Young Lexi had been pushed her entire life to portray herself more “ladylike,” and as sexist as the comments were, they often came from other women.
“Cross your legs.”
“Let the men play sport.”
“Ladies don’t get so angry.”
But Lexi was angry. Her figure had been petite since the day she was born, but she was as tough as any man, and most of them wouldn’t dare cross her. Those who did quickly realized their mistake. Her tight, blonde curls said pretty but her face often said don’t test me.
It was never a case of the girl being unhappy. Lexi had grown happy and strong, with love and support surrounding her growth and childhood. She simply had her daddy’s fuse and her mother’s fight. She knew how to stand her own, to not be walked over, yet her heart was as puffy, red, and swollen -with love- as her face got whenever somebody insulted her.
There wasn’t much to be done for an anger tic like Lexi’s. When you’re a tyke
, outbursts over snacks and toys are hilarious, often filmed for later entertainment. When you’re a teenager, the outbursts are deemed normal, expected; mood swings that a nice young girl will grow out of. When you’re an adult, you’re reprimanded for behaving the way you always have. Your need to succeed can drown or suffocate you. It can ruin you.
But as a child with ringlet pigtails and pretty pink dresses, a little hissy fit calls for clucking and comments like “she’s such a little diva. Bless her.”
When she was two, Lexi bit another child and was sentenced to time-out for thirty whole minutes. All that time in prison did for her was let her stew in the anger. That kid had started it, and she had just been finishing it! Yet, she had to sit and watch stupid Milly run about outside the window, while she was stuck on a little red chair inside. Not only was Milly on the hit-list for all time, Miss Carla’s name had been added.
It was known among the kindergarten class that Lexi would not stand for pigtail pulling, bullies, or sandpit betrayal. To steal her toy was to insult her directly. In cases like this, doll heads had been known to fly.
Questions were rarely asked when a Barbie had been decapitated. Lexi simply did as she did -it was always deserved- and her friends reaped the rewards. They had access to all the good toys once somebody mistreated another kid with Lexi to witness.
The new boy -a latecomer to the class- Noah, was a goofy, gangly child. Something about him had annoyed Lexi from the day he’d waddled into class. Not only that, but he flat-out refused to conform to these playground rules that had been set in play for weeks, even after he’d been warned by Simon Spittle.
This was the day Noah Snipe marked himself -and his soul- forever. Lexi’s hit-list was growing and he was on its top.
When confronted, this boy would not cower, despite his stick-figure-level build and paper-thin strength. He had this knowing look about him, even at four, that said I know this game, and I’m ready to play.
“Give it back,” Lexi growled, snatching at the truck the silly boy had taken.
“Or what?” Noah spat, poking out his tongue. “You gonna tell on me?”
“No!” Lexi didn’t need some grumpy adult fighting her battles for her. “I’ll fight you for it myself, you… you… butthead…”
“Butthead? Well… you’re a… poopy butt!”
Hair was pulled, faces buried in sand, and handfuls of it shoved down throats. As far as toddler boxing matches in the sandpit are concerned, this was a beauty.
Yet, Noah strode away -with the intervention of Miss Carla’s high pitched kindie teacher voice- with Lexi’s toy in hand, leaving her to stew in the half-empty sandpit, which became a mini desert with the heat of her rage. If this were a cartoon, she would have had squiggly lines of rage coming off of her, and those doe eyes of hers would have been bright red.
Lexi didn’t have these tantrums forever. She was always going to struggle a little with the spurts of irritation and impatience; she was stuck with that, but with guidance and trial and error, she slowly worked toward a temperament that was more forgiving and calm. That didn’t mean wrong-doers were necessarily safe in her absence. It just meant she wasn’t going to strangle somebody for littering… maybe just tell them off a bit. This relatively calm place Lexi had found, it didn’t welcome Noah Snipe into its happy bubble. He brought the rage right back out from its hiding space, no matter the situation, day, time or words spewing from his mouth.
In the early years of elementary school, he and Lexi warred over many things; all the important things like who had the better packed lunch, who could recite their timetables the fastest, who could sprint the running track quickest, who could win a game of Downball, who could jump highest, who could do a cartwheel and not knee themselves in the face. Neither of them won that battle.
Some days were tests to see who could simply ruffle the other the deepest, and push their buttons the hardest.
The main blowout during the later years of Elementary School was a battle to the death regarding who would give the year six graduation speech. They wrote draft after draft, read poem after poem, until the poor teacher had a meltdown trying to choose between them and gave the speech to Milton Spice instead. There was a week there where Lexi and Noah had formed an unlikely alliance to take Milton down. They succeeded. Still, their diabolical skills as teammates were not enough for either to wave their white flag.