Eyes Only For Jade

Andy at 10

My friends say I’ve changed. But they don’t know what it’s like. I’m in love. And Jade is the girl I’ll marry. One day. In many years. When I’m allowed. When we’re all grown up. I’ll show them.

Matt’s serving. Jade’s at the other end of the court, across the wooden plank divide that everyone stupidly calls a net. It’s not a net. I tried to tell them; they didn’t listen. They’re stupid like that. My teacher says I have to go for Matt. He’s tough and I dare not cheer against him. But it’s Jade I’m really going for. It’s the red windcheater; it’s the black sports pants with the ankle zip thing; it’s the way she moves.

But I don’t get sport. I’d never cared about it until I realised Jade was into it. Now I sit by the bat tennis court watching her ace opponents – burly, big grade-sixers, ambitious little kids or just other girls in her class. She’s very good. Very talented, “something to be proud of”, her teacher says – which reminds me, I’m supposed to cheer for Matt. Because he’s in my class.

But he’s too angry. He’s too competitive. He wants me to like him. It’s always been his problem. He wants everyone to like him. No one can have everyone like them. I bet the only person in the world everyone likes is Michael Jackson. Or Michael Jordan.

Jade’s from the city. I first spoke to her after school one day. It changed my world. I was just standing near the bus stop thinking school was pretty boring when she came and asked me if the bus coming down the highway would take her to the shops. I said it would. She thanked me. The way she spoke, her eyes, her hair: it was beautiful. It was at that moment I had eyes only for Jade.

The days all of a sudden seemed to race on by. School became a small speck of time in the day and the nights were long. Playtime – both little and big – flashed by in an instant and each time I tried to speak to Jade, the bell would ring. It hurt. And it was annoying. I couldn’t shake her friends. I wanted time alone to speak to her. But her friends were always there, so I would just stand round waiting for Jade to say she liked me. I didn’t know how to say it to her.

She delivered me a message on my birthday. Through her friend with the big nose and glasses – Kara, I think. I was sitting with my friends, telling them all about Jade and the day I’d helped her catch the bus, when Kara arrived with a scrunched-up piece of paper she shoved into my hand.

“Why does she want to hold your hand?” my friends teased.

“She doesn’t,” I told them, before they went back to kicking the footy and forgot about it.

“You gonna read it?” Kara asked. I did. Jade said she was sick of me standing round not saying anything. I could feel my heart begin to crumble. But there was more:

“So, why don’t you come watch me play bat tennis, then you can sit down and not say anything. You must be tired from standing. Maybe after that, you could ask me out?”

My friends said I was weird for not swapping footy cards with them after school. They said it was strange that I would go to a girl’s house. I thought it was too. But there I was, patting a dog in her lounge room, eating a milk arrowroot biscuit, drinking Milo and listening to her dad shout answers at the TV when Wheel of Fortune was on.

“Do you like that kind of biscuit?” Jade asked. I said I did.

“I try to dig out the middle with my front teeth; make a hole right through,” she said. I nodded. I didn’t say much around Jade.

“You’re very quiet, aren’t you?” Again, I nodded.

“Why don’t you say something?” she asked. So I did.

“I like your house.”

Later, in her yard, when she was bouncing on her trampoline, she told me she thought I was cute. I truly knew I had eyes only for Jade.

My friends stopped talking to me. They said I spent too much time with Jade. They were angry she had knocked them out of the bat tennis competition. They didn’t want to spend lunchtime watching her beat Matt.

“That could’ve have been my trophy,” Sam said. “It should have been mine.”

Sam was at least talking to me again. It had been a long three days with only one friend.

“She’s not going to win.”

“She is so.”

“Is not.”

“Is so.” I was speaking way too much. I needed to have eyes only for Jade.

She was winning for a bit, then losing, and then there was a bit where she wasn’t winning or losing and it was even and they called it “juice”. The crowd cheered for Matt. My teacher told us to. But Matt was too naughty. And I had eyes only for Jade.

The way she swung the bat, the way she moved around the court, even the way she slipped over and scabbed her knee on the asphalt – it all made me look at her more. I was in love. I knew that I was in love. And I would say it to her.

I would take her to the showgrounds and buy her a necklace. It would be a love heart, in two pieces, it would seem broken around her neck, but I would have the other half and we would join them together when we went to the movies; when we sat in the back row eating Maltesers; when I walked her home afterwards; when I jumped on her trampoline; when we kissed in midair; when we landed and fell into each other’s arms; when I touched her tanned hands and wished that I too went out in the sun.

It would be me and her. And I would have eyes only for Jade.

I had eyes only for Jade. And I still do. One’s a little sore now, but my teacher says it will be fine after 45 minutes of holding this ice pack, wrapped in a red tartan tea towel, over it. She said next time I have to stop daydreaming and watch the game – especially if the ball is coming straight at my face.

I like Jade’s trophy. It’s going to have her name on it. Maybe she will scratch my name next to it. She would do that, because she has eyes only for me.