I met him first.
Miri might try to tell you that she met him before I did, but she's lying out her yin yang. I know that my word doesn't stack up well against everyone's favorite national heroine, but I want to state for the record that I, Melaney Anne McNamara, met Andrew Timothy Horowitz before Miriam Grace Porter did.
I remember the day like it was yesterday. My mother had just dropped me off at my first day of pre-K and I was wearing my brand-new purple jumper with my pink tights and black Mary Janes. And I was excited. I couldn't wait to get out onto the playground and meet some new people and make some friends.
The first kid I came across was this skinny, pale boy with the craziest hair I had ever seen, even to this day. It almost looked like his head was a cup overflowing with black curls; they were splayed all across his forehead and neck in every direction, paying no attention whatsoever to things like nature or his mother's doting hand that tried to smush them down.
"Mooo-ooom!" he protested indignantly as the woman tried over and over again to smooth his unruly hair to no avail. He kept squirming away, but the woman had her son in a death grip.
"Hold still, Andy," she reprimanded. "I'm trying to fix your hair."
"It's fine," he insisted. "Lemme go!"
The woman finally gave up the battle against her son and his hair. "All right," she said as she released him. Then she packed a granola bar in his backpack and gave him a hug. "Be good, all right? And try not to make a mess of your new sweater."
"Okay, okay," he said hurriedly. "Bye, Mom!"
She gave him one last hug and watched as he bolted away. "Bye, sweetie! I love you!"
He disregarded her sentiments with a careless wave of his hand. Since he wasn't paying attention, he barreled right into me and knocked me straight into a puddle of fresh mud, ruining my brand-new purple jumper in the process.
I was livid.
"You DUMB-DUMB!" I screamed at him as I picked myself out of the puddle. "You ruined my new jumper!"
"So?" the boy scoffed, looking unconcerned at my dripping attire. "You shouldn't have been in the way. It's your fault."
Oh, this kid was asking for it.
Before he could turn away, I grabbed onto his wrist and threw him down into the puddle. The force of my move actually splattered even more mud all over me, but it was nothing compared to how dripping muddy he got. In fact, I'm pretty sure there are still traces of mud caked into the fibers of that sweater, even all these years after the incident.
"What was that for?" he demanded angrily.
"Fair's fair," I said snootily and I started walking away.
But just as I was about to take my first step away, he grabbed hold of my ankle and pulled me back. I tripped over it and found myself face down in the mud.
My humiliation and his ruthless laughter inspired an ire that I had never before felt in my four-year-old life. With a growl, I picked up a handful of mud and threw it right in his gaping open mouth. That stopped him dead mid-laugh. When he realized that I had essentially stuffed a ball of wet dirt in his mouth, he spat it out angrily and returned my kindness twofold.
Our pre-K teacher found us in the most epic of mud fights just minutes later. By then it was no longer a show of dominance and anger; instead, it was just a game and we were laughing at the feel of the squishy dirt and the sound it made when it splattered against our skin. In fact, we were covered head to toe in mud, but neither one of us cared too much anymore.
Despite how much fun the mud fight eventually came to be, we were far from friends. I was still kind of peeved about how he ruined my new jumper and his mother reamed him hard when he came home with his ruined sweater, so we avoided each other like the plague for the first couple years of our acquaintance. Drew met Miri a year after I met him when she moved from Nowheresville, West Virginia and they became pretty inseparable ever since. I didn't get to be good friends with the two of them until the start of middle school, when I realized they were applying to Xavier's Fine Arts Academy, too.
But somewhere down the line, everything changed. It might have been after Miri's crazy adventure. Or maybe it had been building ever since that summer we spent at the community pool when I realized that Drew actually had a body underneath all his oversized Nirvana T-shirts. I wasn't necessarily sure. All I know is that when I started living in the same apartment with the kid, I realized my life had turned into one gigantic, un-funny cliché.
So maybe it was a little funny. But at the time, I wasn't laughing.