This short story features an eleven-year-old character named Sophie who has been lingering in my heart for quite a while. I have a sense of her sensitive, curious nature, and the tension she holds within her as she struggles to deal with peer pressure, a family breakup, and the strain of being made to grow up too quickly … I hope to expand on her story in future and do it justice. ❤️
I Guess It’ll Be Okay
We’re studying Seamus Heaney in English class right now, and there was this one poem we did today – Mid Term Break – that had me in floods of tears. It’s all about how Seamus Heaney’s little brother died when he was four years old, and it’s so sad. When Miss Delaney read it out to us this morning and got to the last line (‘A four foot box / A foot for every year’), I was bawling my eyes out and had to hide my face behind my book to hide it. We have to do a personal response thing for homework tonight, telling Miss Delaney what we thought about it. I don’t know what I’m going to write.
Now me and Jessie are sitting out in the yard and I’m trying to explain to her how the poem made me feel.
‘It was just, like … it was so sad, you know? Imagine losing your brother so young!’ I think about Luke – he’s so annoying, but I love him really – and the tears start up all over again.
‘God, Soph,’ Jessie mutters, embarrassed, and looks down at her phone. ‘It’s just a poem! I mean, yeah, it’s sad the little boy died and everything, but it’s not like we can do anything about it, you know? It happened like a hundred years ago.’
‘It wasn’t a hundred years ago. It happened in 1953.’
She raises an eyebrow. ‘How do you know that?’
‘Says it under the poem. In the “Analysis and Background” section.’
‘Oh, right.’ She’s disinterested again – goes back to her phone. ‘I didn’t read that part, to be honest…’
“Jessie … can be mean sometimes, but she’s less mean when the girls from Ms Creedon’s class aren’t around, so that’s good.”
Yvonne is out sick today and Stephanie and Clara are talking to some other Sixth Class people right now, so it’s just me and Jessie. I prefer when it’s just me and Jessie. She can be mean sometimes, but she’s less mean when the girls from Ms Creedon’s class aren’t around, so that’s good. She was out sick yesterday and I had to stay in my classroom because I didn’t want to talk to Yvonne and Clara and Stephanie. I kind of like Clara, but she’s never on her own: she’s always with them.
‘What will you say in your response piece?’ I ask Jessie. I’m staring into space now – at the trees beyond the school grounds – trying to imagine what it was like in 1953. I should ask my granny or granddad. ‘I think I want to write about … how it showed that, like, people don’t have to live a really long time to affect other people. That boy was only four years old, but Seamus Heaney always remembered him, even after all those years, and –’
Oh shit, I can feel myself getting upset all over again…
‘Oh my God, Soph, stop it!’ Jessie cries out, looking up from her phone, giving me dagger eyes. ‘This is so depressing. Who wants to spend their lunch break talking about some dead kid? Just … stop being such a freak, okay? It’s bad enough that we have to talk about this in class.’
I immediately turn red and stare down at the ground. Oh God, she’s right: I am being a freak. ‘Sorry,’ I mutter.
‘It’s okay. Just … we don’t need to talk about all this, you know?’
‘So!’ she says then, all cheerful, and giggles. ‘What did you think of Michael? Kissing him, like?’
I turn even redder when I hear this. ‘Um … yeah. It was okay.’
Michael keeps trying to talk to me on Snapchat now, but I don’t want to just straight-up tell him I don’t like him, so I have literally no idea what to write back. Only I have to reply to him soon because if I don’t, he’ll probably tell all his friends that I’m some horrible rude person, and they’ll tell Yvonne, and Yvonne will be so mad and then everyone will think I’m a bitch and they’ll all hate me. I get this weird twisty feeling in my stomach whenever I think about it.
“Jessie’s dad … is this tired-looking taxi driver who’s always really quiet and doesn’t like talking to people.”
My dad always tells me that boys are way too immature for me right now and I can wait until I’m older before I have to deal with them. That’s why he doesn’t want me going to discos until I’m in secondary school.
I can’t tell Dad about anything that’s going on right now, of course. Jessie’s dad dropped me home on Sunday morning. He’s this tired-looking taxi driver who’s always really quiet and doesn’t like talking to people and he had to go to work straight after dropping me off anyway, so he didn’t talk to Dad. Dad never found out about the disco, but I’m still terrified of him chatting to Jessie’s mam at the school gate or something, and discovering that me and Jessie were there. When school finished yesterday, I raced across the yard so I could get straight into the car and we’d go home quickly and Dad wouldn’t have a chance to talk to Jessie’s mother.
‘It was just okay?!’ Jessie screeches. ‘Oh, come on! It was your first ever kiss, wasn’t it?’
I say nothing: I don’t want to admit my story about the St. Michael’s boy was all a lie.
‘Listen,’ she whispers, leaning into me – her eyes are all wide and serious – ‘you can tell me. I won’t tell Yvonne and the others, I swear. Was that your first ever kiss?’
I nod reluctantly.
‘I knew it!’ She does this really high-pitched laugh and claps her hands together, all excited. ‘So! Did you like him?’
‘Um … yeah.’
‘Has he Snapped you?’
‘Oooh, what did he say? What did you say back to him?’ She grabs my phone, keys in my pin code – we know each other’s pin codes, because Jessie said it was a best-friends trust thing – and opens my Snapchat app. She’s soon reading his messages. Her eyes widen and she glares at me a little accusingly. ‘Hey, he’s sent you like four messages! Asking how you are and everything. Aw, he’s being sweet. Why haven’t you texted back?’
‘I … I don’t know what to say.’
‘Hmm. Well, listen, I’m meant to be meeting Yvonne and Clara and Stephanie and some of the boys down at the park tomorrow.’
‘Oh…’ I didn’t know that. Jessie is always arranging stuff without me these days.
‘You can totally come too!’ she says hurriedly, her eyes wide. ‘I meant to say it to you, I just forgot.’
Did she? She’s always saying that to me lately: like when she was meant to be coming over to my house a few weeks ago, but went shopping with Yvonne instead and ‘just forgot’ to let me know.
‘So you’ll be there? How about if you text Michael back saying he can come too?’ she asks me excitedly.
‘Come on! It gives you the perfect excuse to kiss him again!’
‘I don’t know. Maybe it’ll look weird: just saying that to him, like…’
‘Don’t say it to him! God. Just ask him to the park and it’ll end up happening anyway. It’ll give you the perfect chance to practice, Soph! You need to get good at kissing,’ she insists.
‘I…’ I take back my phone and just stare at it for a second, my mind racing. I can’t think of a good reason to say no. ‘Um … so what do I tell him?’
‘Just tell him you, me, Yvonne, Stephanie and Clara are going down the park tomorrow at, like, 5 or so, with some of the boys, and it would be great if he could come too! God, Soph, it doesn’t have to be so difficult…’
I hesitate for a while – I just keep staring at my phone for a few moments before I unlock it again – but eventually, I start typing. Hi, Michael! I’m OK, thanks. Hope you’re OK too. Me and my friends are going down to the park with some of your friends tomorrow at 5. Hope you can make it!
I press ‘send’, even though my heart is heavy. I guess it’ll be okay. Maybe…
Featured Image Credit: Dissolve.com