a message with this little girl with the sad hair. “Hey, um…” Elka paused, waving awkwardly as she struggled to recall her name. It’s something with a C...or maybe it was a K? Darn, if only my mind reading was as good as my future sight. “You wouldn't have happened to have seen my boyfriend, would you?”
The girl looked up, her grey-green eyes making very brief contact with Elka’s before she bowed her head forward and shoved the helmet back on. She then tilted her head back up, the expression on her face obscured by her helmet’s orange-tinted screen. “Greetings, fellow cadet,” she said, her tone flat but not unfriendly. “I cannot say that I have seen any males of your species in the last few minutes.” She tapped the side of her head contemplatively, her finger making a soft ‘thunk’ on the helmet. “Although, I must be honest. I am not sure which one of these Earth primates is the one you consider your ‘boyfriend’” she continued, using air quotes on the last word.
The path between her mouth and her brain must have had some kind of short-circuit, for Elka’s lips immediately began to form the name of the boy who had dumped her. “N-” She clamped her mouth shut before she could say anymore. It doesn’t mean anything. It’s like when the new year starts and you keep writing the old year for the date...just a force of habit. “My boyfriend’s name is James,” she insisted, “And he loves me with all of his heart!”
The girl cocked her head to her side. “I am not familiar with this ‘James’” she admitted. “Please elaborate further.”
That, Elka was more than happy to do. “He’s the sweetest boy in the world! He’s the only guy in this camp who knows how to treat a woman with proper respect! Unlike some people he doesn’t go around looking at every girl who passes him by! He also doesn’t try to put his hands in your back pocket; actually, he won’t try to touch you at all! You have to make him do it! And he doesn’t try to get you to skip camp meetings to do something fun, and he definitely wouldn’t risk getting in trouble with the Coach by sneaking over to your cabin in the middle of the night.” Something poked her in the chest- she remembered that night, remembered how Nils had shaken her awake to take her to the lake for a quiet walk on the beach, just the two of them. Sure he’d blown it at the end by getting a little too fresh with her, but up until that point it had been one of the most romantic dates she’d ever been on. But that was done now- the good times she’d had with Nils were far outnumbered by the bad, and she was so overjoyed to put it all behind her that she wanted to scream it from the rooftops!
The girl shifted, the bunk creaking with her movement. Elka realized that she had gone quiet during her reminiscing and scrambled to find something further to say about James. “He...also holds the door open for me!” And for everyone else, but Elka didn’t see the point in mentioning that.
“That information was not helpful in the least,” the girl said, her bluntness taking Elka aback. “Excuse my rudeness, but perhaps describing who he is instead of who he isn’t would be more enlightening.”
Elka rolled her eyes. “He’s the cowboy!” she said, exasperated.
“Ah.” The girl nodded, the helmet bobbing with the movement of her head. “You were talking about J.T.”
Elka frowned, grinding her teeth in annoyance. “He prefers to be called James.”
“I had not heard him say that,” the girl replied.
“Well it’s true!” Elka insisted, her fists clenching. “And make sure you let everyone know that!” She looked back behind her, hoping to see James approaching to take her on their date. But there was nobody around except a few squirrels, and unless they were carrying a message from her James, she had no interest in any of them. “So you really haven’t seen him?” she asked, swiveling her head back towards the girl.
She shook her head. “Negative.”
Anger erupted in Elka’s stomach. Damn it, she’d been had! Really, she should have known better than to take Melvin at his word- didn’t mother always say that Canadians weren’t to be trusted? “Oh dear!” she said, attempting to affect a tone of levity. “James and I must have missed each other!” She giggled and waved her hand nonchalantly, as though it were no big deal. “Gosh, how funny is this? I’ve been all over this camp trying to find him and I would bet all my arrowheads that he’s been doing the same for me!” She rolled her eyes and smiled, her teeth grinding together hard behind her closed lips. “He can’t stand to be away from me, you know? If we’re apart for too long, he’ll start to worry!”
“Fascinating.” The girl reached under her helmet to tap her chin. “My prior observation of that Earthling led me to believe that he preferred the human with the second largest mass of hair, since they are both musically inclined.”
