Does anyone remember the summers when you were a child? As an adult they are always distant memories when time seemed endless. The summer was filled with years of fun and school was just days between each warm vacation. The pool was a place to ride bikes too and home was where you had tea parties with other girls from the neighborhood who would come to your backyard.
When looking back, do you ever remember the bad times? Sometimes you’ll vaguely remember a squabble you had with your bestie if it was really bad and cause you to go home in a huff, but there was too many good times to think about. Why waste time of thinking about when Sarah had called you a poopy head and stormed off? Why, when you could think about the time you were both at the pool, splashing back and forth, giggling as she had just threatened to tell Tommy Walker that you had a thing for him and thought he was cute.
Lizzie had grown up in Steven’s Point for nearly all her life, though they didn’t live too close to the downtown area, but on the north side near Atwell Park. Their house was on Jordon Lane, not too far from the university so her dad didn’t have too far to go to work. He liked being close enough that he didn’t have a long drive, but far enough away that students wouldn’t be pranking their house. Which they didn’t except for Halloween, and even then who could know for sure if it was students of just random mischief.
Lizzie’s brother hadn’t been sick yet, but they still had never been close. He was just over a year younger than her, and though he was younger, was still the bully of the house. He had learned to pick on her since the moment he had been able to talk, and their mom always took them to play dates where it seemed like she was maybe one of two girls. All the other kids had been boys and <Insert Brother’s Name> had fit right in. It never took him long to make friends, and before she would know what was happening, she would be getting rammed by three to four toy tractors.
And what was the worst part of it? Her mom would just laugh and find it funny. Could she not see how much Lizzie’s brother was a little demon trapped in that body? He was a holy terror and was torturing her and their mom just thought they were playing.
Then there were the times that Lizzie fought back. She would get hit by some Sesame Street doll that had been flung across the room and she would throw it back. Yeah, she would whip it back at him, get him good with it. He would take the hit, and then would wail like a banshee. You would think he was mortally wounded and never going to be recovered as her brother had a set of lungs on him that would make Renee Fleming proud. This would then follow with Lizzie being whisked away into the corner chair where she would face the wall for another time out. The longer she cried, shouting how it just wasn’t fair, the longer she sat there thinking of all the different ways she was going to get her revenge.
She never did though, not while she was alone. Anything she ever tried was always met with failure, her plans aways thwarted by those wailing lungs.
It got to become so frustrating how her parents never saw her side of it, that when Lizzie had turned seven, she had started to explore the neighborhood on her own. She would do whatever it would take to get away from the little beast. Her parents never seemed to care. She was free to roam on her own, just as long as she didn’t get into any trouble. That was kind of the unsaid deal. She didn’t get into any trouble and that she was home before dark. She could work with that.
Well, she also couldn’t ride her bike farther than the end of the street. That was a given as she wasn’t allowed to cross Stanley street or Prais street, so she really only had a couple of blocks to get away, and there were no girls living in any of the houses there. She could ride up and down the street all day and all there were, were boys that ran and played. Sure they were okay, better than her brother, but whose to say that they wouldn’t become just as vicious if she started playing with them.
It was unending, each day the same thing. She would ride her bike, and she would see the same group of boys, some of whom would meet up at the park and throw around balls or play on the playground. She would also be at the park, but she didn’t say much to most of them. Some tried to talk to her, but she would shy away whenever any of them would try to throw around a ball to her or try and chase her.
Some of the older kids teased her and it was unwarranted when they started to call her ‘freak girl.’ She wasn’t a freak. They were just all scary boys, and boys liked to hit and fight. She watched how they played with each other. They were always wrestling around and throwing each other to the ground. How could she trust them not do do that to her.
Then Sarah came to her street. It had been a bad day at the park, and it was really hot outside to make everything worse. At the park, Billy hadn’t accepted it when she had told him ‘no.’ He wanted her to join their game of tag, and no, was not an acceptable answer.
When she had said it to him again, this time louder and stronger, he had pushed her down, then lowered himself to yell in her face, “Tag, you’re it!” Then he ran off and all of his friends ran away from her.
She hadn’t chased them, but stood back up and started to cry. Her butt hurt, she hadn’t known he was going to do that, and falling had stung. So she stood there, watching them all run expecting her to follow, and she didn’t.
