Her favourite Spice Girl was Baby Spice. Looking back fifteen years ago, that is the first thing that comes to mind. I can see her, seven years old, long blonde hair tied into pigtails on either side of her head. She was so pretty, or as pretty as a six year old girl can be to a six year old boy. Actually, I'm pretty sure she had cooties way back then, but I had been given enough cootie shots that I became immune to her so I could play with her as much as I wanted.
She gave me my first ever cootie shot now that I think about it.
"Circle circle, dot dot, now you have your cootie shot," she smiled and her ponytails bounced as she beamed at me. "Now can we be friends again Alex?"
Little boys are so dumb. I just gave her hair a quick hard tug and ran away. Thankfully, she took that as a yes. We had become pretty inseparable since. Every recess she would sing with her wannabe Spice Girl friends and I would listen to every single mangled note. I was her best friend and her biggest fan.
That little girl became the best part about school for me. Every day I would race to class early just to be sure I could sit next to her. I liked to make her laugh and she actually thought I was funny. I also liked to annoy her and I was particularly good at it. All it would take was a quick tug of her hair to earn a good hard pinch and a smile.
She had the attention of every boy in our class and never even knew it. I am not ashamed to say that she was my first crush and I'd like to think that I was hers.
Recess was my favourite part of the day because there was always the chance that she would abandon her group and it would be just us two. We would lay out on the grass and just watch the clouds pass by. We would go home with some pretty wicked grass stains and a mean tongue lashing from our mothers but it was always worth it. Especially that one day.
"Hey Alex," she whispered. "Doesn't that cloud there look just like a bunny?"
"Huh?" I was caught off guard, truth be told, I wasn't watching the clouds, I was too busy looking at her pretty face admiring the sky. The sun made her hair sparkle and it was almost hypnotic. I quickly pulled my eyes away from her face and stared at where she was pointing. The sun was bright and it burned my eyes but I could clearly see the clouds against the pale blue sky. I saw no such bunny. "I don't know Ali, all I see are giant pieces of popcorn."
She giggled and sat up using her hands to angle my head to see the same cloud she was looking at. "No silly, that cloud right there, can't you see the cute little cotton tail?"
I still only saw popcorn. Either I was really hungry or she was insane, either way, there was no bunny in the sky. "I think you might be crazy."
She crossed her arms and huffed before lying back down against the cool grass. "It is there, you just have to use your imagination, then you can see whatever you want to see."
"You aren't supposed to imagine that's cheating, you're supposed to just look for pictures in the clouds."
"But that's so boring! I like to pretend, it makes everything more fun. Like I can pretend that I have a bunny right now."
"But you don't have a bunny right now?" Girls were so confusing.
"But I might someday! I can try to imagine what the future will be like and it might even come true! I could even be psychic." I had an excuse to look at her now as she stared up at the sky. I could almost see her imagination flying behind her eyes as she smiled. She turned and looked me straight in the eyes, her blue eyes shining with delight. "I'm imagining that I'm twenty, I'm going to be married, have a big, huge house with lots of cute little animals. I'm going to have two kids, both girls because boys are icky and messy and they pee standing up. And I'll be all grown up so I will never have to eat vegetables ever again! And I can go to as many Spice Girls concerts as I want because I will be rich!" She went on and on about the perfect life she was picturing and I just smiled. She liked to talk and I was more than happy to listen. "I think I could see me marrying someone like you actually, Drew."
I was confused but she seemed completely normal, that same, sweet smile gracing her pink lips, blue eyes shining. "Why me?" I asked shyly, hoping that she would tell me that she liked me. It never came.
She giggled and poked my forehead, "Not you silly, someone LIKE you, I couldn't marry you, that would be weird!"
Six year old boys were dumb, six year old girls were mean.
Fast forward 15 years and Baby Spice is still her favourite Spice Girl and she still sings along with their songs when they come on. Her hair is still long and blonde but she doesn't wear it in pigtails anymore, somewhere between twelve and thirteen she decided she had outgrown the Baby Spice look. She is still pretty, beautiful even, time has done her good. She is still oblivious to the world, preferring instead to just live her life without regrets. She still enjoys putting on a concert for her friends now and then and I am still her biggest fan.
She's twenty-one now and I have to say, she is not exactly psychic. She has a tiny two bedroom apartment that we share with no cute little animals. It is a struggle just to pay the rent every month on a student budget and she did not get to go to the Spice Girls reunion concert. Worst of all she still has to eat her vegetables. I still pull her hair and she still thinks I'm funny. I still love her, she still has no idea.
