It was a hot New York summer day, humid and full of sound. The suburbs weren't as bad as the city, and butterflies and dragonflies filled the air.
Eddie watched from behind the screen door as the insects flew through the air. She watched as the shadows of the neighborhood girls playing moved across the ground, chasing each other and dancing in flattened circles. The girls held each other's hands and spun around, their heads tossed back, their mouths open, screams filling the air as they twirled and sang "London Bridge". Eddie watched as their skirts and shorts shifted through the air, pinks purples blues filling her view with color. The girls stopped spinning and began chasing each other in an impromptu game of freeze tag. She watched the shadows jump and then become thin dark lines across the ground, midget versions of the girls' figures freezing in place.
Quietly, Ty snuck up behind her and tapped her on her shoulder. "Aaah!" Eddie screamed as she felt the cold finger on her skin.
"Ty man you scared me!"
"Aw come on Eddie, stop being such a girl. Come on, we got a game going on at Danny's house."
Eddie eased out of the corner behind the screen window and ran out after Ty. The thick pad felt weird between her legs, like a big balled sock that shifted as she ran. She was pretty sure she had put the pad on right; she didn't want her mom to know, and the nurses at school had shown all the girls the month before. That morning Eddie had taken an extra long shower as the blood ran down into the drain. She'd looked under the sink and luckily her mom had extra pads stored under there. Carefully, so as not to make any noise, she had undone one of the pink wrappers and stretched the cotton pad out along her underwear. Then, after she had put her jeans and shirt on, oiled her scalp and brushed her teeth, she walked out of the bathroom: everything normal.
Ty and Eddie reached Danny's house where the neighborhood boys had already gathered. It looked like teams were already picked.
"Hey Eddie, what took you so long? We already put you on a team. Over there."
Danny shouted and nodded to the right. Eddie joined the team with Nest, Ricardo, Sly, Birdie, Fat Al and Dennis. Great, Eddie thought, I get here late and get to play with the winning team. The boys were a pre-pubescent mishmash of raging hormones-in-waiting, emerging body odors, fuzzy lips and cracking voices. Danny, who already had a girlfriend and some facial hair, was the leader of the bunch. Sure he was only nine, but age didn't really matter when you had a girlfriend and had already reached 4'10". Fat Al was the biggest of the group, measuring at 5'1" and weighing 150 pounds. And Ty was the oldest: he was going to be 11 in the Fall. The boys had already seen him defecting to hang out with some of the guys at the mall. But today, he was playing kickball. Eddie was 10 and had been playing kickball and climbing trees with her friends since she was six. Besides the uncomfortable pad between her legs, everything today was as usual.
Eddie's team lined up for the kick. Danny was pitching and Nest, being the fastest on her team, was first in line. Eddie watched as Nest kicked the ball out to right field and ran to first base. Her turn was next and she looked over at Nest to see if he would steal second. He looked at her and motioned towards left field with his eyes. Ty stood guarding first base. Eddie looked to see if others had seen his signal. No, nobody had. Danny was getting ready to yell again and so Eddie got behind home base. Danny released the ball and it came rolling in her direction; her foot touched the red ball and sent it soaring towards left field as Nest ran for second then for third. Eddie ran to first base as Ty finally caught the ball.Sly called "SAFE!!!" and immediately there was a huddle around first base.
"That wasn't safe man. You saw me catch the ball and tag her just as she got here. She's out!"
"Naw man, she touched the base. She's safe."
"Yeah, I was already on base when you got it. You slow!"
The boys and Eddie were going at it when the flutter of colors and shadows arrived in their midst trailing the scent of pink bubblegum and lip gloss, baby oil and sunshine. Eddie sensed their arrival and watched as they got closer.
"Hey Danny!" a girl's voice called out.
The boys and Eddie stopped talking. They all turned around and fanned around Danny.
"Whatya doin' Danny?"
"Who wants to know?"
Eddie watched as the girl pushed Tia from the circle of giggles and color. Tia stood shyly, her head bowed down, eyes on her pink jellies. Her hair was done up in extensions, braids falling around her face in a bob, covering her chocolate cheeks and bright brown eyes. She was just a little chubbier than the other girls and she wore blue shorts and a striped pink and blue shirt. Tia's hands were clasped behind her back and a small smile played on her lips as her dimpled cheeks puckered. Eddie caught her breath.
"Hey Danny, Tia likes you man!"
"Danny already has a girlfriend."
"Whatya gonna do, Danny?"
Eddie watched as Danny figured out what was going on. Her heart pounded with the realization that Danny was about to be mean, real mean to Tia. She saw his eyebrows furrow, the way they did when he was picking a fight, and just as he was going to release some sorry-ass comeback, Eddie jumped in to save the day.
"Hey Tia, forget Danny. What about me?"
The girls giggled and the boys stared as Eddie stood in front of Tia. Tia looked up, startled by Eddie's figure standing open-armed in front of her. Eddie looked at her eyes staring back at her, and gulped. All of a sudden Fat Al's voiced burst from the crowd as he shouted:
"Eww! Eddie's got blood on her pants! Eddie's bleeding! Ooh! Eddie's got her period! Eddie's got her period!"
The boys, disgusted, started yelling at Eddie:
And out of the corner of her eyes, Eddie saw Sly slapping Ty's hand as he told everyone Eddie was out. Eddie felt the pad between her legs. She turned to look at the back of her pants and saw it: a huge, dark red spot spreading slowly across the back of her jeans. She looked at the boys as their mouths formed the sounds of ugly words, pouring down at her like hot molasses. The girls were pointing at her, their fingers long rods poking at her skin as they joined the boys in the chant: "Lezzie! Bull dagger!" Tia stepped back from her, and Eddie turned, running back as fast as she could to the cool darkness of her house.
Eddie ran into her room. She peeled off her jeans and underwear and stood in the room naked and crying. This was so stupid! Everything was normal just yesterday, and all because of this her life was a mess. And I wasn't out! I made first base, Eddie thought to herself as she frantically searched her room for clean underwear and pants. As she began to put on her clothes, she looked down to find blood running down her leg. She grabbed her dirty underwear, wiped her legs, and then threw the cloth into the garbage. No one else was going to know that she had her period. She opened her door and making sure no one was outside, ran into the bathroom. She quickly found a pad and wound her way back to her bedroom to put her clothes back on. When it was all done, Eddie sat quietly on her bed and cried. She looked out the window at the tree in her neighbor's yard, and wondered about what had just happened. It all seemed so unfair. She could still play ball, and so what if she had a crush on a girl. She sighed, and realized how thirsty she was.
Eddie opened her bedroom door. Quietly she made her way to the kitchen. As she opened the refrigerator door, Eddie felt a pair of eyes on the back of her neck. She turned around. Tia was sitting in her living room. Eddie's eyes popped open, and she almost dropped her juice.
"What are you doing here?"
Tia smiled at Eddie. She stood up and walked over to Eddie, arms held together behind her back. She smiled, dimples on her cheeks, the same ones Eddie had seen just moments ago. Eddie stopped looking at Tia and just stared at the ground as she got closer.
"Eddie, I think you're cute, too."
Eddie heard the other girls playing double dutch and hop scotch outside the windows of her house. She was tempted to go to the screen door and look out. But, just then, she knew she had all the butterflies she would ever need right there in front of her.
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