She's in eighth grade, like Elliot, Nina, and Marty were in TATWATM. Cool! It's actually inspired by an ancestry project I did in the fifth grade.
“So, you snuck in?” I asked.
Corinne was telling me about her and Violet’s daring break-in to the White Orchid orphanage.
Corinne nodded, “Yup. You know how she talks about that Ms. Flannigan lady?”
I nodded, “You met her?”
“Well, not formally, but I saw the way she acted. She wasn’t very nice.”
We kept talking about it, for a little while. Then – for some reason – the conversation shifted to school and relationships.
“Can I ask you a question?” I asked Corinne.
She nodded, “Yeah, sure, whatever you want.”
I just came right out and said it, “Do you like Chuck?”
Corinne was startled for a moment, then said, “Well, he’s a great friend, and I’ve known him since kindergarten, and–”
I shook my head, “You know what I mean. I mean…” I took a deep breath, because talking about crushes was never an easy thing to talk about with Corinne. “Do you like him in the way that I like Violet?”
She crossed her arms, “In what way do you like Violet exactly? Do you like her in the way that Nancy and Anne like boys at school?”
My eyes widened, I knew exactly in what way she was talking about. And yeah, maybe a little part of it was there – because according to the video we were shown in fifth grade stronger feelings for people would start to develop around the ages of thirteen to fourteen. I mean, it was nowhere near as much as I heard some kids talk about it at school, but it was slightly there. Which was normal, right? Corinne and I were turning fourteen next week.
“I’m taking that as a yes,” Corinne said.
“No!” I protested. “I-I mean, maybe a little…” gosh, this was not how I wanted this conversation to go. “But not like how they talk about it. Like, do you want to kiss him again?”
“Do you want to kiss Violet again?” Corinne asked me.
I blushed, “You’re deflecting the question!”
“So are you.”
We sat, glaring at each other a little longer, before Corinne sighed and said, “No, I don’t want to kiss him again.”
I sighed, relieved. “Do you want to date him?”
Corinne shrugged, “Maybe? I think I do. But…I don’t want to kiss him, and I definitely don’t want any more than that.”
I’d never heard of that before. I mean, I wanted to date Violet, but I also wanted to kiss her again. Don’t worry, I didn’t really want to do anything too uh…weird.
“It’s weird, I know,” Corinne muttered.
“It isn’t weird,” I told her. “Maybe you just aren’t quite there yet. Maybe you’re a late bloomer.”
I could see Corinne roll her eyes and she just muttered, “Yeah, maybe I am.”
I winced. I didn’t want Corinne to be mad at me. I wanted to keep talking to her. The two of us used to be really close, but once we hit middle-school, we just kind of…drifted apart? Corinne became friends with Nancy and Anne, and middle-school just made my anxiety get worse, so I retreated into my own little shell. We still talked and stuff, but nowhere near as much as before. Plus, it always made me nervous when she got mad at me.
Corinne sighed and said, “Anyway, how’s the project going?”
“Good,” I said. “Grandma’s stories were really interesting.”
Corinne nodded, “Yeah, she’s told me a few of them.”
Grandma’s told Corinne stories? “When?” I asked.
“When we’ve been to her house,” Corinne responded. “I just ask.”
We were silent again. Corinne knew how hard it was for me to ask people for things.
“I’m sorry,” Corinne said. “I didn’t mean it that way.”
I was looking down at my sketchbook now. I’d been trying to recreate the picture grandma gave me. It was difficult, and I could never seem to do it justice. This drawing was like a perfect snapshot done in pencil. I hated that with mine, you could tell a middle-schooler drew it.
“It’s okay,” was all I said.
Corinne stood up from the floor and walked towards the door. “Anyway, I uh, I have to continue with my project.”
“Yeah,” I said, and watched her leave.
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Child of Exile
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