As I sat on a settee in the corridor waiting for Harry I couldn’t help but smile like an idiot. I know this sounds cliché, but what happened was a Christmas miracle. How was it even possible to make a phone call from Switzerland to England? Was it Mr Hansen’s idea or did my parents phone the school? I didn’t really care, it all seemed so surreal.
My mum was crying the most, saying that she was sorry for not being there for me and not sending anything. On the other hand, I could feel my dad’s excitement through the line, and I could picture his face right in front of me. They wished me a late happy birthday. I asked them how work was and they said it was great, but didn’t give too much detail about it. They also said that they missed me terribly and that the sound of my voice was priceless. The feeling was mutual.
The phone call didn’t last as long as I wanted, but it was enough. I walked out of Mr Hansen’s office as I thanked him over and over again. Harry was leaning against a wall, a half smiled across his face as he stepped forward.
After I thanked him once again, Harry asked if he could use the phone himself. I knew for a fact that no one could use the phone, only in extreme cases, but Mr Hansen had no other option than to let him use it. After all, he couldn’t give me special treatment, and besides, it was Christmas.
I could see he was reluctant, the look on his face as he stared at Harry was a confirmation of so, but he couldn’t say no to Harry or he would have to tell him all about my situation, and since Harry was an ordinary student he couldn’t know I was attending Hudson without paying a cent.
Mr Hansen let Harry use the phone, but I knew he wouldn’t let anyone else use it, though I was indifferent to that. The only thing on my mind was my parents. Finally, I could enjoy my Christmas at peace.
I noticed that some students were helping decorating the canteen for the big lunch we would have that day, and the smell of roasted turkey and cakes danced in the air around me. Everything was just perfect.
Minutes later, Harry walked out of the headmaster’s office. I jumped out of my seat and walked to him.
“Hey, how was the call, what did your parents say?” I asked him, happiness clear in my voice.
Harry didn’t answer, he looked down at his feet and continued walking in a fast pace in the direction of the door. I knew immediately that something was up “Harry, what’s going on?” I insisted.
“Nothing,” he said in a low, intimidating voice. Okay, something happened during that phone call and I had to help him. Harry opened the door and walked down the snow-covered stairs, but I didn’t give up and followed him.
“I said nothing!” He turned around suddenly and yelled in my face. Frightened, I jumped back and covered my face in reflex. Harry relaxed his shoulders, breathed hard and turned away without a second look in the direction of Hall B. I didn’t go after him this time, he made it clear he didn’t want to be bothered.
I stood there in the middle of the snow and I started to feel the cool air around me. I could still see Harry’s silhouette in the distance, and it pained me to see him like that. I couldn’t stop thinking of what could have possible happened during that phone call that made Harry act this way. It was yet another mystery I wanted to solve, or possibly it was another piece of the puzzle to find out Harry’s history.
Mr Hansen was the only person who knew what the conversation was about since he was the only one inside the room with Harry, but asking him would be no use; I had a feeling he wouldn’t tell me anything since it was a student’s personal life and it would make me look meddlesome. Anyhow, I found my feet dragging me inside to building.
I walked swiftly to Mr Hansen’s office just for curiosity, and for my surprise the door was opened but no one was inside. I looked around. It was incredibly silent and I could easily go in and look for evidence for what had happened.
That was when I remembered the student profile.
It was the perfect opportunity to get it, since the office was always locked when Mr Hansen wasn’t there. I would never get a chance like this again, it was now or never.
I walked in and closed the door. I wasted no time and went straight to his desk. It was a mess; pens were everywhere, papers scattered around, even his chair was out of place, but no sign of Harry’s profile.
I knelt down on the floor and tried to opened every single drawer of that desk; all locked. I started to hear voices outside and that was when the adrenaline started to kick in. I had to be fast or I could be caught, and just the thought of my name on The Book with the Christmas date on it made me want to dig a hole and bury myself.
