Colin was a good kid. He made good grades, played football, and had a couple of good friends. He had supportive parents that loved him more than anything else in the world. He was an only child that lived in a snowy town in rural New York called Jansen. It snowed from early November to early March every year like clockwork, and as soon as it did, Colin would go outside and play football with his buddies Grant and Jack, the freezing temperatures nipping at their ankles while everyone else stayed inside and read books and sipped hot tea. Colin was living well, hurdling over obstacles like they were the old, rubber tires in his football practice. Everything was going great.
It was a sunny day at Hillban Heights Middle School when a student joined the seventh grade. Her name was Jackie Stein. She had big brown eyes, a light smile, and golden-blonde hair. She knew Grant well already because they lived in the same neighborhood. That was the only time Colin was jealous of his friend. Jackie Stein was certainly beautiful, and Colin knew immediately that this was going to be a great year; as long as he became friends with her.
At first, he refused to tell anyone about his secret crush on Jackie, not even Grant or Jack. Not because he didn’t trust them, because he did— he just thought Jackie was too special to gossip about. Colin would lay awake at night, staring at the cold ceiling of his house. He wondered what he could say to Jackie. What would she say back to him? He dreamt about her, and wrote poems that he would read to her, if he wasn’t such a coward. When he found out that Jackie played the flute, he felt that he had to do something to impress her, so he asked his parents for piano lessons on his 13th Birthday.
“How come, Colin? You don’t really seem like the musical type to me,” his father said, putting on his stretchy, black gloves, readying to shovel snow off the driveway.
“I don’t know. Just seems fun, don’t you think?”
His father smiled and wriggled his fingers inside the gloves. “There’s a girl, isn’t there?”
Colin looked down, blushing wildly.
“Kind of,” he said reluctantly.
“Come on son. There either is, or there isn’t. What’s her name?”
Colin smiled. “Jackie,”
His father nodded, looking around the garage.
“So, how long have you known this, ‘Jackie?’”
The door to the house opened and Colin’s mother came out.
“You boys having fun out here, shoveling off the driveway?” she asked with her signature motherly-smirk.
Colin’s dad looked at his son.
“Yep. Just teaching Colin over here how to do it without throwing out his back like I did last year,”
“Huh. Well, show me what you got champ,” Colin’s mother said.
Colin jammed the shovel into the snow, pushing down on it with all of his strength. It was a surprisingly hard task to complete, but he did it. He threw the one shovel worth of snow into the lawn on an even bigger clump of snow.
“Nice,” his mother congratulated, a skeptical tone still weaving through her voice. After she left, he handed the heavy shovel back to his father, who smiled and laughed.
That night he wrote up a list of things to say to Jackie:
(The obvious one were first)
Hey Jackie. We’ve never met before. My name’s Colin.
So Jackie, do you play any sports?
Hey Jackie! Great weather today!
So Jackie, do you like football? Would you like to come to one of my games sometime?
Hey, I heard you live in Grant’s neighborhood! Which house is yours?
(Then some of the stranger, more original ideas were at the bottom)
So Jackie, do your parents get on you about eating your vegetables, or do they not care?
Hey Jackie! I’m taking a survey of how many seventh graders use prefer pens to pencils. How about you?
Can you do a backflip? Oh, who am I kidding? You probably can.
Of course, the only one that would make sense would be the first one, considering they have never met. He kept the list titled “Things to Say to Jackie” in his pocket, just in case the improbable happened.
When Colin woke up the next morning, frost covered the roofs of all the houses he could see. The chilly temperature didn’t subside for the whole day. It reached its low at 12:00, when Colin went to lunch. He got his food and scanned the lunch room; everything was normal. There was a far table across the room which was inhabited by wild boys, the nearest table, all the tables outside, and, “the girls”, (including Jackie) at the table in the middle. All the tables were full except hers, which had two seats left.
“Nah. It’d be too weird.”
Colin started making his way to the door across the cafeteria; it lead outside. He always sat out there with his friends. As he placed his hand on the cold handle, the principal made an announcement over the loud speaker.
“Students, we are NOT going to sit outside today. It’s too cold. Sorry.”
There were some audible sighs from all the kids who liked to sit out there, but the everyone inside just kept talking.
“Darn,” Colin thought. He looked around the lunchroom, wondering where to sit. And then it hit him. Jackie’s table had two seats left.
Colin started moving towards her table, and then he heard Jack calling his name. He looked over and Jack and Grant were going to the far table, signaling for him to come sit with them. He looked back at Jackie’s table, the girls all talking and whispering and trading food.
“Come on, Colin!” Jack called.
He looked once more at Jackie’s table.......... and took a seat. He didn’t even glance up to see how Grant and Jack reacted; this was it—he was focused now.
At first, no one saw him. He just sat there, his face as red as the spaghetti he was shoveling into his mouth. He was sitting in between Jackie and Isa. Then, one of Jackie’s friends sitting on the other side of her, Karen, noticed him.
“Oh, hi! Didn’t see ya there, champ!” She said in her forever cheerful tone she would use when talking to anyone, even people she didn’t know.
Suddenly, all eyes were on him.
“Um......... who are you?” Pam asked, traces of superiority and disgust laced throughout her voice as if she was talking down to him.
“Yeah. I’ve never seen him before,” Kathryn commented, turning to Pam.
“Guys, let up. I’m sure he’s just another kid,” Jackie said, turning to Colin.
“I’m Jackie. That’s Karen, that’s Sally, there’s Rachel, then Kathryn, Pam, Kim, and Isa,”
“Cool! I’m Colin,”.
The rest of lunch was sprinkled with light conversation, not much of which concerned Colin, so he sat there, his brain trying to wrap around the fact that he was sitting next to Jackie Stein, and she was actually being nice to him! What a day!
November continued to unfold, and Colin found himself spending much of his time doing schoolwork, and talking to Jackie. Colin never rode the bus home because of the noise, but when he realized Jackie did, any aggravation the noise may have caused faded away.
Colin overheard Jackie talking to her friends one day about how her mother always made her get the frozen meats because the blood freaked her out. It’s not like he started hanging around the meat aisle anything, but whenever Colin went to the grocery store with his mom, he offered to pick up the meats—he never ran into her there.
As it got colder and closer to winter, his encounters with Jackie began to fade. She made new friends, and so did he. He wished so much to be at least closer to her than he was now. Colin continued to carry his list titled “Things to Say to Jackie” and kept making changes to it.
One day, a week after Christmas break ended, Colin saw Jackie sitting alone, reading a big book. He picked up a football and walked over to her.
She looked up and smiled. “Hi,”
“Um, I was—wondering if you wanted to play football with me in the courtyard,”
Jackie reluctantly looked down at her book. “Um, sure. I’m not very good though,”
“That’s no problem. I’m no Tom Brady either.”
Jackie laughed and got up.
“Alright! Oh—actually I gotta gonna go find a pump and pump this flat ball up, first,” Colin said, squeezing the football with his hand.
“Ok. I’ll meet you over there,” Jackie walked over to the courtyard, but something fell out of her pocket. Colin picked it up. It was a folded piece of paper titled, “Things to say to Colin,”.