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Home > Making Faces(8)

Making Faces(8)
Author: Amy Harmon

“Our little, funny, Fernie,” Angie said, a smile in her voice. “You can't find a better kid than Fern. I am thankful every day for her. She is such a blessing to Bailey. God knew what he was doing when he made them family, Rachel. He gave them each other. Such a tender mercy.”

But Fern was rooted to the spot. She didn't hear the word blessing. She didn't stop to ponder what it meant to be one of God's tender mercies. She's not pretty. The words clanged around in her head like pots and pans being jostled and banged. She's not pretty. Little, funny Fernie. She's not pretty. Poor Fernie.

“Fern!” Rita shouted her name and waved her hand in front of Fern's face. “Hello? Where did you go? What should I say?”

Fern shook off the old memory. Funny how some things stuck with you.

“What if you say something like, 'Even when you're not around, you're all I see. You're all I think about. I wonder, is your heart as beautiful as your face? Is your mind as fascinating as the play of muscle beneath your skin? Is it possible that you might think about me too?'“ Fern paused and looked at Rita.

Rita's eyes were very round. “Oh, that's good. Did you write that in one of your romance novels?” Rita was one of the only people who knew Fern wrote love stories and dreamed of having them published.

“I don't know. Probably.” Fern smiled sheepishly.

“Here! Write it down,” Rita squealed, pulling out a paper and a pencil and shoving them into Fern's hands.

Fern tried to remember what she had said. It came out even better the second time. Rita giggled and danced up and down as Fern finished the love note with a flourish. She signed Rita's name dramatically. Then she handed the note to Rita, who pulled some perfume from her backpack, gave the paper a spritz, folded it up, and addressed it to Ambrose.

Ambrose didn't respond immediately. In fact, it took him a few days. But on day four, there was an envelope in Rita's locker. She opened it with shaking hands. She read silently, her brow furrowed and she clutched Fern's arm as if she was reading a winning lottery ticket.

“Fern! Listen!” she breathed.

“She walks in beauty, like the night

Of cloudless climes and starry skies;

And all that’s best of dark and bright

Meet in her aspect and her eyes;”

Fern’s eyebrows shot up and disappeared beneath her too-long bangs.

“He's almost as good a writer as you are, Fern!”

“He's better,” Fern said dryly, blowing a stray curl out of her eyes. “The guy who wrote that is better anyway.”

“He just signed it with an A,” Rita whispered. “He wrote me a poem! I can't believe it!”

“Uh, Rita? That's by Lord Byron. It's very famous.”

Rita's face fell, and Fern rushed to console her.

“But it's awesome that Ambrose would quote . . . Lord Byron . . . in a letter . . . to you, I mean,” she reassured haltingly. Actually, it was pretty awesome. Fern didn't think many eighteen-year-old guys regularly quoted famous poetry to beautiful girls. She was suddenly very impressed. Rita was too.

“We have to write him back! Should we write a famous poem, too?”

“Maybe.” Fern pondered, her head tilted to the side.

“I could make up my own poem.” Rita looked doubtful for several seconds. Then her face lit up and she opened her mouth to speak.

“Don't start with roses are red, violets are blue!” Fern warned, knowing intuitively what was coming.

“Darn,” Rita pouted, closing her mouth again. “I wasn't going to say violets are blue! I was going to say, ‘roses are red and sometimes pink. I'd really like to kiss you, I think.’”

Fern giggled and swatted her friend. “You can't say that after he's just sent you She Walks in Beauty.”

“The bell is going to ring.” Rita slammed her locker shut. “Will you please write something for me, Fern? Pleeeeeaase? You know I'm not going to be able to come up with anything good!” Rita saw Fern's hesitation and begged sweetly until Fern caved. And that's how Fern Taylor started writing love notes to Ambrose Young.

1994

“Whatcha doin'?” Fern asked, plopping down on Bailey's bed and looking around his room. It had been a while since she'd been in there. They usually played outside or in the family room. His room had wrestling paraphernalia, primarily from Penn State, all over his walls. Interspersed with the blue and white were pictures of his favorite athletes, shots of his family doing this and that, and piles of kid's books about everything from history to sports to Greek and Roman mythology.

“I'm making a list,” Bailey said briefly, not lifting his eyes from his task.

“What kind of a list?”

“A list of all the things I want to do.”

“What do you have so far?”

“I'm not telling.”

“Why?”

“'Cause some of it's private,” Bailey said, without rancor.

“Fine. Maybe I'll make a list too, and I won't tell you what's on it either.”

“Go ahead.” Bailey laughed. “But I can probably guess everything you're gonna write.

Fern snatched a piece of paper from Bailey's desk and found a Penn State pen in a jar of change, rocks, and randomness that sat on his nightstand. She wrote LIST at the top and stared at it.

“You won't just tell me one thing on your list?” she asked meekly after staring at the paper for several minutes without coming up with anything exciting.

Bailey sighed, a huge gust that sounded more like a perturbed parent than a ten-year-old boy. “Fine. But some of the things on my list I probably won't do right away. They might be things I do when I'm older . . . but I still want to do them. I'm going to do them!” he said emphatically.

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