I skip physical education and head to the local locksmiths, which is around a 20-minute stroll. As predicted, the weather has warmed, so I tie my coat around my waist. The grey streets are practically empty as I pound the pavement. I like the peace and quiet at this hour. Most people are busy at school or at work.
Soon enough, the land begins to incline and I’m huffing up a hill, with sweat building at my brow. I catch myself giggling aloud at the notion of my struggle, considering that I’m bunking gym.
The shop front shines against the winter sun, enticing me in. A jangling of bells ring upon my entry. The shop looks dim compared to the whiteness of the outside. I scan around the cluttered space. An oversize, bald man with sprouting nose hair greets me.
“Good afternoon, what can I do you for?”
I pull the keys from my pocket. They take a bit of wiggling before finally succumbing to my grasp. “I need a key cut, please.”
“Just the one? We have an offer of three keys for the price of two.”
“Just the one is fine, thanks.”
The man behind the counter sniffles and rubs his hairy nose before taking the key from me. I’ll have to disinfect them before I return them to Sophia.
“It won’t take very long. Take a seat.”
The waiting area consists of two worn, distressed faux leather seats. Old magazines sandwich between them, so I take a gander. In a matter of minutes the key is cut, and I pay him using the loose change in my coat. As easy as that, I reflect, on my way back into the daylight. A smirk plastering my face.
When I make it back to school, Sophia loiters in the mahogany hallway.
“Good day?” I call from afar, closing the gap with each stride.
“Yes, thank you,” she says unconvincingly while scratching her head, “What’s next for you?”
“I help with the Student Newspaper but not today.”
“Well then, it seems pointless walking back home separately. Seems as we live so close to one another.”
The comment roots me to the stop. “Right. Just give me one minute. I’ll be right back.”
Not wanting to pass up an opportunity to spend more time with Sophia, I run to my mum’s classroom, and let her know I won’t be needing a lift. As I breeze through her classroom, she lifts her head from a stack of books.
Breathless, I announce my plans and turn to leave, but falter at the sound of her voice. “Who are you walking home with?” she questions.
“Sophia, she is our new neighbour. I’m her assigned buddy for the week.”
My mum’s face beams. This is the first time I’ve ever mentioned a girl.“That’s wonderful, Lucas. Invite her and her family over for dinner, tonight. I’d love to get to know her too.”
I finally manage to escape my mum and catch up with Sophia. We set off on our long walk home. She is the first to break the silence.
“What do you write about?”
“For the Student Newspaper?”
“Oh, I don’t. I actually help with the photography.”
I spend most of our journey discussing my work and favourite photographers: Man Ray and André Kertész for reference. I adore the nuances of Noire et Blanche and the aerial composition of Window Views. Sophia admits she doesn’t know all that much about the subject but finds it interesting. Although, she could just be saying that to humour me.
At the foot of her front garden, I pluck up the courage to invite her to dinner.
“I’ll have to check with my parents first. They’ll let you know.”
Just as she turns to walk down her path, I kneel on the floor with her keys in my hand.
“Did you drop these?”
“I didn’t even hear them fall. Strange.”
I pass them to her as she thanks me.
“Or if your parents prefer, we could come round to yours and help you unpack?” I ask.
Sophia’s eyes widen. Her hand rests against the brass handle, making her bag slump down her arm, towards the patio.
“Great idea. I’ll be sure to put that to them. Thanks again for today,” she replies, as she retreats inside and closes the door.
Getting a feel for the layout of the house will be advantageous. That way, I can better prepare.