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A Perfect Wreck Mila Crawford, Aria Cole 2022/8/3 13:46:38

I think I was eight when I realized what a lie that old nursery rhyme was. “‘Girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice. Boys,’ it said, ‘were snips and snails and puppy dog tails.’” Those words did not describe the girls in my life. Growing up, I spent a lot of time looking after my kid sister, Crosby, which inadvertently meant I spent a lot of time shepherding her best friend, Callie Langdon, too.

Weston, my best friend, and I were four years older. That meant Callie and Crosby were a perpetual pain in our ass, but like it or not, we were always together. My parents sold the Langdons their first house not long after Callie was born. They lived a couple streets away, along with Callie’s older brother, Dean, whom I’d always looked up to. She was in our lives from practically the get-go, and I couldn’t remember a time when Callie wasn’t hanging around and getting into trouble.

The girl was a rebel, and so was my spitfire younger sister, Crosby. There wasn’t any sugar and spice to speak of, and if there ever had been, the two of them swallowed it as quickly as possible in order not to have to share it with West and me.

Instead of slowing down for the girls, we let them catch up with us, and they did—often outrunning us. The main difference between the two of them was that I could tell Crosby what to do; my parents had made it clear I was responsible for her. With Callie, I could only grit my teeth and lay off. She had her own older brother, one who apparently didn’t care if she ran wild.

In junior high, Callie started to dress provocatively, she acted out to get attention, and her parents were too busy to notice. Callie’s parents seemed to fight a lot, and I think her rebellion sort of coincided with the decline of their relationship. But it wasn’t like they could be called out for bad parenting because Callie’s older brother was practically a legend in Hartford. Eagle Scout, altar boy, captain of the football team—you name it, Dean Langdon had done it, and he’d done it better than anyone else ever had. Dean was the golden child and nearly ten years older than his sister. Callie often got left behind in his wake, and I could see it in her face. It was around that time, I became unnaturally protective of her. If her parents wouldn’t step up and look out for her, I would.

But back to sugar and spice—Callie had a soft side, I knew it as well as Crosby. She just didn’t show it much because she was busy being tough. Trying to prove to the world she could handle whatever it threw at her—and then some. But she was sensitive, kind, and considerate. They just weren’t qualities she’d show to anyone on purpose. I saw right through her facade, and I knew she’d turn out great.

What I didn’t see coming was how hard I’d fall when the tables turned, and it was Callie who had to take care of me.

“Asa Dashen, you must be trying to get a peek! What with the way you stand outside of the girls’ dressing room waiting for us to change into our suits.”

“Callie, my mom tells him he has to wait,” my sister explained.

“Only losers do everything their parents tell them to,” Callie tossed back.

It was true; I waited every time, and the two of them took forever. So long, in fact, that West would have already been in the pool and back out drying in the sun by the time these two squirrely girls pulled on their bathing suits.

“Callie, keep the rash guard on!” I hollered through the door to keep her from pulling off the full-coverage shirt. I didn’t want anyone staring. Didn’t want to have to start a fight. Callie rolled her eyes, but I was pretty sure she secretly craved the attention. She liked being bossed around, but she had to play it cool to save face. She liked having someone to look out for her, but she would never let on. Callie and Crosby played tough; it was all part of their game.

As we grew, so did our dynamic. I’d become Callie’s protector, a stand-in father of sorts. We fell into those roles effortlessly and bickered like a married couple, or like real siblings would. Being four years apart put us in different schools, but I still had to pick the girls up as soon as I obtained a driver’s license at sixteen. I took them to their lessons, and I drove Callie home from our place if it got too dark

Looking back, it was when I took them to their ninth-grade dance that things really changed—that was the night that lit the first spark.