The Neighbor Girl
By Genevieve Mills–
Sometimes you don’t remember the first time you meet that person. The person. But I do.
I was eight and we had just moved into a new, huge house when our neighbors came over to welcome us to the neighborhood. The middle-aged couple who both introduced themselves as “doctor” brought a fruit basket and a little girl with them.
I remember thinking she seemed my age and fun, with the way her muddy knees poked out from under her flowered skirt. She had three stickers on her small hand, a star, a smiley face, and a heart, and most of her pale blonde hair was falling out of its ponytail. Her smile matched her parents’ but her swimming pool blue eyes said, “Don’t listen to these silly adults.”
When her parents left they let her stay “but send her home if she’s any trouble” and I gave her a tour of the house. She trailed behind me from my little brother’s room to mine, where I bragged about the outer-space wallpaper and matching bedspread.
“I like it,” she said, eyes darting everywhere, observing everything. As that seemed to be the only thing she had to say, and all my toys were still in boxes, I suggested hide-and-go-seek, and proceeded to get more and more frustrated as she found me in seconds and I gave up looking for her round after round.
“Stay for dinner,” my parents told her and so I watched her twiggy legs swing back and forth under the table while she and my parents made small talk. I remember thinking she spoke just like a grown-up, but then she sneaked the mushrooms from her plate onto mine without anyone noticing.
“Are you Evan’s new girlfriend?” my little brother shot at her and I kicked him because that was gross and I simply wanted a friend. Her face turned pink to match the lemonade we were drinking and she shook her head so her ponytail swung furiously.
“Ew, no,” she said and my parents laughed while I hoped that my little brother hadn’t just scared her off.
Luckily he hadn’t. Later she let me wander into her yard and disturb her reading, accepted my invitations to the pool, and invited me to her birthday party.
She would let me lead her in elaborate made-up games, and then would beat me in them. The first time I made her laugh I think we were both surprised, and I spent an absurd amount of time from then on trying to hear the high-pitched and too loud for such a little girl laugh again.
Then school started and I made other friends, friends as loud and goofy as me, and I spent much less time with the neighbor girl.
Then we were seventeen and she screamed at me as we were walking home from a detention I had somehow landed us both in.
I don’t remember what she screamed because I was too busy realizing how pretty the neighbor girl was. Her once-twiggy legs were now impossibly long and her hair was darker but still slipping out of her ponytail and she still blushed bright pink with her whole face.
I interrupted her tirade to ask her out. Her tirade increased in volume and ended with her slamming her front door in my face. But I made my apologies and kept asking, kept watching her blush after I ambushed her in front of her friends. And after a month of no’s I got a sigh and a yes.
She was just as quiet on our first date as she was when we first met, but I was loud enough for both of us. And I came back from the bathroom to find she had deposited mushrooms that had been mixed into her salad onto my plate. By the end of our third date, instead of her legs swinging under the table, one rested against mine.
“Are you Evan’s new girlfriend?” I asked, wondering if she’d remember or just think I was an idiot for speaking in third person.
Her lips turned into a grin that made me swallow some lump of nerves.
“Ew,” she said, and then laughed at herself, that same loud laugh.