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Dear *Martin,

It was your mysterious, roasted-coffee, brown eyes.

Just a look from you made my grade one heart pitter-patter. Those luscious lashes. Thick black hair with cowlicks. But, alas, for three years we were separated. In different classrooms. If lucky, I’d see you at recess. Maybe noon hour. Catch a glimpse or two of you at our weekly school assemblies.

I confess. My heart could still beat. Those three years included a phone-fling with *Ethan. A little crushie-poo on *Spencer. And a mega-want on *Damien. All to bide my time until Ken re-entered the door of the Barbie bus.

Finally. Grade five. We sat in the same row. We’d tell jokes and laugh. I’d keep your strange secrets. You’d stare at me with those longing pre-pre-pubescent eyes – or maybe I was still adjusting to my stronger glasses. Regardless, I felt magic. A firework. A spark. Like woolly socks dragging on shag carpet.

Then you hurt me. On an overnight school trip. At a winter resort. Where I envisioned we’d skate together. And hold hands while sharing hot chocolate.

However, we barely spoke until the final night. We were placed at the same table for a banquet-style feast of BBQ chicken and ribs. A perfect sunset ending? Not in grade five. Your friends bullied me. And you joined them. I left halfway through the supper. Still hungry. Tears streaming down my chubby cheeks. I felt so betrayed.

My girlfriends in the hotel room listened to me wallow. Stella had broken up with her boyfriend that night. We argued over whose pain was worse. This was grade five trauma.

I avoided you the next day. My heart wasn’t into building a quinzee. I wanted to go home and blast “Next Time I Fall in Love, It will Be With You” by Peter Cetera and Amy Grant – which I self-proclaimed “our song” – and whimper myself to sleep.

The pitter-patter in my heart changed to rain streaks down a windowpane. The next week, you attempted to apologize. But the damage was done. You owned my heart for four years – minus three crushes – and you crumpled it. While wearing a bib.

After grade seven, you moved out of province. And – at the time – it seemed you disappeared.

I was a budding investigative journalist in the pre-Google era, and I tracked you down. I called. Yes, I had the right Martin. Maybe calm down, Princess Tessa. Because your crown is about to topple.

You didn’t remember me.

We went to a small school in a small town. You didn’t remember taking the same bus when I’d stay at my grandparents. Calling me on New Year’s Eve. Asking me to go to the winter carnival. Nothing.

Regardless, we struck up a phone friendship. I’d remind you of “this.” Nope. “That?” Nada.

Then – as this night owl washed dishes at 11:35 p.m. – came the phone call that changed everything.

“Hey, Martin,” I said, cradling the corded phone under my chin. “Haven’t heard from you in awhile.”

“Yeah, I’ve been … busy,” you said. “I moved. I’m back in *your province.”

I almost dropped a coffee cup. “What?”

“Call back,” you said with a smirk in your voice. “Number’s 555-5555,” and you had indeed returned.

No provinces between us? After grade seven … carry the one … minus seven, wow, eleven years? We made supper plan for the upcoming weekend.

When you showed up at my door, my heart pitter-pattered. Those eyes. I squeaked out a hello as we hugged.

We ate Chinese food and flipped through my yearbooks and old school photos.

“See, that’s me,” I said, pointing to my grade seven photo.

“You look completely different.”

“I hope so,” I said. “Don’t worry. People forget about me all the time.”

“Well, I shouldn’t have.”

I practically swallowed a chicken ball whole, and you blushed. “Sorry, I should go.” As you walked to the – and almost into – the door, you left me surrounded by Styrofoam containers. Unsure of what I said or did.

The weather called for snow, and I made you promise to call when you made it home. “I promise.”

“And drive slow.”

That’s when you tugged one of my belt loops, and you pulled me close.

“So … grade one? That’s a long time,” you said, and you ever so lightly kissed me. Like a feather on China. Then you whispered, “Thanks for remembering me.”

Your lips were on mine for two Mississippis, but no butterflies fluttered. No music played. No doves were released. I was 21 years old, and my grade one-to-five crush kissed me. But the magic fizzled. The spark was dosed. And the Barbie bus departed. Without Ken.

However, I read into your words. With time, I’d learned you fought childhood and adolescent demons. Which trickled into your adult years.

But I fell for Martin, the kid. The brat. The softy. The Martin with a conscience. The Martin with the smoky eyes. That’s the Martin I fell for. In grade one.

And I loved every pitter-patter.

Always,

Tessa

*****

*Names changed for privacy.

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