"You could at least try to help me make this place look a little more presentable," she scolded as she cleared a few textbooks off of the coffee table and placing down a tray of carrot and celery sticks. A curly strand of blonde hair fell out of her loose and messy ponytail, university had taken a toll on her. She was haggard and tired, not to mention highly irritable at the best of times but she was still Ali.
I laughed as I took the textbooks out of her hands and started towards her bedroom. "I don't understand why the place needs to be presentable, it's just the guys. They come over all the time to mooch our food." I opened the door and placed the textbooks on her desk. Her room was just like her, clean, organized, perfect. Her bed was made every morning as soon as she woke up, there was never so much as a sock on the floor. The only thing remotely messy was her desk and that was only because of school. Dozens of loose sheets of paper covered in scratches and doodles, some relevant to her courses, most irrelevant, littered the surface of her desk, erasers and pens scattered all over the place. It definitely looked like the desk of a stressed university student.
Just across the hall was a bedroom that was the polar opposite, mine. I was lucky if I could find my bed on a good day. It was not unusual to sink into the laundry covering my floor like quicksand. I didn't care though, as long as I knew where everything was it didn't pose too much of a problem.
"Company is company, even if they are freeloaders," she replied crawling on her hands and knees collecting dirty laundry from under the couch. I must say it was extremely difficult not to stare at her butt in those jeans but when you've been living with the same girl for four years in a seemingly platonic relationship, you learn to look away. Even if it hurts a little. She came out holding a handful of dirty socks, my dirty socks. "How do these even get under there?" she asked completely baffled. I for one think that losing socks under the couch is completely normal. It is almost as guilty of stealing socks as the laundry machine.
"It's not that difficult, I take them off, they get wedged in the couch, they fall through, they're lost until you go on a crazy cleaning spree," I laughed. Fifteen years later, I still loved bugging her and I was still damn good at it. "Calm down, I'm telling you that they do not care if our place is messy, they'd probably be more comfortable if we did live in a pigsty."
She had rushed into the kitchen and began hastily hiding all of the packs of ramen noodles and throwing dirty pots and pans into the dishwasher in no particular order. The garbage needed to be taken out, the floors were a mess, the sink was full of dirty dishes and Ali looked like she wanted to rip every last strand of hair out of her head. "WHY IS IT SO MESSY!"
Uh oh. I knew how to detect an Alison meltdown when it was coming and it was definitely coming. I walked over to her as cautiously as possible, hugged her from behind and directed her away from the disaster zone we called a kitchen. I sat her down on the couch and turned on the t.v. I thanked God as Tom and Jerry came on, there was no possible way for anyone to stay angry when they were watching cartoons. Her eyes lit up as she saw Tom chasing Jerry around with a giant hammer.
No sooner had I sat her down that the door flew open and Matt stalked in.
`Whaddup home skillets!" he shouted as he plopped himself down on the couch on Ali's other side and grabbed the remote out of my hand immediately turning the channel to Jersey Shore. "Can you believe Snookie's knocked up?" he asked.
"Can you believe she actually gave birth a few months ago?" I asked sarcastically as I took the remote and put it back on the table. The look on poor Matt's face was ridiculous.
"You mean the show isn't in real time? I've been living a lie!"
"Matt, where are the others?" Ali asked massaging her temples with her fingers, a migraine clearly forming already. She never seems to realize that this is what happens when we have company. Matt talks a lot and we go insane.
"They took Rachel's car. Can you believe they didn't trust me to drive?"
"When was the last time you got pulled over by a cop?"
"I think I can see why they would rather take Rachel's car."
Matt sulked in his seat for a moment before a group of people through the open door cackling like a bunch of hyenas. Meet our friends Rachel, the one currently doubled over laughing, Andrea, the one looking like she is going to fall over at any given second, Katie, the one currently giggling against the doorframe like a drunk teenager and Morgan, currently the only sane one plopping herself in an empty chair with a cheery wave.
Somebody was missing. I counted everybody off on my fingers until I pinpointed just who the missing friend was. "Guys, where's Jason?"
The volume of the laughter doubled as the three girls started rolling on the floor. I told Ali we didn't need to sweep, these guys could pick up any dirt with their clothes, could have saved us a good half an hour. I was very confused but could pretty much sum up that something, probably something unpleasant, had happened to Jason.
Sure enough, a couple moments later Jason stormed into the room and kicked Rachel hard in the side. She just continued to laugh harder. Jason looked awful, kinda like he just crawled out of a swamp. He was covered in mud, grass, twigs and I was pretty sure there was a lump of bird poop in his jet black hair. I wasn't sure if I wanted to know or not but nonetheless I asked what happened.
