The Note on the Wall #9

THE LAST INSTALLMENT OF THE STORY TODAY!

If you haven't read it yet, here are the other installments:





9.
I emailed Benjamin that night. I got a surge of excitement when I typed his email address into the address box and then again when I wrote ‘Hi, it’s Anna’ in the subject box. And then again when I started the email with ‘Dear Benjamin.’ The best bit was that I didn’t even hesitate to write ‘dear’ instead of something like ‘hi.’ Then I told him about Miley and what had happened today and about how Gayl still seemed to be so upset about her break-up. I wrote till the clock struck midnight and then sent off a 4000-word email. Signed off with, ‘lots of love, Anna.’

The next morning, somehow, he had managed to write an equally lengthy reply. I was completely distracted from work, of course.

We emailed each other twice, three times, a day – long novels of emails. We exchanged ideas, deep questions, stupid details and concerns about friends, politics and other silly things. We told each other random childhood stories and shared our favourite Youtube videos with each other on Google+. We sent each other links of articles on Bible passages that we liked and Benjamin got an Instagram account just so he could follow me and comment on my pictures. He went back and commented on every single picture I’d ever posted. I went to bed way to late laughing and replying to all of them.

Before I knew it I was in love with Benjamin Raines. Nerdy glasses and all.

I wrote it on the wall. Only not that bluntly. I wrote: “Apparently this wall has set two people up.”

After a few hours, I got a series of text messages from Benjamin.

Hey Anna.
Don’t you go and write about us on the wall.
J
Actually I don’t mind.
We owe that wall something, don’t we.

I replied back.

You forgot the question mark. Hipster.

He replied:

You should have seen the eye-roll I just did. It was huge.

I couldn’t stop talking about Benjamin with my parents and with Gayl. Part of me felt bad for Gayl’s sake to be so gushy about a boy when she was still so upset about Tim but Gayl insisted and said, ‘NO ANNA I DON’T MIND’ which was very nice of her, but still. I felt bad for her. She seemed to have lost all lust for life. Her smiles were kind of fake and she never texted me with spur-on-the-moment decisions, like she used to do. Why, I hadn’t even seen her wear heels and sequins and she used to do that like, every evening. Her Instagram account was ignored and she was buried with Biology exams. She was always behind on schoolwork and always seemed so weary.

I told Gayl about Miley and about how she was so upset. Sometimes it helps for a mourning person to talk about other mourning people. Like, you’re upset, let’s talk about other upset people. That’ll cheer you up. It doesn’t make sense, but it works sometimes.

Gayl was very touched with Miley’s story. “Blimey,” she said. “That’s terribly sad.”


Stories that end with kisses are usually sappy ones; no doubt, often very stupid. However, Benjamin and my first kiss somehow seems to be a very appropriate way to end this tale. It ends on a happy note – like adding a little pinch of chocolate flavour to a vanilla cake – and it wraps up the relationship we had growing throughout the months in a great stamp of official-ness. It was a great kiss; I could honestly spend three pages on metaphors to describe it. Sweet, like the kiss of a violet. Surprising, like burst and bubbles of red fireworks. Delicious… like chocolate. Only, of course, with a flavour of love; spicy, hot and delicious.

We met up at the wall that evening.

It was Christmas Eve, and Henffordd village had never looked more quaint and darling under the silver December stars. They winked at the electric strings of lights strung over the narrow roads between the houses, and the electric light winked back. Michael Bublé’s Christmas Album made its way from the pubs to the freezing outside cold, tempting passers-by to order hot chocolate and rum punch. The air smelt of gingerbread and turkey stuffing and pine cones and excitement.
Together we read the messages on the wall.

Merry Christmas all!!!

REMEMBER, MAKE IT A GOOD ONE!

Santa is coming to Henffordd, to old and young.

Underneath that one was a young kid’s writing: No he’s not. I’m smart enough to know it’s all a lie.

Benjamin and I decided we loved that kid. I said that if I ever had children I wouldn’t do the Santa thing. He said he wouldn’t either. I thought, wow, we should be parents together, but of course I didn’t say it. But I did hold his hand. It was becoming a familiar touch by now – his warm palm against mine. It was so bally normal to do it, just like it seemed so bally normal for us to send each other novels of thoughts in email-form, phone each other from evening to morning and sit next to each other in Church.

“You need to cut your fingernails,” I said absentmindedly, while reading another chalk-written line.

You don’t need no mistletoe, someone wrote, to kiss your sweetheart.

I read that message before Benjamin did. He was reading some Christmas Carol lyrics someone wrote down. So I read it aloud, sort of laughing about it.

“Haha,” Benjamin grinned.

