Heather and Martha were unlikely lovers. Heather was a straight A student, prim, proper and stoic
. Started working on her SATs
when she was in junior high
. Her wardrobe was stocked by Mom and leaned heavily on khaki
and blue and starched whites. Heavy on the starch
. Heather wore wire rims that seemed to have no effect on her constant squinting
. It was likely her eyes were set that way out of determination, as opposed to vision problems. Her best friend, pre-Martha, used to tell her if she were more intense she might explode
. Heather shrugged her shoulders and gave an atonal
response typical of her general attitude:
At least it would be of some surprise
Martha and her mother had moved several times before arriving at Heather's school in the fall of her junior year. Martha trudged into school with attitude written all over her. Her clothes rarely changed, no matter what the weather was: Black Doc Martens, green fatigues, cut off at the knees and a black T-shirt so old it was starting to appear gray. On the back of the shirt, in very small faded white script were these words:
Get the hell away from me. Yes, you.
The first third of her hair was braided and pulled around the sides of her face as a defacto halo. She had a single tattoo on both forearms: Yin on the left, Yang on the right. No makeup save red lipstick-upper lip only.
The two girls ignored each other for weeks until a careless substitute handed out a writing assignment and got their last names confused-
As if, sneered Martha, as she threw the paper on the ground by her desk and she exited the classroom, leaving her paper with Heather. This was the last paragraph of Martha's paper-the one that Heather stuck into her filofax and read during Calculus:
the flowers spread up and around the hill
our mattress, our comforter, our launching pad
we bloomed there and became one there and left ourselves there
A week later Martha was sitting in a coffee shop downtown reading Kundera drinking her third espresso when Heather sat down next to her. And waited.
M- (Without looking up, annoyed) OK, what do you need Gidget?
H-Your story, I loved your story
M-testing, testing, is this being taped? Is this a class project? (Looks around as if being videotaped)
H-No. Seriously. It was passionate and wonderful. I think you should know it was awesome. Really. (Long serious look at her across table, and a brief pause from squinting).
M-Seriously. Hmmm. (Looks in her cup, spins it around)
H-I think people don't see that in you, I mean, well, I didn't and ... well, it was awesome, and I was wondering if I could read some more of your writing...
M-I don't tutor, Hey, why would you care?
H-I need something like that in my life...some passion, some energy. I guess, I don't know. It really ...I don't know. It felt powerful to me. I don't feel too much like that. Ever. (Looks down at hands, picking at what used to be cuticles.)
M-You might not like the passion I would show you. It might bother you. You get that?
H-yes, and more so.
Heather got all of that. They talked for three hours that afternoon. And started meeting there afterschool a couple of times a week. Shared poetry. Lyrics that stuck either of them. Then a hug goodbye. Which became a squeeze. Which became a whisper in the ear.
When they finally found each other alone in Martha's bedroom it was slow and cautious-Heather style , and not wild and violent, the way Martha had imagined it. Glasses were removed carefully and put on the nightstand and clothes were unbuttoned and not torn.
Afterwards, pressed together under blankets, the sound of leaf blowers down the block woke them. It was dusk. As Heather got up to leave Martha reached for her with one hand, just so she would turn around for a moment. Just for a glance. Fingertips touching, it was a beginning, not an end.