THE NEW GIRL
new friend has clear white skin, a straight back and light brown hair
that waves down to her narrow waist. Her name is Anna Marie, and she has
a small, smooth nose that tips slightly toward the sky.
weekends she sometimes comes to my house, but she despises my two older
brothers, who mock her interest in ballet by chanting, “Point-your-toe,
ar-a-besque,” in snotty sing-song voices. So we spend most of our time
at her house, walking there after school while my mom is working at the
bank and my dad is out selling insurance.
mother makes us plain tea, which I lace with three or four spoonfuls of
honey before taking my first tentative sips. Then we go back to the
sewing room, where stacks of fabric—stripes, solids, plaids, floral
prints— and baskets of unfolded laundry are piled half-way to the
ceiling, and I stand and watch as Anna Marie sits on the bench in front
of her black upright piano and plays everything from the M*A*S*H theme
to a piece by Beethoven called “Für Elise.”
school I sit two rows behind my friend but we stand and talk at each
recess. One morning she nods across the blacktop at her friend Debbie
and says that Debbie would walk more gracefully if she studied ballet. I
think of my size-eight oxfords and my slumped shoulders and my
stick-thin legs, and I wonder what I look like when I’m walking.
Before I met Anna Marie, the only dancing I had seen was in movies like
The Sound of Music, where the message boy and the oldest daughter glide
around the gazebo during a rainstorm. Now my friend invites me to her
dance recitals. I sit near the wall in a folding chair with the mothers
and the younger siblings who came to watch, while Anna Marie and her
fellow ballerinas stretch their arms in the air and leap across the
room, their white net skirts floating around their knees.
Sometimes after dinner, when Mom is sound asleep on the couch, and Dad
is on the phone calling potential customers, I close the door of my
ten-by-ten-foot room, and I hop and spin about, my feet softly thudding
on the green shag carpet, careful not to stub my toe on the bedpost, and
careful not to arouse the curiosity of my brothers, whose room is right