Felix clasped a hand over his heart and read dramatically. "'I am so hoping that mother will allow me to purchase a packet of borax on our next excursion to Lawsons'. I have heard that it does wonders for whitening clothes, and I simply must know if it is true. I wouldn't want to try it on my own clothes first, of course. Perhaps something of Felix's. He is so careless of his personal appearance.'"
"Hey, there, Felix," Gus Pike called as he came through the last stand of trees before the lake. "Fellas," he added, with a nod to the small knot of boys surrounding the young King. "Whatcha doin'?"
"Oh, nothing," said Felix, as his comrades sniggered. "Just a little reading aloud."
"Nice day for it," Gus replied. "Mind if I listen in while I try the ice to see if it's thick enough for fishin'?"
"Not at all. Let's see, where were we...."
"Somewhere boring," griped Rupert Gillis. "It's all about girl chores."
"Yeah, come on, Felix," Edward Ray agreed. "There's gotta be something interesting in there."
Felix flipped over a couple of pages and then grinned. "Okay, okay," he said. "That was just the warm-up. Here's the good stuff." He cleared his throat and started.
"'I believe I have found him at long last—the man of my dreams. All of the boys I've ever liked before were nothing more than silly schoolgirl crushes. This is the real thing. And to think, when I first met him I thought Gus Pike was nothing more than a vagabond.'"
A loud splash from the lake made the boys look over.
"Lost my footin'," said Gus. "Ice must be too thin, after all. An' I thought I heard my name."
"Better stay away from the lake, 'cause there's more where that came from," Felix grinned.
"'He was such a gentleman over that whole business with David Hawes. I can't believe I ever thought that stuck-up cricket player was interested in me, but Gus stayed by my side until the humiliating end and even kissed me afterwards.' No kidding, Gus, really? 'Even if it was just on the cheek, and not a proper kiss.' Eww, why would she think anybody would want to kiss her? Must've been bad enough on the cheek, eh, Gus?"
Gus was gathering up his tackle as fast as he could and didn't respond.
"'When he found us last night,'" Felix continued, raising his voice to be heard over the laughter of his companions, "'just when I thought we were surely about to freeze to death...well, I have never been as happy to see another living soul. And when he held me in his arms, I felt safer than I've ever been. I miss those arms already...."
"Just what is that you're readin', Felix King?" Gus called, his voice sounding harsh and off-pitch.
"Felicity's diary, of course," said Felix.
Gus trudged up to the boys. His face and ears were bright red. "Best let that alone," he said. "Could be a mess o' trouble. 'Sides, ain't you got nothin' better to do on a day like this?"
"He's right," said Rupert. "It's too nice a day to be wasting on girls, or even just their diaries. I'm going to go for my hockey gear. Bet the pond is still frozen, even if the lake isn't. Who's with me?"
One by one, the other boys moved off, leaving Gus and Felix alone.
"I shoulda known Felicity's diary wouldn't be interesting enough to hold them," sighed Felix.
"What'll she do if she finds out you took it?" asked Gus.
"Tan my hide, most likely." Felix weighed the book ruefully. "I'd better get it back before she misses it. Unless you want a look? There's lots more about you."
Gus' face got redder still, and he swallowed hard. "Nah. Ain't right, goin' through a lady's private property."
"What lady?" scoffed Felix. "It's just Felicity." Gus gave him as stern a look as he could muster and Felix shook his head. "All right, all right, I'm taking it back."
Gus watched the younger boy as he made his way to the path that led towards King Farm. "A proper kiss...." He tugged his cap off and ran the back of his hand over his head. "She can't...it can't mean...." He looked down at his fishing rod and tackle, as perplexed as though he'd never seen them before. "Nah. Best forget the whole thing. Weren't nothin' as I was meant to hear, anyhow." He pulled his cap back on roughly. "Still...."
He set out, following in Felix's footsteps. It was a beautiful day for taking the long way home.