“What’s this?” he asked, picking up a small notebook with leather binding.
I shot up from the bed and hurried over to him.
He smirked wickedly. “Oh my…could this be Magnet’s diary?”
I leaped for it, and he held it over his head. I leaped again, and he moved it behind his back. My arms were wild, trying to rip it away from him.
“What kind of stuff do you write in here, huh? Your dirty little secrets? I can’t help but wonder…” He smiled wider and his grin made me happy, and mad, and excited, and scared all at once. The more he leaped up to avoid me getting the journal from him, the more I leaped up to try to snatch it. Every time our skin brushed against one another, I wanted to move in closer. Every time he touched me, I wanted more. He kept laughing and laughing. “I’m sorry, Maggie. I know you’ll never forgive me, but I gotta. I just gotta read one page to see what kind of thoughts go through your—”
He opened to the first page.
He stopped moving.
He stopped talking.
He stopped laughing, too.
“Maggie’s to-do list?” he asked.
My cheeks felt warm, my stomach knotted. I walked back to my bed and sat down.
He followed, sat, and handed me the journal.
It was reading’s fault.
Reading was both a gift and a curse for me. Those books made me able to escape into a world I’d never experienced, but at the same time, they reminded me of all the things I’d been missing.
So, I made a list.
A list so that if somehow, someway, I became able to step outside that front door of mine, I’d have things to do, to see, to explore. Wishful thinking, maybe, but if books had taught me anything, it was that dreaming was always a worthy cause to take part in.
My list grew each day, too. Every time something exciting happened in one of my novels, I added it to my notebook, along with the name of the novel where I got the idea. Horseback riding, thanks to National Velvet. Going to a ball and dramatically running away, due to Cinderella. Standing in two places at once, because of A Walk to Remember.
There were hundreds of items on my to-do list, and some days I wondered if I’d ever get to cross even one thing off.
“It’s a list of things you want to do?” he asked knowingly.
“You can do them all, you know.”
Then, I erased the word.
He wrote: Definitely.
Then, he erased the word, but it stayed in my mind.
We sat quietly for a moment, both staring at the blank board.
“What do you want to be when you grow up, Maggie?”
I’d thought about it a lot, that question. What did I want to be? What could I be? An author, maybe. I could publish books through the Internet, and I’d never have to leave my house. Or maybe an artist, and Daddy could take my artwork to fairs to sell it. Or maybe…
I picked up my marker and wrote down exactly what I wanted to be.
Brooks picked up a marker of his own and wrote what he wanted to be, too.
His fingers wiped away our words, and he leaped from my bed, went over to my desk, and began to scramble through my pens and pencils. When he found the one he wanted, he headed back over to me and began writing on the board.
Someday you’re going to wake up and leave your house, Magnet, and you’re going to discover the world. Someday you’re going to see the whole wide world, Maggie May, and on that day, when you step outside and breathe in your first breath, I want you to find me. No matter what, find me, because I’m going to be the one to show it to you. I’m going to help you cross things off your to-do list. I’m gonna show you the whole wide world.
Just like that, I was his, and he’d never even know it.
Promise? I wrote.
Promise, he replied.
I went to erase the words, and when my hand glided over them, only my promise disappeared. He smiled and showed me his Sharpie marker. “It’s not coming off. I want you to keep the board just like this. Keep it as my promise to you. I’ll get you a new board tomorrow for random conversations.”
My lips parted as if I were going to speak, yet no words came out.
He smiled knowingly. “You’re welcome. Music now?”
I nodded, and we both lay down on my mattress as he pulled out his iPod.
“Waterfall” by The Fresh & Onlys.
“The way the electric guitar climbs in this song is fucking amazing. It feels like you’re in the middle of nothing and everything at the same time. If you listen, you can hear how perfect the bass player is, too. The way they scale up the fretboard is…” He sighed, slamming his hand against his chest. “Gold.”
I hardly ever knew what he was talking about when he spoke about music, but I liked the way it brought him to life.
“Brooks.” Calvin poked his head in my doorway and cocked an eyebrow at his best friend. “We’re practicing in five. Come on. We need to go over the letter we’re sending off with the demo tapes,” Calvin said.
Brooks and Calvin were famous…well, kind of famous—the kind of famous only I knew existed. They were the lead singers in their band and were extremely well trained in performing in our garage. Even though they were undiscovered, I knew someday, they’d be something big.
They were too good to not be noticed.
“You’re coming to tape us, right, Magnet?” Brooks asked, standing up from my bed, seemingly chipper as ever.
Of course I was coming. I reached for my camcorder, picked it up, and then stood to my feet. In my other hand, I grabbed my current read. I never missed band practice; it was the highlight of my day. I always sat and recorded them from the kitchen, too. Mama and Daddy had gotten me a camcorder a few years back because a therapist said he thought I might open up and speak to the camera or something. It turned out to be hours of me staring at myself, blinking, so instead of wasting the camcorder, I used it to record my brother’s band.
Before heading downstairs, I moved over to my bedroom window, which faced the street and looked across the road to Mrs. Boone’s front porch, where she rocked back and forth in her wicker chair while Muffins slept beside her.
Her lips moved as if she was holding a conversation with the invisible man sitting in the stationary wicker chair beside her. Her Stanley.
My fingers touched the chilled glass and her lips curved up into a smile. She chuckled at something she said then touched the empty chair beside her and made it move in harmony with her rocking.