“He sees you!” Beth yells from across the street.
Georgia squeals, leaps from her hiding place behind the panel wagon in Mr. Mann’s driveway and takes off running. All the kids in the neighborhood call him Misterman like its one word. Mrs. Misterman keeps the garden hose coiled on her front porch (in the shade so the water doesn’t get hot from the sun) and has Dixie cups on the railing for when the neighborhood kids get thirsty. Heart pounding, bare feet flying, Georgia can hear Steve’s footsteps and heavy breath closing in from behind. Stealing a quick glance over her shoulder to see if she’s going to make it back to home base in time, the blond of Steve’s shoulder-length hair catches the late afternoon light and the strangest thought occurs to her.
I WANT him to catch me. A foreign flutter of unnamed excitement bubbles in her belly. Georgia is the most competitive kid on the block. She hates to lose – has been winning at Hide and Chase War all summer. She can run faster than all the girls and most of the boys. She can throw a football with a perfect spiral, hit a baseball over the heads of the infielders and climb highest in all the neighboring trees. Losing is not part of her world, but here she is contemplating losing on purpose – and for what?
She knows it without understanding why, that this is what she wants – to have him tackle her; for their bodies to tumble together in the warm grass, to squeal and laugh, to look into his golden brown eyes, study his full lips. Will I let him kiss me? A warmth spreads through her middle as she smiles and slows her run ever so slightly.
These are the last days of summer. Darkness swoops in earlier each day – beckoning the street lights, prompting mothers to step onto front porches, announcing dinner – even before the King of the World has been decided. Sixth grade looms like a dangerous promise for Beth, Georgia, and Steve, the Three Musketeers of Westhaven Drive. Junior High School! Books, lockers, a schedule of classes and teachers for every subject. The air crackles with change. They’ve outgrown the cubbies in Mrs. Mayo’s classroom, the Hank the Cow Dog books in the library, and the monkey bars on the elementary school playground.
“May I please be excused?” Georgia asks after having a second piece of fried chicken and eating all of her broccoli and mashed potatoes.
“Well, hang on just a minute, pumpkin,” Her mom says, patting Georgia’s hand that is already grabbing her plate and glass, ready to head to the kitchen. “Mom! you’re not supposed to call me that anymore,” Georgia whines, eyes rolling, exasperation mounting.
Ignoring the reprimand, her mom continues, “you know what happens on fried chicken night!”
Georgia relents and lets out a small smile when she sees the wishbone in her mom’s other hand. If it breaks in my favor, my wish will come true!
They each take hold of either end of the delicate bone, grasping gently with thumb and forefinger.
“Now close your eyes and make a wish!” her mom says.
Behind closed eyelids, Georgia wonders if her first kiss, in Misterman’s back yard less than an hour ago, was somehow visible, because she could still feel it.
“On three,” her mom says. “One. Two. Three!”
Georgia opens her eyes and sees that, through the magic of the wishbone, she will start the new school year with Steve as her boyfriend.
“Yes!!!” she exclaims as she heads to the kitchen to start the dishes.
Sixth grade is going to be awesome!