This week for Sweet Saturday Samples, I’m presenting another excerpt from Chapter 29 of Adicia’s story, “Allen and Lenore’s Romance.” It’s the day after Lenore’s 18th birthday, and Adicia, her sisters, and their friends have come over to the apartment to give Lenore their presents and celebrate with her. Bit by bit, Lenore confesses to them what happened last night.
Adicia, Justine, Ernestine, Julie, and the Ryans come up to the apartment on Saturday afternoon, carrying a shopping bag with their birthday presents for Lenore. Lenore seems a bit moony-eyed as she greets them.
“You seem different,” Ernestine says. “Does that happen to everyone when they turn eighteen and magically become adults?”
“Did you feel different overnight when you turned thirteen and became a teenager?” Lenore asks her.
“A little,” Ernestine says. “Girl says she didn’t feel like a teenager right away.”
Girl pulls up a seat at the kitchen table and sits with her head in her elbows, an annoyed look on her face. When Lenore offers the children birthday cake, Girl gives a little sigh and accepts a thin slice. She says nothing as she slowly chews the cake.
“What’s eating you?” Lenore asks. “You’re usually so animated.”
“She started menstruating last night,” Ernestine tattles.
Adicia looks at Girl with a mixture of jealousy, admiration, and surprise. “Why’d you keep it a secret? You didn’t say anything about that when Justine and me met yous guys at your place.”
“I was not looking forward to this,” Girl grumbles. “I wanted to hold out till I was seventeen. Lucky Ernestine still ain’t gotten hers.”
“She went across the hall to Mrs. van Niftrik for help when she realized what was going on,” Julie says. “She said Mrs. van Niftrik thought her homemade washable napkins were ingenious, and so much more practical and thrifty than the Modess napkins and the belt she uses. Betsy turned thirteen in March, but she hasn’t menstruated yet. I’m glad I have at least two more years left to not have it.”
“What did Allen get you for your birthday?” Baby asks, glad she’s only eight years old and too young to be dealing with such a situation.
“A stuffed monkey, perfume, blue flat-soled shoes, and an emerald bracelet,” Lenore smiles. “He spends too much money on me.”
“A guy only spends so much money on a girl when he really likes her,” Ernestine says. “You think he’ll come home from work this evening with more gifts?”
“Even if he does, I’m not wishing for anything more!” Lenore says. “Your brother has already gotten me a miniature zoo, and now he’s gotten me jewelry, shoes, and perfume!”
“Can we go out to the park after you open your presents?” Infant asks.
“Sure, that’ll be fun,” Lenore says.
She takes the bag from Boy and pulls out the presents, wrapped in newspaper. Ernestine and her friends pooled together their money and got her a mauve-colored jewelry box with seashells and bits of rounded colored glass for decoration, Adicia got her a compact mirror with rhinestones with some of her windshield-washing money, and Justine got her a potholder she made in her kindergarten class. All of the other girls were making them for their mothers or grandmothers, but only Justine had to make hers for an older female friend who serves as one of her surrogate mothers. She used green, white, red, and yellow loops.
“Someday when we’re older and have jobs, we’ll get you presents as nice as the ones Allen got,” Adicia promises.
“He took me out to a Greek restaurant for supper too,” Lenore says. “He held my hand part of the way home.”
“How romantic!” Ernestine says. “I think hand-holding is very underrated.”
“And then when we were watching television after we got home, he put his arm around me.”
“How exciting!” Julie says. “I bet you didn’t put up a fight when he did either of those things.”
“He asked my permission for both things,” Lenore says proudly. “I know a lot of guys would just make their move and not even think about if the girl was interested in that. You should’ve seen how nervous he was about asking me if he could kiss me.”
“What!” Ernestine gasps, a big smile appearing on her face. “My brother really kissed you, on the mouth I’d assume?”
Lenore giggles nervously. “It was very nice.”
“What does it feel like?” Girl asks, suddenly interested in her surroundings. “Not that I wanna do that with anyone till I’m a bit older, but I’m curious. I should know what to expect.”
“Like being tickled by butterflies,” Lenore says. “You can feel invisible electric sparks and you get butterflies in your stomach.”
“I don’t know why anyone would wanna do that,” Infant says, wrinkling her nose. “It’s like chewing on someone’s face. Older people do lots of stuff I think is goofy.”
“You’re only six, sweetie. When you’re my age, you’ll probably think a lot differently.” Lenore picks up her purse. “Now who wants to go out to the park? I’ll buy yous guys snacks or ice-cream if we pass a vendor.”
“That’s it?” Girl asks. “You’re gonna drop the bomb that Allen kissed you last night and then leave it at that? No other details?”
“I wouldn’t want to bore you with details when you’ve never had your own boyfriend. I don’t think you could really understand what I’m talking about if you haven’t experienced it yet. Besides, I think Ernestine, Adicia, and Justine might be a little grossed-out if I go into any more detail about their own brother kissing me.”
“You’re right,” Adicia says immediately. “I hope no boy kisses me till I’m at least eighteen.”
“When you’re eighteen?” Justine asks. “I don’t want to do that ever, with any boy!”
“I told you,” Lenore says.
Girl looks at her in awe as they file out of the apartment, as though she’s now a species from another planet. She knows Lenore is five years older than she is, but now she seems even older by mere virtue of having a boyfriend. That’s the kind of growing up experience she’d prefer to be having right about now, instead of being stuck having her first unwanted menstrual period.