Memories of Aiyana 8: (Her Birthday)
That was the year we turned six.
You know, I’ve always wondered what would have happened if my host mother hadn’t gotten into that accident.
This might take some explaining.
I was being carried by a host mother; my expected arrival date was supposed to be right around December 5th. Given my actual birth weight and size – 39 centimeters, 2.1 kilograms – I would have been about 55-57 centimeters and 3.5 kilograms if I’d gone to term. Now, I know premature babies are supposed to ‘catch up’ to full-term babies by the time they’re two or so, but I have to wonder. Would I have been as tall as Cass? She’s only a few centimeters taller than I am now. Okay, okay. Twelve centimeters, if you want to get picky about it.
Anyways, she was 54 centimeters and 3.2 kilograms, so…
In any case, we were six that year, and she and I got into a hell of a fight.
Our birthdays are three weeks apart, exactly. In 2086, our actual birthdays were on Mondays, which sucked, because it was a school day and we couldn’t have our parties on our actual birthdays. But it was fun, because it was a school day and everyone in our class made a fuss over each of us on our day. I guess it wasn’t all bad.
Our parents decided we’d have a joint birthday. I suspect it was mostly my parents; they’d already done the whole ‘bring up children’ thing by the time I stumbled into their lives. I knew they loved me, but they didn’t always have time for me. Or patience. Or energy, for that matter. I think they found the idea of a bunch of six-year-olds running around the house a bit intimidating.
The date they settled on was October 5, the closest to ‘middle’ Saturday. Invitations were duly sent, hand-delivered by us both on the bus and in the school, and Cass’s folks started to prepare for a horde of schoolchildren to descend on their home.
We ‘helped’, mostly by staying out of the way, but we were excited. It was the first joint birthday, and we were giddy with the idea we’d be celebrating together. It seemed perfectly natural, too, sort of a, “Why haven’t we done this before?” moment. We did everything else together, after all. Why not this?
Finally, finally, it was the morning of the party, and we got exiled to my house for the surprise preparations. We had strict instructions not to get dirty, as we’d been bathed and dressed nicely. At least as nicely as we’d stand it, which meant clean clothes which didn’t have any visible tears or stains. Maybe low standards, but we were rough on clothing, especially me. There was never a nail I couldn’t find!
We did our best, but as you might guess we didn’t succeed.
We were running around the yard. Nothing new there, right? It’s what we did. So, running. And Minnesota, early fall, one of those beautiful days where the temperature spiked up to about 30 and it was sunny and beautiful, so we kicked off our shoes and socks and were having a blast.
Until Cass stepped in the cow droppings.
She didn’t just step in them; she went full-on, up to her ankle in one, and then skidded and fell.
It was impressive, in a smelly, disgusting sort of way.
I don’t know quite how I did it but I managed to avoid the splatter and come to a stop.
She nodded. “Uh-huh. But it stinks!”
I reached out to pull her up, then wrinkled my nose. “You’re right.”
I think that’s when she realized what had happened, and processed through the consequences.
“Oh no!” she wailed.
I wasn’t as quick, but I knew she was hurting.
Then it hit me, too. Oh crap.
“It’s all your fault!” she yelled.
“If you weren’t chasing me I wouldn’t have fallen!”
Well, her logic was sound, but I wasn’t going to admit it.
“If you weren’t so clumsy you wouldn’t have stepped in the cow pie!”
(Yes. That’s what I called them.)
“You ruined my clothes!”
“Did not! You fell!”
“Because you were chasing me!”
“Because you were running!”
I thought I had her there.
Now this was new, and low. We both knew that Cass was smarter than I was. I wasn’t stupid, by any means, but she was, is, so smart she makes intelligent people look bad. But we never discussed it; it was just one of the things she did well, or better than me, just like I could do things better than her.
“Am not!” Hardly a blistering retort.
Then she scooped up a handful of the pie and flung it at me!
I dodged, but the second handful was aimed where she figured I’d duck and it hit me squarely in the chest. Of course, at that point there was nothing for it but to jump on her and try to get her to stop, since she had all the ammo.
The fact we were rolling around on a rapidly-flattening cow pie was totally lost on us, as we both tried to pound the hell out of the other.
It was our first real fight, in the sort of “I’m mad and I’m going to do my best to hurt you” way. Neither of us knew what we were doing, not really, though Aiyana did have an advantage: she had an older brother. Which meant she had the equivalent of a graduate course in torment. What saved me was she hadn’t yet completely developed the cool head in a crisis she has today. She got mad and she forgot a bunch of what she wanted to do to me, in other words.
She still thumped me good. Have I mentioned she’s always been taller? Probably. She ended up straddling my middle, doing her damnedest to hit my head, but I was smart enough to bring my arms up and block most of them while yelling my head off.
Her mom came running out and screeched to a halt when she caught sight of us. I can only imagine the scene, from her perspective: her daughter, red hair all wild and frizzed out, covered with cow shit from nose to toes, sitting on top of her best friend and whaling away with both fists. Said best friend, yours truly, equally covered in lovely cow by-products and screaming mostly incoherently for help.
Honestly, if it was me, I might have thought to go back and grab a hose. We were both messy and smelly and thoroughly disreputable and the party was supposed to be starting in about ten minutes. (I found out later, much later, years later, that while she was staring at us in horror the first guest arrived.)
So no hose, just a yelp of, “Aiyana!”
I swear Cass levitated, she was off me so fast. Then I was up, too. We’re both standing there with hang-dog looks on our faces, though not looking at each other, and her mom’s face is simply horrified. That might have gone on for hours, but then a door slammed and it broke the spell.
“Aiyana Rosewind Cassidy! March yourself, no.” She rethought what she was going to say. “You and Kendra go over her house and bathe. I don’t know what this was about, and I don’t care right now. We’ll discuss it later, you can be sure.”
“I don’t wanna go to her house,” Cass muttered, loudly enough for me to hear but not mom.
“I don’t want your stinky butt in my house,” I said just as quietly.
Her mom had better ears than we thought; she said, “I don’t care what either of you want, unless you want me to call off your party you’re going to get cleaned up at Kendra’s house!”
“Yes, mama,” Cass said.
“Yes, ma’am,” I said simultaneously.
We trudged the couple hundred meters that separated our homes, miserable and sullen and wrapped in our own thoughts. When we finally made it, several lifetimes later, Dad was standing outside and waiting for us. I had the wisdom not to speak.
“Clothes off. I don’t know whether to burn them or bury them,” he said, half-joking. We dropped the smelly things on the grass and followed him into the house to the downstairs bathroom, where a bath was already filling.
Have I mentioned my Dad was a really smart guy? I mean, yeah, he was a retired diplomat, but that’s nothing. He was smart.
He had a bubble bath running.
Now, I didn’t ask whether or what he’d heard, then or later. But he must have been told something about what happened, and the mood we both seemed to be in.
But bubbles…! Bubbles always made everything better!
By the time we were in the bath two minutes we were giggling and splashing each other, mad forgotten.
In ten minutes we were clean and didn’t smell like cow. In fifteen we were dried off and dressed and headed back, hand-in-hand.
Oh, clothes? She and I spent so much time at each other’s home that our parents just kept some portion of our wardrobes at the other house. She didn’t have the selection she’d have at home, but it was enough so we were both smiling and happy with how we looked, and that’s how we ended up getting to our first joint birthday party fashionably late.
Never did see those outfits again, now I think of it.