TRANSFORMING YOUR LIFE. LITTLE CHANGES MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE
They were just going to get tipsy. That was the goal. Two childhood best friends, born two years apart but attached at the hip, as their mothers would say.
They were eight and ten years old when they met on the school bus in a quiet New England town. The younger girl moved in down the road from the older girl and they became fast and constant friends. Around the rest of the world they were shy, gawky and insecure, but when they were alone together, they became relaxed and silly and bold. The comfort they felt in each other’s presence allowed them to be their true, best young selves.
They lived less than a mile away from one another on either side of a state park that the locals called The Castle, and the several hundred acres of woods that lay between them was their playground. They fancied themselves woodland creatures and this was their kingdom. It was their enchanted forest, full of folklore, fairies, and frogs. They were princesses and tomboys in equal measure. You were just as likely to find them knee deep in the Castle pond, catching fish and bullfrogs with their bare hands and running through the woods like wild animals (moms’ words again), as you were to find them singing Scarborough Fair in a round and pretending their horses were unicorns. Like twins with a secret language, they knew each other’s thoughts, and like sisters, they could fight like cats and dogs.
Each turn of the season brought new adventure. They belly-crawled through spring meadow grass, seeing just how close they could get to wild cottontails, and peered over the pond’s edge where gelatinous masses of frogs’ eggs hatched into pollywogs. They caught fireflies in jars on warm June nights and found refuge from the hot afternoon sun under the generous shade of the pines. They washed away the sticky New England air in the inground pool behind the younger girl’s house and in the dammed-up creek in the woods behind the older girl’s home. They spent cool, rainy weekends listening to music and working puzzles in the older girl’s playroom, her mother making them lunches of chicken noodle soup and buttered bread. They rode their bikes through the swirling autumn leaves, the older girl always riding faster down the hills. They gathered up the cast-off plumage of oak, maple and birch into enormous piles and dove in, delightfully smashing crunchy handfuls into each other’s hair. Though the houses on their road were few and far between, they knew all their neighbors and all their neighbors knew them. They went trick or treating on Halloween night and caroling on Christmas Eve, flashlights and the moon through the bare arms of the trees lighting their way. They built snow forts, and sledded down their driveways or any clear hill they could find. Their childhood smelled like rich, sweet earth and decaying leaves, like horses and saddles, like skunk cabbage, bullfrogs and wet rocks. It smelled like honeysuckle and hot tar, like melting snow and raindrops, like wood smoke and pine. Their childhood smelled like the deep New England woods.
When they had grown to adolescence, the woods offered cover as they gleefully spied on the boys at the private academy down their road. Like secret agents, they moved from tree, to rock, to tree, silently inching closer to the edge of the grassy school grounds, straining to get a better look at their crush du jour. On the rare occasions that they were discovered, they always had a well-planned escape route – like the time a big twig snapped loudly underfoot and gave them away. It was an all male boarding school and when the boys clapped eyes on the two girls in the trees it was like ringing the dinner bell for hungry field hands. One of them yelled “GIRLS!” and they all came running. “Oh, nice move, Hiawatha!” one girl teased the other and they screamed and laughed with giddy horror as they stealthily disappeared into the trees. The boys gave chase but the academy’s dorms housed young scholars from all over the state – meaning: this wasn’t their woods. Once the girls had vanished into the forest, which they had come to know like the back of their hands, the boys had no prayer of finding them. Plus, the boys weren’t allowed off campus.
And so, it was. There would be first dances, first kisses and puppy love, and like the safety and sanctuary of their beloved woods, their friendship remained. Until one day the news came that the younger of the two would be moving away. Far away. A long plane ride away! It was a leveling blow and there was melodrama and many tears, but the decision had been made. In consolation their families promised that they could visit.
The following summer, the promise of a visit was kept. It was on this trip that the idea of their first foray into the forbidden world of adult beverages came up. They were thirteen and fifteen years old, and they relished one other’s company as much as ever. They had a sleepover at the older girl’s house, just like old times. They sang every word of their favorite songs, giggled over crushes, debated the pros and cons of having short hair verses long hair, and stayed up to see if anyone good was on the late-night talk shows.
“Have you ever had a drink?” the older girl asked.
“Huh?” the younger girl said.
“A drink. You know, booze!” whispered the elder.
“No! Have you?” the younger replied.
“No.” And after a long pause, “Do you want to try it? We can raid my parents’ liquor cabinet!” Half intrigued but always afraid of getting in trouble, the younger girl said, “I don’t know. I kind of want to but… what if we get caught?”
“Oh, pfft! We’re not gonna get caught. It’s not like we’re going to get falling down drunk. We’ll just get a little tipsy! C’mon, live a little!”
“OK,” the younger girl agreed, “we’ll just get a little tipsy!” She giggled when she said the word. It was such a silly word and, by virtue, it felt pretty harmless.
