I remember the time he bought a new watch because he was convinced that his was faulty. I let it go for a few weeks before I turned the knob. He blamed mass production. Some imbecile on an assembly line was responsible. I felt elated, but had no one with whom to share my joy. My triumph was lonely, and I longed for a conspirator.
My pranks were harmless for several years. Unstitching the toe of a sock, hiding a small deceased rodent in his bedroom, emptying a fountain pen; these were a few of my victories. But, as with all vengeance, escalation soon becomes a tool of necessity. I was no longer satisfied with simple mischief, and I felt a desire for more than inconvenience for his punishment. His deception deserved suffering. I began to form a plan that was to cause more than a disruption of his daily routine. I had to mature in order to levy discipline to an adult. It was time for me to become a gardener and plant seeds. I was sixteen years old.
I noticed her the first week of my sophomore year. She was sitting in the café just down the street from the Hadley Academy for Boys. I had attended the school for all of my academic years; it was more of a home to me than where I took my evening meals and laid my head every night. We had stopped in for a coffee and a cigarette when I saw her profile. She was talking with another girl across the small table, and her beauty was undeniable. She was wearing make up and her lip color was applied in a fashion just like Clara Bow. The other boys noticed too, but I am sure their designs were far more covetous than mine. It was her mouth that drew my attention, more specifically the color that adorned her lips. It was that color that caused me to fail arithmetic. And, while this girl was a vision in lace, my attraction was for something I wanted from her clutch. As I watched her she removed a tube of lip color from her bag. It had recently become the fashion to apply makeup at the table, or I might have never gotten the idea. She had one of those tubes you only had to twist from the bottom to produce the stick of color. And, as I watched she put it on. She caught me staring as she was finishing, a delightful pucker upon her lips. I did not smile, I only looked away as though I did not approve. But, I made sure we would meet again.
Six weeks had passed since that day at the café. I had been waiting because I knew that maturity demanded patience. I decided it was time when I saw her at the croquet field behind the Club Chester. She was holding her mallet in such a way that it was apparent she was not a serious player. It was not chance that I happened to be near the fence adjoining the field. I had been discreetly following her for forty two days; becoming familiar with her habits and routines. She was not aloof, yet she was unaware of my presence in her life. That can only be attributed to my obsessive nature and what was at stake. I made my way around the fence just as a stray ball came rifling off her mallet, struck a wicket and careened toward me. I could only attribute my good fortune to fate as the ball struck my ankle and sent me to the ground with a groan and a grimace that were all too real.
I looked up as she stepped in front of the sun, her auburn hair shimmering under the halo of light. I squinted as I rubbed my ankle. She bent down, put her hands on her knees and said, “I really do hate this game, are you seriously injured?” I put on a brave face and began to stand, but could not put much weight on my injured joint. “I’ll live.” I said, “Perhaps a lighter touch might prove helpful in future contests. I know I would appreciate it.” She stifled a giggle as she reached for my hand to help me keep my balance. “I am sorry you’re hurt, but it does give me an excuse to cancel my part in this horrid exercise.” She said with a grin. “I mean, what kind of a person would injure an innocent bystander and not offer to assist them in recovery?” She helped me limp my way over to the tables outside the small tea room.
Once I was seated she made her way inside. I was frantically trying to plan my words as her wayward croquet ball had forced my plan into action prematurely. While I had a talent for improvisation, I felt that there was more at stake here; something that warranted my full attention and deserved my respect. It was hard to put into words what I was trying to accomplish and I definitely could not reveal to her my plot. She didn’t say anything as she returned. She just knelt at my feet and placed an ice bag on my lower leg. I was humbled as I sat there. She removed her scarf and wrapped it around the ice to hold the bag in place. I could smell lilac as she rose. It was coming from her hair.
She sat across from me as a tray of tea was brought out and placed in front of her. “I am Clarissa.” She said as she prepared two cups. Her hands moved across the tray with a familiarity that spoke of countless afternoons under the tutelage of a tea specialist. The sun glinted off her hair as she tilted her head and asked, “Do you take sugar and milk?” I scooted my chair closer to the table and replied, “I’ll trust your judgment.” She gave me a questioning look with half closed eye lids and shrugged. I watched as she poured the tea into the cups, dropped two cubes of sugar in mine and one in hers. She then tipped a small amount of milk in her cup, put down the milk and handed me my cup sans milk. I had no choice but to drink the tea. I always took my cup with a large amount of milk, but I had no choice but to drink the slightly sweet yet bitter liquid. I stifled a wince as I took my first sip. I let loose a small sigh as I relaxed in my chair.