[Originally posted 8-31-2013]
A certain boy was charged by his best friend to take a note to a certain girl. He took the note and went on his way. Although the note was sealed, his curiosity got the better of him, and he pried the note open and read it:
I like you. Do you like me? Please check Yes or No.
The boy folded the note back up and resealed it, albeit somewhat clumsily. He set off to deliver the note.
By chance, the girl saw him approaching from her window. She went downstairs to meet the boy and opened the door, smiling, before the boy could even knock. “I am here to give you a message,” he said.
“Thank you. Will you come in?”
He entered, mechanically.
“Have a seat. Would you like something to drink?”
“Sure,” he said, a little out of breath.
She brought him a soft drink in a small green bottle with a straw in it; she then sat down to read the note. A playful smile spread over her face as she read, and from the time she spent looking at it, he reckoned she read it several times. “Hang on a second,” she said, and went running out of the room.
She came back in carrying a bright pink pen and wrote on the note. Then she gave it back to him, in the original envelope, which she sealed with a piece of clear tape. He finished the soft drink, thanking her for it.
“Well… I’ll see you.”
“Yes, I would think you will. Thank you for bringing the note.”
“You’re welcome,” he said. Then he set off.
Curiosity again got the better of him as he sped off towards his friend. He slipped his fingernail under the tape, pulled the note out, and read, underneath the original message, the following:
Every girl loves a secret admirer; but, since you didn’t sign this, I have no idea who it is from, and so cannot give an answer.
The message deliverer once again resealed the note and took it to his friend. The friend opened it, and became rather peevish reading its contents. He got out a new sheet of paper, wrote on it, carefully folded that up, and put it in a new envelope.
“Do you mind – one more time?…” he said, hesitating.
“Taking it back to her? I guess not.” So he took this new note and headed back to whence he had just returned.
By this point, he wanted to know what his friend had come up with in reply, so he again opened the note. It read as follows:
I like you. Do you like me? Please check Yes or No.
P.S. – I have been in school with you since you transferred in last Christmas, and I can’t talk to you without getting embarrassed. If you think about that, I am sure you will know who I am.
Re-sealing the envelope, he approached her house. This time, she was sitting on a bench beside her front steps, petting a calico cat that was dancing a sort of figure eight. He couldn’t help but notice that girl was uncommonly pretty, and that her eyes were the clearest and darkest that he had ever seen. She smiled again, saying, “Where are my manners? This is my friend, Lady Sophia,” pointing to the cat.
“Hello, your Ladyship,” he said, bending down to scratch the top of cat’s head, a gesture the cat accepted gratefully. “I’ve brought you another note,” he said to the girl.
She opened it and read it. She asked him if he could wait until she wrote an answer, he replied in the affirmative, and she walked back up the front steps while he assumed her place attending Lady Sophia.
About five minutes later she came back out, carrying a note and another soft drink, which he accepted thankfully as it was a rather sunny day. She looked straight into his eyes and smiled, saying, “thank you.” He turned around and headed off, taking occasional swigs of his drink. When he felt he was safely out of her sight, he opened the sealed envelope and found the following written at the bottom in bright, pink writing:
I think maybe I do know who you are, but I need you to answer one question before I answer yours: what is my middle name?
This seemed like a strange question, and he could not make out what she meant by it. He re-sealed her re-sealing of his friend’s note, and took it back to where his friend was impatiently waiting.
His friend tore open the envelope and read her note. At first he just looked puzzled, but then a broad smile spread over his face, and he jumped up, tore off another piece of paper and wrote on it, finishing with a flourish. He shoved into another envelope – not even bothering to seal it – handed back to his friend and said, confidently, “I know I really owe you for all this trouble, but if you could just take this back one more time…”
The boy nodded his head, turned around, and headed back towards where she lived. He again went some ways before perusing the contents of this latest message, which were as follows:
I don’t know what your middle name is – I’ve never heard the teacher, or anyone else, say anything but your first and last names. If I had to guess, I would say your middle name is “Perfection”.
So, do you like me? Please check Yes or No.
The boy thought his friend had done very well by this answer, and set off to deliver the note, interested by now to see if his friend would finally get the response he was looking for.
This time, the girl was not out front, but Lady Sophia was, and he stopped momentarily to scratch her ears. When he knocked on the door, it was just a few seconds before the girl opened the door.
“Here,” he said, holding out the note.
“Come in,” she said, walking back towards their living room.
She seemed in no hurry to read the note. It was cool in the room and it felt wonderful to him after all his walking out in the heat. He sat down on the right side of the couch, and she sat down on the left side, holding the unopened note in her hand. After about thirty seconds of silence, as he looked nervously about the room and she looked directly at him, fixedly, he broke the silence:
“Aren’t you going to read it?”
“Tell me what it says.”
“What it says? How would I know. I’m just the middle…boy here.”
“Look at me.”
He turned to look, noticing this time not only the dark eyes, but how clear her skin was. Feeling suddenly encouraged, he said, inquiringly, “Yes?”
“Please tell me what this says. I want to hear it from you.”
