by Jane Doe
It was Christmas before I opened my eyes. It was Christmas the instant I began to think. I jumped out of bed. Instead of looking into my stocking, as I had as a child, I pulled down my pajamas bottoms, hoping to see a big, red, bloody bow in the crotch.
I tried not to be too disappointed. A whole long day stretched out before me. I had time to wait. Wait I did. Waiting with such anticipation. Anticipation with such belief that I constantly felt a stickiness in my underwear which I interpreted as my period. I made so many trips to the bathroom to check, that by evening, when the gang of Greers had gone, mother asked if I was sick. As the evening wore on I did feel a little sick. Hope was fading fast. Not only for my period, but my belief in God, creation and the Holy Bible.
When six years old I had lost my belief in Santa Claus. This year I was losing faith in two sources at once. There were no white ice skates under the multicolored tree that morning. Parents! Plus all the candles in the house were burning down, some dripping red and I wasn't. God had failed me, also.
I looked at my unwrapped gifts under the tree. I asked myself how I could spend so much energy in anticipation for the little that laid there. The one item that mildly interested me was a diary from my cousin Allen. The gift tag had his name on it, but I knew it was the result of his mother's understanding of what a girl my age needs. Every
The phone rang. It was for me. Sandra! "Did you get the skates?"
"Oh, I'm really sorry. I was so hoping you would. That was my Christmas wish. That you'd get your skates."
A lump came up in my already tight throat. I couldn't stand being pitied. "And you? What did you get?" "Paul gave me an I.D. bracelet with our names engraved on it. Otherwise, just clothes and stuff. And you?"
"Oh, just the usual. Oh, I got a diary."
"I got one last year. I wrote in it about ten times but then gave it up. Not that much happens in my life and if it did I was too tired to write it down afterwards. Good luck to you. I hope you can keep it going. It's a nice thing to have later they say. What I'm calling for I was wondering if you'd be coming in to town tomorrow to ice skate. The river is still frozen. There were so many people there today; everyone trying out their new skates, that they cleared the snow from a big, new place beyond the island."
"Could I stay all day with you? Dad could drop me off on his way to work. If I could stay for supper, we could go to choir practice together. David asked to bring me home after practice."
"Sounds good to me."
I'm so tired of family after today. We'll skate away from Christmas."
"Right, let me talk to my folks. I'll call right back when they'd settled down enough for me to ask. They are still putting the house back together after all the relatives today."
I imagined that mother looked forward to a day of isolation as much as I looked forward to getting out. It did us both good. Sandra and I skated all morning among the younger kids who were just learning on their Christmas skates. The crowd was all mothers and little kids and us. Paul wasn't even there. To get away from the infantile screams, Sandra and I decided to use the heavy overcast daylight to see how far down the river we could go. Several times the creaking and popping scared us. We skated holding on to a long branch so that if one or the other broke through, we were ready for the dramatic
I was getting tired. My ankles were howling with pain. We kept skating slower and slower. In the distance we could see people skating where no one had been when we passed by before. As we got closer we recognized Johny and Byron, two older boys who were friends of Sandra's brother. As we broached their territory, Sandra glided over to them to talk. I headed for the nearest piece of wood. I just wanted to sit down, stretch out my legs, dig my heels into the ice to let gravity pull on my limbs from the other way for awhile. I was numb with hunger and cold. The two boys did not register as something interesting to me. Besides, I have David was my answer to their scrutiny of me. My heart was no longer on the prowl.
Soon Sandra and the boys joined me on the assorted pieces of tomato crates scattered about as seats. "Where are your shoes? We thought we were the only ones here."
"Our shoes are at the park bridge."
"Did you skate the whole way down here?"
"Yeah, except for walking around the rapids."
"That's a long way. You must be tired."
"I am, and cold." I was surprised I had the courage to speak, but I was so tired I had no self pride any more.
The way it ended up was, I was in the back seat of Bryon's car with Johny and Sandra was in the front with Byron. I was shivering with cold by now, so when Johny put his arm around me and pulled me against him, I didn't resist, I just wanted to get warm.
"Are you girls more worried about your shoes in the park or your hunger? We could go over to Ernie's first for a hamburger."
"If that's an invitation to eat, I'm not worried at all about my shoes," Sandra laughed , snuggling up to Bryon.
"You, too?" whispered Johny to me. "I was so tired, so glad to have my skates off and my feet tucked up under me, glad to have someone saving me from the long strip of ice back to the park that I just nodded.
"We'll have to eat in the car," said Sandra "We can't go bare foot into Ernie's." By the time we drove to Ernie's, had our hamburgers and cokes, got gas and drove back to the park the winter afternoon was almost over. Sandra told Byron where to park and pointed out where our shoes were. The boys graciously offered to walk down to the edge of the ice to get them for us. That gave Sandra and me a few minutes to compare notes.
"Sandra, what's going on?"