I moved to a metal cupboard with three drawers. There were numbers on them; the top on had the numbers “8-9”, the middle one “10-11” and the last one “12”. I risked and opened the last one, praying that it had what I wanted. The drawer had many compartments, one of which was labelled “H.E”. I opened it and I sighed in relief; Harry’s profile was in there.
That was when someone opened the door.
I took the profile, put it inside my overcoat, and closed the drawer in half a second, before looking up to face Mr Hansen.
“What are you doing here?” He said in surprise. His face was red, his shirt-tail out of place and had a glass of water in his hand.
“I left my pen here when I phoned my parents, but now I found it, so I’m leaving.”
I crossed my arms in fear that he might notice that I was hiding a dossier underneath it. My hands were shaking and sweaty, my heart was racing and there were a million thoughts crossing my mind.
Mr Hansen moved to the side to let me pass and once I was out of the room I ran as fast as I could out of that building.
The plan was never to take the profile from that room, I only wanted to take a look at it and then I would put it where it belonged. Now I had a huge problem, a really serious one and it was literally against my chest! I could almost feel it burn my lungs as the time passed and the fear of being discovered increased.
I was almost reaching Hall A when I heard Genevieve’s voice “Hey Summer, where are you going, it’s almost time for lunch!”
“I am just going to my room and I’ll be there in a minute.”
“Okay, I’ll save a seat for you.”
I faked a smile, turned around and entered the building. I went up the stairs, taking three steps at a time and closed the door of my dorm.
Exhausted, I took my overcoat off and looked at the papers in front of me; what have I done?
I decided to hide it and go have lunch as if nothing had happened. That was the trick for hiding or lying about something: the more fuss I made about it, the more people would start to think something was up.
What if Mr Hansen found out the profile was missing, or worse, someone found I have it and went to tell him? I had to put it back once I read it, but the chances of getting caught while going back to his office were huge.
I looked around the room. The only safe place I could think of was under my mattress since no one would go there. I quickly lifted on end and hid the profile as well as I could.
Breath Summer I whispered to myself as I took my fingers to my hair. I had been lying about my entire life for four months, I sure could handle this. Besides, I doubt Harry would be at the lunch so I’d eat quickly, come back to my dorm, read what I had to read and then plan how to put the profile back where it was... Easier said than done.
I lost no more time and headed to the main building where the big feast was taking place. The entrance to the canteen was packed full of students and staff. My eyes scanned the space for Harry, but I only found Genevieve. She immediately called me and dragged me to the middle of her ninth grader friends which were all talking about the presents they had received but I couldn’t care less. I was afraid Mr Hansen would jump out of nowhere.
Soon enough the cooks opened the doors of the canteen and everyone walked in. In the centre of the room we could see some of the long tables side by side to make an extra-long table to fit everyone. The red tablecloth had appetizing food which invited everyone to the table. I sat next to Genevieve and her friends since I had no other choice.
I looked at the roasted potatoes and the turkey and the dressings and all of the cakes and drinks and suddenly nothing of that mattered. I thought of Harry, how was in his room all alone missing all of that and I couldn’t accept it.
I wrapped a slice of mincemeat tart in a napkin and tapped Genevieve on her shoulder “I’m going to the bathroom.”
She nodded her head and went back to talking to her friends. I put the slice inside the pocket of my overcoat and left the busy room. Once outside, I opted for a steady run, I didn’t want to wear out so fast. During my way to Hall B, I couldn’t stop thinking about the profile, but I had to let it rest; I couldn’t do anything about it now, only act normal.
Hall B started to come into view. Since I couldn’t go inside I walked around the building to see if I could find Harry’s room. I figured it was on the last floor since he was a senior (which was more or less ten meters high), and he would probably have his curtains opened to let the light in. I tried my luck and threw a tiny rock at the windows I thought could be his room. That was when I saw a shadow. It had to be his; he was surely the only person in the building.
I searched for a rock in the ground by clearing the snow from the way. I picked on that was the size of my thumb and threw it to his window. It made a loud noise but didn’t shatter the glass. Then I waited for a response, but when I had none I tried again. At last, the window opened.
“Hi!” I shouted as I waved my hand, shouting as loud as I could so he would hear me.
