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Coming of Age Kids

This story contains themes or mentions of substance abuse.

It was summertime once again. Graduation celebrations were going off left and right all across the country; a time for celebrating one’s physical and, most importantly, mental growth. Khali, who is in 7th grade, is one year away from such a momentous occasion, but he is now placed in a position where such growth would be needed to have everyone come out of it unscathed. “Are we doing this, or are you still childish?”

Khali decided to have his best friend, Malcolm, come over to his house to hangout together before going on family vacation. Khali’s parents weren’t home just yet since they had to go run errands before they all went out of town, and his sister, Bibi, was too young to be by herself at home since she was in 5th grade. “Maybe when you finally get to middle school, but your brother is still going to watch over you for now while we’re gone, okay?” Even when she was told this by her mother, Bibi didn’t mind, because she trusted her brother with everything. They were always close and Khali would always protect her from harm. Because of these two preconditions, it slightly startled Khali that his best friend decided to bring his freshman brother, Keshawn, over with him to all hangout together.

The two 7th graders were out in the backyard, shuffling a deck of playing cards which they would use to play war or slapjack for fun, but Keshawn had another idea in mind.

“You guys got money? We can play war or whatever, but I want to win some money here. It’s all we do in high school for fun, anyway.” Malcolm backed up Keshawn’s validity to Khali.

“Let’s do it, Khali! Shawn is always the one that teaches me the more adult stuff he sees from high school.” Malcolm gets lessons from Keshawn on how to be a high schooler so that he can be prepared for his high school freshman year. Khali decided to follow along with Malcolm’s ways of learning. Khali saw it as a way for him to grow faster as well if he learned from Keshawn’s time in high school, even if it was just one year. He saw his dad as not a good source of information since he might’ve forgotten a lot from his years in school.

Khali went upstairs to get his bank where he had a little over one hundred dollars in tens, fives, and ones. Going back downstairs, his sister hears him and asks what he has his money for.

“We’re doing grown up things downstairs. And besides, I thought you were sleeping.” Bibi charges for her big brother’s back and jumps on it, clinging to him and not letting go. “Aggh! You’re choking me little girl!”

“I wanna see what you’re doing, so I woke up!”  Khali insists that she should just go back to sleep, but Bibi just squeezes tighter, making him tap out and give up on making her stay upstairs. Heading down, Bibi sees the freshman outside the window and asks who he is, burying her face into Khali’s shoulder.

“That’s Malcolm’s older brother, don’t worry, it’s fine. Not all grown ups are scary.” Khali walks outside and while Malcolm greets the girl he’s known for a year now, Keshawn asks why Khali brought a little girl out here. Khali reassures him that Bibi will just be watching, and he has to watch her anyway since their parents aren’t home.

“How old are you, girl?” He sits, leaned over in a position where his elbows are on his widely spread knees. Bibi stares at Keshawn behind Khali’s back and puts out two pointer fingers to indicate that she’s eleven. “Ohh! So you’re growing up as well then, huh? You watch us play and then you join in, alright?” He pays attention to shuffling the cards while telling Malcolm to take his money out.

“Wait a sec,” Khali interrupts, “she can’t be involved in this. She’s just going into middle school after this summer!”

Keshawn still has his eyes on his shuffling. “And?” Malcolm looks up at Khali, then at Keshawn. “Look, do you think that treating her like that is gonna make her grow up? Like look at you, carrying her around like she’s a toddler!” He looks into Bibi’s eyes, which makes her shrink down into Khali’s back a little bit again. “C’mon girl, you’re already in your double digits! You might as well learn how to be grown like us to be better in middle school, right?” He sets down three stacks. “You’ve played war, right?” Bibi nods her head, slowly peeking at Keshawn’s face. “Alright then, that’s all you have to do! You’ll be fine, just watch us while you play the normal way. How’s that sound?” He looks at Khali, who looks at Malcolm, who looks at him and gives a face that says “just let her play”. Khali starts to look back at Bibi until he feels her grip loosen and sees her run towards the cards. “Okay!” she shouts, and tells Khali to hurry up and play. He takes a few seconds to reassure himself. This is just a game, Khali thought. What’s there to be worried about? She’s not even betting either!

