Crazy Charlsie Part 3

School become a hostile place for Charley. ¬†When boys and girls started pairing off, Charley found herself on the outside. ¬†Finding no particular boy attractive, she was confused to hear ¬†girls continuously chatter “Johnny, David, or Mark is cute.” None of them were cute to her. ¬†They were just boys, no different than last month or last year. ¬†Wanting to fit in, she offered up the observation, ¬†“Robert is cute.” ¬† They snide group burst ¬†into laughter. and began ridiculing her and Robert. ¬† Apparent, the skinny red-headed lad hadn’t made the standard cute list. Sing-song shouts ¬†of “Charley loves Robert” rang to the treetops. ¬†Bashful Robert was humiliated to find himself the focus of the girls’ ridicule and fled the crowd. ¬†From then on he avoided Charley like the plague. ¬†Shame and rejection darkened her perception of herself. ¬†She withdrew and it was as though she had a target on her back. ¬†The meaner of her tormentors them resurrected stories about her mother’s madness ¬†and labeled her ¬†“Crazy Charlsie!” ¬†The torment was relentless.

The Barnes children from next door were as familiar to Charley as breathing, a bright spot n her dessert. ¬† The twin boys were a year older and Julia a year younger. ¬†They’d played cops and robbers, ball, ridden bicycles and built a treehouse together. ¬†When the darkness descended at schoole snde group she ended even more on their friendship. ¬†They were always able to take her mind off the confusing changes she faced. ¬†With Charley approaching puberty, Mrs. Barnes sought to put some distance between Charley and the boys. ¬†She forbade horseplay and physical contact, fearing it would awaken young sexuality. ¬†This abrupt change disturbed Charley ¬†further. ¬†Perhaps Mrs. Barnes saw disturbing changes in Charley and put a stop to sleepovers with Julia.

One morning Charley wouldn’t come down when Cora called her for breakfast. ¬†Cora found her in the bathroom staring dully at her bloodstained panties. ¬†“I’m dying, Cora. ¬†Why is this happening to me? ¬†You’d better call my father.” She spoke in a monotone.

“Aw Lawdy, Honey. ¬†You ain’t dying. ¬†You just got the curse. ¬†That means you can have a baby now. ¬†Don’t you let no boys be kissing you. ¬†You gonna bleed a few days ever’ twenty-eight days now till you ’bout forty. ¬†You’ll git used to it. ¬†I meant to talk to you ‘fore it happened an’ it done slipped up on us. ¬†Let me get you a pad and belt¬†an’ I’ll show you what to do.” ¬†Cora thought she was comforting Charlie.

Charley was appalled at this unwelcome news. ¬†“I don’t want to be a woman. ¬†What if somebody finds out about this. ¬†I ain’t going to school. ¬†Everybody already laughs at me. ¬†I wish I could just run off somewhere and live by myself. ¬†I can’t stand this!” ¬†Charley wailed.

“Yes, you can! Won’t nobody know if you don’t tell ’em. ¬†Ain’t no way nobody would ¬†as long as you keep your pad changed an’ don’t slip up an’ soil yourself. ¬†You need keep a spare pad in your purse. ¬†If you start at school, you can get one from the gym teacher.” ¬†Cora continued her talk. ¬†“You can’t swim, take a bath, ner wash you hair during your period or you might make it stop. Be real careful not to go out barefooted with dew on the ground, neither. ¬†That’s the worst. ¬† I had a friend once that done all that an’ once she finally had chillun’ ¬†ever’ one of ’em had fits. ¬†You know what fits is, don’t you? ¬†You wouldn’t want to do nuthin’ to make yore pore little chillun’ have fits, would you?” ¬†Cora waxed colorful in her warnings as Charley’s spirits hit the dirt.

“Cora, I never carried a purse in my life. ¬†Can you imagine all the laughing if if start dragging a purse a few days a month? ¬†There ain’t no way I could ask the gym teacher for nothing. ¬†She hates me. ¬†How can I go to school if I can’t take a bath? I’ll just stay home if I get another curse and you don’t need to worry about me kissing a boy! ¬†I’d sooner kiss a pig than that mean bunch up at school. ¬†I ain’t gonna marry so there ain’t gonna be no kids to have fits.” ¬†Charley was working up a good mad as though Cora was responsible for the insult of her menstrual cycle.

“Charley, ain’t no use in carrying on so over God’s doing. ¬†Now you just git yourself ready an’ git on to school. ¬†Take a pad with you an’ you’ll do fine. ¬†You can put it in your lunch bag an’ leave it in your locker to change after lunch. ¬†Now, scoot!”

With a miserable scowl, Charley collected her things and stomped out the back door.