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Justin Campbell Justin Campbell
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Daniel Morgan [4]


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Under the Double Star - Chapter One

September 28th, 1973


The year Daniel was fifteen – the year grandma Rose succumbed to breast cancer – and the year he was starting tenth grade at Merivale High School – was the year he tried asking his first girl out.


       The neighbourhood was experiencing another boom and more apartment towers and townhomes were filling some of the still-obvious empty green-spaces, and that led to a bigger influx of students at school – namely, girls.


       Despite his lack of confidence, the growing boy had managed to defeat two awkward years at Sir Winston Churchill for middle school and overcome some of the minor academic obstacles on the way, even getting into a gifted program in English. He did have his weaknesses – he struggled at art and music and had little patience for randomness and anything lacking reason – but otherwise he was making his way. He just now had to create a bridge to the opposite gender.


       The one problem in the way was how he looked. He’d let his hair grow long, despite his father’s mild opposition and disagreeable attitude, so it now flowed around his head in a blonde wave. He didn’t cut it because that’s how everyone looked, and he wanted to be a part of everyone else, but his big glasses detracted from this inclusion. He looked like a thin, freckly nerd. Probably effeminate, too. What kind of girl went for a girly nerd? He was still friends with Nick, although Nick had perfected his style – his hair was a thick brown mess of curls that framed his face nicely, and he didn’t need glasses. He even had a small moustache going, so he looked older than he was. Add in his well-defined jaw-line, and it was no wonder he’d had a couple of girlfriends already. His other big problem was talking to girls, period.


       He got what he needed from his locker, which was in a hall called the A-wing, and as he walked, he looked out the big window looking into a courtyard. It was littered with random students – a lot of which had a girl lying with them on the ground, in the building’s shade. He envied those easy-going guys.


       He sighed. He wasn’t ready for this. He was still recovering from the shock of losing his beloved grandmother, a nice, grand woman who’d passed away merely at sixty-seven. His home life was rarely quiet with the ten-year-old sister and the six-year-old brother running around, often fighting, and then you add in all the homework he was getting. Being in the gifted program gave you a heck of a course load.


       Ahead of him, down the hall, he suddenly noticed Jenny, an attractive tenth grader he’d had his eyes on since the start of the semester several weeks ago. She had mousy blonde hair in the bob style and often wore brightly-colored dresses. He imagined what he could do with her; they could go to the McDonalds just three minutes down the road from here, they could swim at Mooney’s Bay, or they could spend hours walking in all the green-space the township had to offer – that which wasn’t landscaped and prepared for development yet. Maybe they could even go see a movie at the Auto-Sky Drive-in – they could sneak in.


       Daniel was snapped out of his reverie when somebody much bigger than him shoved him to the side. Several of his books spilled to the floor.


       “Move, nerd.”


       “Hey! Why?”


       The bigger guy, obviously in 11th grade, looked at him incredulously. “You were in the way, nerd, drooling everywhere. You wanna make this a deal?” The muscular 11th grader advanced on him menacingly.


       “No, no, sorry, go on about your day,” Daniel stuttered. As the guy stared at him, wondering if he should act just for the fun of it, Nick appeared beside Daniel and said, “Back off, man, he’s younger and smaller. Go on.”


       The big teen regarded Nick for a second, shrugged, and then turned away, soon gone in the crowd of students. Mortified, Daniel noticed Jenny had seen the whole thing, before abruptly turning away.
--
       “See that girl over there?” Daniel asked Nick as they sat at a picnic table outside the eastern building of the school at lunchtime.


       “You mean Jenny?”


       “Yeah.”


       “What about her? You like her?”


       “Kinda.”


       “Good luck with that. I heard Joel from 12th grade is thinking of asking her out.”


       “Really? Aw. Well okay then.”


       Nick looked at him. “That doesn’t mean don’t do it. Go on. I’ll watch.”


       “Right now? I don’t know if I could do it right now, she’s with her friends.” Jenny was out in the middle of the soccer field, walking with two other friends of hers, the centre of the group.


       “Don’t let them scare you. Watch.” He beckoned to the three girls. “Hey! Crystal!” One of the girls looked over. “Nick!” she yelled back, happy to see him. Walking over, the other two followed suit.


       “Don’t do this,” Daniel said tentatively. But the girls were already trotting across the service lane bordering the field and separating it from the land around the buildings. Crystal waved at Nick.


       “Hey Mr Nice Guy,” Crystal said to him.


       “Crystal. Who are these friends of yours?”


       “I’m Anne, and that’s Jenny,” the other friend said. Almost perfectly synced, they all looked at Daniel, who hadn’t made a sound.


       “Yeah. Hi” he said.


       “Is that your friend?” Crystal asked.


       “Since childhood. Don’t mind him, I look after him sometimes. What’s new?”
--
       “That was a great conversation between you and Crystal, Jenny and Anne,” Daniel said sarcastically, much later after the three of them left to find excitement elsewhere. “You look after me, eh? Like a dog, I presume?”


       “Don’t let it bother you, it’s not a big deal. And you didn’t even say anything to them.”


       “Hi doesn’t count?” Daniel asked, though he knew it didn’t.


       “Maybe another time,” Nick said optimistically. “Anyways, lunch is almost over, I think I’m gonna go get my stuff out of my locker.”


       “Good idea,” Daniel agreed.
--
       Daniel was walking along the hallway absent-mindedly, heading out of the building that afternoon, when he accidentally bumped into someone from behind. It was a girl.


       Whipping around towards him, he instantly recognized her face. Jenny.


       Her eyes narrowed and she immediately looked frustrated. “What is your deal, man?”


       His confidence faded, but she was obviously mad. This made it different. “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you.”


       This just made her more impatient. “Didn’t see me? You’ve been staring at me all day!”


       “Umm…”


       “I don’t get it, man, staring at me like you’re about to drool, then you don’t say nothing when your friend talks to us but a ‘yeah, hi,’ and now you’re literally running into me!”


       “I, um, I…I like you.”


       She didn’t look surprised. “Well, obviously! I have no time for this.”


       “Do, do…want to go to McDonalds? It’s just down the road.”


       Instead of narrowing, her eyes now widened. “McDonalds? You ask me to go with you to McDonalds? I don’t eat that crap man, and honestly, that’s the lowest kind of date anyone’s proposed to me.” She laughed. “Go bump into someone else, nerd.” She turned and walked away, her head held high. Daniel remained there, virtually frozen in place. Five seconds later someone big would shoulder him aside, and when he got a look at the character, he would recognize him from that morning, his eyes shooting complete malice. No doubt he’d seen the entire affair.


       “I wouldn’t even try that again, nerd. Go home.” He walked off, self-importance radiating from him in waves so thick Daniel felt like drowning in them.


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Next: The Nineteenth of December