They sit in a circle in the grass—everyone evenly spaced out except for Bibi, who was latched onto Khali’s arm—with crinkled up dollar bills and bugs flying everywhere in the bright sun. War is going by its simple rules: put down a card from the top of your deck, and whoever had the highest number would take all the cards that were played. There was, however, a rule that Keshawn added that stated you could choose when to put down a card or not. With this rule added, it made the game more interesting since you had a little more control over the outcome. For every game won, that person would get the money. For the first couple of games, everyone was active and relaxed around each other, and Bibi ended up winning the third round after Malcolm won the first two. She was excited and boisterous until she remembered she couldn’t be included in the gambling portion. Keshawn smirked.

“Remember, you’re too young right now Lil’ Bibi. Your big bro is looking after your innocence. Ain’t that right big bro?” He looked up at Khali, who slightly sneered at Keshawn before looking at Bibi and her pout face. Khali reminded her that she doesn’t even have anything more that five dollars, and that she would lose her money after one round, and Bibi made a huge sigh and continued on with the game with a slightly sour face.

Overtime, the winning was being performed by the younger kids, but only for a few games. Soon enough, Keshawn started to win ever and over again, ending up with all the money used. Both Khali and Malcolm fall out on the grass, laughed at by Bibi who claims that she has more money than them, now.

“Well, what are we supposed to bet now?” Khali sighed. He thought in his head that he shouldn’t have used up all his money like that.

“Don’t worry now,” Keshawn encouraged while tucking in his winnings. “We still have things we can use. And this time,” he rubbed Bibi’s head, “you can be involved in it!”

“Really? Well what’s that suppo—” Keshawn pulled out a red, glass bottle from his bag he had on him. That and what looked to be some sort of pen.

“Now we’re gonna be big boys and girls!” Khali was nervous, but he saw Malcolm’s face of excitement. Khali knew what the bottle was at least, so he knew he wouldn’t be too accepting of what was from that pen. Keshawn was explaining how whenever someone lost all their cards, they would have to take a sip of the drink or put their lips on the pen and breathe in. “Not too much or y’all will kill your lungs.” Khali stuttered out a complaint of the dares and how they might be dangerous, but Keshawn sounded aggravated.

“Come on dude! Malcolm said you was his coolest friend he knew! Listen, if you’re gonna be grown and cool in high school, you need to be keen on this. This is how everyone in high school has fun, just like with money. If you don’t want to be like us, then just say that! We’ll leave if that’s what you want. C’mon, Malcolm.” Keshawn got up and ushered Malcolm to follow. The best friend looked at Khali with irritation, causing Khali to break and tell them to stay. “...Now that’s what I’m talking about, homeboy!” His malice was completely gone, and he sat back down in his open-leg pose.

“Oh yeah,” Keshawn picked up a shot glass of the red bottle liquid and gave it to Bibi and rubbed her head again. “That’s for when you lose.” He looked straight at Khali, intently. “Now here’s something else to remember, for the both of y’all.” He pointed at the two siblings. “Khali, bro, stop babying her. She needs to learn to grow on her own. Lil’ Bibi, you know you’re going into middle school soon, so learn now to not be so clingy to your big bro, alright? He’s gonna be gone to his own school again, so you gotta learn to be…Hey, what? Don’t be like that now.” Bibi starts to tear up and look at her brother. Khali looks with worry in his own expression as he looks to Keshawn who slowly shakes his head.

“Bibi…listen to him. You gotta—” Bibi violently shifts away from Khali, making the circle more even. She has a pouty face again, more genuine than the last, and downs the drink she has in her tiny hands.

“Woah, you didn’t even lose yet! Hahaaa!”

The rest of the game went on with Malcolm drinking more than puffing the smoke that came out of the pen, and Khali puffing more than drinking. Bibi, holding onto her stomach overtime, did both. Every time one of the kids coughed, Keshawn would laugh. His attitude was a lot more vigorous, speaking more like how he wanted to, forgetting the polite tone he wanted to keep while being at Khali’s residence. Keshawn ended up drinking a lot from the bottle, even though he never lost a game, ironically, since the new dares were added. Even though it was new, Khali started to feel like he was having fun. Malcolm, who always showed off his experience with alcohol at school, was falling over himself, giggling, making Khali laugh as well. This is “adulting”, isn’t it? Khali thought to himself. This was necessary to experience in order to be prepared for the world of high school and all its drinkers and party people. It felt weird to him and his throat was a little burned, but this was growing up. It had to be this way.

