Forget You, Ethan

Back Then: 7½ Years Old

Ethan

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I COULD’VE SWORN THAT my new neighbor was supposed to be a boy...

That’s what my parents told me when the house down the street from us finally sold. They said, “Oh, they seem like such a nice family! They even have a son for you to meet. How nice will that be?”

It would’ve been very nice because every family on our street was full of stupid girls. Not a single one of those girls liked me, and I didn’t like any of them either. 

So, when my dad came into my room today and told me to get dressed to meet the neighbors, I was shocked when he took my action figures and returned them to my nightstand. 

“I don’t think so,” he said. “Rachel probably won’t want to see those.”

Rachel? Who is Rachel?” I asked. 

“Your new neighbor down the street.” He smiled so easily, as if those five words didn’t ruin any hopes I had of finally having a friend in this neighborhood. It was bad enough that we lived in the suburbs and it took half an hour to get to anywhere decent like the movies or the skate park. But now, the last house on our block housed the worst thing on the planet. A girl. Again

Groaning, I slipped headphones and a CD player into my backpack—ready to tune out everything as soon as my parents talked about the boring stuff. I made my way downstairs and grabbed my mom’s usual “Meet the New Neighbors” cake off the counter. I followed her and my dad out the front door and down the sidewalk—rolling my eyes at the Cramer twins who were playing in their front yard. 

“Hello, Mr. & Mrs. Wyatt!” They waved. “Hello, Ethan!”

“Don’t wave at me,” I said.

Ethan ...” My mom narrowed her eyes at me. “Be nice.”

“Hello, Clara. Hello, Joan.” I forced myself to smile. The second my mom turned her back, they flipped their middle fingers up at me. I happily returned the favor.

Ugh. 

When we made it to the new neighbors’ house, a red-headed woman and her husband stepped out and smiled at us.

“Wow! I wasn’t expecting you to really bake us a cake!” The woman looked surprised. “It’s been a long time since I’ve had something home-made.”

She bought it at the store. It’s not home-made.

As they ushered us inside, I hoped that their usual new neighbor conversation wouldn’t last as long as it usually did. They always talked about the same exact thing with every new family. Are the schools here as good as they say? What do kids do around here for fun? How cute would it be if our kids became friends?

“Well, look at you!” The woman bent down to my level. “I waved at you the other day when you were playing in your yard, but I don’t think you saw me. I’m Mrs. Dawson. What’s your name?”

“Ethan Wyatt,” I said.

“Well, Ethan Wyatt, I have a daughter named Rachel Dawson who looks like she’s about your age. Let me guess. You’re seven, right?”

“Seven and a half.”

“She says the same thing.” She laughed and pointed to the staircase. “Why don’t you go introduce yourself to her while I pour your parents a glass of wine? It’s the first room on the left.”

“No, that’s okay.” I shrugged. “I don’t want to meet another girl. I’ve met enough of those already.”

Ethan Wyatt.” My mother warned under her breath. “Go say hello to Rachel, now.”

I rolled my eyes and took my time walking up the steps, stopping when I saw the posters in the hallway. They were all superheroes and artists. Superheroes and artists that I liked. 

Maybe she has a brother after all.

I knocked on the Spiderman that covered the bedroom door, and a girl with uneven bangs and ugly freckles opened it.

“My mom said you were a cute boy.” She crossed her arms. “She lied.”

“Like you can talk.” I scoffed. “You look like a Raggedy-Ann doll, and your hair looks like you cut it yourself. With a broken razor.”

“I did cut it myself.” She narrowed her eyes at me. “And I did use a razor.”

I glared at her, and she glared right back at me. 

I contemplated knocking some of her stuff over or pushing her to the floor to show her who ran this block, but the huge Jurassic Park poster on her wall caught my attention. Beneath it, on her dresser, she had a collection of Star Wars action figures and a massive stack of comic books.

“Do you have an older brother?” I forgot why I was mad at her. “Is that why you have all this stuff?”

“No, this stuff is all mine.” She flopped onto her bed. “All the girls at my old school thought I was weird, but I don’t care. Superheroes beat Barbie any day. You have a sister?”

“Nope. I’m an only child.”

“Me, too.” She looked me over, and then she let out a breath. “Is this a good neighborhood?”

“It’s a boring one,” I said, stepping closer to her second set of comic books. “You’ll have no problem making friends, though. Every family on this block and the next has daughters.”

“I noticed.” She groaned. “I met some twins yesterday, and they invited me to play dress-up and tea this weekend.”

“See? You’re going to be best friends with the Cramer twins before you know it.”

“I hate playing dress up.” She scrunched up her face. “I hate tea, too. I’ll just pretend to be sick.”

I smiled. Maybe Rachel wasn’t so bad after all. Well, she was still a girl, but maybe she was a cool girl. For now.

“It was nice meeting you, Rachel.” I headed to the door once I heard my mom call my name.

“Wait.” She pointed to my headphones. “What are you listening to?”

“Good music, trust me, I’m sure you wouldn’t know anything about that.”

“Try me.” She tossed me a box of CDs, so I pulled my CD keeper from my backpack and tossed it to her. I flipped through all her cases and felt my eyes widening as I read the names of each artist. With the exception of a few terrible pop bands, she listened to almost every artist I did. 

“I guess your taste isn’t that bad.” She returned my CDs, and I returned hers. “And you know, neither are you.  Do your parents let you use the internet?”

“Yes and no,” I admitted. “My parents always check the computer before and after I use it, so I don’t really use it.”

“Okay, well ...” She pulled out a note card and scribbled her full name and address. “I prefer writing letters anyway.”

“You want me to write you a letter from right down the street?”

“Why not?”

“Because you’re right down the street,” I said, laughing. “I’m always outside. Just come by if your parents let you. Besides, from the looks of things on your corkboard, it looks like you can barely spell. ‘Forget’ is spelled with an ‘e,’ not an ‘i.’ It clearly would be unfair for me to expect you to write a decent letter if you can’t get a simple word like that right.”

Ugh.” She rolled her eyes. “Okay, fine.”

“Fine.” I walked to the hallway, but before I could set my foot on the first step, I felt her pressing her hands against my back. Felt her pushing me forward, and before I knew it, I was tumbling down the steps. Hard.

What the ...

I held back a cry when I hit the bottom and looked up the steps for an explanation, but all she did was cross her arms. 

“I changed my mind,” she said. “I don’t like you and I don’t want to be your friend. Besides, the word ‘forget’ is spelled exactly how I spelled it, so maybe you need to get your eyes checked or learn how to read. Take that, Ethan.”

“I don’t want to be your friend either.” I glared at her as I stood to my feet, knowing that I should’ve never trusted a stupid girl. “Forget you, Rachel.”