Chain of Hearts
by Rachel J Bailey
Maddie closed her eyes as she pulled her locker open. The metal handle was cold, her hands still chilled after walking from the bus stop. Please, she thought. Just one.
The classroom was empty. Maddie had caught the early bus to do a couple of things before school—and to perform this ritual. Just one, she repeated, as she opened her eyes.
The locker was just as she’d left it. Cute pictures of Justin Bieber stuck to the inside of the door, with a photo of Maddie, Faith and Chantelle on a roller–coaster mid–scream, Faith and Chantelle in the nearest double seat clinging to each other and Maddie in the seat behind gripping the bar. In the body of the locker, books and folders arranged standing up with their spines facing outwards, a well stocked transparent pencil case with coloured biros, a black felt tip pen and drawing pencils. Nothing else.
Well she’d known there wouldn’t be, not really. But it hadn’t stopped her hoping, stopped her checking her email first thing, checking her mobile. Only thing so far was a text from Chantelle—
‘Happy Valentines day girls, here’s hoping!!!xxx’
Maddie emptied the contents of her rucksack into the locker, took out the exercise book with the details of her history project and sat at her desk. Might as well get some work done. Around ten minutes later other pupils started to arrive and the chattering rose in volume. Maddie looked up as she heard her name and saw Chantelle and Faith.
The two girls went to the lockers at the back of the classroom. Maddie heard giggling and caught snatches of their conversation.
“Ooh, get you!”
“Who’s that one from? Open it up.”
They clattered into the desks next to Maddie, Chantelle in the middle.
“Happy Valentine’s day,” Chantelle said. She put an exercise book on the desk, cover lifting slightly over something concealed inside. “Did you get any cards?”
“No, nothing.” Maddie tried to sound nonchalant. “Wasn’t expecting any really.”
“Nothing from Daddy dearest?” Faith asked, giving a sly smile. She’d brought a single exercise book too.
Maddie coloured, looked down at the graffiti on the desk. “No,” she muttered.
Last year she had received a card, anonymously delivered by the postman. It showed a chain of red hearts surrounding a question mark. Inside was written—‘To the most beautiful girl I know on Valentine’s Day.’ She, Chantelle and Faith had spent the day passing notes back and forth in lessons, trying to work out who it might be from. At the dinner table that evening, Maddie’s Dad had teased her about her ‘mystery valentine’.
“I think Justin Bieber’s got your address.”
“How did you know about my card?” Maddie said. “Have you been going through my stuff?”
After a few more sly comments, the truth had come out.
“I thought you’d enjoy it,” Dad had said. “Call it a card on behalf of all those young lads who fancy you but bottled out of sending one.” Maddie stamped her way up the stairs to her room and slammed the door.
Chantelle and Faith had wheedled the truth out of her. They both found it hilarious, and that chain of hearts had become a millstone around her neck.
“Well, Faith got one,” Chantelle said.
Faith pushed her exercise book across the desk and opened up the cover so Maddie could see a card with a teddy bear hugging a red heart. “From Aled in year 12,” she whispered. She was grinning, and her eyes were bright. “I don’t know how he found my locker.”
“Must have noticed you eyeing him up on the bus,” Maddie said.
Chantelle continued. “And I got …”—she opened the cover of her exercise book—“One, two, three! One fromJordan—loser. One from Declan, well he’s alright. And this one.” She paused for emphasis, then opened the card. It was written in capital letters in bold black felt tip.
Chantelle, will you be my Valentine? Love Preston. X
“How fit is he?” Chantelle toyed with a lock of her hair. “I heard he was with Ellie Cawthorne, but it can’t be that serious.”
“Can you believe it?” Faith lowered her voice as the teacher entered the room. “Both the lads we really fancy.”
“How do you think I should play it?” Chantelle said as the three walked to their next class.
“I think you should go and talk to him,” Maddie said. “After all, he’s made the first move.”
“I was thinking I’ll try to catch his eye at lunch.” Chantelle turned to Faith. “I’ll do you a deal. If you speak to Aled, I’ll speak to Preston.”
“Oh, I don’t know if I can,” Faith said. “Maybe I should wait, give him a chance to come to me.”
“No, you should do it today,” Maddie crossed her fingers under the pile of books she was clutching.
“Yeah, we should go for it.” Chantelle pushed through a line of younger pupils queuing outside a classroom. “Hey, I wonder if anyone else in school got three cards. Bet even Chloe didn’t get three. It’s got to say something about how popular you are. Oh, sorry Maddie.”
“The day’s not over yet,” Faith said.
“Yeah, you might find Daddy’s left one on your pillow.”
Maddie’s face burned as they giggled.
At lunch, Maddie watched her friends walk off to find the two boys. Good luck, she thought as she deposited her books into her locker. You’re going to need it. She picked up the empty cellophane wrappers from two valentines cards and screwed them up ready for the bin.
It had been so easy. She’d bought the cards from the garage on the way into school. Written them in thick felt tip and capital letters to disguise her writing. And left them in Chantelle and Faiths’ lockers this morning.
We’ll see who gets teased for the next year, she thought, as she shut the locker door.
Rachel writes from Leeds, UK, and occasionally updates a writing blog at storyfrog.blogspot.com. Previous publishing credits include everydayfiction.com and paragraphplanet.com.
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