Home > Making Faces(10)

Making Faces(10)
Author: Amy Harmon

“Um. I actually don't need it, Fern. We broke up. We're done.”

“You broke up?” Fern asked, aghast. “What happened? Are you . . . okay?”

“Yeah. No big deal. I mean, really. He was getting weird.”

“Weird? How?” Fern suddenly felt like she was going to cry, like she'd been dumped as well, and she worked at making her voice steady. Rita must have heard something though, because her eyebrows shot up beneath her swoopy bangs.

“It's really okay, Fern. He was kind of boring. Hot, but boring.”

“Boring or weird? Usually weird isn't boring, Rita.” Fern was thoroughly confused and growing a little angry that Rita had let Ambrose get away from them.

Rita sighed and shrugged, but this time she met Fern's eyes, apology in her gaze. “He figured out I wasn't writing the notes, Fern. The notes really didn't sound like me.” It was Rita's turn to look accusing. “I'm not as smart as you are, Fern.”

“Did you tell him it was me?” Fern squeaked, alarmed.

“Well . . .” Rita hedged, looking away again.

“Oh, my gosh! You did.” Fern thought she was going to pass out right there in the crowded hallway. She pressed her forehead into the cool metal of her locker and willed herself to be calm.

“He wouldn't let it go, Fern. He was so pissed! He was kind of scary.”

“You have to tell me everything. What did his face look like when you told him it was me?” Fern felt the bile rise.

“He looked a little . . . surprised.” Rita bit her lip and played with the ring on her finger uncomfortably. Fern guessed “surprised” was an understatement. “I'm sorry, Fern. He wanted me to give him all the notes that he wrote you–um, me–whatever. But I don't have them, Fern. I gave them to you.”

“Did you tell him that too?” Fern wailed, her hands hovering around her mouth in horror.

“Uh, yeah.” Rita was shaking now, her misery evident on her pretty face. The altercation with Ambrose must have upset her more than she was willing to admit. “I didn't know what else to do.”

Fern turned and ran straight for the girl's room, closing herself in a bathroom stall, her backpack in her lap, her head on her backpack. She squeezed her eyes closed, willing the tears away, chastising herself for getting in this situation. She was eighteen years old! Too old to hide in a bathroom stall. But she couldn't face pre-calculus right now. Ambrose would be there, and she didn't think she would be quite as invisible anymore.

The worst part was that every word had been real. Every word had been the truth. But she'd written the letters as if she had a face like Rita's and a body like hers too, like she was a woman who could woo a man with her figure and her smile and back it up with a brain to match. And that part was a lie. She was small and homely. Ugly. Ambrose would feel like a fool for the words he'd given her. His words had been words for a beautiful girl. Not Fern.

Fern waited outside the wrestling room. She had placed the notes Ambrose had written Rita in a big, Manila envelope. Bailey had offered to return all the notes at practice. Bailey knew all along about the game Fern and Rita had played. He said he would be discreet and just give them to Ambrose after practice was over. Bailey was an honorary member of the team, the statistician, and the coach's sidekick, and he attended wrestling practice every day. But Bailey had a hard time with discreet, and Fern didn't want to make matters worse and embarrass Ambrose in front of his teammates. So she waited, cowering in a nearby hallway, watching the wrestling room door, waiting for practice to dismiss.

One by one, the boys trickled out in different states of dress or undress, wrestling shoes slung over their shoulders, shirts off even though it was ten below outside. They didn't really notice Fern. And for once she was glad to suffer from invisibility. Then Ambrose walked out, obviously freshly showered because his long hair was wet, though he'd combed it back from his face. Thankfully, he walked alongside Paul Kimball and Grant Nielson. Paulie was sweet and had always been nice to Fern, and Grant was in several of her classes and was a little nerdier than his friends. He wouldn't make a big deal about her wanting to talk to Ambrose.

Ambrose froze when he saw her standing there, and the smile that had been playing around his lips dissolved into a stiff line. His friends halted when he did, looking around in confusion, obviously not believing, even for a second, that it was Fern he had stopped for.

“Ambrose? Can I talk to you for a minute?” Fern asked, her voice faint, even to her own ears. She hoped she wouldn't have to repeat herself.

All it took was a brief jut of his chin and Ambrose's friends got the message, walking on without him, eyeing Fern curiously.

“I'll get a ride with Grant then, Brosey,” Paulie called. “See you tomorrow.”

Ambrose waved his friends off, but his eyes skimmed just above Fern's head as if he was eager to be away from her. Fern found herself wishing this confrontation had come even a week later. She was getting her braces off on Monday. She'd worn them for three long years. If she'd known this was going to happen, she might have tried to tame her hair. And she would have put her contacts in. As it was, she stood with her curly hair springing out in every direction, her glasses perched on her nose, wearing a sweater she'd worn for years, not because it was flattering but because it was cozy. It was thick wool in a pale shade of blue that did nothing for Fern's complexion or her slight frame. All this flashed through her mind as she took a deep breath and held the big envelope out in front of her.

“Here. All the notes you sent Rita. Here they are.”

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