When I was a little girl, I was always in love with somebody. First it was my uncles, that wasn’t real love; then it was Georgie, and Warren, and Frankie, and of course, Dale, who was the one who got away. Those were just friends that happened to be boys that I loved as my favorite. I loved my best-friend-Connie in almost the same way. When I got to seventh grade, I fell in the head-over-heels kind of love. That’s when buses shipped the Unfortunate Ones to my school after we got annexed. That’s when I met Art. That’s the year life started getting complex.
I bawled my eyes out when I realized I would be staying at my old school and not going to the High School like Deanna did when she got in 7th grade. I never got the letter telling me I had to stay; every Unfortunate One got a letter. Mom tried to tell me, but I refused to believe her. I said “No, Dad said everyone who had to go to my school, got a letter. I never got a letter. I must be going to the High School,” I said. Dad was on the school board. He knew.
“You are so bull-headed,” Mom said, and her teeth clenching made the skin on her face ripple. Of course she was, too, but I never said that straight to her face. “Why must you argue everything with me,” she said, and her lower lid squinched half-way up her eye. The onions she was chopping jumped on the cutting board.
“I don’t,” I said.
“There you go again,” she said, like that proved everything. Okay, maybe I did like to argue. Still, the letter was supposed to be sent to each Unfortunate One. I saw it in the paper; so it had to be true.
Mike and Betty and Diann got their letters. They rode my bus and lived up the road and down the road from me. Mom was probably right. That’s when I started bawling my eyes out. I was disappointed. I was angry. Oh, the injustice of it all. Deanna told me Mom and Dad worried about me and maybe a psychiatrist would tell them to put me in an institution, because that’s where I belonged. It probably wasn’t the first time she told me that, but it was the first time I thought she might be telling the truth.
My seventh grade class, the Unfortunate Ones, got the whole top floor of the school; the same classrooms the high-schoolers used before we annexed. Sixty other Unfortunate Ones got added to the thirty same old kids I’d been going to school since Kindergarten. The new kids all went to Mary Crapo where the Big Bee was in sixth grade. They got split up, separated from their friends, all on account of geography. Anyways, that’s how I met Art: he was an Unfortunate One, and he got separated from the girl he loved, Julie, same name as my little sister. Of course, Frankie and Georgie, who were now Frank and George, were still at my school, but I didn’t love them anymore; they were just plain old friends, because I knew them so long, there was no point to loving them too.
Pretty soon I had a bunch of new friends on top of the old ones: Carla and Mary-Lou, Larry, and Dennis, Mary-Ann and John, and a bunch more. Carla asked me how I got my hair to poof up on top without ratting it. She said I looked cool.
“Do you watch the Outer Limits?” she said. I loved that show. Sometimes I watched it when I baby-sat Tommy and Cathy and Robbie next door, who really didn’t need a baby-sitter, they just needed a referee ’cause they fought all the time. Tom, that’s what we called him now that we all were older, was just about the same age as me. Anyways, if I watched Outer Limits or Twilight Zone over there, it scared the begeezers out of me to walk home. A path led from Tommy’s, I mean Tom’s, house with apple trees on one side and the chicken coop on the other. We no longer had chickens; we just kept all our bikes in there beside all the empty roosts. It smelled like a million old bird nests and looked like a chicken ghost town at night. For sure, I believed something or someone was going to pop right out at me and kill me or torture me or take me to some other dimension.
“Your hair looks just like that girl from the olden days,” Carla said. “The one that got trapped in olden times and didn’t know there were cars or mini-skirts or anything.” I saw that one and never even thought about that girls hairstyle. First I felt proud of my hair. After I thought about it too long, I started to feel bad, and wanted short hair, like Carla’s. Carla said that’s the only way she could wear it ’cause it was so unruly.
“I wish I could get my hair to do that.” Carla said to me. “Want to have lunch together?” For sure I did, ’cause she was from Mary Crapo and played the drums in band, and she rode a horse English style. Carla was cool. My best-friend-ever, Connie, never wanted to sit with the new kids, so I traded off; one day with her and the next with Carla.
Art was cute and tall; he had lots of brown hair and he wore glasses, which he pushed at whenever he got nervous with his pointer fingers, even when they were already resting peacefully against the his forehead. Art was super smart in a cool way, because he only gave a half-way smile, instead of a big braggy smile when he got all the answers right. Besides, he had eyes that danced right through his glasses and he smelled all fresh and clean like dial soap, no straw or hay ever got in his hair. Sometimes, he reached out and held my hand when we walked together at Noon Hour or between classes. I did that all the time with my girl friends, and never felt like I did when Art held my hand: kind of jumpy inside so my breath forgot how to exit my lungs.
Art sat in front of me in Mrs. B’s English class. Sometimes I put my feet on the cross-bar at the bottom of his desk, and he put his feet back touching mine. That made my heart take a big leap up to my throat and turn over before it went back down in my chest. Carla told me Art had a girlfriend at their old school, Julie, but now he liked me, so he broke up with her. Julie was Carla’s good friend, and now I was Carla’s friend, too; girlfriends can go on forever, even if new ones get added. Carla said Julie probably hated me.
By the time the school year ended, I thought the Lucky Ones got to go to my school in 7th grade. We got to be the oldest one more year. I learned how to do a kip in gym class, memorize poetry, which I never had to do before, and ran for Class President. Plus, I made a whole bunch of new friends, who would probably just be hanging out with their old friends, being the youngest of the high-schoolers, if we got our letters and escaped being Unfortunate Ones. Plus, I fell in love with Art, went to my first dance, and danced my first slow dance with him.
In 8th grade I made it to High School. Art and Julie were back together. I got to be good friends with Julie; she played the flute, same as me. I liked Jim and Dave and Wayne and two other Jims, all new boys. I got to be friends with Judy and Patty and Jill, and Dena, and a whole bunch of new girls. Why is it fine and dandy to have lots of girlfriends, but when it came to boys, I had to pick just one?
Ahh… Now that I was a teenager, life would never again be as simple as when I was a little girl. Well, not for a long time, anyways.