They could not, however, just waltz over to the liquor cabinet and pour themselves a drink, so before they left the older girl’s bedroom, they had to have a plan. Having never “drank” before they weren’t quite sure how to go about it. What should they drink and how much? They didn’t know, so they decided they would just take a little bit from every bottle. It was the best way to leave no obvious evidence of their theft, since no one bottle would look like it was missing anything when compared to the others. They also decided that, once poured, they should bring it back to their room to drink, to lessen the risk of getting caught in the act.
It was late. The older girl’s parents were asleep in their room down the hall and she needed to keep it that way. She gently clasped the doorknob and turned it as far as it would go. Willing it into silence, she eased open her bedroom door. She could hear light snoring coming from her parents’ room. They slipped out into the hallway, their bare feet on the carpet making no sound. Barely breathing, they moved in slow motion as they crept onto the stairs, toes hovering for an instant just above each step before making contact. Freezing in place when they thought they heard something. Regaining movement when the sound of light snoring confirmed the coast was clear. Step... wait... step... wait... step... wait... They moved like ghosts.
Finally, they made it into the kitchen. The door to the liquor cabinet was one they’d never opened before. They knew where it was and what was in it, and there was an unspoken rule that it was strictly off limits but, until now, they hadn’t cared; they’d been far more interested in where the chips and cookies were kept. Tonight, that changed. Tonight, they had a laser focus on the bottom corner cupboard. Behind its door they imagined a portal into another world, a GROWNUP world. They opened the door to the cupboard and stared at its contents for a minute. In the windowless hallway, their eyes had fully adjusted to the darkness and, although they’d turned on no lights, the kitchen – with double windows over the sink - seemed bright by comparison. They stared at the bottles; some tall, some round, some square, some with textured glass and some with smooth. The low light of the moon through the windows glinted on the glass and danced on the surface of the various potions. It had already begun to intoxicate them.
They grabbed two tall milk glasses and, silently working their way through the bottles, poured until each glass was about two-thirds full. Then, armed with their contraband, they tiptoed back to the stairs.
Once returned to the safety of the bedroom, they got right down to business. They stood facing one another in the middle of the room, glasses in hand, eyes locked. There was no turning back. They were excited to cross a threshold and leave part of their childhood behind.
“You ready?” the older girl asked.
“Yeah,” the younger girl whispered, quickly nodding her head.
They clinked glasses, whispered “cheers” and, bringing glass to lips, never losing eye contact, they each took their first tiny, timid sips.
“BWAH!” the older girl said in a huge expulsion of air as her eyes flew open wide. A shudder ripped through the younger girl’s body from head to toe, like a wet dog flinging off water, and she said, “Holy shit, it burns!”
They quickly gathered themselves and regrouped, looked at each other and nodded, indicating they were ready to go again. They took a second tentative sip. This time it went down just a bit easier. As the older girl pulled the glass away from her lips, she watched in horror and amazement as the younger girl kept going. She tipped the glass back, gulping down the rotgut concoction like a third-year frat boy. She chugged it all to the last drop without coming up for air, and with the bottom of the empty glass facing the ceiling and the rim still to her lips, she fell back on the bed behind her. Arms splaying out wide, milk glass loosely in hand and staring at the ceiling, she just lay there, astonished, waiting to see if she was going to puke
“Holy, shit!” said the older girl, laughing. “Are you ok? How did you do that?”
“I don’t know,” the breathless, younger girl said, and as a smile moved across her lips she added, “but it felt pretty fuckin’ good.”
She started to laugh, softly at first then louder and louder and, as a feeling of complete and utter release came over her, she raised her voice and said, “Holy SHIT!”
“Shut UP!” said the older girl in a frantic hushed voice. And through her teeth she hissed, “You’re gonna wake up my parents!”
Still lying back on the bed, the younger girl laughed and yelled out at the top of her lungs, “I DON’T GIVE A SHIT! I DON’T GIVE A SHIT ABOUT ANYTHING!” The feelings of self-doubt had left her. The low-grade anxiety that had been her constant companion for as far back as she could remember was gone. The worry of displeasing her father had vanished. The fear of not being good enough and that nobody liked her had disappeared. She felt free. For the first time in her young life, the invisible, inexplicable burden she’d carried on her narrow shoulders and the soft pressure, like a hand on her chest, had been lifted. Fears, pressures and weights that she didn’t even know were there until now, were gone. Having no other frame of reference, she had no sense or awareness of something that had always been there... until it wasn’t.
That night she never did wake up her best friend’s parents – and the trip to the liquor cabinet was just another one of their thousands of secrets – but she’d gotten way more than tipsy. The girl who was shy and sweet and far too sensitive for this world had tasted freedom. And a demon had entered her young body leaving behind a key and a map.
The next day the fear and the pressure were back but now she was aware of their presence… and a way to make them go away.
Next week's post, the last of the complimentary previews, Chapter Three; White Porcelain on Thursday, December 24th at 10 am Eastern, 1: pm Pacific time
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Thank you so much, xoAmie
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