The Mystery by Rosemarie Durgin
The mystery of it was that Susie did not know how Helga ever found out that she had a crush on Robert. Susie had never told anyone that she liked Robert, never even had spoken to him. She knew, however, that Robert had taken Helga to the movies twice already, and she, Susie, was envious. She wanted to be with this boy. He was just so handsome and smart. All the girls in school liked him. Susie knew she’d never have a chance. She was just not pretty enough to be noticed by the most popular guy in school, nor had she the flashy clothes. Nor was she a brain or in any of the clubs. She was a wallflower, forever left out, looking in, hoping to be noticed.
But how had Helga found out? Had she noticed Susie looking at him? Was it that obvious? No, that could not be it. Others too had wanted to be his girlfriend, but Helga had never accosted them and told them to forget about her boyfriend. She only had singled Susie out. She had only ever threatened Susie, only ever bullied her about Robert. And Helga was a bully; that was for sure. Besides, Susie had never even spoken to Robert, and he had never spoken to her nor stood up for her. She was sure Robert did not know that she, Susie, even existed. But in that assumption, Susie was totally wrong.
Robert had noticed Susie. Helga was quite aware of that fact and had been trying any way she could to get back into his good graces. She needed Robert. He was her ticket out, her ticket to a better life, to a bright future. Helga knew she was not smart enough to make it on her own, but she had a great figure and a pretty face, and with those, she had a way out, and she knew how to use them.
But Robert had noticed Susie, not just on that first day of school, when the new girl Paulette came, but before. He had noticed that she was a good student. She got good marks, almost as good as he did and way better grades than Helga. He too had noticed that she was very shy and insecure, that she did not know she was smart, did not know she was cute. He had been thinking about asking her to have a coke with him, but Helga was always around. Then came that day that changed everything.
Paulette was the new girl in school. Tiny, quiet and studious, shy and very beautiful in an Eva Longoria kind of way with long, softly curling dark brown hair and soft black eyes. Paulette spoke with a slight accent, which made her speech charming, interesting.
School had just let out, and kids were walking to their cars and to the buses that would take them home. Others were standing about, talking to friends, making plans. It was a nice day, the first of the year. The sun was out, rapidly melting the snow that had covered the ground all winter. Every depression was filled with an icy cold sludge of melting snow.
Robert was already by his red Mustang and had taken the top down. Craig was working on his Miata in the spot next to Robert. Jason’s Toyota was nearby, and so was Michael’s old jalopy. Helga and the other girls were there too, waiting to see what the guys wanted to do. Robert was not talking much; he would go along with what the gang decided. He was watching the new girl and Susie, who was walking a few paces behind Paulette, both on their way to Bus B-67. As Paulette was passing Helga, the bigger girl accosted her.
“Go back to where you came from. We don’t want your kind here. This is a school for Americans, not no wetbacks. Go back to Mexico, where you belong!” With that, she shoved Paulette hard, who stumbled and tripped off the sidewalk into the huge puddle of melted, dirty snow water. She hit, face first. Her books went flying into the puddle. In a flash, Susie was next to her, helping Paulette up, collecting her books.
“Let me help you get cleaned up. Come, let’s go back into the school.” Susie put her arm protectively around Paulette.
Helga laughed uproariously. “Serves that filthy Mexican right!” Her friends chuckled with her.
But Robert had been stunned, too stunned to say or do anything much. He then made a path to allow Susie and Paulette passage back to school. Susie had gotten her courage and mumbled to Helga as she passed, “Next time, pick on someone your own size, you big bully you!”
“You just wait; I’ll get you next!” And she tried shoving Susie from behind.
“Haven’t you done enough?” That was Robert, as he stepped in front of Helga and stopped her.
Craig tried to diffuse the situation. “Let’s go to Micky D’s. I’m starving.”
Instantly, Helga hopped into Robert’s Mustang, but Robert had finally realized that Helga did not care for him. She loved his car and what he could do for her.
“Sorry, guys! I’ve got to get home. My mom’s waiting.”
“You going to take me home?”
“Sorry, I can’t. Mom’s waiting. I’m late already.”
“What time will you pick me up tomorrow?” Helga asked.
“Can’t. Have to go to Wichita for my grandma’s birthday. She’s having a surprise birthday party.”
“Skip it! You promised to take me.”
“I did not. You just presumed. Now I got to go.”
Helga tried staying in the Mustang, but Robert politely opened the door for her.
Michael called out, “Helga, you can ride with me! I’ll take you home too.” Helga climbed into Michael’s truck as Robert screeched out of the parking lot. He had just realized that there would always be another guy, another car waiting around for Helga.
That weekend, Robert took Susie to the movies, a Sunday matinee. She had been so surprised when he had asked her out for a coke after school on Friday and then to the movie. Today, after school, he would take her home in his red Mustang. Susie had finally figured out why Helga had threatened her. Really, it was no mystery at all.