Chapter 1 (continued)
We were drawing near to the mass of other students now, who were filing into the seventh and eighth grade classrooms of St. Patrick’s in two single-file rows. The lower grades were taught in a separate building—a much older red brick structure that was built around the turn of the (twentieth) century. The junior high classrooms were housed beneath the church. That building had been built in the mid-1960s, so it was still fairly newish in 1980.
As was now my habit, I began to look for Leah. I had known Leah most of my life, and I had seen her on a daily basis since kindergarten, more or less. But that had all changed lately: each time I saw her it was now a special event. This was a season in my life in which I would often lay awake at night, wondering if Leah Carter might ever feel the same way.
I could not find Leah among the two queues of students. She must already be inside. Thankfully, no Matt Stefano, either. (The latter was likely still being detained by Mr. Malinowski.) I took my place in line, behind Stephanie Santangelo and Julie Brinson. I tried not to stare at their legs, which (as lots of campy male fantasy literature has made much of in the intervening years) were visible in their Catholic school girls’ skirts. Both sets of legs still bore the deep brown of the recent summer’s tan.
How long had it been since girls’ legs had been of any interest to me at all? Less than a year, I would say—and now I was all but obsessed with them. Not only girls’ legs, mind you, but their hair, their voices, and the degree to which they were “developed”.
Only a year or so ago, my sole concerns had been summer little league, comic books, and playing video games like pong and stunt cycle. (A few Christmases ago, my parents had presented me with a Telegames console from Sears. Crude by today’s standards, it was a forerunner of the Atari video game consoles that would take the country by storm within a few years.) But now I noticed seemingly every girl I came into contact with, and I was constantly trying to gauge their reaction to me.
I followed the flow of people inside. We passed through the main foyer of the building, past the staircase that led up to the church proper. Looking upward, I caught a waft of incense, and a glimpse of the statue of the Blessed Virgin, her arms outstretched, a serpent crushed beneath her sandaled feet.
We students went downstairs instead, toward the classrooms. I was passing through the downstairs doorway, still sneaking glances at Stephanie and Julie when I felt a much larger presence brush past me, deliberately knocking me into the doorframe.
Matt Stefano surged past me without doing further damage for now, elbowing his way through the crowd. But he did take the time to look back and glare at me; and his message was clear: It wasn't over between us; no—it wasn't over by a long shot.
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Serial be continued....
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