Chapter Four: Paige

PAIGE

Paige is an interesting story, to say the least. When writing this book, she was the first girl I had a serious apprehension about contacting, she was the first girl I considering passing on.

But why quit now, so early on? And hey – without conflict, what kind of story would this be?

The story of the crush on Paige is probably the most embarrassing one I’m going to write. My only defence on the matter is that I was twelve years old.

It was Grade Six, for the first in what felt forever I did not have a crush on any particular girl. The Jessica crush had given way to the Kirsty crush, and the Kirsty crush had faded and we remained good friends.

It was a good feeling, especially after the emotional roller coaster of the Kirsty crush. Unfortunately, it was all about to change.

Our primary school used to have this annual fund raising event called “Putting On The Hits”, in which groups of kids (which predominantly consisted of girls) would dress up and do a dance routine to a well known song. Some of them were done humorously, these were most often the groups consisting mostly of guys, and some of them took months of detailed choreography, these were most often the groups consisting entirely of girls.

Kirsty and Stephanie had coaxed me into playing a small part in that years “Putting On The Hits”. I got assigned the smallest role possible and then found myself repeatedly going to rehearsals and the so forth.

Paige was in one of the other groups, they were doing their routine to the song “Wild Thing”. Sitting there in rehearsals, watching them do their routine to this song, a familiar feeling started to stir inside of me. I was falling for Paige.

Now, this was Year Six – we were only twelve years old but that was old enough that boyfriends and girlfriends were already forming (some had formed the previous year hence why I believed I actually had a chance with Kirsty).

However Paige was one of the “popular kids”. I was most definitely not. So my chances from the start were practically non-existent.

I would write stories where I was a superhero, called Weird Boy, who pretty much had the same super powers as Superman. In the stories Weird Boy, who wore a mask, would win over the heart of Paige, and eventually reveal his identity, which wouldn’t bother her, and they would stay together.

I was twelve years old. I was also about to do something very stupid.

I remember gazing longingly one day at Paige in class. I remember thinking if I only I could win her over without her realising who I was. You see, at this stage I was figuring my popularity was my biggest weakness. If I could her win over without her realising how unpopular I was, then maybe once she found out who I truly was, she’d still want to go out with me.

But I didn’t have super powers, I wasn’t even that good at sports. I was a writer.

So I decided to write her love letters, and sign them “Your Secret Admirer”. She would fall for me and fiction would met reality. Who’d have thought my plan was so flawed?

I never told anyone I was writing the letters. The only person who I would have confided in was Steven, but he and his family had moved to Queensland a few months earlier.

I would write a letter, trying my best to make the handwriting look different, and then I would slip them into her desk when no one was around. I never heard anyone say anything about them, so I assumed either she really liked getting them and wasn’t telling anyone, or she didn’t like getting them and I just wasn’t hearing anything about it.

This would eventually be my downfall.

The sixth graders had to take turns in pairs to work in the school office during their lunch hours. You and a friend did this for about a week. My partner was my friend Dexter.

Now, the upside of working in the school office at lunch time was that you got off class ten minutes early. Now for some reason Paige’s friend Kim was waiting for a teacher in the school office when we arrived. I seized the opportunity to try and weed it out of her whether the letters were having any impact whatsoever.

So I think I overheard someone saying they were writing Paige secret love letters the other day,” I told her. Kim’s eyes went wide.

Who? Come on! Tell me, it’s been driving EVERYONE insane!” She questioned me excitedly. Well, the letters were making some sort of impact, but without giving away that it was me I wouldn’t be able to get more information, so I removed suspicion.

Well, I didn’t actually hear I just wanted to see your reaction,” I joked. Kim was mildly annoyed but accepted that she’d been had.

Dexter wasn’t. As soon as Kim was out of hearing range he turned to me.

You know who it is don’t you?” He said, pointedly. “You were lying when you said you didn’t. Why don’t you ever tell me these things?”

Now, this put me in a tight spot. I didn’t have enough time to come up with a decoy, and if I said the wrong thing I knew Dexter would guess it was me and tell everyone he knew. I had no choice, I had to tell him, and make it clear that was in complete confidence.

Me,” I said.

Yeah, YOU – you never tell me anything!” What is this? A fricking sitcom! I tried again.

Me,”

You never tell me anything, I don’t even know why we’re friends sometimes….”

It’s ME you idiot!”

Dead silence. Then:

You wrote the love letter?” He said, obviously surprised. “What did you put in it?”

The truth was, the stuff I’d made up was entirely cheesy. Things like “I would walk across hot coals, or swim the amazon river to be for you” and “your hair is like a golden waterfall”. There was no way in heaven or hell was I going to tell him this.

