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"I Big Girl," short story excerpt

Saturday 10/21/23

This was going to be the night when Abigail did what only a big girl could do. She’d made up her mind earlier that day in the yard with her daddy, and once Abigail made up her mind, that was that.

Big girls didn’t get scared. Unh-unh. They could do anything anyone else was able to and definitely boys. That’s why they were big girls and Abigail was almost four.

It’d been a really long time since she was two, when she wasn’t a big girl. She couldn’t even remember it, that’s how long it had been.

But being almost four was different. She went to school like a big girl, did gymnastics like a big girl, went to birthday parties by herself like a big girl, and she even danced like a big girl, but not on the table in the living room anymore, because she’d gotten too big mommy and daddy had said, so she danced on the kitchen floor instead.

And now, for the third night in a row, when even mommy and daddy were asleep, she was about to look out her window. If it was there again, she’d go downstairs, open the front door, and walk over to it to see what it wanted and if it was nice. Then she’d show mommy and daddy, because they were big also.

A few days earlier, they’d all been in the front yard together, raking leaves. It wasn’t Halloween yet, but it seemed like there were no leaves left in any of the trees.

Daddy said something funny about a giant coming at night and picking them up and shaking all the leaves out, which Abigail understood wasn’t really true, it was just how daddy liked to talk.

Then mommy was funny when she said, “It’s like the trees are all naked, like when someone finally takes their bath.”

She didn’t say Abigail’s name, but Abigail knew mommy was talking about her, because daddy didn’t take baths.

Abigail laughed. Still, she didn’t want there to be any confusion, so she had to remind mommy the way she often had to do because mommies sometimes forget.

“I big girl,” she said, standing between two industrial garbage bags of the darkest green filled with leaves that were higher than her head.

Those were just leaves that had fallen. Not people who could do things on their own. Besides, she was a lot taller than she used to be. She’d seen pictures of what she looked like from when she didn’t remember anything.

But this wasn’t the same. And what had been on the lawn the last two nights wasn’t the same as anything else either.

Abigail had never been so scared, even when she had that nightmare that something had happened to daddy and she’d have to get a new one, but it wouldn’t be as good no matter how nice the new daddy was.

She hugged daddy as hard as she was able to that night and then again the next day after mommy had come into her room when she heard her crying.

“It’s just a nightmare, baby,” mommy said when Abigail told her all about it. “Daddy’s fine. Come on, I’ll show you.”

Abigail was smaller then, so she didn’t mind being called a baby. She just wanted daddy to be okay, and she jumped in the bed with him and clung to his arm, feeling how warm he was and being so relieved and happy.

She didn’t even care if she’d never be that happy again. This was worth it, and she slept and slept for what seemed like the longest time, though it was somehow still morning when she got up.

The nightmare had been pretty scary, but what was happening now felt different. A lot different. She could hear herself breathing from just sitting there, which she hadn’t noticed before. She could even feel her eyelids when she blinked, like they made noise, too.

Abigail tried to breathe and blink as quietly as possible. She didn’t know what it could see or hear. It’d be better to meet on the lawn and not in the house. Mommy and daddy said they couldn’t even have a dog yet. The house was darker in the evening with the lights off than it was outside. The lawn glowed. At least a little. Daddy said the moon was like a lamp in the sky and there were creatures in other worlds who used it to read at night, and when it was time for them to go to bed, they shut it off and that’s when we woke up.

Abigail had been pushing down her blanket and now it was just over her knees. The house was warm with the windows closed and the heat on, but she couldn’t help feeling cold. She held the covers with two tight fists, trying not to tremble, but found herself faltering.

In the quietest, but most reassuring, assertive voice she could manage, she said, “I big girl,” and pulled out a first foot, then the second, sliding one to floor, followed by the other, and dropped to the carpet and began crawling as quietly as she could, trying to breathe and blink as little as possible. She didn’t want it deciding to come in the house.

“I big girl,” she said again, getting closer to the wall with the window that looked out to the front lawn, but this time the words were inside of her head. “I big girl.”


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