“What?” I asked, looking at his face.

“How ‘bout it then.”

THE END

The Note on the Wall #8

I have decided to do something. To post a novelette on my blog. In installments, of course. One chapter per post, once every four-ish days. Now, you may not care. You do not need to read these. But you may like it. So there you go.

(Small warning: this story does mention a case of rape at some point. Of course it is handled delicately (and it's not talked about in detail etc.etc.) but if you are younger than 13 you may want to ask your parents if they're ok with that.)


So, last time we ended with:
____________________________________________________________

“Basically,” he sighed, “Miley’s mum got – raped, when she was – I don’t know, however old she would have been when she became pregnant with Miley. She doesn’t go into much detail. Obviously extremely painful for her to talk about. And, what’s more, Miley’s father doesn’t even know about it. He thinks – that Miley’s his daughter. But Miley’s the result of –”

“Oh no,” I moaned. I felt queasy. “That’s terrible. That’s just terrible.”.
____________________________________________________________


8.
I sent Miley the blog link via email. I knew she’d want to read it alone. Benjamin was right; it was going to very hard for Miley to read that blog post. It was filled to the brim with love and sadness and stories that should have never happened. It wasn’t very long, but it was one of the fullest blog posts I’d ever read. There was one paragraph in particularly, that brought tears to my eyes.

“When I discovered I was pregnant with you, Miley, I admit I didn’t want you. Daddy was overcome with happiness – he cried with joy when I told him I was pregnant; said it was an answer to our prayers. I shed my own tears on his shoulder, out of his eyesight. Tears that he thought were happy ones, like his.”

“Not telling my husband about all this was the biggest mistake I’d ever made. Please don’t ever keep secrets with whomever you’ll get married to, darling. Once I decide not to tell someone something, there is no going back. This is why I’ve never told him, although I wanted to, every single day of your life. I was scared; scared to take away his happiness and scared about everything. I was scared you’d come out looking like the man and not Daddy, but you look like me. Don’t leave Daddy, Miley. He isn’t your biological father, but he is your Daddy, and he’s an amazing one. And Miley, as soon as you were born and I saw your beautiful eyes, I wanted you with every inch of my body. And that has never changed.”

After I’d read it, I curled up in sadness. I cried about all the sad things in the world and then I cried in happiness about all the good things in the world. Life can be a mushy thing.

The next Sunday I went to Miley’s house. I had to ring the doorbell three times before her father opened it. His eyes were swollen and the traits he had before his wife’s death were buried with grief. My heart ached for him, especially after what I’d read in the blog post. Part of me thought it was his right to know – but then, I couldn’t even imagine how upset that would make him. He was overcome with grief already.

“Hi,” I said quietly.

“Hi. Miley isn’t here.”

“Oh,” I said. “Where is she?”

“She l-left.”

There is nothing more heart-breaking than watching a grown man burst into tears. He buried his face in his arm and his sobs came out loud and rough and sound. I didn’t know what to do so I gave him a hug, which he responded to by clutching onto my shoulder and crying on it. It was so sad there was no space for awkwardness. I closed the front door and had him sit down.

Miley had left him. She had packed her bags and left to live with her mother’s parents. She had told him that he wasn’t her biological father and just a burden and that had been it.

“Don’t worry,” I told him. “She’s just overcome with grief. She doesn’t know what she is saying.”

Miley’s father stared at the carpet. It needed a good hoover, but nobody cared. His sock needed to be washed too, but obviously he didn’t have the time to think about stupid things like that.

“Did she – show you the blog?”

“Yeah,” Miley’s father whispered.

“Oh, it must have been such a shock – to read – after all those years.”

“Yeah.” He wiped his nose with his sleeve. “It was. I never ever guessed. I feel like a fool. It must have been hell for her! And I wasn’t there to – well, I was – but I was just being stupidly happy.”

“You should not feel bad about anything. You have done nothing wrong.” I said. “Nothing at all.”

I left with Miley’s grandparents’ address in my pocket and went straight to the bus-station to go there. In the bus I also discovered a slip of paper in my coat pocket, with Benjamin’s email address on it. On the back he had written: “I think we should send each other emails. And yes, I fully realise this sounds extremely creepy.

He had probably tucked inside when he took my coat in the pub. It made me smile and God knew I needed a smile today.

Miley’s grandparents lived in a long, tall house with long, tall windows. Their front door had a plain Christmas-cone wreath on it. The red paint on the door was peeling off because of old age and the doorbell was one of those real bell ones. Miley’s grandma opened – she wore black trousers and she seemed tough. As well as adorable.

“I’m a friend of Miley’s,” I said. “I need to speak to her.”

