Billy's cousin Abigail was going through "the naked phase."
That was what Abigail's mother and father called it when fretting to Billy's mother and father. Abigail was four years old and, whenever she had a mind to, she'd shuck off her clothes and scamper naked wherever she pleased. It was most embarrassing to Abigail's mother and father, who would chase after her as she danced along, laughing.
"Why can't she be more like Billy?" Abigail's parents lamented to Billy's. "So quiet and so well-behaved!"
Billy was a quiet child. Where most seven-year-olds were boisterous and rambunctious, he was soft and shy.
"Give it time," Billy's parents assured them. "In a few years, she'll be just like Billy! He went through a naked phase at that age. Kids grow out of it."
But, you see, Billy had a secret. He hadn't grown out of it. He'd just learned that everyone really, really hated him if he didn't wear clothes. Even though clothes were scratchy. Even though pants were heavy and underwear wadded up in a way that didn't feel nice at all.
He was so jealous of Abigail. Why did she get to run around naked and he couldn't? He was more grown-up than her. As you grew up, you were supposed to be able to do more things. It wasn't fair!
At the same time, he was proud of her. He wished he could be like her. But he was seven and she was four. He was supposed to be more grown-up. But every time he saw her frolicking in the little backyard pool or running about the house impishly, his heart sang, I wish that were me.
He didn't breathe a word of that to the grown-ups, of course. He was a big boy now. He wasn't supposed to do things like that.
But one day, his aunt and uncle and mom and dad were in deep and serious conversation downstairs. Billy was in his room. Nothing much was happening. The day was quiet. And the idea that had been tingling at the back of his mind was stronger than ever.
Billy breathed in deeply.
Then he took off his shirt.
Then he let his pants and underwear slip down to his ankles.
The air felt so light against his skin.
He stepped out of his pants and left them crumpled on the floor, then started prancing about the room with a skip in his step. His private parts jiggled as he jumped up and down and it felt so lovely not to have tight underwear scrunching them.
But the door was open just a crack.
And when he turned around, Abigail was there.
She smirked cheekily, a twinkle in her eye.
Billy's heart was in his mouth. He half expected Abby to call out, "Mom! Why does Billy get to be naked but not me?" or something of the like.
But there was a stirring downstairs.
"Abigail, where are you?" her mother was calling.
She was coming up the stairs. A few more steps and she'd see Billy at the door. He was in too much shock to close it.
But then Abby shucked off her dress and came bounding down the stairs and suddenly her mom was chasing after her, all thought of coming upstairs forgotten.
Billy's heart was fluttering nervously, but he smiled - because his cousin had, as if out of instinct, helped him.
Solidarity between nudists.