Cam was eating crisps again.
“Can’t you eat just a little bit quieter? I’m getting a headache!”
“Sorry.” Woah. That has to be the first time in years that Cam has actually apologised for the volume of his snack chewing. Come to think of it he had been a bit different since the accident. Quieter. More fidgety and awkward. Suddenly I remembered something I had been trying to recall, that I needed to ask him.
“What had you been going to say just before I was hit by the car? You tried to say something and I stopped you, because I was enjoying just taking in the stars. What was it? I shouldn’t have stopped you like that.”
“Oh.” He went silent for a minute. “Sky, do you remember the first time I ever really spoke to you? I came up to you in the playground a few weeks after you had started at the school and shared my snack. It was because I liked you. I thought you were pretty and funny and too good for me, the latter of which naturally drew me to you the most. And I still do like you. I’ve had a crush on you since then, and now what I like about you the most is the fact that you’re unique, you’re brave, and you never fail to make me laugh. This doesn’t have to ruin our friendship, but I had to tell you.”
“Oh my God, now I really wish I hadn’t stopped you! I like you too, I have for ages, but I was too scared to say.”
“Well it would have been nice to have the heads up!” He huffed. “That’s ten years of stress that I’ll never get back!”
I had a sudden horrible thought, one that I always had whenever meeting anyone new.
“You don’t mind that I’m bi do you?” Cam was one of the three people that I had come out to two years ago, along with my dad and Alex, and he had never really made a big deal of it, but I didn’t know if that would change now.
“You know that you never have to worry about that, I don’t have a problem. Fancy coming over for a movie night later? My parents will be out.”
It was the Easter break from school, so with my recovery and school holiday combined, I hadn’t been in school for nearly a month now, and I had come to realise one thing through my recovery process. I didn’t want to be that shy, sensible, nerdy teacher’s pet anymore. There was a part of me that was as geeky as everyone thought, but what they didn’t see was what I was on the inside, and for me, it had been reiterated that you only live once, and my life could do easily have ended without people truly knowing the real me.
“Alex?” My brother looked across to where I was lounging on the sofa. We’d been sitting in silence for most of the morning, so he was understandably surprised to hear my voice.
“Can you teach me how to skateboard?” His face split into an enormous grin.
“I thought you’d never ask!”
Ok, I’m now regretting ever mentioning the work skateboard. I never knew he was so passionate, but before we had even reached the park he had absolutely talked my ear off about different styles, moves, designs, wheel types, you name it, he knew it. That was just the journey. On our arrival at the park, to make things worse, I discovered that our planned area of flat practice ground was occupied by a load of kids from my year group who definitely weren’t distancing, leaving us no choice but to practice on the other side of a huge bush from them.
“Alex!” I whimpered. “I can’t do it now, not with them just there.”
“Honestly sis, it’s not worth worrying about. The bushes cover at least a 20 or 30m stretch, and I’m pretty sure if you manage to exceed that you’ll be good enough and have enough confidence not to look silly.”
I still had my doubts, but I knew that deep down, I really wanted and needed to do this, and the funny thing was that he was right! I had done gymnastics classes when I was younger, quitting at the age of twelve due to realising that I was about as flexible as a paper clip, but apparently my balance isn’t bad at all. It took me most of the day to build up confidence, yet as Alex had said, by the time I could make it past the covering of bushes, I was so on top of the world that I didn’t care what my schoolmates saw. They were clearly impressed, although they had started shouting the minute they saw me, yet that only made me more determined, so much so that I tried to turn the corner at the end of the path with no guidance. Turns out that wasn’t such a good idea, but I didn’t care anymore. For the first time in years, I felt that I had shown people who the real me was.
Alex took me skateboarding every day after that for the rest of the Easter break, and by the end of that I could do a loop of the decent sized park without falling off. I had a load of money savers up, and used it to buy my own skateboard, so that I could go out on it more often without having to borrow Alex’s. Cam and I were in and out of each other’s houses all the time as well, and had loads more movie nights across the two weeks. That became our thing.
The one thing that was scaring me now was the thought of going back to school. Cam said that he hadn’t told anyone about the accident, but there were bound to be questions about my extended absence. I didn’t like to think about the crash, and even though I was starting to try and paint in my true colours, I didn’t know how my newfound confidence was going to fare back in school. I had ordered a cool new striped bag for my return, and I was accessorizing it with some badges, including a rainbow flag, a light saber and a mini golden snitch inscribed with ‘I open at the close’. Two days before I was due to go back I had bought some colourful stationery, to use instead of the boring, functional haul that I had previously used, and replaced the plain black bag from my PE kit with a cheerful printed canvas bag that I used when I went to the beach. That was more like it, more me. I was no longer scared to show my true colours, and there was just one more thing I needed before the end of the holidays. A haircut.
I haven’t mentioned my hair yet, although I doubt you would have expected me to. It’s long, quite thin, and dark red (actually red, I’m not ginger and in denial) and I usually tie it back in a ponytail, but having long hair has never really felt right for me. I didn’t want it to go really short, but just enough so that I didn’t have to tie it back would be fine. I wasn’t a tomboy as such, but I wasn’t a girly girl either, and my hair was probably the most noticeable way of expressing myself. I thought about all the different styles that I could try as I skateboarded through the village to the hairdressers, but on my arrival, the stylist suggested just a simple chin length style that would fit with the way it already grew. We decided to go for it, and standing up from that chair, with my past falling from my front was incredible. I studied the girl in the mirror, taking her in. Her hair was straight, swept back and just brushing her jawbone, gleaming reddish brown in the bright lights of the salon. She was wearing a navy and red striped jumper, skinny blue jeans and red vans, and had several round earrings through the top of her ear. By her feet was a purple striped rucksack accessorized with a variety of badges, and a skateboard painted across the top with blue flames. The girl that I saw was barely recognisable, yet I would have known her anywhere. I was finally me.