This is the story of me and Nat, mostly. It’s also about Theo and Petra and Zoe and Gage and all our parents and then life in general, but it’s mostly about me and Nat. To tell it right, I should start at the beginning.
Mrs. Dawson stood at the door, greeting all of her new kindergarteners and their parents. She turned from one and saw a former student, Zoe Bryson, holding the hand of a little boy with dark hair.
“Hi, Mrs. Dawson! My-mom-couldn’t-come-so-this-is-Nat-my-brother-bye!” Zoe said all at once as she turned and left.
“My name is Nathaniel Roland Bryson, but most everyone calls me Nat. I cannot wait to grace this institute of learning,” said the impeccably dressed little boy. He marched into the classroom, ignoring the puzzled looks of all those in earshot.
Later, Mrs. Dawson explained the next activity. “I will be testing you and putting you in reading groups while Miss Meghan reads everyone else a story. You’ll look at some letters and numbers, then I’ll tell you if you’re a Sparrow, a Seagull, or an Eagle. First up is Annemarie Williams.”
Slowly, Mrs. Dawson worked her way through the students, putting them largely in the Sparrow group, with a rare few Seagulls. Then she called me. “Alexandria Donella, your turn.”
I whipped through the letter identification and simple sentences, then put the confused teacher at ease by telling her I had been reading for two years already.
“Well, Alexandria, is there anything else I should know?”
“It’s Alex. I’m named Alexandria because my dad loves Alexander the Great. He’s a history professor, so all of us have history names. There’s me and Theodora, after Justinian’s wife, only we call her Theo, and Petra, cause of Peter the Great. Petra’s just a little kid though, she doesn’t understand the important historical stuff yet.”
“Oh. Okay then. Well, Alex, you’re an Eagle. Please send me Royce Crilen.”
I sent in Royce and went back to the story, a lovely ditty about sharing and caring and friendship. After Royce, it was Nat’s turn. Later, I found out his test went a lot like mine. We were the only Eagles in the class.
The next day we started our reading groups and stations. Nat and I started at the toy station, much to the jealousy of the Sparrows and Seagulls. At first, we were extremely wary of each other, recalling the cooties our siblings discussed so frequently. Then we decided to collaborate on a monstrous Lego tower. Nat looked at me and said, “I think you’re okay, but I’ll only be your friend if you don’t have cooties. Theo says they’re icky.” I swore that I was clean, and from then on we were friends.
My sixth birthday was marked by a small party, just my family and Nat’s. It seemed like everyone got along. Our moms had new best friends in each other, our dads were instant drinking buddies, our older sisters were already friends from being in the same third grade class that year, and even the toddlers had a blast playing in the dirt. The first sign of trouble was when Nat and I got bored. We wandered down into my family’s basement and discovered the most wondrous contraption. An elliptical machine. We played on it for a few minutes, no problem, but then Nat dared me to jump on it after he started pushing it. Naturally, I fell. My arm got caught and there was a crunch. We went straight to the hospital and I never got my cake. Nat was the first to sign my cast.
Somehow, we managed to weather the stormy elementary years when I could barely keep track of whether or not girls could be friends with boys that week. By junior high, Nat and I had made a pact to never like each other “that way,” and we’ve stuck to it. We’re now in our senior year, six months from graduation.