While checking some story points for the upcoming prequel JONTY, I came across this little scene from FOUR FAULTS, which made me smile. So in case you haven’t read that book yet, here’s a taste:
“I have a question.”
Bayard looked over his shoulder at me as Rusty strode up the track ahead of us. “Shoot.”
“If you had a crush on someone, but you were too shy to even talk to them, and then one of your friends talked to them for you and found out they’re single, but never even mentioned your name so it’s not like they would even know that you’re the one interested, would you be mad at them?”
Bayard blinked a couple of times, and furrowed his brow. “Huh?”
I nudged Rory up to ride alongside Rusty, even though the sheep track we were following was narrow, and I was making her walk on the uneven edge of the hill. She laid her ears back in displeasure at my decision-making, but did as she was told.
“If you had a crush on a girl, and you told one of your friends, and they talked to that girl for you and found out she didn’t have a boyfriend, would you be glad that your friend had made that effort on your behalf or would you totally freak out and tell them they’re a horrible person?”
“I don’t know.” Bay looked completely flummoxed by my line of questioning. “Why are you asking me?”
“I have no idea,” I said honestly. “Because you’re my only friend right now?”
Bay didn’t say anything in response to that. I sighed and let Rory fall back in behind Rusty again, where she felt that she belonged. She shook her mane triumphantly and shoved her nose up against his scruffy tail, making it clear to me that she was a born follower.
I tried once more, giving up all attempts at subtlety. “One of my friends has a crush on…this guy, and I happened to be talking to him so I asked him if he had a girlfriend and he said no. Then I told my friend that, thinking I was doing her a favour and that she’d be pleased, and she went nuts and told me I shouldn’t have been asking him ‘obvious’ questions like that. But I never even mentioned her name, so I don’t know what she’s so worried about.” I sighed. “I don’t get girls.”
Bayard raised his eyebrows at me as he brought Rusty to a halt at the top of the hill. The ponies puffed heavily, trying to get their breath back after their steep hike.
“You think I do?” he asked.
I shrugged. “Guess not.” I tried to picture him with Mia instead, but I couldn’t. I was finding it hard to imagine him with any girl, really, although I wasn’t sure why.
I kicked my feet free of the stirrups and listened to Rory’s heavy breathing as Bayard swung down off Rusty’s back and started pulling fencing tools out of his saddle bags. We’d come up onto the ridge to fix the Taranaki gate, a colloquial name for a gate made out of a section of moveable wire fence. Everyone hated it, because it was so difficult to open and close, but one of the newer farmhands had taken a mob of sheep through it this morning, then cut his hand badly when he tried to get it wired shut again, and had to go to hospital for stitches. So Dad had sent Bayard up to take a look at it, which I’d assumed would only take a few minutes. But the whole section of fence was decidedly saggy, and when Bayard pulled out the wire strainers, I groaned and flopped forward on Rory’s sweaty neck.
“This is going to take hours,” I complained.
“Nobody made you come with me,” he pointed out calmly.
“Not true. Rory insisted on following,” I replied. “Which she is certainly regretting now.”
Rory lowered her head towards her knees, her heavy breathing proving that she was way less fit than she should be at this point in the show season. I leaned down and tried to pick a dandelion flower from the hillside next to me, but it was just beyond my reach.
“You still haven’t told me what to do about my problems,” I reminded Bay as he started tightening the fence wires.
“I’m still not sure what your problem is,” he replied. “Your friend is mad because you talked to the boy she likes?”
“Pretty much. What do I do?”
He shrugged. “Get better friends?”
I rolled my eyes at him. “Very helpful, thanks. But friends don’t grow on trees and I suck at making new ones, so I would like to keep the ones I have.”
“Then I can’t help you.”
“Hopeless,” I told Rory, leaning down further, and brushing the top of the flower with my fingertips. Rory shifted her weight slightly, but stayed still. “Why can’t you be a girl, so I could talk to you about this kind of thing?”
“If I was a girl, I’d probably be mad at you for no reason as well,” Bay replied, cutting the end of the wire off and testing the tension on the fence with one hand. “You could always ask Hayley.”
“Hah! Only if I felt like ending up friendless and alone,” I retorted. “She’d tell me the worst possible thing to do in an incredibly convincing way, and then laugh her head off when it completely backfired on me.”
“Well, you’ll always have one friend,” he told me, tightening the strainer and making the wire creak.
I rolled my eyes. “Lucky me.”
Bay shot me a hurt look, and I felt bad, because he was trying to be nice, and his friendship did mean a lot to me. But sometimes talking to him was like talking to a brick wall, and although I was infinitely grateful – especially right now – for the complete lack of drama he brought into my life, I couldn’t imagine us ever having an especially riveting or meaningful conversation. Despite the fact that I still considered him to be my best friend, there was something missing. He listened to me, but my words rolled off him like water off a duck’s back, barely touching his consciousness. Bay was so self-contained that the world seemed to be happening around him, and he was just an idle observer, rather than a participant in the swirling madness. I used to find that reassuring, because I’d felt the same way. But lately I felt as though I was being pulled into the vortex against my will, and instead of helping me find solid ground, he was just standing on the edge, watching me be sucked down into the seething abyss.
Stop being so dramatic, I told myself, wondering where those thoughts were even coming from. In an effort to distract myself, I made one more concerted effort to pick the bobbing yellow dandelion that lurked just beyond my reach. Dangling off the side of my pony, I managed to hook my fingers underneath the flower head, and pull it free of its stem. But right at my moment of victory, Rory objected to my acrobatics by sidestepping away, and I lost my precarious balance, slipping ungracefully onto the ground beneath her feet. My pony turned her head and looked at me as though I’d gone mad.
“You’re right, you know,” Bayard said, and I pushed myself into a sitting position and looked at him.
“Girls are weird.”