“Bless you, child,” Miley’s grandma smiled. “She definitely needs a friend.”

“How do you know??” Miley exclaimed when I came inside the room she was sleeping.

“I know,” I said. “Because your lovely father told me, in tears, that you’d left. Miley! You can’t just do that! You have to stick together, especially now your Mama died! You read the blog post; she asks you to stay. He is your father, no matter who your biological one is.”

“Don’t talk!”

“Yes talk,” I snapped. I sat next to her and put my arm around her shoulders. “Darling, you are going through one of the hardest – hopefully the hardest – time in your life right now. Reading that blog post must have been heart-wrenching and I’m desperately sorry about all of this. Your mama died – that is ghastly. But all this doesn’t mean you have to leave your father. Can you imagine how he must be feeling now? You have to go through this together, dear.”

“But –”

“There is no need to explain,” I smiled. “I know we all do stupid things in sadness. It’s okay. But let’s go back home and you can go and give your Daddy a big hug.”

Miley burst into tears and wept on my shoulder. I told her everything was going to be okay.

“Now I feel so bad,” she said. “I’m a terrible person.”

“No, Miley. It’s okay.”

“I need to go home right now.” She jumped up and stuffed her clothes back into her bags. She was completely flustered. She kept on asking me if her father would forgive her and I kept on reassuring her that it would all be okay in the end. Watching her fingers tremble made me doubt my own statement, but I kept on saying it till she calmed down next to me on the bus.

“Mama and I – we were – well we loved each other – but – but there were times when I didn’t want to be her friend,” Miley suddenly said. She seemed to be ashamed of herself and didn’t look me in the eye when she told me.

“And I said things like – like mama you don’t know what it’s like to be sad – when she didn’t let me do some things. And – and – the look in her eyes – the look she gave me – now I know what terrible things she’s gone through and – and, like, the way she hugged me – now I know why she always seemed k – kinda – sad. I never was nice enough to her and – miss her so so much, Anna.”

“I know, darling,” I whispered, squeezing her hand. “I know.”

The next and last chapter comes ON MONDAY!

Pretty yellow sunlight


Pretty yellow sunlight 

In the morning, peeking through the curtains. Begging for outside company, it felt like. The sound of the alarm clock was not a dreadful sound today. Because of the gold substance waiting outdoors. It helps so so much. I opened my window and said hi.

During breakfast. One felt like eating ones oatmeal and cornflakes with the windows wide open. Siblings came down in flowery jumpsuits with spaghetti straps and bright coloured shorts.

Then I missed my bus so my mum took me to the station. The car was parked under our huge big tree but the sun got through and the pretty yellow sunlight caught the car.

The train station! Intoxicated with a gold, calm spell. Eyes squinting. Here and there in the crowd a teenage boy flicking around his cool hair, looking even cooler in the sunlight, and a lady looking uncomfortable in her office heels. No sweat yet though, because it was only twenty five minutes past seven o'clock. The air is still fresh.


In the train. Eyes close. People read newspapers. A man with orange glasses and 4 wooden beaded bracelets on his left arm reads his with a grumpy face. I wonder why. Because it's a SUNLIT MORNING. Dude.

Walking from the station to college, over Brussels' pavements and crossing the busy road. Out came my 5£ sunglasses. Around me: A girl in a summer top, a lady with cool sandals and a beautiful classy Indian lady with an Audrey Hepburnesque black dress and beautiful black curls. (Street fashion goals!)

After four hours of supposed productivity and apparently education classes the small class that was present today went into the pretty streets of Brussels to find some place to drink something.


The streets of Brussels. The yellowness splashing on the cobbles and the great Medieval houses. The horse for the tourist horse and carriage drinking his well needed water. So many tourists and so many languages. People eating waffles and ice-cream and taking pictures of the famous (and stupid) statue of the peeing boy and wearing shaded specs. We were students who had just finished 4 hrs of classes and who had 4 more hrs to go but the atmosphere in the city screamed holiday.

A entrepreneuring band of a guitar, saxophone and a drum-kit played songs from their album they were trying to sell. And they played 'Havana havana' and 'Hit the road Jack.' They were talented. And played and played their songs with such gusto in the blazing city sunlight, sweat trickling on their foreheads. People were sitting on the pavement. Listening and selfie-ing, and wanting their legs to get tanned.

We found a café with coloured chairs outside. Bought scandalously expensive drinks. The sun was pouring down over us. The cool drinks were much appreciated.


Walking back to college through the glass pink famous shopping Galerie Royalle of Brussels. I walk there almost daily but today it was more beautiful than normal. The sun shone down through the glass ceiling. The fancy chocolate shops and glove shops gave passers by cool inviting breezes and the tulips planted in big flowerpots nodded lazily, their yellow and red colours smiling at me.

