She talks to him on the pay phone Monday through Friday from 7:15 until 7:45 when the first bell rings. It is the only pay phone in that entire building. She gets a ride with her cousin in the mornings, who likes to arrive at school very early. She doesn't care, getting there early is way better than the bus.
When she first gets to school the place is virtually empty. The school secretary is already on the telephone, making copies and gossiping with the senior girls with the big hair. It only costs 50 cents to talk to him on the pay phone for half an hour. She thinks that is very cheap and totally worth it.
By 7:40 though, the place is really humming with swells of people. People in groups. She tells him she should really go, she likes to get a soda before homeroom, but he's always pushing her to stay on the telephone just a little bit longer. He works at the hardware store on Front Street. He's 19, and there is this baby that he says isn't his. She absolutely believes him because he she also believes he is brilliant. He knows about things and gladly tells them to her. They talk on the phone about how maybe I see blue when you see purple, and you see purple when I see blue, and we just call them the same thing. She assures her mother when she asks that they are only sort-of friends.
She calls him every, single morning. Some mornings someone will already be on the phone. It makes her nervous; it makes her stomach hurt. She drinks soda to calm her when she gets anxiety in her belly. Sometimes someone will be on the pay phone already and not get off of it. Not the whole morning, even though she paces furiously and bites her nails to pulpy stumps, and goes so far as to ask if he'll be much longer. Sorry, he says, he's talking to his girlfriend.
After a while she grows tired of the worry. She is barely a teenager and already she wears a crease between her brow from a constant, burdensome scowl. She is starting to eat and sleep less due to all the nervousness.
She is starting to dread her morning phone call to him. Soon enough he begins questioning her affection for him. She wonders why she does this. Subjects herself to the stares. The blatant whispering in her direction. All the rumors about the freshman girl and her love affair with a pay phone.
She waits until the day one of the blondest, most popular senior girls approaches her, one late morning when the building was filled with people. To a crowd of onlookers that popular girl asks her for a moment of her time. She gently places the receiver on her shoulder, never asking him to hold.
"We have to know. Who do you call every morning?," the blonde girl purrs.
"My boyfriend, he's older, you might not know him," she replies timidly.
"I know everyone," she shoots back, and soon enough she's told them she talks to on the pay phone every morning.
The group explodes with laughter. She hears a confused voice shouting hellos into the telephone. She can hear him trying to find her amidst the onslaught of laughter.
"The one with the baby?," the blonde girl yells finally, still laughing.
She hears one more muffled hello and slams the earpiece onto the base. She'll never going to hear his voice again without a chorus of laughter accompanying it.
She's thinking about walking to school starting tomorrow. Maybe reading in the library before homeroom.