The ice melts slowly over the wicker torch, black carbon coating its surface before the chunk can dissolve.

Sarah leans her legs sideways over Luke, reclining in the wooden deckchair. She kisses him over and over.

Inside, I am burning.


The waves lap gently across the oyster shells on concrete bridge supports, the ocean’s rumble echoing the traffic above.

Andrew A runs at the bank, his fat and manboobs jiggling, and launches himself at the water. He curls himself into a cannonball and I am sprayed. I am standing at the edge, looking over everyone having fun in the water, just close enough to hear the conversations, and now my clothes are wet. I use one hand to shield my eyes from the sun.

“When my friend Sarah burns a CD, she does it real nice, prints out a cover and even the label on the CD so it looks right.” Says Ryan. This is the first time I’ve seen him since he moved schools.

Andrew A giggles. “Yeah, that’s right. Haven’t you heard? Ryan is in a girls group.”

“Is she hot?” I ask

“Well, see for yourself.”

It’s only a few more months before I start there.


In front of the music building where the year tens sit is a painted barrier, the same green-grey as the building. On this one section, the paint is peeling away to leave the silver of bare metal underneath. In the summer, you can put your hand on it and hold it there for as long as you can before it starts to burn.

Sarah is a cool girl.

She has shoulder length brown hair that will become red by the end of year twelve. Her eyes are blue and green oceans you can drown in, and one day far in the future I will write a haiku about them and send it to her. She will send me a limerick back to me about my mind.

Sarah wears a tartan skirt (Although that’s the uniform) and has bracelets all the way from her wrist to her elbow. She frequently gets told not to wear them, and has them confiscated, but she just brings more. She is short, even shorter than me, and is the excitable, high-energy one of her group of friends.


The old desks in the classroom are particle board covered in cheap vinyl, and the vinyl wears away underneath the friction of a hundred graffiti pencils, students bored in class.

Cadwell is the worst teacher I have at this school, but he would have been the best at my old school. He reads from the textbook, but then he elaborates and invites discussion and answers questions. He jokes around with the class a lot, and today he makes fun of Sarah for dating “Orlando!” – he says it in a Spanish accent and makes a pose like he’s a bullfighter with a rose in his mouth, even though Orlando isn’t Spanish.

I don’t know him well, but he is a good guy. He plays guitar during lunch and skateboards, his shirt is always untucked and he has a piercing in his eyebrow. He’s a good match for Sarah, and they like a lot of the same punk music.

I am jealous as fuck.


The desks in the new building are a pale orange colour, and the vinyl hasn’t started to peel yet.

I was originally put in the wrong English class – the one for dummies – and I get moved after two lessons when the teacher realises how easy I find the work. The new class has the best English teacher, and I do well. In year eleven I take up advanced three-unit English, and then in year twelve I drop the Physics class I’m failing for the hardest four-unit English course. It’s an exclusive class with only four of us, and by now her hair is fully red.

Sarah and I talk sometimes now; she’s in my tutor group as well as English, and she always wants to read my stories and essays I write for class and says they’re really good, and I always want to read hers. Her four-unit idea is a great one, discussing the idea of ‘cool’ like it was a bible story. Mine is just a boring cyberpunk story.


The paper ball hits me in the side of the face.

Luke started in year 11, the new kid. I don’t like him, and he quickly becomes friends with the others I don’t like. By now, I like almost everybody in the year, and even Knighty, who always bullied me a bit, has made his peace, and we try to keep an amicable distance for the sake of a mutual friend, Sam.

Luke doesn’t respect that. Luke comes into the computer room where us nerds hang out at lunch, and he bullies us there.

Of all the people in the year, he is the only one I hate.


The two halves of the book tear with a satisfying rip.

A class discussion in English led to philosophy, which led to me lending Sarah a copy of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”. She loves it, and enthuses to me about how it says in very simple ways all the things she was otherwise thinking. The book itself is falling apart, tearing into two, and she returns it to me, being extra careful to handle it gently. But detachment to physical objects is also a part of zen, so I tear the final thread in front of her.


I put the finishing touches on my crayon picture of a Nu, looking ultimately fairly dodgy on the front of the envelope.

It’s the end-of-year retreat and this is part of an activity. Sarah is in my group and she asks what it is, and then tells me it’s great. She looks sexy in her bikini.

That night, I drink blue Pepsi in the hotel room I’m sharing with my best friend Jai. I joke about if we’ll get laid at the formal. He tells me “You and Sarah get along pretty well.”


The lights and music are dizzying in the hotel foyer, and I’m two wines in. Everyone is dressed up, even me in my silly bow tie and op-shop suit.

Sarah walks in, her hair is long and stylish, he dress is black and slinky with long gloves and she is the most elegant person I have ever seen. She hugs me and takes a selfie of us together, and I smile the most genuinely happy smile I will ever smile in my life.

We take our seats for our meal, I am with Jai and Dane and a lot of other guys I get on with. There’s an extra chair at our table, next to me.

She walks over, I can’t believe it, and asks me if the seat is taken. I stammer that it’s not, and before I can finish she picks it up and takes it to another overcrowded table.

The band plays “Knocking on Heaven’s door


The leaves of this plant are deep red.

It is the final day of school, and the staff give us pot plants as a parting gift, before forming a guard of honour to lead us out. I put mine on Sarah’s head, making a joke about the colour being the same as her hair, and she laughs. I somehow know I will see her again.


I am talking to Sam on the internet. He tells me he saw Sarah, and that her hair is wild and crazy long now. I haven’t seen her in years.


The jewellery is simple, silver, elegant. It looks vaguely familiar.

I tap Sarah on the back of the shoulder and she turns around, looks at me in speechless shock for several moments. This isn’t my city, and jewellery auctions aren’t where you’d expect to find me. Sam was right; her hair is crazy long.

It is the strangest of coincidences, and I try to find time to talk, but she fobs me off and disappears quickly. It’s okay, she isn’t the girl I came to see.

I go upstairs and play pool with Emma.


At Sam’s funeral, Sarah hugs me. I wish it could be better times. I never see her again.


The ice melts slowly over the wicker torch, black carbon coating its surface before the chunk can dissolve.

It is the formal after-party, and I am quite drunk from Jai and Paul and Lachlan’s Overproof Rum and Coke mix. I was already feeling pretty sad from earlier in the night.

Sarah leans her legs sideways over Luke, reclining in the wooden deckchair. She kisses him over and over.

Inside, I sit down in the quiet room and try not to cry. Dane sees me choking back tears.
“Oh there you are. I thought it was you under Sarah.”

If it had been, I might have lost my life to pining.

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