Teddy wants a spectacular crash. He watches the racecars zoom around the track. I know accidents are bad. People can die or lose an arm. But I donâ€™t want Teddy to go home disappointed. During his visits, Sharon tells me to stay in my room and finish my homework. Stay there till I find you! Whenever Teddy yells at her, calls her whore and bitch, I hide in the closet, hands over my ears. It doesnâ€™t help.
â€œMiss Fancy,â€ Sharon asks, â€œdid you put on the sunscreen like I asked?â€ Sheâ€™s the big sister, nine years older. I need almost all my fingers to count that high.
â€œGoddamn it, girl,â€ she says. â€œMama said to make sure you didnâ€™t get all red and blistered.â€
We each lean forward on our seats to see beyond Teddy. He sits with legs spread wide, long back erect. Everything about him is big: his shoulders, his muscular calves and thighs, his broad chest. Sharon likes to brag that heâ€™s the best wrestler on the team. To see her rubbing up next to Teddy and know theyâ€™re a couple, together six months, gives my stomach a sour feeling. From my window at home, I watch them kiss before he leaves, and I worry heâ€™ll smash her with those massive arms, those grimy fingers.
Sharon hands me a flattened tube of sunscreen. Taking it, I reach over Teddyâ€™s lap. The bristly hair on his thighs tickles my arm.
â€œYou should work on your tan, munchkin,â€ Teddy says, not looking at me. â€œYou wanna land yourself a boyfriend, right?â€
â€œBaby, donâ€™t be stupid,â€ Sharon says. â€œSheâ€™s only seven.â€
â€œI kissed my first girl when I was six years old,â€ he says. â€œStill remember that shit.â€
â€œNot everyone is a sex pervert like you,â€ Sharon says, fanning her face with the racetrack program. Itâ€™s the middle of May. School will be over soon. Sharon still picks me up because Iâ€™m too little to walk home alone. Sometimes, Teddy rides with us, cell phone pressed against his face, a flowing melody of obscenities filling the car.
The three of us grow quiet, watch the racecars zip past. I spread the white, sticky suntan lotion over my arms, my face. The crowd shouts and cheers, calls out names I donâ€™t recognize. The sun slips from behind a cloud so I shield my eyes. It doesnâ€™t help. The sun reflects off the aluminum bleachers, scattering light in every direction.
â€œI told you to bring your sunhat, Miss Fancy,â€ Sharon says.
â€œWell, I guess now you suffer.â€
â€œWait a second,â€ Teddy says. His voice is different, his tone milder. I gaze at him, unsure what to expect. â€œI know what this little munchkin needs,â€ he says.
Teddy wears a baseball cap with the words Boob Patrol printed in bubble letters above the brim. Below that appear two peach-painted half-eggs bound together by a strip of cinched red cloth. They look like the breasts of a real grown woman. Teddy whips off his cap.
â€œHere, put this on. Itâ€™ll help.â€
â€œBaby, take that off her head right this instant,â€ Sharon says. â€œPeople will stare.â€
â€œSharon, chill. No oneâ€™s watching us.â€
Looking down at me, he asks, â€œYou like your hat?â€
â€œWhy does it say Boob Patrol?â€ I ask.
â€œThat tells ladies Iâ€™m on the prowl.â€
Sharon clucks like a barnyard hen and slugs Teddyâ€™s arm.
â€œWhatâ€™s so great about boobs?â€ I ask.
Sharon pops a stick of gum in her mouth. â€œNot a damn thing. Theyâ€™re actually pretty useless.â€
â€œWhat about when I get boobs?â€ My fingers graze the half-egg boobs. Theyâ€™re round, hard and perfect, like the globe in the library at school.
â€œItâ€™s simple, munchkin,â€ Teddy says, sipping his soda. â€œOne day youâ€™ll spread those legs and let some boy hammer it between your legs. Thatâ€™s how you become a woman.â€
â€œMiss Fancy!â€ Sharon says quickly, snapping her fingers. She digs through her purse like she canâ€™t find her keys. â€œHereâ€™s some money,â€ she says. â€œBring back hot dogs.â€ When I take the cash, she gives me a pained look. Iâ€™ve seen it before.
I start the steep climb up the bleachers. Itâ€™s too hot, and I want to go home. Teddy knows things. Maybe he tells Sharon what he knows while Iâ€™m upstairs in my room. Iâ€™m glad she sent me away. Iâ€™m glad Teddy canâ€™t see me dizzy and clumsy on the steps.
One day Iâ€™ll be a real grown woman.