Panelling on the wall, Bradley's nightgown, a three and a half foot tall little girl. Long white-blonde hair and the biggest smile around - even when brownie batter wasn't covering her face. Talking to grown ups was much more fun for her than making friends her own age. She's so social that she doesn't need preschool, according to her mother. This is the 80's and long before Baby Einstein. Mud pies and climbing trees in the front yard is better than organized recess. She only watched television on Saturday mornings, and Taxi was her favorite show. Andy Kaufman was her clown. She woke up extra early on Saturdays and slipped into her Minnie Mouse leotard just in time for Mousercise. Even though she could do many things by herself, she still needed to wake her parents up, oh so gently, so they could turn on the TV for her.
This girl was at home in the world. She superimposed her imagination on everything so the house, the restaurants her family frequented, and her beloved back yard all felt custom made. She learned how to plant seeds from her neighbor and how to be patient enough to harvest pinky sized carrots in a few weeks. The tiny sprouts of hair they grew were the marker that the sweet orange sticks were growing below. She tried to catch leprechauns in the front yard with her version of a snare trap. She knew their path through the yard so catching one was inevitable. Her best friends of all were the praying mantises that congregated on the back fence and shed. Their sticky feet clung to the rough wood covered in light gray paint. The contrast of their green bodies helped her find them each morning. She could talk to them for hours while she swung next to them on the play set. Each had a name which changed every day.
One day she and her mom were in the living room saying good bye to Dad as he left for work. Mom gave him a hug and a kiss. As our girl looked up between the towering adults she wiggled in her position on his feet, hugging his legs so he wouldn't go. He enjoyed the game they enacted every day. "Don't go! Let's play!" But every day, he'd bend down, his face getting closer to hers to kiss her before exiting. This day, she lifted her head to meet his and planted her tiny lips on his. His mustache feeling like a tooth brush held against her cupid's bow. Before they parted contact she pushed her tongue past her teeth, through the crack in her mouth until it was met with a sudden backwards jerk.
No sound was uttered, just a look of shock. An "OH!" shape on his face. Mom didn't understand and then dad said, "we don't kiss family members like that." The girl was embarrassed and not really sure what she had done wrong. Her face now distorted and unsure of how to be, where to hide herself. Mom came over and gave her a hug from behind, cradling her with her long arms. "It's ok, sweetie." The two adults were now chuckling and this seemed to ease the tension. Dad turned around and left for the day after making sure his daughter had recovered.
In the same room, six years later, the girl had a birthday party. She wanted to play cool games and hang out with the cool kids so she decided not to invite her best friend, Kelly. This caused a series of events to unfold that would last years and involve Kelly's sister Katie. One time on the bus, Katie said that she didn't like it that the girl wore two different colored socks. Kelly didn't invite the girl to her next birthday party as revenge and she even got a pony to come so the girl would feel extra bad. No one was aware that these things would happen though.
The cool kids were over and everyone was seated around the coffee table. A few kids were on the couch and some were on the floor with the girl. They started playing Truth or Dare. The cutest boy at the party was sitting on the couch. He was hunched over himself so he could hear the others talking. He had short brown hair and a small nose. The most alluring thing about him was his quiet feminine nature. He was a cool guy and a skater but he was thin boned and wafty. The girl invited him because she wanted to kiss him. She wanted her thin lips to touch his thin face, anywhere.
The first dares and truths were a blur. She was so nervous that she couldn't keep up with what was happening. Heart pounding, eyes darting, Crystal (the coolest girl) looking aloof in the elbow of the couch, was sitting next to the girl's crush. Would Crystal get to kiss him? Wait, it's Crystal's turn to dare the girl! Since Crystal didn't really know the girl that well she didn't know to dare her to kiss cool guy. When the directive started flowing from Crystal's mouth she listened so closely so she wouldn't forget. Each word playing over and over in the girl's mind so it would stick, "Go, go, go, go and lick, lick, lick, cool guy's, cool guy’s, cool guy's, big, big, big, big, big, big, toe, toe, toe, toe, toe, toe, toe, toe. Wait, what?! Lick his toe!?!????"
The tremors started as she inched her way over to the couch like a caterpillar. He took off his sock, placed it neatly next to his thigh. It would be smelly and sweaty, she thought. He extended his shin and pointed that big toe right at her. She couldn't waste time butt scooting over to him any longer. She was there. The toe was out, ready to be licked. Her face lowered and craned over to his foot. She pushed her tongue slowly out of it's parking spot and held her breath. She didn't want the stink of his foot to throw her off. She had to do this in one try. The form she chose was simple. No upward licking movement, no, this was not ice cream. She wanted a quick touch of the tip of her tongue to be enough. It would leave a wet mark and probably cause him to scream. That would do. Now her tongue, almost there, closing in, "AHH!" Everyone yelped when contact was made.
More dares were made, more truths were revealed. She wasn't paying attention. She was still fixated on a kiss. Finally, her turn came again and she proudly declared that she wanted another dare. She was brave and hoped that her new cool kid friends would not try to up their last dare with something more gross. Luckily, it wasn't Crystal telling the girl what to do, it was a guy. As the girl waited for her orders, she felt pretty OK. She had her hands behind her, leaning back into them. She looked like she was on a pool lounger but with her legs indian style. She felt accomplished and like she'd proven that she could take the hard challenges and meet them with her eyes open.
Once she heard the dare, she started to feel a little cocky. She had to because she had lied immediately upon hearing it. The dare was to french kiss Joey. They asked her if she'd done it before and she, of course, said yes. Everyone had the perception that she was sexually advanced, not that she'd had sex, but that she at least knew how to french kiss. This may have been because she was always the first to ask a boy to dance and because she called up Adam on the phone in second grade to ask him out. The truth was that she loved boys and that she was very well liked by them and other kids, but she felt kind of like an outsider. She wasn't sure why people liked her. She would assume that no one would invite her to their parties and that her track coach wouldn't call her by name to lead the warm up laps. This lack of social understanding sometimes appeared as fearlessness.
When Joey came over to her spot on the floor, the girl moved from indian style to sitting on her knees. She perked up and almost looked like an angel with her blonde hair and and straight back. He came into her space and she closed her eyes. Waiting for the touch of his smooth lips to hers, she inhaled and exhaled through her nose. She didn't reach out her hands or think about anything too deep. At the first lip to lip sensation she actually relaxed. It was exhilarating! It made her feel alive and like a rope that had been coiled within her torso was now being wildly tossed about. And then she felt wet. His tongue peeked through the crack in his mouth and was hitting up against her puckered lips. She recoiled so suddenly that her hands caught her and again she looked like she was reclining near the pool. Joey was confused, they all were. "I thought you'd done that before?" Joey asked. "I have!" she said, searching her brain for a good excuse to tell. Nothing came. She decided to wipe the moment from her memory and not let it get in the way of enjoying the sight of the beautiful, wafty boy who was still sitting on her couch.