Longish ago and not so very far far away, I was in my early teenage-hood. This was back before I knew that being embarrassing around boys I found even remotely attractive would soon become a regular pastime of mine.
My 13th summer was spent mostly at the home of my dad's boss's family. It was a better option for my extroverted self than staying home with just my little brother day after day, watching Aladin over and over again.
Don't get me wrong, we made that entertaining. But there are only so many ways to watch the same movie ("Only pay attention to Abu this time!" "Okay, and next time we will just watch Eago!") before one runs out of inspiration.
My dad's boss's family consisted of my dad's boss (who was almost never there when we were), his wife, and his four kids. There was an eldest daughter named Tara, a boy named Andy, a girl my age - Anya, and a little sister, Kiera, right about my brother's age.
Tara was theatrical, older, wiser, and intriguing. We enjoyed the rare times when she was around and not off hanging out with her friends.
Andy was silly, playful, and fun. Also older than us, we felt privileged to be allowed to so fully participate in his hijinks. When Andy was home, it was going to be a fantastic day.
Mostly, though, we had to make do with Anya and Keira's ideas of fun.
The thing is, that Kiera was actually quite the explorer. She and Weezle spent countless hours outside climbing trees and running amok.
I was completely and fully, the total embodiment of jealousy.
You see, Anya was the only sibling who was my age and was also the only sibling who was thoroughly impossible. She had one favorite thing to do, and one thing only.
She would set them up before I arrived. Stables and fences and farms all over the floor in the dark shadowy basement. Every horse was named. Stormy. Thunderbolt. Lightning. Sunshine. Sparkle. Dewdrop. Dandelion. Dawn.
Every horse had a backstory. Every horse had it's own drama to participate in.
This was the kind of game that I would have rejoiced over 6 or 7 years prior. But months shy of 14, I had passed "moving on" about 5 exits back.
Unfortunately for me, the need I had felt to humor her as much as possible in the early days of our hanging out had set an unintentional precedent. She fully expected my complete and total participation in the days of those horses' lives, and was deeply offended if she detected an attempt on my part to squirm out of it.
This family had a pool, even, and the days that I could talk her into taking advantage of that fact were surprisingly few and far between.
Once in a blue moon Andy would trot downstairs and rescue me with a game of Twister, or a Donkey Kong challenge, and I would be in bliss.
Finally the school year started. I was relieved of my imaginative duties at long last, and found my way back into a setting I felt more natural in.
We had moved into a house that was owned by missionaries, to rent for 2 years while they were away in India. There was only one catch.
Because they had experienced previous tenants who were rather destructive to their lovely home, they left their eldest son behind with the task of checking up on us at random times. His name was Isaiah.
My parents were annoyed.
I was enthralled. He was beautiful. An older boy with straight, swooshy, shoulder length blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and a laid back college style. As we were introduced to him, I became suddenly aware of just exactly how I was standing, and just where precisely my clothes weren't fitting perfectly.
In the months that followed, his occasional drop ins kept me on my toes. Because his parents told him to be sure to peek in every room in the house, my usual messy tendencies were kept largely at bay. Never in my life have I had such a clean room.
Finally a fateful day showed up in it's usual unassuming way, shortly after I had turned 14.
Mom poked her head in my bedroom to tell me that Dad's boss's kids missed us and were dying for a sleep over.
Oh no. Anya.
I told Mom that I didn't know what to do with Anya. That I was ever so relieved to be away from those silly plastic horses. I admitted guiltily that I felt I had really and truly out grown her.
Mom said that she understood, but regardless, having Anya over would be the kind thing to do. It would show gratitude for their hospitality towards us all summer.
I begrudgingly obliged, wishing bitterly that Andy had been their kid that was my age. I'd take Donkey Kong and falling off a skateboard repeatedly over plastic horses any day.
And so Anya came over, and so did the plastic horses. All of them. It hadn't been 25 minutes before my room was covered in fences and stalls and plastic haystacks. It was as if they had always been there.
I cringed through one last make believe horsey drama, and went to bed.
When I woke in the morning, I heard voices downstairs. I rubbed my eyes and listened closer.
Oh. My. Gravy. Mom and Dad were talking to Isaiah!
I leapt out of bed and changed out of my PJ's and into the coolest outfit I could find on such short notice.
Anya was awakened by my closet rummaging, and asked what was going on.
"Anya", I said firmly, "There is a boy downstairs who is really very cool. In just a few minutes he is going to be up here, and by golly if those flippin' plastic horses and fences and stalls and fake food and stuff isn't good and hidden, he will think they are mine! I know that you love them and they are your favorite, but they are not my favorite! I don't want him to think that I am... not me. So please, please, for the love of donuts, HIDE THEM! I'm going down stairs. I'll help you set them up again when he's gone, okay?"
I zipped up my JNCOs and loped downstairs.
Isaiah beamed at me, said hello, made some handsome small talk, and then excused himself to check on the upstairs rooms.
When he came back down and disappeared into my brother's room, I snuck back up to check on Anya.
Upon creaking open my door, I was greeted with the sight of every horse out where it had been moments ago. Everything was exactly where I had left it, except that Anya, instead of hiding the horses, had hidden herself.
"You went under the bed?!" I whispered fiercely, "What are you thinking?! Now he'll surely think those horses are mine!"
I was livid.
I stormed into the hallway, straight into Mom, and began babbling in exasperation.
"Mom! I can't believe this is happening! Isaiah is so cool, and I really think he's kind of cute, and he's already way older than me, and I don't want him to think I'm just a baby, and Anya's stupid plastic horses are all over my room, and now he thinks they're mine, which means he thinks I still play with plastic horses! This is so totally lame! He thinks I'm a huge dork, I just know it!"
No sooner had I finished my rant then Isaiah declared, on his way out the door, "Bye guys! Everything looks great! See you next time! And Sarah, I don't think you're a dork!"
Oh dear stars. He heard me.
I flopped onto the floor. Defeated.
Anya came out of my room to point and laugh at me.
Fortunately for me sometimes, just... sometimes, life has a way of coming full circle.
Years and years later, when I was a college kid, I went to a bar with a dear old friend of mine. It was 80's night at Schotzkies. Not that I'm really the go-to-a-bar type. Mostly bars make me incredibly awkward. But that particular night, dressing up in mismatched 80's attire and dancing like Elaine (yes, from Seinfeld) with my girlfriends sounded downright triumphant.
Just so happened Isaiah had the very same idea. Minus the girlfriends and the Elaine dance, mind you. I ran into him, was annoyed by him, and absolutely (to my own dismay) shot him down.
And so it goes.