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Fiction Coming of Age Drama

“What? There’s no way.” I pull away from the wall and look at him incredulously. 

“See for yourself,” he replies, covering a laugh with the back of his hand, the one that holds the pen.

I turn to analyze the marks on the doorframe. The newest marker of my height is, in fact, lower than its predecessor.

“I did not SHRINK,” I say shrilly, turning back to him. His eyes are closed with mirth, and I allow myself a small smile.

“I am twenty-seven years old! Not eighty! This is absurd. I was probably wearing shoes last time and made a mental note to myself to also wear shoes the next time, but I forgot.” 

“That sounds plausible,” he says, and reaches out to rub my arm. Having banished his laughter, he is squarely back on my side. Actually, he is always, unwaveringly, on my side. He does not take up the position of the opponent, even in jest. We do not volley; we are on the same side of the court, quietly discussing how to win – but no one else is in play.

“I agree,” I say, in a faux-huff, and he smiles at me, his eyes the shape of love. 

“Hey, I’m not a tall guy. You’re not a tall girl. We’re just…two people who aren’t tall.”

“Mhhmmm.” I give him a quick kiss on the cheek. “Let’s see what’s going on with dinner.” 

As we walk into the hallway, I run across our metaphorical court.

“Whose idea was this dumb height-measuring, anyway?” 

He laughs, softly, and lapses into comfortable silence, and I feel the loneliness of volleying with myself.

~

“Your mom says you two might get engaged?”

My aunt has decided the platter of mashed potatoes is the stage for this conversation. I finish dumping a large helping onto my plate and smile, look for him quickly. He’s across the room, talking to my father with adopted ease. One hand is in his pocket and the other is loosely around a Corona beer: the only one he’ll have tonight. 

“We’ve talked about it, yeah.”

My aunt falls lower on the door frame than me, even if I am newly shrunken. She looks up with eager dark brown eyes.

“Oh, that makes me happy. He’s a cutie. He’s not the most talkative guy, you know, but you’re not the most talkative girl. I think you two make a great pair.”

Mashed potatoes fall onto her plate from the serving spoon: so too something in me drops. 

“Thanks. Yeah. He’s… he’s truly one of the sweetest people I've met.” I look up at him again, across the room. He’s nodding amicably at something my father is saying.

“Hold onto that one, honey.” My aunt gives me an age-perfected wink and I adopt a smile. 

“I’ll try.” 

~

“You doing okay?” 

His voice descends from above and I jump slightly where I sit in my parents’ living room. Accompanying arm rub.

“Yeah. I got so hungry for some reason. These potatoes are so good. Did you have any? Simply del-i-cious.” My words are sloppy, like the way I was just eating the mash. 

“Not yet. I’ve been talking to your dad.” He looks up and across the room at my father. “He’s a really awesome guy.”

“He is.” I wipe my mouth and take a swig of water. “You should eat something.”

“I’m about to.” He smiles at me, his lips stretched gently with love. 

“Good, because we can’t have you shrinking, too,” I say. I hit the ball. I wait.

“No, we can’t have that.” One more affectionate tap on my arm and he’s standing, walking steadily to the food table. 

The echo of the unreturned tennis ball on the ground is so loud. 

~

“This one is SO cute. Look at that devilish smile.” 

My mother handles an obligatory stack of my childhood photos as we sit on the couch. In the top photo, I’m in some sort of princess garb. My hair is a mess, and my smile is accurately befitting of a spawn of Lucifer.

“Aw. Devilish? That seems like an innocent smile to me!” 

Our side of the court is too crowded! He keeps bumping into me. On the couch, I hold my arms close to my sides, hands clasped in my lap, hoping I don’t appear too stiff. 

“Sophie has a devious side,” my mother says gravely. “She snuck all sorts of snacks when she thought we weren’t looking. One time she hid underneath her bed for hours and made us think she had left the house somehow. Her father and I were freaking out, but she was giggling the whole time.”

My mother leans toward me and nudges me. She smiles. I close my eyes and put my hands up in surrender.

“I cannot tell a lie.” 

“Aw.”

When I open my eyes I see him seeking my gaze in my peripheral, but I do not meet him where he is. 

“Oh, how did this get in here?”

My mother sounds surprised. I look down at the photograph in question and see me and my college boyfriend in a gleeful embrace. 

His voice comes in close from my side. “Old flame?”

“That was my first ex,” I mumble, the spark in my eyes jumping off the photograph. I notice how tightly my hand is holding onto his shoulder. 

“You guys argued a lot,” my mother says, almost in the way of apology. She quickly puts the photo on the very bottom of the pile, crushing it under the weight of other happenings. 

“Look at this one! First trip to Disney. As soon as we got off the plane, you said, ‘I want to go home.’ That was fun to hear.” 

“We did argue a lot,” I say. I am not done with this thread. I feel my mother pause beside me and I feel his body heat on my other side. “We were always either bantering or bickering. That’s what you said, Mom.”

“Yes, well. I was never his biggest fan.” 

“I wasn’t his biggest fan either,” I say. “We weren’t fans of each other at all.” I shift on the couch. “Actually, no, that’s not true. We were sometimes fans of each other and sometimes not. I’m not saying that it was perfect or ideal or anything like that. I’m just saying.”

“Okay, Sophie.” My mother has shuffled through a few photos anxiously. 

From my other side: “I’m going to grab a water. Do either of you want one?” 

“I’d love one, thank you, honey.” My mother injects gratitude into her voice. 

“I’m okay,” I say, and find I mean it even more when he gets up and I have space to take a full breath. 

Before my mother can say anything to me, hiss a line of questioning or reprimand, I too get up, and go to the room previously claimed by me, the one with the marked-up door frame.

I am standing like that, alone on the court, when he finds me, stands beside me. 

He doesn’t ask “what’s up” or “are you okay”. He just waits. He will never cross court lines to oppose me. He will never volley. Or if he does, it will be because I want him to, and not because he wants to. 

I turn to look at him. Words are not easy for me – it is true I am not the most talkative girl.

Finally, after what feels like a series of decisions, I speak.

 “I did shrink.”

April 01, 2022 02:28

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