As the weeks pass on, Brad and I lose interest in each other as girlfriend-boyfriend. He seems like my brother, if my brother wasn’t a six month old baby. I didn’t even want a brother when Michael was born; I prayed for a sister. They wanted me to take a stupid picture with him at the hospital, but I did not want to. My mom and step-dad made me do it anyway, but they couldn’t make me smile. It’s kinda nice having a brother-type that can do fun things and not just cry and poop all day.
I really like Brad’s sister Megan. We have become close friends even though she’s a year older than me; we have a lot in common. We always seem to talk about how much each of our mothers annoy us. “My mom is a slut,” Megan says. “She sleeps with, like, every man she meets pretty much. It’s totally embarrassing, especially when there is more than one of them spending the night with her.”
“Your mom has sleepovers?” I ask, surprised. “My mom never has anybody spend the night.”
“No, dummy!” she laughs. “I mean sex! She has sex with every guy she meets.” Megan shakes her head, still laughing at me.
“I know that... I was just being silly. Gah, can’t I make a joke?” I had no idea that she meant that, but I am too embarrassed to admit it. “I saw a show on cable one time,” I say trying to take the focus off my dumb mistake. “This man and woman were sweaty and naked. It was kinda gross.”
“We don’t have cable, but my mom watches those kind of shows all the time. I think they are all gross.” Megan’s thoughts seem to trail off onto some distant memory.
“Oh my gosh! One time, I was snooping through my mom’s closet and found a big book called The Joy of Sex and I looked through the whole thing. It was so funny! All the people were dressed up in different costumes tops, like Little Red Riding Hood and other fairytale stories.” I laugh hysterically. “Oh, and there was this one part with a row of different faces, then a row of different chests, then a row of different... privates, then a row of different legs, and then a row of different feet. I tried to figure out which body parts went together.”
Just then, Stewart leans his head around the corner and smiles at me. “Hey, Heather.” He pauses, waiting for a response that I don’t give. “Me and Brad and some of the other guys are gonna go walk around the neighborhood. You wanna come?”
“Megan, you wanna go?” I ask her.
She shrugs her shoulders. “Nah, I gotta do my homework anyway. We can hang out later on, it’s cool.” Megan sounds bummed, but I’m kind of elated that so many people want to hang out with me.
“I guess I’ll go with you guys,” I say, attempting to mask my excitement. I stand up and walk toward Stewart, smoothing out my skirt that has developed large wrinkles from sitting on the floor with Megan for so long. Stewart lets me pass in front of him as we walk out the door, guiding me forward with his hand in the small of my back. I take in a quick breath at the awareness of his touch. His fingers lightly rub my waist, causing me to stiffen slightly. Second guessing my decision to go, I hesitate. Stewart bumps into my back and continues, pushing me forward and out the door. I see Brad standing in the yard and run toward him, finding comfort in his presence.
We begin walking down the block toward Stewart’s house. When the guys turn into his yard and begin to go inside, I stop walking. “I thought we were gonna walk around.” I look at Brad who simply motions me into the house. I walk up the steps of the white rock house and through the door. Stewart lights a candle with his Zippo lighter. Sitting on the broken down couch, I sink into the cushion, my knees higher than my waist.
Everyone sits in a circle around the room, silent. Curious about the candle, I glance at the light fixture on the ceiling wondering if the bulb is burned out. Reading my thought, Sean responds, “Electricity got cut off. Screw them... we just use candles.” Ron pulls out a big plastic tube from beside his end of the couch and sets it on the floor in front of him. Curious, I lean forward, trying to figure out what it’s for. The clear tube, almost as tall as a person’s leg and about as big around as a soda can, stems up from a black base that allows it to stand without aid. A small clear tube protrudes from the bottom of the plastic contraption with some kind of brass thing stuck in the end. I looks like a piece from the end of a water hose. In the bottom of the large tube is a little bit of water. My forehead wrinkles in confusion as I watch Ron slide a Sonic tray out from beneath the couch. Sensing that I am being watched, I look up finding all eyes are on me. Embarrassed, I smile, causing everyone to laugh.
“Who the hell is she?” A dark skinned woman says as she enters the room with her hands on her hips. She looks at Stewart and repeats herself, “I said, who the hell is she?” Everyone except Stewart and the woman laugh.
She stares at me and begins to speak, but Stewart interrupts her, “Chill out. She’s Brad’s friend. She’s cool, don’t trip.”
I’m cool? I glance at the woman who is still eying me, but quickly turn away, intimidated. The woman sits down on the floor next to me at the end of the couch. “What’s your name little girl?” I look at her because she spoke, but don’t respond right away.
“Oh, me?” I ask suddenly.
“I don’t see no other little girls in the room. Do you?”
“Unless you count Brad!” Ron laughs.
“Shut up, fag!” Brad backhands Ron in the chest causing him to lose his breath for a moment. The room fills with chuckles.
“Well?” the woman looks to me for an answer. Waiting, but clearly not patiently. “You gonna just sit there and stare at me all day, or you gonna answer my question little girl?”
“My name is Heather.” I answer timidly.
“Heather, you be sure and leave my man alone. Don’t you be screwin’ around with him or I’ll toss you out like all them other hoes.” She accentuates herself with a wave of her hand toward the door clarifying which direction the tossing will be done.
“Shut up, Bev. She’s only nine years old.” Stewart barks at her.
“Oh! You got a age limit do ya? Nine too young for you all the sudden?” The room goes quiet for a moment. Bev continues, “We gonna smoke this weed or we gonna wait and see if it grows more?”
Ron opens a plastic sandwich bag and pulls out some green leafy stuff and packs it into the brass bowl at the base of the big tube. He flicks the wheel on his black skull lighter as everyone watches and puts the flame to the substance, which instantly begins to crackle and burn. Smoke billows up the length of the tube to Ron’s face as it rests in the opening at the top of the large tube. He takes in a slow, deep breath. He quickly pulls his face away, holding his breath and passes the tube and lighter to Brad. Ron suddenly begins to cough, but the sound is only coming out from his nose as small amounts of smoke escape his nostrils and the corners of his mouth. As Brad takes his turn, Ron slowly exhales a lung full of smoke, blowing it across the room toward the others.
Brad repeats Ron’s actions and passes the lighter and tube toward me. I instinctively reach my hand forward to take the items, but they are intercepted by Bev. “Oh hell no!” she yells. “Give me that bong. Girl... you ain’t gonna get me for contributin’ to a minor. You want it, you gonna have to ask for it. We ain’t just gonna give you nothin’ like that. I ain’t stupid.” Her eyes lock mine for a moment. I don’t quite understand, but sit back and watch her as she lights the bowl, breaths in and passes.
Each person repeats the same action passing the “bong” around the room, stopping occasionally to refill the bowl with more “weed” when it burns up. Smoke swirls around me and fills the room. I try to wave it away with my hand, but with no success. I like the smell of it, but it makes me cough a little.
Bev leans over the arm of the couch and punches me in the arm. “What’s your name little girl?” A slight smile curls the edge of her lips.
“Heather.” I answer, unsure of why she’s asking me again.
“Heather, you be sure you leave my man alone. You don’t mess with him, then you and me... we cool.” She seems to fade out a little. Her body looks so relaxed compared to when she first stormed into the room a half hour ago. She looks up at me and smiles. “You cool, Heather, you cool.”