Elka balked, offended to her very core. “No, that’s not right at all!” She stomped on the floor indignantly, the sharp thump of her foot hitting the wood making the girl jump. Pure fury was pulsing through her veins, but Elka forced herself to calm down. Get a grip, she thought as she inhaled through her nose and exhaled through her mouth. Don’t let that jerk Melvin make you look bad in front of this Tender Brain. An idea struck her then. “It’s true that James allows Melvin to hang around him,”she explained, talking very slowly and enunciating carefully, “but that’s only because Melvin has no other friends. James is so nice that he lets Melvin tag along with him, even when he would prefer to be alone with me.” Elka nodded, having now convinced herself this was true because she had said it.
The girl mulled the information over for a moment. “So what you are saying is that J.T.- James- let’s Melvin accompany him everywhere out of a sense of pity rather than friendship.”
“That’s right,” Elka said, hoping the girl would spread the story around.
“Interesting,” the girl said, awed. “Human interpersonal relationships have so many different dynamics.”
“Um, yeah.” The way this girl spoke sort of weirded Elka out- she sounded more like a scientist from a movie than a seven year-old. Not that she would ever say it to the girl’s face, she was not a bully. “James is probably missing me terribly right now,” Elka said, backing up a step towards the exit, “so I better be off. It was nice talking to you, um…”
“I have been designated Chloe by my parental units.”
I knew it was something with a C! “Chloe, right! I’ll see you later,” Elka said, waving absently as she turned to leave.
Elka barely heard the girl’s farewell as she stomped down the rickety steps, the wood giving slightly under the hard slam of her feet. She already knew exactly what she was going to do: first she was going to march straight back to that weasel Melvin and call him out on his lies (using her fist to do so). Then she would locate her James and spend the rest of the day parading him around the campgrounds, his hand locked firmly into her own. That would surely establish to all of the skeptics that she and James were completely in love and utterly devoted to one another. She suspected that she would be able to accomplish one goal right after the other, for if James truly was not searching for her, then that meant Melvin had tricked him into having yet another jam session with him.
Her righteous indignation did not carry her far from the cabin. The anger that had been running hot cooled, then dissipated into nothing, as though she’d been disconnected from her emotions. Elka stopped dead in her tracks, eyes staring straight ahead. Her hand flew to the back of her tingling head, her fingers clawing inward to scratch at her scalp. The scene before her blurred, the varied green and brown hues merging together before fading out to black.
Then color bled back in, forming another time and place. The Tender Brain- Chloe- was in front of her in the boathouse, the shadow of some out-of-sight figure flickering at the edge of Elka’s vision. Her face was scrunched up, tears running down her cheeks and snot from her nose. Pain creased her eyes into watery slits, and her lips trembled, looking as though they would burst with the sobs she was clearly struggling to hold back at any second.
Her hair, or rather, what was left of it, was a catastrophe beyond what Elka had ever exposed to previously. Half of it was gone, with some of the fallen strands adorning her t-shirt and shorts. The hair that remained was a greasy, stringy mess, and not likely to stay on her head for much longer. The skin on her scalp was an angry red, resembling the aftermath of a nasty burn.
A voice, faint and feminine, spoke. “I’m sorry, darling,” it said, reverberating in a way that made it impossible to tell who it belonged to. “But we are going to have to shave it all off.”
Elka came back to herself with a jolt, gasping in horror. The vision, while hardly the worst sight her powers had burdened her with, upset her deeply, to the point where her heart raced and anxiety twisted her stomach into knots. A girl’s hair contributed greatly to her overall beauty and health; Elka certainly knew that she was not at her best if her own hair was not perfectly coiffed. The current state of Chloe’s tresses implied that she did not yet fully grasp that concept, but that didn’t mean that she deserved to lose all of it! I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy! Or even Nils!
It was rare that Elka felt the desire to change what she saw in a vision. But her mind was screaming at her now to do something to alter the fate of the strange little girl’s follicles. Well, what can I do? she argued back. She had not seen the freak accident that had ruined Chloe’s hair, only the tragic aftermath. It might not have been an accident, Elka reasoned, tapping her foot on the ground and her finger on her chin as she thought. She wears that helmet all of the time, maybe it’s just going to catch up to her one day.
Elka smiled. If that was the case, then all that she would need to do was educate the girl on proper hair care! She won’t have a better teacher than me! Elka thought proudly, smacking her fist on her palm. Kitty might have better make-up skills, but when it comes to hair, I’ve got her beat! The anxiety in her stomach unwound itself and became bubbles of excitement floating upward. And what better time to show off those Amway products my mom told me to hand out?
