Chapter Eight: Camille


The moment I fell for Camille Richards is one that will always make me smile. Even though it happened seven years ago, and even though it wasn’t big or important to her, it will stand cemented in my mind as one of my moments in the sun.
Let me explain.

You would be hard pressed to have not found a guy in that Year Ten class who didn’t think Camille was one of the best looking girls at our school. In fact, this was proven in a renegade poll done by the guys. (The Principal did not find as much amusement in that last fact that as we did.)

The point here though, is that any single straight guy in that class would’ve done anything to have gone out with her. Yet, this wasn’t what won my heart, but it did play a fairly large part.

At the end of the first semester (which was about midway through the year) the boys and girls Physical Education classes were merged for two weeks during which we had to learn what they called “Social Dance.” Effectively it was pretty much the ballroom and swing dancing that you do at weddings, formals etc.

It was a time of year that girls didn’t mind and that guys avoided like the plague. We hated dancing. Some of us more than others. I should know, I was one of the latter.

You see, the PE teachers made a rule that once each year, they would sit aside one lesson for when they guys and girl would get to choose who would they dance with. They would sit the girls at one end of the gym, and the guys at the other end of the gym. They then would select 4 guys and 4 girls at random.

The rules were simple:

  1. They would stop the music every so often and you would switch partners by choosing someone who was sitting at either end of the gym.

  2. Whoever you chose was not allowed to say No, unless they had already been chosen.

  3. You didn’t get to chose anyone if you were still sitting, you had to wait to be chosen.

The problem was the guys out numbered the girls. So every year there would be a handful of guys that would remain at one end of the gym for the entire lesson.
For almost all of high school I was among the guys never chosen. The funny thing is, as much as every guy bitched about having to do Social Dance every year, no guy ever wanted to be among those never picked. Trust me, I should know.

Then came the last lesson of Social Dance ever. Honestly, the only thing I was looking forward to was never having to sit through it again. The end of the lesson came, and I was still sitting, just waiting for the last dance to be over and done with so I could go.

Then suddenly Camille was walking up to me, and holding out her hands, and asking me to dance. For the first time since high school started, someone had picked me.

It wasn’t just anyone either, it was one of the best looking girls in the school. Who knows how she managed to get past the hundred or so guys that would’ve asked her between me and where she was standing.

It didn’t matter that it was only a single dance; it didn’t matter that she may have been doing it out of pity; or that it didn’t have any deeper meaning to her. That moment meant the world to me.

Like I said before, even now, seven years later and the crush I had on her has long since faded,  that moment will still bring a smile to my face.

For the first three years of high school Camille and I had never been in the same classes. It just happens that way sometimes. I don’t think Jessica and I ever were in the same class for any part of high school.

That last year though, I managed to score two classes with her. There may have been more, but memory’s a little fuzzy on the minor details.

What I do remember is that I went from a guy who had barely spoken more than five words or so to Camille in the previous three years, to a guy who could hold somewhat of a conversation with her. I dare say… we were almost friends.

Not that this happened a lot, but I made an effort to do it at every possible opportunity. “Every possible opportunity” meaning any moment that would not make her think I was weird or that I had a crush on her. Here it was just why I liked Camille – it wasn’t just her looks, who that cool act in Social Dance, it was that despite being popular, having absolutely no reason to… she actually gave me the time of day in high school. She treated like an equal, a friend. Not just me either, she treated others who easily were classified as the ‘social outcasts’ like every day people and friends. She was one of the nicest people I’d met.

Camille had a boyfriend. Like I said before, there was not a guy in our grade who didn’t think she was one of the most attractive girls in the school. If she had a boyfriend, there was no chance I was going to attempt to make my feelings known.

In fact, since I was not among the popular crowd in school, the chances of my ever making my feelings known were fairly slim.  After all, I considered my chances with her next to none anyway, and as is the curse in high school, if you ask a girl out and she turns you down then the entire school knows about it. Remember what I said in the last chapter about being ‘ruled by fear far too much in my younger years’? This: right here. Prime Example.

So I watched Camille from afar. That sounds stalkerish but believe me it wasn’t. The worst I did was maybe steal a glance at her in class, or when I was hanging out with friends at lunch.

So for six months I had a crush on Camille Richards, but no one else knew about it. She seemed to play a role in every short story that I wrote for a while.

Then came graduation day.

Graduation day. A gym full of people watching, the principal says your name, you walk across the stage, get you graduation certificate and then head off to whatever school you’re going to complete Years 11 and 12 at.

Everyone was talking and whispering about the end of school, about the school formal which was going to take place three days later and about the after party or any number of parties taking place that week.

None of which I was actually going to attend. I couldn’t really afford to go to the school formal and, besides, it wasn’t really my thing. Days earlier I’d discovered I was the only person in our year not going to the formal, and this was fast becoming common knowledge among every person in my year.

Really, that day I just wanted to slip out. I grabbed my copy of the year book, said my goodbyes to a couple of people, then started making my way through the crowd to the exit. I stopped only briefly when I saw Camille.

And that was when graduation finally sunk in. I was leaving, and I was probably never going to see her again. In that split second a billion and one thoughts screamed through my mind.

Tell her how you feel!

Tell her you’ll miss her!

Be romantic and lean over there and KISS HER!

