“I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.” –Rick Blaine
20 years ago – 7 yo
I rounded the corner of the boys’ bathroom and closed my eyes for a moment, hoping I wasn’t about to see disreputable things.
That was a big word, and I wasn’t sure what it meant.
Mom used it with a sneer about Mr. Henley when she talked about something scandalous he’d done with his secretary (although I hadn’t been able to figure out exactly what that had been).
I figured it might be the type of thing I’d see in the boys’ bathroom at school.
I slowly opened my eyes and had to admit the view was slightly disappointing.
This looked just like the girls’ restroom, but instead of the stuck up cluster of bi-atches (my mom told me I shouldn’t repeat that word, but I could think it and she’d never find out) giggling in the corner, I found a group of the male variety of bullies from my second-grade class.
Ugh...they were the worst! I didn’t want to explain my presence, so I turned back toward the door.
But then I heard a small sniffle from the center of the group.
“Stop it. Give them back,” a weak voice pleaded.
Oh, no, they weren’t...
I turned around slowly, staring the group down, trying to see who they had captured.
Forgetting my escape, I stomped over to the cluster of boys and grabbed the shoulder of the jerk closest to me, yanking him out of the way so I could see who they were tormenting.
Leo, the new kid that had joined our class late last year looked up at me, tears filling his eyes and his lips trembling.
The biggest bully of the bunch, Mikey Etheridge, held him by his shirtfront with one hand, Leo’s glasses up in the sky over Leo’s head in the other.
“Michael Bartholomew Etheridge,” I said using my meanest ‘mom’ voice, “you give those back to him.” I didn’t know what Mikey’s middle name really was, but that sounded right.
It always scared the bejeezus out of me when mom middle-named me.
Mikey hadn’t heard me walk in, and he swung his shocked gaze over to me. “Izzy,” he sounded pretty scandalized himself, “this is the boys’ bathroom! You can’t come in here.”
“Well, I just did, so that shows what you know. Now unhand Leo right now or I’m going to tell Mrs. Brooks that you cheated off my math test earlier.”
He opened and closed his mouth like a fish searching for food.
He was taking too long to decide to make the right move, so I took a threatening step toward him.
As a general rule, I didn’t like violence. Mom said it didn’t solve anything, but after I broke Bethany Ann Sherwood’s nose in first grade, no one teased me about my buckteeth anymore.
In my book, that was solving a problem.
In front of me, I found another problem that needed to be solved. Mikey and his friends would not bully Leo anymore. It didn’t matter that Mikey was the biggest boy in second grade. I still had several inches on him.
I looked down my nose at him now. “You don’t want me to get mad, do you?” I clenched my fist so he could see exactly what I meant.
His eyes widened, and he quickly let go of Leo, shoving his glasses toward him. He and his crew started a wild scramble toward the door.
“I’m gonna tell...” Mikey began.
I cut him off and sing-songed, “Math test.”
He stopped for a full second to turn a hate-filled glare at me. “Bitch.” Then he took off running.
My mouth dropped open.
I turned to Leo and gasped. “He said the actual word.”
No one in the second grade had been brave enough to use real curse words. That was unheard of.
Suddenly Mikey’s status rose in my mind. He was ballsy. Not as ballsy as me, but I respected him a tiny bit more for having the bravery to use the real curse word, even if it was against me.
Maybe I’d have to start cursing, too.
I thought about it for a moment. Mom wouldn’t like it, and dad would start another one of his lectures about how ‘proper young ladies behaved.’ I shivered.
Maybe I’d wait a year or two more before I tried it.
“Are you okay?” I asked Leo.
“Yeah.” Leo nodded and examined his glasses. “Thank you. My mom would have killed me if he’d broken my glasses. It took forever to get them to fit right.” He gave a weary sigh as he replaced them on his face.
I tilted my head and studied him. I’d never really paid that close of attention to Leo Bennett before, and the glasses were new. They made him look different.
“I like them,” I told him. “They make you look distinguished.”
He wrinkled his nose. “I don’t know what that means.”
I twisted up my mouth as I thought about it.
I shrugged. “I don’t really know either, but my mom always says that Rock Hudson and Cary Grant look distinguished—like my daddy—so I think it’s really good.”
His brow wrinkled like that confused him. “Okay. I don’t know who they are, but I guess that’s okay, as long as you aren’t being mean.”
“Never,” I said in my scandalized voice. “Being mean isn’t nice. You and me, Leo...we’re going to be best friends and BFFs don’t say mean things about each other.”
Leo’s smile took over his whole face.
I returned that smile. It made me feel good about my split second decision to replace Melody in that position, but she’d been a bi-atch lately. Leo and I might be a better fit.
“Um, Izzy?” Leo asked in a quiet whisper as his face turned a bright shade of red. “Why are you in the boys’ bathroom?”
My eyes widened, and I began to dance in place. “I forgot. I need to pee like a racehorse. Guard the door for me, ‘kay?”
For a moment he didn’t look too sure, but then he nodded, resolved. “We’re best friends now. That’s one thing best friends should do.” Then he marched over to the door while I raced into the bathroom stall, feeling relief in more ways than one.
I’d gotten a new best friend today.
Leo Bennett. He’d be my sidekick, my very own Tony Randall.
A smile took over my face.
It had been an excellent decision to sneak into the boys’ bathroom today.
Isolde Collins has lived her life inhaling old rom-com movies and dreaming the perfect guy’s out there. She just has to find him. In the meantime, she’s chasing her dream of becoming an advertising power mogul, even if her father—who’s also her boss—doesn’t think a female is capable.
He has secrets...
Leo Bennett has been in love with his best friend, Izzy, pretty much their entire lives. She doesn’t know and he never plans to tell her. Why screw everything up? In the meantime, he’s too old to hang on to his virginity waiting for Izzy to wake up and see him. Oh, and he probably should stop following her dreams and find some of his own.
Things heat up...
As these two best friends hit the snowy slopes of Colorado, they find they’re living a life like they see in the movies. It’s just that maybe Leo’s the hero and not the sidekick they both always assumed him to be.