“Hey, little girl,” Keshawn has his arms weighed down on the sick girl’s shoulders. “Hey hey, little girl, you wanna do a better dare than this?” Bibi side eyes Khali looking over at the two of them, making her dart back to Keshawn.

“I’m a big girl. I can…I can handle anything.” Trying hard not to throw up, Bibi made sure she was understood. Throughout the game, she has isolated herself further from Khali and drawn closer to Keshawn, the oldest of the group.

“You seem old enough...You're old enough, yeah." Keshawn gets adventurous with his eyes, leering at the eleven-year-old. Bibi could feel the intensity of the high schooler’s eyes, but she told herself she had to be big on her own, and that Khali wouldn’t care anyway what the dare was. Despite how he felt about the dare, which he couldn’t even process was about to happen, Khali felt something off about those eyes. He knew because of something his mom told Bibi while he overheard.

“Now baby, you know you’re getting bigger. You’re actually growing faster than other kids in your class, and you’re not even ten yet! As you get older, you’ll definitely realize, but us girls, we need to make sure we aren’t too…revealing, especially when another man is around, be it your teacher or even your brother. You understand?” Being older, he definitely understands now why he and his sister couldn’t run around hitting each other with their clothes or bathe together anymore like they used to.

“Listen up, Lil Bi, we’ll do a one on one game, and if you win, you get all the money in my pocket!” Bibi lit up. Khali felt nauseous. “But! If you lose, that means you do whatever I say.” Bibi doesn’t think before saying she’s going to win all the money, but Khali butts in asking “what exactly do you want her to do?”

“C’mon, I can’t just give it away like that! I will say, whatever happens is going to be upstairs in this house. It is starting to get dark, and I wouldn’t want your sister to catch a cold out here. Right Bibi?” He’s rubbing her face with his hand that almost cups her entire head. Bibi slightly tenses her face and fists, but takes being pet anyway. “So you tell me big boy? Are you going to be chill about your sister making her own decisions, or are you gonna start bitchin’ again to me?!” Khali is frozen. He looks at his best friend for help, but he gives back a more serious, yet dazed, face.

“Just let it happen, dude. You’ve been so uptight for no reason. He’s grown, he knows more than us.” Khali agreed in his head, but was that a good thing? Was what Keshawn knew actually good to know? Thinking more about it, Khali wondered if Malcolm would really bring someone so dangerous around his little sister. There was no way. All that’s happened so far is Keshawn teaching them what it was like to be actual high schoolers. He wouldn't do anything wrong to her; he must have been respectful being a new high schooler. And, he thought, if anything were to happen, I could tell Mom and Dad that I didn't know something like this was going to happen. But how would he not know if he had to plot out this whole backup plan in the first place?

“Alright, Keshawn, I’m not gonna—” suddenly a blast of screaming and crying was heard from the little girl being handled by Keshawn.

“PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME GO ALONE KHALI!” Bibi still sat next to Keshawn, but she was fully facing her brother while sniffling and sobbing. “Please go with me! I don’t want to be alone!” Keshawn dramatically gets up and struts over to Khali.

“You see what your pampering does? Now she’s clinging onto you again. Now tell me right now.” He squeezes Khali’s shoulder while looking him dead in the face.

“Are we doing this, or are you still childish?”

Khali looked around and saw three distinct people: a boy who owns the title “freshman”, a kid he invited to his house that he knew from the beginning of middle school, and a little girl that he decided not to take care of for the sake of his own care. But, of course, Khali didn't see it that way. He didn’t grow up yet to understand it.

“Don’t come to me.” Khali looked up and away from everyone, walking over to the farthest side of the small backyard. Everyone was silent for a moment, especially Bibi, who stared at the back of her brother's head that wouldn't turn around for anything. He didn’t grow up yet to understand it, but the words still were bouncing in his head. Please, don’t do it. But there was no sound.

The game was played.

The sister stared at the cards with tears rolling down her face.

The 8th grade boy ran around and picked up the sister.

The acquaintance is told to follow, and drunkenly does what is told of him.

And the growing boy sat in the grass in the summer heat, facing away from the girl he left to live on her own for who knows how long. Sorry, but it was a game of chance and you lost.

The game was rigged at the start.

June 17, 2022 01:56

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1 comment

Graham Kinross
06:10 Jun 26, 2022

More people should have stopped to tell you that this is an awesome story. Let me know when you upload more. Great story.

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