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Complicate Me(3)

By:M. Robinson

I wrapped my arms around his neck and held on as tight as I could, while my good leg draped over his lower back and my hurt one sat stiff as a board in the air. I laid my head on his shoulder and closed my eyes, but I couldn’t hold back the tears. I cried the entire way to his house. His shirt was covered in nothing but my sissy tears by the time he parked his bike on his front lawn. He didn’t say a word about it when he kissed my forehead, telling me everything was going to be alright and that he would never let anything happen to me. He carried me inside while the rest of the boys patiently waited for the wrath of our mothers, knowing they would be yelled at for letting me do something so careless.

Lucas held my hand the entire time his dad stitched me up and not once made me feel bad about crying. The rest of the month, while my knee healed, I rode on the handlebars of his bike. The boys continuously offered me to hitch a ride with them, but Lucas was adamant that I was only riding on his handlebars. If they thought he was being possessive over me, they never shared it.

That’s just how we were with each other and they knew it.

And then there was little ol’ me, Alexandra Collins. The truth was everyone thought I was supposed to be a boy, even the doctor. Much to my parents and families surprise I came out a girl, screaming like a bat outta hell to put me back in. My parents already had a name picked out for me. They were going to call me Alexander, Alex for short. Seeing as they didn’t have much time to decide on another name, they wrote down Alexandra on my birth certificate and still called me Alex for short. I grew up with these boys, at ten years old I was a Half-Pint compared to all of them. They had been calling me that since the day we watched an episode of Little House on the Prairie and the dad called Laura Ingalls, Half-Pint.

I never crawled, I went right to walking and my first word was, “Shit.” My mom slapped my dad on the back of the head the moment it came out of my mouth, at least that’s what they told me. Like I said before, I was the only child, Dylan and I had that in common. I never wished for siblings, I didn’t need to I had my boys. I stuck to them like gum did on the bottom of your shoe. One way or another they were my big brothers. I loved each one of them in my own way. The feelings were very much mutual, I would do anything for them and vice-versa. We were best friends, day in and day out.

I stomped my foot on the ground to emphasize my words. “You let me up there! Before I… before I…” I stumbled on my words.

“Before you what, Half-Pint? Go running to mommy and daddy and tellin’,” Dylan shouted.

My mouth dropped open. “I would do no such thing! I ain’t no tattle tale. Now you let me up there, ya hear?”

“Come on, guys, just let her come up,” Lucas reasoned, looking from me to them.

I nodded in agreement. “Yeah come on, guys, just let me up there,” I repeated.

Sometimes they would get a stick up their ass and just want to pick on me for no good reason. I hated when they did this, I think they got a kick out of me not backing down. They wanted to see my feisty spirit, the same one they so proudly claimed was due to them.

Austin rolled his eyes. “I knew you would be the first one to cave!” He pushed Jacob in the chest. “Told ya! You owe me five dollars.”

Jacob glared at him and then back at me. “Fine! We were just teasing you, we were going to let you up here anyway. You’re so easy to tease, being a Half-Pint and all.”

“Yeah, whatever.” I shrugged, brushing him off. “I could take you on any day, just tell me when and where, Jacob Foster.”

“You and what army, Alexandra!”

“Don’t call me that! My name’s Half-Pint.”

Lucas laughed and threw down the ladder for me to climb. As soon as my foot touched the last step he held out his hand for me to take and I smiled as he pulled me up the rest of the way.

“Wow! This is awesome!” I said, looking all around me. They had made it into our own little fort, but their heads barely cleared the roof. I opened the lid of one of the compartments near the front entrance.

“No!” Lucas shouted, shutting it forcefully behind me, making the floor rattle.

The rest of the boys broke out into laughter.

I cocked my head to the side, confused. “What?”

“Nothin’. You don’t need to go in there is all,” Lucas justified.

I put my hands on my hips. “Why not?”

I caught Austin blushing. Jacob and Dylan were grinning like two fools. I thought their faces might get stuck like that.

