When I was in Mottville, our neighbors next door were our first friends. Later, I learned the couple was 16 years old when they were married and gave birth to their eldest, a daughter.

Her name was Julia. We called her Julie. Her Mom insisted we call her Bonnie. There was quite a few times Mom would babysit Julie.Bonnie must’ve thought my Mom with 5 children, what is one more? Mom needed the money.

There was a picture of my Mom with all the babies and her in an hairnet, sitting on a red velvet couch, like the one that Crosby, Stills, and Nash sat on in their first album. It can be pulled out to be a bed.

I hadn’t thought of Julie as more than a sister to me. Jeff, her brother, was born four years later.

She was born day after my twin brother and sister. They were four years younger than me.

About five years old, she developed a crush on me. I am nine. This was embarrassing to me. She followed me around like a puppy dog. Think of Linus and Sally in the Peanuts strip. Instead of “Big Baboo”, it was her growling out, “Lover boy.” How embarrassing! She might’ve heard her mom say that to her husband. I don’t know. First time Bonnie heard her say that, she thought I put her up to it.  I shrugged my shoulders, shook my head. Bonnie then understood that it was all Julie’s doing. She would laugh and said, “Well, Tom, looks like you got a girlfriend. Don’t worry, it won’t last long.”

Julie like to dress up like Jackie Kennedy, right down to the pillbox hat and white gloves. She knew my favorite color was red, so she be sure to wear red dress around me.

One time in summer night, we were playing in the dark, the outside light was on. We stopped to rest from our playing, I was sitting leaning against the house. She was next to me. I don’t know what possessed me, but I gave her a kiss on her lips. She was surprised! She hugged my arm and gave me a kiss back. She said, I know you love me, lover boy!”

Oh God, what’ve done? Now she was more determined to be with me.

Days later,on a Sunday, Bonnie came out to tell me to be sure and get Chris on the way.She knew I would act responsible and be sure my brothers and sisters and Julie won’t run out into the highway.

Bonnie described the house where Chris stayed. It was in middle of a woody lot. Julie said, “Tom, please don’t get Chris. She is mean and nasty.”

“Now Julie, I promised your Mom I will take her with us.”said I.” I don’t back off on a promise.”

We walked along the highway, past the Palomino Pony restaurant that was across the street. The Palomino Pony was owned by a crusty, one legged ex- merchant marine. The old seadog’s wife was named Palomino.

We went past the gas station, that years later Chris’ father owned it. We went to the brown bungalow that Chris lived. I knocked on the door and Chris’ Mom came out and said, “Oh, you must be Tom. Chris is ready for you.”

Chris was a bubbly girl. Julie was moody to see her. Chris walked beside me, but Julie kept jostling to be next to me. Julie had dark brown hair and hazel eyes. Chris had blonde hair and blue wide eyes.

We didn’t say much to each other in church. They divided us up by age. Afterwards, I gathered up my brothers and sisters and Julie and Chris to walk back to our homes. Chris went up the dirt road to her home. We lived by a gravel road. We didn’t say much, but Julie stayed beside me, like a signal to Chris to stay away from me.

Bonnie was right. A year later, Julie wasn’t interested in me and her family bought a house further away from me, and on same street. Chris would say hi to me, but didn’t talk to me as much as she did before.


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