February 28, 2012
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I was four years old, sitting in my front yard, plucking fresh dandelions and smelling them until my nose turned neon. I was wearing my typical outfit, a pretty, purple, ruffled dress, stuffed under my grimy yellow T-ball jersey. I suddenly jolted up like a bullet. I ran to the kitchen as fast as I could, my oversized shoes sparkled and lit up with every gallop I took, threatening to trip me every step. “They’re here, they’re here!” I screamed to my mom, who was busy preparing dinner. The familiar spices kept crawling into my nostrils, begging me to take a taste.
I ran back to the front yard, to greet you and your family. I felt like I had just been sent on a surprise visit to Disney World to meet Cinderella. You may just have been old family friends, but it was a welcome change from my usual four-year-old routines, which consisted of going to preschool for a few hours, running errands with my mom, napping, and following my brother around. You entered my house and I felt star struck. You were tall, almost seven years old, with perfect ringlets in your shoulder length, dirty blond hair. You amazed me. I was bored when greeting the rest of your family; they were the typical parents, with thinning hair and overly friendly voices. They talked to me like I was a baby, which I had not been for some time. Your brother was only three and had a huge case of cooties, so I’m sure you understood why I couldn’t be seen playing with him. We ate a quick meal of Mac and Cheese—the good kind with the gooey cheese baked on top, forming a shell around the pasta—then headed for the back yard.
You and my brother went on some adventure I wasn’t invited on, and I sat alone for a while but soon decided to hustle after you, my shoes sparkling against the pavement. It was then when I saw glimpses of black and white fur up on our charcoal garage roof.
The familiar jingle of his bright red collar confirmed my worst fears; it was my beloved cat, Spike. I ran to find you and my brother as fast as my pudgy little legs would carry me. I screamed to my brother, “SAM, SAM, SPIKE’S ON THE ROOF, HE’S GOING TO FALL, HE’S GOING TO GET HURT! CALL THE--” You cut me off abruptly. You told me that he wasn’t going to die. You told me he was a cat, and cats climb things all the time. You gave me that look, that judgmental look that made me feel like shrinking about four feet. And then you called me stupid. I was dumbstruck, couldn’t believe my own ears. No one said stupid in my house. It was the S-word, forbidden and banned. I felt the hot tears form on the outside of my eyelid, and you watched as they made their journey down my flushed cheek. You didn’t apologize. You just stood there while I ran away from you, with that seven-year-old smirk on your face. Out of the corners of my eyes I saw Spike gracefully prance from the garage onto the fence, and hop from the fence to the grass. It no longer mattered that I had been wrong or that my cat was safe.
I spent the rest of the night alone in my room, too embarrassed to go cry to my mom, and too much pride to go back to you. I never got over that night. Even now, as my parents have dinner with your parents, or I see your face on your yearly Christmas card, that same bitter feeling runs through my veins. It sounds a little silly now, that I got so worked up over one little word you called me. When people say things now, I shake it off. I don’t run away, I face the people who are calling me these names because I picture your face, smirking at me, laughing at me, and I tell them what I wish I had told you.

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