The Grove

So I had grown up, I had ditched the prince and my little girl imaginations, and I had ditched all things childish. I had gotten a little used to ditching, and that worried me.

“Life is not disposable,” I said, out loud, to myself.

I was lying in the Grove a day after the Quickening and the sun was peeking through the leaves of the old oak whose shadows performed a shimmery yellowish dance on the green grass. (I had once heard the word “quickening” in a documentary about pregos my mom watched. It sounded neat, so I started using it to describe that moment on the tornado slide when everything changed.)

I came to the Grove when I had to think. It was a smallish group of oak trees that were old — like, Civil War old — and that made me think of Southern women who would say things like We’re fixin’ to have a pi-yic-nic with some friiiied chikin and co’ slaw. Except I didn’t live in the South.

“Life is a one-time deal,” I said to no one in particular. “It’s a one-time deal, with no do-overs. I should remember that,” I said wisely to the old oak.

Until that life-changer on the playground, I was pretty much your standard American girl. My parents acted like, you know, regular parents. They loved me and fed me and everything. Mom was a little too into her job. Papa was quirky in a mostly delightful way. My little brother, Pug — well, I call him Pug, but his real name is Patrick August — acted like most little brothers do except that he’s just a teensie bit cooler. I’d never tell him that of course because it’d ruin him.

I lived in a middle-sized middle-American town just outside of a biggish city where it was hot in the summer and cold in the winter and there was an Applebee’s. We had two water towers of the big swoopy light blue bulb-in-the-sky variety that made it look like the town just had a sudden but somewhat depressing idea.

I had always been a good kid. Misbehaving, talking back, throwing rocks at cars — these are things I just had never done.

Maybe it was because of how my parents raised me. Or maybe it was because I never thought about being bad. I don’t know, but I think it was mostly because I didn’t see a reason to do those things. I never saw the point.

Ever since the instant I grew up, though, I felt this new desire to do stuff my way. It’s like instead of being a good-kid robot, mindlessly doing what adults told me to do, I wanted to do what I wanted to do. If I belonged to me, then I was going act like it.

The first thing on my list was to find out more. Unfortunately, summer was coming to an end and so was my free time.

“No do-overs,” I repeated, one last time.