12. In Love With Spring: My Novel Online
Updated: Dec 8, 2019
Allie’s gorgeous head of hair was the envy of every girl in school. Her dazzling blue eyes had caused more than one boy’s heart to pound inside his ribcage like construction workers behind scaffolding. She had dozens of best friends. She’d never been teased, so she had no idea what it was like to be shy; she’d always been loved and pampered, so she didn’t have any concept of insecurity. In any group she was the leader, the one everyone called first. She was practically a prerequisite for any get together. Her grades weren’t the best, but of course no one is perfect. Besides, Allie had so much self confidence that she maintained (perhaps erroneously, but no one would ever know for sure) the conviction that if she really applied herself, she would earn A’s in every subject.
She should have been perfectly happy. If only… if only!
Carly had cramps every month that were so bad that she was on medication that left her dopey for hours. Tina said her periods sometimes lasted for two weeks. Janine said her flow was so light that she could go to bed—even on the first night! without wearing a pad. Allie always listened with feigned nonchalance; expressed sympathy about Carly’s cramps and Tina’s extended periods, and said “You are so lucky!” to Janine, but never offered any menstrual anecdotes of her own.
Several times a week she would go into the bathroom, peel off her nightgown, and examine her body in the full-length mirror on the door. There was nothing wrong with her plum-sized breasts. She didn’t have a lot of pubic hair, but it was enough. And she’d been shaving her legs and underarms for three months.
“So where is my period?” she asked Mandy over and over. “What if I don’t get it?”
Mandy always said, “Don’t worry, you’ll get it!” She refrained from adding, “And when you do, you’ll probably wish you didn’t!” What a pain in the neck it was, changing the tampon, feeling bloated, face breaking out, unable to wear white on certain days. In the beginning she really hated it—like all girls she started with pads, and it was so gross. And the worst part was, she was only ten, and no one else she knew had started yet. But once she got used to it, it was okay.
“What if I can’t ever have children?”
“Allie, you’re fine! Everyone is different. You’ll get it!”
A few days before Christmas break Janine announced her recent conversion to tampons.
“I tried one once, it wouldn’t go in,” Carly said. “It hurt wicked bad.”
“They have a new kind, they’re smaller. It hurt a little at first, but then it went right in. It’s SO much better,” Janine said.
“I’m going to try them,” Carly said.
Tina turned to Allie. “What kind do you use?” When Allie didn’t answer, she went on, “Come to think of it, you never talk about it. How old were you when you started?”
Allie had imagined them asking her this so many times that she’d planned her answer: Oh, I suppose I was around 11. But now all she could do was stutter, “Um, I don’t remember.”
“You don’t remember?” Tina persisted, her eyes narrowing like a snotty cat.
She knows! Allie thought in horror. She saw Tina exchange a glance with the others, and she realized they all knew. “Eleven,” she amended quickly. “I was eleven. I had to stay home sick that day because my cramps were so bad. I couldn’t eat anything. Finally I had some soup and went to bed. I slept for fourteen hours.”
Silence greeted her tardy embellishment. They don’t believe me! How dare they not believe me! “Fourteen hours, a long time, huh?” She forced herself to laugh. This would never happen to Jules—she’d just tell them she hadn’t started yet, and to mind their own business. I wish I could do that!
Her stomach felt uneasy for the rest of the day. That evening she pulled Mandy aside as soon as she got home from work and told her about it, indulging in a few self-pitying tears, and calling Tina a name she’d never use in front of Mom.
“Allie, I know it’s hard to believe, but in a few years you won’t even remember this, and neither will Tina.”
Allie nodded, but still felt sick. They know I lied. They’re all probably laughing at me right now.
The next morning she caught up with them at their lockers.
“Janine isn’t in,” Tina told her.
Carly wrinkled her nose. “Probably home with a bad case of zits!”
“Her skin is gross,” Tina put in.
Relieved, Allie said, “If her skin is so oily, why is her hair so dry?” and when they laughed, shame flooded her. Poor Janine! It’s not her fault she has a bad complexion. And a little VO5 would give her hair shine.
“She has no chin,” Carly said, and Tina said, “She does so, it’s got a zit on it!”
Allie closed her locker and spun the lock for no reason except to conceal that she wasn’t laughing with them. My friends are so ugly when they gang up on someone, and I’m just as bad. Worse, even, because I know it’s wrong and I keep doing it. She took a deep breath. I should say Okay, so I haven’t gotten my period yet, is that such a crime? I should suggest we be a little more compassionate, and when one of us is upset, we should ty to help her, not attack her. But even thinking about it made her sweat. The idea of promoting kindness to her crowd seemed so ludicrous. And the thought of behaving differently from her friends was… she couldn’t even think about it, that’s how bad it was.
A few days after Christmas Allie woke very early with a vague stomach ache. She got up and went into the bathroom, and when she pulled down her panties she saw a bright red spot of blood.
“My period!” she said out loud, gazing at it like it was a ruby. She fixed herself up with a pad from the linen closet, then went straight into Mandy’s room and jumped on the bed.
“Guess what! Guess what!”
“What?” Mandy snapped awake in alarm. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing’s wrong, everything is great!”
“Allie! What time is it?”
“Five. Guess what!”
“There better be a good reason for this,” snarled Jules, the room’s other resident. She and Simon had been up until 3:00 a.m. watching movies on HBO, and what she wanted right now was a few more hours of sleep.
Mandy had been studying Allie’s face, and suddenly she said, “You got your period!”
“Well,” said Jules, “that’s pretty big.”
“How do you feel?”
“Crampy! Fabulously crampy!”
“Was today the day?” came Lisbeth’s voice from the doorway.
Lisbeth shivered and got into bed with Jules, who pulled the covers tight around her and observed dryly, “I don’t recall throwing a party when I got my period.”
“When was it, Jules?” Allie asked. “You never said anything about it.”
“I have no idea.”
“Really? You don’t remember?”
“She was thirteen.” Mandy smiled. “She came out of the bathroom all matter of fact and said, Where are those pad thingies?”
“Lissie, how old were you?”
“How did you feel?”
Lisbeth thought back; it wasn’t a happy memory. “I didn’t like it. I was scared. I didn’t tell anyone for four months.”
“Because I didn’t want to grow up. I wasn’t like you guys. I wasn’t excited about stuff like that, those rites of passage or whatever. I was afraid of change. I wanted things to always stay the same. Getting my period meant it was time to grow up, and I didn’t think I was ready.” She shook her head. “I almost got my wish and didn’t grow up.”
The four girls sat solemnly. Jules’ arm found its way around Lisbeth’s still-too-thin waist.
“Even though Dad doesn’t live with us anymore, we have so much to be thankful for,” Mandy said after a moment.
Jules was smug. “Yeah, I guess the April girls have gotten through another year without any help from anyone.”
“The April women,” Allie corrected.