To Begin Again

There was once a little girl and a little boy who knew each other but not well. They stood at the same bus stop, went to the same school, and sat side by side in their fourth grade class. The little boy was strong for his age, not tall, but stocky. He had huge hands and he was always pulling the sleeves of his sweatshirt down as it crept up to his elbows. His sandy hair fell into straight bangs even though his mother attempted each morning to plaster them down with hair lotion. The boy had a husky voice that made him seem tough to all the kids.

He played basketball during recess and although he was only ten, he knew how to organize a game and keep it from becoming a brawl. When the bell rang for classes to begin, he’d dawdle on the playground. He didn’t like school one bit, and would spend time gazing out the window dreaming of where his parents might be moving next. The move was sure to come, but he never knew when. He hoped it would be at the end of the school year. It was hard to walk into a new class, and he had done that twice in the last year. But he was lucky, with his nice smile and a hearty giggle, everyone wanted to be his friend. Everyone except this little girl.

She was very skinny, smaller than most of the girls. Her bony legs stuck out of her pleated skirts like toothpicks, and her knees were bruised from falling. 

Her socks never stayed up, so she’d sneak to the girls’ room to put rubber bands around them. She knew her mother wouldn’t like that. It was bad for the circulation. Her thin hair was blonde, but not like those Breck girls in the magazines. She dampened it to keep out the static. She’d peek under her blouse, looking for breasts, praying for something, anything to happen.

The little girl was a good student but she, too, dreamed a lot, staring out the same window as the little boy, wondering if she’d ever have boyfriends like some of the girls. But even though she daydreamed, she always knew what the teacher was saying. 

The little boy never talked to her or any of the girls for that matter. He asked to see her homework a few times, and she thought he was wrong for not doing it himself, but she gave it to him anyway. Once she made a face when he asked and he said, “never mind.” When the teacher called on him that day, he began to stutter, his eyes brimming with tears. The little girl couldn’t believe that he was actually scared.

After this, she liked him more, but he stayed far away. All he ever did was play basketball and eat everyone’s leftover sandwich for lunch. The day she brought him an extra ham and Swiss, he wasn’t there. The teacher announced he had moved away.

Twenty years passed and the little boy and little girl grew up and did many things with their lives. He got married, became an important lawyer, stopped playing basketball, joined a club and took up golf. He had two little boys of his own that he loved very much. But he was not happy.

The little girl finally grew up, got breasts along with a degree in education. Her hair was blonde now just like the Breck girls. She’d married a man from a rich family and had two little girls that she loved very much. But she was not happy.

One day, like a miracle, after they both were divorced, the little boy, now a grown man, met the little girl, now a grown woman, at a mutual friend’s cocktail party. They hardly remembered one another, but it didn’t matter. They were drawn to each other immediately and couldn’t stop talking, giggling and smiling. He was taller than she’d dreamed he’d be, and she was prettier than he could have imagined. Neither of them remembered the homework incident or the extra sandwiches. They were just two happy people that made the air around them fizzle like the bubbles in their champagne.

One year later, they married. He got along great with her little girls and soon his sons began to visit. The little girls and little boys would fight all the time, and the man and woman didn’t know what to do. Soon everyone stopped talking. There was no laughing. 

One night the woman had a dream. She was a little girl again walking home from school. The clouds grew black, and it began to pour. She heard thunder over her head, and she shook with fear not knowing where to go. Then suddenly standing in front of her was the little boy she had known in fourth grade—playing basketball ignoring the rain and thunder. He ran and took her hand, led her to the baseball dugout. He took off his jacket and threw it around her shoulders. Her hair was soaked, and her knee socks had slid down around her ankles. She was scared to death, afraid that she’d never get home. She looked at the little boy and saw that he was crying too, now that bursts of lightening had begun to light up the sky. They held each other, clothes soaked from the rain, faces streaked with tears.

The woman awoke crying from her dream. The man put his arm around her and stroked her hair. They made love, and when they were through, he told her how scared he was about their new life together. He said he missed his sons, and that sometimes he wished he could be out there again, alone on the playground, just shooting hoops. She leaned closer and kissed him, then rose from the bed and went to the kitchen to make him a sandwich. She was beginning to like him more.