I'm sitting on the cobblestone wall, letting my legs swing artfully over the millpond water. Not that it's exactly water at the moment… it's frozen over and a light layer of snow is dusted over it. It's a cool February afternoon. I went for a drive and ended up at Norwood. That's been happening a lot lately.
We don't start our season for another month and a half, but today I felt the need to come here. When I need to clear my head, I come here. Even when I'm just bored I come here. Hell, on the first snow of the season, I picked up Sloan, Shawn, and Luke and the four of use walked the grounds and had a huge snowball fight. This place has so much meaning for all of us, but mostly I think it's just me.
In health class the other day, we were having a class discussion about teenagers who hold jobs in addition to participating in school activities. We were talking about the challenges they face. Well, the conversation started off that way and lead to me and Marc Willows getting into an argument. I still hold my position that Marc's just bitter that I don't worship him anymore. Anyway, we went around the room and shared with the class what jobs (if any) we had. When I spoke, there were some impressed faces and even more ones that clearly said you're crazy. Marc said, "Man, Jodie, why don't you get a job that actually helps people? I work with the hospital. I help cancer patients."
I said something like "Well, that's nice for you and the bald children," which got more disapproving glances than it did laughs. But that's okay. "My job is important, Marc. It's just in a different way. You help dying kids feel better about the little life they've got left in them. I help kids, old people, young people, anyone really, learn what living in the 1750s in America was like."
The class seemed to be neutral on the issue, not siding with either of us, but interested in the possible fight. There wouldn't be one. "Whatever," Marc ended up saying, rolling his eyes and sliding down in his seat.
Anyway, none of that matters. Norwood's changed me completely. I'm not the shy, quiet, in-the-sidelines Jodie that Laurie LaRue wrote about on her gossip page. In fact, Amy told me that Laurie's rewritten the entire paragraph on me. I don't want to know what it says. I don't care. I don't care what people think of me anymore. That's one of the attributes I brought with me back to school last September. It was gradual at first, but now, everyone either loves me or hates me, and that's what I wanted. I was tired of people being indifferent to me and my existence.
My phone vibrates in my pocket, and I flip it open to see a text message from Luke. "Meet me for lunch?" it asks.
"Where?" I answer.
"The usual spot," it reads. I tilt my head to the side, thinking about what that means. Of all the times we've gone out for lunch, we've been to different cafes and I wasn't aware we had a usual spot.
Then I think about it. I crawl off the wall and start walking up the path toward the village. The blast furnace looms ominously ahead of me, dark and impressive against the cloudy sky. I can see, even from this distance, the giant icicles dripping from the overhang that was built to cover the structure. I walk down the hill that leads to the front of it.
"How'd you know?" I ask as I see Luke standing against the fence, winter coat on, plastic bag in hand.
"I know you've been coming here all the time," he says with a shrug. "And I drove by your house and saw that your car wasn't there."
"I could've been anywhere," I said, walking a few steps closer.
"But there's no where you'd rather be than here," he says. And he's right.
I just smile and lean on the fence next to him.
He opens the bag and reveals two slices of pizza. He hands me mine and we sit on a rock and eat the slices. "This place wouldn't be half as fun without me," Luke says suddenly, tone kind of boastful.
"I would still like it if you weren't here," I say. "It just might've taken me longer to realize that."
"Yeah right," he says. "The reason we're all friends is because of me and you know it."
"Whatever," I roll my eyes and eat the warm pizza.
"Come on, Jodie, admit it," he says, mouth full, "I changed Norwood so much."
I get serious. "Did you ever consider that maybe Norwood changed you?"
We smile, knowing that this place changed everything about everything. For a place that's incapable of changing itself, Norwood sure does change everything around it.
That's what I want to be, I decide, here and now. Even if I don't change myself, I want to be able to alter everything around me. That's the effect I want on people. I want to be the kind of person that comes along and shakes you up, changes your mind, and shows you ideas you never thought about before. And I know I can do it. Norwood's given me the confidence to make such seemingly crazy goals.
"Hey Jodie," Luke says all of a sudden, "what are you thinking about?"
I tell him. He just looks at me, amused, eating his pizza the whole time. When he's done, I'm done.
"You're amazing, you know that?" he says. It's one of the first times he compliments me without saying it as a joke.
I smile. "That's what I want to be, yeah."
"You already are," he says. "You've already done all of that, Jodie."
"No," I shake my head, "I haven't."
"You just don't realize how much you have," he insists.
"Yes," he says, and I get the idea he means it. "Your energy is so contagious and you don't even know it. When you're talking about something you care about, you light up and get excited and the other person can't help but be excited with you, for you, and even for himself. You're already stirring things up."
I sit there, looking at him. "Thank you," I whisper. I'm on the verge of tears. That's the nicest, most wonderful thing anyone's ever said about me.
"And you know what else?" he asks.
"What?" I croak, trying not to cry.
"You're beautiful," he says, reaching up to wipe the single tear that's slipped out of my eye. "And I love you."
I laugh, but it comes out as a choking sound, with tears following it.
He laughs and pulls my head to his chest. I feel his hand playfully tousle my hair. Normal people usually kiss someone at a time like that. But for that reason, I guess, what Luke did was more amazing than a kiss—more unexpected, more friendly, more beautiful.
"You don't have to say it," he says, "I already know."
I'm not crying anymore. "That obvious?" I ask.
"Oh, you have no idea."
I laugh, smile, and the two of us walk back up the hill toward the village. I almost expect to see Leah, disapproving of our disappearance. I almost expect to see Colleen, running from the Johnson House because Amy's started a fire. I almost expect to see Sloan, and Shawn, and everyone else, doing what they're supposed to.
But all I see is the sun come out from behind the clouds.
And then the snowball Luke throws in my face.
Notes: Well… that's it! I'm so happy you all read/enjoyed/reviewed this! This whole chapter was complete fiction… none of that actually happened. Well… bits & pieces… but the scene as a whole never took place. I started writing a sequel, just because the story continues. But the sequel is mostly fiction… and it's through the eyes of a new character, one that doesn't exist in real life. But Jodie and Luke are still very major characters. And so is Shawn. In fact, his name is in the second paragraph. So it'll take me a while, but I'll start putting that up eventually.
In the meantime, I've got a blog that may entertain you for the time being. Hey, if you liked this, which is based LARGELY on my life, you might want to check out some more of it. (And, if you look close enough, you might even find some real-life "Norwood" references… haha)