My friend's father moved away one year, leaving her in a huge house in Hope Ranch with her mother and two teenage sisters who tortured her.
"How do they torture you?" I asked, hoping she would tell me this time.
"Lots of different ways," she said. She stuttered slightly. Her nose was long and unusual. Everything else about her looked perfect.
"They take my fingers and bend them back. Last year they broke my wrist," she said, poking through my backpack to find my lucky rabbit's foot. At twelve, my friend already had a curvy body, but insisted my shapeless one was perfect. She tried to hide her nose with her long dark hair.
"Where is your dad now?" I asked. Both our mothers kept shaving mugs in the back of closets. We had this in common.
"Tyler, Texas," she drawled, in a phony, coquettish voice.
When I slept over we watched TV, running into the kitchen for brownies during commercials. Whatever was on Fright Night would get us squealing under one blanket, hiding our necks from vampires. I hated it when her pretty sisters wandered in while we were watching TV just to call her "Pee-Butt" and "Doo-Doo." That was as bad as they got when I was visiting. They smiled at me hard as they left the room, throwing their hair in loops around their long, gorgeous necks.
One morning, as we were washing our faces, my friend told me I was going to be pretty. I didn't say anything, for I was curious about it myself. That spring my face had grown bigger and sort of interesting from the side.
"What do you want for your birthday?" she asked.
"A rock polisher, but I think they're too expensive."
She looked away quickly, then turned back with cheeks that were warm and wet.
"My mom has cancer," she said.
She explained that her father was coming and that they would fly to Texas together. That way she could get used to living there in the summer before school started. We wouldn't be able to see each other, but she would write to me.
The day before she left for Texas we didn't know what to do—so we lay in my yard on beach towels, tanning. Rubbing Coppertone on her back, I admired her smooth skin. I spread the lotion in deeply because this was the last time. I made myself look at her. From here, she had already become a woman.