From Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul on Love & Friendship

Broken Heart

Tears may be dried up, but the heart—never.

Marguerite de Valois

I was six years old when I experienced my first heartbreak. The boy’s name was Matthew. He was older than me, a cool eight-year-old. His hair was the color of beach sand and, as it blew in the wind at recess, his bangs would fall over his dark blue eyes in exactly the right way. He played touch football with his friends while I watched him from the tire swing on the playground.

“Someday I’m going to marry Matthew,” I told my friend Nicole, as I pumped my legs, and my golden ponytail flew behind me as I swung higher and higher.

Nicole sighed. She was my very best friend, content to follow me anywhere. It was always me who would drag Nicole along to a new adventure, her protesting and kicking, and me pushing on resolutely. I wasn’t afraid of anything. Well, almost anything. I was terrified to let Matthew know that I had a huge crush on him.

I drew pictures for him every day at school. I liked to draw houses with big apple trees in the yard and a smiling yellow sun in the top corner. I dreamed of living in one of those houses with Matthew, where every morning we would go outside and pick apples from the tree and eat them for breakfast. My teacher, Madame LeBlanc, liked to look at my drawings.

“Très bien,” she would say, admiring one as I stood by her desk, beaming with pride. “C’est pour qui?”

“Mon papa,” I would answer, telling her it was for my father when in reality it wasn’t. It was for Matthew, but I didn’t have the guts to give it to him.

By the last day of the school year, I had made up my mind. Toward the end of the day, as jubilant and rowdy kids emptied out their desks and tidied up the classrooms, I quietly asked my teacher for permission to get a drink from the fountain. Behind my back, I clutched my very best drawing, with my name written in very small letters on the bottom.

I knocked on the door to the third-grade class. The teacher opened the door and peered down at me, a little first-grader with an earnest smile. She smiled back, looking mildly puzzled. She asked if she could help me with anything.

I thrust the picture at her. “Pour Mathieu,” I said, using the French version of his name. Then I turned and scampered back to my class. My palms were sweaty and my heart was beating. I wondered what he would think of my drawing.

The school bell rang then, and laughing kids poured out of the school, with weary but relieved teachers waving good-bye and telling them to have a good summer. I gave Madame a hug before I left and waved good-bye to my friends. My grandpa was waiting for me outside.

He grinned as I slid into the front seat and reached over to help me fasten my seat belt. His blue eyes twinkled. “How was your last day, Ashleigh?”

I shrugged. “Fine. ”My stomach was turning somersaults and I still felt awed at what I had done. However, I didn’t want to talk about it with my grandpa. It was my secret.

Our car slowly crept along the driveway in front of the school, behind the big yellow school buses waiting to take kids to their summer freedom. Our car stopped right in front of the big steps leading to the front door. On them sat Matthew and another third-grader, a tough-looking girl named Alice with a messy black ponytail and dirtsmeared cheeks. Matthew was holding my drawing in his hands. My window was rolled down, and I could hear them laughing at it. A tear slid down my face, and I wished with all my heart that I had never given him that picture. My stomach felt like little green men were kicking it from the inside.

The car rolled forward, and we left Matthew and Alice behind. I could hear their cruel laughter ringing in my ears. Grandpa drove on in silence, glancing at me as I hunched up in a little ball on the seat, tears falling from my eyes.

“Ashleigh, what’s the matter?”

I shook my head and a sob escaped. Out poured the story. Grandpa listened, trying hard to understand me through all my sobs and sniffling. He said nothing, just nodded and patted my knee.

“Come on,” he said. “I’ll buy you a milkshake.”

Before long we were sitting in a booth, with me slurping on a vanilla milkshake and Grandpa stirring his coffee, deep in thought. He finally put down his spoon and took a sip. Looking me squarely in the eyes, he spoke.

“Ashleigh, I want you to know one thing and never forget it: I love you very much, and so does Grandma, and your mom and dad and your little brothers. No matter what happens, we will always love you,” he explained. He took my small hand inside his larger, calloused one. “Forget about Matthew. He doesn’t deserve you! You’re a smart, pretty and kind little girl, and someday, a long time from now, you will meet somebody very special who will love you, too. But you have to wait for it, until you’re grown up.”

I stared into my milkshake. “But how will I know?” I whispered.

Grandpa squeezed my hand. “You’ll know.”

I nodded, and we got up and left the restaurant. Already I was beginning to think ahead. Nicole was coming over the next day, and we were going to go swimming at the pool. Maybe my little brothers would want to build sand castles in the sandbox when I got home. I had the whole summer before me. I had my whole future before me.

Ashleigh Dumas

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