Friendly Games

Title: Friendly Games
Summary: The story of my first love. Well, my first time falling in love.
Disclaimer: This work of fiction is based on true events, but names have been changed in order to avoid the whining of others. The story is copyright Dawn Kelley and all rights belong to me.


First love is a thing that’s hard to forget. You hear stories of first love all your life, but you can’t comprehend how it will consume you until you have that first experience. You can’t begin to imagine the pure vast expanse of feeling that will inhabit so much of you until it takes a hold of all of you and won’t let go. You don’t realize in the throws of those first moments that nothing can and will ever take you back to that time before it all, even if it turns out… well I’m getting ahead of myself. Perhaps I should enjoy the moment before I try to comprehend its aftermath.

I am ten and in a hallway with my cousin, Danielle. With us is one of my best friends, a little boy named Freddy. My earliest memory of this day begins with my cousin’s voice…

I’m the prettiest girl in town and I have the car and he wants to be with me,” she instructs as she holds a Barbie and a Ken doll before us.

As these are her toys, today’s play time power is in the hands of my cousin. The funny thing is my cousin Danielle is, like she declares for her doll, the ‘prettiest girl in town’. The town at the time being the world we created in our little hallway. Danielle is a skinny child with long dark hair that my aunt Traci keeps in long plaits. I guess it felt a bit fair that the prettiest girl had the prettiest doll. That doesn’t mean I like it as playing with Barbie and escaping into the fantasy of her beauty is what makes me feel beautiful and today I must give it up.

The Barbie she holds on to is a very much a thing to be envied. She is a new beautiful Black Barbie doll. The doll’s long perfectly straight hair still has its just-out-the-box shine. Her doll not only had possession of the car, but held on to a huge assortment of clothes and accessories. Her doll even had shoes!

She shoves the Ken doll into the hands of the only boy in our little group and he holds it awkwardly in his hand. He accepts the rules of the game. He is nine, like her, and a bit husky with a caramel complexion. When I say husky, I don’t mean he is fat. He simply had that broad build that indicated he could grow into one of those muscular men. You know, the football player types. As for his Ken, well to be honest it wasn’t even a Ken. It was the father doll from the Heart Family collection. He is the only surviving member of a once full set of Heart Family dolls owned by my cousin. I guess it didn’t much matter what his name was on the box as all Mattel’s male dolls were broken from the Ken mold and most people couldn’t tell them apart.

I cringed as I looked at the doll who was left, the doll who would be mine, the ugliest doll in the hallway for the ugliest girl in the hallway. Box designation: Jazzie, the cousin of Barbie.

She’s yours,” my cousin Danielle said, giving me the remaining doll. “She’s engaged to him,” Danielle declared pointing to Freddy’s doll.

But I thought he liked you?” I question.

He will when he sees me,” Danielle countered. “But first he’s engaged to you. Then he sees me and wants me.”

I had an inkling that her little creation of fiction with the dolls wasn’t far from the truth. Something in the way Freddy looked at my cousin Danielle sometimes and the way he hung around her had me convinced he had a crush on her. Awareness of these sorts of things was just starting to creep up in our little group of childhood friends. It was, of course, helped along by the grown-up’s fascination with the soap opera “As the World Turns”. It took me a long time to realize the extreme fiction of those soap opera relationships and even longer to realize how much of it I absorbed into my early storytelling.

Having received my cousin’s rules I took possession of the ugliest doll in the hallway. I hated the twisted justice of it. Unfortunatly, like Danielle having the prettiest doll, it seemed suited that I should have the ugliest one. She is older than Danielle’s doll and has a tangle of no-longer-straight blond hair. She wears a cheap knock-off “fashion doll” outfit and has no shoes, no car, and no fabulous assortment of accesorries. All she has is the little triangular unit I designate as her home. I see the Jazzie doll as just as helplessly unattractive next to the new Barbie as I am next to my cousin. I suppose I am not a troll, but am round everywhere and that’s enough to make me feel inferior to the other girl. I am almost eleven so puberty is already sneaking up on me. The little breast that have made their arrival on my chest only serve to create more unwelcomed roundness in an already too round body.

The game begins and we follow Danielle’s rules in a very elementary fashion. She runs down the hall pushing her car and Freddy’s doll literally sees her and begins to run after her, which means he holds his doll in the air in front of himself as he chases the car my cousin is pushing. My doll, determined not to lose her boyfriend, ran behind him. So we run, back and forth and forth and back down the long hallway laughing and giggling at our clever game.

Like I said, I am a very round child and prone to faster exhaustion than the other two. After so much back and forth I grow tired. In need of a break I carry my doll back to the little structure that I picked out as her home. I haven’t forgotten the rules of the game and know I must decide on a reason for going home. I pick a reason and make her start crying. It was the silliest fake cry ever heard. Freddy, caught up in the pursuit of Danielle, didn’t notice for a few seconds and neither did my cousin. It takes a ridiculously loud cry to catch his attention.

I don’t know if I want his company or not, but I know my doll is suppose to care that she’s losing her boyfriend. Freddy appears then at the little house structure. He seemed unsure of himself. Running he understood, but this new twist in the game had him perplexed. He makes a decision and pulls up Ken’s unnaturally rigged arm. He uses Ken’s arm to pat my doll’s back.

Why are you crying?” the little boy asked.

Because you want her and not me,” I say as I pour on the fake tears.

Freddy looks at me at that moment. Not his doll looking at my doll, but his eyes look into mine with the deepest gaze he’s ever given me.

No I…I… want you,” he began nervously. He grows confident in his role as he presses on. “It’s you I want, just you.”

Something explodes in me then and his gentle brown eyes gain a little more sparkle. I suddenly want him here with me always and forever, telling me how I’m his special girl and so much more precious to him than my cousin. In a moment I come to adore him and have no desire for his gaze to return to anyone else, especially my cousin.

I forget we have dolls in our hands, forget there is a game that needs to continue, I forget that my cousin is even there. I just want Freddy and I to stay in this moment in our make-pretend house. We don’t stay though, the game takes over and we obediently return to it. Only my motivation to chase him, to keep him, to make him love me more than her has changed. That part is no longer a game.

I wish I could say something magical happened between us, but even though I spent many years pinning for him lost in a euphoria I knew must be shared, it never was. In the end I got a reluctant … “I like you as a friend”.

Friend … it shouldn’t be a bad word.

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