Just stuff,” I replied. “But you have to promise, you won’t tell anyone. Anyone. If anyone finds out about it, I’m doomed.”

Dexter was adamant that he would keep his mouth shut. Then finished with:

I’m pretty sure Brendan will kill you if he ever finds out,”

This I had not been expecting. For you see, sometime between dropping the first letter in her desk, and the conversation in the school office, Paige had gotten herself a new boyfriend by the name of Brendan. A rather annoying but popular guy who could quite easily cause a guy like me serious pain.

Which he almost did. But we will get to that later.

I hadn’t known about Brendan until this point. I have morals, even back then, and these include not going after another guy’s girlfriend. If I’d known she had a boyfriend I would’ve stopped the damn letters then and there.

But unpopular people aren’t always in the loop.

It became apparent moments after lunch ended (yes, he lasted a whole forty five minutes) that telling Dexter had not been the smartest tactical move.

I can’t tell you,” He told a random passer-by. He was teasing me. Pretending he was going to tell someone.

I can’t tell you Ben,” He told another sixth grader.

Can’t tell me what?” Ben asked.

Liam’s secret. I can’t tell you,” And then he walked off with me following. I was angry and scared and nervous.

I had two options. The first was to keep my trap shut and just pray that Dexter did the same with his – or I would taunt Dexter with a secret he’d told me previously, about a girl HE had a crush on, figuring this would scare him into keeping his mouth shut.

Of course, I choose the second option.

This did not scare Dexter into keeping his mouth shut. In fact it had the reverse effect.

I made a smart arse comment, Dexter responded by turning to the nearest girl and saying.

Liam is the one writing secret love letters to Paige,”

Shit! My blood ran cold. I panicked, my eyes fixed upon the girl he told. There was still a small part of me that clung to the hope that she would keep this a secret. My eyes stayed fixed upon her as she raced up to Paige and all of her friends and told them.

I don’t think a piece of news ever spread through a class full of 30 kids so fast before.

Forty seven minutes after telling Dexter my secret the entire damn class knew. To this day Dexter still claims he did nothing wrong. He feels my threat of releasing his secret justified his telling of mine.

The important thing to this story is not how wrong Dexter was in telling my secret to someone, the important thing is that Paige now knew.

And so did Brendan – as well the rest of my Year Six class.

The rest of the afternoon I had everyone, including Paige herself asking whether it was true: was I the one who wrote the letters?

No,” I said. “It wasn’t me!” I said.

No one believed me, but some figured there was a chance I was telling the truth. I spent a week wallowing in self pity and despising Dexter.

I tried to vent my frustrations by writing a story, but all I could write where stories where Dexter had his hair gel switched with hair removing cream and it was revealed that HE was the one who’d written the letters to Paige.

I handed the story in to my teacher as part of a creative writing assignment. I was told to rewrite it with a note saying “not your best work.” That stung – creative writing was the one subject I always excelled in. The entire secret admirer thing was affecting my work!

The best part was yet to come. Brendan had waited a week to make his move.

School had finished, and for some reason I can’t remember, I’d had to stay back. I walked out of the classroom to grab my school bag when someone grabbed me and slammed me up against a wall.

Did you write the letters to Paige!?!?!” Brendan demanded. “Just tell me, I won’t do anything, I just want to know!” This coming from a guy who was holding me up against a brick wall.

It wasn’t me,” I pleaded. “I don’t know who it was, but it wasn’t me!”

Just tell me!” He ordered again, and again I told him it wasn’t me.

Brendan thought about this for a moment, he seemed to come sort of decision and let me go. Then, as though it were an after thought, he unexpectedly slammed me hard against the wall again.

Stay away from Paige, okay?!?!”

I nodded. I would stay away from her. I was going to stay well, well away from her.

Weeks went by. Slowly, everyone forgot about the letters. Well, there was the occasional joke about them, but in time it faded. People either decided that it was me, or it wasn’t, or that just didn’t care.

Then one day everyone was cleaning out their desks, and I walked down the row Paige sat in, I saw her pull a familiar looking envelope out. Apparently the desk had been so messy, one had disappeared below the piles of paper and remained unnoticed.

This of course re-ignited the fire of questions and I once again found everyone curious – did I write the letters? Was it someone else?

Brendan, in a less violent manner this time, once again began questioning me: was it me? He told me if I told him he wouldn’t do anything, he just wanted to know. Repeatedly. He just wanted to know. He wouldn’t react badly or anything he assured me. He really didn’t understand why I wouldn’t just tell him if it WAS me. He even referred to himself as a ‘good guy’.

