The hot summer sun above us left its mark on the scenery. Windows were shut, curtains were drawn, lawn chairs sat abandoned in the porches, not to be touched until after twenty, and yet Schatzi and I sat on the wall that divided our neighbor’s house with the angry cat lady’s who always shouted words at us that we weren’t allowed to repeat.

Our legs dangled from the wall and Schatzi and I swung them lazily while we sat and watched the entire neighborhood at rest one July afternoon at seventeen. Sweat dripped from his blond hair, and red juice dripped from his popsicle, rapidly melting in the unforgiving Mexicali heat.

He licked his thumb calmly, his tongue lapping the tiny red drop that had fallen. “What do you think Ericka?” He asked, “About this whole situation.”

I turned to look at him with inquisitive eyes. What did he mean? Did he mean the strange and energetic American that had come just a week ago and was already hell bent on kissing me? Or did he mean that in less than a month I would officially enter primary school?

He turned to look back, and stared curiously with his bright blue eyes. For a moment I remembered when, in a panic, I ran into my grandmother’s house next to mine and started crying in her arms because I thought Schatzi was blind, and his blue eyes were a sick symptom of whatever disease afflicted him. Now his eyes were refreshing. I had never seen anyone with blue eyes in real life, just the rich people in some telenovelas, and so now, instead of being scary, they were a reminder that he and I were unique.

“Come on! What do you think? You’re going to be in second grade, with the big kids! And not to insult you or anything Ericka, but you’re awful short.”

He licked proudly at his pipsicle and I rolled my eyes. Schatzi was the tallest in his grade, and he felt it was his responsibility to remind everyone of it every five seconds. And the adults definitely did not help.They all cooed over him, saying what a big boy he was, he was going to be just as tall as his father, and if his mother wasn’t proud.

When they looked at me they just felt sorry for my mama.

Noticing that I had gotten annoyed, he reached out his hand and touched my shoulder. “Naw come on, I didn’t mean it like that!” He said nervously, “Only that other kids might try to take advantage of you because you’re a girl, and you’re short, and you’re younger than them.”

I jumped off from the wall and landed with a small grunt on the dirt below. Schatzi yelled my name, but I ignored him, and instead walked towards the rusty iron fence to let myself out. The man who owns that house is really nice. His name is Marcos Arellano, and he has a giant tree in his front yard, and three fruit trees in the back. If Schatzi asks really nicely, he’ll let us go back, take shopping bags, and pick as much fruit as we can carry in that bag.

Marcos is an angel sent from heaven, and I usually always go inside and wave goodbye before I go, but now he was asleep, and also Schatzi was being a jerk. So I walked outside the fence, then on the searing hot blacktop that’s littered with tiny spiky rocks.

Before I could sprint across it to get to where there was shadow and where my bare feet would no longer burn, Schatzi grabbed my hand with his own sweaty paw. “Ericka! I’m just trying to look out for you!” He said, “I’m a nice guy and I’ll defend you when I can, but you’re small, and the boys my age are tough! What are you going to do if they try to take your money?”

I stared into his eyes, they were wide with concern. And while adults never coo over me, I know my powers. I waited until he was sufficiently lost in my own dark eyes, before I stepped close to him, and sharply lifted my knee between his legs.

He bent over in pain, pretty blue eyes squeezed shut and I sprinted across the horrible blacktop we (mistakenly) call a street, and into my house. Supposing that the kick should answer his question.

 

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