Jem in Love by Linda Ferguson

I catch glimpses of her darting across campus. I turn my head, and she’s gone. Blue jeans, fluttering faded blue sleeves. Then one night I see her in the library, rattling a metal cart loaded with books down an aisle.

Like a moth, I’m drawn there every night to get my fix of light: a glimpse of worn sandals, bare toes, twig fingers with little knuckles of knotted twine. Her head, with its scratchy-looking hair, would come just to my shoulder, I think.

Mylene, from high school, starts going to the library with me. Two years back, we went to a dance together and shook hands when it was over. My mother knows her mother and is always saying, Have you seen Mylene lately?

Tonight Mylene brings a friend. They’re both dressed up like they’re going to a party—heels and bling and perfume, heavy as rotting fruit.

We find a table, but Mylene’s friend has a hard time settling. She fidgets with the cap of her highlighter, jitters her foot under the table, whispers to Mylene. I’ve got a test coming up in history. I stand and stretch, tell her I’m printing something.

For once, no one else is waiting for the printer…but it’s not working.

I hear a voice behind me.

I turn and see the blue girl, the always-in-a-hurry girl. 

Here, she says. She pops open the paper tray then snaps it shut. The machine starts humming.

There now, she says, and turns away.

Wait, I say, and she waits.

How can I know? In a few days she’ll be in my arms, then later we’ll be sharing an apartment, a slant of sun on a scuffed table, a bowl of apricots. And in a decade, though, the sparks of what we believed were minor irritations will rub against each other, join forces and eventually ignite into roaring sequoias, and she’ll say she’s done and take both our babies and soar off with them across the country, and the reins on my fury will snap every time I pass a playground and hear the ecstatic buzz of other people’s children as they flap and hop and tug. 

But I can’t know that now. All I know in this first moment with her is that I’m swinging from a condor’s wings as we swoop over dollhouses and pipe cleaner trees and mountain ranges that could be nothing more than peaks of whipped cream.

2 thoughts on “Jem in Love by Linda Ferguson

  1. Oh, I REALLY liked it, Linda! I was there at that darned copy machine , and thankful it jammed right at the right time!

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