4 more hours of class, luckily the rooms were cool and the teachers were in good moods because the first day of what felt like summer had cast a spell of cheerfulness over everyone. The Dutch class was hilarious and chill. 

In the train at 6 o'clock people were cheerful, but tired - the sunlight and the sweat making everyone drowsy and dizzy. A nice-looking dark-skinned boy was sleeping on the seat next to me. Another guy in shorts was reading a thick book about Stephen Hawking. He had big glasses and looked extremely nerdy and intelligent. I just looked outside. At the green leaves of the trees whizzing past. At the people in skirts and shorts and tank tops and T-shirts and real shirts with the sleeves rolled up. At the rays of sunlight streaming down from the heavens onto my train seat.

Drinking water. Sweaty but happy after a long day of classes. The bus drove me home. It drove past so many deliciously FULL trees of luscious bunches of pink blossom. WOW.


When I came home, my brother was playing the piano with the headphones on, because my littlest sister was sleeping upstairs. My little sisters were in their pyjamas, drawing tiny little adorable pictures of potted flowers and cacti. It was almost seven o'clock but the whole downstairs floor was light with evening sun rays. I ate leftover pancakes with strawberry jam and then with chocolate 'hagelslag' and I drank a huge glass of milk.

I closed my bedroom window and closed the curtains.

Oh my word
Pretty yellow sunlight.
You made an ordinary day quite extra.

The Note on the Wall #7

(Sorry this is a day late!! :-/)

I have decided to do something. To post a novelette on my blog. In installments, of course. One chapter per post, once every four-ish days. Now, you may not care. You do not need to read these. But you may like it. So there you go.

(Small warning: this story does mention a case of rape at some point. Of course it is handled delicately (and it's not talked about in detail etc.etc.) but if you are younger than 13 you may want to ask your parents if they're ok with that.)


So, last time we ended with:
____________________________________________________________

Oh, I thought, oh. He’s going to be at Church next Sunday. I felt a rush of anticipation and stupid joy. I couldn’t wait. I wasn’t nervous – he wasn’t the kind of being-nervous-around guy, so far as I knew. Maybe he was, once I got to know him better. I’d only exchanged about five words with him, or something ridiculous like that.

Of course I wasn’t in love. But maybe I was in like.
____________________________________________________________


7.
I thought I’d be my happiest self on Sunday, but then Miley’s mother died. I heard about it through Miley herself – she came knocking on my office door and she flew into my arms and just cried and cried. My heart went out to the poor girl and I cried right along with her. Tears are often more contagious than yawns or belly laughter and Miley’s definitely were.

I had no idea how she knew where I worked, but she stormed into my working day and cast a shadow of blackness over it. I didn’t ask her what was wrong. I knew it. Asking a mourning person questions really isn’t necessarily, particularly if the questions aren’t necessary. Avoid unnecessary questions at all costs.

Poor Miley. Poor girl. Only sixteen, and motherless.

I couldn’t imagine how hard the next year would be for her. Every time she would enter the kitchen, she’d remember her mother standing there and making lunch. Every time she would sit in the garden, she’d remember her mother sunbathing on the bench in her flowered bathing suit. Every time she would do the laundry, she’d remember how her mother used to do it for her. The sting would be in the air and it would fade slowly – so slowly that she would never feel it fading. It would only be after several years when she’d feel the fade.

I cried with her, and patted her shoulder. I took her to the cafeteria and I combed her hair and braided it while I made her drink a spice latté. I didn’t say much, and she definitely didn’t say much. I gave her a long hug and I said I would pray for her. She said, “Thank you” and “Too late” and left, pressing her hand against her mouth to silent the sobs.

I told her the next day, “It’s not too late. God can soothe you.”

“Don’t talk about God with me!” Miley cried. “Not now. I can’t talk about stuff like that.”

“Okay.” I nodded. “I won’t.”

The week proved to be a stormy one. Gayl found out through Facebook that Tim had a new girlfriend, something which made her very upset – and I just felt useless. My friends were so sad, and it was heart-breaking to watch. I went to visit them – Miley especially, this week – and just watching them cry was enough to make me feel their pain. Everything I said to Miley seemed to just make her even sadder, and everything I told Gayl reminded me of how happy I was and of how unhappy she was.

So on Sunday I didn’t feel particularly excited to meet up with my favourite familiar stranger again. The sermon in Church was about grief, and it was spoken ridiculously powerfully, which was entirely appropriate and made me freaking cry, so when Benjamin said ‘hi’ to me after the service, I wasn’t exactly a glowing bundle of happiness. To say in the least, a pretty picture. I looked like an absolute beast with weepy eyes and I was embarrassed about it.

