Maggie was four when her family moved to a subdivision, a new one. One with houses that held no people, one with no children to play with. Maggie bounced a ball against the garage door and Maggie played the piano when her mother told her to. Maggie read the books her parents gave her about fish and giants and princesses and dogs and boys who never grew up and Maggie played with her dolls. In the evening she watched tv with her daddy, curled up on his lap, and as he ran his fingers through her hair he explained it all to her. Wars, money, disasters, heroes, religion, people she needed to know about, people he despised She sat and listened to him speak, but never understood a word he said. Instead she'd put one ear to his belly and as she'd listen to him talk she'd listen to his insides make foreign noises and giggle and he'd smile at her as he ran his fingers through her hair and explained it all.
As time went by the houses filled with people and furniture and pets and children. Lots of children. On a day when the sun burned the concrete that blistered her bare feet as she walked on it she saw a group of boys pretending that they'd never grow up. She knew that story! Of course she did, it was Peter Pan. He lived in Neverland with Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys, his shadow would run away from him, he could fly, he could fight pirates, and he could do it all forever because he would never grow up.
Maggie wanted to play too. She wanted to be Tinkerbell or Wendy and fight imaginary pirates too. So she walked up to them and told them in her loudest voice she could be Wendy or Tinkerbell and play with them too. One of them nodded and said they could pretend Hook kidnapped her and they could tie her hands and make her walk the diving board of his swimming pool. Others agreed and Maggie said no. She didn't want to be kidnapped, she didn't want to get wet, she wanted to pretend she could fly. They thought of cruel ways to let her play, they scared her until she sat on the grass and cried. She told them all that she'd tell their mothers and they'd have to play the piano for two hours as punishment. They laughed at her. All except for one, he had a hat like Peter Pan's and his name was David and their families had dinner together on Tuesdays and she thought maybe he would get them to let her play. He didn't. He just glared at her and yelled at her, telling her how stupid girls can't play with boys. Stupid girls ruin everything. Stupid girls grow up and boys stay fun forever.
And Maggie cried as she walked home. She cried in her clean room and cried as she made a mess of it. She cried and she hated boys that would never grow up.
Maggie was eleven when she was in the fifth grade and her best friend, Jonesy, talked to her about boys. All the boys in their classroom, all the boys her sister dated, how she had told Jonesy one day she would be old enough to date boys and kiss boys too. Jonesy would smile and daydream and tell Maggie how she thought Robert in sixth grade was cute and about how she sat with him on the bus one day and he gave her a stick of gum. Robert was a part of the group of boys in her subdivision who had played Peter Pan. He had suggested they pretend she was Captain Hook himself and let his dog chase her around the block as punishment for being so old. She told Jonesy this but she laughed and said that was when they were little and now he's older, he's grown up. Maggie called Jonesy an idiot in her head because unlike Jonesy she knew boys never grew up.
One day in class their teacher told them about a dance the school had for the fifth and sixth grade. It was like the ones the older kids had only this was the only one the fifth grade got all year so they should go and have fun. Maggie thought it was stupid, but Jonesy talked and talked every day about how she wished Robert would ask her until Jordan in the other fifth grade class asked her and she talked and talked about Jordan and how he was so much better than Robert. She was almost sick of it when she got a note on her desk telling her to go to the bathroom during PE. Jonesy saw it too and when PE came around she asked the teacher if they could go to the bathroom. After he agreed she dragged Maggie to the bathrooms and hid inside the girl's while Maggie stood there thinking it was all a joke. Then David, Peter Pan David, David whose family no longer had dinner with hers every Tuesday night, came out of the boys bathroom and looked at her and asked her to the dance. Maggie was repulsed at first, but thought about Jonesy and Jordan and how maybe boys did grow up and agreed feeling an awfully uncomfortable feeling in her stomach. David left and Jonesy squeaked and hugged her and talked about how they would both get dresses together and have the coolest time at the dance and maybe, just maybe, they would each get their first kiss.
