There are some people who know when they are in love, and there are some people who don’t. Jules was the type of person who knew when he was in love. Manon was the type of person who did not. But you only really needed one person in a relationship to know this type of thing.
Jules let Manon go in line in front of him at the cafeteria. He got off his bicycle and helped her carry her groceries home from the store. He showed her that he had dedicated his English essay on Animal Farm to her and that the teacher had deducted two points for it. These things were tiny little seeds that he planted, hoping that if she were willing, just for a moment, to shine a light on them, they would bloom into love.
Manon, however, only decided that Jules would do when she saw him roller-skating at the Récréathèque. Jules was skating backwards and doing figure eights with his feet. He did this gesture with his hands as if he were dealing cards onto a card table. Everyone else ignored Jules’s grandiose performance that night. But Manon knew suddenly that Jules was different than anybody else in Val des Loups. That’s what young people look for: someone who will open strange doors for them.
And anyways Manon didn’t want to be a virgin. Marie Cartier told her that once you lost your virginity, you immediately started to cry. Manon wanted to see whether or not this was true. And Manon liked to be daring. Being the baby of a very big family had given her the illusion that nothing bad could ever happen to her. It made her bold and unselfconscious in a way that everyone found charming.
Manon walked out of the Legion Hall and looked into the darkness for Jules. She had on a navy blue jacket over a puffy silver dress that made her look like microwave popcorn that had just been popped. The pompom on her hat was practically the size of her head. Surrounded as she was by the fairy lights around the door, Manon looked like a statue of the Virgin Mary in someone’s front yard. Jules was so taken that he couldn’t call out at once. As soon as she spotted Jules, Manon ran happily across the road toward him. Her pompom bounced back and forth, like a halo that had come loose and was about to fall off.
“How was the dance?” Jules asked.
Manon stopped and put her arms out, then laid her hands on her heart and shook her hips back and forth, performing a dance move that was popular among the kids in town. Then she shrugged and said, “Lame.”
Jules tried to stop smiling as he walked next to Manon. The lit-up windows of the houses on the hills gleamed in the dark distance like diamonds in a mine. They walked the way teenagers walk. She walked toe to heel with her arms stretched out, certain that she had what it took to be a high-wire artist in a tutu with a paper umbrella over her head. Jules started taking longer steps as if he was stepping over large puddles so he could look like John Travolta. They stopped to look at a bunch of sheep in a pen behind someone’s house. An insomniac who lived there counted them every night.
“Do you like living in Val des Loups?” Jules asked.
“Of course. Don’t you?”
“Well, there’s nothing for an intelligent person to do.”
“I want to either be a model or a professional gymnast. I’m taking lessons at the community centre.”
“Do you ever think about moving to Montreal?”
“I’m going with my brother to see a Kiss concert. We’re going to paint our faces and everything. He knows the names of everybody in the band.”
“Do you want to see a place I’m house-sitting?”
“Sweet Pea’s house? That poor old lady!”
“She swallowed a fly!” they cried out at the same time.
The moon glowed as if the spirit of an old lady had just spent hours scrubbing it with a little cloth rag and metal polish.
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Heather O’Neill is a novelist and a regular Walrus contributor. She has written a new book, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night.
Marian Bantjes is a designer, typographer, writer, and illustrator.