“What?” I repeated, wanting to know what the big deal was about.

“Just let her look, Lucas, she’s going to find out eventually what’s going to happen to her,” Jacob interjected, making Lucas scowl over at him.

“What’s going to happen to me?” I asked, even more curious than I was before.

Lucas sighed, knowing I wouldn’t back down until I got my answer. He stepped aside and let me open the lid again. I looked down below and all I saw were women’s faces looking back at me. They were barely dressed and posing like something you would see Jessica Rabbit do.

I told them over and over again not to bring those magazines up here. They knew that our Half-Pint shadow would get her way and be up here hanging out with us. Everywhere we went she wasn’t that far behind us. I swear the boys did it on purpose, constantly wanting her to admit that she was a girl and not one of us. We all loved her in our own way, it wasn’t coming from a bad place but she was just a girl, and we never let her live that down.

I loved picking on her as much as the other boys did. I believed it was in my blood to do it. My dad picked on my mom relentlessly, and my grandfather did the same with my grandmother. It was a Ryder trait. If we didn’t pick on our girls, then we didn’t love them enough. My dad constantly reminded my mom that the day he stopped picking on her would be the day he stopped loving her.

I watched her bright brown eyes widen as she picked up the July issue of one of the magazines. She opened the first few pages and gasped letting it go. It fell to the ground at our feet. The guys all busted out laughing and it took everything in me not to kick them each in the balls for what I knew she must have seen.

“Why are they doing that?” she quickly questioned, the subtle red approaching her cheekbones while her stare remained on the magazine laying open on the floor again.

“They’re posing,” I simply replied, knowing it wouldn’t be enough of an answer for her.

“Yeah but why they posin’ like that? They’re naked.” She wouldn’t look up at me and I knew why. She didn’t want us to see her looking embarrassed and insecure. The pigtails on top of her head already made her appear like a child.

I glared at the guys, they all cockily held my penetrating gaze, not paying any mind at how pissed off I was. I had a bit of a temper. I could go from zero to ten in nanoseconds. That was also a Ryder trait.

Dylan patted my back. “It’s alright, Lucas, I’ll tell her. Those women are posing like that.” He nodded toward the ground. “Because men use those magazines to play with their—”

I shoved him and his back hit the wall. He bounced off of it and laughed so hard that he nearly fell over. “Oh come on, Lucas, stop being such a pansy and just tell her. She has a right to know what happens when we all grow up,” he justified, infuriating me further.

“What happens?” her soft voice trailed, making her pouty lips pucker out.

Jacob smiled. “Nothin’ to worry your pint-sized head about. It’s just boy stuff, and one day when Lucas doesn’t get his panties all in a bunch about it we will tell you.”

“But I want to know now,” she replied, looking over at him. I'm not going to lie, it stung like hell that she looked at Jacob but wouldn’t look at me.

Why didn’t she look at me?

“Of course you do. Can I tell her, Lucas? Or are you going to push me again if I do?” Dylan asked, watching me like a hawk.

I shrugged, sweeping the hair back from my face and walking toward the back of the tree house away from all of them. “Whatever.” I leaned against the wooden wall and placed one foot in front of the other, getting comfortable and crossing my arms.

I tried to ignore the feeling in the pit of my stomach. I wanted Alex to stay innocent. We were all changing — our bodies, our needs, our emotions. They were evolving into something I didn’t quite understand yet. It terrified me that she might think less of me if I wasn’t the boy she had grown up beside and loved.

He stepped closer to her and reached for the magazine. “This, Half-Pint, is a nudie magazine. These girls get paid a shit ton of money to show men their bodies.”

Her face frowned, taking in his words. “Why?”

“Why not?”

“I understand why men would want to look at them, I’m not stupid.”

She didn’t get it. She was just trying to save face.

“But why would the women want to be looked at like that?”

“Some women want the attention. One day you’ll look like that and you will understand.”

Her head jerked back, offended. “I will never look like that, Dylan, you’re dead wrong about that one.”

Damn straight she wouldn’t. I’d never let her.