“Oh – Hi,” I said. “Sorry. I – the sermon was touching.”

“I can see why it would have been.” He smiled kindly. “I’m sorry if there’s something that’s made you upset lately.”

“Not me. My friends. One of them broke up with her boyfriend, and I just feel so bad for her. The other just lost her mother, which of course is heart-breaking.” I sighed deeply. “The worst thing is that Miley – the one who just lost her mother – she doesn’t believe in God, so giving her comfort is extremely hard.”

“Oh.” Benjamin gave me a sympathetic nod slash smile slash frown. It was like a hug, but then without any touching. “I’m really sorry. That must be hard on you.”

“Don’t worry about me,” I smiled. “Anyway! Thank you for coming – I’m sorry to be so weepy!”

“Be as weepy as you like,” he said. “I can handle the stormiest weepers.” (He had the smile of bonfire nights and kitchens filled with ginger snaps and hot chocolate. I cannot explain the cosy happiness of Benjamin’s smile… it is BEYOND description.)

“I’m sorry if writing the message on the wall was creepy.”

“Stop apologising,” he laughed. “It’s fine!”

“Yeah, sorry about apologising.”

He was going to say ‘don’t worry’ when he caught the sass in my eyes and laughed at my lame joke.

Then we talked some. He said he boarded with someone in the village during the week, and usually went home during the weekend. He had three sisters and a younger brother. It felt so not awkward to talk with him. He said he worked in the Henffordd village music school and taught little kids how to play the piano. He played in the pubs in the evening sometimes. Suddenly I recognised him from the pubs – I’d seen him play Scott Joplin somewhere, I said, and he said yes, that was probably him. He was currently writing a musical about the Mad King George in rap-form, heavily inspired by the Lin-Manuel Miranda genius masterpiece Hamilton. We both loved the Wall, of course, and he said he sometimes also wrote down some random messages he liked in his journal.

After a while I went home, with this feeling in my stomach of wanting more.


Miley came to visit me some weeks after the funeral. I was surprised to see her on my doorstep, but of course I invited her in. I opened a box of Ferro Rocher chocolate because goodness knows she deserved a good dose of comfort food. She was wearing tons of make-up to cover up the sadness in the eyes, but I could still see the sadness all over her face. She was trembling and seemed overtired. I had no idea what to say.

“Look,” Miley said, as she took an envelope out of her handbag. “I f-found it this morning.”

I looked at the envelope.

Miley, it said. With a heart on the ‘i’ and a beautiful big curly M.

“My mum,” Miley whispered. Her jaw snagged and she clenched her teeth onto each other to force away tears. Everything made her cry and she probably hated herself for it. There was no way to soothe her troubled mind. I felt horrible for her sake.

“Do you want me to open it?” I asked.

She nodded.

“Shall I read it aloud?”

She nodded again. I took the envelope and opened it. The letter inside was long and the handwriting was luscious and girly. The letters were big and quickly filled up the paper. It seemed vivacious and filled with life – it was almost eerily so; filled with life, seeing as the writer was now dead and buried. I breathed deeply and started to read. Miley had her back to me so I wouldn’t be able to see her tears if she would start to cry. An old handkerchief was clenched in the palm of her hand.

“Dear Miley,” I read, “I don’t want you to cry. I know that’s a pointless thing to say, but really, try to be happy. This life is a short one and even though I won’t be there, you can make the best of it. You WILL make the best of it. Pretend I’m on a vacation in Cannes, without internet connection, relaxing and being happy. Pretend you’re on an adventure, trying to be independent without your mum.

Miley, you’re my only daughter and I love you to bits. You have no idea how much. However, there is something I must tell you. I’ve been wanting to tell you for ages (and no, you’re not adopted!) but I never seemed to get the words out of my mouth. I suppose it’s not THAT important, but part of me wants you to know. I haven’t told you ever. You know me. That’s why I wrote it on the wall, when I had cancer. I wrote it on the wall too, what I’ve been wanting to tell you for ages. That is, I told my nurse to write it on the wall, with hearts instead of dots so you’d know it came from me. I hope you’ve read it. If not, I suppose it doesn’t really matter.

It doesn’t really matter. It’s done. It happened years and years ago. But still, I want you to know, and this is the way I’m telling you – probably not the best way, but it’s the only way I seemed to be capable of it. Don’t be sad about it. It is not your fault and it should not change you in any way at all. If you can’t find the message on the wall – it was probably not meant for you to know. I am not going to write it down now, in case not. I have not the guts to write it down. I’m sorry.

