This is a love story. My name is Nick and my chick’s name is Fleur. And she has a friend called Helen who’s got a boyfriend named Clive. Now, this Clive is really weird. Well, he does one weird thing I know of anyway. And he writes three-page letters to his girlfriend, Helen, every day.
“What’s wrong with the nerd?” I asked Fleur. She’d spent a whole lunchtime telling me about him.
“There’s nothing wrong with him,” she said. “You’re so unromantic, Nick.”
“Of course I’m not unromantic!” I said, and I offered her a lick of my ice cream to prove it. She groaned and pulled her P.E. bag over her head. She didn’t want to talk to me anymore.
When girls go quiet, that’s a bad sign!
“What’s wrong?” I asked her.
“You don’t love me,” she said.
“Of course I love you,” I told her. And I offered her my whole ice cream. She wouldn’t take it.
“You don’t love me enough,” she said.
“How much is enough?”
How much ice cream did it take?
“You don’t write me letters like Clive does to Helen,” she said.
“I don’t need to, I see you every day in Computers,” I said. “And Chemistry.”
“Clive sees Helen every day in Biology, and Textiles, and Home Science, and assembly, and roll call,” she said, “and he writes letters to her!”
I knew what was happening here: my girlfriend was cooling on me.
“OK,” I said, “I’ll write you a letter.”
“Aw, Nick!” She whipped her P.E. bag off her head.
I was glad I’d weakened. Fleur is really gorgeous. I couldn’t risk losing her for the sake of a few lines scrawled on a piece of paper. I’m the envy of the boys’ locker room, having her for a girlfriend.
I sat down that night and began my first letter: “Dear Fleur..” Then I stared at the page for the next half hour. What do you write in letters to someone you see every day? I chewed my pencil; I chewed my nails. Then, in desperation, I finally asked Mum.
“Write about the things you have in common,” Mum said, so I wrote the following: “Wasn’t that computer class on Tuesday a ROAR? The best bit was when Brando tilted the computer to show us the little button underneath and the monitor fell off.”
I wrote about the Chemistry class too, though it wasn’t quite as interesting. Not a single kid muffed their experiment and blew their eyebrows off. But then I got really creative at the end of the letter and added a postscript written in Basic. I got the letter back the next day with “five-and-a-half out of twenty” marked on the bottom.
“What was wrong with it?” I asked Fleur.
“You made a lot of spelling mistakes for one thing,” she said.
“I was being myself!” I told her.
And “I didn’t notice,” she said. “You didn’t say anything personal in it!”
Is that what she wanted, a personal letter?
I thought it over for five minutes. There were guys all round the lunch area just waiting to take my place and share their chocolate milk with the fabulous Fleur. If revealing a few personal secrets was what it took to keep her, I could do it.
“Dear Fleur..” I began the second letter that night.
“This is not something I’d tell everyone, but I use deodorant. Only on sports days or in really hot weather of course.”
No, that was too personal. I ripped up the page and started again. “Dear Fleur, Guess what? Mrs. Hessel blew me up in History today for no reason at all. I was embarrassed to death. Goggle-eyes Gilda laughed her stupid head off.”
Actually, once I’d got started I found the personal stuff not that hard to write. I told Fleur what mark I’d really got in the English half-yearlies. Then I told her about a movie I’d seen where this pioneer farming guy loses his plow horse, then loses his wife, then his children, and then his cows get hoof rot. But even though he sits down and bawls his eyes out about it, in the end, he walks off into the sunset, a stronger man.
“I’d like to suffer a great personal loss like that,” I told Fleur in the letter, “and walk away stronger and nobler for it.”
Her sole comment on letter number two was: “You didn’t say anything in it about me.” And she went off to eat lunch with Helen.
It was time to hit the panic button. Fleur was “drifting.” I stuffed my sandwiches back in my bag and went looking for Clive. I bailed him up under the stairwell.
“OK, what do you put in your letters to Helen?” I asked him.
Clive turned out to be a decent kid. He not only told me, but he also gave me a photocopy of the latest letter he was writing to Helen.
You should have seen it!
“Darling Helen, Your hair is like gold. Your eyes remind me of twilight reflected on Throsby Creek. And your ear lobes are. . . Your eyelashes are…” And so on. It was what you’d call a poetic autopsy.
And as if that wasn’t bad enough, he then got into the declarations of love: “You’re special to me because… I yearn for you in History because… I can’t eat noodles without thinking of you because…
“Do girls really go for this sort of thing?” I asked him.
“Helen does,” he said. “She’d drop me tomorrow if I stopped writing her letters. It’s the price you pay if you want to keep your girlfriend.”
So I began my third letter, with Clive’s photocopy propped up in front of me as a guide.
“Dear Fleur, Your hair is like…” I began.
Actually, I’d always thought it was like cotton candy, pretty from a distance but all gooey when you touched it- too much hair spray, I suppose.
I scrapped that opening and started again.
“Dear Fleur, Your eyes are like …”
Actually, they’re bit small and squinty. I think she might need glasses but she’s not letting on.
Scrub the eyes.
“Dear Fleur, Your face is excellent overall. You look like one of those soap-opera dolls.”
I thought I would’ve been able to go on for hours about her face, but having said that, it seemed to sum her up.
And I moved on to the declarations: “I love you because…” I chewed my pencil again, then my fingernails. This time I couldn’t ask Mum.
Why did I love Fleur? Because she was spunky. Because all the guys thought so too. Well, not all of them. Some of them thought she wasn’t all that interesting to talk to, but I put that down to jealousy.
Still, I began to wonder, what had we talked about in the three weeks we’d been going together? Not much really. She’d never been interested enough in my hockey playing to ask in-depth questions about it. And, I have to admit, I hadn’t found her conversation on white ankle boots all that riveting either.
No wonder I was having so much trouble writing letters to her. We had nothing in common. I barely knew her. What were her views on nuclear disarmament? Maybe she didn’t have any. Was she pro-Libyan? I didn’t know.
I scrapped the letter, scrapped Clive’s photocopy, and started again, this time with no trouble at all.
“Dear Fleur, This writing of letters was a very good idea because it gives me the opportunity to say something important to you. I think you’re a nice girl and I’ve enjoyed going steady with you for three weeks but I think we should call it off Even if it’s a great personal loss to both of us, I’m sure we’ll walk away stronger and nobler. Yours sincerely, Nick.”
I slipped the letter to her in Computers. She didn’t take it too badly, just ripped it up, and fed it through the shredder. But then two days later photocopies of my personal letter started to circulate the school.
I didn’t mind, though, because as a result of that, Goggle- eyes Gilda slipped me a note in History that said, briefly: “I like your style, Nick. You’ve got depth.” I took another look at Goggle-eyes. I didn’t mind her style either. She has this terrific laugh and she’s a whiz on computers.
I wrote back straight away, my own kind of letter this time-honest and to the point: “Dear Gilda, That three- minute talk you gave on speech day about Third World Famine Relief was really excellent. I’ll be eating lunch in the quad if you’d care to join me.”
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