When I was in fifth grade my baby brother was born, and we had to move to a larger apartment to accommodate for this third child. I adored the baby, and together with my parents and younger sister celebrated his long-awaited arrival, but I hated everything about our new neighbourhood on the other side of Rishon LeZion. The streets were dreary, and the kids surly and condescending; especially after the stupid little pooch that belonged to the nastiest boy next door chased my dad’s car, got himself entangled in the wheels, and was crushed to death. Shelling that boy and his friends with improvised water balloons didn’t increase my popularity, but who could resist such delicious temptation?
My entire being screamed to join my friends in the old neighbourhood: crawl into the thicket of the abandoned guava orchard behind my house; climb the crazy old woman’s loquat tree, pushing sweet fistfuls of that small, yolk-coloured fruit into our mouths and pockets as we shinned up the branches; venture beyond our school that marked the neighbourhood’s edge and step into the open fields brimming with wild flowers and citrus groves.
My new neighbourhood offered no children to play with, no fruit trees to climb, and no fresh oranges to pick. While my old friends continued to frolic outdoors each afternoon until their mothers called them home for supper, I sat in my new room feeling sorry for myself.
By then I already knew to avoid the company of girls; their mind games baffled and frustrated me to no end. It was like trying to figure out a foreign language without a dictionary. The girls in my new class were no different, but by mid-year I found company in my classmate and upstairs neighbour Nitzan, who invited me to join a small band of boys from our class. Although I was the only girl among them, they accepted me as their equal, and I proved them right, roaming far beyond our neighbourhood in search of adventures, keeping pace with them climbing fences and trees, and soon becoming the group’s designated goalie. I was happy with my new friends and no longer reminisced about the old ones.
In seventh grade my world turned upside down. My buddies, other than Nitzan, transformed into creepy aliens almost overnight. They now ogled me as a different species, eyes halting on parts of my body that seemed to have betrayed me. Twisting myself around to examine my rear end, following one of the boys' remarks, I was astonished to discover it somehow grew far wider than I could recall. I was similarly flabbergasted when some classmates suggested I consider getting myself a bra.
“A bra?” I replied, glancing at my bumpy chest. “What on earth for?”
I later dismissed such intrusions with a shrug, but I couldn’t ignore my shifting emotions; I too was affected by mysterious changes and now blushed at the sight of the group’s leader.
I had no choice but withdraw from the gang.