We wore flouncy halter tops and ran from the boys who wanted to see if we had tits underneath.
“Suckers!” We yelled, and ran down the block, back to my house. We went around to the side door and down into the cellar where it was cool.
“Let’s take a rest,” said Renae. Plum fuzz above her lips. Voice like velvet.
I drew back the musty sheet and we lay down and tried to be straight.
How do you lie side by side without touching?
Water dripped from a pipe and trickled down the stonewall. We were in our cave.
“You wanna play X-marks the spot?” said Renae.
“Okay, you do me first.”
“Take off your halter.”
“Then I can do your whole back. I promise not to look.”
I turned away so she wouldn’t see my chest. Then I pulled the halter over my head. I lay down on my belly and Renae sat on top of me. Her knees hugged my hips and my skin tingled.
No one spoke.
Renae breathed in and out and started slow, tracing the lines across my bare back.
“X-marks the spot with a circle and a dot, Three lines and a question mark, A pinch and a squeeze and a… ,” she brushed the damp hair from the back of my neck and blew the “cool breeze.”
Then she put her fist on my head and pretended, “Crack an egg with the yolk dripping down. Crack an egg with the yolk dripping down.”
I felt the oozing yolk and the white. And her fingers were the spiders’ legs, crawling up my sides and tickling the web of my armpit.
“Stop,” I screamed, but I was laughing. I laughed and laughed. The laughter coming out of me like bubbles. Popping all over us.
Then Renae took her hands off of me. “You don’t want me to see you,” she said.
“But it’s not fair,” I told her. “You’re still wearing your halter top.”
“Come here, Sammy,” she told me. She stood over by the dusty mirror in the corner, near the closet.
“Let’s take off all our clothes and see what we have. The rules are we have to take off everything, even our underwear, but we’ll only look at the mirror. If you look right at the other person then they get to tell everybody how weird you are.”
The amount that I wanted to see her body was more than the amount that I was embarrassed about mine so I said okay.
We turned away from each other and took off our clothes. I heard the sound of her zipper, and the cloth against her legs as she slid them off.
I almost tripped stepping out of my underpants.
“Are you ready yet?” Her arms were crossed, and she had that pout on her face.
“I’m taking off my socks,” I told her.
“I don’t care about your socks,” she said. “I’m getting goose bumps.”
“Ok, I’m ready.”
We turned towards the mirror and slowly counted. “One, two, three!” and we were there, naked. Our arms and shoulders touched as we squeezed into the reflection.
“You have hair,” she said and pointed in the mirror.
“I do not.” It was blonde; I didn’t think she’d see it. “Anyway, so what?”
“It’s gross,” she said. “If I get it, I’m going to shave it all off.”
I looked down at her feet; at her dainty brown toes and the grape colored nail polish I had painted on them. I swallowed back the tears in my throat and blinked.
“But yours is okay,” she said, and squeezed my hand.
I looked up and stared at her face in the mirror. She was looking right back at me and she lifted up her chest like she wanted me to look, to really look.
And then she looked at mine.
My nipples were just flat pink buttons. Hers were dark brown and puffy, like there was juice pushing up from underneath.
I felt like her body had been somewhere special, like she had stayed up late and gone somewhere secret where girls get their periods and grow tits. But it wasn’t like I just wanted to have what she had. I wanted to know what she had inside of her that made her the way she was. That made her so perfect.
We were standing stiff, frozen in each other’s eyes, and it felt like we were going to stay there forever until Renae farted. And then we cracked up and didn’t even care that we were naked. We threw on our clothes, rushed up the stairs, and burst out the cellar door into the bright hot summer.
And then we ran, we ran and ran, down the street, and to the corner of Pearl, where we turned left and ran three more blocks, the sun beating down on our braided heads, until we got to the park where they had the sprinklers going and we leapt right into that ice cold water, flying in and out, and over and through, laughing and screaming so loud and hard that all the mommies gathered up their babies and took them home.
But we stayed. We stood in the center of the concrete circle and the spray came at us from every direction. We could take it. We dropped our heads and lifted our palms and let the cool water stream over us until we were soaked.
About Karla Greenleaf-MacEwan
Karla Greenleaf-MacEwan is a two-time winner of the Studio B Story Slam held in Maplewood, New Jersey where she lives with her family. She received her MFA from Brooklyn College and currently teaches fiction writing at Montclair State Contributors University. Her stories have been published in the Brooklyn Review and Women Arts Quarterly, and have received honorable mentions from the Minnetonka Review and Ledge Poetry and Fiction Magazine. She recently completed her first novel.