You start second grade a whole inch taller than last year. Spiderman backpack. Light-up shoes.
You’re older, so you think everything will more fun. Longer recess, new classroom. Your mom doesn’t pack your lunches anymore, and that means you aren’t a baby. You’re cool.
When the bell rings you stand in line at the cafeteria with other cool kids and a plastic tray. Someone throws an apple. It sails through the air and hits a first-grade girl in the head. Thwack! She stumbles and falls, brown hair in her eyes. Her backpack unzips, and out onto the floor roll three fuzzy peaches, tumbling between the feet of stampeding children, bruising and oozing onto the tiles.
You stoop and pick one up. The fruit is extra soft on the bruised bits. You hold the peach for too long, wanting the tactile sweetness to linger, but the girl stops in front of you. Brown hair and freckles. She takes the peach without meeting your eyes, and your face goes hot, brighter than rolling fruit. She leaves, and you wipe your hand on your shorts. No one asks why she has peaches in her backpack, just call her names like ‘weirdo’. A mystery.
Everywhere you look now you see the peaches girl. You ignore her. She throws stones at you during recess, and your friends chase her away while you hide behind a tree. You’re too cool to play with girls, anyway. She’s wily, though. She finds you one day when you’re alone. No one’s
there to judge you, and you’re curious, and excited, and she has freckles on the bridge of her nose. So you follow her to the edge of the recess yard, to the hole in the fence, and wriggle out
onto the grass beside the road. The hordes of dandelions are so dazzling they hurt your eyes. Your knees dye yellow.
Everything is rolling, and colorful, and vivid. She grabs your hand.
And kisses you.
Her trembling lips are sweet like fruit and you jerk away. Her cheeks go scarlet. She darts away into the road, and a car is coming, and she trips like the first day you saw her. The world lights up with the honking of horns. She rolls across the concrete, bruised and bleeding like the peaches she dropped, but you don’t pick her up like the peaches, oh no you don’t, you don’t.
No, you run back to the hole in the fence. You run back to safety, away from rolling things you
can’t control, can’t understand. Your stomach clenches. You can’t breathe, and you can’t take it
back, all that running away. You can’t take it back. You’re too cool to play with girls anyway, and can’t catch soft rolling peaches. They squish through your hands like ghosts, and ooze into the floor without a trace, until all the sweetness is gone.
About the Author: Claire Tollefsrud is an undergraduate creative writing and psychology double major with a passion for words. Her work has previously been seen in The Coe Review and The Writing Disorder. When not making things up, she enjoys Tae Kwon Do, singing with friends, and jumping in puddles when it rains.