I know I do weird things sometimes. But remember the love I have for you and remember that I want above all, you to be happy. Loads of love, Mummy x.”

Well, that was the most confusing letter I’d read in a while.

Miley snatched the letter from my hands and read it through again. And again. “Typical her!” She suddenly exclaimed, frustrated. “She was always the most – confusing person ever. What does she mean, it was probably not meant for me to know and why in heck would she tell the nurse to write it on the damned WALL?!”

Miley was one of those nice sixteen-year-olds that never swore, so this was a spectacle.

“Let’s go and see if it’s still on the wall. It hasn’t rained in ages. It could be.”

“What does she MEAN?!” Miley cried. “What does –”

We went outside and stood in front of the wall. Our eyes scanned over the wriggles and random messages, searching desperately for hearts instead of the dots on the ‘i’s and the ‘j’s. Nothing. Miley was so frustrated she just couldn’t stop crying. I told her not to be sad, and that we’d find the nurse and ask her what it was.

“Maybe your dad knows,” I said.

“My dad doesn’t want to talk about Mama. He’s too sad.”

“Oh, I know! I have a – well, friend, who reads all the messages on this wall. He seems like a bright kid – I’m sure he’ll remember one with hearts instead of dots. I’ll ask him.”

Miley’s hands trembled as she wiped off black streaks of washed-off make-up from her face. “I’m so angry at Mum for being so confusing. Couldn’t she have imagined how hard this would be for me?! I miss her to death but I’m so angry at her right now! You have no idea!”

She ran home in tears. I didn’t even bother to follow her – I knew it wouldn’t help. Instead, I quickly wrote down a message on the wall for Benjamin.

I need to urgently ask you something, Benjamin. This is Anna. I’ll be at the Yellow Bull at seven o’clock on Tuesday.


I was at the Yellow Bull at seven o’clock on Tuesday, and Benjamin was there waiting as I came in. I could have hugged him for coming on time – I love not waiting for people. But there was no time for mushy stuff – besides, not that we would have if there was time – and I went to business immediately. I told him about Miley and the odd letter and asked him if he’d spotted a message on the wall.

“I did,” Benjamin said. “Yeah.”

“Oh, you’re a brick! I knew you’d remember! You’ve got the brain the size of the Atlantic.”

“Don’t exaggerate.”

I squeezed his hand. Then blushed, because I was squeezing the hand of a handsome bearded fellow whom I secretly admired and who had music in his calm eyes. And whom I technically didn’t know.

“I remember it because it struck me as very odd. I actually wrote that one down. It had hearts as dots.”

“Well, what did it SAY?”

“It was a link, to a blog.”

“What?”

“formygirlmiley blogspot dot com.”

“Oh.” I stared at Benjamin and made a face. “That’s odd. Did did you look it up?”

“Yeah, I admit I did.”

“So snoopy,” I smiled.

“You’d have done the same,” he snickered.

Then he turned all serious. “It’ll be hard for Miley to read. Very hard. There’s only one post, but the blog is filled with love for her daughter. It teared me up.”

“What…”

“Basically,” he sighed, “Miley’s mum got – raped, when she was – I don’t know, however old she would have been when she became pregnant with Miley. She doesn’t go into much detail. Obviously extremely painful for her to talk about. And, what’s more, Miley’s father doesn’t even know about it. He thinks – that Miley’s his daughter. But Miley’s the result of –”

“Oh no,” I moaned. I felt queasy. “That’s terrible. That’s just terrible.”



___________________

(Part 8 will be up Saturday the 21st of April) (There are nine parts, btw, so the end is in sight.) (Isn't Benjamin cute?!)

The Note on the Wall #6

I have decided to do something. To post a novelette on my blog. In installments, of course. One chapter per post, once every four-ish days. Now, you may not care. You do not need to read these. But you may like it. So there you go.

(Small warning: this story does mention a case of rape at some point. Of course it is handled delicately (and it's not talked about in detail etc.etc.) but if you are younger than 13 you may want to ask your parents if they're ok with that.)

Chapter one // Chapter two // Chapter three // Chapter four // Chapter five // TODAY AHHH this is one of my favourite chapter because you will meet my favourite character. :-) (Chapter7 = 17th of April)

So, last time we ended with:

____________________________________________________________

“I have no idea what he saw in me. You’re way nicer and prettier than me,” I said. It was hardly comforting.
____________________________________________________________


6.

How are you?

The most asked question in society, and yet the most falsely answered question in society. It is oddly refreshing when someone answers it honestly. In fact, it is surprising when someone answers it with anything different than ‘I’m fine.’ The word ‘how’ implies anything but a short, blunt, ‘fine.’ It demands explanation, description and long sentences. Where’s, when’s and who’s are one-word-questions. Like: Where? Germany. When? 3 PM. Who? Amanda.

