Collin Chambers lived in the big house at the end of the street. He was a blond white boy that was liked by most everybody around Yutucka, especially the rich folks. His dad, Sheriff Arlo, always kept a smile on his face whenever he was out in public. “Evening, ma’am,” he’d say. “How’re the kids, Misses Joyce?” But everybody knew what he was like behind that smile. Knew that he liked the taste of the bottle too much and nothing good ever comes from that.
I guess you can say Collin and I were friends. We’d play with the other kids from around the neighborhood about every night, until the sun went down and the mosquitoes started biting. Then it’d be time to head home. All of us scattering like a bomb went off.
One night Collin asked if he could be my partner. We were playing hide and seek. I said sure, why not. I’d already heard about Susie McGee and Janey Molls each getting a kiss from him, and it seemed about time I saw what all the fuss was about. Kate Brook told me at lunch that Collin walked them home and they kissed when he got them there. I’d only ever been kissed once before, and that was from a dare. Now that I finally had breasts, I knew kisses were in my future.
So Collin takes my hand in his and we go off and hide up in a tree. The slimeball tries to make me climb up first, on account I was wearing a dress and all, but I told him I ain’t having none of that and that a gentleman would go first in case there were bees. He scowled at me good, but he started a-climbin’ quick enough.
Well we got up there, and just in time, too. Ernie hollered out “Ready or not here I come!” just as Collin pulled me up. We climbed up a bit higher to a nook big enough for both of us and waited to be found. Sometimes it’d take a while, but I was in no hurry. I could tell something was burning behind Collin’s eyes. He had that little smirk on his face. “What’re you looking at?” I asked him in a whisper.
“The way the shadows play across your face,” he said. “You’re beautiful.” I snickered. I’m not sure where he heard that line, but it sounded like oil was mixing with the water of his words. But I knew what he was after, and I was determined to give it to him, but on my own doing. Can’t let a boy go thinkin’ you’re easy.
So I socked him in the shoulder and called him stupid. “What’s that for?” he asked me, rubbing his shoulder.
“It’s for lying,” I told him. “The Bible says ‘thou shalt not lie’ and I know I ain’t beautiful.”
“Yuh-huh,” he said and I punched him again. Right in the same spot. “Hey, stop it!” But I just laughed.
“What’s a-matter Collin? Can’t take a punch from a girl?”
He rubbed his shoulder and shook his head. “You ain’t a girl any more Anne. You’re a woman now.” He blushed. I figured I’d let him suffer long enough and I gave him a half-smile back.
“Tell me I’m beautiful again,” I told him, and he did, but this time he spoke the truth so I didn’t have to hit him. I let him kiss me. We sat up there in the nook of the tree discovering young love. By the time we were through, our lips were swelled up and our faces were flushed and wet. It was getting late and we still hadn’t been found, but it didn’t matter. Collin walked me home and we shared another kiss before he left.
That was the last time I ever saw him.