I made imaginary plans to run away from home after Melinda did. It was unexpected. We were supposed to meet at the swings at the playground between our houses as usual, before going to Melrose to get matching tattoos, of monarch butterflies.
Even after 45 minutes, I wasn’t much worried. It wasn’t unusual for Melinda to take time wrangling from her mother’s grasp to teach her how to cook, to sew, to bake. After two hours of swinging I went home. While I was watching “Jeopardy!” later that night, I heard knocking. My dad went to answer it and I heard Melinda’s mom’s rushed voice. My dad came into the living room and asked when was the last time I spoke to or saw Melinda.
The previous month we had gotten our ears pierced without parental permission.
“I don’t care what she says or if she grounds me, I want to wear earrings! Who cares about some holes in ears,” Melinda had said, and we went ahead to the mall, got them done.
When I got home I tried to hide my ears behind my hair but my mother saw my newly minted ears glimmer and she pulled them out as I was swallowing a spoon of rice. Melinda got into trouble and her mother grounded her for rest of summer vacation, and I didn’t see any hint of her, except sometimes there would be notes in my mailbox. I didn’t know when she was able to deliver them, but they were my only link to her. When I tried to reply her mother intercepted them as contraband, and I’m sure she read them, so I wrote to her as if my letters had been unanswered.
Now she’s been gone for 10 months. I leave letters for her on the swing, but this time, they are sincerely unanswered. This was 1993.