Rule #1 – It was only supposed to be for a week…
It was only supposed to be a week. That's all it was, but it changed everything, too. I had a lot of fun at my grandparents. They spoiled me and let me do whatever I wanted. I had snacks and cookies whenever I felt like it. I ate regular meals, too, but I was out playing in the woods most of the time besides that, with the occasional venture back to the house to get a snack or hang out with the dog.
When the week was up, everything changed, though. My grandparents started getting quieter near the end, talking in hushed conversations. I couldn't hear them. I guess I just thought they were being regular old people, talking about regular old people stuff.
Maybe that was true, too. It's just that when you grow up, sometimes you talk about things that you don't really want to talk about.
When my dad came to pick me up, he looked dead inside. I didn't know what to say to him. I was scared to look at him, that's how strange and different he looked.
“Ethan,” he said. “I…” He paused and choked up. “She's dead. I'm sorry. Your mother is dead.”
It was only supposed to be a week. When he came back, everything was different, though. He refused to talk to me. I tried to talk with him and to get him to swing with me or walk around the playground with me or even play kickball. I've never been good at kickball, but I saw Ethan play it once and it looked more fun. I thought it would be fun if we could do it together.
“I don't like you,” he told me. “Go away, Ashley!”
“What did I do?” I asked him, glaring, with my hands on my hips.
“No, I get good grades. The teacher said all of my marks exceed expectations. That's the highest mark you can get.”
“Doesn't matter!” he told me. “You're still stupid. Dumb dumb dumb!”
“Why are you being mean? I thought we were friends?” I said.
“Nah, I would never be friends with you,” he said. “I was just joking before. I didn't even like you. I was making fun of you.”
I didn't understand that. I still don't, but at the time I thought maybe it made sense somehow. I started to cry, but I pushed away my tears. Ethan left. I thought he was gone for good, but later he came back. Not how I expected, though. I didn't see him at first, but he snuck up behind me, then he grabbed my skirt and lifted it up high almost to my head, showing off my panties to everyone nearby.
I screamed and spun around and tried to hit him but he just laughed and ran away. Everyone else laughed, too. I watched him go and I watched him join them and start playing with them.
He didn't look happy, though. I don't know how to explain that. I was just a little girl. What did I know about happiness? He still looked different, but I hoped he was happy. I still thought of him as a friend; my first friend. For a little while, at least. Then he grew more distant. He kept sneaking behind me and lifting up my skirt, but he did it to other girls sometimes, too. Mostly me. The teachers scolded him when he did it to others girls, because they told on him. I didn't want to get him in trouble, so I usually didn't tattle.