I sat up and read over what I had written and felt so happy inside as I smiled into the dappled light shining through the branches above me.
At school the next day I kept looking inside my backpack to see my book sitting there, and I had this urge to pick it up and start reading. But I didn’t want my teachers or any of the kids in my class to see me reading ‘Romeo and Juliet’ so I just left it there. I was so itchy to read my book again that as soon as the bell went at lunchtime I headed straight for the library and found a quiet desk in the back corner. Students weren’t allowed to take food into the library, but that didn’t matter because I wasn’t hungry anyway. I was so excited about reading my book that I didn’t feel like eating lunch at all.
All through the week I sat in the library at lunch time and read more and more of the book. As I read I felt little fluttering butterflies in the bottom of my stomach, but they were nice ones, not the sort that made me want to throw up. By the end of the week I had finished reading the whole book and I cried when they both died.
But I didn’t want to feel sad, so I started reading again from the beginning and kept going over those scenes that I liked the best again and again.
I had decided my favourite scene was the one where Romeo snuck into Juliet’s party, and I found myself wondering what it would be like to have some guy feel that way about me. I started daydreaming that I was Juliet and I began to look up other books in the library so I could learn more about the time that she lived in. On the weekends I wore long flowing dresses like the ones I saw in the pictures that I imagined Juliet would have worn, and I started brushing my hair more often.
One day I got game enough to ask Catherine to show me how to braid my hair, just like the way it was done in my dream.
We sat on her bed and she gently pulled a brush through the knots in my tangled hair.
‘You have such pretty hair, Molly,’ she said. ‘You really should look after it better.’
I knew she was just saying it to be nice, because I’d heard all those girls at school telling me how ugly my hair really was. Still, it felt nice to be allowed in Catherine’s bedroom for a change and to have her brushing my hair. She even showed me how to put on eye shadow to bring out the highlights in my eyes. She said just a little smudge of eye shadow would attract people’s attention to my eyes and they would see how beautiful they were. I felt my cheeks blush a little when she said that and I didn’t know what to say so I just sat there quietly and let her talk.
Catherine patiently braided my hair on either side and then tied the two strands back with a ribbon so that the braid sat like a tiara around my head. She brushed out my long curly hair until it was hanging down my back from beneath the braided tiara.
‘You look gorgeous, Molly,’ she said. ‘Why don’t you check yourself out in the mirror now?’
I slid off the bed and walked over to the dresser and looked at this strange girl in the mirror. Her eyes were wide open and looked astonished.
‘You are so pretty like that, Molly. Any Romeo would fall in love with you straight away.’ My face felt really hot as I blushed even harder then and I could see the bright red cheeks of the girl in the dressing table mirror looking back at me. Her eyes stood out bright and sparkly and I could almost believe that maybe what Catherine said was true.
I wanted to tell Catherine about ‘Romeo and Juliet’ but I felt shy about bringing it up, and then she said that she needed to get ready for her job as a waitress.
I said ‘thank you’ to her for doing my hair, and then ran back to my bedroom so that I could start reading my book again. As I turned the pages, my hand idly stroked the smooth hair of my braid, but I was careful not to spoil it by making it come loose.
My hair was still braided when I went back to school on Monday and I kept thinking about Catherine’s words as I floated through the corridors between classes. I wondered if there were any boys that would ever fall in love with me at first sight like Romeo did, but after a while I decided that there was no way that would ever happen to me because I was too small and quiet.
I was worried somebody would say something about my hair, so I tried to stay away from the girls in my class as much as I could during the day. But ever since the fight they had been leaving me alone. It was just as if I didn’t exist in their world, and that suited me fine as I was able to walk around the school and nobody paid me any attention.