stooping over a pile and held a boy’s shirt to my chest. She checked the sleeve length. Her long blond braid fell in front of me.
“It’s going to be too big, especially in the neck, but you’ll grow into it,” she said. She stood. I was taller now, up to her chest, to her shoulders. She curled her lip in that funny way and I grinned. She smiled.
Mother was pretty, broad in the shoulders, but thin. She reminded me of that Swiss Miss girl, the one on the chocolate powder tub. Her skin was very pale. I guess my skin was pale too, because everyone said how much I looked like her.
I was eleven going on twelve and in the sixth grade. I had lots of long, blonde, frizzy, curly hair that I parted in the middle. I had very pale skin and blond eyebrows so white they were almost invisible.
I looked at some of the things in a stack faking interest. There were more boy’s shirts, some polo pullovers lightly worn. There was a dark green one with a little tennis racket above the pocket. I held it up.
“That’s cute, Ronald. Do you want to try it on?” I nodded. She helped me out of my shirt right there in the aisle and I raised my arms to slip the green polo shirt over my head. She gasped. I knew why, and quickly covered my chest. My nipples protruded out from little mounds the size of paper wads. These weren’t puffy nipples, these were small boobs, like doll boobs or something.
All I could do was stand there with my hands over my breasts looking up at her burning with embarrassment. My face glowed red when I got embarrassed.
“It’s okay, Ronald…”
“Ronni. I told you that I would like you to call me Ronni with an ‘i’, not ‘ie’. Ronni.”
She pursed her lips and scoffed, “I named you Ronald, and that is what I’m calling you. Are you going to put the shirt on or not?”
I whispered, “I’m embarrassed about my breasts.”
“It’s just a growing phase. All little boys go through it. Raise your arms!”
A man spoke from behind us, “Please excuse my interference, Ma’am, but I could not help but overhearing. I’m just here at the table behind you. If you would tell the young man that there is a dressing room just over there,” he said and pointed, “I’m sure he would be more comfortable.”
I looked at her. “Can I?”
She sighed, then nodded.
I put the green polo shirt to my chest to cover and ran to the dressing room. The painted plywood room was bigger than I had expected. I slid the latch on the door behind me. There was another door on the opposite end that I kept my eye on, not knowing where it led. I put my old shirt on the bench on the right, when suddenly the other door opened and the man who directed me to the dressing room came in and closed the door behind him.
He wasn’t an old man, I’d say thirty-five to forty with black wavy hair that he combed back from his face and used oil to hold in in place. I was shocked. I didn’t know whether to run or scream. I backed up holding my shirt to my chest.
“Okay,” he said, “just calm down. I know what’s going on with your breasts and I came in here to talk to you about it. The same thing happened to me when I was your age.”
“Yes, it did,” he said. “My name is Andrew. Do you mind if I sit?”
“No, of course not. My name is…” I said, answering politely as Mother taught.
“Ronni with an ‘i’, not an ‘ie’,” he said smiling.