In the kitchen, something fell on the floor tiles. The sound echoed throughout the house, pulling the young girl out of her sleep. She patted her alarm clock to prevent it from activating. It wasn’t worth it since she was now awake. Max pulled on the covers forcefully, growling. Julie sighed deeply and asked him to stop.
“No need to add some more.”
The dog jumped on the bed, licking her face before running away in the kitchen. The young girl stood up painfully. She saw her reflection in the mirror. How awful… She pushed a strand of hair across her forehead and joined Max in the kitchen to feed him. Her mother turned to her and grinned when she saw her.
“Sorry for the pot,” she said. “Did I wake you?”
“No,” Julie lied, rubbing her eyes. “I studied.”
Her mother gave her a small smile, having fully understood the lie of her daughter. The young girl shrugged before disappearing into the hallway. She locked herself in the bathroom to take a long shower. Then she returned to her room to get dressed. When she got back to the kitchen, her mother poured her a glass of orange juice while talking with her father who drank slowly his coffee. Julie took the glass her mother handed her and sat at the counter before grabbing a muffin. She joined her parents’ conversation. Her father finally asked her if the movie from the other day worth something. Julie swallowed the last bite of her muffin, looking for a nice way to summarize the pathetic film she had seen the day before. Terms as nice as possible, it wasn’t easy to find. And way too much above her will.
“A real torture.”
She finished her orange juice before brushing her teeth and putting her notebooks in her bag. She had to take the road to school. Her series of tests began officially today. She was happy not to feel too tired by her evening at the movies. There was only one small problem: without understanding why, she couldn’t keep Matthew away from her thoughts. Along the road, she kept thinking about him. She knew him for several years. His presence was agreeable to her. But his charming smile and beautiful green eyes… She quickened her pace, as if to walk faster would make her thoughts unable to follow her. She wanted so much to meet Philip. At least he could make thing about something else.
She managed to survive the first day. She went back home, exhausted. Her parents were still at work. So she had the house to herself. She took a walk with Max just to get some fresh air. When she returned home for the second time, the phone rang. She hastened to answer.
“Yes?” she replied, a little breathless.
She bent down to release the dog, the phone stuck between her ear and shoulder.
“Hi Julie!” Karen’s cheerful voice. “How was your first day of exams?”
“Anything new since yesterday?”
Julie frowned, wondering if she had forgotten something.
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “Nothing new. Why do you want to know that?”
She heard a second voice. She easily recognized Nancy. The two young girls exchanged a few words that Julie was unable to understand. She heaved a deep sigh, while she waited their semi-secret conversation to end. Max sat down in front of her, claiming her attention. She gently scratched him behind his ear.
“That’s what she said! She said no!”
“I know very well what I said and I’m still waiting for you to explain why you want to know that. What are you up to, both?”
“That means he did nothing…” Karen sighed.
“Who should do what?” Julie asked, eager to understand.
“Shut the hell up!” Karen ordered. “She’ll hear you!”
“But I already hear you, both! I know that Nancy is with you. What’s going on? Who should do what? Does someone can answer me?”
She heard small fighting sounds before Nancy’s voice was heard.
“You really are not hiding anything? Are you sure?”
“Are you making fun of me because of the picture I found in my locker?”
“Not at all! It’s… something else…”
“Will you stop asking me all those stupid questions and finally give me an answer?”
Nancy sighed deeply.
“Matthew was supposed to invite you to the prom…”
Julie frowned, not believing a single word. He hadn’t done anything when they were alone in his car. Her friends were pulling her leg! Nobody wanted to invite her and the prom would be held the following week. Too much at the last minute, according to her. And anyway, she didn’t believe them. When they talked about it yesterday, he said he didn’t want to abandon his best friend for the evening. He never had the intention to invite her. She was unable to believe a single word.
“When you’ll finish your common psychedelic delirium, call me. Bye.”
She pressed the button to cut the line, still confused. She shook her head, turning her attention to Max who was moaning before her. She reached out and scratched him under his chin.
“Neither do you, you don’t believe it. Aren’t you?”
Max moaned again, wagging his tail.
“It’s too ridiculous to believe that he would be interested by me.”
She went to her bedroom to find the group photo found in her locker. Then she reached into her album that was still on her desk. She pulled out the same photo. She compared the two images, seeking a detail that would have escaped from her sight. With the exception of red circles and the message, both pictures were identical. What did the message mean? What should she remember? Nothing extraordinary happened during that year. She looked at each of her friends. She had a little smile. Karen’s hair was catastrophic; she was right on this point. But there was no reason to remember that detail.
“Why should I remember that year?”
She dropped on her bed before looking up at the ceiling. She straightened up, frowning.
“The old theater…”