We lived, really, like right on the edge of the country. It was only two miles in to Jessi’s house in town, and only blocks from there to school. You would never have known it to look out our door. Jessup’s Seed Farm, a huge spread, usually of tall wheat or barley, was right across the street from us. Acres and acres of hay fever and bugs to be harvested for the seed and then baled and sold as hay.
The Jessups didn’t live there. They rented the farm house out to families who needed work. No one ever stayed there long, often just through one harvest. The farm house was near a quarter mile down the road toward Miller’s Dairy, and so mostly, I never knew my neighbors.
Early one summer, while the grass was still green, I discovered a child’s paradise. The grass stalks grew near as tall as I was. Curiosity has always had the better of me. I crossed the shallow drainage culvert, and stepped between the tall grasses to see what it was like. I was home.
Home. A private world all to myself. I got down on my knees and flattened out a little square room, with only about a foot of grass between me and the edge of the field. Then I lay on my back in my new room and stared up at the white puffs of imagination floating across my bright blue ceiling. People walked by and I could spy on them in complete privacy. Invisible. No one knew I was there.
Sitting in my secret house, chewing on a piece of sweet stem, I spied on a boy for the first time. I peeked through the hay with great excitement as he walked by. He looked to be my age but I hadn’t seen him before. He wasn’t ruggedly handsome or anything like that, not yet. We were ten. If you’re manly at that age, there’s probably something wrong with you. He was cute though, adorable actually, and not three feet from where I was hidden.
Thin, strong, tanned, and about my height. He had straight brown hair with lustrous golden tints bleached in by the summer sun. He was whistling a tune as he walked down the road. It was hard not to giggle. I could almost reach out and touch him and he didn’t have a clue.
After he passed, I stood up and peeked over the tops of the grasses and watched him as he walked up the road and turned into the drive at the Jessup’s farm house. I knew a new family had moved in, and for the first time, the new family had a kid my age.
As soon as he was out of sight, I jumped out of the field. I was never shy much. I marched right down the street after him and knocked on their front door, and then immediately panicked, not knowing what to say if someone else answered it. Fortunately, he did. Blue-grey eyes set behind thick dark lashes tugged at me when I looked into them. He had a broad smile full of not-quite-perfect teeth that infected me with affection when I saw it.
“My name’s Annie,” I said. (I never told anyone except Jessi my first name.) “Can you play?”
“I’m Andy,” he replied. His voice was husky for a boy his age. It made a kind of tickling buzz in my chest when he talked. I liked it. I liked him.
“Papa calls me Andy,” I said, “…when he’s not sawing logs. I’m ten years old now and he still hasn’t figured out I’m not a boy yet.”
Little extra twists at the edges of Andy’s mouth made small dimples when he laughed. His voice made me buzz some more. Andy and I were friends.
We played together a lot that summer when Daddy wasn’t home. It turned out we had plenty in common. Soon as I was sure he could be trusted, I shared my secret house with him. He had to make his own room of course, but we connected them and soon we had a network of tunnels and rooms we called The Mansion. Hours and hours we spent in there, imagining, dreaming, wrestling with each other, spying on people walking by, and making up stories about them after they were gone.
Summer was coming to an end. Soon we would be in school. Andy and I lay there in my room, tired after playing, staring up into the sky as we so often did.
“I hope we both get Mr. Skyler this year,” I said.
“I won’t be going to school here,” he answered. “My folks just told me today we’re gonna be moving.”
“Moving?” The word squeezed my chest like it had a hold on me. No one ever moves right before harvest. “How far?”
“Kansas? What’s in Kansas?”
“I don’t know. More hay, I guess.”
The beauty of the clouds floating above suddenly didn’t seem as comforting as usual. We both lay there quietly for a bit, wrestling with our thoughts.
Andy rolled over half on top of me with his face held just above mine. “I’m really gonna miss you, Annie.” He was almost crying.
There was something perfect and pure about that moment. Our bodies weren’t old enough to be really different yet, at least not with our clothes on. There was nothing to twist our curiosity away from the mystery of each others’ lips, suddenly so close. The natural feelings we had for each other drove us closer. We were safe in our secret place. I believed it would happen. I was scared to death it wouldn’t.
For all the times we’d wrestled around, it suddenly felt incredible to be close to him, to be touching him. I realize now it was probably just adrenaline, and maybe a touch of hay fever, but at the time, it was Andy who made me feel that way and I was beside myself with anticipation. His face held just inches above mine sent rivers of excitement tumbling through my body, building to the point of trembling. Blue-grey eyes tugged at me the way they had when I first met him.
You see it in the movies, and you turn away, “Ew!” And then you secretly peek and it titillates you. My eyes closed and my chin tilted up. His lips touched mine and his tongue pushed tenderly past them. When I felt it touch mine, the rivers of excitement cascaded into churning rapids, spinning around inside me like I’d fallen down dizzy. My heart was pounding furiously. I’d never imagined anything could feel so amazing.
Kissing Andy was as natural as talking to him. Our tongues wrestled playfully together with comfortable familiarity. The sensations spread all through my whole body in little chills here and there. I wrapped my arms around him and pulled him on top of me where I could hug him and we explored each other that way. The tickling roughness of tongues, the smooth hardness of teeth, the spongy softness of lips, and the incredible slippery danger of not knowing whose spit was whose and not caring.
Then it wore off. The exciting feeling subsided inside, little by little, until there we were, two ten-year-old kids with our tongues stuck clumsily in each others’ mouths. We stopped. I opened my eyes and stared awkwardly up into his.
“I’m really gonna miss you too,” I said.
© 2012 Anne Schilde