By Audrey Lambert, TIWP Student

When I was young, I felt like I could live through anything. A broken arm? No problem. Can’t swim? Doesn’t matter, I’ll dive in anyways. Lost a baseball in my neighbor’s yard? I’ll hop the fence; I’m fast enough their violent dogs won’t catch me.

I enjoyed fear, the feeling of fear, and laughed in the face of danger. I thought I was invincible, convinced myself I couldn’t feel pain, but boy was I wrong. 

The first time I saw her, she was biking past my house. Her pigtails flowed behind her, her cherry red bicycle flew past me. Her family had moved in four houses down. My mom made me bring over a plate of chocolate chip cookies to welcome them into town and said I had to invite the girl to play with my friends, even though we had a strict ‘no girls’ policy. I was expecting an adult to answer the door, but when it was the girl I had seen bike riding, a jolt of shock went through me. As her pretty blue eyes bore into mine, I felt something I never felt before. It wasn’t fear exactly, it was more nervousness, or perhaps anxiety. It was as if her simple presence jumbled up my thoughts and tied knots in my stomach.

“I brought you some cookies,” I said, extending the plate towards her. 

“Thanks,” she said, the slightest hint of a smile appeared on her lips. 

“I’m Carter,” I said, extending my hand.

“Okay,” she said blankly. I waited for her to say her name too, but she didn’t.

“What’s your name?”

“Mallory,” she said. Her eyes were glued to the plate of cookies. I watched her remove the Saran Wrap and take one out. She took a bite, “They’re good.”

I blushed, though I don’t know why. “Oh, thanks, my mom made them.”

She began to turn in and close the door. 

“Wait,” I said. She turned back around, staring at me expectantly.

“Do you want to go play with me and my friends?”

“Did your mom ask you to ask me that?” she questioned with her hands on her hips and her eyes narrowed.

“Well, yes, but I would have asked you even if she didn’t tell me to. I enjoy making new friends.”

She finally gave me a real smile; I almost dropped dead right then. 

“Alright, what we do?” 

“I saw you on your bike earlier. We could ride our bikes down to the park and meet my friends there, and we can show you around the town, you know, all the cool places and stuff.”

“Okay,” she said with a little giggle.

When she met my friends, they were upset with me. They didn’t understand why I would want to hang out with the cootie-infested girl. I didn’t care. I endured much teasing and torment but, eventually, they all began to get along. But, I was always closest to Mallory, and that’s the way I wanted it. 

Mallory hated it when I did dangerous things. She was always worried for me. But I couldn’t help it, it was in my nature as a reckless little boy. After about four months of hanging around a group of all boys, Mallory adopted our reckless behavior, though she still scolded me when I would go one step beyond what a reasonable person would consider a calculated risk.

But I never listened, and I should have. And I never should have put her in a position where she could have gotten hurt. But I did, and she did, get hurt I mean. And that was the first time, the first time I felt fear, the first time I realized I wasn’t invincible, and the first time I experienced pain. Because that was the one thing that had the power to hurt me. Losing her.

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