Then there was Bernie. Bernie of the perfectly gelled hair. Bernie of the never wrinkled shirts. Bernie the grown up seventeen year old.
Around the summer I turned 12, Katie, my partner in all things and best of all friends, started attending another church. I moped around sadly and lonely for weeks. I could have played with the other kids (Telephone and Charades were all the rage), but they were all in their own established groups. After a while I started to notice Autumn. I had known her since she was born but hadn't spent much time with her because at a year and a half younger than me, she was just A CHILD. I decided she was the best option I had for a new second-best friend, so one day I pulled her into the nursery and whispered, "Don't you think Bernie is handsome?" ("Handsome" was the word we always used with him. He was never "cute".) She agreed that he most certainly was VERY handsome. And so a friendship based on no better options and an appreciation of Bernie was born.
Together we started B.C.- the Bernie Club. Sometimes we called it B.C.C. but that doesn't make any sense since that means the Bernie Club Club. We talked about Bernie endlessly. We even nicknamed him Christiana so people wouldn't ask why we were talking about a boy so much. We made sure to sit within eyesight of him and each other during church so we could use our complicated finger signals to tell the other how Bernie was sitting and sit the same way. If I was the one sitting close Bernie and he crossed his right leg over his left, I'd cross my middle finger over my pointer finger. If his left leg crossed his right, my pointer finger would cross my middle finger. No signal meant both legs were uncrossed. Clearly we spent a great deal more time focusing on Bernie's legs than on the sermon.
Autumn came up with a special set of nicknames for him and his two brothers. His nickname was Wheat Bread, one brother was Cheese and the other was Turkey. If we said, "Let's ask your mom if we can have a sandwich today", it was code for "Ask your mom if she'll invite them over for dinner. And ask if I can come over too."
Bernie never, ever showed any signs of appreciation for the hours we dedicated to studying him and his perfectly manicured hair. He was the reason we started using gel in our hair and the reason we started chewing gum on a very regular basis. Sometimes we'd "accidentally" be standing where he need to walk so he'd have no other choice but to say "excuse me". On VERY rare days (the days when we'd actually get our Wheat Bread sandwich), he'd talk to us and we would be OVER THE MOON.
We decided the only way to properly celebrate him would be to give him a birthday gift. We sat in the fort of my swing set and carefully created a fish from orange and white beads. We wrapped it in tissue paper and placed it outside his car door. We knew
A few months after the fish incident, Bernie's family moved. (Perhaps the fish incident was the last straw?) We were devastated. Just DISTRAUGHT that he would up and leave us like that. We eventually moved on to other hobbies and new men (I mean, I'm married to someone other than Bernie so if that isn't proof I've moved on I don't know what is), but without fail we talk about B.C. days very single time we're together. We crack ourselves up telling the same exact stories about what we would do to get his attention. Bernie has moved on too. He's married and lives in a far-off state with his pretty wife. (We know about the wife through Facebook stalking.) He didn't invite us to the wedding, but maybe he was afraid of getting another orange and white fish as a wedding gift.