To Constance James, everything in life had an order. Straightforward and square, clear and cut out for her, like her name. She liked the way it sounded: CON-stance, with a strong first syllable, and a clear “st” sound. Like in “stem.” Like in “strawberry.”
For instance, there were sixteen steps from her bedroom into the living room, then fifteen steps to the front door. Then it was five steps to the mailbox, fifteen steps across the street (or in other terms, one living room length long), and then forty-three steps to the James residence. Jessica Record liked the James residence very much, because she liked it when her friend Constance came out to play. Constance never liked to come out though, so it was up to Jessica to ask her momma to have a playdate. She never minded, even if Connie hated playing with her.
Step step step step step step. Six steps to be close enough to reach her arm out to give the James’s doorbell a nice long push. Her mother had told her, no, she couldn’t stand directly in front of the door right afterward, because if she did the person on the other side would be very much surprised. And Jessica Record would never dare put a toe out of line around her mama. Her father maybe every once in a while, but not her mama.
The door swung open, and the woman on the other side (who was thoroughly not surprised to see her) gave her a smile. “Hiya Jess,” the woman said. “You here for Connie?”
“Yes ma’am,” Jess said, giving Mrs. James a big smile. “She around?” Jessica liked Mrs. James very much; she was nice to her and very laid-back, not like Constance.
Constance James did not like playing in the backyard. Everything was muddy and icky and too hot. Jessica Record knew this but didn’t care much. Who didn’t like a bit of sunshine? Everyone liked sunshine. Anyone who didn’t was lying.
“Connie!” Jessica cried out, watching the red rubber ball sail over her head. She tried to jump up to grab it, but it just evaded her fingers. She followed it with her eyes and saw it bounce once, twice, and whoosh! in between two tall bushes that lined the backyard. Horrified, Jessica ran after it, but the thorns and prickly needle leaves stopped her from reaching her hand through.
Constance stood frozen. “What’d we do now?” Jessica asked, her eyes wide. Constance bristled. “It’s not my problem; you threw it too high!”
“Did not!” Jessica cried, indignant.
“Did too! Now you have to go get it! Or are ya too scared?” A taunting smile stretching across Constance’s face. Jessica huffed, brown eyes widening.
“You’re so mean, Connie! I don’t wanna play with you anymore!” And with that, Jessica stomped over to the bushes. Drat, her arms were too short to reach! What could she do… ah! Struck with an idea, she reached with her hands and grabbed the sides of the bush, pushing. The two shrubs parted, like she had hoped, forming a small doorway for her to fit through. And holding her breath for good luck, she did so, closing the makeshift door behind her.
Constance James was dumbstruck. She had never seen Jessica so worked up before; and to say she didn’t want to play with her anymore! She couldn’t possibly mean it; Jessica loved to come and bother her to play whenever she could.
Something moved between the two bushes. Constance squinted, leaning forward a little. What was that?…
“BLAAH!” Jessica popped out from the bush, a wicked grin on her face. Constance, so very surprised, let out a scream, tipped backward, and landed on her behind on the grass, still clutching the ball to her chest. Relief flooded her as she rushed forward to grapple Jess in a hug. “Don’t do that, don’t do that!” she cried.
Wendy Supron, Chair
Caroline Kincaid Godfrey
Pat Kennedy Grant
Diane Naughton Washburne
Linda Hellstrom, Founder
Wendy Supron, Chair