| Whately Prep Bell dee|
The first time I saw Julia, I despised her, in that way only eight-year old boys can do, It was an explosive feeling that left me confused. Looking back on it, I probably wanted to kiss her, but didn’t know the difference between attraction and repulsion. I was eight, she was seven. The sight of her with her fancy braids, turquoise petal pushers and new, white Ked’s set my heart racing in all new directions. My father was new to Whately Prep. He was hired to run Buildings and Grounds. My mother had left us the summer before our move to Whately. It was for this reason that my father packed our belongings and said it was time to find a new roost. His girlfriend didn’t seem too happy about our leaving Hartford, but it was a good move for us and my father jumped on it.
The school provided us with an apartment above the Buildings garage. We each made five trips from truck to apartment and that was it, we were in. My father had his room. I slept on a sofa-bed in the living room. There was a kitchenette, but we ate most of our meals in the dining commons. Our most valuable possessions were my father’s television and my trombone.
On our second day on campus, my father announced his biggest goal for me, “I fully intend that you attend Whately Prep as a stepping stone to college.” Part of his job offer as a full time employee included a scholarship for me. In third grade, it was hard to have my sights on something that might happen in six years. However, once I met Julia, it became a lot easier.
We had a friendship that was impossible for anyone to understand. Julia was water to my stone, shade to my desert. She both reshaped and tempered me. I knew what passion was before I could spell or define it.
Julia was one of four children. Her parents reigned by benevolent neglect. So long as she stayed within hailing distance, we could explore to our hearts delight. There is a huge school bell installed in a frame outside of the Schoolhouse. Whenever Julia’s father would ring it, it was a summons that could not be refused. The bell was rung when Whately Prep teams won their team events, upon graduation, and when there was an emergency on campus. (The night Julia disappeared, for example.) Everyone was bound to gather in the School House when the peals of the old bell cracked the air. The bell was wrought in 1776 in Troy, New York. With such a well-documented provenance, I knew that bell had powers. After all, it brought my mother back.