That was when it got bad, because all the boys gathered when they realized she wasn’t chasing them. They started pointing at her, laughing and calling her names. Jeremy left the group to walk over to her. He was shorter of the rest and had sometimes even been nice to her, so she didn’t run from him as he approached.
She had a moment to think that maybe, just maybe, this boy was going to be nice to her. He was even holding his hand out to her, so he was going to help her up, and he did right before he pushed her down again.
“Tag, your it!” He laughed and then ran away, the rest of them, some having moved closer to see what Jeremy was going to do, laughed with Jeremy.
“I was already it.” Lizzie cried. She sat there, not even trying to get up. What was the point. There were all mean and just going to make fun of her. Eventually she heard them moving farther away, a new ‘it’ was running around, one boy chasing another until they caught them and pushed them down.
She watched it off and on for a minute or two as here tears dwindled. Finally they stopped when she realized no one was coming to save her, and that she no longer needed saving. Maybe she should just go home and see if Johnny was playing on his Xbox. Her parents would never buy her one as she wasn’t a boy, but when no one was home, she would sneak in there.
It was on her ride home from the park that she stopped and saw one of the coolest things she had ever seen. It was a large pink castle easily as tall as she was. There was no way a boy played with that, and it was being carried out of a large truck to around back of a house she had never paid any attention to before. She didn’t think anyone had lived there, but now there was girl there!
Lizzie stopped her bike and watched as more things came off the truck. She could feel the air in her mouth as it was going dry. It was open and she couldn’t help it as she watched the large girl dining set that was being carried out next by the large men who just kept coming and going out of the back yard.
“Mom, where are they taking them!” yelled a girls voice from behind her.
“Sarah, don’t you dare get out of this car until we have completely stopped. Close that door right now!”
Lizzie turned and saw a large SUV pulling up to the curb. The back door was already partially open and the moment the vehicle came to a complete stop, a little girl roughly the same age as herself came sprinting out. She didn’t even notice Lizzie at first as the girl was in a full sprint towards the back yard where the two men had disappeared with the large castle.
“She’s going to be a handful today.” Lizzie heard the girl’s mother saying.
“Are you up to this? I can watch her and take care of the movers. You can lie in the back, get some rest.”
“I’ll be fine. I’m feeling okay today, and then tomorrow, we’ll go see that specialist and I’ll be all better.”
“I’m not Sarah, you don’t have to talk down to me.”
“I’m going to be fine. It’s all going to be okay.”
Lizzie looked to the girls parents who were so lost in looking at each other that they never noticed she was there. That’s okay, she figured if they didn’t notice her, then they wouldn’t mind it is she followed to where the girl went to.
Lizzie rested her bike in the grass and walked to the back yard. It was larger than hers and fenced in so she had to go through an old wooden gate that needed to be repainted. The paint was brown and peeling, but as Lizzie walked through it, what was there and what she imagined was there became to very different things.
As soon as she saw the castle in the middle of the yard, the two workmen disappeared to her eyes and she saw a lush landscape around her with a meadow of beautiful green grass. Unicorns were grazing in the distance and they nodded to her as she approached the kingdom. The other girl was standing there by the large castle, smiling and twirling around as she sang to the music of Cinderella.
“Hi, I’m Lizzie.” She blurted out and the girl stopped dancing and looked at her like she had suddenly been caught doing something embarrassing. Her cheeks went red and her mouth hung open.
Oh no, Lizzie thought, I just barged in there and now this girl, the only other girl on the area my age is going to hate me for the rest of my life. This was it, I’d ruined it.
“Hello?” The other girl said nervously. She quickly recovered and a smile stretched wide as she started hooping up and down. “Do you want to be a princess?”
“I don’t know… does the castle’s library have any good books?” Lizzie hadn’t really learned to read that well, but she loved stories. If she was a princess, they would need to read stories to her day and night.
“Books? Why would you want books?” The girl scoffed but then looked like she was considering what Lizzie had asked. “But its a large castle, I don’t see why it couldn’t have a library… and unicorns, and cotton candy and … and… and…” Sarah started to name off all the wonderful things it could have and as she did, Lizzie looked around seeing them floating in the air.
