In honour of my four-year bookiversary, I’m sharing an edited excerpt from Summerlandish and giving away three signed copies!
Details on how to enter at the end.
When you’re eleven and dating one of the coolest boys in your grade (even though I went to a tiny hippie private school in rural Florida with only eight people in the entire grade), it’s pretty easy to mistake forced, awkward hand-holding as love. Mostly, I was blinded by male attention. But it didn’t take me long to discover that our entire relationship had been nothing more than ONE. BIG. LIE.
And here is how it all happened.
I was having a sleepover with some older eighth-grade girls, and we were in the middle of an intense game of ‘Truth or Dare’. My turn came up and I was asked the inevitable, ‘Summer, who do you have a crush on?’ My mind went blank. I did not really have feelings for anything besides my My Little Ponies and Rocky Horror Picture Show VHS tape, much less an actual person. But I knew that I had to think of a name to say because I desperately wanted their attention and still needed to be cool. I mean, Holly and Marissa already had their periods and above average–sized boobs! Time for a quick mental inventory of the four males in my grade.
One was the new kid, who would normally be a safe bet, but was a little too cocky for my liking. Another had a twin (bonus), but seemed too nerdy. The third was a massive, beastly man-child who spent most of his time being kicked out of different schools and getting sent to the principal’s office. Even at age eleven, I knew that I needed more stability than that from a life partner. That left me with the fourth: a nice boy who seemed a little shy, but had a good sense of humour and was wickedly smart. So I said his name to the girls so we could move on. Unfortunately for me, this opened the floodgates for Holly and Marissa to join forces with Lauren to play matchmaker. These girls were a cupid trifecta.
As the natural progression of middle-school relationships go, my friend first told his friend that I liked him. Then his friend told my friend that he liked me too. Then I told my friend to tell his friend to tell him that I really, really liked him. Then he told his friend who told my friend who told me that he wanted me to be his main squeeze.
Suddenly, there we were: boyfriend and girlfriend. Everything was so effortless in the beginning. I would tell my friend to tell his friend that he looked really cute one day. And then he would tell his friend to tell my friend that he thought I looked really hot. Then his friends would conspire with my friends and coerce us into sweaty hand-holding during lunch. We had been dating pretty seriously at school for a month or so when my phone rang one afternoon. It was him. He asked me out on a proper date. (Funny how the relationship/commitment came before our first date.) We were going to see a movie, and his mom was going to drive us.
After spending hours obsessing over what to wear, I settled on a skort and a simple white baby-t (with the blue Gap logo placed strategically over my breast buds). The outfit was completed with a matching blue scrunchie on my wrist, platform jelly shoes, and socks neatly folded at the ankles. I do not remember the ride to the theatre, but I do remember the adrenaline rush that followed, due to sitting next to a boy in a dark room for the first time ever. We went to see Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors. I have NO IDEA who chose that one, but it was great background noise as our elbows clinked and our shoulders grazed during our awkward leans. Finally, a nervous pinkie poked my palm and glided itself into a legitimate hand-hold. One hour and forty-five minutes later, I was in love.
Two weeks after that, it was Valentine’s Day. Seeing as we never spoke to each other, and our quality time consisted of going to the movies in silence, I was not sure what to get him. I also was not sure what he was going to get me. So I decided to play it safe and get him a giant tin of jelly beans. Who doesn’t love a flavoured candy in the shape of a high-protein plant seed? I could only hope for something equally as thoughtful/calorie-laden from him. And he certainly delivered.
Two incredible things happened in 1997. One, Titanic was released, and two, on that very Valentines’ Day, I received my first box of chocolates from a boy. But not just any box of chocolates: it was a beautiful, over-sized velvet heart-shaped container, filled with succulent caramel truffles. There was no way I could open it. I felt foolish not indulging in the candies with my friends, but I knew I would soon have to shrink-wrap and mummify the gift to be kept in its original state as a relic, and place it in my middle-school boyfriend shrine. Oh, by the way, he also gave me a rose. Swoon! At that moment, I knew what the ‘he loves me, he loves me not’ flower was saying. No matter what, ‘He definitely loves me.’
February faded and spring had officially arrived in Florida. The only thing not blossoming was our love. Turned out that one of his friends told one of my friends that he had never even liked me in the first place, and that he had only gone out with me as a dare. (Cue: black mascara cascading down my cheeks and emotional devastation. Stay tuned for: Summer shows first warning signs of being a complete psychopath when it comes to dating.) I was LIVID! First of all, I didn’t even really like him in the first place either! I only said that I did to seem cool to the older girls. Secondly, I was taller than he was! Thirdly, I gave him jelly beans! OMFGWTF????
There was only one thing that could possibly make me feel better and less vulnerable: public humiliation of my now-ex-boyfriend. I came up with a scheme that would involve some careful execution and smooth talking. It all began with a visit to our schoolbus driver, Ona. Woefully, I explained how I had been brutally wronged by my one and only, and needed to smash his heart the way he had smashed mine. That’s right, I talked Ona into running over the box of chocolates a few times with our school’s bus. Once I was satisfied with the tyre prints branded into the velvet, I strolled up to my ex while he was hanging out with all of his friends at lunch. I proceeded to hurl the squashed box at his chest and announce, ‘I don’t need your box of chocolates, and they mean nothing to me! It’s funny; I was actually dared to go out with you, too. I guess we both win.’ I glared for a moment, then whipped my hair and stormed away a new woman.
Of course, old flames die hard. But if you truly love something, then you must let it go. And I did. I loved myself, and then I let myself go completely ape-shit. However, the ex and I eventually made up and became friends, as all lovers should. By the way, I highly suggest becoming friends with at least one bus driver - just in case you need him to run something or someone over for you.
IN LOVING MEMORY OF ONA – THE BEST BUS DRIVER/ STORY-TELLER/ FRIEND.
All you have to do for your chance to win a signed copy of Summerlandish is LIKE the post HERE and leave a comment saying ME PLEASE! Winner will be drawn and announced IN THE FACEBOOK THREAD on Friday, September 8.
- Summer Land is a columnist for the Mudgee Guardian. The above competition is being run by Summer Land via social media.