She kind of hopped and then I turned to walk away and then I heard her run off. I didn’t need to leave, I wanted to. I keep my word though. I would return. I didn’t go home right away. i rarely did. Home was small, constricting. My days were mostly spent outside rummaging through gutters, walking the block endlessly, thinking of another place, another time, another me. I walked the block about three or four times alone pretending; of village, of girl, of me grown and teaching at the chalkboard, writing, being proud of herself in front of all those students.
“And what is the answer, Mzzz Callahan?” I said out loud, rounding the corner.
Picturing myself stockinged and proper, chalk dust on my fingers like my heroes. I was going to be a teacher. An english teacher and a writer.
“Correct, Mzzz Callahan.”
And beloved.

At nine am, I was up eating my  mother’s pancakes. Saturdays we ate pancakes and my mom cleaned. Sometimes we had fun activities planned but my birthday had passed, my brother’s birthday was coming and so was Halloween so we were taking the weekend off. My mother was gentle and I loved her pancakes and so did Leana. They were perfect and only one time in my entire adult life did I replicate them with my vegan modification. I loved eating. Still do in fact. I watched some cartoons, got dressed and yelled to my mother, soaking our blinds in the bathtub filling the hallway with the smell of bleach. My dad was going to bet on horses that day so he would be back late. My mom was distracted with cleaning.
“I’m going to Leana’s!”
“Ok!” she yelled back. “Check in before dinner.”

I had to check in throughout the day. Just a quick run in; look I am alive, mildly unscathed save being filthy as usual and my shit eating grin is contained. It wasn’t really about examining me for marks but making sure I hadn’t been kidnapped or murdered which I appreciate more now. I had tons of freedom. Fun followed. Dirty girls have greater times.
At 11:00, I was there, sitting, waiting. I am punctual to a fault. I sat in the dirt and ripped clumps of grass up scared to go further into the ditch in case she showed up. I also felt stupid like I had been tricked. My brother was always saying I fall for things. When I was five years old, my brother, in the middle of Toys R Us, whispered to me that every night at midnight the Freddy Kreuger doll, the store’s featured doll, came to life and murdered the family of whomever it inhabited. In the middle of Toys R Us with my dad ahead of us on some mission I can’t recall, I began screaming.
“Alex!’ my dad snapped.
“What?!?!”
And then the sobs started. All those helpless families. And what if my brother tricked my dad into buying the doll and brought it into my room when I wasn’t paying attention? He was always doing that. The wails got louder and my brother had to shush me and tell me it was a joke.
“I’m just playing with you, Ava. Dolls don’t come to life. I was lying”
As we exited the store, probably empty handed, my brother leaned close to me and said, “Don’t scream ok.”

“Ok.”

“I wasn’t lying and I’m gonna get Dad to buy me that doll for Christmas.”
Then he ran ahead leaving me to wonder if they’d cave at his request.

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