Enough was enough. I wrote Paige one last letter. Confessing everything, and telling she deserved to be with Brendan as he seemed to be the one who made her happy. And I gave her this, to her face.

She never responded to it in any way. In fact, we never really properly spoke until about two years later.

High school began, and then Year Seven finished and passed away. Friendships changed and people began to grow up more. Boyfriends and girlfriends became common place, more so than in Year Six.

I’m not going to sugar coat it that high school was some of the “best years of my life”. It wasn’t – I couldn’t wait to finish

Once again, I was not popular. I wasn’t freakishly unpopular, well, okay, I was for a while, but it passed.

I think it was during the freakishly unpopular time that Paige began her serious dislike of me. This is the part that still confuses me to this day – because for the life of me I have no idea why the girl hated me so much.

The weird part is – earlier on in the same year, we actually got along. Well enough for us to be able to sit next to each other and joke about the whole secret love letters incident, and I finally told her about the Brendan incident. (which she hadn’t heard about)

We weren’t exactly friends but we got along.

Sometime later that year though – everything sort of went wrong. I have a strong feeling it had something to do with a story written by a guy called Evan, who really didn’t like me, but I was never sure.

I didn’t have a crush her any more, this stage I’d moved on to my sister’s friend and lived in eternal fear my sister would find out about it.

There was no closure here – I finished high school and Paige still acted towards me the same way she had been for the last two years. Years went by and we never had anything to do with each other any more. Until now.

—-

So as you can see, with this history the prospect of getting into contact with Paige was not exactly a promising one. In fact, she was the first crush I had to contact that I seriously thought would consider putting a restraining order out against me.

But like I said earlier, at least it will make for an interesting story.

I was telling my friend Cat, with whom I also went to high school, about it. Cat, who had witnessed the high school part of the Paige story first hand told me not to go through with it.

She encouraged me to skip the Paige part of the book completely. I wanted to, part of me REALLY did. But I couldn’t bring myself to skip over one of the crushes just because things were going to get hard.

Now, if she in no way wanted any part of it, well, that was fair enough but I at least had to to try.

Ultimately I knew I had to come up with a game plan. Various high school contacts had informed that Paige was now engaged and no longer living with her parents. Unfortunately all information that was in public records still had Paige as living at her parents address.

This was not uncommon. I still had stuff listed as my parents address and I hadn’t lived at the house in five years, nor had anyone else I was related to. Including my parents.

This put me in a tight spot. Because now not only did I have to contact Paige and somehow hopefully arrange an interview, I also had to get her contact details.

Now, obviously the best place to get these would be her parents. The problem was, if she’d mentioned me to her parents at all it was not going to be in a positive light. Not recently anyway.

I put off contacting Paige as long as possible. I decided that since I was still waiting for a response from Jessica, whom I’d sent a letter to, that I should give her a decent enough time to respond.

I was lying to myself. Trying to convince myself there was a perfectly logical reason to put off contacting Paige.

About a week after I met Kirsty, I was on the phone to my friend Cat who was once again trying to convince me NOT to meet Paige. She was worried that meeting up with her night cause me some seriously bad consequences.

Then she informed me that Paige now lived in Sydney with her fiancé. This added yet another complication. Now I had to make it sound non-stalkerish that I was willing to come to Sydney to interview her for this book.

I theorised that if she could read what I’d written so far, she’d be more open to the idea. Problem was getting her to a point where she’d be willing to look at unfinished manuscript.

Which brought me back to getting in touch with her family.

Obviously the most convenient solution would be to lie. I could just tell her I was organising a Year Six Reunion for our Primary School graduating class. Then casually mention that I was writing a book about contacting every girl I’ve ever had a crush on. It would be easy.

Until she realised the Year Six Reunion was a lie, it was all a ploy to get an interview with her for the book. Once this realisation sunk in I’m pretty sure her present day view of me would be somewhat reminiscent of her high school view of me.

No. That was not an option. But being honest with her family didn’t seem to have a high possibility of resulting in contact details for her.

Unless of course I did actually organise a year six reunion.

A year six reunion. The idea had been in my head for years, yet nothing had every eventuated from it, mostly because back then I’d never been the sort of the guy who could pull it off.

But now – NOW I was different. Now I was charged with insane confidence from this book I was writing, and the knowledge that in recent times I’d managed to pull of my crazy plans.

You’re NUTS!”

I knew I was right in thinking it would not be the last time someone said this to me. This time the person delivering the line was Jason.

