‘I’ll never, ever, ever love anyone ever again!’ Sheila wailed, flicking her hair behind her shoulders before dropping her head down into her arms. There was a soft thud as her forehead hit the wooden desk.
Her little whimpers filled the room as her friends stood around her dumbly, as though they were each waiting for some sign to tell them they could speak.
‘Elliot was perfect,’ Sheila continued when nobody did anything to soothe her, ‘and now he’s gone! He’s left me now! He’ll never come back to me!’ Her words, though muffled somewhat by her blouse, betrayed the empty hollowness of the end of her first romance.
‘It’s okay, Sheila,’ Mary said, approaching Sheila and touching her shoulder with one hand. Sheila did not acknowledge the pressure. ‘I don’t think many people stay with the first person they go out with for the rest of their lives. That stuff’s just in the movies. In the real world, nothing’s that perfect.’
Sheila sniffed loudly. She raised her head off the table, just enough for the others to see the tears forming in the corners of her eyes. ‘You don’t understand,’ she said, wiping her nose with the back of her hand then dropping it back onto the table. ‘We didn’t have to be together forever or marry each other or anything like that. I’m not even bothered that he was the first one who … because somebody had to be the first. I just didn’t realise that it would hurt this much when it ended.’
There was a knock on the classroom door, and as one everybody in the room turned at the sound.
‘That’s him,’ Sheila said. ‘I recognise the knock. Somebody, make him go away, please. I never want to see him ever again.’
‘Well, you can’t avoid him forever,’ Mary told her, as another one of the girls opened the door far enough to poke her head around it, then asked Elliot to leave. The girl returned a few moments later with a dark look on her face.
‘You’re not going to like this,’ she said, ‘but he was with Penelope Decker. And they were holding hands.’
Sheila was motionless as she said in a clipped voice, ‘Let them do whatever they want to do. I don’t care.’
‘You do care, though,’ Mary pointed out, squeezing Sheila’s shoulder a little firmer, ‘but I don’t think it will make a difference to him.’