“What do you want?” he shouted back “Shouldn’t you be having lunch?”
“I have something to give you,” I ignored his question.
“Summer, go away.”
“No! This is your Christmas and I am not going to let you waste it because of whatever happened earlier,” I said determinedly. I was actually proud of my confidence “Or you come down here or I’ll climb.”
“Bye Summer!” He rolled his eyes, moving away from the window.
He should have known better than to challenge me like that “It’s settled then, I’ll climb.”
I pulled my body onto the window sill of the ground floor. I calculated my way up and I had enough places to grab and to put my feet.
“Summer, please don’t do it, you’ll hurt yourself,” Harry said as he sighed.
I didn’t respond and continued climbing. I felt some occasional pain on my wrist but nothing I couldn’t endure. Harry continued to say I was crazy, but I continued to climb without looking down or I was afraid I would regret my sudden act of bravery.
Harry sighed, and all of a sudden an improvised ladder made of two ropes and wooden cylinders in the middle came down from his window.
I looked up at him wide-eyed.
“Go on, it’s safe,” he said. I looked down for the first time and I was about three meters from the ground. I grabbed the ladder and started to climb. The ladder was shaking like a twig and I prayed I wouldn’t miss a step. It was ten meters high after all and my chances of getting hurt were high
Once I was high enough for my hand to reach Harry’s window sill, I took out of my pocket the treat I brought for him.
“What is this?” He asked as he peered his head out of the window, his messy curls falling over his eyes.
“It’s my Christmas present to you,” I said as I started to descend “Since you aren’t going to the lunch I thought maybe I should give you something to be happy about.”
“Summer, come back here,” He said as he leaned more out of the window.
“And by the way,” I continued to ramble as I descended down the ladder “You have to tell me how you did this ladder, I want one for myself!”
I was already halfway down when Harry’s head disappeared. Good, my plan had worked.
I continued to go down the wobbly ladder when suddenly I felt two arms wrap around my waist. I realised I was one meter away from the ground when Harry yanked me away from the ladder effortlessly and pulled me to the ground. I tried to free myself, but his grip was too strong.
“Don’t ever do that again, you hear me?” He said breathlessly “You could have severely hurt yourself!” He moved one of his hands from my waist to my wrist that still had a bandage around it and he examined it “Christ Summer, you scared me.”
“I’m okay. Now please, please don’t stay here alone and come have lunch with us.”
“Summer, I can’t go there,” He let go of my hand.
“Just give it a try, you’ll like it.”
“Summer, they hate me.”
“Stop saying Summer in the beginning of each sentence, damn it!” I said and he laughed, which was not what I was expecting because I was being serious, but it sure made the atmosphere lighter “Please, for me.”
I looked at him with faithful eyes and he sighed “Fine, I’ll go.”
I internally high-fived myself as we started to walk to the main building, snow lightly falling on top of our heads. I don’t know how on earth he agreed, but it didn’t matter anyway.
That was when he stopped in his tracks.
“What’s going on?” I asked him.
I turned around and faced him “Yes you do, it’s just a stupid lunch.”
“No Summer... You just don’t understand.”
“Understand what?” I said loudly, exasperated.
There was a pause. Harry sighed “Look, I’ll stay outside waiting for you, and then we will do whatever you want. We can even go downtown, there will be too many people there so Tom won’t try to attack me.”
I just stared at him. Whatever it is that was going on in his life, for him to say he was willing to go to London, it must be serious. It broke my heart to leave him there in the cold, but I knew I did my best to get him to enjoy his Christmas.
“Just promise me something,” I told him as I walked up the stairs of the main building “Don’t smoke.”
He smiled at the ground “Wow, you are so ridiculously observant to some things but completely oblivious to others,” he said, “I haven’t smoked since then, you smart ass.”
“Since when?” I was completely lost. What was he talking about?
He smiled again “Go inside or the food might disappear. And oh, can you bring me a slice of apple pie?”
Rolled my eyes and entered the building, but before closing the door I gave him a smile.