"What happened is these girls suck!" he yelled. "Everybody gets in the car and just as I'm about to get in they speed off! Did you know that it is raining outside? Did you know that there are puddles the size of lakes outside! Every time they came near a puddle they would stop, wait for me to run up to them and then drive off again splashing me in the process!" He was fuming but the girls seemed to enjoy his recap immensely. Apparently the telling of a funny story is even more hilarious than just replaying the story in their minds.
"And the bird crap?" Ali asked.
"The birds are plotting something big. They're evil I tell you, just waiting for you to drop your guard so they can drop a load of stink on your head and then laugh. They are not communicating with each other when caw and squawk they are mocking me I tell you, mocking!" He had a crazed look in his eyes as Ali carefully approached him and gently guided him to the washroom.
"Jason, sweetie, I'm sure the birds are not out to get you, you were just in the wrong place at the wrong time," she soothed. She closed the door behind him with a quiet click.
"Sure wrong place at the wrong time!" he shouted. "Just like that time at Wonderland! Hundreds of people around and thirty damn birds decide that I am the perfect feces target! I'm telling you those birds are evil!"
Ali sat back down between Matt and I and held her head in her hands, the last thing she needed was Jason screaming about another one of his irrational fears. Last week he swore that his furniture rearranges itself while he's asleep so he stubs his toe on it when he wakes up. Personally, I think he just made a mistake giving Rachel a key to his apartment. She takes every possible opportunity to mess with his head.
"That wasn't very nice you guys," she told the girls as the started crawling to join the group in the center of the room.
"Come on, it was me driving, he should have known better than to trust me," Rachel defended grabbing a carrot stick and stuffing it in her mouth.
"And we thought it was pretty damn funny," Andrea laughed, "you'd think he would have gotten the point after the fourth puddle."
The shower roared and multiple conversations started going on at once. Andrea, Matt and Rachel were plotting their next attack on Jason, Katie and Morgan were talking about their classes and least favourite professors.
Ali looked stressed, I wrapped my arm around her shoulder and twirled that loose blonde curl around my finger and gave it a little tug. She looked up at me and rolled those big blue eyes of hers and smiled resting her head against my shoulder. I smiled as the scent of her strawberry shampoo reached my nostrils. Of all the concoctions of shampoos and conditioners and body washes in our bathroom, her strawberry shampoo was my favourite. I wrapped my other arm around her and hugged her tight.
I supposed the moment was too nice because a pillow had flown into my face and I looked up to see Rachel standing in front of me. "Where's my hug, Alex?"
I groaned and released Ali from my grip and spread my arms out wide. Before I knew it I was being hugged by Rachel, Andrea, Katie and Morgan, every single guy's dream.
Matt rolled his eyes before getting up and joining the group hug. "I want to feel loved too!" he announced somehow managing to wiggle his way between Morgan and Katie's boobs. "Squishy, squishy love."
Next thing I knew there was a loud slap and group hug time was over, Matt had a large red handprint on his face and Morgan was running cold water on her stinging hand.
"This is why we can't have nice things, Matt," Katie scolded.
The shower shut off and Jason walked into the living room squeaky clean with nothing but a towel on. "Sorry Alex, used your shampoo."
"Seriously, there are hundreds of bottles in that bathroom and you use my one bottle?"
"Sorry dude, but yours was the only one that didn't list pooping fruity smelling rainbows as a side effect." He sat across from Rachel with his legs spread wide apart.
"Jason, shut your legs, I don't want to be looking at your hairy man junk!" Rachel cried covering her eyes.
"What don't like what you see? Here I'll spread 'em wider so you can see better since it's your fault I'm in this towel anyway!"
"Jason stop it! I swear to God I will castrate you!"
"I'd like to see you try! I'll make it even easier for you! Goodbye mister fuzzy towel!" he stood up and cast the towel aside with flare and finesse and I'm not comfortable describing a man's business so I'm just going to skip over that little tidbit and erase as much of that image from my memory as possible. I covered my eyes with one hand and Ali's eyes with the other though I'm fairly certain she tried to sneak a peek.
Judging from the earthquake and squeals of terror going on around us, I was left under the impression that Jason was chasing Rachel around the house in the nude. Sadly, this was not too uncommon whenever we all got together…
"You just stabbed me with a fork!" in fact it was quite normal. "NO! NOT THERE! I CAVE YOU WIN!"
"Damn right I win puny man!"
There was a knock at the door and I again mentally counted all of our friends. Everybody was here so who was this person?
"ANDREW!" Andrew, I did not know this Andrew person…
The seat next to me became vacant as Ali jumped up and ran to this mystery person in the doorway. Andrew instantly made it onto my dislike list as he picked her up and spun her around planting a kiss square on her lips. She did not seem to mind judging from the smile on her face.
Fifteen years later, Baby Spice is still her favourite Spice Girl and she still sings along with every song, but apparently, I am no longer her only fan.