"We've met two nice friends of mine who bought us lunch and think maybe we will go with them."
"I don't know about you. Do you like Johny?"
"How do I know? Do you like Bryon?"
"I went with Bryon before I met Paul. We know each other."
"If they ask, would you go out with them?"
"I would go with Bryon if he asked me. You with Johny?"
"Johny's nice, but I can't imagine him wanting to go with me. I feel he is stuck with me because Bryon wants to be with you. If I'm in the way, you can drop me off at your house. I'll wait there until choir practice."
"Don't plan so much. Let's see what happens. Sh! Here they come.”
Sandra and I sorted out our shoes and boots to put them on. An expectant waiting settled over all of us. Should Sandra and I get out of the car to walk home, or would they offer to drive us those couple of blocks? I wondered what was next. I was self-consciously staring at my cold boots on my now warm feet when a movement in the front seat made me look up. Sandra and Byron were kissing. I felt that Sandra had gone very far away from being my friend and now I was all on my own. I looked at Johny. He smiled a crooked little smile, put both arms around me, pulled me roughly over against his chest as he began kissing me, long and hard. This kind of kissing caught me off guard. Johny was very different from David with his sweet gentleness.
Johny smelled strange from the many cigarettes he smoked. His mouth tasted hot and acrid. He didn't always manage to keep his lips together, either. Stopping to breathe, I opened my eyes. Now it was totally dark in the park. No one was skating. We could only see the tops of Byron and Sandra's heads. They looked like one person with no face.
Johny made himself more comfortable by putting his feet on my side of the car. This time when he pulled me against him, he was half lying, half sitting. He started kissing me again but at the same time he kept jerking me around and scooting himself around, trying to have our bodies touching all the way down. I was still packed like a teddy bear with all my skating warmness, but I knew what Johny was trying to feel. He twisted again, trying to make better contact.
"Hey, man, whatcha doin'? Tearing up the back of my car?" came Bryon's muffled voice from the front seat.
"I'm doin' okay. You mind your business."
I wished that Sandra and I could take time out to talk. I could use some good motherly advice. I was so worried about what Johny was going to do next, I couldn't keep my mind on the kissing. I couldn't honestly say I was enjoying Johny. But as the popular songs kept coming out of the radio, and the night got darker, I began to find myself panting like Johny was. I was finding the wild bees in my blood again and the silver rain, that I thought only I knew how to make me feel, was splashing all around me. It was exciting, but I wasn't enjoying it. Then a leftover Christmas song reminded me.
"Oh, Johny, what time is it. I've got to go to choir practice."
"No, you don't." he said, pulling my head down hard against his mouth.
"Yes I do. What time is it?"
"Is singing in the choir better than this?"
"No." I answered honestly before I thought.
"Then stay, stay, stay." he whispered.
"Johny? I can't. I'm in charge of the music and If I 'm not there I 'm supposed to have a substitute. If I don't show up, Mr. Meyer will call home to see why I 'm not there and I ' ll get into trouble with my folks ." That stirred him. Probably he knew what "trouble
"Bryon, What time is it? "
"Time to do it ! "
"I don 't think Jane will let us. She has to be at choir practice at seven. "
"Sandra has to be there too." I didn't want all the blame.
"No I don't ." Sandra ' s tousled head popped up as Bryon turned on the weak yellow overhead light to look at his watch.
"It will be, at the sound of the gong, a quarter till seven. " he fell over against Sandra kissing her in plain sight of Johny and me. I was more than a little shocked. I had never seen anyone kissing like that except in the movies and they were not real.
"Johny, I've really got to go. Do you think Byron would drive me there so I ' m not late? " I was sitting up, with worry wrapping itself like barbed wire around me.
"Bryon, old chap, I hate to interrupt all the beautiful things you have going for you there in the front, but our canary has got to get to church."
Everyone seemed uncomfortable with me. I was clearly aware that I was spoiling their fun. At the church, I was prepared to make a flying leap out of the car, when Johny pulled me back against him once again. With a quick kiss, he asked if he could see me tomorrow night.
"I don 't know. Ask Sandra tomorrow." I said in my confusion, opening the door, untangling my skates and my legs, " I just don't know! "
The lights were on in the church. I dashed in, dropping my skates with a clank in the vestibule. There were only a couple of kids already up in the choir loft. It was still early enough. I ran down to the basement, thankful that I knew where all the light switches were, and made a dash for the bathroom. It had been a long time. After my relief I checked my pants out of habit for my period. It wasn't red but there sure was a lot of sticky stuff there. I took some toilet paper to wipe it out. I didn't know I could make stuff like that.
I washed my face and hands. There was an old faded pink comb lying on the window sill. I ran my fingers through my hair, but it still looked as if I had spent the last three hours in the backseat of a car. So I took the comb, tried to wash it with the liquid green soap
Copyright © the Estate of Jane Doe 2010