I have a crush on J.P. Rogers. He lives around the corner in the light green house. He’s younger than me by two years and three months. I know that seems like a lot, especially when you’re boyfriend and girlfriend. I get how people in love should be around the same age, but I really like him, so I don’t care what anybody thinks.
There was a birthday party in his backyard last weekend, with a sign on the fence that read J.P. is 8! That’s how I found out how old he is. A bunch of kids were swimming in the pool, all boys, screaming and yelling curse words at the top of their lungs. Mr. Rogers told them to knock it off a couple of times. They barbecued hotdogs and had cake. I watched everything from my parents’ bedroom window.
J.P. has two sisters, Susan and Joanne. Susan goes to high school. She’s really quiet. I hardly ever see her. Joanne’s a year older than my sister, Judy, but she got left back and now, they’re in the same grade. She’s mostly nice, I guess. She acts tough when she’s with a crowd. Mrs. Rogers lets Joanne wear tube tops, and I saw her smoking a cigarette outside the pizzeria on Westchester Avenue.
I wrote mine and J.P.’s initials on the bottom of one of my sandals with a heart around both sets of letters and an arrow through the middle. I showed it to one of my friends and told her we were going out. That I went to his party, and I was the only girl. I could tell she was jealous of all the attention I said I got. It made me feel good, even though I lied.
The other day, I saw a Spaldeen, sitting in a pothole on Zerega Avenue. From the sidewalk, it looked really clean, practically brand new. I couldn’t believe somebody just left it there. Mom says no going in the street without asking first. She treats me like a baby. But I looked both ways for cars. Plus, I made sure no one saw me.
I wrote my name and address on the ball and threw it over the fence into J.P,’s front yard, near some of the toys and junk he plays with. I guess I hoped he’d find it and bring it back. But the ball never moved from the place where it landed. So this morning, I opened the gate and went in to get it back. That’s when their dog started barking and wouldn’t quit. J.P. came from behind the house and turned the hose on me. He was laughing the entire time, even when I begged him to stop. He sprayed me in the face and the seat of my pants as I ran down the block.
I rang and rang the doorbell until Mom let me in. My teeth chattered and I cried so hard, she could barely understand what I was saying. She peeled me out of my shorts and bloomers right there in the kitchen, drying my hair with one towel and wrapping another under my armpits.
“What did you do?”
“Nothing, I swear.” She never takes my side.
“You stay away from that boy. Do you hear me? I’ve told you a hundred times.”
“How come he’s like that?” I sobbed.
“Just leave him alone. He’s not right in his head.”
She doubled up some tissues and shoved them up against my left nostril.
“Blow,” she demanded, squeezing my arm.
I leaned against her belly and gave a weak puff through my nose.
“C’mon,” she said. “You’re not even trying..”
I sat at the kitchen table coloring, while my mother finished making supper. The whole while, I prayed she wouldn’t say anything to Mrs. Rogers. I’ve seen that woman fling J.P. around when she’s angry. I don’t want him to get in trouble.