When I was very young, just five years old, in my first year of school, I decided at one point that I wanted to be a big girl, and catch the bus with the other big kids.
Which was fine, of course, in my safe small town. But walking to the bus stop came down to two choices- the long way, right round the main street of my tiny, four street ‘suburb’ at the edge of a lake in Paradise, with a back pack almost as big as I was, ponytails bouncing on either side of head, socks pulled up to scabby knees..
Or it meant walking the back way, down a side street that I hardly ever went down, never walked down, never rode my bike down. Because it was so big and quiet, and most of the houses belonged to holiday makers, so they were empty and seemed to stare at me with their reflective glassy eyes.
I don’t remember how it happened, I guess you never do when you’re that young, friendships just form like flour and water into glue. But two older boys, twins, they lived down the street from me. And every afternoon, they would walk me through that scary back street, and drop me at my front door.
One of them, one afternoon, he snuck me into the backyard of the house closest to the bust stop, and showed me what seemed to be an ocean of a cabbage patch, filled with broad green leaves.
And on those leaves were tiny, shiny ladybugs, red specks whose tiny legs tickled my fingertips, and this boy showed me how to pick them, lift them up without squashing them.
I know him again, now I’m back in Paradise. He left for a while, and now he’s back here too.
It feels like I’ve known him for years. I guess, in a way, I have.
And he still makes me feel safe.
I think I trust him enough to hold my hand, every now and then, while I walk through the scary bits.