The night of the dance Maggie was excited. Jonesy and her had their dresses and Maggie's mom did their hair and took pictures of them while telling them how gorgeous and mature they looked. Jonesy looked beautiful with her dark blue dress and dark skin and dark hair and dark eyes. Jonesy always looked pretty. Maggie wondered if she always looked pretty with her light brown hair and light skin and dark green eyes and chubbier-than-almost-all-the-girls-in-her-class body. But she didn't care for too long. Her mom took a picture of her hugging her daddy and of her and Jonesy and then, when they got here, Jordan and Jonesy and then Maggie and David and two of all four of them together. Jordan's mom took them in their big SUV and when they got to the dance Jonesy said it was beautiful, but Maggie thought it was tacky with tiki torches set up in a square along the black top where they could dance, tables from the cafeteria with one dollar, plastic table cloths and snack food on them, and caution tape around the area they were allowed to be in. Jordan and David went to get them punch and Jonesy talked about how Jordan was so sweet and so was David and how she wanted to dance with Jordan and didn't care about punch. They looked at the table where the two boys stood with other boys and watched all of the boys erupt in laughter as David spilt the punch he was holding and Jordan filled up two glasses for him and Jonesy. They watched as the boys stood there talking and talking until Jonesy huffed and dragged Maggie over and smiled at Jordan who smiled at her and walked away together. Maggie looked at David expectantly before he just raised his eyebrows and asked her what she wanted. The other boys stared with huge grins plastered to their faces and Maggie was four years old again waiting for David to say something. He didn't so she said in her bravest voice that he asked her to the dance and that usually means they danced together. David laughed and the other boys practially howled and David said just because they got a ride together didn't mean that he asked her to the dance. So Maggie walked away and sat in the grass and watched Jonesy and Jordan dance. She watched a group of friends dancing together. She watched David and Sylvia, the coolest girl in sixth grade, dance together. She watched what Jonesy said would be the coolest time ever.
And Maggie cried when her mom picked her up. She cried in her clean room and cried as she made a mess of it. She cried and she hated boys that would never grow up.
Maggie was fourteen when she was a freshmen. Jonesy had new friends now. So did Maggie, only she didn't know hers very well, nor did they seem to know her very well either. She didn't care. Maggie read William Blake and Jules Verne. She read books her mother gave her and books she bought at the store and books she got from school. She read poetry and prose, both fiction and non-fiction. She read newspapers and listened to her dad in the morning as he explained it all to her even though she already knew. She talked to people online, boys and girls who were like her, who were grown up. They read her failed attempts at writing and listened to the music she played on her piano. They talked and talked about how stupid the world was and she wondered why these people like her were so far away.
She was awkward and intelligent and still chubby and preferred her time alone in her room listening to music and reading stories in attempt to be anywhere except where she was. She hated the yelling and the fighting. She hated her parents squabbles and sometimes she just hated them. They were so in love, but insisted on arguing over everything from money to housework to Maggie herself. She hated when she could hear them over her music and hated when the house was dead silent because she knew they were fighting over something that she wasn't supposed to hear which just made it worse. Maggie was smart and mature and couldn't understand why her parents couldn't see that and kept things from her. She wasn't an average teenager yet they treated her as though she were one. She got straight As, she didn't do drugs, she didn't go to wild parties, she was respectful, she was mature, and yet they still made her go to bed at ten o'clock and didn't trust her with practically anything. It was unfair, but even so Maggie lived her life the same way everyday.
She got good grades, she read her books, she listened to her music, she sat on her bed and thought about the world, she went running every night, she did it all over and over, again and again, day after day. There were no childish boys and no Jonesy to talk about them. They were out doing childish things that Maggie was not interested in.
One night she wrote a story and she swore it was the best thing she had ever written. Every word, every punctuation mark, every detail scribbled down in her notebook and through her messy handwriting was a beautiful story and she had created it. She was proud. She turned off her music and set down her notebook and went down stairs, passing her parents bedroom where her parents inside were yelling at each other about something, but that didn't matter, she felt like a writer, a true writer. She sat on the counter in her kitchen drinking orange juice and soaking in the pleasant feeling of being something more than what she was an hour ago when there was a loud slam and a thump and a suitcase at the bottom of the stairs. Then another. And another. Her mother was yelling. Deceitful bastard. Jack ass. How could you? Why would you? You've ruined our family. Leave. LEAVE. And her father was yelling. You made me. It's your fault. You bitch. She's better. She loves me. FINE. I don't want to be here anymore than you want me here. And there was each suitcase being picked up one by one. And there were more thumps and the sound of broken glass. There was her father's stoic expression as he saw her in the kitchen. There was a slam and the roar of an engine. There was make-up running down her mother's cheeks. She looked like a clown and maybe she was one. There were her legs dangling of the counter and her mother cleaning up the mess of a broken glass of orange juice on the floor. There were the stairs as she walked up them and her door as she shut it.
And Maggie cried as her father drove away. She cried in her clean room and cried as she made a mess of it. She cried and she hated boys that would never grow up.