Her name was Julie, but I didn't know that until years later.
I only knew of her as, “The little bastard next door.”
One summer day, as I was waiting for my friend Marie, outside her apartment building, I saw a brown-haired, blue-eyed girl sitting alone on the next-door steps, playing Jacks.
I realized that she must be “the little bastard” the neighborhood children were not
allowed to play with.
Marie came out and, seeing the girl sitting on the steps, looked around until she found a
pebble. She threw it at the girl as she shouted, “Bastard, Bastard.”
Following Marie's lead, I found a rock and shouted, “Bastard, Bastard,” as I threw it. The
rock hit the little girl's forehead. She didn't cry out. She didn't have to. I could see the
pain in her eyes as she looked at me. She put her hand to her head and slowly walked
up the steps.
Marie took the “Jacks” and ball and threw them in the street. We talked and laughed
about it as we walked to the nearby playground.
Marie and I drifted apart soon after as she moved to another neighborhood.
Recently, by chance, I met a childhood friend who had remained in touch with Marie.
She gave me Marie's phone number, and Marie seemed delighted to hear from me. We
talked and laughed about what fun it would be to resume our friendship.
I asked if she had ever gone back to her old neighborhood. Marie said yes, she had.
She went back for JuIie's funeral. Julie killed herself when she was fifteen years old.
Joy Wessel is a writer living in California.