Chapter 6: How To Do A Group High Five
Ilona could not tell what it is, Cynthia’s caring look, the pile of papers in her hands, or the thought that someone would want her number, but a shimmy flows up her spine. It tingles into her neck, and fills her head with a light feeling. Ilona fights back as tears almost flow out of her eyes. This has never happened before, and she is not sure how to react. Follow the instructions, the new her whispers, and enter the next part of your life. Willing her hands to move, she pulls up the blank slips. And realizes to her horror, she has no pen.
Ilona sees, as she lifts her head, Cynthia reaching across, offering a pen.
“Thank you,” Ilona smiles, then busily starts writing, all very carefully. Her penmanship is always good, a trait her mother impressed upon her over the years, but now the need for exceptional accuracy is paramount. Not only must her phone number, for the first time ever handled over to a friend and even more importantly a group of friends, be legible, but Ilona also does not want them to think her uncultured with bad handwriting. Nerves shot up into her hand as she works at perfecting every number, a task that while only taking seconds, causes a sweat to break out. She hopes and prays they would not notice that detail.
Ilona hands back the slips with her number on it back to Cynthia, who promptly hands them out to the other girls. During the few seconds it took for Ilona to complete her assignment, the world of her new friends had moved on into a totally new scene. Susan and Collette have returned to the book and after accepting the slips from Cynthia, promptly use them as additional bookmarks. Madison and Clara are playing with their smartphones, all in a world of their own. Clara puts the slip into her jeans pocket, while Madison immediately starts entering the information into her device at super speed. Cynthia interrupts their reverie.
“Are you two texting each other again?” She asks with a humourous inflection, like a mother catching her kids during something only slightly naughty.
“She keeps texting me the word Muskrat! Over and over and over again! Who taught you to copy and paste?” Clara asks while pointing her phone at Madison.
“She keeps texting scrunchies at me! Hundreds and hundreds of times! Who taught you to spell scrunchies?” Madison accuses back.
Cynthia puts her slip into her coiled notepad, and looks over at Ilona.
“And that is why we keep them separated.” Her matronly tone is undeniable, and Ilona feels genuine care, not just for her, but for all the rest of the girls as well.
The light feeling still airily floating in her head, now holding the once forming tears in place, and some shame at thinking that Cynthia did not like her nibbled away. If anything, she could tell this girl cares the most for everyone.
“Finished book two! Time to update Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads and text my mom!” Susan slams the book down and produces her smartphone, furiously typing.
“Group high five when we get up!” Clara proclaims.
“Tradition! Tradition!” Madison starts singing, with Collette laughing.
“Now that was a fun link! I watched that whole movie because of you. Then I read the original story it was based upon. So sad and so much history.” Collette looks wistful as she finishes, then turns to Ilona. “Have you ever seen Fiddler on the Roof? I could loan you the dvd.”
Surprised by being asked another direct question, Ilona does not know how to respond. Even more problematic is that this is the second reference she actually got, right from the start, and now she gets to go public with this knowledge. Would she do this right? Amidst this moment, she also quietly thanks her mother for watching Fiddler on the Roof so many times.
“I have seen it. It is a lovely movie. I did not know it was based on a book.” The words leave her mouth so calmly and naturally, like a river flowing forth. The new her seems to be asserting itself more and more, much to the relief of the old her.
“Once you finish that book, we will have to go to the library and get it out for you. We can seal the deal, but without the dramatics Madison brings to, well, everything.”
“Okay.” Ilona agrees. Her mental notes are overflowing with all these new details and thoughts, and now her second deal of the day has been made. The space taken up with loneliness and despair is quickly being filled with this minutiae. And she is loving every moment of it.
“And sent the text. Now the whole world, and my mom, have been caught up with my reading progress.” Susan puts her phone away, happy with her results.
And almost as if her smart phone also commanded it, the school bell goes off. Loud and shrill, the sound scares Ilona. Has the entire lunchtime gone by? How long was she staring at the wall? Less then an hour ago, she was friendless, alone and holding a book.
Now she has five friends, togetherness, and all thanks to a book.
Ilona and the rest of the girls stands up and gather their things. Once they are all ready to go, Madison saddles up to one side of Ilona, Cynthia on the other.
“Yer new at this, so Cyn and I are going to guide ya.” Madison nods at Ilona.
“We celebrate milestones of the book with a group high five.” Cynthia smiles at Ilona.
“SUZZY DONE FINISHED BOOK TWO!” Madison shouts with tremendous volume, making Ilona jump, almost causing her to miss the next part. Much like a guardian angel, anticipating this might happen, Cynthia gently uses her free hand to push Ilona forward into the mass of girls. Shooting her hand up into the other five hands, Ilona feels a jumble of high fives smack all around her palm. As the gathering breaks apart, she feels Cynthia’s careful hand guide her out of it.
She has just completed her first group high five. And the giddy happiness in her head continues.
Song For This Chapter: Tubthumping by Chumbawamba.
The Passport To The Wall is Copyright 2013 to Paul Riches
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First serialization started on Friday, June 7th, 2013.