EXCERPT FROM MID CHAPTER 4 "THE QUEEN BEE in ME."
"...stuff!” I flipped it on her.
Nina and the girls laughed loudly as Charlene looked really confused-remembering that she did say that.
So before she could flip it back on me, I looked at Nina and the girls and began to yell: “Charlene is a liar but Rita is truth! Charlene is a liar, but Rita is the truth!” repeatedly while Nina and the girls began to chime in. Before Charlene knew it, she couldn’t remember who asked who first. All she could do was cover her ears and do her best to yell over me and four other girls screaming: “Charlene is a liar, but Rita is the truth!” … like a broken record-in every soprano octave unimaginable.
We were surrounding her like we were the hood version of “Children of the Corn.”
I didn’t care if her head popped off, all I wanted out of it was my secret to roll from out of its crevices.
From over the umbrella, I saw her sister (my friend) Rita, approaching the porch with her goodie bag and the two Dixie cups for Nina and me.
I rushed in: “Rita your sister is a liar!” I yelled, as the rest of the crops lowered their voices while Charlene took her hands from her ears and yelled to her sister:
“They are nasty! They are nasty!”
That pissed me off even more because now I really felt that our secrets from behind that umbrella were going to get out, so I had to give it to her hard:
“CHARLENE IS A LIAR (BUT RITA IS THE TRUTH)! CHARLENE IS A LIAR (BUT RITA IS THE TRUTH)! CHARLENE IS A LIAR (BUT RITA IS THE TRUTH)!”
I reached for mine and Nina’s Dixie cups and snatched the goodie bag from my friend Rita, who in my eyes at that moment, turned into the same infiltrator I felt her sister Charlene was at that moment-simply because they lived in the same house.
We sang and repeated that song nonstop while Charlene continued to cover her ears. I could tell that our screams and that song rang in her head like those loud gold bells that I used to ring as a little girl for the Mormons.
I didn’t give a care if she heard our screams in her sleep that night. All I wanted was for our secret to be kept about what goes on behind our umbrellas. I was serious-business about secrets being kept out of the hands of any outsider.
With that, and as far as I was concerned, Rita and me could keep our friendship for and during the school year-outside of umbrella play, for she was no longer invited-because her sister was an outsider.
For me, it just didn’t feel right to let her hang out with us in that way anymore. Quite frankly after that incident, I didn’t too much care for the crop and me congregating under the umbrella anymore.
I came to terms with the fact that the girl I wanted to see was not going to want to hang out under umbrellas with silly little girls built like six-o’clock.
It worked out well for me to leave them to their Barbie Doll and dollhouse play while my TGGF and I hung out at her house in closets, or at my house behind the couch playing our own version of playhouse.
Rita and I would still hang out occasionally, whenever I would be over her house.
I would do my best to meet Charlene eye-to-eye-needing her to submit, wondering what, if anything she remembered that would put my umbrella secrets out and onto the street. It seemed like every time she would look back at me, in my head-all I could hear her say was: “your lil’ pip-squeak tail!”
My squinted-eyed gaze had no affect on her whatsoever.
She knew that she could take me if she had to, and I knew she could too-so I didn’t want any trouble.
I just wanted my secret back from her.
All she had to do was repeat her words: “ole nasty thing!” And I would have known for sure that what happened that day-stuck with her enough to repeat it to someone else.
As long as she didn’t utter those words, regardless if she would submit or no, that was almost, just partly, submission enough for me. I refused to flat out ask her had she told anybody, because then-she would have thought she had me by the balls. I wasn’t going to give her that kind of power, knowing that with no one to hang out with, she sure as hell needed some kind of leverage. I wasn’t going to be up under her foot.
No matter how many times I made it over to my friend Rita’s house, Charlene would not back down from my stare. All I could do to try and subdue her was come get Rita to join me and the girls in a game of tetherball at the bottom of the hill, or for swimming at one of the two local pools that we frequented. Charlene’s obvious summer boredom and the loneliness in her face proved to be much more apparent as each hot summer day passed.
I felt bad for her and wanted her to hang out with us but I just needed her to submit at least one time-eye to eye. That was the only security I could have and know for sure that she would keep my secret safe.
My TGGF was possessive. I did not want it to get out to her or the lil’ thirteen year old boy who was crushing on me. He lived further up the street from us and he too, would hang out at the local swimming pools where we’d be. So until she fully submitted, she was not going to get a spot on that cement wall waiting to play tetherball, splash and fun at the local swimming pools with us, or anything remotely close to what her sister was having the pleasure of enjoying.
