Natalia sat with her friends watching the baseball team practice. She secretly sized each boy up against another to see which was taller or more handsome. But there were so many to choose from.
Iris and Stacy were also interested in the boys. Maddie was less interested in the boys and more into the sport. But she was still drawn to the boys. Still, the four friends were all hoping that summer would never end. None of them cared for school. They would rather be out riding bikes or roller skating.
As practice began to wind down, Iris looked over at Natalia. “Nat, why don’t we go to my house and mess around a while?”
Natalia looked at her other two friends. “What do you say? Should we?”
Stacy nodded. “Oh yes. While we’re there, we can see her brothers. I hear her older brother is a looker. At least that is what my sister says.”
Maddie smiled. “I am along for whatever the rest of you do. I just have to be home before dinner.”
Iris smiled. “OK, let’s go. You girls can ogle my brother any time you want. As long as he doesn’t know.”
Giggles rippled through the girls. Getting on their bikes, they rode down the street leading away from the ball field. With Iris in the lead, they pedaled hard and fast to her house.
She turned around briefly. “C’mon ladies! Time’s a-wastin’!”
In no time, they were in Iris’s front yard. Her father met them. “Hello, girls. Having fun this afternoon?”
“Oh, yes, Mr. Mackler,” Natalia answered, “Always.”
He smiled. “That’s good.”
Shasta sat reading yet another book. Unlike Natalia, Shasta couldn’t wait for school to restart. She was the smart one. She loved learning.
Not that Nattie wasn’t smart. But Shasta applied herself. No one ever made fun of either, though. Shasta was good at beating up anyone who thought they could outdo her. All soon learned to leave her alone.
Of course, they learned not to make fun of Nattie either. To make fun of one was to call down the wrath of the other. But Nattie could fight her own battles as well.
Both girls were excellent fighters. Not your typical girlie ‘cat-fight’ style fighting. No, both could land a damn good punch without telegraphing it. There was no hair-pulling or scratching. Just all out brawling.
But Shasta was the best fighter of the two. It came from having a father who’d wanted sons, but accepted daughters without reservations. Just because he didn’t have a son didn’t mean he wanted his daughters to be easily taken advantage of. And so he taught them how to fight, just for defense.
And Shasta did fight. Whenever someone started a fight, Shasta could be trusted to end it. She always came out with fewer bruises than her opponent. Even the boys steered clear of her. And that was how she liked it. To be left alone.
But now, as summer wound down, she sat on the living room couch and read a book. It was The House Of Seven Gables. Hawthorne had always been one of her favorites. She had read the collection Twice Told Tales and Other Short Stories and a few of his other works and had fallen in love with his style.
Of course, she grew irritated with his obsession with words, but she forgave him. After all, he was a wonderful storyteller. Besides. She couldn’t really complain to him in a letter. He was dead.
Poe was another of her favorites. Same with Wells and Verne. The classics were better than a lot of the newer authors. But there were a few contemporaries she liked.
Take Hemingway, for instance. And Fitzgerald. She couldn’t leave out Steinbeck and Adler. They were the best.
If she wasn’t reading fiction, she was enjoying history. Of course, she enjoyed science and social studies as well. She excelled at math as well. Where Nattie made average grades, she made straight ‘A’s.
She was active as a tutor for other students. She was the good daughter. She tried to remain out of trouble. She followed the rules.
She had a plan for her future and it did not include having a record. It only included good grades, college, and a career. After all this, she would consider boys. Let Nattie get entangled in little crushes. She would remain happily buried in her books.
At Iris’s, Natalia and her friends were ogling and giggling over Iris’s older brother. At thirteen, Manny was the most handsome boy in the community. Kind and gentle, he was every girl’s dream. And every girl’s secret crush.
He didn’t mind Iris’s friends, they were all too young for him. Besides, he wasn’t really interested in girls. He was a musician. He dreamed of being a rockabilly star someday.
They swooned as he played his guitar. He had listened to the Maddox Brothers. He had studies their style. He also listened to the emerging artists that were slowly bubbling to the surface. What he heard, he liked.
He had that soothing cool cat voice like Frank Sinatra, but the rebellious sound of those he listened to. He liked jazz, but it was only so cool. You had to be on the cutting edge to be even cooler.
He strummed his guitar as the girls looked on. Natalia was enamored. She imagined herself in the front row of a concert with him singing directly to her. Later, she would be compared to ‘Lucy’ to his ‘Schroeder’, as if they were characters in the newest comic strip of the year, Peanuts. But for now, she was in heaven, just hearing him play and sing.
She would sit there in Iris’s living room and drool over this Adonis who really had no clue she existed. By morning, she would forget that he existed anyway. She lived here and now. She bore her crushes here and now. Let tomorrow worry about itself.
Iris motioned to the clock a couple hours later. Maddie was the first to leave. Stacy and Natalia followed a few minutes later. Midway down the block, they separated. Stacy went inside and Natalia continued on until she was home.