By Traci Arbios, herdingsquirrels.com
We sat around the campfire, telling ghost stories of one kind or another. There was the one where the couple on Lover’s Lane end up with the hook in the door; the one where the escaped mental patient shows up at the campfire itself, to the terror of the campfire listeners; and then my children’s favorites, the stories I find most horrifying of all: The stories of my social mortification.
“Come on mom, tell that one!”
“What one?” I feign.
“You know, the ONE. The Most HORRIBLE Story of All!” Seeing the glint of fear and anticipation in their eyes, who am I to disappoint?
“Alright. Here goes …
“She was fifteen-years old. A simple girl in search of simple things, a girl who was kind and naive; a girl who was exactly like you (“but smarter!” they shout) and looked like you (“but cuter!” they sing) and dressed like you (“but cheaper!” they laugh). In fact, this girl could be you, any one of you …”
“Except she wasn’t!” They ring out.
“No, she wasn’t. Lucky for you.
“One random Wednesday evening, the girl, who for the purposes of this story we will call ‘Graci,’ and her best friend went to her church’s youth group. It was almost like any other night at youth group: There would be teens, there would be laughter, there was going to be a teen-only Mass. And even better …”
“The boy she liked would be there!” the kids fill in.
“Exactly. The boy she had the biggest crush on ever in the history of big crushes: Darren Brown. He was cute. He was funny. And best of all, he was smart. Very, very smart. Yes. You see, kids, Darren was Brain Attractive — and that’s the most desirable-kind of attractive there is for a girl. Next to Funny Attractive. Which he also was.”
The girls all nod in understanding. The boys all look down at their shoes.
“Everything was perfect for young Graci that night. She was wearing her khaki shorts with the white Venetian-blind style shirt and her white Keds without laces, the tongue folded down. She wore her stonewashed denim jacket with the sleeves rolled up two times, her long bangs cascading delicately into her eyes, her white Ray Ban-knock-offs perched on her head … she looked AWESOME. She felt awesome. And she was awesome — because she was wearing her awesome outfit.
“And yet little did she know the night would go horribly, horribly wrong.”
Panic fills the kids’ eyes. They huddle closer together, wrapping their arms around their tiny bodies, hugging each other for comfort.
“The group was meeting at the director’s house and the priest was there to officiate the short Mass. Everyone was crammed in the small living room and to Graci’s surprise, Darren ended up sitting RIGHT NEXT TO HER! She was amazed. She was speechless!
“Her mind whirled with all the possibilities. Maybe she would get enough courage to talk to him? Maybe … maybe HE would talk to HER? The priest began the service, everyone listened respectfully. But Graci was only partially listening. She was trying to calm her breathing. She looked up to find that Darren was smiling at her.
“She smiled back and shyly looked away. OH MY GAWD HE WAS SMILING AT HER! That was a sign, right? I mean a boy smiling at you, out of the blue like that? That is a sign that maybe he thinks you’re cute, right? Wasn’t it??
“Then it was time to recite the Our Father, and everyone held hands. And Darren was sitting next to her, which meant he ended up holding her HAND!
“Graci was stunned. She couldn’t believe her good fortune! Sure, the seating on the floor was pretty uncomfortable, straining her back, but she was sitting next to DARREN BROWN! It was worth the discomfort. Because, when it came time to give the sign of peace, everyone hugged. Which means she actually HUGGED Darren Brown, the cutest, smartest boy in the whole-wide room!
“It was the most amazing night of her life. The communion began and everyone started to sing. She sang softly and tried to use her best voice — she kept looking up from the Missile to show she knew the words but tastefully looked down on occasion so she didn’t come off too much like a show-off. Darren sang too, and he had a nice voice. She was in bliss. A state of pure and total bliss. Her leg was asleep, sure, but this night was fantastic.
“They’d all been sitting pretty still for a long time. Being on the floor and all crammed in the living room like that, everyone’s limbs were slightly contorted like the amazing rubber lady at the freak show. And Graci had a dead leg. She felt the overwhelming need to move, if ever so slightly, just to pull some blood back into her foot. She wiggled her toes, moving them just a bit. She scooted herself up to better posture. And then …
“The song ended. The room hushed. And in the split second of silence between the song’s end and the priests final blessing, like a small frog’s ribbit, Graci flatulated.”
The boys at the campfire squeal with laughter. The girls sit in quiet mortification.
“Graci remembers nothing past this point except this: She never wore that outfit again.”
Traci Arbios is a mom, stepmom and working mom. She lives with and writes about her blended family of seven kids, five pets and one amazingly patient husband at www.herdingsquirrels.com. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on twitter at Twitter.com/herdnsquirrels.