It wasn’t long before they were both running around the yard, and when the movers had brought the tea table with the box labeled “tea time (back yard)” on it, that they were preparing for their own tea party.
“Yes Princess Elizabeth, this is a very fine brisket and glass of tea.” Sarah said. Lizzie giggled as Sarah took a bite from her pretend cookie in one hand while holding her tea cup in the other. Her pinky was raised, and she was pouting her lips in what Lizzie guessed was her snooty, queen face.
“It is Princess Humperdink,” Lizzie replied, making her own queen face, “but I do believe they are called biscuits, not briskets.”
Sarah looked at the invisible cookie held between her fingers and then back at Lizzie.
“I thought they’re called briskets. Biscuits are large and fluffy. I want an English cookie,” then dropping back into her faux English accident she continued, “Only the best briskets can be found acceptable for the queen.”
“Yes, my queen.” Lizzie said, but then dropped her own faux accent to continue, “My dad’s a professor at the college. He meets all kinds of cool people and another professor there, she comes over and brings these really cool cookies, but… she calls them biscuits because that’s what they’re called where she’s from. She’s from London I think.”
“Really!” Sarah says, losing her character momentarily.
“Yeah, she’s really cool. She always talks British and she calls things really weird. Like she calls our T.V. a telly.”
“Well, should we go inside and watch cartoons on the telly?” Sarah asks, slipping back into using her faux accent.
They both stood from the short table and started running towards the house. They made it half way when they could hear the yelling from inside.
“Really? We’re not living here for twenty minutes and your already flirting with the neighbors.”
“Flirting! I was just being nice to our neighbors. She was asking if her daughter was hear playing, she’d seen her going into our backyard. I’m not the one running around with my damn tits nearly hanging out. You had one of the movers walking around with an erection.”
The girls had both stopped when they heard something glass fall and break inside the house. Lizzie didn’t know why, but she felt tears forming at the corners of her eyes and she back away from the open door. Sarah looked at her, her eyes were also wet. Neither of them wanted to go inside.
“Maybe we should go to your house and play.” Sarah said. Lizzie nodded her agreement and Sarah rushed to where one of the movers had set her bike. Lizzie’s because bike was still out front and she had a momentary worry that one of the neighborhood boys had hidden it on her when she didn’t see it. They’d done it before, and she turned around frantically looking for it.
“Looking for this?” Sarah asked her and Lizzie stopped to see that her bike was near the front porch. Someone must have moved it, maybe one of the movers. Didn’t matter as she was just happy to see it.
“Aren’t you going to tell your parents where we’re going?”
Sarah looked over her shoulder at the large house. They could still hear her parents but now the voices were muffled and the words indistinguishable.
“They’ll figure it out. We won’t be far.”
“I guess that’s true.” Lizzie said, but she wasn’t comfortable with not telling anyone. She would never have done that to her parents. If she did that to her parents they would freak out and maybe even call the police. It was why she always told them where she was going and who’d she be hanging around with.
They were half way to Lizzie’s house, and Sarah hadn’t said anything since they had left. Every time Lizzie had looked at her, she found her new best friend looking back at her parents house, or looking off into space and wiping away tears Lizzie could tell she wasn’t supposed to see. When Sarah would notice her looking, she would flash a smile and act like nothing was wrong.
Lizzie didn’t know what she should do. She didn’t say anything about it, and after awhile, the smile Sarah gave her lingered on her face.
“Hey, do you think your parents would mind if I stayed the night?” Sarah asked as they were setting their bikes down near the garage.
“I think so. We can always ask.” Lizzie said.
“I hope so. I think I’d really like to stay the night.”
“Then let’s do it.”
Sarah surprised Lizzie as she quickly ran over to her and gave her a huge hug. Lizzie wasn’t sure how she was supposed to react, so she went with it, and returned it. When Sarah pulled away, there were more tears and Lizzie barely heard her whisper, “Thank you.”
“Hey, let me show you my room. My uncle got me this amazing Princess Sofia, and I can show you some of my favorite books.”
“Okay, well, just wait, I’m sure you love it.”
“Sure, let’s go.”
They both rushed off, the sound of giggling laughter echoing through the house as they ran up the stairs to Lizzie’s room.