But ‘how?’ demands more than one word and yet we never consider that when someone asks us HOW we are. Often it’s lack of time and inclination to get into the tiring subject of life, but in Miley’s case it was so not. She wanted to talk about the how’s of her life really badly, I could see it, but she just said, ‘good,’ for culture’s sake.

I randomly spotted her several weeks later on, soberly staring at the hand-bag section in H&M and went to say hi.

“Hi, Miley!” I said.

“Oh! Hi.”

I smiled a sad sort of smile. “How are you?” I asked. (I shouldn’t have.)

“Good.”

It was like asking someone who’s eating broccoli what he’s eating, and he says, ‘Spaghetti.’

“Shall we go outside?” I asked. The pop song on the radio was giving me a headache.

We sat on the pavement in front of H&M. The sun cast bouncing reflections of sequined blazers in the window onto Miley’s dark hair. She stared at the ground and quietly nodded. “Yeah. It’s my mum.”

“I know,” I whispered. “And – I’m awfully, awfully sorry.”

“Breast cancer. 20% survival rate.”


Dear God please please please please.


I went to the wall that evening, too cosily snuggled in my thick winter coat and the mustard-coloured scarf Mum had knitted for me three Christmases ago. Mum, who would be here this Christmas, and next one, and the next one. Unlike, Miley’s mother who would be in hospital with a bald head and a strong diet while Miley and her dad and brother opened presents with just the three of them at home. Maybe they’d take them to the hospital and open them with her. That would be nice.

Life seems unfair when you’re so lucky, and when you see so much unluckiness around. Especially now I knew about this one person.

The wall was filled with random messages; new ones. There weren’t that many nowadays; people had gotten used to the idea and weren’t as excited about it. But there was still enough for a good, savoury read. I read them and my eyes filled with tears. Partly because early December wind, partly because of poor Miley. And partly because of Gayl. I’d seen her yesterday and she seemed so bad. She’d failed her exams because of her heartbreak. Tim had moved, he’d changed his phone-number, and deleted all the pictures of the two of them online and Gayl just couldn’t believe that he’d be capable of that.

I ate a Pumpkin Donut flavoured Laffy Taffy about 10 minutes ago. I do not recommend it.

Anyone who feels grumpy or depressed should watch a sunrise or sunset. Life can be so beautiful.

THIS WALL IS LIKE THE BEST THING EVER.

A boy (or, I thought, a short-ish man) was writing down something on the wall as I read. I’d never seen someone write things on it, oddly enough. I’d always manage to stand in front of it when people weren’t writing stuff. The back of the boys head was gingery and curly. I followed his hand and read what he was writing. He has made everything good in his time. Man, that was another quote from the book of Ecclesiastes!

“Hey,” I said.

He turned around and smiled. “Hi.” He had a nice face with a handsome stubble. He looked like the kind of solid, but care-free guy everyone wants to hang out with. He had big glasses and wore them well.

“Are you the person who writes down verses from Ecclesiastes?”

“Yeah!” He had a grin the size of a cracker barrel. “That’s me!”

 “I love that book.”

“Same!”

“Actually the verse you wrote down first – it’s my favourite Bible verse.”

“You mean the when times are good be happy one?”

I smiled. “That one, yes.”

“That’s great to hear,” he smiled. “Nice to meet you.”

He warmly shook my hand. Probably the firmest grip I’ve ever felt, but it felt good.

“I’m Benjamin.”

“Nice to meet you too, I’m Anna.”


I started to visit Miley more often as the winter went on. I wanted to give her a happy Christmas – it was the least I could do. I went to her house and decorated it with sprigs and holly twigs, and we put strings of popcorn onto the Christmas tree, to honour Miley’s American ancestors. We laughed about the angel who always tumbled down from the tree and told it to stay in character because real angels never fall, and we made stacks of cookies with Miley’s nieces and nephews. Then we ate them and realised we’d used salt instead of sugar and we almost died laughing.

Often it was sad, to visit her. She would talk about her mother, and how she seemed to become worse and worse after every surgery, and how she, Miley, was so scared to lose her.

Miley asked me if I would go and visit her mother, so I said I would. She was papery thin and so weak – it was scary to see. I couldn’t see her getting better. However, she had a smile that made the room alive, and the attitude of few among many. She stuffed Miley with all the advice she would need for the rest of her life, such as, ‘Never be in a relationship that has to be a secret’ and ‘if you have kids one day, tell them again and again that you love them’ and, with a twinkle in her eye, ‘Don’t put too much salt in Christmas cookies.’