Well it makes sense. At the very least, a year six reunion will be the excuse I can use to get me in contact with her, and the fact that I’m telling her the truth will gain her trust. It’s a plan with no drawbacks.” I reasoned.

Except that you will now be organising a year six reunion,” Jason pointed out.

I was feeling the same way I did when I came up with the idea for this book. It was perfect. A brilliant idea. Not only would it safely get me in contact with Paige, there was also the possibility it would get me in contact with Jessica.

Of course, organising a year six reunion would cost money, and it would have to be self funded. But hey, I did a lot of extra work to earn money for the Party For No Reason, it stood to reason that I could do it again to raise funds for a reunion.

(Little was I to know, something unfortunate was about happen to my car that would make the plans for a reunion a little difficult, but we’ll get to that later)

I’d decided. The Year Six Reunion was going to happen. Now I had the perfect excuse to contact to Paige.

I was nervous. I was more nervous than I’d been before contacting any of the previous crushes. Paige’s apparent dislike of me in high school had my nerves on edge. I knew with the previous crushes that each time I contacted them, it was either going to go really well, or really badly.

I was so nervous that I’d written out a script to read when I called her parents house.

I ignored the fear that was gnawing away at me and I dialled the number.

Paige’s dad answered the phone. I read my line straight from the script.

Hey, is Paige there by any chance?”

Uh, she doesn’t live here any more,” The dad answered wearily. Perfect, I thought to myself, now we’ve clarified information I already know…..

My name’s Liam Smith, I’m actually organising a Year Six Reunion. Is there any chance I could grab an email address or a mobile number to contact her on?”

Her dad responded by supplying me with Paige’s email. I thanked him and got off the phone. Breathing a sigh of relief. At least one part in this quest was over.

Now came the hard part.

It took me almost a whole day to come up with exactly what to email Paige. After typing up my first draft, I forwarded it to Kirsty to see what she thought I should change. After eliminating a few kinks, I gave the final product another once over, then sent it to Paige. It read as follows:

Hey Paige,

I got your email address from your Dad, I’m actually attempting (that
being the operative word) to organise a Year Six Reunion. The current
tentative date is late June / early July, I’ll try to organise around
everyone’s Uni holidays as best as possible, I guess at this stage I’m
trying to find out whether anyone would be interesting in attending.

Secondly, and I realise how strange this sounds, but in my free time
I’ve been writing a book which involves tracking down and interviewing
every girl I’ve ever had a crush on. Since, once upon a time, I did
have a crush on you I’d like to interview you for the book.

I know that sounds bizarre and I’ll completely understand if you want
to pass on this – but if you by any chance don’t, I’ve attached a copy
of what I’ve written so far to this email.

I look forward to hearing from you.

I did everything in my power to not think about what response I would get. This was achieved by focusing entirely on work, and when I was at home I would lose myself in a tv show or a movie. My brain was switched off. Paige responded exactly twenty four hours later, almost to the minute.

And Paige’s response surprised me…. to say the least….

I wish I could print the email here. I really wish I could. But after her first email, which let me tell you can only be described as art. The 300 word monster of an email asked me in intricate detail for more information, asked me why I thought she hated me, (What, you screaming and jumping to the other side of the corridor whenever I walked down it in high school didn’t tip you off there Paige?). Then she analysed what I’d written so far. Why was I doing this? Was it to harshly bitch about every girl I’ve ever had a crush on? Or was it to miserably pine after the ones that got away?

All this and more. I was surprised. I was stunned. For the months to come the email would be common source of jokes among my friends and co-workers.

Despite it’s bizarre content, I bravely answered all her questions, explained the book was all in good fun, and that no harm was meant by it.

I sent this email and waited for a response……. and got nothing in return. Not wanting to rush her, and being tired of waiting after a month of no response I moved on to the next crush in the book.

An extended period of time later, long after the Year Six Reunion had taken place (we’ll get to that later), I sent her another email asking if I could get a firm yes or no on whether she wanted to be involved.

Her second email was not nearly as impressive as her first. Not epic by any proportions, in fact it was only line long. I’m almost certain that if she thought had the option to simply type “No.” she would’ve.

Instead it was one line long, explaining that not only did she not want to be interviewed for the book, she really didn’t want to ever have to talk to me at all.

Really, this outcome was one I’d seen coming, but I was walking away from the situation Restraining Order free so I counted that as a win. Besides, I still had crushes to track down.


Cross posted to emptyfortunecookie.com

The book can be purchased from this link. Chapters will continue to be posted Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

All events in this story are true, with the consent of being told from my perspective on the situation. (It being a memoir and all.) Names and minor identifying details were changed to protect some people’s identities.

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