#27 I, Isabel Scheherazade make a friend. And start playing one of Dad and my favorite games again. I can’t believe either thing has happened. Actually.
Outside! Inside! Outside! Inside! is what kids shout during Four Square games at recess. Not me. I hold up the wall and watch. I’m an outsider.
Four kids stand in the four squares, and a line of kids–ready to jump in when a player goes out–wait outside the squares. I watch the neighbor girl from up our street. She works her way from the lower-numbered square to the highest. Other kids make errors and get eliminated, but not her; she seems like this school’s Four Square star.
Like me at my old school. I haven’t played since Mom and Dad got killed; I don’t even know if I want to anymore.
Dad showed me the tricks with Four Square. In the morning before school, we talk tactics. What’s the Four Square scheme today, Isabel? he asks. In Four Square it’s a rule that you can make up rules during a game. And it’s a rule that you can’t violate any of the rules. At breakfast Dad and I sketch the game court in the margin of the newspaper and diagram some tricky maneuver or rule.
Suddenly the neighbor girl calls Hey! and waves her hand at me. Wanna play, new girl? She offers me a knuckle punch. My name’s Olivia. I sit in the back of your class. I live on the other side of Miss Mary.
Hey. I say. I’m Isabel. And I step into square one.
Walking home, Olivia asks me how long I’ve been playing.
I pause. It feels like someone else besides Olivia is listening. Someone like Dad. I feel like he’s right at my shoulder, pushing me a little. I hope I don’t cry. It’s tricky. If Olivia goes all sympathetic and googoo-eyes, I might lose it. And then I’m going to want to be outside again.
So, I make a little throat-clearing noise, like I’m checking the microphone to see if it’s working, and then I start talking. My Dad taught me how to play when I started Kindergarten. We talked Four Square every morning.
Tough. Olivia’s been kicking a rock. She kicks it on the slant.
I take it over.
And that’s it.
We make a plan to meet at the corner the next morning.
Think we can figure out a new rule? Olivia asks.
Sure, I answer. Hey, we can even sketch it out.
Isabel Scheherazade, Four Square Star