It was later in the afternoon when I saw Claudia for the first time. I literally stopped in my tracks, watching her stride up the walkway toward the main building, where the new students were to meet for a brief orientation. The spun gold of her light blonde hair caught the rays of the September sun as it swayed across her shoulder blades, and the air grew thick around me, my breath catching in my throat. Her Caribbean-blue eyes shown with an inner light, set into a face while not supermodel beautiful, nonetheless struck me with its knowing innocence. Her body, however, was far from innocent, shaped in curvaceous ways no fifteen-year-old body should have been. I was captivated. And I had no idea what in hell to do.
You see, I'd always been very shy, and while I'd had crushes on girls before, none of them hit me with the primal force of nature that was Claudia. The emotions rushing through me every time I caught sight of her were so intense—so powerful—my heart raced and my tongue seized in my mouth, rendering me mute. Eventually, I worked up the courage to speak to her and we became friends, but I wanted so much more and lacked the courage to say or do anything about it. I watched, in agony, as she took up with another boy, their attraction to each other a palpable thing.
When she broke up with him a month or two later, I was hopeful again, but those fleeting aspirations were dashed, when one of the "big men on campus" swept her off her feet. He broke her heart shortly thereafter and I tried to be of solace to her, to be the friend she needed, in the hopes she would at last see the love brimming in my heart. I ached to declare myself, but feared ridicule, or worse, the dreaded "we're just friends" speech. Alas, she found romance with yet another boy and after a few dark nights of the soul I finally realized she and I would never have that kind of relationship.
I only spent a year at the school, as my family moved from Connecticut to Florida that spring, where I attended a private day school. The truth was I could never go back to that school nestled in the mountains, could never walk those ivied halls again without being reminded of her. I still think of Claudia every now and then and wonder how her life's turned out. I hope she's happier now than she was then.
If you're out there, Claudia, now you know the truth....
Bill Walker is a graphic designer specializing in book and dust jacket design, and has worked on projects by Ray Bradbury, Richard Matheson, Dean Koontz, and Stephen King. Between his design work and his writing, he spends his spare time reading voraciously and playing very loud guitar, much to the chagrin of his lovely wife and two sons. Bill makes his home in Los Angeles and can be reached through his web site: http://www.billwalkerdesigns.com/
You'll read my review of his new book "A note from an Old Acquaintance" Wednesday! ~Mandie