Another vision came to Elka, this one a product of her imagination instead of her precognition. She saw Chloe, sans helmet, walking into the Main Lodge with a perfect, shiny ash-blonde pixie cut that bounced with every step she took. Everyone in the room looked upon her with awe as she passed by- even Chef Cruller paused in his burger-flipping to stare. “Chloe,” a wide-eyed Franke Athens said as she sat down at the table. “Something’s different about you!”
“It’s her hair,” Kitty clarified, too stunned to sound like her usual snooty self. “It looks...good. Great, even!”
“O-M-G!” Crystal would exclaim at the top of her lungs. “Chloe! What did you do?”
“Yeah, tell us!” Phoebe would add.
Chloe flipped her new and improved do in a casual manner. “Oh, this?” she said, the blunt roughness replaced with a high-pitched femininity. “This is all thanks to Elka Doom and her amazing assortment of Satinique hair care products, created by Amway and distributed by Independent Business Women.”
All eyes turned to Elka, sitting at the head of the table in a deep-red velvet chair. “My hair was a wreck before,” Chloe continued enthusiastically, “but then Elka showed up and taught me how to maintain a healthy head of hair, using nothing but Satinique products. I can now be the strong, smart, beautiful woman my mother always said that I could be.”
The girls gave out appreciative ‘ooohs’ and ‘ahhhs’, with even the normally reticent Lili expressing her amazement. “Wow Elka, my mom was totally wrong for calling your mom a scammer!”
“So was mine!” Phoebe added. “Please, Elka, you have to let us try those miracle products of yours! Our mental health depends on it!”
Elka cocked her head to the side, appearing to think about it. Just when the anticipation became too much for her peers, she said, “well, I suppose that I have enough to go around,” a soft smile brightening her face. “We can have a little party in the girl’s cabin tonight. I’ll show you all of my samples and help you all see which ones will work best for your hair.”
The girls voiced their appreciation of this offer as a group, a collection of “Thanks Elka,” and “You’re the best!” echoing throughout the Main Lodge. As Elka was humbly basking in the glow of their gratitude, Nils manifested beside her seat. “Elka,” he said, sinking to his knees and taking her hand in his own. “I was a fool to have ever let you go. I’m going absolutely crazy with loneliness and regret.” His mouth quivered, and he made no effort to hide the tears glistening in his beautiful blue eyes. “Can you forgive me for being such a pig?” He squeezed her hand tightly, kissing the back of it.
Elka swiftly turned her gaze away from his, but did not try to free herself from his grasp. “It’s too late, Nils.” She heaved a deep sigh. “You broke my heart, but it’s already mended.”
Nils let out a plaintive wail. “Don’t say that!” he cried. “You have to give us another chance!” His hold on her slackened, then his hand slipped despondently to the ground along with the rest of him. “I can’t live without you,” he moaned, head bowed to the floor, body curled up in a sad little ball.
The girls regarded him with pity. “How sad for him,” Crystal said, shaking her head.
“It’s his own fault,” Chloe said, flipping her shiny bob in derision. “He should not have been so stupid.”
Kitty and Franke agreed. “We all said that he would regret his actions,” Kitty reminded everyone.
“Now look at him,” Franke said, pointing down at the pathetic wreck of a human being before them.
They were right. But Elka had been moved by the remorseful display; her heart stirred by the muffled sobs her ex could no longer contain. Though she was the woman he had wronged horribly, she decided that she would be the one to make the first move towards reconciliation. She rose from her chair, kneeling down next to Nils’ trembling form, running her fingers through his soft golden hair. “Your dandruff is back.”
Nils said nothing as he turned his head up to gaze upon her, silently awaiting her judgement. “But don’t worry,” she said, smiling warmly down at him. He gave her a small one in return. “I’ve got a shampoo that will fix that.”
The fantasy ended there, popping as though it were a balloon stuck with a needle. Elka spun on her heel and rushed back to the cabin. She was certain that changing the fate of that little Tender Brain would significantly improve the lives of everyone at the camp. Sorry James, she thought, not actually feeling all that sorry at all. But our date will have to be postponed!