“You don’t want pubic hair, believe me,” said April, angry she had razored her crotch just to lie next to a glorified pond with a 12-year-old. “Why the rush?”
“Because...” Ashley paused for once. “Tina says I can’t hang out with her on the weekends until I get some. She says the weekend is when the women go out.”
“I see. And how does she know? She inspect you every Friday?”
“Gross! No, she just knows when I’m lying. My mom doesn’t, but Tina does.”
“Yeah, I think your mom does, too. But I really think you need to stop hanging out with Tina.”
April woke to someone standing over her towel.
“Earth to April.”
He sounded like Ashley’s cousin Brian, but the skinny skateboarder was now a Ken doll in red surfer shorts. Only with much better hair.
“Hey,” she finally managed, shielding her eyes from his sexy stomach and kicking herself for never preparing properly. All those times she headed to the beach, telling herself today was when one of the boys would talk to her — why did she always think to shave her toes, but never about what to say?
“Let’s get out of here.”
April slid her feet into Noreen’s flip flops with the plastic daisies on top.
“Those look like my mom’s!”
Yep, that’s why boys never stopped at her towel — she didn’t even own proper beach shoes, let alone a bikini.
“Can I come?” Ashley asked, but she knew the answer.
“Nah, Ash,” Brian said. “I need you to stay and watch the others. You’re the oldest now.”
She sighed. “Bye, April.”
April wanted to say, “Don’t worry. Soon the boys will all be coming to your towel, believe me,” but her voice was snagged on Brian's shark tooth necklace.
“So, arcade or golf? No bowling until dark,” Brian asked in his car.
“I say golf, it’s outside.” He put the key in the ignition, but didn’t turn it. “Wanna drive?”
April shook her head.
“Right,” he said with a smirk-smile as he pulled a shirt from the back seat. “Girls don’t drive sticks.”
“I can. I learned on a stick,” she said, finally able to form full sentences once he buttoned his shirt.
“Guess you’re more fun that I remember,” he said, flashing a smile that finally reached his eyes.
“You got a boyfriend?” he asked at the second hole.
“Not really.” She didn’t know what to call the boy who was still waiting for a kiss, after waiting six months for her to hug him.
Brian laughed. “He know that?”
She stared at the carpet grass, wondering what she would have let Seth do by now if he had a chest like Brian’s.
“What do you do when you’re not in school? Party?”
“No, I don’t drink.”
“Yeah, me neither,” he said, surprising April enough that she let herself imagine all those tanned muscles next to her at the beach, finally making the other girls jealous of her.
“Yeah, it gives you a gut,” he said, slapping his stomach. “Me, I like to smoke. Not just cigarettes, if you know what I mean.”
April pretended she was planning her next shot.
“I don’t have anything to smoke right now, but my friends do. I’m meeting them later at the club.”
April whacked her ball as hard as she could, sending it into the side of a windmill and off the course.
“Whoa, girl!” Brian laughed, whistling as he watched the ball until it landed, then trotted off to get it.
When they returned their clubs, he handed her the scorecard, though he had stopped keeping track after the windmill.
“Here. It’ll be a memento of our day.”
His face seemed sincere, until she found the sneer hiding in his eyes.
“Hey, are you guys coming up for dinner?” said Ashley, panting as she ran up to them. “Mom promised we’re playing Trivial Pursuit tonight. If you play on my team, April, I might finally win!”
April turned to Brian, who was already walking away.
“You coming?” he said over his shoulder, heading straight to a slim girl standing against the bowling alley. Making sure April was watching, he leaned next to the girl’s ear.
She was wearing a sweatshirt and shorts, but April knew what was underneath: a string bikini and coconut oil.
The same strings were tied around the neck of a girl April sat next to on a crowded bus home from the beach one day. It was the closest April had ever been to those mysterious creatures who usually only swam by in blurs of tiny dresses and tanned skin, legs only covered by their sandal straps, arms only covered by a dusting of blonde hair.
April didn’t know their arms even had hair until that girl on the bus. The girl who smelled like coconut, and made her feel like the girls in the locker room who laughed at her underwear — like she didn’t know how to be a girl anymore.
That it didn’t matter now how fast she ran or how good her grades were. All that mattered was how cute she and her outfit looked. Because she wasn’t supposed climb trees or ride bikes anymore; was supposed to just stand around, making fun of girls like her.
April watched as the girl handed Brian cigarettes and lighter from her pocket. As Brian pulled one of the cigarettes out with his mouth, the look crawling over the girl’s face was a creature April never let out of its cage.
Brian looked at April as he lit his cigarette, then pulled the girl’s waist toward him to return the pack and lighter. When he unzipped her sweatshirt later, April knew he’d find skin that wanted to be touched, breasts that wanted him to untie those bikini strings.
So of course he was with her instead of April. Her breasts liked to stay hidden, and never smelled of coconut.
“C’mon,” Ashley said, pulling her arm. “If we hurry we can get some of the good chips!”
“OK, I’ll play with you on one condition: You get your mom to take us shopping before we go to the lake tomorrow.”
“Deal!” Ashley squealed. “But why? You don’t have to buy sunglasses, you can borrow mine.”
“I want to get a pair of these dorky flip-flops,” said April, deciding she was never taking a razor to her feet again.