Gina swayed on the swings, the playground empty. She clutched the paper fliers in her tiny fingers.
WONTED: BEST FREND
I AM GEENA
IF YOO WANNA BEE MY BEST FREND
COME PLAE WITH MEE ON THE SWEENS
Gina had spent a long time on her fliers, coloring in the margins with flowers and unicorns and even dragons, in case a boy wanted to be her friend. She wasn’t picky.
But despite her handing them out during recess and sticking them to the walls and car windows with Elmer’s glue, it was now three hours after the final bell and no one had come.
Gina stood from the swing and threw the fliers onto the woodchip-covered ground, stomping on them with her ragged tennies, tearing the paper.
“Excuse me,” a voice said, and Gina whirled around to find a boy there. “Are you ‘Geena’?” he said, pronouncing her name with a hard ‘g’. He held out one of the fliers.
Gina crossed her arms. “No. My name’s ‘Gina,’ not ‘Geena.’ Can’t you read?”
He ducked his head. “Sorry. It’s just… I saw the really cool dragons and knew I wanted to be your best friend. Unless…” He frowned, “you already found one?”
“Yes,” Gina cheered, leaping forward to hug Tommy. “I mean, no, I haven’t. Will you be my very first and bestest friend?”
“Yeah, my name is Tommy.”
“Hello, Tommy! You wanna swing with me?”
“Totally!” Tommy sat on a swing, his feet dragging in the crumpled fliers. Gina beamed as she jumped up into her swing, her little frayed toes dangling.
“Mommy and Daddy always want me to play with my friends after school, but I don’t have any. Except now I do, and we can play until the lights come on. Or maybe even longer, cause Mommy’s probably sleeping – she’s always sleeping – and Daddy’s downstairs doing ‘adult stuff’. They won’t notice if I come home late.”
“Awesome,” Tommy said. “Do you want me to push you?” He got up from his swing.
“No, I wanna swing with you. Do you know how? No one in my class does, I’m the only one who knows how to swing myself. I can teach you, if you want.”
“Oh, yes, please do.” Tommy sat back down and watched closely as Gina demonstrated, pushing herself forward and back, her tattered skirt fluttering.
“You gotta get moving a little bit, first. Then you gotta put your legs out in front of you – stuck together, like a mermaid – and lean back when you go forward. When you swing back you gotta lean forward and put your legs under you; but not too far, or you’ll fall.” Gina continued to swing, but watched Tommy. “Now you try.”
Tommy pushed off and began to swing. However, he put his legs together when he swung backward and tucked them under when he swung forward. As a result, he slowed down. “Like this?”
Gina giggled. “No, silly. It’s not opposite day.”
Finally, Tommy got the hang of it. He picked up speed, catching up to Gina.
They matched up, both swinging in tandem side by side, and Gina laughed. “Look, we’re married,” she said, smiling up at Tommy.
“What do you mean?” He grinned down at her.
“We’re matched, see? That’s means we’re married, but not for realsies.” Gina swung harder, un-syncing with Tommy and going as high as she could go.
However, Tommy dragged his feet in the woodchips and shredded confetti dragons, coming to a stop. “It’s getting late, Gina. I’d better head home.”
Gina stopped pumping her legs, staring at Tommy as she slowed down. “But we’re having so much fun! Do you have to go?”
Tommy cocked his head. “Well… you could come over to my place and play.”
Gina twisted her fingers in the chain links. “I dunno…”
Tommy put his hand over hers, stilling her fidgeting. “We could get some ice cream on the way.”
Gina’s eyes lit up as she hopped down. “Really? But… won’t it ruin my dinner?”
“It’s alright for special occasions, like today. After all, you don’t make best friends everyday, right, Gina?” Tommy reached out and squeezed her hand.
Gina nodded. “You’re right. You’re so smart, Tommy.”
“Why, thank you, Gina. You’re a pretty clever girl, too.”
Then Gina got into Tommy’s car, and they drove off to get some ice cream.