Bird songs faded to street music. I blinked and rubbed my eyes as I stepped from the forest with my younger self beside me. Behind me were trees and woods, and before me was a chain link fence and the city beyond.
“Here it is, the city,” my younger self announced, “Is this want you wanted?”
I looked at the pink washed skies, the trash in the streets, heard the yelling and obnoxious music, and sighed, “Not really, but it’s where I must go.” Turning to April, I gave her a smile and a little nodded, “Thanks for all your help.”
“No problem,” Adventure April smiled, “Just follow along this fence until you find a hole or gate, good luck!” With that, she waved goodbye and disappeared back into the forest.
I allowed myself one last longing glance behind me, into a childhood place of little cares and big adventures. But now those times had passed, it was time to move on to the challenge before me.
Squaring my shoulders, I placed one foot forward, then the other, and again and again until I was striding along beside the fence with ease.
“Woods to the left of me…. riots to my right, here I am, stuck in the middle with you,” I was singing nonsense to myself now, but I didn’t mind, I had nothing else to do.
Coming around a curve, two things suddenly came into my sight. The first was a large group of guys, standing around on the other side of the fence, not doing much. The second was a girl, just a few yards in front of me on my side of the fence. She was sitting down and reading, walking along the fence, drawing, doing her own thing, and seeming to be in her own little world. But from time to time, she’d try to glance at the other side of the fence, and the way she’d position herself as she was “casually” doing something else…. It was obvious she was trying to get the guys on the other side to notice her.
Oh, Pre-teen April, you thought you were so smooth. I rolled my eyes, watching her obviously staring at the guys who were all ignoring her.
Her hair was a bit longer than Adventure April’s had been, her clothes were it bit flashier, long earrings framed her neck and chin, and she had even attempted make-up on her smooth baby face. Her body had just begun to develop curves. But what was there, was still very small. I hope she’s not wishing they will get very big, I thought, looking down at myself and smiling, because that’s certainly not going to happen.
Strolling over as quietly as I could, I stepped up right behind her before saying, “What are you all dolled up for them for?”
She jumped and turned at the same time, nearly falling off the stump she had been sitting on. “Wha- hey, I’m not dolled up, w-who are you?”
“A girl hanging out in the woods, just like you,” I said with a wink, “But really, you know they aren’t looking at you, right?”
April’s face flushed and she began stuttering and denying, trying to explain that this was just a nice place to sit, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the guys that just so happened to be there. Why would she be interested in guys? Guys were gross, she didn’t need them, she was just sitting here…
I held up my hands, cutting her off, “Oh don’t even try to fool me, I know what you’re doing, because I did the same thing.”
April immediately shut her gaping mouth, crossed her arms and turned her head away.
“Such drama,” I sighed.
April might have answered, but we were interrupted by a sound on the other side of the fence. A girl was walking down the street, looking just like any other girl. All the guys had perked up, and were looking and talking and whistling to her.
“You see?!” April suddenly said, pointing and growing very indignant, “here I am, looking nice, hanging around here for hours, I don’t get so much as a glance. But when any other girl just goes by, they get all kinds of attention!”
I looked at the group of dead beat boys, then back at her, “Are you sure you want to be getting attention from them? “
“Well…. not really. I mean, they are pretty rude and inappropriate. I’d never actually want to talk to them or be near them. But…” she dropped her eyes to the ground and her voice softened, “every other girl gets noticed by them, why not me?”
As I looked at her, I was taken back to those days, when I had just started maturing, but never seemed to be noticed. In truth it hadn’t been that much of a worry, and I rarely even mentioned it, but I had often wondered about it.
“Hey,” I leaned down and put a hand on her shoulder, “I know it’s discouraging now. And I know you think about why, when you’re out with your cousin, she will get five guys giving her their number, and you can’t get one to so much as talk to you. What must be wrong with you, right?”
April gave me a very hard look that told me she didn’t think I was being very helpful. I quickly pushed on, “But listen, there’s nothing wrong with you. In fact, before you know it, you’ll have guys falling for you left and right.”
April gave me a skeptical look, “How do you know?”
“Let’s just say… we come from very similar backgrounds,” I said with a knowing smile, then continued, “Take my advice, and don’t worry about it. Enjoy yourself now, be young and free, write stories, play with your horses, do all the things you want to do. Soon your time will come, you will know love….. and heartbreak.”
I sighed as, for a moment, I was lost in memories both bitter and sweet. Then I quickly pulled myself back to the present, “It’s crazy, wonderful, and terrifying. But you’re not quite ready for that yet.” I squeezed her shoulder and smiled, “You’ll wish for these days back, so enjoy them while you can.”
April was quiet for a moment before asking, “So, they really will start noticing me?”
“Oh honey!” I threw my head back and laughed, “they won’t stop! I mean, it’s not an insane amount, but it’s enough to amuse you. You reject just about all of them, and the ones you would actually consider get put on a list to be sorted out later.”
I paused and noticed April was giving me the strangest look. “What?” I asked.
“That sounds…. Really weird. Are you sure I’m going to do that?”
“Positive,” I replied, “I mean, I don’t know how long it will last, or what will become of it, it’s only just started. It is quite weird to get used to at first… but just know you become rather irresistible, in your natural looks and your personality, so don’t worry about all that right now. Just keep doing you boo, you’ll do swell.”
“Well… if you say so….” April tried to hide it, but she did seem encouraged, and hadn’t even glanced at the guys once during our conversation.
“Good,” I beamed at her, “Now, do you know of the nearest exit out of this fence? I’m on a mission to find my cat, and I really must be on my way.”
“Oh, yeah, sure it’s right this way.”
I followed Tween April a short distance. We stopped at a hole in the fence. It was large enough that if I ducked I could easily walk through. The jagged edges were pulled back and so would not snag me, and it looked like a perfect little exit. Only it was overgrown with grass and rather hidden.
“Here it is,” April announced. “Nobody ever really uses it. I’m the only one that comes here, and I just like to sit and look out.”
“Well, it as so nice talking to ya and thanks for all your help.”
With that, I walked back into a city filled with mindless lovers. But not before checking that my own heart was safely locked up, where no one would ever find it.
To be continued…