Eventually the loneliness wore her down, my gaze finally worked:
Head turned to the left somewhat.
Result: Under her breath and with her lips folded, Charlene laughed a little bit with a look on her face as if to say: “This lil’ pip-squeak think she’s tough. Let me let this lil’ girl have her way before I have to lift her off of her feet by her fuckin’ neck!” She took a deep sigh and smiled (really laughing at me).
I didn’t want any trouble. Hell, I was over wanting to check her out. I really felt sorry for her and how badly her summer was going and sincerely wanted her to be included with our summer fun. So, I was happy that we got past this issue. I smiled back and gracefully asked (in a curtsy kind of way):
“So…Would you like to go to Wilson’s Pool with us?”
“Yeah!” she replied-happily.
She then ran up the steps to catch up to Rita, grabbing her towel and swim bag.
To Wilson’s Pool, I liked to wear my yellow swimsuit and to Ginwood Pool, I liked to wear the silk, one-shouldered white swimsuit with the big purple and pink flower covering the front and back of it. My dad bought it for me and my mom had a rip-roaring fit when he brought me back from shopping the day she
pulled it out of the bag. Outside of wearing makeup before age sixteen, my dad was one of those fathers who had no concept whatsoever about what was and was not appropriate for an underage girl. I can’t recall how the conversation between my mom and dad ended-regarding the sexy white swimsuit, but all I know is that it was up in my room, in my drawer then on my body when I would go to Ginwood Pool.
Little did they both know, the basic yellow swimsuit happened to be my favorite because when I would get out of the pool, if you stared long enough-you too, could see that I was a “a growing lady,” which to me, was perfect for trying to be cute for the boy who had a crush on me. Despite his crushing on me, I never sat around at the pool with him for more than five minutes at a time. I was always too busy walking up on the diving board; threatening to dive but never would.
I was so fascinated and found it to be amazing that kids my age had no fear of diving off the diving board into waters deeper than five feet. Watching that would be the highlight of my swim fun.
Well of course Rita’s sister’s Charlene took full advantage of my astonishment and admiration of the few females at the pool who would dare to dive and jump; that was all she seemed to do-over and over. She would stand in line with the boys and a handful of girls between every fifth boy waiting their turn, feeling like she earned her keep with us after learning that I, the leader, was awe struck at watching her flossing like a dolphin. I was so jealous. I thought it was amazing. I could only fantasize about doing something like that.
The closest that me, Nina and the girls would come to seeing the bottom of twelve feet of water, was when one of the older boys would take turns holding us in his arms while we would wrap ourselves around him like vines to a brick wall; and viola! He’d take us under-destination: bottom. Return: shooting to the top of the water like a missile. While under, I would be eyes wide-open like a guppy; trying to capture that deep, wide-bottom mass that I feared so badly. It was so wonderful for us-getting our experience of seeing what it was like on the bottom floor of twelve feet of water versus the five-feet that we swam in, dog-peddled in and had splash-fights in. I longed to jump off that diving board down into the bottom of it.
All the while, Charlene and the rest of the whales lined up like packs of sardines and dived in like amusement park show-dolphins. Those show-off bitches. I was star struck about as much as I would roll my eyes. Charlene got a kick out of that-the fact that she knew I scared to dive into the deep water, but when the church we attended shipped us off to camp that summer she had to park her tuna in the same can we all did: four feet maximum waters and no diving board: “Flossing like a dolphin and playing like Orca is over bitch!” I wanted to say, but rather, thought in my head.
She didn’t feel too lonely at camp however, because the church had open slots for other neighborhood kids to come along as well-even if they did not attend church with us. That left room open for Lena: a big-tall, pigeon-toed girl who used to comb her hair to the front of her head like Gary Coleman. She was a major tomboy and neighborhood loner who would join us in tetherball, other times she spent her time playing basketball with the boys. Amongst one another, we called her Big Basketball Lena.
She and Charlene kept each other company at camp during the times Lena would peel herself away from me and my yellow swimsuit that she too, must’ve liked just about as much as I did. She never paid me that much attention back at home, but that yellow swimsuit must have had her thinking about me in a whole new way. No matter where she would be around the camp, she would always seem to magically appear whenever I’d be getting out of the swimming pool. Lena stuck to me like a bad habit for as long as she could until my TGGF would show up and pick at the seams of her tomboy dreams-she was not having that bullshit."