We moved to the country when I turned eight. Fourth grade seemed scary, a stranger among rural kids who grew up together since they were born. My teacher. Mrs. Pompineau, was fond of harsh punishments. Her favorite was to stand in front of class, dictionaries piled high on outstreched arms. I thought she was a heathen.
That Christmas, I attended The Nutcracker. My heart soared when class-mate Cheryl Terlick transformed into Clara. Her blonde locks boinged with every move. She floated, I was jealous when the toy soldier came to her aid. But at school, she was smitten with Tommy.
Soon I discovered the brain of our class, Harriet. Within weeks we spent every lunch together, circling our playground, talking. Her mind was a fascinating pretzel, and she was cautious while I plunged ahead. One day at Eastview Mall, I spotted a mood ring at Spencers. I bought it, Harriet accepted the next day. We were going steady! My heart back flipped, I felt elated. I didn’t have hormones yet, but something else ignited inside me.
“That’s nice, honey,” my mom said. “Now eat your potatoes.”
I noticed the mood ring never changed color: black. It made me nervous.
Harriet returned my ring the last day of school, claiming we lived too far apart. The first day of summer I rode my horse all the way to her house. Harriet’s sister Holly came to the door. “Harriet’s not here.”
I hugged Misty all the way home.