Gayl, in the meanwhile, didn’t seem to want much of a happy Christmas. I tried to visit her as much as I could, but I seemed to be getting nowhere. She would grab my hand and cry and say that maybe Tim would come back. I knew she knew that wouldn’t happen, but it was beside the point.


“Gayl,” I said one afternoon, “I know it’s not important, but I know you know loads of people and I was wondering if you knew a certain Benjamin.”

“Benjamin?” She tasted the name.

“Yeah. He’s about twenty-five? Kinda short. Glasses. Looks like a book nerd, but very nice.”

Gayl wiggled her eyebrows. I loved that she could tease me about boys during a moment of heartbreak – that is a sign of true friendship. Gayl was great. “Ohhh, tell me more,” she smiled.

I rolled my eyes. “That’s it. I don’t know more.”

“Oh, so you just saw him and asked his name and that’s it? That’s not like you.”

“No, see, he’s the guy who wrote my favourite Bible verse on the wall.”

“Oh. Well…” Gayl made a face. “I don’t know any Benjamins except the weird character Brad Pitt played. He probably goes to Church if he reads the Bible. You should keep an eye open, maybe.”

“Yes, maybe.”

I caught Gayl staring. “Stop it.”

“What?” She laughed.

“I’m not in LOVE.”

“I KNOW, but you want to meet a guy and get to know him better! And that’s more than anything else that’s ever happened to you.” The clock ticked loudly in the awkward silence hanging in the room. “And no,” Gayl said, “Don’t you ever dare feel bad for falling in love just after I had a heartbreak. I am happy for you.”

“That’s nice,” I smiled. “Thanks. You’re the bomb.”

“It’s funny how bombs are used as a positive word, right?” I mused. “Bombs are dreadful things that a capable of killing millions of people in less than one second and yet people use it to compliment people. Bombs are dreadful.”

“Does that mean I am dreadful?”

I laughed a high squeaky peal of laughter – the kind that made Gayl laugh because it sounded like a giraffe looks, she said. High and thin. Gayl was big on metaphors. (So was I, when it came to that.)

“By the way,” Gayl said, “You just then admitted you were in love with this Benjamin guy.”

“I did not.”

“Did too you did. I said don’t you ever dare feel bad about falling in love and you just smiled.”

“Which means that I’m in love right now,” I groaned. “Stupid girl.”


I did what Gayl told me to do and scoured the pews for a young man with glasses and a stubble beard, but I didn’t find him. Maybe he didn’t go to Church and he just read the Bible because he had to for theology class or something. Not all Bible-readers go to Church; although they often do, because the Church is all about said book and people who read said book tend to be interested in said book and therefore go to meetings about said book.

But not Benjamin. Something in me wanted to meet him really badly. I didn’t really know why. Sure, I wanted a boyfriend, but this wasn’t an attempt on a love life. I just liked him. The look of his grin and his old coat and plaid scarf. I liked that he wrote Bible verses on the wall and that we had the exact same favourite Bible verse. Those chances aren’t high, with 31102 verses in the Bible. I just felt like we should be friends; there was an urge inside me, waiting to be friends with him.

Maybe he felt the same. Who knew.

I didn’t ask Gayl what to do, because I did it before I had time to ask her. It was a ludicrous thing to do, especially because I’d been upset (more like: creeped out) when Tim had done it to me. I wrote him a message on the wall.

“Benjamin, aka the one who writes Bible verses, this is Anna. I was wondering how we could meet up.”

As soon as I’d written it, of course, I regretted it. I started to rub off the chalk with my finger but then I saw the bus come in and I had to race to catch it and be at my work on time. All through that day I was distracted and wondered what Benjamin would think. It didn’t really matter. He was right next door to being a stranger. He was a stranger. Just a familiar stranger.

Familiar strangers are strangers such as the beggar man one sees every week, or the grocery-shopkeeper-woman who always smiles and says, ‘good-morning’ whenever one goes to buy things. Familiar strangers.

Benjamin was my favourite familiar stranger. He seemed really familiar. Sometimes I wondered whether or not he was the guy who’d played Scott Joplin at the pub, that evening when Gayl and Tim had been all lovey-dovey.

When I came back from work, he’d replied.

“I’m going to be at Church next Sunday. – B.”

Oh, I thought, oh. He’s going to be at Church next Sunday. I felt a rush of anticipation and stupid joy. I couldn’t wait. I wasn’t nervous – he wasn’t the kind of being-nervous-around guy, so far as I knew. Maybe he was, once I got to know him better. I’d only exchanged about five words with him, or something ridiculous like that.

Of course I wasn’t in love. But maybe I was in like.