He sighed. ‘The person who gave me the note doesn’t know your middle name because that person has never heard it; but, if that individual had to guess, that person would say your middle name was ‘Perfection’. And this same person is still is waiting to discover the state of your affections.”
“Perfection… my middle name is Perfection.” She sighed and looked around the room. He thought he saw her eyes get watery as she looked out the window, but she wasn’t crying. If anything, she looked even lovelier, and he turned away in embarrassment when he realized he’d been staring. After a minute, she reached for the pink pen, opened the note, checked a box, folded the note up, and put it back in the envelope.
“Please do not read this. Only the original writer of the note should read this.”
“I won’t,” he said. “I’m sorry I read the other one.”
She brightened up, and reached her hand out to shake his.
“Thank you for all your delivery work, Mr. Middleboy.”
“It has been a pleasure to serve you and Her Ladyship. I thank you for the refreshment.” And with a mock bow (which she returned with a mock curtsey), he turned and left.
Even though he was curious, he did not open the note. He sped as quickly as he could to where his friend was waiting. He fairly ran in the door, out of breath, and tossed the envelope at his friend, who caught it. “What’s up with you?” his friend asked.
“Nothing. Just felt like running,” he said, panting.
His friend opened the note and his face fell. “She said ‘No’.”
“I had asked her the old, ‘Do you like me check yes or no’ question, and after a little bit of messing around with me, she checked ‘No’.”
“Girls… you never know what a girl will do.” his friend sighed after a few seconds reflection. “Oh, well. Thanks for all your help.”
“It was no problem. Well — I guess I need to go now.”
“See you around,” his friend said, already sounding fully recovered from his disappointment.
The boy took off walking, thinking about the day’s strange business. He couldn’t make out what exactly this all meant: his friend’s reference to his embarrassment, the girl’s question about her middle name, and her sad reaction to being told it was ‘Perfection’. He also thought a lot about the girl, as she seemed so very nice, but had seemed somewhat sad during some of their last meeting.
Hardly knowing why, he headed off again towards where she lived. As he approached, she was once again sitting on the bench, and Lady Sophia was asleep by her side. The shades of evening had started to fall in blues and purples, and the heat of the day was fading into a comfortable pleasantness.
“Hello,” he said.
“Hi,” she answered. “Have a seat,” and she pointed to the empty spot next to her, the other side from Lady Sophia.
He sat down beside her. “I’m puzzled. I wish I understood what just happened.”
“Ask me questions then. I’ll answer them, at least, as far as I am able.”
“Did you know who the note was from the first time?”
“No, I did not.”
“How about the second time?”
“I had a sneaking suspicion that it was the boy in my class that all the girls like. But he has never been embarrassed talking to me. So, I couldn’t be sure, and I didn’t want to guess.”
“Why did you ask him to tell you what your middle name was?”
“I had only been in town about six weeks when this boy gave me a Valentine telling me that I should have been named ‘Perfection’. Since he is the boy who all the other girls in school seemed to like, I was really flattered, and I was practically floating around school. But before the day was over, I saw the card he had given the girl next to me when she accidentally dropped it, and he had told her the same thing. So, I started asking around, being careful not to let on to the other girls what he had been up to, and found out he had done this with six or seven other girls in our grade. He’s the most popular boy in school by a long way, but I have really disliked him from that day on, which has only seemed to spur his interest in me.”
The boy thought about what she had said about his friend, who had always been very popular with girls. “I would only give a Valentine to someone I really liked. In fact,” he said, laughing, “I’ve only given away one Valentine in my life.”
She smiled at him, placing her hand lightly and briefly on his shoulder.
After a few minutes, he spoke again. “So how did you know that he would answer your question the way he did?”
“Frankly, he doesn’t seem like quickest rabbit in the hutch, so I figured once he had a compliment that worked, he wasn’t about to trouble himself to think of another one. I was living testimony that the compliment worked.”
He was enjoying himself, sitting there with her as the evening grew darker, but wasn’t sure what pretext he could use for sticking around much longer. However, she now had questions.
“Do you mind if I ask you a few things?” she inquired, diffidently.
“I’ll answer anything you like,” he said, rather astonished.
“How long have you known me?”
“I think I met you back in January.”
“Do you remember exactly where?”
“I believe you were coming into the music class as we were leaving it, and I held the door open for you and another girl. The two of you were carrying in a big box.”
“That’s right. Now, a second question: why did you agree to be ‘middleboy’ for your friend?”
“Because he asked me. He is my best friend, after all.”
“I see,” she said archly. “Then I have two more questions.”
“And they are…?”
“Why did you really come back here tonight?”
“To see you.”
“Do you like me?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said, surprised to hear the words coming out of his own mouth.
“I think I like you, too,” she said smiling.
A few minutes later, he was walking home, feeling happier than he had ever felt in his entire life. He was amazed at what had just happened, because this sort of thing had never happened to him before. And while he wasn’t sure what the opposite of ‘shooting the messenger’ was called, he knew that, whatever it was called, it had just happened to him.