And then finally, standing inches away from her, a voice of clarity rung clear through my head.

Just say goodbye. She’s got a boyfriend. She’s happy. In the end, that’s all you really want.

And it was true. If she was happy then a part of me was.

And yes, all of this happened in a few short seconds.

I smiled at her. She smiled back.

I’ll see you around some time,” I said. She nodded, and then I left.

I’m almost certain that she never expected that “some time” was going to be like this.

To my surprise, contacting Camille was surprisingly easy. She was on the electoral roll, the address matched up with one in the phone book and when I called it, I discovered she still lived there.

Her mother answered the phone, and taking a queue from when I previously tried to contact Summer, I left message simply saying “Liam Smith from High School called.” And then gave her my phone number.

Fifteen minutes I got a call back.

Hey Liam, it’s Camille. What’re you up to?”

Well, funny you should mention that, I’m actually writing a book about tracking down and interviewing every girl I’ve ever had a crush on, and I’d like to interview you.”

There was no hesitation, no long pause, she didn’t sound freaked at all.

Sure,” She simply said. “Where would you like to meet?”

So we made arrangements to meet at the same coffee shop I’d met almost every other crush at so far.

Camille actually beat me to the coffee shop, which was a surprise because, to date, I’d managed to beat every other crush there. We each bought a coffee and sat down to talk.

Talking with Camille was like talking to my best friend. It was strange, we ended up talking for two hours but it didn’t in any way seem that long.

Camille has achieved something that a lot of us will try to do but never succeed in: she is actually friends with a lot of her ex-boyfriends. She admitted that she wasn’t friends with all of them, and there are some who she actually felt bad about the distance between them now.

She is saving for a house and in a strong relationship with a guy who, from my perspective at least, she seemed to care a lot about.

She is also one of those nutters that is working two jobs, but she seems to enjoy her job at both, which always comes in handy.

Camille had interesting perspective on life. She didn’t have many bad words to say about anyone.

We talked about high school. It was interesting getting the perspective of someone I’d always seen as part of the popular crowd. High School hadn’t been the easiest for her either; I guess it’s not easy for anyone. I guess there was a small part of me that still believed that when you were popular in high school, things were easier.

Hearing Camille’s version of high school made me realise that while being one of the best looking girls in the year made you popular with the guys, it didn’t do her any favours with the girls. Though I will hand it to her, she didn’t to let this bother her as much as it could’ve, cause she preferred being friends with guys anyway. Teenage girl anger lasted all high school long.

Teenage-boy-anger would often culminate in a fist fight, which, in a surprisingly high number of cases, resulted in the two who had fought being friends again afterwards.

This conversation lead us to talking about a certain guy from school named Ross who fighting hadn’t resolved anything for. I still remember the amount he had been picked on in school. I had never joined in the bullying, because there’s no doubt that’s what it was, but there certain times when I looked back and regretted not saying anything.

In my eyes looking the other way can be seen as taking part. I acknowledged to myself that maybe I should get in contact with Ross and apologise for what I’d done, or in my case what I’d let happen.

Camille admitted Ross had a crush on her, and had written a letter telling her about it. This gave Ross a new found admiration in my book, I never had the guts to tell her how I felt back in high school.

This of course lead to a conversation about my crush on Camille. I asked her if she ever knew I’d had a crush on her, she hadn’t.

She was flipping through my notes for the book by now, and was reading the back story I’d written for her this chapter, recounting that fateful day in Social Dance when she’d offered me to dance with me. To my surprise she remembered it too. (In my head my 16 year old self high fived my 23 year old self at this point.)

She told me that she’d had a good relationship with the Phys Ed teachers at school, often getting in from softball training and using the teachers showers before heading to class.

She got to the part about the Graduation Day and commiserated similar feelings to the sense of loss felt when high school had finally ended. The realisation the same group of people would not be together again, and the scary fact that everything was about to change.

While flicking through my notes she saw her name mentioned in the chapter I’d written about Jess. She read what I’d written about the night her and Sangas had made out at the social. She sat there thinking about it….. and couldn’t remember it. Believe me, she tried repeatedly over the course of the interview, the night her and Sangas had gotten together had slipped from her mind. She felt bad about this, but I told her it was okay. I hadn’t decided whether to mention this to Sangas or not, but it certainly made me laugh.

Camille asked if I was seeing anyone at the moment. I told her I wasn’t and for the first time I vented about the previous year in which so much time had seemed to be taking up fretting over potential girlfriends that I decided to take a year off from that sort of stuff.

Inspiration had sprung from an episode of “Degrassi: The Next Generation”, which I sheepishly admitted I watched religiously. In the episode in question a character had proclaimed to become a monk – metaphorically – the following year would have no focus on girls or romance, he would instead channel all of his efforts into his work and his art.

This inspired me to do the same.

And ironically, in a year in which I’ve made conscious effort to avoid romantic entanglements altogether I find myself writing a book about tracking down and interviewing every girl I’ve had a crush on,” I joked. Camille laughed.

Two hours had passed, to my surprise, when Camille and I eventually parted ways, we exchanged details and hugged each other goodbye promising to keep in touch. I walked back to my car with a smile on my face. I’d made a good friend that day. Camille was and still is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and I’m glad I got to see her again.

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