We stayed like that for awhile: throwing sticks and running to catch them. She would throw her own and catch it while I looked for bigger and better sticks to fly with. We went as deep as we could until we reached the crossing with the stagnant water. Beer cans and Coke cans stuck out of the mud, sometimes a cigarette butt, a few styrofoam cups. You couldn’t traverse this area easily without jumping and Adelmira stopped short.
“I have an idea Princess Catarina.”

“I will jump across the lake for you to get you that big stick.”
She pointed to a large branch that had fallen; a branch too large to carry on its own but was also attached to three smaller branches. Some green leaves were still on the branches. I didn’t really want the stick so much as I wanted to see her jump across without getting wet. I had never tried it. We always took the long way around if we really wanted to get to that side. All that was over there was someone’s back yard, a metal fence, nothing. The other direction led to the gas station and highway and we would sneak out, walk the length of the ditch and around the highway. Our parents had no clue what we did all day.
“Ok,” and I waited.
She backed up a little and tucked her hair behind her ears. Inhaling deeply, she assumed the lunge position. Poised, she let out another exhale and began running then leaping then landing one foot squarely in the water and the other on land. Her entire left pant leg was covered with mud and had slipped and her right knee nested on the ground. She used her hands to crawl up and I was laughing.

“I knew you wouldn’t make it.
She didn’t turn back to look at me but scrambled up that hill to snatch the stick and then trotted back down to the edge.
“Well, now you’re just filthy. How ya gonna get across?”
Did you know she just traipsed right across like that? She didn’t even try to jump.
She just walked through the dirty water and handed me the stick.
“I am Adelmira. I’m a good dog.”
“Good doggie, you are very dirty and now you need a bath.”
We both laughed and I sort of jumped and twirled in the air with the giant stick and it was the lightness of it that kept me. The way that girls laugh. The way games start. The way we showed off to each other in the woods, and never a guy around until suddenly they were around all the time. We had spitting contests, cursing contests, stealing contests, cartwheel contests and the world was ours. We had frilly skirts but mostly mud-marked shorts and skinned knees and tangles in our hair that sometimes we combed for each other. We had secrets and secret language and secret games and a lightness, a buoyancy that carried us. If you asked me then, that day, if I really wanted to marry a king, I would have said only if I can live with all my friends in my castle.

“Adelmira the very very very very good and brave and magicl dog!” I screamed and then turned my scream into a howl.
Then she howled. And we danced and twirled and she threw leaves up in the air and watched them fall and I twirled the large branch and imagined I lived at the top of a tree like a fairy and that Adelmira wove a fence of leaves below me. That no one could get in. That no one could break into us.

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